Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Prayer

This prayer was in my parish bulletin this week. I wish each of you a Blessed and Happy New Year!

I pray that you awaken my spirit, touch me in the deepest part of my being, open my spiritual eyes to see you as my God, my Creator, and my Savior, always by my side. Open my ears to hear your voice during the night and business of the day and in the turmoil of my inner conflict.

Dear Lord, let me arise each morning knowing that there is nothing today or in future days that will happen that you and I cannot handle together. And finally, God, please help me to be a reflection of your love to all those around me each day. Amen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why is Mary referred to as "The Undoer of Knots"

There is a special novena to "Mary: The Undoer of Knots" but how did our Blessed Mother come to have that title? In the most recent issue of Marian Helper, Fr. Joe Roesch explains:

The concept of Mary as the undoer of knots dates all the way back to the second century. In his work Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote, "And thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith." Pope Francis quoted this on October 13, 2013, during his prayer for the Marian Day on the occasion of the Year of Faith. 

He explained how our sins create knots, which take away our peace and serenity. He then said, "Mary, whose 'yes' opened the door for God to undo the knot of teh ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that He can untangle the knots of our soul by His fatherly mercy." Let's turn to Our Lady for help with untangling the knots in our lives.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Short Story Review: Working Mother

Working Mother

by Erin Cupp
Full Quiver Publishing, 2014

The years of Jesus' childhood are unknown to us which make them fertile grounds for the imagination. What happened in those years when Jesus was young and living with Joseph and Mary, growing in faith and knowledge? In Working Mother, Erin Cupp imagines a scenario in Egypt in which Joseph cannot work due to an injury and Mary is forced to leave her family for a time in order to work as a wet nurse and earn them enough money to live. It is a powerful short story about a mother's love, the complexity of relationships, and a woman doing what needs to be done for her family, even at great personal cost.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

For Unto Us a Child is Born . . . 

Wishing you all a very Blessed and Merry Christmas! May the peace of Christ fill your homes and your hearts.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Am I Spoiling My Child or Accommodating Him?

One of my friends shared this link on Facebook and I simply had to share it here: Am I Spoiling My Child or Accommodating Him? 

The writer shares so much more eloquently than I could one of the hardest challenges of having a child with behavioral special needs. Even before David was ever diagnosed with Aspergers, I knew he was different. Well-meaning people gave tons of parenting advice and I am so thankful that I didn't follow most iof it and instead listened to my own parenting instincts. (Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things I would have done differently had I had more knowledge, but I did the best I could.) Even years after a diagnosis, there are still plenty of people who feel compelled to comment about various aspects of my parenting, and I admit, in my moments of self-doubt, I beat myself up and wonder what I could have done or what I could do now to make things better. I pray, take each day as it comes, and continue to try to do the best I can.

Now I have a daughter who is adopted, who by virtue of that fact, also needs to be parented differently. I have learned so much about the wounds that adopted children, even ones taken at birth, have within them, and I learned the lessons the hard way - by making tons of painful mistakes. And so, now, I try to accommodate, and once again, take a ton of criticism, even from my older children who don't understand why I parent her differently in some ways from how I parented them (Plus they are teenagers at the stage in which they know everything and Mom is apparently woefully ill equipped for life!) Once again, I wonder every day whether I am doing the right thing. Once again, I pray, tackle each day, and try to do my best.

I realize most people simply don't understand what it is like to have children who don't fit the traditional mold. I realize they are trying to be helpful. I realize that some of these people actually love both me and my children. If anything, this parenting journey I am on has taught me not to be judgmental of other parents. If I see a parent struggling, I pray for her and her children, because I do not know the story. And if anyone wants to pray for me, I'm always thankful.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: The Mistletoe Promise

The Mistletoe Promise

by Richard Paul Evans
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014

I always look forward to a new Christmas story by Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box) and was thrilled that my copy of The Mistletoe Promise came in from the library before Christmas! I went on a binge-read today and totally enjoyed every minute of it.

Elise Dutton's husband left her three years ago for her best friend, leaving her lonely and sad. Complicating matters is a painful secret from her past that she can't recover from. Nicholas Derr is a high-powered attorney who works in the same building as Elise. The day after Halloween, he suggests that they make a Christmas contract, dubbed the Mistletoe Promise, to spend the holidays together as a couple in order to not be alone and have someone to go to holiday events with. After some thought, she agrees, and he is truly a man made in heaven - kind, attentive, and showering her with gifts, but she knows it all must come to an end Christmas day.

This is an amazing love story - the kind that only exists in fairy tales - and there are some plot holes, but the tale holds some surprises and will definitely keep you reading until the satisfying conclusion. It is a powerful story of forgiveness. Evans has crafted an enjoyable holiday romance and fans of his writing will eagerly devour this latest work.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? Matthew 25:37


This line, combined with the experience of meeting a homeless man wrapped in a blanket sleeping on a street in downtown Ontario, Canada, was what inspired sculptor Timothy Schmalz to create this image of Jesus on a park bench. The first statue was installed at Regis College in Toronto with others now being located around the world. Last fall, he presented the sculpture to Pope Francis who blessed it.It provides a visual reminder that Christ is in everyone we meet, even when it is hard to see; perhaps most especially when it is hardest to see.


Monday, December 15, 2014

The December Issue of The Catholic Mirror

I always enjoy getting in my copy of The Catholic Mirror and finding out about the great things happening in our Diocese of Springfield, MA. The December 2014 was no exception. It features wonderful stories on an older woman who has knitted more than 2,800 hats for newborns at Boston Medical Center's NICU, a local family that chose life and welcomed triplets, a celebration of priesthood, and a man who found new meaning in his faith when he started creating creches for Nativity scenes.

Read all these stories and more in the online edition of The Catholic Mirror.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: A Dream of Home

A Dream of Home
by Amy Clipston
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014

"A Dream of Home" is the third novel in the Amish fiction Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel Series, but one need not to have read the first two to enjoy this book about finding where one belongs in the world.

Madeleine Miller was a military nurse who lost her fiance. In search of healing, she returns to her late grandmother's home in the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania. While her mother left before being baptized, Madeleine still spent many childhood summers here and remembers it as a place of peace, something she desperately needs.

Saul Beiler's wife left him, his daughter, and the community for life with another man. He's determined to keep his distance from the young woman who just moved in next door, but his daughter wants nothing more than to become friends with her. In spite of himself, he finds himself falling for a woman who is clearly off limits.

This is a quick read about healing and second chances which fans of Amish fiction will enjoy.

A Dream of Home (Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Prayer for Purpose and Healing

This prayer is by Sr. Miriam James Heidland and is included in her new book, Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus

Father, thank you for creating me as a unique person. Thank you for creating me in love and for love. Please help me to live the purpose of my life, to live in true love, and to truly love others. Thank you for creating my body and soul. May I allow your healing grace to flow into the areas of my soul that are wounded, and may the grace of the Resurrection of Jesus become living and active in my life. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

As Morning Breaks: Gospel Reflections from CatholicMom.com

Looking for joy in 2015?  Begin each day of the year with As Morning BreaksDaily Gospel Reflections, a new ebook just released by Lisa M. Hendey and CatholicMom.com.  This book was written in collaboration by over thirty authors, all of whom freely volunteered their work. The writing team includes men and women, parents, singles, a married Deacon and his wife, a religious sister and writers of all ages.
 
Priced at only $2.99, the 685 page book was launched to raise needed funds to support the work of CatholicMom.com, an international apostolate that provides services to families, parishes and individuals worldwide free of charge.
 
Let this prayer community guide and support you with daily reflections on the Gospels and the Liturgy of the Word.  As Morning Breaks invites you to make morning prayer a fruitful part of your day, and ponder the joy of the Gospels in your heart. 
 
“A terrific resource to include in your daily prayer routine…an ideal way to either springboard your morning prayer or supplement it.  Highly recommend!” notes Ellen Gable Hrkach, president of the Catholic Writers Guild and award-winning author. 
 
As Morning Breaks contains 365 daily reflections from various vocational perspectives; with each, the reader is invited into a further examination of the Gospel passage. A "ponder" question is provided for contemplation, discussion or journaling. Each meditation ends with a brief prayer to help you transition to your own quiet meditation.  With links to each day's Gospel passage, and following the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, this book is designed to offer you a beautiful, prayerful and joyful start to your day.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Buon Natale Creches of Italy Exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum

The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas crèche exhibition, Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy, features two dozen Italian inspired Nativity scenes on display. The highlight of the show is a 120-square-foot Neapolitan diorama.

Crèches have been a popular part of Western Christianity for more than 800 years. Introduced in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi, they served as a way for everyday people to reflect on Jesus’ modest birth. Through the centuries, crèches have developed into large and ornate displays in communities as well as humble presentations for homes.

Perhaps the most recognizable and popular style is the Neapolitan crèche. These Nativity scenes placed the Holy Family not in the stable setting of Bethlehem but in the heart of 16th-century Naples. These elegant and elaborate scenes feature the Child Jesus in the midst not only of adoring cherubs and shepherds, but also among ladies and gentlemen of nobility, merchants, musicians and various commoners; literally among the active daily life of the community.

Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy is on view from Dec. 1, 2014 until Feb. 1, 2015. To find out more, please visit the Knights of Columbus Museum website at http://www.kofcmuseum.org/km/en/exhibits/2014/creches/index.html

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Book Review: Loved as I Am


by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T.
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2014

“Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus” is written by a religious sister who has experienced conversion in a very dramatic fashion, but this book is for anyone who is wounded, suffers from addiction, or feels unloved and/or unlovable.

Sr. Miriam James Heidland, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, has experienced a great deal in her nearly forty years of life. Adopted as an infant, she felt abandoned by her birth parents. A victim of sexual abuse, she kept silent and felt shamed, turning to alcohol to ease the pain. In college, she lived a life of drinking, parties, and men, until a kind priest reached out to her. As Sr. Miriam writes, “He saw beauty in me where I saw only ugliness, and he continually encouraged me to seek an authentic life with God, rather than waste my life in sin.”

Sr. Miriam understands the desire to be loved and the ways that desire can lead us to find comfort in created things rather than God, especially because that is the prescription that the world at large offers us. The “voices of the world . . . tell us that happiness lies in acquiring possessions, wealth, and popularity, and these same voices often try to push God out of the picture. In “Loved as I Am,” Sr. Miriam offers a different way, rooting one’s identity in God, and discovering our value as his children. It is only in “choosing true and authentic love of God, ourselves, and others” that we will find true happiness and peace. The other road only leads to pain.

Making that choice is an on-going process, and Sr. Miriam acknowledges that the road can be long and hard. She, like the rest of humanity, is a work in progress, but her conversion story is truly remarkable. “Loved as I Am” is a quick read that you won’t want to put down. It is an amazing story of God at work in Sr. Miriam’s life, the lessons she has learned, and the powerful message of healing that she wants to share with others.

Loved as I Am: An Invitation to Conversion, Healing, and Freedom through Jesus

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Story Behind It's a Wonderful Life

Did you know that the iconic Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" was based off of a short story by historian Philip Van Doren Stern? I didn't until I saw this book, The Greatest Gift: The Original Story That Inspired the Christmas Classic It's a Wonderful Life, recently at a local book store. I had to read it!

Admittedly it is hard to judge the story on its own merits, in light of the fact that the movie version starring Jimmy Stewart is so well-known. Suffice it to say that this version is different, but the main components are there. It is very interesting to read and compare.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this 1996 edition is the afterword by Van Doren Stern's daughter Marguerite Stern Robinson. She shares how the idea for the story came to him on February 12, 1938, when he was shaving. It wasn't until 1943 that he showed the finished story to his agent. It never found a buyer. The author had become fond of the story, however, and decided to pay to have 200 copies printed in pamphlet form which he sent out for Christmas in 1943. The rest, as they say, is history (but definitely worth reading about!).



Monday, December 01, 2014

Santa's Priority - From Catholics Come Home

I've always loved the image of Santa bowing down to the Christ Child because it helps keep the focus of Christmas where it belongs, while not denying the important role that Santa and gift-giving plays in our culture. That's why I was so thrilled to see this ad played during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Hopefully, it will remind at least a few lapsed Catholics that the door is always open and we'd love to see them come home for Christmas and every Sunday of the year.

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