Sunday, December 31, 2006
Yesterday, I took out that new calendar and completed my annual tradition of copying over all the important dates to remember - birthdays and anniversaries and such. I also wrote down doctor's appointments already made for the beginning of the year as well as reminders to bring the cars in for service. It always jogs my memory as I flip through the pages of the old calendar. 2006 was not an easy year. My father had cancer (and thankfully recovered well). My nephew attempted suicide. I attended three funerals in June. David started school. On the plus side, some new career opportunities did open up for me, the children have continued to grow well, and I made a couple of new friends. I feel like I have deepened in my spiritual life as well.
As I look ahead to 2007, I no longer see a New Year as a fresh start. I know that tomorrow really won't be all that different from today. It's more of a reminder that time is passing and I need to make the most of it. I hope 2007 brings many blessings. I wish the same for all of you.
Friday, December 29, 2006
SERVING IN THE NAME OF GOD
Our local newspaper quoted celebrity Jeff Probst of the television show Survivor as having this to say about his experience as a volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas:
"It’s a chance to remember how fortunate you are."
Every time I read a quote like this it makes me cringe. The sick help us appreciate our health. The poor help us appreciate being employed, the disabled help us appreciate our abilities and the lost help us appreciate our faith.
It’s as if the sole purpose of those less fortunate is to make us feel grateful for our own status in life.
When we serve with this attitude, the good work is still accomplished, but it is done without love. And without love, there is no dignity. Without love, there is no justice. Without love, it’s simply a self-serving act.
We were so honored by God when, at the service of the world, Jesus came in love and raised us up. Because we are loved by God, dignity and justice belongs to each of us. This is what we can offer others when we serve—love, dignity and justice.
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Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Gospel of Matthew tells us:
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vacinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:
"A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more."
I don't think that there is a mother in the world who doesn't cringe at the thought of her baby or toddler dying, especially in the cruel manner described above. As Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus fled to Egypt, these babies suffered at the hands of evil. All these years later, we take time in this joyous week to remember and weep with their mothers.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Anyway, as I was walking through the library, a woman looked at me and said, "Boy, I'll bet that you'll be glad when they are back in school!" I told her that I actually enjoy having my children around. How sad it is that most people don't expect you to enjoy spending time with your children. Yes, children can be exhausting. When they are tired and cranky and uncooperative, parenting can be completely frustrating. And yes, I do enjoy my alone time to get the things done on my to-do list that just don't mesh well with having two little children around. But I desperately enjoy my boys. They are interesting to talk to, fun to play games with, and I love to cuddle up with them reading stories. All too soon they will be grown up and living their own lives. I will have all the alone time I could ever hope for. For right now, I'm very happy to have my little boys around.
Thanks again for your support!
Friday, December 22, 2006
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Aquirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Luke 2:1 -19
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A New Night Before Christmas
T'was the night before Christmas
and all through the town
Not a sign of Baby Jesus
was anywhere to be found.
The people were all busy
with Christmas time chores
Like decorating, and baking,
and shopping in stores.
No one sang "Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed".
Instead, they sang of Santa
dressed-up in bright red.
Mama watched Martha Stewart,
Papa drank beer from a tap.
As hour upon hour
the presents they'd wrap
When what from the T.V.
did they suddenly hear?
'Cept an ad.. which told
of a big sale at Sears.
So away to the mall
they all flew like a flash...
Buying things on credit...
and others with cash!
And, as they made their way home
From their trip to the mall,
Did they think about Jesus?
Oh, no... not at all.
Their lives were so busy
with their Christmas time things
No time to remember
Christ Jesus, the King.
There were presents to wrap
and cookies to bake.
How could they stop and remember
who died for their sake?
To pray to the Savior...
they had no time to stop.
Because they needed more time
to "Shop til they dropped!"
On Wal-mart! On K-mart!
On Target! On Penney's!
On Hallmark! On Zales!
A quick lunch at Denny's
From the big stores downtown
to the stores at the mall
They would dash away, dash away,
and visit them all!
And up on the roof,
there arose such a clatter
As grandpa hung icicle lights
up on his brand new step ladder.
He hung lights that would flash.
He hung lights that would twirl.
Yet, he never once prayed to Jesus...
Light of the World.
Christ's eyes... how they twinkle!
Christ's Spirit... how merry!
Christ's love... how enormous!
All our burdens... He'll carry!
So instead of being busy,
overworked, and uptight
Let's put Christ back in
Christmas and enjoy
some good nights!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
This evening's priest of choice told me I should start going to confession every two weeks, or at the very least once a month. He told me that a regular confessor could really help me in my life. Now, before you get any ideas, it wasn't that my confession was so heinous he felt that I was in need of immediate remedial action. He recommends this to everyone. I know it is something I should be doing. Usually I leave confession feeling completely unburdened. Tonight, I feel like I have an assignment and that I need to take this next step in my spiritual development. At the very least, I definitely have something to talk about at my next spiritual direction meeting.
Monday, December 18, 2006
And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
At our last monthly meeting, my spiritual director asked me if I ever just turn over my worries to God and then try to forget about them, trusting that they are in God's hands. Me? Not stress? Not worry? That's almost unthinkable! No, I'm more like the widow in scripture who kept beating on the judge's door until he answered her petition. I keep praying when I have a problem, for years sometimes, waiting for answers to reveal themselves. Sometimes, truly, the silence is deafening, and yet, I trust that God hears my prayers and will answer in His time, not mine. As someone once told me, God has three answers to prayer: "Yes," "Not yet," and "Actually, I have a better idea!"
Yet, St. Paul tells us to give our worries to God. While I willingly give my concerns to God, I tend to hold on to part of them. I trust God but I still worry, mostly that I am going to screw things up. I know God has this great plan for our lives, but I feel like I'm going to miss the signs telling me which way to go. "Letting Go and Letting God" is not my strong point.
I think that moms, especially, are prone to worry. After all, we are not only responsible for our own lives, but also for the children whom God has entrusted to our care. That is some pretty awesome responsibility. As this is the Christmas season, I was thinking of Mary and the birth of Jesus. I wonder if Mary worried as she made the difficult journey to Bethlehem. I wonder if she was concerned about their being "no room at the inn," or felt afraid at the thought of giving birth among the animals in a stable. I wonder if she had the usual mother's concerns, about the way Jesus was growing and developing and whether she was preparing him well for the role he would play in human history. I wonder if there were times she just sat down and wanted to cry out of frustration and exhaustion. I like to think so. I think that Mary understands our every emotion as mothers, even our worries. But I also think that she was good at handing her concerns over to God. She accepted God's will in all things and trusted that all was for God's glory, even as her son was dying on the cross and she was the mother of a criminal. I need to follow her example.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Richard, a landscape architect, who searches each year for the perfect tree to grace Rockefeller Center for Christmas. He finds the tree he desires on the property of an isolated convent. When he goes to ask the sisters that live there about the tree, he is directed to Sr. Anthony, a woman with a very unique relationship with the spruce, she affectionately calls "Tree." The story tells of the developing relationship between Richard, Sr. Anthony and the famous "Tree." I almost know it by heart, but it makes me cry every time I see it. Even Bernie grudgingly admits it is a good movie. Unfortunately, the movie is not available for purchase, but the book it is based on is. While I have not read the book, I'm sure the story is just as heartwarming. I have enclosed the Amazon link below.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
they will soar as with eagles' wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint." Isaiah 40:31
We all grow tired sometimes. I know that there are many days I am longing for a nap, as much out of emotional as physical exhaustion. Life can often seem like too much to take. But this verse reminds us that we have reason to hope. We can place our trust in Jesus. We, too, can soar with the eagles!
I read an article today about a "Babies" project in the "National Right to Life News." It is an effort to put a visual face on abortion by creating a poster of baby pictures representing the number of babies whose lives are ended by abortion each day (approximately 3750). The original Babies project was done using pictures from magazines and catalogues which are copyrighted and therefore cannot be reproduced. So they are asking people to send them baby photos of their children to be used in the piece. I sent along photos of my two (that is David on top and Isaac on the bottom), and I am asking you to do the same to help this worthwhile project. JPG files can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or hard copies can be mailed to: 9356 E. Ash Avenue, Solon Springs, WI 54873. Please include a note giving them permission to reproduce your photos.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
It is rather short (106 pgs) in the version I had, and there were parts of the story that I had not been exposed to before. Even though I knew everything would turn out well in the end, I enjoyed it. It is an incredible story of redemption. We all have the chance to get rid of the "Scrooge-ness" in ourselves and start again tomorrow. Christ gives us this opportunity and what a wonderful gift it is!
Monday, December 11, 2006
PFM: What is Infinite Space, Infinite God?
KF: For me or for the readers? For readers, ISIG is great character-driven SF with a Catholic theme that makes you think. You want advanced technology? It's got clones, genetically engineered humans and human/animal hybrids; interplanetary and interstellar civilizations and time travel.
You want adventure? It's got murder mysteries, battles big and small, covert operations, alien abductions, explorers lost in space and daring rescues.
You want faith?It's got miracles, Marian apparitions, Church politics, and ordinary people at all levels of faith growing in their understanding of God and what it means to be Catholic. And--if you like to learn along with your fun--in addition to the stories, it has introductions that discuss different aspects of Catholic faith and practice--from saints to religious orders--and of course, the Church's participation in science over the centuries.
For my husband Rob and me, it was a chance to play in the genre we love and to share our faith. Just like creating our children, creating stories and books is a romantic venture for us. We'd go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and discuss stories or hammer out introductions over candlelight and soft music. Beats a noisy movie and stale popcorn any day!
Finally, for me personally, it was a chance to learn more about my faith. As a cradle Catholic, there were things I took for granted that I just knew. As I read and edited the stories in this anthology, however, I had to really examine some issues--from the ban on female priests to the nature of Confession. Even now, I'm still asking and learning. You know what? That's what really excites me about this book, and what drives me to get it out there for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
PFM: What prompted you to write this book?
KF: We'd edited a Christian SF anthology, Leaps of Faith, for FrancisIsidore E-Press, and had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, the publisher, Kathryn Lively (a great Catholic writer, btw) went on to other things and FrancisIsidore went out of business, so there was no chance for a Leaps II. We'd had a Catholic publisher interested in Leaps, but who wanted all Catholic stories, so we took a chance and started compiling ISIG. Sadly, he couldn't convince his company to take a chance on genre fiction, but luckily for us and readers, Twilight Times Books has picked it up.
What do you hope to accomplish with this book? Highest hopes: "What's Pope Benedict XVI reading? Infinite Space, Infinite God--the surprise #1 New York Times' best seller, which combines all the best of science fiction with deeply seeded elements of the Catholic faith."
#1 People enjoy the book. That's what fiction is about--losing yourself in fantastic worlds crafted by skillful writers.
#2 People learn from the book: When a reader comes away with something more than just a fun time, you've snagged the gold ring as a writer. We just got a review from "Chewing the Bone" in which the reviewer (a Christian) said that she'd learned a lot about Catholicism. It made my day to read that. I hope, too, that Catholics will learn more about themselves from it.
Along those lines, I'm hoping to bust the myths that the Catholic Church is anti-science and that religion and science are at natural odds with each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
#3 The book makes people think. One of the great traditions of science fiction is to present today's and tomorrow's problems in a venue that allows people to consider the issue. We've tackled a lot of current issues in ISIG, especially in the area of genetics and cloning, as well as some age-old issues like "Why did Jesus die for us?" We'd love to have some high schools or universities pick up ISIG for a literature or theology-in-practice course.
Who do you think might enjoy this book? Catholics who like science fiction or who are interested in imagining the future of the Church and its followers. However, if you like science fiction, you'll like ISIG, regardless of your faith denomination. Even though the theme of Catholicism runs through every story, none are "preachy" or purposely evangelical in nature. We wanted to express the faith through the actions of the characters as they struggle with overwhelming challenges, fantastic adventures, or problems both probable and improbable.
Infinite Space, Infinite God is not just for Catholics. It's for anyone who wonders "What if?"
PFM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
KF: Infinite Space, Infinite God is out now in electronic format, and should be coming out in print in August. To learn more about the stories in ISIG and its intrepid crew of contributors, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com. We have some top-notch talent. If you enjoy the stories in ISIG, please go to our website, http://isigsf.tripod.com/id1.html and meet the authors. Many are accomplished novelists or story writers and you can find links to their websites there. Oh, and please come visit my website at www.fabianspace.com. I blog about writing, faith, and homeschooling and there's a list of my other writings and news as well.
PFM: Thanks for stopping by! I wish you the best of luck with "Infinite Space, Infinite God!"
Sunday, December 10, 2006
What a wonderful gift! Who among us wouldn't like to forget some of the things we have done or failed to do in our lives? We know we can always seek God's forgiveness for our mistakes. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have the opportunity to be washed clean. Jesus suffered and died to save us from our sins. We know that if we approach God with true contrition, forgiveness is ours for the asking.
Human forgiveness is not always so easy to obtain. There are amends to make to those whom we have hurt. Sometimes, sadly, there are consequences of our actions that cannot be changed. We simply have to move on and make the best of our wounded relationships.
Perhaps the hardest forgiveness to come by is the forgiveness of ourselves. Memory is a wonderful thing. It allows us to look back and recall all those different threads that have come together to weave the fabric of our lives. Over the years, the bad times also seem to recess in importance thereby making it easier to forgive others who have hurt us in our lives. And yet, we do seem to remember the times we have hurt others. We remember our bad choices, harsh words we may have spoken in anger, and times that we just chose to walk away rather than take action. Perhaps remembering these things does serve a purpose in that, hopefully, we won't repeat the same error. But once we have sought and received God's forgiveness, we need to make an effort to forgive ourselves. Our mistakes have brought us where we are and there is nothing so bad in our lives that God can't bring some good out of it. We need to put the past behind us and move forward from where we are, trusting that God is there to guide our steps.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a
kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my
big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered.
"Even dummies know that!"
My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that
day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always
told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot
easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I
knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.
Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told
her everything. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted.
Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it
makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."
"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second
world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General
Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about
everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten
dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said,
"and buy something for someone who needs it.
I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of
I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother,
but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big
and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas
shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching
that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy
I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors,
the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about
thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid
with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs.
Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew
that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother
always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all
we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have
a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I
would buy Bobby Decker a coat!
I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real
warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for
someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten
dollars down. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's .... for Bobby." The nice
lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a
bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.
That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and
ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in
her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma
said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to
Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever
officially one of Santa's helpers.
Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept
noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave
me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."
I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present
down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the
bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness
for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.
Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent
shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized
that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said
they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.
I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.
Still the two events are connected. Mary was conceived without sin precisely because she was someday going to be the mother of Jesus. It was all part of the plan. Just for the record, though, we celebrate the Annunciation on March 25 - nine months before Christmas, and we celebrate Mary's birthday September 8, nine months from today.
Speaking of Mary, however, I wonder if she ever found parenting to be a complete mystery. Jesus was obviously not your run-of-the-mill boy. I wonder if she ever thought to herself, "Just what exactly am I supposed to do with him?" I wonder if she had to struggle to figure it out like the rest of us do.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
in this Advent season we pray:
to live deeply, with purpose,
to live freely, with detachment,
to live wisely, with humility,
to live justly, with compassion,
to live lovingly, with fidelity,
to live mindfully, with awareness,
to live gratefully, with generosity,
to live fully, with enthusiasm.
Help us to hold this vision
and to daily renew it in our hearts,
becoming ever more one with you.
To all of you who helped out Sophia Press with my previous post, thank you. Here is their most recent email. - Patrice
"It was after midnight when I read them," said Susan. "Brian had abandoned us soon after Joan was born. We never saw him again. For months I'd been living on black coffee, cheap cigarettes, loads of valium, and little sleep.
"The drama of the soul's choice," Susan said. "Those six words stopped me cold.
"Where was I? Cornered, gaunt, desperate, suicidal -- a prodigal daughter
"The drama of the soul's choice. Those words made sense
After fifteen years of exemplary life as a Catholic wife and
* * *
I know about this, because, about a year after those six words
* * *
At the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem in Jesus' time, the ill and infirm
With six words from a book, Susan's soul was stirred -- perhaps by an angel,
By means of Sophia Institute Press, the six words that stirred Susan's soul blossomed into 120 billion words: since its founding, the Press has published 2 million Catholic books by scores of good Catholic authors including St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, and even (to return the favor) a book by Dorothy Sayers.
Before combat, thousands of Catholic soldiers in Iraq pray with our edition of Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book.
You yourself may have grown closer to Christ through our editions of Angel in the Waters, The Temperament That God Gave You, A Mother's Rule of Life, Finding God's Will For You or one of our other fine books.
In recent months, however, slow sales have brought us up short, leaving us with an
If this trend continues, we'll just wither away. Therefore, using credit, I'm e-mailing to
With just $1,
If you give a dollar, and everyone who receives this does, too, our doors will stay
So please help -- either with a contribution
John L. Barger, Publisher
Monday, December 04, 2006
Something to think about, isn't it?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
The boys and I made a paper Advent wreath today that we have taped to our window. We have paper "flames" so that we can just tape the appropriate number of flames on the candles. We have two Advent calendars. I had bought one and then the next day David came home with one from school so now each boy has his own. Advent calendars generally start with December 1st, so for the past three days, they have run downstairs in the morning, shouting that they need to "open the flaps!" I think that this Advent will be very enjoyable with those two around.
Meanwhile, we are all suffering from colds. Lots of coughing and runny noses in our house. I would have really enjoyed a nap today, but as we all know, Moms don't get sick days, especially when everybody else in the house is sick, too. Hopefully, we will all feel better soon.
Friday, December 01, 2006
But here is an article by someone who I actually know in person! My friend Karen Ford is an editor over at Catholic Exchange. Our children go to school together and we get to hang out at sports events. Today she had an article on Catholic Exchange about her daughter Elizabeth. Check it out at http://www.catholicexchange.com/en/node/7685
Thursday, November 30, 2006
As I read this Bible passage this morning, I was amazed at the speed with which Simon and Andrew answered the call from Jesus. I have read this passage many times, but for some reason today that fact struck me with force. They just went. A total stranger came up to them and told them to follow and they did. They gave up their way of life and all that they have. We know St. Peter was married. Can you imagine that conversation when he came home? And yet, they followed.
Answering Jesus' call requires sacrifice and sometimes, I admit, I'm not always that willing to make it. I admire the single-mindedness of Peter and Andrew. I admire their willingness to do whatever He asked. It reminds me of the cost of discipleship and it gives me something to aspire to.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!"
It can be hard to be joyful. Sometimes it seems like there is so much in life to weigh us down. But, if you really look, you can find joy in the simplest moments of life.
Tonight David and I went out for a walk in the chilly evening. All bundled up in our hats and coats and mittens, David began singing Christmas songs and I joined along. We had so much joy just walking along singing! Sometimes a joyful moment can take you by complete surprise!
Monday, November 27, 2006
There are still things that I would like to get for Christmas, although my life would certainly go on without them. I let my husband know I could use a couple of sweaters. My best friend asked for some suggestions and I told her I would like a new journal or a subscription to a favorite magazine. I could also use a new Bible. The much-loved one I own is worn out from use. The pages are literally falling out! Still, it is like an old friend and I can't bear to replace it yet. Maybe next Christmas.
Really though, I think that as we get older, we are much less likely to have things on our Christmas list. It's not that we don't want or long for something, it is just that those "things" don't come from a store. Some of us may long for love, a special someone to share life with. Others might long for a child. We might be searching for direction in life, a physical or spiritual healing, a new job, or a repaired family relationship. Everyone has some desire deep in their heart that only God can fill.
Last year, my mother told me about a special Christmas novena. She had said it when she was pregnant with me. I was in breech position and she was praying for me to turn around. She went into labor on Christmas Day (two weeks early) and I had turned around. I was safely delivered the following morning. I made the novena last year and did receive the answer to my prayer. Granted, the answer didn't come the way I expected it to, but the answer came, and it came on December 23rd. I invite you to make this novena this Advent season. The traditional days for it are December 16 - 24. Bring your deepest longings to God. Let God know what you want most for Christmas this year.
The Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your request here.)
Through Jesus Christ and his most Blessed Mother. Amen.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Advent Wreath Ceremony 2006
Christmas Tree Blessing
How to Enjoy Your Christmas Season
How to Have the "Perfect" Christmas
Making the Most of God's Gifts
A Time to Wait
Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I just posted a new review of Israel's Story, Part One by Dianne Bergant. As I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading "Cliff Notes" for the Bible. It was a very good overview of the first half of the Old Testament, useful for someone just getting into reading scripture or who wanted to have a better idea of how all the pieces fit together.
The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. They are written especially for teens.
The boys are at such a perfect age for Christmas. They understand the religious significance and are both looking forward to being in the Christmas pageant at Church (this will be Isaac's first year). At the same time, they still believe in magic and are so full of wonder for all the decorations and Santa. I really wish I could freeze time and keep them right where they are! Instead, I have to be happy cherishing the memories. Tonight was a good one.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Today was putting up the Christmas decorations day. I love having the decorations up - it always makes the house look happy and the boys were so excited about helping out. As you can see from the picture, our tree is definitely bottom heavy with ornaments, but I think it is beautiful. Every ornament tells a story, and each year something new is added to the tree that will add to our family's history. As we put up the ornaments, I was telling the boys the story of each one. Some of them they had made last year and the year before so they were especially excited to put those up.
David also decided he wanted to put lights on his gymset in the back yard, so now we have lights both in front and in back so everywhere you look you see some Christmas spirit! I love this time of year.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Bless this House
Bless this house, O Lord, we pray
Make it safe by night and day;
Bless these walls, so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out;
Bless the roof and chimneys tall,
Let thy peace lie over all;
Bless this door that it may prove
Ever open to joy and love.
Bless these windows shining bright,
Letting in God's heavenly light;
Bless the hearth a-blazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer;
Bless the folks who dwell within,
Keep them pure and free from sin;
Bless us all that we may be
Fit, O Lord, to dwell with Thee,
Bless us all that one day we
May dwell, O Lord, with Thee.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Sometimes, I need to take my own advice in the thankfulness department. God gives us so many blessings, yet I admit I often take them for granted. Even worse, I often look at other people's blessings and want them for my own! Ah, yes, that "You shall not covet" commandment has always been the one that has given me the most trouble. In the list of the seven deadly sins, envy has always been at the top of my list. From the time that I was child, it has always seemed like there is someone in my circle of friends who has life so much better than me. Those people have changed over the years and the reasons I feel envious have changed as well. Thankfully, I have outgrown my adolescent envy of those more attractive or more popular than I! By the same token, I no longer feel jealous of people with nicer homes, nicer clothes, or more fancy cars.
These days, my envy is much more likely to be of other people's interpersonal relationships. I see others who seem like they are better moms or have apparently happier marriages or have deeper spiritual lives. I try to channel my jealousy into a positive thing by looking at these people's lives and seeing how I could nurture those qualities in my own life. I try to pick up tips on parenting or marriage or prayer and implement them. Sometimes this helps.
What I really need to do, however, is to be thankful for what I do have. I have lived long enough to know that no one's life is perfect. We each have our own challenges to deal with, even if they go unseen to the rest of the world. In my more lucid moments, I even realize that there may be people out there who look at me and think that I have it made! I have been blessed in many ways. I have a loving husband and two beautiful children. I have a roof over my head and food on my table. My health is good. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I am free to worship as I choose. Yes, I have been truly blessed. Each day, I need to remind myself to thank God for all those blessings - the big and the small - that have come my way.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Sometimes it is hard to keep praying for something when no answer seems to be forthcoming. It is frustrating when our sense of time comes in conflict with God's sense of eternity. We want answers and want them now. God often seems to take a much more leisurely view of the situation. Yet, in this parable of the widow who keeps badgering the judge until she gets the response she is looking for, Jesus tells us to keep the faith, to keep persisting, to keep asking. God will answer, when the time is right and in the way that does us the most good in terms of our eternal souls. In the meantime, prayer helps align our wills with God's will. It gives us acceptance and patience.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
One of the best books that Sophia Institute has put out is Angel in the Waters. You can read it online at www.angelinthewaters.com This is such a wonderful story of a baby in the womb and his guardian angel. My children love the story and ask to read it again and again. Sophia Press is asking that you consider purchasing a copy of this book for yourself or to give as a gift to a youngster or perhaps to donate to the religious education program at your parish.
They are also accepting donations at www.sophiainstitute.com/donate.htm . They are asking for any donations, even $1 helps.
Please consider either buying a copy of Angel in the Waters or donating. It is a hard road out there for Catholic publishers and we need to give them all the support we can.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
So, I got to thinking. Maybe in heaven we get to keep learning, except with the greater understanding that comes with eternal life (who knows, maybe calculus will actually make sense to me :) ) . After all, all this knowledge comes from God in the first place. Maybe in my eternity, I'll get to read all those books and talk to the authors and learn all I want about art and literature and music and history! That would be my kind of heaven!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Saint Theresa's prayer:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God
that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May
you not forget the infinite possibilities that are
born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love that has been given to
you. May you be content knowing you are a child of
God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and
allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and
love. It is there for each and every one of us.
Monday, November 13, 2006
This is not the first time this has happened to me. In labor with my children, I wanted so much to pray but couldn't; when David was in the hospital for his allergy attacks and when Isaac was diagnosed with lead poisoning, at the spur of the moment, the desire was there but the body failed to cooperate. I think as adrenaline kicks in, the ability to pray leaves me temporarily. And yet, maybe, wanting to pray becomes in itself a prayer. God knows I'm reaching out even if my words and thoughts are absent. And maybe, that is why praying for others when you know they are hurting is so important. Sometimes, when you are too close to a situation, its nearly impossible to pray yourself, but you can ask others for prayer.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
We often love our neighbors in the abstract. We can give food to food banks and money to homeless shelters. These are good things to do. But what do we do when confronted by a beggar on the street, or when someone sits next to us in church who hasn't showered in a while? How do we respond when we are confronted with the realities of poverty among us?
What about the people we work with? It can be difficult to love a supervisor or a co-worker whose goal seems to be to make our own life miserable. What if there is someone who has spread malicious gossip about us? What if someone has let us take the blame for her own error?
Then there are the people in our own families. Sometimes it is hardest to love those that we are closest to. We know their faults and they know ours. Our spouses may grate on our nerves. Our children may be in the midst of rebellion. Our parents and siblings may still treat us like we are children. Especially at holidays, old battles can be re-fought and old wounds re-opened. How can we respond with love when we feel like we are coming under attack?
Yes, the mandate to love is quite a challenge. Jesus asks us to put other people first. He asks us to see God within those around us, even in situations when that is most hard to see. Jesus asks us to give of ourselves, to reach out to our neighbor in need, whether that neighbor lives under our own roof, or spends their days in the cubicle next to us, or panhandles us on the street. Jesus asks us to love as He loves - a tall order to be sure, but Jesus does not ask the impossible. We all have God's love within us and the capacity to share that love. We can smile. We can share what we have. We can offer a kind word. In doing so, we can begin to plant seeds of love around us. We can begin to respond to the challenge.
Positive Mental Attitude!!
We can all learn a lesson from this great old girl!
The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.
Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.
As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
"I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
"Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room. Just wait."
"That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind.
I already decided to love it "It's a decision I make every morning when I wake! up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away just for this time in my life.
Old age is like a bank account .you withdraw from what you've put in.
So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
I must admit, I don't understand the attraction. Why do people spend so much time (and money!) caring about other people's lives and relishing in whatever misfortune has recently come their way. I feel badly for the celebrities, who after all, are people, too. It must be incredibly painful to have your personal life out there for the world to see. But I also feel badly for us as a people, that gossip has become the national pastime. What if as much time and energy was devoted to developing our sense of spirituality? What if we said nice things about other people instead of trying to ruin people's reputations? What if we held up people of faith as role models rather than people who just happen to have money? What a different world this would be.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
In the U.S. November 11th is set aside to remember those who have served in our armed services. In my own family, both my father and father-in-law are veterans, and my nephew is currently serving in the Navy. David's school did a brief program today honoring Veterans in our parish. On the back of the program was a beautiful prayer. I thought I would share it with you.
A Soldier's Prayer
When I am called to serve, Dear Lord,
Wherever war may be,
Give me courage to fight the battles,
My country may ask of me.
Grace me with Your presence,
And know that I love You,
While I fight the enemy,
My country needs me too.
Help me protect my comrades,
as You expect me to,
And keep me in Your loving hands,
While I do what I must do.
I want to do my duty,
And to give the best in me,
To do what I've been called to do,
And protect our liberty.
And if, according to Your will,
I must give up my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand,
My children and my wife.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
God is continuing to call young people to serve, but that call is often drowned out by the definition of success that is so prevalent in the world today. Parents want their children to be successful. Teachers want their students to be successful. The success that is so sought for is often equated with the amount of money one can make. Even those who are open to low-paying service professions such as teaching or social work often can't envision their children as dedicated religious.
Yet, a parent's influence can be so important as a child struggles to discover what God wants for him or her. A parent can offer guidance and encouragement and offer a counterpoint to a world which places little value on service and sacrifice. If a child has even the slightest inclination to religious life, parents have the responsibilty to help them pay attention and at least explore the options available. We also have a responsibility to point out positive role models in the religious community. Religious sisters are not as common as they once were. Catholic schools and religious education programs are often staffed fully by lay people today, but point out those that do take an active role in the parish community. By the same token, one can also talk about the various roles that a priest has and how important it is that there continue to be priests to perform such important sacramental and ministerial functions.
Is it a sacrifice to have a child enter religious life? Of course. It may mean giving up the dream of watching grandchildren grow up. It may require a radically different picture of your child's future than the one you had envisioned. But just as God calls young people to religious life, God also calls their parents to be willing to give them up to God's service. If you hear God calling your child, will you answer the call?
For more information on vocations, visit www.vocationsplacement.org or contact the vocation director for your diocese.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
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Thank you in advance for all of your support!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Truth is, though, that at times, all of us wish we could be someone else. We look at other people and think that somehow they have it made. It is the old "grass is greener" syndrome. It can be tiring dealing with our own problems, insecurities, and flaws. But God is our caring parent in heaven who wraps love around us and tells us, "I love you just the way you are."
Sunday, October 29, 2006
The Bible tells us that God created the world in six days and then took a break. "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation." (Genesis 2:3) Yes, God took a rest, but we don't seem to feel we are entitled to the same. The little voice in our heads tells us there is something more to be done. Indeed, there usually is. The to-do list is not a figment of our imagination. The fact is, though, that while there are always things that could be done, they do not necessarily need to be done right now. The world will not come to a crashing halt if we step out for a little while. We need rest, true rest, to engage in recreation, a re-creation of our spirit. We need to quiet our souls, engage in prayer, and reconnect with nature even if it is just by sitting in our backyard or by staring out the window.
Most of us don't even know what it is to be still anymore. If we sit still for more than a minute, we feel unproductive. Yet, that very stillness serves a purpose greater than we realize. It gives us a chance to listen to our souls and the God that speaks to us there. It gives us the opportunity to pay attention to what is around us, to use our senses to take in this great big wonderful world that God has given us.
God was on to something when He took a rest. He gives us permission to do the same. In fact, God mandated it with the commandment to "Keep Holy the Sabbath." We have the go-ahead from the Almighty to take a break from the to-do list. The ultimate boss has told us to take the day off. Now we just need to obey.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Today there was a Catholic School Teacher's conference, so David had the day off from school (oh, my, wasn't he happy about that!). I took the boys to my parents' house so that they could get to see David (something that they don't get to do as much now that he is in school) as well as so that they could watch them while I went to meet with my spiritual director. I had a good meeting with her. A lot is going on in my life right now and I always enjoy talking to her about it and working with her to find God in the chaos. After my meeting, I met my parents, the boys, my sister and her youngest son, at McDonald's for lunch. They just built one of the new upscale McDonald's near where my parents live and the kids have been looking forward to checking out the new play area.
Tonight was our parish Halloween party. The boys (also known as Oscar and Cookie Monster for the evening) had a good time, and even I enjoyed myself. There was a DJ and we were doing dances. It has been a mighty long time since I have done the "chicken dance" and the "hokey pokey" but it was fun! The boys didn't get to bed until 9 pm but once in a while, that is OK. So, it has been a good couple of days.
Thank you, God, for happy memories :)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
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