Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Feast of the Visitation

It somehow seems appropriate to close out the month of May which has traditionally been dedicated to Mary with this feast. After the Angel Gabriel tells Mary of the impending birth of Jesus, Gabriel also tells her that her cousin Elizabeth who was past childbearing age has also conceived a child (who would grow up to be John the Baptist). Mary immediately goes out to see her.

As soon as Elizabeth sees Mary, her child leaped in her womb. Amy Welborn in today's Living Faith writes: "It has always intrigued and awed me that the first person to recognize Jesus as Lord was an unborn child." I had never really thought about that before. I had always focused more on Mary's act of giving. Even in her first trimester when she was no doubt not feeling her best, she sets out on what must have been an arduous journey to help her cousin out. Welborn's emphasis on the unborn John the Baptist is an interesting one. Even in utero John the Baptist knew his mission in life was to proclaim that Jesus was coming. Even before our birth, God has given each of us our mission. It's just up to us to connect with God to figure it out!

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day to Remember Those Who Have Gone Before

Bernie and I took the boys to the cemetery this morning to visit the graves of some of my mother's relatives. I can recall doing the same thing with my own parents when I was young. How I would enjoy exploring all the old stones! The names on the stones meant nothing of course - just random people who came and went before me.

It had been a few years since I had visited this particular cemetery - I think the last time I was there was when my aunt died back in 2001. While Bernie and 3 1/2 year-old Isaac set off exploring, 5 year-old David firmly put his hand in mine and we set off to find my relatives' tombstones. I could see the stones in my mind and even the general idea of where they were in the rather large cemetery, but we had no success. Ultimately, I did have to use the cell phone to call my father who gave me very accurate directions to where I needed to be.

I showed David the various names and told him who they were. There was my mother's uncle (who died long before I was born), my great-grandmother and my grandmother (both of whom passed away the summer before I was born - I can only imagine what a difficult time that was for my mother as she carried me as well), my grandfather (who passed away when I was 5 - only a few months older than David is now. I have exactly three memories of him - and one of those was when he was laid out at the funeral home) and his second wife who I think I met once in my life, and of course my aunt who I do remember. Yet, while I did not know any of these people well, they are all part of who I am, and by extension, who my children are. I have my mother's stories of all of them - both good and bad - and I like to think that when we meet again on the other side, they will know who I am and we will be able to have quite the conversation! I know that none of them are actually in that cemetery - their spirits live on. Yet, their graves provide a reminder both that they lived and that death does indeed come to us all.

So, on this day, in which we also did many enjoyable things, we took some time out to remember, which was what the day was meant for in the first place.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Saying Thank You

I had my last meeting with my current spiritual director this evening. She is cutting down on her workload and I will be moving to a new director this summer. I have been meeting with her for the past two years at the Center for Spiritual Direction in Holyoke, MA. It can be good to change directors on occasion. Sometimes, God sends people into our lives for just a season and then it is time to move on. I really feel that I have benefited from my current director's counsel, patience, and understanding.

I painted this picture for her as a thank you gift. I hadn't touched my watercolors since I was pregnant with Isaac (4 years ago!). It felt so good to be painting again. It is something I love to do, but comes low on the list of things to be done. This was my second attempt at this painting of sunflowers. I didn't like the first one, although David did like it, which just goes to show beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I like how this one came out, however. I definitely need to make more time to paint in the future.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We are all part of God's garden

This was sent to me by Janet Cassidy in this week's issue of "Cassidy Comments:"

All God’s Creatures

by Janet Cassidy

There’s an old song whose text comes from St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century—All Creatures of Our God and King. It’s a simple little song with powerful words. It’s an invitation to each of us as God’s creatures to lift up our voice.

Are you like a strong, rushing wind or the “clouds that sail in heav’n along”? Are you the bright sun or the “silver moon with softer gleam”? Doesn’t matter. We are all called to praise God!

St. Therese of Liseux put it this way:

"So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord. It pleases Him to create great saints, who may be compared with lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are."

Take a few minutes to reflect on the words of St. Therese. Strive to be content with who you are, as created by God. Whether you are a rose or a daisy, know that you add beauty to the garden of life!

REMEMBER: Send an e-mail to with the word “subscribe” in the subject line if you would like to receive future issues of Cassidy Comments.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Next Big Thing

I was reading an article on ipods today in the paper. Now, there is nothing wrong with ipods - they are merely a huge evolutionary leap over the walkmans of old. But the article was about how they are this big status symbol. If you are young, you need an ipod in order to be "hip" and "cool." If you are older, you need an ipod in order to appear younger, and therefore "hip" and "cool".

The words "hip" and "cool" have never been used to describe me. There was a time in life when this bothered me. It no longer matters. What disturbed me about this article was that people insist on believing that whatever the "it" product may be will bring them happiness. Yes, Madison Avenue spends millions of dollars to convince us of this, but it is also an inborn trait within human beings. We want to be like everyone else. We want what others have. In my opinion, "Thou shall not covet" is the hardest commandment to follow.

The truth is, however, that once our basic needs of love, food, security, and shelter are met, extra things can bring us only temporary happiness. Creating our identity around what we own is a fool's errand, because there will always be the next big thing, the next thing that you must have in order to matter to society. There is no happiness in that, and satisfaction will always be elusive. It is only when we base our identity on who we are in the eyes of God as opposed to what we own that we can truly find peace and joy.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Good Story

This was sent to me today. I thought that it was great:

Six year old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten.

Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove, (and he didn't know how the stove worked).

Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door.

Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon's eyes. All he'd wanted to do was something good, but he'd made a terrible mess.

He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

This story is similar to how God deals with us.

We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky, or we insult a friend, or we can't stand our job or our health goes sour.

Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can't think of anything else to do. That's when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. But just because we might mess up, we can't stop trying to "make pancakes," for God or for others. Sooner or later we'll get it right, and then they'll be glad we tried!

Is "Sacrifice" a Dirty Word?

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." - John 15:13

The secular media tells women on a daily basis that we should have it all - a loving family, a well-decorated organized home, and a rewarding career. If we don't have all that, apparently we have failed to "balance" correctly! This passage from the Gospel of John tells us a different reality. Love has a cost. While most of us will not be asked to lay down our lives for another person, we are asked on a daily basis to sacrifice, to put others' needs before our own.

This is not a popular idea today. We want to know how to get more out of life. We want our husbands to provide us with emotional, intellectual, and moral support, as well as to help take care of the kids and the house. We want our careers to be meaningful and financially rewarding. We want every Church service to have a high-quality sermon as well as build our sense of community. We want "me" time in which to develop ourselves and indulge our interests. We even want to lose weight without giving up any of our favorite foods! While there is certainly a place for self-nourishment and self-development in life, there is also a place for the other side of the coin. We also need to give.

That may seem like it goes without saying. After all, we women do tend to give until it hurts. We need to hear, however, that it is OK to hurt sometimes. The message we tend to get is that if we are giving until it hurts, then we are doing something wrong. The truth is, in Jesus' eyes, we are doing something right. It is OK to sacrifice. It is OK to give up our work or our hobbies in order to care better for those who need us. Conversely, it is OK to give up the dream of having a husband and children if our work is so important that we must dedicate our lives solely to that. It's OK to bite our tongues and compromise with those we love. We may not have to give up our lives, but sometimes we are asked to give up our pride and our ambition to live as Jesus asked.

We have the opportunity to sacrifice without complaint many times a day. St. Therese wrote in her autobiography "Story of a Soul" of how she would make small sacrifices throughout the day and offer them to Jesus. I don't think we could ask for a better role model. Sacrifice is not a dirty word. It is one more way for us to give our lives to God by loving others.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The DaVinci Deception

I've spent my limited free time the past two days reading "The Da Vinci Deception" by Mark Shea and Edward Sri, S.T.D. For anyone who hasn't heard, the movie came out today. In order to offer full disclosure, I have never read the book "The DaVinci Code." Honestly, I just really didn't care. It was a novel - a fact that otherwise sane people seem to skip over. I probably will see the movie - when it comes out on DVD and I get it from the library - in other words, sometime in 2007! Never-the-less, I have been aware of the issues raised in the book, and while Dan Brown is obviously not an art historian, an actual historian, or a theologian, he has managed to begin an international discussion on early Christianity. I consider this proof that God can create something good out of anything!

Anyway, back to the "Da Vinci Deception." My mother bought this book for me. My mother has been watching hours of EWTN discussing the various points of "The DaVinci Code" and how it is all crap. My husband who is a lawyer and enjoys arguing more than anything else in life, has taken the total opposite viewpoint. Honestly, I have a headache! "The DaVinci Deception" is a short book set up with 100 questions and answers. I enjoyed it because it was short and to the point and discussed all the major issues in "The DaVinci Code" and some I wasn't aware of. I learned quite a few things from it as well. So, if you are looking for a quick and dirty insight into the book and the issues it raises and if you are searching for the truth, this is a good book. It oversimplified some things such as the origin of the Gospels (unlike Dan Brown, I actually do have degrees in art, history, and theology!), but this is likely because the book is too short to allow a thorough discussion.

I also found a good posting by Amy Welborn (who has written a book dubunking "The Davinci Code" in her own right) at
To buy "The DaVinci Deception," visit

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Keep my Commandments'

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. John 15: 9-10

This excerpt from today's gospel reminds us of the importance of keeping the commandments. While we cannot ever earn heaven - eternal life is a gift from God, we can certainly lose it. Yes, Jesus has saved us. He loves us and will always welcome us with open arms whenever we reach out to Him, but we need to do our part as well. We need to keep the commandments, and when we fail to, we need to tell God we are sorry and mean it, and try harder not to commit the same fault again. Our relationship with God goes both ways.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How to Pray and Why to Pray

I just posted a new review of The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik. I knew Fr. Lovasik as a writer of children's books. As a child, I read many of his books, especially his lives of the saints series. My mother recommended this book to me. While it was originally written in 1961, this abridged version was published in 1999. As with most spiritual texts, it is timeless. It provides a blueprint for deepening your relationship with God through prayer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

On Catholic Education

Tonight Bernie came home from T-ball with David with some upsetting news. He was talking to another parent and learned that the principal of the school where David will be attending next year just resigned due to a disagreement with our pastor. The other parent also heard rumors that the school may be closing. Catholic schools are closing at an alarming rate. Catholic education is in deep trouble (although no one calls into question their academic excellence), and the sad thing is that I can see all sides of the issue.

The parents: Catholic education today is expensive. While there is financial aid available, the majority of middle class parents don't qualify. When money is tight, it is hard to find the extra money for tuition. Some turn to homeschooling, others to the local public school.

The pastors: Pastors today must function as CEO's, trying to balance the books which are often in the red. Schools that drain money make that balancing act more difficult.

Principals and teachers: They are trying to provide a quality Catholic education while squeezing every dollar. At the same time, they need to earn a living wage.

Catholic schools were usually founded by members of religious orders who worked for nothing or very little. Obviously with the decline in the number of religious, lay teachers (most of whom are very dedicated and make far less money than their public school counterparts) now fill most roles. They obviously deserve to be paid a reasonable salary. To do less is to devalue their work. At the same time, Catholic education should be available for any family that wants it. That was the original charism and it should continue. Sadly, Catholic education has now become available only to those who can afford it. While there are religious education programs available for public school students which do the best that they can with the limited time and resources they have, and one hopes that children learn much of their faith in the home, this doesn't take the place of a totally faith-based education.

While I am only one person and certainly don't have the answer to this problem, I think some creative thinking is needed. Just recently, Elms College proposed a partnership with Holyoke Catholic (my alma mater which is also in trouble). That is the kind of creative work that needs to be done. I was thinking that there might be some way to have Catholic colleges have a program to produce teachers who would agree to teach in a Catholic school at a reduced wage for a number of years (say 3 or 5) in exchange for a reduction in tuition or student loan debt - kind of like a Catholic school Americorps. That way the costs at the schools could be reduced at least by a little bit. I wish that I had more answers. I just know that something needs to be done.

A Mother is the Heart of the Domestic Church

I just posted an article by Donna Cooper O'Boyle on A Mother is the Heart of the Domestic Church. Donna is the author of The Catholic Prayer Book for Mothers as well as a fellow columnist on Catholic Mom.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Good Reminder for Mother's Day

This was sent to me today. It is a good reminder for all of us mothers:


“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

Acts 1: 14
King James Version

Today is Mother’s Day and I wonder how Mary, the mother of Jesus would feel if she was here. I think her heart would break if she could see that people are still rejecting Him as they did then. Jesus called people to Him then and He is calling us now. He still has His arms open wide waiting for us to come to Him.

We may have accepted Him into our hearts as our personal Saviour, but a lot of the times we get so involved with our busy schedules that we put Him on the shelf. When we have time, we may take Him down and spend a few minutes with Him. Isn’t it tragic that we can make the time to watch television, but can’t make the time for Jesus?

On one of the Gaither Homecoming Videos, Gloria said that when their children were little she told them to pick up their clothes, write thank you notes, brush their teeth, and do their homework. She said, “But when did I tell them the things that are going to last? When did I teach them the Scriptures they could hide in their heart”?

Mothers, teach your children about Jesus. Help them memorize verses so that they will have them in their hearts in times of despair and heartache. You can buy them everything that money can buy, but if you don’t tell them about Jesus, all of that means nothing. Tell your children that Jesus Loves them and then prove it to them by your words and actions to them. I urge you to love your children with the Love of Jesus.

Joanne Lowe
May 14, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

Website Updates

I just posted three prayers to the Prayer section.

Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Prayer to St. Anne

Prayer to St. Jude

Facing fears

5 year-old David has developed a terrible fear of fire. I can relate to this because I have the same fear. I got mine when I was about 6 years old from two experiences - a 5th grader at my school died in a fire, and I watched an episode of "Little House on the Prairie" in which Mary's child died in a fire. I can still see the image of one of the teacher's holding the baby in the window and the fire burning behind them. It absolutely horrified me. David got his fear from watching a video about fire trucks and firefighters.

Now, every night before bed, I have to reassure him that he will be safe, that we have smoke detectors, that mommy and daddy will take care of him and get he and Isaac out if there ever was a fire. We also pray. I never go to bed without asking God to protect us from fire and burglers (and mice and bats - two problems that we had in our old house. We haven't encountered any in our new home, but I still pray just for good measure!) So, I have started adding a prayer to protect us from fires to the night prayers I say with the boys.

It is hard to be scared, and we all fear something. Trusting in God may not make the fear go away, but it can help us to at least be able to go to sleep.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mother's Day in Heaven

Here is a poem for those of you whose mothers have passed on:


If you could see where I am,
Your hearts would really rejoice.
I heard about Heaven all of my life
And I made being here my choice.

I could never really describe
The joy and peace I find.
It is more than I imagined.
It cannot be defined.

God made me willing to leave you
With a promise of His care.
He knows about your feelings.
You will always sense Him there.

I know you will be remembering
The special memories that we share.
Take comfort that I left my love
With all of you down there.

Keep in close touch with each other
And encourage all the way.
God will guide your footsteps
Through each and every day.

Evelyn D. Putnam

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's Not Fair!

When David had just turned one-year old, we found out that he had life-threatening allergies to peanuts and eggs. There is really only one way to find out this information and that is through scary trips to the emergency room where they teach you how to use an epipen and give you long lists of foods you need to avoid (which include not only items that actually have the offensive ingredient but also items that may have come in contact with that ingredient in a factory or kitchen). As a result, the past four years of our lives have been spent egg and nut free and we have adjusted to it.

Because there is a genetic component to allergies, we have treated Isaac as if he were allergic since the day he was born. Ultimately, however, we knew the day would come when we would have to expose him (for a second time because that's when the allergic reaction occurs) to peanuts and eggs in order to find out for sure. That day came last Monday. As it turns out, Isaac is perfectly fine. While that is obviously good news, David was not amused. "It's not fair - he can eat anything he wants and I can't!" It has been over a week and David is still stuck on this.

The thing is, though, that he is absolutely right. It isn't fair. Isaac will never have to worry about what he can or cannot eat at a party. He does not need to carry an epipen with him everywhere he goes. He does not need to live in fear that he will die from a peanut. I am at a loss of how to comfort David or how to explain why he is different. I told him that God made him and Isaac the way that they are and they are each unique, just like he has brown hair and Isaac has blonde hair. I don't want him to blame God, though. I recall a line from "Anne of Green Gables," one of my favorite stories: "Someone told me that God made my hair red and I have never cared for him since!"

Life isn't fair. Why are some children born with genius IQ's and others born severely learning disabled? Why are some gifted athletes, and others born without use of their limbs? Why do we live in a comfortable home while others live in cardboard boxes on the streets? Why do some people live to be 100 and others die in infancy? I've heard it said that God has his reasons which reason cannot understand, but that doesn't really stop us from trying to comprehend, does it? We ask the questions and get angry, and hope that maybe it does all work out in the end.

David has his allergies for a reason. They are part of who he us. In some way they will aid in building his character and help him become the man God has made him to be. And I hope that he will somehow come to terms with the fact that life isn't fair, and not blame God in the process. Maybe if David gets it all figured out, he can explain it to me! In the meantime, I will keep holding on to my faith and trust that God does know what he is doing.

New Article on Scrapbooking

I posted a new article on Spiritual Woman in the Creativity section on How to Make a Paper Bag Scrapbook. It seemed like a pretty cute and inexpensive scrapbooking idea.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More proof God knows what He is doing

Yesterday I went to my 10 year college reunion. It was a wonderful day. My relationship with Elms College, a small Catholic liberal arts school in Chicopee, MA., began when I was seven years old. They used to have (and in a different incarnation, they still do) academic programs for kids in the summer. I took an art class that year. That September my sister started as a Freshman. My mother and I would go to the campus after I got out of school and wait to pick her up. I would run in the fields and play under the trees, creating castles in the sky. Over the years, I continued to go to the summer programs and continued to enjoy the sense of peace that was there.

When it was time to choose a college, however, I wanted to go anywhere but there. As far as I was concerned, I was a high school valedictorian with a ticket to anywhere. My parents said it was Elms or nowhere. The Elms offered me a nearly full scholarship and cemented my fate. So I went kicking and screaming, determined to make the best of it. I had a good four years. I had wonderful professors who cared about their students. I learned alot about academic things (much of which I no longer remember) and alot about myself (which thankfully has stayed with me). I also met two amazing people who have changed my life forever - my best friend Stephanie and my husband Bernie.

When I graduated something in me sensed I wasn't done there. Turns out my intuition was right. Late that summer, I would be offered a part-time position as a secretary in the Continuing Education Office. That would turn into a full-time position as Assistant to the Director of Weekend College and Non-credit Programs. Over the next five years I would have numerous titles and even more job descriptions, but I loved it. I worked with incredible people, and I truly came to love this place. It became home. I would take advantage of their free tuition for employees program to earn a graduate degree in theology and would defend my Masters thesis while I was eight months pregnant with David! I dropped down to part-time work after he was born, and would ultimately leave when I found out I was expecting Isaac. While I may have left, my heart hasn't, however.

Elms is doing such incredible things now. It was great to be there yesterday, among familiar faces, to see all the changes, and to hear from some members of the other honor classes how it was there 30, 40, 50, and 60 years ago! What a proud tradition that school has and it is only getting better with age. I'm so glad to have been part of it. Part of me hopes that some day I get to go back in some capacity. I'm so glad that my parents made me go! God really does know what He is doing!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Facing the Darkness

Today's 1st reading (Acts 9:1-20) tells of Saul on the road to Damascus where he encounters a vision of the Risen Lord which leaves him temproarily blind and a forever changed man. Saul was an ardent Jew and a fervant persecutor of Christians. One thing can be said for Saul - he never did anything halfway. After his conversion experience, he would take the name "Paul" and become one of Christianity's greatest champions.

To be transformed, however, he had to face the darkness. As do we. Change is never easy and is often brought about by traumatic experiences. If we can hold on through the darkness, we can be sure there is a brighter tomorrow on the other side.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

We are God's hands

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. - John 14:12

When Jesus went up to his Father in heaven, he gave us this mandate to continue his good works here on earth. He also sent the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to guide us in our mission. We are all called to be God's hands here on earth. We all have a contribution to make to improve the world and to love one another. While it may sometimes seem like our own small acts can't make much of a difference, the cumulative effect of a lot of small acts can be amazing. If we all tried to care for each other the way Jesus asked us to, imagine what a wonderful world this would be.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Our bodies are the temple of God

In the mail today I received the latest newsletter from the Springfield Rescue Mission. They are a wonderful Christian organization supporting the homeless in our community (which sadly there are many of). I send them donations whenever I can, but I admit that I usually just toss the newsletter in the recycling bin. I am ashamed to say that while I am happy to give monetary support to those who help the homeless, I don't like to be confronted head-on with it. I know that this sounds horrible, but it is easier when homelessness is anonymous. But for some reason today I opened the envelope and glanced at the newsletter. There was a profile about a man named Dave who is getting his life back on track.

Dave said that his favorite Bible verse is "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) As a recovering alcoholic, he was reflecting on what it means to respect your body. It is a good reminder for all of us. Our body is a gift from God, and we should treat it as such, taking good care of it.

Making the Most of <i>Menopause Moments</i>

  When I unexpectedly got in a review copy of Menopause Moments: A Journal for Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Spirit in Midlife , I must adm...