Monday, November 30, 2009

5 Riches You Absolutely Need

Guest Post by Rachel King -

We live in world where there is intense competition, where we try to outdo one another in the race for riches and the accumulation of wealth. And in the midst of all this, even though we gain hoards of money, we end up losing all that is actually valuable and precious. Life is not a quest for trivial things like money and fame; rather it is a journey that we undertake, one in which we meet various people and whose lives entwine with ours. And the only way we can call ourselves truly wealthy when we leave this world is if we have accumulated the following riches:

• Health: If you don’t have health, you don’t have anything in life. There’s no use of money and fame if you’re bed-ridden or in and out of hospitals for the better part of your life. The best way to stay healthy is to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly. Maintain the optimum weight for your height in order to prevent disease and stay fit no matter how old you are. And avoid drinking, smoking and doing drugs.

• Happiness: They say happiness is a state of the mind, and it’s very true. We cannot depend on or expect other people to make us happy, and if we do, we are bound to feel let down and disappointed. Of course, sadness and other emotions are a part of being human, but if you want to truly be happy, you must learn to let go of petty grudges and other negative emotions like hate and anger. When you’re free from these emotional shackles, you feel at peace with yourself and happiness follows.

• Goodwill: One thing that makes people miss us when we’re not around is the goodwill we earn from them. They hold us in their hearts and respect us for who we are and what we bring to their lives. When you do good for others without expecting anything in return, when you refrain from hurting anyone, and when you live your life without pushing other people down to climb up yourself, you earn their love, respect and goodwill.

• Contentment: It’s not easy to be content with your lot; even the man who has tons of money is not content. For one, he is obsessed with making more; and for another, he is preoccupied with safeguarding what he already has and loses a lot of sleep and peace of mind over this aspect. When you’re content with what you have and not obsessed with besting your neighbor, you know you have attained spiritual and emotional maturity and fulfillment.

• Tolerance: In a world filled with wars over nations and religions and fights over trivial aspects, tolerance is one virtue that very few of us can claim to possess. Only when we learn to tolerate our fellow human beings and live in peace with them can we make our world a better place. It takes a great deal of patience to raise your tolerance level, but with discipline and dedication, it can be done.

This guest post is contributed by Rachel King, who writes on the topic of Christian Universities . Rachel welcomes your comments at her email address:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jesse Tree

Starting on Tuesday, I will once again be doing the Jesse Tree with my children. The Jesse Tree provides the opportunity to reflect on the Biblical figures who come before Jesus. It is one more way to reflect during Advent. Here are some sites that provide downloadable ornaments and reflections:

Where is the Urgency?

It is strange to talk about a lack of urgency during Advent. If anything, December is full of too many things to do and too little time to do them in. There are parties to plan and decorations to put up and cookies to bake, Christmas pageants to get ready for, presents to buy and wrap and Christmas cards to send. Just thinking about it all can wear me out. Yes, there is much to do, but this is not the type of urgency Advent is supposed to be about.

Advent is about getting ready for Christmas - the commemoration of the Birth of Christ. It is also about getting ready for the second coming of Christ. The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent speaks of this end-time event. Luke tells us that "There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand." (Luke 21:25-28)

The end is coming for each of us and for the world and we do not know the day or the hour. We often hear reminders to live each day as if it were your last. Attempt to live with no regrets. Embrace life to the fullest. This is all good advice, but in the midst of everyday busyness, it is difficult to maintain such an attitude every day. We often get caught up in the muck of everyday living. There is so much to concern ourselves with, so much to attend to. It is ironic that during December, a month that is filled to the brim with things to keep us occupied, Advent invites us to focus on the things that truly matter.

Barbara Rossing, author of "The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation" is quoted in the December 2009 issue of "U.S. Catholic": "We need to reclaim an urgency about our mission . . . an urgency to be sowing seeds of the kingdom of God, like in the New Testament communities. It's an urgency to love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, and to obey Jesus' commandments . . . Time is short, and we have to be about something important."

Each of us is given 1440 minutes every day to make the most of; twenty-four hours to love and serve one another and share the joy of being Christian. During this season of Advent, may we take the time amidst the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas to reclaim the true urgency that following Jesus Christ requires of us.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What do you want most for Christmas?

The Christmas Novena begins on Monday, November 30th and goes through Christmas Eve. It is time to prayerfully consider what we want most for Christmas this year and bring those desires to God. I've seen different versions of how to say this novena - some say to say it 15 times a day while others have it as just once a day. However you do it, humbly request God for the blessings that you want most this Christmas.

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.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Mass Instruction"

For anyone interested in liturgical reform, the changes that took place during Vatican II, and the current debate over liturgy, this article is a must read:

Mass Instruction: an interview with Father Robert Taft, S.J.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Catholic Writers' Conference Online - Register Now!

The Catholic Writers Guild presents its annual Catholic Writers Conference Online, Feb 26-March 5. This year's focus: practical tools for success! In addition to the usual excellent chats and workshops, they will have even more pitch sessions with Catholic and secular publications, plus limited-invitation crit sessions where you can work with an editor or successful author on your writing.

Registration runs until Feb 15 at

Monday, November 23, 2009

God's Love

I was hunting in my card drawer for a birthday card today. Yes, I have a whole card drawer. I like to save all the cards that I get in the mail from various organizations. I also have a collection of cards to use for craft projects. But, that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is that I found the following quote in one of the cards:

God loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us. - St. Augustine

That quote really struck me. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that God loves me. I know it cognitively. If someone asks me, "Does God love you?" I would answer "yes," but feeling it is quite another matter. I do KNOW it, however. And as a parent, I know in some small way what it means to feel that kind of love for a child. We are all God's children. I love each of my children with a powerful love and would do anything for them. I always want what is best for them, even when that differs strongly from what they would want for themselves. I love each of them equally. I may not always like what they are doing at a given moment, but I always love them. God loves us always. He wants what is best for us. His love is all-powerful. I would do well to remember this always, even when I don't feel it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

100 Reasons to be Thankful, Even in Hard Times

For my article this week, I decided to ask people (young and old) what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving. Truly, we have much to thank God for! I offer my thanks to all who helped me with this, and wish all of you a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for . . .

1. The health of my family.

2. Taking naps on the couch or in the backyard.

3. Driving the scenic route.

4. Community events open to the public.

5. My (flawed) relationships with God and my family, both immediate and extended. Flawed relationships are much better than none at all!

6. My wife and I have grown together and I am constantly grateful and impressed as she matures.

7. The Word of God.

8. Brief and productive meetings.

9. Quilts and blankets, to keep me warm.

10. My wonderful family and for my best friend, who has always been there with quiet support, encouragement, and words of wisdom, through thick and thin since the day we met.

11. The incredible diversity of people on this planet.

12. Co-workers who don't mind switching their days off to help you out.

13. Toys.

14. Dirty dishes because it means we have eaten. Thank you for baby giggles; they keep me sane.

15. That God made me.

16. Teddy bears.

17. The feel of a child’s hand in mine.

18. Waking up when you need to even when the alarm doesn't go off.

19. Babies.

20. The day being silent now that it's over for the little ones.

21. Movies and CDs being available at libraries.

22. The convenience of e-mail.

23. Wrinkle-free clothing.

24. Christmas lights.

25. Friends who care about me enough to tell me when I am being stupid.

26. Our Veterans.

27. Books, because I can experience the world, learn new things, laugh, cry and connect without ever leaving my couch.

28. My job, especially in this economy.

29. Religious leaders.

30. Volunteers.

31. A cup of hot cocoa on a cold day.

32. Family and friends; love them all!

33. The smell of homemade desserts baking in the oven.

34. Listening to beautiful music.

35. Friends meeting over a cup of tea; a fire in the hearth; a friendly game of Scrabble.

36. My kids, who can always make me laugh.

37. Being friends with my parents.

38. Every member of my family, especially for my mom who is a constant source of support, encouragement and friendship.

39. Enjoyable conversation between friends.

40. Hugs.

41. My family, have a job, having health insurance, and being loved as much as I am.

42. My health, even if I complain about certain aches and pains!

43. My family, my fiancé and being able to go to college.

44. Having a roof over my head.

45. Finding a dollar in an old coat you haven't worn in years.

46. Enjoyable hobbies and pursuits in life.

47. The forgiveness of God.

48. Schools and colleges.

49. A dictionary & thesaurus, both within arms reach.

50. Repairing an object yourself and having it come out perfectly.

51. Hot showers after a hard day of work to ease away the stress of the day.

52. The express line at the grocery store.

53. The generosity of strangers.

54. “Chick Flicks” vs. “Action Movies” and explaining why yours is more
enjoyable to the "other team".

55. Tossed aside treasures at tag sales or wherever they may be found.

56. Duct-Tape!

57. Good role-models we can point to for children to aspire to emulate.

58. Indoor plumbing - imagine life without it.

59. Date nights.

60. Inspiring words that lift our souls in times of crisis.

61. Youth and amateur sports leagues to both watch and play in.

62. People who obey traffic regulations.

63. The trials and losses in my life for they have helped me become a stronger and better person!

64. Our favorite instructors and teachers.

65. People who enjoy reading what we write.

66. Chocolate!

67. Hidden places that you can sneak away to.

68. Health care workers.

69. Internet Maps and GPS devices.

70. Lucky old coins and favorite treasures, both precious and humble.

71. The spring that will come after the winter.

72. All those who came before us great and small have a story to tell. That
is what history is all about. So I am thankful to be able to know and learn
their stories.

73. Old libraries and their treasures which lay hidden and wait to be

74. People with interesting personalities who make the world better or at
the very least, more interesting.

75. Brothers and sisters.

76. Word processing software.

77. Sitting in an open field on a crystal clear night and enjoying the
celestial display above.

78. Our furry four-legged friends who have chosen to live their lives with us.

79. Being able to sit at a computer and just watch music videos when we are
supposed to be working.

80. Sunrises, sunsets, ocean waves, hidden forests, mossy rocks and mountain
streams and all the other wonderments of nature.

81. Our Guardian Angels who stay with us even when we try to refuse their help.

82. A child’s laughter.

83. The wisdom of elders.

84. Works of art.

85. Those perfect parking places which sometimes we are lucky enough to get.

86. The creative minds of others and what they share with us all.

87. Photos, for capturing a moment in time.

88. Relaxing periods of quiet during a busy day.

89. To live in a free country.

90. Bookmarks! No need to fold pages!

91. Museums.

92. Social Networking sites. I've always wanted to know what people I
haven't seen since grade school are up to.

93. Sweaters, hats, scarves and gloves.

94. Search engine searches that actually turn up useful results.

95. Good listeners.

96. Parks.

97. Hand-written letters.

98. Bread, the universal side to any meal.

99. Buy one, get two free sales.

100. People who commit their lives to protecting and preserving our cities,
states and country.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

As you get ready for Christmas Shopping

If you are planning on buying from Amazon this Christmas season, please consider clicking to their site from a link on my site, such as the one that appears below or on the sidebar. A percentage of the money you spend will serve to help support this site.

Every little bit helps! Thank you in advance!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

For when you are starting to feel jaded . . .

The 7th and 8th grade students at St. John the Baptist School in Ludlow, MA have started keeping an on-line gratitude journal. As their teacher Colleen Mollica writes:

"As we begin the school year, I have asked my 7th and 8th grade students to keep a gratitude journal. Each day, I give them a lead question or statement to reflect upon and then a bit of time to journal their thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me how insightful and genuinely thankful they are. Please enjoy some excerpts from their daily journals!"

These are truly inspiring and a reminder of the important things in life:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Undoing the Knots in Our Lives

Guest post by Doreen Truesdell

The knots of life weigh me down
with intertwining cares,
a confusion of threads and a tangle of mesh,
knitted by arrogance and dread.
Would that these ties which bind my will
and stifle my beating heart,
be straightened with a patient hand
and be mercifully drawn apart!

Why, oh why, did Catholics ever give up the many and diverse devotions which for centuries have provided people with a personal connection with heaven? As individual as our personalities, the breadth of traditional devotions to Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, the angels and archangels, and the saints have served a pious purpose for many centuries when practiced with an honest heart and a soul guarded from superstitious inclinations.

It will take generations to rediscover many of these wonderful devotions, but in an effort to advance the cause just a little let me shine the light of attention on the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Undoer of Knots.” In a time of cultural complexity, of confusion and disarray in personal relationships, this beautiful devotion brings that rare commodity for which we sometimes despair: hope.

With the supernatural patience and wisdom of the Mother of God, the image of Mary, Undoer of Knots, shows the blessed Mother serenely at work untying a length of cord that is riddled with kinks and tangles, representing the difficulties in our lives. Broken relationships, sinful behaviors, unforgiven enemies, prejudices and hates, lukewarm faith, anguish and regrets, loneliness, ignorance, cowardice, and so many other human failings on our part and on the part of others are responsible for the knots in our lives.

The bondage of sin, and the realization that sins that may appear to be “freeing” actually bind and enslave us, is a traditional biblical image. Jesus, upon raising Lazarus from the dead, declared that his bonds should be loosed so he could be set free. Our Lord gave the power of binding and loosing to Peter and the Apostles when establishing His priesthood. Sin, from the Old to the New Testament, is described as an enslavement that keeps us from the company and grace of God the Father.
Also traditional from the early Church is Mary’s role as the great mediatrix, whose nimble fingers can undo the tangles of our sins in a heavenly intercession of maternal love.

The origin for the devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots, is a meditation from Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon and a martyr of the early Church. In his book Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), he builds upon Saint Paul’s parallel between Adam and Christ, stating “Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race; whereas Mary, by Her obedience, undid it…For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.

The beautiful image of the Undoer or Untier of Knots, has been venerated in the pilgrim church of St. Peter in Perlack (Perlach), Bavaria, Germany, since 1700. For three centuries, the devotion has survived among the faithful and appears to be growing, thanks to published booklets, websites such as phone 1(905)495-4614. An official publication, containing the devotion’s history, and a novena with nihil obstat and imprimatur, has been printed in 19 languages and distributed worldwide.

Contemplation of the image shows Mary with a crown of twelve stars adorning Her head, a sign of Her Queenship of the Apostles, whom She consoled and counseled after Jesus’ earthly departure. Her blue mantle represents Her glory as Queen of the Universe. Her feet crush the head of the serpent indicating Her victory over Satan. She is suspended between heaven and earth, resplendent with light, and accompanied by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, reminding us that She became Mother of God and full of grace by virtue of the Third Person of the Trinity. Assisting Her at the task of straightening the cord of our life is an entire heavenly court of angels, signifying Her position as Queen of the Angels, and Queen of Heaven.

“Ah, the knots of our life! Knots of discord in your family…the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy in the home. Knots of hurt and resentment that so torture our hearts… How they suffocate the soul, beat us down, betray the heart’s joy and even the will to continue living,” writes Dr. Suzel Frem Bourgerie, a contributing author of the publication, “Mary, Undoer of Knots.” “Knots that separate us from God, chaining our arms, legs, all our being and our faith, keeping us from flinging (ourselves) like children into the arms of God and glorifying Him. The Virgin Mother does not want this to continue…She comes to you…to give Her all these snarls because She will undo them one by one…more than ever the Holy Mother of God is ready to succor those who cry out to her…”

No matter how knotted are the events in your life, the Blessed Virgin can undo the tangles because Her Son empowers Her to. Through this prayerful devotion we are reminded that sin never entangled Our Lady; that Christ gave His Mother to be our Mother, and that She is uniquely endowed with grace and perfections to fulfill Her role, which She willingly accepts out of great love and humility.

Mary, Undoer of Knots, is a devotion that speaks to the hearts of the suffering who have become entangled in ourr own vices and failings. In the related novena, we pray and entrust our specific “knots” to Her loving hands, learning how to let go of that which binds us. To be free of the weight of our own chains means our hearts and minds are free to accept God’s mercy and begin to do His will in our lives.

You may ask why we need such picturesque devotions which, to some, seem to smack of fairy tales and children’s stories. We need them because we are human. To ponder something at once fantastic and yet attainable raises our minds and strengthens our faith that this world we live in is not the only one, and is far from the best one available. Devotions, such as Mary, Undoer of Knots, take the everyday difficulties of the human experience and transform them into opportunities to grow closer to our Creator and to our goal of heaven.

“Mary, Undoer of Knots, dearest Mother, I thank you for undoing the knots in my life. Wrap me in your mantle of love, keep me under your protection, enlighten me with your peace!”

Surviving the Spiritual Challenges of Unemployment

U.S. Catholic is sharing an article that originally appeared in their magazine in June 2008. It seems even more relevant today:

Surviving the Spiritual Challenges of Unemployment


This was sent to me in a chain email. I like the prayer, so I am sharing it with you.

May today be all you need it to be. May the peace of God and the freshness of the Holy Spirit rest in your thoughts, rule in your dreams tonight, and conquer all your fears. May God manifest himself today in ways you have never experienced. May your joys be fulfilled, your dreams be closer, and your prayers be answered.

I pray that faith enters a new height for you; I pray that your territory is enlarged. I pray for peace, healing, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, true and undying love for God.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: "Plain Promise"

Plain Promise (A Daughters of the Promise Novel)

by Beth Wiseman
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009

I was so excited to get to read the latest offering in the “Daughters of the Promise” series. “Plain Promise” by Beth Wiseman more than lived up to my expectations. Each offering in the series “focuses on an individual’s journey into an Amish Community where they discover new meaning to the words faith, hope, and love.” This time, it is a man, Kade Saunders, who is seeking to escape from his high-pressured existence. He has more money than he could ever spend, but has no peace in his heart. He rents a cottage from Sadie Fisher, a young widow, who is trying desperately to move on with her life after her husband’s unfortunate death. Life becomes even more complicated when Kade’s ex-wife shows up and leaves Kade’s autistic son Tyler with him. Kade has had very limited time with his son and relies on Sadie to help him with this new challenge. Soon, an inappropriate romance begins to develop. Sadie wants to follow the rules of her Order as well as trust in God’s will, but fines herself questioning both. Meanwhile, Kade is struggling with decisions of his own.

“Plain Promise” is one of those books you won’t want to put down. I was so eager to find out what would happen to the characters. The book also has important lessons about trusting in God’s will, no matter how hard that might be at a given time. There is also a useful “Reading Group Guide” at the end of the book for use in a book club or for personal reflection.

Memorial of St. Gertrude the Great

Saint Gertrude was born at Eisleben in Thuringia in 1256. As a young girl she was received into the Cistercian nuns at Helfta and applied herself to her studies, concentrating on literature and philosophy. Devoting her life to God, she dedicated herself to the pursuit of perfection, and gave herself over to prayer and contemplation. She died November 17, 1301.
(Liturgy of the Hours)

Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of your divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.
(Our Lord told St. Gertrude that this prayer would release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said.)

The Handbook for Catholic Moms now available for pre-order

I'm so excited to announce that "The Handbook for Catholic Moms" by Lisa Hendey (founder of is now available for pre-order from the Catholic Company:

Drawing from the deep tradition of the Catholic faith, Lisa Hendey coaches Catholic moms in how to care for themselves—heart, mind, body, and soul—so that they can better love and care for their families, their neighbors, and their Church.

With warmth and wisdom, Hendey creates an environment where Catholic moms can reflect peacefully upon often-competitive topics like parenting style, types of schooling, and working outside the home. By sharing her own story, Hendey inspires readers to better balance their own needs with the demands of family life and faith commitment.

Lisa shares stories from her personal life as a wife and mother, as well as stories contributed by Catholic moms and families from around the country. Each chapter of The Handbook for Catholic Moms contains relevant scripture passages, Church doctrine, and quotes from the lives of the saints. Noted Catholics such as Danielle Bean, Father James Martin, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle and Phil Lenahan contribute their expertise and wisdom to make this a tremendous resource for Catholic mothers. "Mom's Homework" reflections at the conclusion of every chapter help the reader apply the book's principles to her real world challenges as a Catholic Mom.

Contributors to The Handbook for Catholic Moms:

Sharmane Adams, Susan Bailey, Rachel Balducci, Mary Ellen Barrett, Danielle Bean, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Maria de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda, Lisa Duffy, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, Fr. Jay A. Finelli, Reverend Mr. Tom Fox, Pat Gohn, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Mary Ann Kuharski, Phil Lenahan, James Martin, SJ, Laurie Manhardt, Arwen Mosher, Holly Pierlot, Sarah Reinhard, Paula Rutherford, Rebecca Ryskind Teti, Sue Stanton, Kate Wicker, Melissa Wiley


"Lisa Hendey’s website has long been a treasured internet gathering spot. The Handbook for Catholic Moms is a welcome extension of Lisa’s wisdom and energy, enriched by the experiences of the community of women who have found community, support, and strength through"
- Amy Welborn, Author of A Catholic Woman’s Book Of Days

"Lisa Hendey is the sister friend of Catholic motherhood! We know her so well through her work for families, her website, and her engaging podcasts. Lisa now brings us her book in which she openly discusses the essential elements of a Catholic mom’s life in an exceptionally delightful, engaging, dynamic, and practical manner. You’ll be turning pages and feeling as if Lisa is there by your side lovingly offering her insight and warm encouragement. You’re going to love this book!"
- Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Host of EWTN’s Everyday Blessings For Catholic Moms

"Lisa Hendey is the kind of friend whose advice you always treasure. Warm, wise, funny, compassionate, faith-filled, and, above all experienced in the joys and struggles of family life, her new book will be a lifesaver to Catholic women who try, hope, and pray to be good moms."
- James Martin, S.J., Author of My Life with the Saints

"Kudos to fellow blogger Lisa Hendey for such a comprehensive, holistic companion for women who can use their faith as a tool to empower themselves as mothers, as wives, and as individuals on the pilgrimage of life."
- Therese Borchard, Author of Beyond Blue

"Every mom needs a few good tools in her belt, to help her handle life’s challenges and The Handbook for Catholic Moms belongs on your short list of indispensable resources. Does your marriage need a tune-up? Does your friendship garden need cultivating? Could your parenting skills use a little remedial attention? This book offers sound advice to help you meet these and other challenges with confidence and grace."
- Heidi Hess Saxton, Author of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories

"There is a saying: A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. For years, Lisa has been the candle that lights so many others. She also invites those with their own flame of faith to join with her so that more darkness is dispelled. This book is wonderful for Catholic moms (and others) to experience the Light burning inside as well as around Lisa Hendey. She is a gift to people of faith and journey."
-Deacon Tom Fox, Columnist and Podcaster at

Topics of Interest include:

* Single Motherhood
* The Importance of Mass Attendance
* Working Outside the Home
* Doctor’s Orders: Recommended Medical Routines
* Becoming a Lifelong Learner
* Exploring the Bible

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What are you thankful for?

For my article for next week, I would like to come up with a list of 100 things to be thankful for, even in hard times. Will you help? Please post a comment listing something that you are thankful for. Thank you in advance!

Visiting the Past and Thinking of the Future

Today was a beautiful day here in New England. We took advantage of the sun and unseasonably warm weather to explore a local cemetery. I actually enjoy visiting cemeteries. I find them to be such peaceful places. Also, as a history buff, I enjoy looking at older stones and uncovering the stories that they have to share. Today’s journey took us to a cemetery right in our hometown to search for some of my husband’s relatives’ gravesites. He has been researching both his and my genealogy for a while now, a task made much easier through the use of internet resources. It has been a fascinating exploration for both of us and a gift to both our children and our parents.

Searching through the cemetery today was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There were no headstones – only plaques on the ground. It was a painstaking process to brush the leaves off of each stone so that we could read the names, searching for one that might be familiar. We only looked through one section. Amazingly, we actually did find my husband’s great-grandparents. He was so excited to find the burial place of these people he had never met! He took a picture of our children next to the stone.

This search for our ancestors only leaves me wanting to know more. We have pages and pages of information – names and dates and places of birth for people going back to the 1600s, yet that is all we know. It is amazing to think that if any one of these people wasn’t in this listing, my husband and I and our children would not be here. It took that particular combination of genes and parental influence to create each one of us. Good or bad, these people have contributed to who we are. They each played a part in God’s plan. Yet, we know so little. They lived and breathed and worked and loved and raised their children. Their lives mattered, yet their stories are lost forever.

Walking through cemeteries also always reminds me of my own impending death. This week’s Gospel (Mark 13:24-32) speaks of the end of time: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The same holds true for our own personal deaths. None of us knows the day or hour that will be our last. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. All we have is today to make the most of. How we choose to use that gift of time is of vital importance.

As I wiped the leaves off of those grave markers today, I knew that many of those people had not been thought of in years. They had long since gone to their eternal destinations. I offered up a silent prayer for their souls. I know that one hundred years from now, I, too, will have been forgotten. To this world, I will be just a name and dates on a gravestone. Yet, like those that came before me, I, too, am part of God’s plan, made to know, love, and serve Him. I pray to fulfill that role well and to make the most of the time that He has given me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

What makes a school Catholic?

This is an interesting article on what makes a school "Catholic":

Book Review: It's a Wonderful Imperfect Life

I originally posted this review in July. Joan Webb is currently doing a blog tour for this wonderful book. I enjoyed it so much and I feel it could be such a help for other women, that I am re-posting the review!

It's A Wonderful Imperfect Life: Daily Encouragement for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right
By Joan C. Webb
Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009

If I had the money, I would buy a copy of “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right” by Joan C. Webb for every woman that I know. We all try so hard to do it all and get so down on ourselves when we discover that simply isn’t possible. Webb offers reassuring words based on scripture and rooted in her own experience to tell us that it is all OK. It is alright to let go of some of the pressure that we put on ourselves.

The 163 one-page devotions are divided into sections focusing on relationships, emotions, bodies, life-work, service, churches, culture, dreams and spirituality. If one particular area is troubling you, you can focus on just that section, or you can read it cover to cover as I did. Each page has something worthwhile to offer. For example, Devotion #1, “Smiling Here,” Webb invites us to recall a time we made a blunder and to laugh about it! As she reminds us, “I goofed. No big deal! It doesn’t make me less valuable.” In Devotion #30, “You Mad at Me?” Webb challenges us to stop taking on other’s moods. Women tend to feel that we are the reason someone else is upset or to feel that we must cure it. “The next time a loved one is in a bad mood and you feel the urge to ‘take it on,’ step back emotionally and ask God for wisdom.” Devotion #151, “Management Contract with God,” reminds us to turn over control of our lives to God. “Working for our ultimate good, He counsels us how to heal past damage, overcome self-defeating habits and experience contentment as we trust him for the future.”

“It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life” has much to offer for any Christian woman trying to do it all. I think it would take a lifetime to learn all these lessons, and even Webb admits she is still working on them, but the ability to pick up this book, take a deep breath, and stop and reflect and let go for a little bit is a great gift!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In Search of Wisdom

“Wisdom” is a term we use frequently. We all want to be wise. Indeed, wisdom is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We refer to the “Wisdom Literature” in the Bible. There is even a book of the Bible entitled “Wisdom.” Yet, wisdom often seems hard to come by. How many people do you know who are truly wise? What is wisdom and how can we cultivate it in our lives?

Webster defines “wisdom” as “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment or insight.” There are two main components to that definition – knowledge and action. It is important to note that both are needed. One can not simply be aware of the right thing to do. One must also do it. A wise person lives an authentic life. He or she integrates belief and behavior so that there is no disconnect between the two.

The wisdom we seek is one based in God. As such, it often flies in the face of what the world considers wise behavior. Society at large measures wisdom (and so many other things) in terms of monetary success. For the Christian, Jesus is the ultimate model of wisdom. St. Paul emphasizes that in light of the cross, “God has shown up human wisdom as folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:17) We seek the wisdom that leads to eternal life, not the wisdom that leads to a large bank account.

The Book of Proverbs offers much instruction on what it means to possess this type of wisdom. It is a “how-to” manual on how to live wisely. According to Proverbs, wisdom begins with “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). This type of fear is a profound reverence and awe of God the Creator. That awe leads to respect for all of God’s creation. Loving others as ourselves will flow naturally out of that respect. Caring for the environment will as well.

“The wise listen and learn more.” They seek out guidance. (Proverbs 1:5) A wise person is willing to put in the time and effort to discover what is right and true. One can not have right behavior without a well-formed conscience. There is a duty to learn what God teaches, and not simply rely on one’s own feelings and desires. A wise person is willing to acknowledge that others know more and to learn from them.

There is both and ethical and spiritual component to wisdom. The ethical aspect concerns the actions a person makes. It is perhaps how a wise person will be most recognizable. However, a wise person is also engaged in a relationship with God. We were made to know, love and serve God. A wise person will do all of those things. True wisdom comes from God and a person cannot be truly wise without acknowledging and submitting to that higher power and intelligence. May we always seek to become wise in the way of God.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Book Review: An Amish Christmas

An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County
by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Barbara Cameron
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009

Looking for some sweet, heartwarming stories to lose yourself in this holiday season? An Amish Christmas may be just what you are looking for. Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, and Barbara Cameron, each established authors in their own right, have teamed up to write three novellas guaranteed to touch your heart and provide some quality leisure time. The three novellas, "A Miracle for Miriam," "A Choice to Forgive," and "One Baby" all take place in the same Amish community, focusing on different characters within it.

"A Miracle for Miriam" focuses on Miriam and her struggle with her own self-worth. Can she believe a young man who once cruelly rejected her is honest with his intentions and interest now? Can she forgive him for his insensitivity? Can she believe that she is beautiful and worthy of love?

"A Choice to Forgive" centers on Lydia, whose husband died two years before. When her husband's brother, her first true love, returns after 18 years away, she is forced to face their past together and the truth of what actually happened all those years ago. Can she forgive both her husband and her brother for the choice that they made?

"One Baby" features Sarah and her husband David. Sarah miscarried a baby the previous Christmas Eve and her heart is still heavy with grief. When this Christmas Eve finds them housing a very pregnant English woman and her husband who were stranded in a storm, she must face her own pain and anger at God and find the courage to help the lost couple in their own fear.

These three stories deal with forgiveness and trusting God. They both entertain and instruct. They are well-worth spending some time with this Christmas season. There is also a very useful reading guide in the back of the book for personal reflection or use in a book group.

Friday, November 06, 2009

How Spiritual Direction has Helped Me

Long-time readers of my blog (to whom I am eternally grateful) have heard this story before, but Patricia-Ann Constance-Wilson Perkowski of asked me to share my story of spiritual direction for her site, so I am sharing it here as well. Patricia is offering on-line spiritual direction, which I think is a wonderful idea. I had looked for an on-line spiritual director when I was first searching for one and had come up empty. It is nice to know that there is that option if I need it.

In 2003 I was the mother of two small children and in the midst of an identity crisis of epic proportions. I loved my children very much, but I had stopped working when I became pregnant with my second child and I missed that sense of purpose. I was a woman with a master's degree who felt very unfulfilled. I didn't know what God wanted of me. I felt so very lost. I had heard of spiritual direction when I was doing my graduate work in theology, but still wasn't quite sure what it was or if it would benefit me. As someone who has suffered from depression, I had gone through traditional counseling, but always found it frustrating that God couldn't be part of that conversation. I always tried to frame my life in terms of what God wanted from me. Sometimes, that was very difficult to figure out. That moment was one of those times.

I saw a notice for an open house at a local Center for Spiritual Direction. I nervously went, my 2 1/2 year old son in tow. Everyone I met was so nice, and I was so very desperate for someone to help me. One woman was willing to meet with me late in the evenings after my children were in bed. I could just go once and see if it was something that was right for me. I felt such a sense of peace the first time I went. It was such a relief to have a God-centered conversation about everything that was going on in my life. I looked forward to my monthly conversations so much.

That first spiritual director truly helped me with the process of discernment. Through that process came the call to start writing about my spirituality to try to help other women also struggling with integrating their lives and their faith. It is one of the few times in my life I truly felt called by God to do something. The idea came to me and I knew it was something that I had to do. I have been doing just that for the past six years. My first project was a book, "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" which shared my experience of the pregnancy and birth of my older son combined with prayers to Mary. I then began a newsletter and website. It was such a joy to be able to share my faith with others and I hope that I have helped others in the process as well.

Over the years, I have had three spiritual directors, each one providing me the help that I needed at the given time. I truly believe that God provides the spiritual director that you need at a certain moment and that the Holy Spirit is there in the process. I still look forward to my monthly meetings. I still have much to figure out as I walk this journey of life. I heartily recommend spiritual direction to anyone who is interested in exploring their relationship with God on a deeper level or who is struggling to discern what God wants from them.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Unfulfilled Desires

At Bible Study this week, my friends and I were discussing “passions” – those things that we feel strongly about. According to Quentin Hakenewerth, S.M., “a passion is emotional energy which is attached to some goal or object. Passions help us become lively and resourceful persons.” However, we need to attach this energy to something that is worthwhile. “Saint John gives us three criteria for recognizing passions which are harmful and ego-centered: those which 1) pursue pleasure for its own sake; 2) crave possessions for their own sake; 3) covet status, titles, or rank to build up our image in the eyes of others (cf. 1 Jn 2:16).” On the other hand, one can never be too passionate about those things that come from God – “love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (cf. Gal 5:22-24).

Everyone has something that gets their inner fires burning, and thankfully, these things generally coincide with gifts that have been bestowed upon them from God. The combination of our talents and our passions is the fuel which keeps us going in life. It is the impetus for civilization and relationships and contributions to society. The women whom I am lucky to call friends are all passionate people, yet when we got to the question “Describe a passion you have, for example, a desire to achieve some goal or work on a particular project which gives you lots of energy. What can you do to develop this passion?” the room became eerily silent. We are all mothers, and homeschooling mothers at that. There are so many things we would like to do, some desires admittedly more noble than others, yet they are squashed by a lack of time. There is only so much “emotional energy” that one can muster after a full day of parenting. Even when the energy is there, the time and opportunity are not.

It is true – we mothers do have ample opportunity to practice things like love, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-control. Motherhood is a noble pursuit. I know some women who were truly made to be mothers. I, however, am not one of them. I love my children with all my heart and do all I can for them. They were given to me by God and I treasure the gift and acknowledge the responsibility. I was called to homeschool, despite my initial reluctance. It was definitely the right decision for our family. I’m trying to be the very best mom I can be. I know that I am lucky to have this opportunity. Yet, I am more than that. I am more than the person who takes care of the kids and cleans the house (and I admit, I don’t do that chore particularly well). God gave me other gifts. I was also blessed with the opportunity to obtain an advanced education.

Like my friends, I do try to make use of my passions and talents to contribute to the world at large. It is always in small doses, however. I’ve had older mothers assure me that the day will come when I will get the opportunity to make more use of my gifts. That may be true, or it may not. There is no guarantee that I will live to see that day. Even if I do, there may very well be other people who will need my time and attention – sick parents or caring for grandchildren, for example. The future is a great unknown. All I have is today and the circumstances I find myself in. The unfulfilled desires are frustrating. I sometimes wonder why God made me, what my purpose is in the big scheme of things. I have to trust that he knows better than I do my reason for being here. All I can do is keep going, praying and trying to do the best I can with the time I have. Another wise woman at Bible Study (I told you I was lucky to be among these women!) reminded us all of the importance of acceptance. I need to work on that. I need to be happy where I am and let God take care of the restlessness in my heart.

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