Thursday, September 30, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 21

A child that a doctor makes undergo a painful operation won't fail to cry loudly and say that the cure is worse than the disease. However, if he finds himself cured a few days later, he's happy to be able to play and run. It is the same for souls. Soon they recognize that a little bitterness is sometimes preferable to sugar, and they're not afraid to admit it. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Olivia and the Little Way

Olivia and the Little Way
by Nancy Carabio Belanger
Illustrated by Sandra Casali LewAllen
Rochester, MI: Harvey House Publishing, 2008

"Olivia and the Little Way" by Nancy Carabio Belanger is a sweet story about a fifth grader who is struggling to follow St. Therese. Her grandmother is the person who first introduces Olivia to the wonderful example of St. Therese. She shares how she asked that saint for help in finding a nice man to marry who believed in God. She prayed a novena (a prayer repeated over the course of nine days)and then waited for a rose (the symbol of St. Therese) as a sign that her prayer had been heard. She waited three long years for that rose, but it finally came the same day she met her future husband.

Olivia admires St. Therese's little way of making small sacrifices and tries to emulate her as best she can. She prays to St. Therese for help in making friends at her new school and for guidance in making good decisions. Olivia is a real girl. She doesn't always do the right thing. She succumbs to peer pressure and gets in trouble with her parents. She keeps trying, however, and St. Therese does help both her and her friends out. Though it takes a while, she finally does get her rose.

This is a lovely story written for tweens, especially tween girls. It helps introduce readers to the Little Way as well as keep them engrossed with the storyline. One truly cares about Olivia and her friends in reading this book.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 20

How contrary Jesus' teachings are to the thoughts of nature. Without the help of His grace it would be impossible not only to put them into practice, but even more to understand them. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: "A Difficult Boy"

A Difficult Boy
by M.P. Barker
New York: Holiday House, 2008

"A Difficult Boy" was on my list of books to be read for quite a while. I am so glad that I finally had the opportunity to get my hands on it. Written by a fellow Elms College alumna and set in my home area of Western Massachusetts in the year 1839, it tells the story of Ethan, a nine-year-old boy who has been indentured in order to help pay off a debt, and his relationship with Daniel, an older fellow indentured servant. Daniel, more commonly known as "Paddy," is an Irish Catholic whose family died in a fire.

Barker, a longtime archivist at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, has created a richly accurate portrait of life in indentured servitude and the prejudice that Irish Catholics faced in Massachusetts in that time period. It is an engrossing story with a surprise and highly satisfying ending. While a bit graphic for younger children, it would make great reading for any teenager studying the history of this time period or anyone who enjoys good historical fiction.

5th Blogiversary

It's hard for me to believe that I have been keeping this blog for five years now. It's also strange to think that in the beginning I wondered if I would ever have enough to say to make a blog worthwhile! Thank you to each and every one of you who has stopped by this little corner of cyberspace over the course of the past five years. I appreciate it so very much. Please keep visiting.

For fun, I thought that today I would reprint my very first blog post, originally posted under the title "Welcome" on September 28, 2005:

People have been telling me for a while that I should start a blog, so here it goes. Here I will share some reflections on life and spirituality. I consider this a companion to my website - - a place where I can talk about what I am currently reading (I am always reading something!), life events, and having an ongoing relationship with God. While some of the writings I post here may eventually end up in an article of mine, this will be a more informal type of writing - random thoughts on spirituality and life.

I am privileged to live in a city with a wonderful library system, not to mention a great interlibrary loan program. While I love bookstores, I rarely buy books. For me, the library is the way to go. My current reading for pleasure is "Memories of Hawthorne" by Rose Hawthorne Lathrop. My mother who is a Dominican Tertiary introduced me to Rose and I profiled her in my most recent "Profile in Faith" for my website (for more info, check out She was the youngest daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, famous 19th century American author, and his wife, Sophia Peabody. Ultimately, she would decide to embrace poverty, minister to poor cancer patients, and begin a religious community. Before turning her back on her previous life, however, she wrote "Memories of Hawthorne," an exploration of her parents' lives.

The librarian had to get the book, published in 1897, out of storage for me. It came out covered in dust and smelling like only old books can smell (I have always loved the smell of old books - one of my odder characteristics!). I am currently on page 79. Mostly so far it is letters that Sophia Peabody Hawthorne wrote, edited by Rose. Letters tell us so much about people. I'm old enough that I actually remember life before email, and had several correspondences with people via letters that were handwritten and sent via mail. There is something about receiving a letter in the mail and opening it and being able to keep and reread it. I would never trade the convenience of email, but 100 years from now, I think our world may have lost something by not having a written record of our relationships.

The last letter I read today was from Sophia to Nathaniel while he was away on business. She writes, " If I asked myself strictly whether I could write to you this evening, I should say absolutely no, for ten thousand different things demand the precious moments while our baby sleeps." How I can relate to that! With two young children, the evening hours after they are in bed are my only opportunity to pursue my own interests. The list of things to do always outweighs the time!

For my website and newsletter (which is also a pleasure - I am so lucky to do something I love), I am reading "A Resilient Life" by Gordon MacDonald (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004). In Chapter 7, "Resilient People Foresee the Great Questions of Life's Passage" MacDonald discusses the "big questions" of every decade in adult life. He himself is in his sixties, but he also spoke with his elders to get their perspective on life's meaning. The questions are worth reflecting on:

In the 20s:

"What will I do with my life? What parts of me and my life need correction?"

In the 30s: (this is where I find myself)

"How do I prioritize the demands being made on my life? How far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose? What does my spiritual life look like? Do I even have time for one?"

In the 40s:

"Why are limitations beginning to outnumber options? Why do I seem to face so many uncertainties?"

In the 50s:

"Why is time moving so fast? How do I deal with my failures and successes? What do I do with my doubts and fears?"

In the 60s:

"When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me? Is there life after death? Who will be around me when I die?"

In the 70s and 80s:

"Does anyone realize, or even care, who I once was? Is there anything I can still contribute? Heaven - what is it like?"

These questions certainly provide some food for thought, don't they? I think to some extent, the questions cross the decades and depend on personal circumstances, but that MacDonald is correct in pinpointing the major issues for each decade.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 19

Now I understand that perfect charity consists in bearing with others' faults, in not being surprised at their weakness, in being edified by the little acts of virtue that we see them practice. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Monday, September 27, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 18

For a long time I've no longer belonged to myself. I'm totally given over to Jesus. He's therefore free to do with me as He pleases. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Setting Realistic Goals

I am a very task oriented person. I know not everyone shares my joy in making to-do lists and then crossing things off of them once they are accomplished, but for me this is one of the simple pleasures in life. Certainly, I wish that there weren’t quite so many things on the to-do lists to start with, but the pure bliss of getting to make big lines through them once they are done almost makes up for it. Truthfully, most of the things on my to-do lists are mundane. Things like make a doctor’s appointment, take the car in for service, renew a prescription, do the laundry, and bag the trash. I keep a separate work-related one so that when I take out my computer, I know what I need to focus on. Thankfully, I’m no longer in the sleep-deprived haze of early motherhood when I actually had to write “start the dishwasher” on my to-do list or else it wouldn’t get done. Still, my memory is not good and I have too many things to juggle. Without the lists, way too many things would simply drift away, never to be thought of again.

What do to-do lists have to do with setting goals? To-do lists are made up of small doable tasks. They are action items. Do the thing and you get to scratch it off the list. It may go back on the list tomorrow, but for this day the mission has been accomplished. When people make goals (myself included), it is easy to think big. This is good. It is wonderful to dream. This is where many people get stuck. They can see where they want to be and they can see where they are now. What they don’t know is how to get there. It’s easy to get discouraged – to look at the dream and to throw in the towel. It is so far away. How could I ever get there? What’s the point? At these moments, it is important to note that the road from point A to point B is not one giant step. It is made up of smaller steps, actions that can be placed on a to-do list and accomplished one day at a time.

For example, my Bible study friends and I were all talking about how we would like to rid our homes of clutter. This is a big job. One look around my house (or my friends’ houses) and it would be easy to give up. However, we have started a plan. One of my friends sends out a Facebook message to each of us with our task for the day. These tasks are supposed to take about fifteen minutes a day. That’s doable. It’s currently an item on my actual to-do list – “Clean 15 minutes.” When it is done for that day, it is crossed off. I feel like I have accomplished my goal for the day and my house is slowly getting cleaner. Will my house ever be entirely clutter-free? Probably not, but I will be a lot closer than if I had done nothing.

This process can be applied to almost everything – even our spiritual lives. In this case, the goal is heaven. That’s a big goal. We can take a look at our lives and easily get discouraged. However, we don’t need to look at the rest of our lives in one fell swoop. We only need to worry about today. What are some things we can add to our daily to-do list to help us make spiritual progress? Have you always wanted to read the Bible, but can never seem to squeeze it in? Perhaps you could put “read Bible for 5 minutes” on your to-do list. Everyone has five minutes. Start small. You can always add to it. Maybe you have always wanted to say the rosary, but never seem to get to it. Start with one decade. Go ahead – put “say one decade of the rosary” on your to-do list. Perhaps you would like to do more to help the poor? On the to-do list could be “pick out 5 food items to donate to a local food pantry” or “Take three items out of closet that no longer fit and donate them.” These are small things, yes. They won’t change the world, but they will be a start. As one becomes accustomed to doing these things regularly, it will be easier to add other things on. You will find you have more time for prayer and spiritual reading. You will find more ways to help the poor. Make small goals that lead to bigger ones. Start walking the road. If you miss a day, start again the next. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 17

So, despite my littleness I can aspire to sainthood. To make myself bigger is impossible; I have to put up with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek the means of going to heaven by a little way that is very straight, very short, a completely new little way. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Friday, September 24, 2010

For those who have lost a child

Three new books deal with the painful loss of a child. (Please note - I haven't read any of these, but I saw them in a Catholic catalog today and thought they might be of help to some of you).

A Gathering of Angels: Seeking Healing After an Infant's Death
Beginning in 2006, Neonatal Intensive Care nurse, Victoria Leland, RN, found her life remarkably intertwined with five mothers whose premature babies died in her NICU. After she witnessed each of these mothers struggle alone in grief, Leland brought these women together and created an informal support group, which they fondly called their "Good Grief Group." Their regular gathering, sharing, and volunteerism immensely helped each woman, and also helped them become "angels" to others experiencing the heartbreak of infant death.

Inspired by their stories, Leland compiled A Gathering of Angels, a collection of the wisdom these five mothers gained by opening their hearts and sharing their feelings and experiences on twenty-two different aspects of grief.

Although diverse in their ages, religions, experiences, and professions, these grieving mothers and their NICU nurse share their intensely personal stories in ways that create an incredibly universal book that will speak to readers from all walks of life. Parents who grieve the loss of a baby will find validation, hope, and consolation. Those trying to assist a loved one who has lost a baby will find understanding about parental grief and will be empowered to more effectively help their loved one experiencing this unique type of grief.

No one should grieve alone. Follow these women on the path they forged and let A Gathering of Angels become an angel to you on your own grief journey and inspire you to become an angel to someone else in need.

First Tears Over the Loss of Your Child
There is a natural progression to life, certain events that are supposed to happen at specific times. The death of a child at any age, however, upsets that progression, leaving the bereaved to formulate a new normal. Linda Anderson has survived such a loss. In First Tears over the Loss of Your Child, she shares some of the wisdom she has learned, and she has collected words of comfort from people who have also experienced traumatic losses. The result is a timeless volume that offers commiseration, hope, renewal, understanding and love to anyone who has lost a child.

Knowing through first-hand experience that bereaved parents need to a safe place in which to share their own grief and beloved memories of their children, Anderson has created a book that gives parents that security during the tender times shortly after the death of their child. First Tears over the Loss of Your Child is grouped into the following sections:

* First Tears
* Grieving
* Grieving as a Couple
* Faith
* Memories
* Your Life to Come

Parents never get over missing their child. But by reconciling themselves to their loss, they can allow happiness to grow around the memories of their loved ones.

Born to Fly: An Infant's Journey to God

For parents who have had a child die before birth, or for the friends and relatives of a grieving family, the story and tender illustrations in this book will bring comfort and hope.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 15

Considering the mystical body of the Church, I had not recognized myself in any of the members described by St. Paul, or rather, I wanted to recognize myself in all of them. . . Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members [1 Cor 12:12], it was not missing the most necessary, the most noble of all: I understood that the Church had a heart, and that this heart was burning with Love. I understood that Love alone can cause the members of the Church to act . . . Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out, "Oh Jesus, my Love. . . I have finally found my vocation: My vocation is Love!" - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Dear God, I Don't Get It

Dear God, I don't get it!
by Patti Maguire Armstrong
Illustrated by Shannon Wirrenga
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2009

Why does God answer some prayers and not others? This is a question that plagues even adults. Sometimes, we pray so hard and think we know what God should do in our lives. And then, God does something else or He does nothing. What gives? For children, these questions can be even more acute. Without a lifetime of experience to rely on, God ignoring a prayer can be a faith-shaking incident.

That is the premise behind "Dear God, I Don't Get It." Patti Maguire Armstrong tells the story of sixth-grader Aaron Ajax. His father just lost his job and he has to move from Montana to North Dakota as a result. He prayed and prayed that this would not happen, and God just didn't pay attention. He has to leave his friends behind and while his younger brother Luke is making new friends easily, Aaron seems to only be making enemies. Nothing is going well for him. He concocts a plan to be a "hero" in order to get some positive attention, but that blows up in his face as well. Yet, God can use even bad things for good, and by the end of the story, everything has worked out, and Aaron decides that God knows what He is doing after all.

Armstrong writes with a good sense of humor that will appeal to the 8 - 12 age group that this book is targeted toward. It is a story with an important lesson on prayer for children, and the adults who care for them (and who might read this book with them). For those interested in delving into the story on a deeper level, there are discussion questions in the back.

Feast Day of St. Padre Pio

September 23rd is the feast day of St. Padre Pio. One of my Facebook friends posted this quote by him:

‎"Prayer is the oxygen of the soul." ~ St. Pio of Pietrelcina

How true that is!

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 14

How I want to apply myself to always doing, with the greatest abandonment, the will of God! - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 13

How sweet is the path of love. No doubt, one can fall down, one can commit unfaithful acts, but love, knowing how to profit from everything, quickly consumes everything that can be displeasing to Jesus, leaving only a humble and profound peace in the depths of the heart. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

40 Days for Life starts tomorrow

40 Days for Life goes from September 22nd through October 31st. What is 40 Days for Life? It is the opportunity to fast and pray for the pro-life cause for 40 Days. You can read about it here: 40 Days for Life. You may not be able to protest at a Planned Parenthood Clinic or volunteer at a pro-life center. You may not even be able to fast, but each one of us is certainly able to pray and to offer up some sacrifice help bring an end to abortion.

The 40 Days for Life site also offers a daily devotion: 40 Days for Life Daily Devotional. Bookmark the page and visit it daily during these next 40 days.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 12

I can ask for nothing more fervently any more except the perfect accomplishment of God's will in my soul. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: "Things Seen and Unseen"

Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian's Notebook
by Lawrence S. Cunningham
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2010

One of the key features of writing a book review is to determine a book's purpose and whether the author achieved it. As the title states, "Things Seen and Unseen" by Lawrence S. Cunningham, a longtime theology professor at Notre Dame, is a notebook - it is a collection of random thoughts on readings and life as a theologian. In reading it, I felt a bit like I was reading a collection of blog posts. As a blogger myself, I can appreciate the value in that. In his introduction, Cunningham quotes what Karl Rahner said about his life as a Jesuit theologian, "I did not lead a life. I worked, wrote, taught, tried to do my duty and earn a living. I tried this ordinary way of serving God." Cunningham states that this book offers slices from his own ordinary way. In that, he has succeeded.

"Things Seen and Unseen" will appeal most to other theologians. These are short reflections, often referring to other theologians, religious works, etc. The text presumes a certain familiarity with them. One can certainly appreciate the text and the ideas without this knowledge, but one will be missing the fullness of it.

Cunningham certainly offers much food for thought. In these short commentaries, he touches on some wonderful quotes and reflects on them. He comments on public events, changes in life, and the world around him. Like every single one of us, he is attempting to figure out this gift of life. He certainly does not pretend to have all the answers and in many things he is still struggling, but there is much to be learned from his wisdom and experience.

One section that I greatly appreciated was on what it means to be a scholar, to take one's studies seriously, especially the study of God. "The brute fact is that the only way to become a scholar and to love its life is to sit down and study as a solitary act. Until one does that, he or she has no right to prattle on before folks without having first studied. The psalmist gets it right in the opening of the Psalter: 'their delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law they meditate day and night' - that is the counterpoint to those who 'sit in the seat of the scoffers.' The wise man knows where to plant his bottom!"

Cunningham writes that he hoped in his teaching to instill the "love of learning and a desire for God" in his students. "Things Seen and Unseen" is one more way for him to achieve that goal.

A Saint for the Test-Takers

I read this story about St. Joseph of Cupertino to my children this morning: The Back to School Saint

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 11

I understood that without love, all works are only nothingness, even the most dazzling, such as raising the dead or converting entire peoples. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A New (Old) Take on Sin

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote “We do not offend God except by doing something contrary to our own good.” I came across that quote recently and was struck by both its simplicity and its implications. One traditional act of contrition states “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you because I dread the loss of heaven and the pain of hell, but most of all because you are all good and deserving of all my love.” Our first reason for doing the right thing should not be because we fear punishment, but because we love God. When we fail in that love, we offend God and commit a sin. Sin is one of those things that most people don’t seem to think about much anymore. As a society, we have lost a sense of sin. Even if one acknowledges that he or she has committed a wrong against another person, one rarely thinks of it as an offense against God. Aquinas puts sin back in its proper perspective.

We have a God who loves us and created us because He wanted us to know, love and serve Him and ultimately be happy with him in heaven. He wants what is good for us. Sometimes, that is hard to understand and accept. After all, there are all those rules. Aren’t they all meant to take away our fun and suck all the pleasure out of life? Sometimes, it can seem that way. But, think for a moment about true human love. If you truly love another person, you want what is best for him or her, even if it is not what might be in your own best interest. Sometimes, that person might not even consider it to be what is best for him or her.

Think of a parent who loves her child. (For the sake of argument, we’ll use a mother. It could just as easily be a father). Parenthood can be one of the most selfless human loves in existence. A mother spends years caring for a child, attempting to form his character, enforcing rules, gently guiding the development of his interests, encouraging, educating, and being a shoulder to cry on. In response, a child often rebels and frequently dislikes the parent. A good mother wants what is best for her child, even though it may cost her dearly. When a child makes a poor decision (regardless of the child’s age), it wounds the parent deeply.

With God, He is the parent and we are the children, except on an even deeper level. We are His creation in a way our own physical children never could be. We did not create our children. God sent them. We welcomed them. They are pure gift. On the other hand, without God’s thought willing us into existence, we would not be. God formed every part of us. He knows every hair on our head, every cell within our bodies, our interests and longings, our hurts and challenges. He sees all that we could be and longs for us to fulfill our purpose. He gives us rules for good behavior so that we might know what to do. He watches us and wants us to make good decisions. He wants us to love Him and love our neighbor in a selfless manner. He wants what is best for us. When we fail, we do offend Him. That is sin.

Aquinas’ quote also offers a question to ask when making decisions. Is this good for me? Is this activity or decision beneficial to my spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being? Is this what God would want me to do? Imagine how life might be different if this was the standard by which we shaped our lives.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 10

I offered myself to Jesus, not as a person who desires to receive His visit for her own consolation, but on the contrary for the pleasure of the One who gives Himself to me, I conceive of my soul as an empty field, and I pray to the Blessed Virgin to take away the debris that could prevent it from being empty. Then I implore her to raise up herself a vast tent worthy of heaven, to decorate it with her own finery, and then I invite all the Saints and Angels to come make a magnificent concert. It seems to me when Jesus comes down into my heart, that He is content to find Himself so well-received there, and I am also happy. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 9

I applied myself above all to practicing the little virtues, since I didn't have the facility for practicing the big ones. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Should We Paint God the Father?

Here is a very interesting post on painting God the Father. Is it appropriate?

Should We Paint God the Father

Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help

I received a prayer card in the mail yesterday from Liguori Publications. It was a prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (which I have reprinted below). I have heard of that name for Mary before, but never knew much about it. Here is the fascinating history of the icon:

A Short Novena to our Mother of Perpetual Help
(Say prayer each day while looking at her image)

Most holy and Immaculate Virgin
and our Mother Mary, you are
our Perpetual Help,
our refuge and our hope.

I come to you today.
I thank God for all the graces
received through your intercession.
Mother of Perpetual Help,
we promise to love you always
and do all we can
to lead others to you.

Mother of Perpetual Help,
confident of your powerful influence
with God, obtain for us these graces. (Your petition here).

Concluding Prayer

(composed by Pope John Paul II)

O Virgin of Perpetual Help,
great sign of our hope,
Holy Mother of the Redeemer,
we invoke your name.
Help your people who desire to be renewed.
Give us joy as we walk towards
the future in conscious and active solidarity
with the poorest of our brothers and sisters,
announcing to them in a new
and courageous way, the Gospel of Your Son,
the beginning and the end of all
human relationships that aspire to
live a true, just, and lasting peace.
As does the Child Jesus, Whom we admire
in this venerable icon, so we also want
to hold your right hand.
You have both the power and the
goodness to help us in every need
and circumstance of life.
This moment is yours.
Come then, help us; be for us
our refuge and our hope.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 8

At the beginning of my spiritual life, around the age of thirteen or fourteen, I used to wonder what I would have to gain later, because I thought it was impossible for me to understand perfection any better. I very quickly recognized that the more one advances on this path, the farther one believes oneself from being near the end. So now I am resigned to seeing myself as always imperfect, and in that I find my joy . . . - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prayer by Franciscan Friar Mychal Judge

I am currently reading Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian's Notebook by Lawrence S. Cunningham. Today I came across this passage:

One of the iconic photos of the 9/11 tragedy was that of firemen carrying out the body of the Franciscan friar, Mychal Judge. Later I discovered a prayer he once composed with its wonderful final line:

Lord, take me where you want me to go,
Let me meet whom you want me to meet,
Tell me what to say, and
Keep me out of your way. Amen

What a wonderful prayer! And I can so relate to that last line. How often I feel like I could do whatever it is that God wants from me if I could just get the "me" part out of it.

The Way of Beauty is now a TV show

Interested in Catholic Art? You can now watch "The Way of Beauty" at The Way of Beauty

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 7

Yes, suffering held out its arms to me, and I threw myself into those arms with love. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

8 Keys to Keeping Kids Catholic

I am a big fan of the donation box at my local library. I both donate to and pick up books and magazines from the pile. On my last trip, I was thrilled to pick up the July/August 2010 issue of Catholic Digest. They had a very good article in it on talking to children about the sex abuse scandal. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be on their website, so I can't link to it. In perusing their website, however, I did come across this very good article on 8 Keys to Keeping Kids Catholic.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 6

Far from being like those beautiful souls who from childhood practiced every kind of mortification, I felt no attraction for them. Without a doubt this came from my cowardice, because I could, like Celine [her sister], have found a thousand ways to make myself suffer. Instead of that I let myself always be coddled in cotton and fattened up like a little bird that has no need of doing penance. . . My mortifications consisted in breaking my will, which was always ready to impose itself; in holding my tongue instead of answering back; in doing little things for others without hoping to get anything in return, in not slumping back when I was sitting down; etc. etc. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Picking up the Cross

Today (September 14th) is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In today's Living Faith reflection, there is an excerpt from Fr. Gerald O'Collins' book "Experiencing Jesus":

In Freedom I must decide to take up my cross and follow in the Lord's footsteps - along that way where there is no ecstasy. Anyone's cross is hard and difficult to take not only unexpected and seemingly random sufferings but also (and perhaps especially?) the distress which comes from what we are ourselves and what we have done. We can resist this for years in a kind of silent revolt. The crucified Jesus shows us that unless we say yes to these sufferings, they will have no real meaning. When we face and accept them with Jesus, they can mysteriously become the means of growth and vitality for ourselves and others . . .

The choice was and remains between suffering in misery or accepting with Christ the mystery of the cross that will come out way. The outcome of such acceptance will always be a transforming resurrection.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 5

When I saw these innocent souls up close, I understood what an unfortunate thing it is not to teach them well as soon as their hearts awaken, while they are life soft wax on which virtues can be imprinted, but also vices. . . I understood what Jesus said in the Gospel: "It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea. . . than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble" [Lk 17:2] - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Monday, September 13, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 4

I didn't always feel at first glance the truth about life; but soon God let me feel that true glory is the one that will last forever, and that to obtain it, it isn't necessary to do outstanding works, but to remain hidden and to practice virtue in such a way that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing [Mt. 6:3] - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making Amends

What do you do after you say you are sorry? That is the question my parish priest posed to the children at Mass this Sunday. His point was that often saying we are sorry is not enough. We also must do something to make up for the wrong we have caused. We must do our best to make amends.

Saying that we are sorry when we have wronged someone is important. It is one of those things parents tell children to do from their earliest ages. By way of example, one toddler smacks another over the head with their toy of choice. In most cases, the toy is taken away or given to the other child, and then the offending child is then instructed to say “I’m sorry.” Is the child actually sorry? Probably not. Feeling true contrition is something that comes with time. Soon enough, however, the child will experience it and will know what to do when he or she has hurt someone else. It is an important life lesson.

As adults, we say that we are sorry often. I said it myself a few minutes ago when I accidentally stepped on my dog’s tail. I hadn’t realized that she had positioned herself under my legs until I moved my foot. We brush up against someone in the supermarket. We say we are sorry. We realize that we interrupted someone. We say we are sorry. These are the times when it is easy to say that we are sorry. We say it. The other person acknowledges it, and life moves on.

There are times, though, when it is much harder to say that we are sorry – the times when we have intentionally wronged someone and must begin the process of reconciliation. Those are also the times when we must make amends. We must try to do something to make up for the hurt we have caused. This is the much harder task. Sometimes it is not even possible. Still, we must make the effort.

In Richard Paul Evan’s story “The Christmas List,” James Kier is a modern day Scrooge. The man has ruined several lives through his selfishness and business dealings. After his obituary is published erroneously, he gets to read the online comments – most of which are anything but good. People are happy he is dead and Kier has the opportunity to face the reality of his life. He decides to do something about his legacy, and tries to make amends with the people he has hurt. He doesn’t think it will be easy, but he has no idea how truly hard it will be. The first person he reaches out to won’t even let him get a word in. Instead, he breaks Kier’s nose and sticks his dogs on him.

In time, he is able to make some things right. For some people, however, it is simply too late. Witness the response of an older woman whom he had caused great financial loss. She does forgive him. In fact, she states that she forgave him long before. Unfortunately, paying back the monetary damages will do little good. “So you see, Mr. Kier, you can’t make amends. You can’t give me back my land. You can’t give me back my health. You can’t give me back my husband and you can’t give me back my dreams. You certainly can’t give me back my innocence.” Those truthful words cause him more pain than his broken nose. In the end, he decides to use the money he owed her to establish a scholarship in her name.

Saying we are sorry is important. Realizing that our wrongdoing has consequences for others is even more important. When we have caused someone harm, we must do what we can to make it right. It may not always be possible, but we need to make our best effort.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 3

How good God is! . . . How he apportions out trials according to the strength that He gives us. - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 2

But I'll come back to my day on Sundays. This joyful day, which passed so quickly, had its own tinge of melancholy. I remember that my happiness was unmixed until Compline [the evening service]. During that service I used to think how the day of rest was going to end . . . and the next day I'd have to go back to life, work, and learning lessons, and my heart would feel the exile of the world. . . I would long for the eternal rest of heaven, the Sunday where the sun never sets in the Homeland! - St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

by Max Lucado
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010

In the Discussion and Action Guide that comes at the end of "Outlive Your Life," David Drury states that "Max [Lucado] wants you to do more than read the book of Acts. He wants you to live out the twenty-ninth chapter, writing the story of the church for your generation." After reading that, I dutifully got out my Bible to read the twenty-ninth chapter of Acts of the Apostles only to find that there is no such chapter. That is the point - we need to write it with how we live our lives.

In "Outlive Your Life," Max Lucado encourages each one of us to follow the example of the early Church, to examine our gifts and take action to make a difference in our world. Lucado invites each one of us to do something that will have an impact on our larger world. To that end, the Discussion and Action Guide is extremely helpful because it asks pointed questions that will encourage you to take concrete actions. It is so easy to read a book like this and nod while reading saying "Yes, I should do that," but then set the book aside and go back to your usual way of living.

One relatively easy way to be more loving toward our neighbor is to be more hospitable. In the chapter "Open Your Door; Open Your Heart," Lucado points out that "the Greek word for hospitality compounds two terms: 'love' and 'stranger.' The word literally means to love a stranger. Inviting someone to eat with us, especially someone who is poor, feeds both the body and soul of that person. We not only give them food; we give them love.

In his chapter "Don't Write Off Anyone," Lucado examines the story of Saul and of Ananias who trusted God enough to reach out to this man best-known for killing Christians. Ananias believed Saul could change. By the same token, we should never feel that someone can't be helped with God's grace. We should never give up on people. We can always pray, put them in God's hands, and use our own to reach out to them.

Lucado has many other suggestions such as these. Like all of Lucado's writings, "Outlive Your Life" is inspiring and practical. It is well-worth reading.

22 Quotes from St. Therese - Day 1

In honor of St. Therese's feast day coming up on October 1st, I recently read The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library), her autobiography. I have read this particular book several times in my life - the first time when I was relatively young (about 8 or 9) at which point I wanted to be just like her. The last time I read it was a few years ago, so when I saw it in my Church lending library, it called out to me, inviting me to spend some time with one of my favorite saints yet again. In going through, I found 22 quotes that really spoke to me, so I will share one a day from now through October 1st in the order that they appear in her book, so that those of you who do not have the time or the inclination to read her story will still get the flavor of her theology. I hope that you will enjoy and benefit from these quotes.

I understood that if all the little flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose its springtime adornment, and the fields would no longer be sprinkled with little flowers . . .

So it is in the world of souls, which is Jesus' garden. He wanted to create great saints who could be compared to lilies and roses. But he also created little ones and these ought to be content to be daisies or violets destined to gladden God's eyes when He glances down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wants us to be.
- St. Therese

From The Story of a Soul: A New Translation (Living Library)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Quote about Letting Go as Parents

My children aren't there yet, but I know that the day they leave home will be here before I know it. This quote from Stories for the Homeschool Heart by Theresa Thomas is a good one to remember:

"A ship is safe in a harbor, but that is not where ships are meant to go." I saw this on a poster. Yes, boys are destined to be men. And mothers are supposed to help them reach their potential, not wistfully pine for their ever-presence. So in a couple weeks I will help them pack their J.C. Penney sheets and Target fan, and Wal-Mart notebooks and pens into their car heading for campus. With a hug and a kiss I will release them to God and let them sail. I'll also let them know I'll be in port, waiting, whenever they come home.

Book Review: Stories for the Homeschool Heart

Stories for the Homeschool Heart
Compiled and Edited by Patti Maguire Armstrong and Theresa A. Thomas
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2010

As the title suggests, “Stories for the Homeschool Heart: Heavenly Stories of Inspiration, Hope and Joy” is a compilation of stories by homeschoolers and friends of homeschoolers intended to bring support and encouragement to others traveling the homeschooling journey. Patti Maguire Armstrong and Theresa A. Thomas have done a commendable job putting together this treasure-trove of stories. Some of the featured writers include Armstrong and Thomas themselves as well as pro-life blogger and speaker Leticia Velasquez, Catholic Exchange editor Mary Kochan, author Nancy Carpentier Brown, creator of the Little Flower’s Girls Club Rachel Watkins, and author Elizabeth Foss. Divided by topic, the stories discuss things such as being called to homeschool (for most of us it comes as a surprise. God really had to hit me over the head with a 2 x 4 to get me to do it), lessons learned, faith, prayers answered, and the fact that learning never ends.

The section that spoke to me most was “It’s Not Always Easy.” I think sometimes homeschoolers try so hard to put a positive spin on homeschooling (and there are many positive things) that we hesitate to acknowledge all the hard days that can come along with the territory. It can be comforting to know that others struggle and yet manage to keep going. In particular, the section “A Word from your Father” featuring encouraging Bible verses is so helpful it should be taped onto every homeschoolers wall or refrigerator for a pick-me-up on tough days.

The writers of these stories are all incredibly faith-filled people whose life journeys have led them to homeschooling, some for a season, some for many years. The only caveat I would offer to readers of this book is that the vast majority of stories are from people with large families. As a Catholic homeschooling mother of two, I feel it is important to acknowledge that Catholic homeschooling families can come in all shapes and sizes. Overall, however, “Stories for the Homeschool Heart” is a great gift to the Catholic homeschooling community and I thank Armstrong and Thomas for bringing it to fruition.

A Reminder that God Sees All and Knows All

Psalm 139 is the Psalm for today. (vs. 1-3, 13-14, 23-24)

Yahweh, you examine me and you know me.
You know when I sit, when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You watch when I walk or lie down,
You know every detail of my conduct.

You created my inmost self,
Knit me together in my mother's womb.
For so many marvels I thank you;
a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders.

God, examine me and know my heart,
test me and know my concerns.
Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin,
and guide me on the road of eternity.

Nice Statue of Mary

I went for a visit to my alma mater yesterday. It was an obligatory one - it is once again reunion time for my class and I am one of the class agents, but I am always happy to go back for a visit.

Before my meeting, I had a few minutes so I stopped by the chapel to pray and rest a bit. I said a few prayers and then got up to leave, but felt like God was asking me to stay a bit longer. (Seriously - I had walked half-way down the aisle, when I turned around and came back and sat down again.) While sitting there, my eyes wandered over to this very small statue of Mary (about 10" tall, if that) standing on a pedestal over in the corner. I went over to it and took a closer look. I really liked it. I like the simple depiction of a peasant girl holding her son (Jesus is actually moveable - the two sculptures are together but separate). I don't think anyone had paid much attention to that statue in a while. I brushed off a couple cobwebs and tried to dust it a bit. The plaque in front of it had a woman's name and the year '16. I don't know if that statue was made by that woman or donated by her. In either case, it brought me some joy, and how surprising it was to find it and pay attention to it on Mary's birthday.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Importance of Prayer

This is a quote from Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado.

Let's pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary of a world of racism and division? So is God. And he would love to talk to you about it.

Let's pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? OR have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but he did call us to "pray without ceasing." (1 Thess 5:17)

Did Jesus declare: My house shall be called a house of study? Fellowship? Music? A house of exposition? A house of activities? No, but he did say, "My house will be called a house of prayer." (Mk 11:17)

No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. "When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action" (Mt 18:19) He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

When did you figure out you had a life?

I recently finished reading Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado (review to come soon). In his opening page, he makes the following observation:

By the time you knew what to call it, you were neck deep in it. You'd toddler-walked and talked, smelled crayons and swung bats, gurgles and giggles you way out of diapers and into childhood.

You'd noticed how guys aren't gals and dogs aren't cats and pizza sure beats spinach. And then, somewhere in the midst of it all, it hit you. At your grandpa's funeral perhaps. Maybe when you waved good-bye as your big brother left for the marines. You realized that these days are more than ice cream trips, homework, and pimples. This is called life. And this one is yours.

A few years ago, the saying "Get a Life" was popular, usually used in a derogatory manner towards someone who was paying attention to something that didn't really need to be paid attention to, at least in the viewee's estimation. But Lucado makes a good point, at some stage in our development, we all realize that we have one life to live here on earth and it is up to us what we do with it. Our choices matter. They have both temporal and eternal ramifications.

When did you figure that out? For me, I was about 15 years old. I was in my bedroom which had shutters that opened into our living room. I remember looking into the living room at my father sitting in his recliner reading his paper, and suddenly realizing that my parents had once been young and had lives, and that maybe they had wanted more than what life had handed them - that perhaps they, too, led lives of quiet desperation. It was from that vantage point that I realized I, too, had a life and that somehow, I wanted it to be different. Experience has, of course, given me a different perspective on all of this, but there it was - that moment.

We have one life. Make every day matter.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Teenage Blessed to be Named September 25th

Teenagers will soon have a new saint to look up to. Chiara Luce is being beatified September 25th. Find out more about her life at the following site:

Teenage Blessed to be Named September 25th

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Envy in the Days of Social Networking

We all have the sins that give us the most grief. You all know what your particular Achilles heels are – they are the sins that you say in confession over and over and over again. Unfortunately, envy has always been one of mine. It waxes and wanes, but every now and then it feels the need to rear its ugly head (and it is always ugly).

When I was a child, there was a particular relative who seemed to have everything I didn’t. We were close in age, and she was smarter, prettier, and more athletic. When I was fifteen, I made a list of things I want to accomplish by the time I was twenty-five. Getting over my jealousy of her was on the list. I’m happy to say that I succeeded. By that time, there were other people to be envious of – the friends with nicer homes and better jobs and who had been blessed with children (which I was having difficulty conceiving). Yes, thankfully, I moved beyond that as well. Of course, then I was envious of the mothers who had it all together. Nine years into mothering later, I realize that was actually all an illusion and that none of us really have it all together – we all just do the best we can.

The purpose of this article isn’t to share with you my personal list of sins. Rather, it is to discuss something I am certain I can’t be the only one struggling with – envy brought on by social networking. Social networking can bring many benefits. It is a wonderful way to connect with friends and relatives. We can laugh, share, encourage, and mourn with each other. It can be a way to evangelize and the largest prayer chain ever.

With the good comes the bad, however. In the old days, one did not have to face other people’s accomplishments on a daily basis. Most people do not go around announcing everything wonderful that has happened to them and their children recently when you meet them in the grocery store. You simply exchange a few pleasantries and move on. Alumni newsletters came maybe twice a year. One could read through the list of great deeds accomplished, promotions gained, and children had in one fell swoop, be happy for them, experience the slight wave of envy, and move on.

Today, it is a constant. I have a wonderful group of on-line and in-person friends. They are talented and successful. I am blessed to have these people in my life. Every day, someone is doing something amazing and they share it, which is totally understandable. They are happy, or they are promoting some new project and want others to share their joy or help in their efforts. If I was a better person, I would always be happy for them. Truly, most of the time I am happy for them, even when the green monster feels the need to raise its ugly head. The two aren’t necessarily mutually incompatible. But I do wish I could have one without the other. I wish I could get at a place in my life where this would not be an issue – where I could be happy for all the good that is going on in other people’s lives without feeling bad about my own. I realize that this has nothing to do with them. This is my problem, my cross, and my sin.

So, then, what to do about it? How do people like me (once again I am certain I am not the only one suffering from this) get beyond the envy to just be happy for others? I have found that there are a few sure-fire cures for envy. Top on the list is to pray for the person you are envious of. Pray for all the success and blessings they should have to come to them. This is a particularly good tactic when there is one person in particular you are envious of. It will eventually, with God’s help, change your heart. Another good thing to do is to try to do something good for that person to celebrate or add to their good fortune. Lastly, the best cure for envy is to realize all the good things you have been blessed with. Envy is basically being unhappy with what you have. It is a sin of selfishness. The antidote is gratitude. Be thankful. Make a list of all the blessings in your own life and repeat them until you get to a true place of gratitude to God.

Social networking is part of life today. It is a great blessing, and I truly do enjoy being part of that larger world and hearing what everyone is up to. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a list of things to be thankful for to get working on . . .

Friday, September 03, 2010

"To Save a Thousand Souls" - Discerning a Call to the Priesthood

I'm excited to be subscribing to the National Catholic Register again. I had been a subscriber a few years back, but then couldn't justify the expense for a while. With my diocesan newspaper ceasing publication, however, I decided that this was one publication I wanted to get again.

In the August 29th - September 11th issue, there is an article profiling Father Brett Brannen who wrote To Save a Thousand Souls : A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood. Obviously, there is a relatively small target market for this book, but it meets a definite need. As Fr. Brannen states:

"Because priesthood is such a radical commitment and it requires celibacy, it can be very intimidating for a young man when he first begins to feel an attraction. Most young men today, even Catholic men who grew up in the Church and attended parochial schools, simply do not have enough information to know whether or not they are called to be a priest. How can a man discern a call to something that he does not know? No information or bad information leads to a bad decision."

Free copies of this book have been sent to every bishop and vocation director in the US and Canada. If you know a young man who might be considering the priesthood, it might be a good idea to get them this book.

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...