Monday, July 30, 2018

Why You Should Write a Spiritual Will

It’s not every day that I read a book whose foreword is written by a funeral director. Death is one of those things we don’t like to think about too much. We know it’s there, looming on the horizon, but we tend to ignore it until it rears its inevitable head, either through the death of someone we love or our own serious illness or accident. 

We are too busy living to spend much time contemplating death. Perhaps that is how it should be. Yet, it is good sometimes to think about the reality of death. It’s important to make practical plans, such as making provisions for the care of our children. It is also important to think about the spiritual lessons we want to leave behind. How do we want people to remember us? What do we hope that they have learned from us?

This is the purpose of The Journey Never Ends: How to Prepare a Spiritual Will by Sr. Mary Petrosky, F.M.M. In the foreword, funeral director Thomas Lynch discusses the recent trend of “Celebration of Life” ceremonies which often take the place of a faith-based funeral. They are “memorial events designed not so much around what they’d hoped for or kept faith in, but what they did with their free time.”

Sr. Mary, a psychiatric social worker and spiritual director, invites us to dig deeper so that people remember us for more than our hobbies. She emphasizes that creating a spiritual will in document form is not just an effort for old age. After all, none of us knows the day or hour of our passing from this life. But even if we were guaranteed another fifty years, creating a spiritual will provides the opportunity to discern “what is of enough value to you to dedicate your vision, your gifts, and your energy to.” It offers the chance to reflect on what you learned from previous generations as well as through your own experience.

In this brief book, Sr. Mary provides a template for writing a spiritual will as well as offers examples of spiritual wills made by individuals at various ages from their 40s to elderly.
The Journey Never Ends is recommended for anyone who wishes to consider life and death more purposefully.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Litany of St. Anne

July 26th is the Feast of St. Anne and Joachim, our Blessed Mother's parents and the grandparents of Jesus. In St. Anne's honor, I'm sharing this Litany of St. Anne:

Lord have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
have mercy on us.
 Holy Mary, Queen of Angels and Saints
Pray for us.
St. Anne, instrument of the Holy Ghost,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, faithful spouse of St. Joachim,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, mirror of the married,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, example of widows,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, miracle of patience,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, mother of confidence,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, mother of constancy,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, mother of prayer,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, mother of blessing,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, vessel of sanctity,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, merciful mother,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, comfortress of the afflicted,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, help of the poor,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, protectress of virgins,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, support of the oppressed,
Pray for us.
St. Anne, refuge of thy clients,
Pray for us.
We sinners,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through thy love for Jesus and Mary,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through thy virtues and merits,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through thy goodness and mercy,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through thy compassion and charity,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through the graces bestowed on thee by God,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through the joys thou didst experience with Jesus and Mary,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through the happiness thou dost enjoy for all eternity,
We beseech thee, hear us.
Through the honor given thee by the Saints in Heaven,
We beseech thee, hear us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, St. Anne,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
O God, Who granted St. Anne the grace to become the mother of her who gave birth to Your only Son, grant that we, who keep her in remembrance, may obtain her protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Scourge of Internet-Induced Loneliness

I've been working on editing my pile of 28 years worth of journals for the past few months. This is a long-term project, but I realized the time had come in my life to tackle the beast. Still, I only work on it for about an hour a week because it is not a good idea to spend too much time in the past. So, I started in 1989 and currently am in 1994.

As I worked on it today, I came across this entry I wrote on January 13, 1994 when I was 19 years old:

"Yesterday I got an idea for a story that would show people the error of their ways in advocating for the information superhighway. It's going to be the breakdown of society but no one sees it. People are going to stop needing people."

Reading these words stopped me in my tracks. I certainly didn't remember writing them and I never did write that story. Back in 1994, the internet was barely a thing. I remember sending my first emails in 1995. At that point, we couldn't even imagine the ways the internet would change our lives. Yet, this quote seems oddly prophetic.

The internet has brought much good to the world. On a personal level, I'm thankful for the opportunities it has given me to work and the ease with which we can communicate with other people all around the world. But, there is no denying there have been downsides; one of those is the increase in loneliness.

People haven't stopped needing people. In fact, we probably communicate with more people on a daily basis than we ever did. But, is it meaningful communication? Instead of calling or writing to a particular person with our news, we put a post on social media and wait to see if anyone responds. We communicate in general instead of one-on-one, and while some real communication can take place via these conversations and prayers can be offered for those who ask for them, that personal touch is generally missing. There is no one to sit and truly listen. Even in our families, everyone is involved with their devices and not paying attention to the person sitting in front of them.

While loneliness has always existed, it has now become an epidemic. We are all alone in the crowded world. Everyone is so busy, and often that busyness involves the internet. It has made it so that we can work all the time and connect with people all the time and yet has led to the breakdown of many of our social groups and outings. Why do we need to meet with people in person when it is easier to post online? But the internet can't look into your eyes, give you flowers, or wrap its arms around you in a hug.

I have no answer to this problem other than to encourage people to put the smartphones down and actually interact with the people in their lives. My protests usually fall on deaf ears. But my 19 year old self was on to something. I wish I had been wrong.

P.S. I know I have terrible handwriting, but I saw a meme recently that made me feel better about that: "I don't have bad handwriting; I have my own font!"

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Secrets: New Catholic Teen/YA Anthology

Today I am excited to be part of the blog tour for Secrets: Visible and Invisible, the new anthology by seven writers.

As described by Mark Hart of Life Teen International, who provides the foreword, "Each story reveals something different about the human heart and our constant (though, often veiled) desire for truth and virtue."

Secret (n.) - something kept hidden from knowledge or view; a mystery.

In a dystopian future, an innocent picnic turns deadly!

Elijah knows nothing of the elderly stranger's secret past--until her disappearance changes everything.

A mysterious, ever-changing painting alarms a group of teens.

The cannonball took Dario's legs . . . Will he lose his soul too?

The arrival of a mysterious girl challenges everything about Jason's life.

An unlicensed driver. His dad's truck. What could possibly go wrong?

An old tale of murder and forbidden love leads to a modern day treasure hunt.

For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17 RSV-CE)

Some advance reviews:

“This anthology of short stories for Catholic teenagers is a true literary treasure. It provides genres for every type of reader, each so well written that the reader is invited to fully escape into many different worlds and places. The short stories will take its readers to dystopian Europe, high school hallways, a city block in summer, and a soldier’s medical ward in16th-century Italy, just to name a few. The characters are diverse, exciting, relatable; their adventures are accessible, mysterious and enthralling. But within these different settings, there is one uniting comfort: God is always there, whether revealed in a desperate prayer to a guardian angel, through pure romantic love, the presence of Christian charity, men and women religious, or within the sacraments. The hope that comes through Catholicism and Jesus prevails in each vignette, and yet there is still heavy doses of drama, suspense and tactful violence. So if your teen seems totally spaced out and properly engrossed, take courage knowing their love of reading and their love of the faith is being fed through these beautiful stories.”
       Regina Lordan for Catholic News Service
"This anthology of Catholic fiction for teens will introduce readers to seven diverse authors. Many of these stories, in a variety of genres but linked by a common theme, offer a peek at characters from full-length novels. Readers already acquainted with these authors will enjoy new perspectives on favorite characters. Kudos to and these seven authors for dreaming up this excellent collection."

      Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS, Editor, and Managing Editor, Today's Catholic Teacher magazine

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Friday, July 06, 2018

How to Make Your Life "A Beautiful Dream"

When I picked up One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both, I knew very little about Jennifer Fulwiler other than she is a well-known Catholic writer and radio personality. In fact, I was fully prepared to hate this book, expecting something along the lines of, “Look at how wonderful my life is. I have it all and you could, too, if only you were [fill in your favorite adjective] enough.”

I was wrong. Fulwiler comes across as incredibly human with the wonderful ability to laugh at herself. She describes herself as a career atheist who never wanted a family, yet ended up having six babies in eight years “and learned how to follow my dreams in the process.”

She opens the book with a supermarket disaster that only moms who have tried to navigate grocery shopping with two toddlers can fully understand. Throughout the book she shares her honest challenges of having a large family of small children, including many laugh-out-loud moments. She also shares her medical issues, her struggles with natural family planning, and her desire to pursue her “blue flame,” her personal passion of writing. 

While this is primary a memoir of a challenging few years in Fulwiler’s life, she has much wisdom to offer mothers, especially those struggling to balance family and work, in whatever form that work might take. Her story is individual and remarkable, yet universal in that every woman must attempt to figure out what “having it all” means for her. We all must try to fulfill the vocational missions that God has given us. 

As Fulwiler states, she came to realize it was “a beautiful dream I was living – not in spite of all the unexpected twists and turns, but because of them.” The same can be said of all of us. Fulwiler has outdone herself with One Beautiful Dream. This memoir, both funny and touching, is well-worth spending some of your precious time with.

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