Children Are Drawn To Goodness

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Tonight, we had just gotten home from a baseball game – one of those little coach pitch games that are cute and only an hour or so.  Which is exactly long enough because the two littlest ones are so ready for bed by the end.  A two hour game would do us in. We get in the house and put things where they need to go and commence bedtime rituals.  I grab a washcloth out of the drawer and go over to the sink to wet it, baby on the hip, and let the water run.  The warm water takes a while, but it takes just long enough.  Because it gives me a chance to take a look at the face of the sweet child I’m about to wash.   He is drooly, but he is happy.  And, he is looking up.  Way up high – above the tall window over the sink, to a small plaque nailed up almost at the ceiling.  It’s a little something I made Dan for our first Christmas.  On the wood I had painted the words of St. Therese – the name of this blog, a sort of motto of our life, with a photo of a very young St. Therese someone had given me when I did mission work.  It has hung in all our houses, usually in the kitchen, all these years.

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And he is looking up, way up high, at this small picture of St. Therese… smiling at her.  Like a young child who sees his sister from across the room and gets excited and smiles at her – he recognized her.  It was beautiful. I’m grateful for the water needing to run. Such a short, passing moment, but such a special one.  One that can’t be captured on camera, but one that stays in the heart.

To be present to the moment – is such a gift.  It is something I struggle with, as I am pulled in eight different directions, and something I pray for constantly – to be present.  To see the gift of the moment.  To see that everything, everything is from the hands of God, not just the joy-filled moments, but even the many inconveniences of daily life.  To be in this moment, to be present to the person I am with, to truly listen, to see Christ in that person and be present to Him too – this is love.

These moments with our littlest happen often.  He slows me down in my tracks.  I may be going through our bedroom with him on my hip, tidying up or getting him clean clothes out of his drawer, and in my mind, already onto the next thing … and he is drawn to an image. The crucifix, the picture of Mary, the icons of his patron saints.  He looks right at them and smiles.  Now he is getting bigger, and he waves and smiles.  If we stop in front of the Sacred Heart picture, or one of the many crucifixes in our home (we try to have one in every room … almost there), he makes the sound “Jee!”  excitedly with the biggest grin on his little chubby face. I know he knows it is Jesus.  This is how children are.  Children know Goodness.  Children are drawn to Goodness.  They are drawn to God, Goodness Himself.  Before they can even speak, they know.  They know Him.  He has written on their hearts His love for them.  Because of their innocence, they still remember those words – their hearts beat with His.

Jesus said “Let the little children come unto Me, and hinder them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”  Let us learn from the littlest among us how to love Christ, how to be present with Him, for they truly know.  Let us ask with childlike confidence, for Christ to give us the faith and the courage to be little once again, to sit in His Presence and smile at Him, and let Him smile at us.

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Photo by Laura Allen on Unsplash

Ideas for Celebrating Our Lady’s Month

May is the month dedicated to Mary, our Mother.  It is such a perfect month for her, as the trees come into full bloom this month, the birds come out of hiding and sing their morning hymns, and the flowers wake up and greet us with their beauty.  How lovely is our Lady!  Our Mother who loves each of us dearly.  Our Queen who gently guides us to her Son’s Heart.  Our friend who walks beside us through all of life’s hilltops and valleys.

Over the years, we have done some different things to help grow our devotion to our Lady as a family.  I wanted to share some of them with you…. perhaps some of them will work well for your family too.  I hope at least they bring a smile to your day.  🙂

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The Rosary Hanger – Since our family is more on the larger size, we have a lot of rosaries.  The kids have their special ones in their rooms, but we have a boatload of plastic rosaries.  We decided to put up a little rosary holder.  It is a simple key chain holder that you attach to the wall; it probably cost under $3.  But, it keeps the rosaries in one place and untangled.  It also is a visible reminder for us to pray.  And when friends come over, they can pick out their own rosary to pray with us.  I would recommend hanging (with anchors) low enough that your toddler who is rising up in independence can reach them… otherwise you could wind up with a whole in the wall.  🙂 It’s been a great conversation piece, a good little “job” we can give a little one to organize it, and again, a reminder.  Because we are a tangible people.  God made us with our senses – seeing the rosary, going over to pick one out, holding the rosary and moving our fingers along the beads as we pray – it is a very human thing, and a very kid-friendly practice.  When our Lady gave St. Dominic the rosary, I am sure she had little children in mind.

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Crowning of Mary – We have had a variety of crownings of our Mary statues throughout the years.  Children might make their own dandelion crowns for the outdoor statue, or we might weave together one of mini flowers from a craft store, or this year we sang a hymn and placed the actual golden crown on our Lady of Fatima statue after a rosary together.  However it is done, no matter how simple, it has been a beautiful tradition and one that our kids will remember.

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Balloon Rosary – This is more something to do as a Catholic school or parish community, but it is beautiful.  We had some dear sisters who would organize this at one of our schools, and the school children would all gather in the schoolyard to pray the rosary, holding onto many balloons tried together in the shape of the rosary.  At the end, the children would let go and let the balloon rosary float to the heavens…. it was such a joy to be a parent on the sidelines, praying with our school and picturing our Lady smiling down on all those sweet children.

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Plays – Also at a parish we attended, the children prepared and performed a play of Our Lady of Fatima, teaching through drama the story of these three little children who saw our Lady.  Our kiddos got to be a part of it, and so they got a lot out of it. But also, the parish did too.  Children can teach us so much, can’t they?  They can remind us of the goodness of God in their simple way.

Marian Hymns – Music has always been a part of our life together.  And there are so many beautiful songs to our Lady.  So, we make it a point in May to sing some of them.

Marian Prayers – And… there are beautiful prayers to our Lady!  The other night, we gathered for family prayer, and after our other prayers, we went around the room and each person led the rest of us in their favorite Marian prayer.  We had the Hail Mary, the Ave Maris Stella, the Memorare, and others.  It was nice for our kids to lead the family in a prayer, and also to see what prayers really speak to them.

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Marian Celebration – We love to throw a good potluck celebration, tied in with a little prayer and maybe a short catechesis on a part of our faith or the story of a saint.  We call them “Prayer & Potluck.”  Many of our potlucks have included a decade of the rosary, or a crowning, or a little talk on our Lady.  Potlucks are the best!  Easier on the host, and makes the people who come feel like they helped with the party…. because what fun would a party be without food?  Everyone comes and brings something to eat… and everyone eats well.  There is such variety in the food, and people are happy to share what they have or try a new recipe.  It is also a great way to invite a bunch of people from different groups in your life to come together to pray and have fellowship.  Maybe because you hosted a “Prayer and Potluck” in your home two people met and became good friends, or something said that day encourages someone to go deeper in their faith, or someone who has been feeling quite alone finally felt like they were part of a community…  finding others who also are walking the faith journey and knowing they are not alone.  The building up of the Kingdom of God.  That’s what it’s all about.

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Moon Bounce – And last but not least – why not celebrate our Lady’s special day with a moon bounce?  One year we had a gift certificate from a school auction for a moon bounce rental.  And so we thought how great it would be to use it to add to the celebration of Our Lady of Fatima day on May 13th on the 100th anniversary of our Lady appearing to the shepherd children!   So, we decided to go all out.  We invited a ton of people and did everything – an outdoor rosary, a May crowning, most likely a Marian hymn, a big potluck…. AND a moon bounce.  It was a perfect weather kind of day, and so many people came.  We prayed, we ate, we laughed, and all the kids who came went home happy and exhausted from all the bouncing… and hopefully slept in the next day for their parents.  It was a fun way to celebrate.  We won’t always be able to go all out on a moon bounce – but a 100th anniversary comes once in a lifetime, right?  And it’s so important to have balance in this Catholic life.  There must be joy!

Happy Thursday, y’all!

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Casting Our Nets

fishermancastingnetstthomas.png (Fisherman Casting Net by photographer, Don Hebert)

This past Sunday’s gospel reading was so beautiful, wasn’t it?  I have shared it under this post in case you’d like to re-read.  There is so much in that one reading to soak in and ponder… here is just a little something about nets I’ve been thinking on.

Peter, a fisherman at heart, may feel a little lost.  All he had known for the past 3 years, had abruptly come to an end.  This Jesus, who he had followed unreservedly, had left behind family, work, and everything else… This Jesus who raised the dead to life, who multiplied a few loaves of bread to feed thousands, who made the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear… This Jesus who taught him Truth, who sought Goodness, who showed him Beauty… this Jesus who wept at Lazarus’ death, who taught him how to preach to the multitudes and take rest in the quiet of a hillside… This Jesus who calmed the storm, who walked on water, who reached out and grabbed his hand when he started to lose faith … This Jesus, who had changed him, formed him, taught him, broke down his walls, re-shaped his heart, and taught him how to love and be loved… this Jesus, who changed the bread into His own Flesh, and the wine into His own Blood, who taught him to continue this on, in His memory, in the Mass… this Jesus who made him a priest, a priest to serve His people, a priest to tend His flock, a priest to bring Christ to all through the sacraments, a priest who became pope to guide the Church, to be the vicar of Christ… This Jesus suffered and died.  His God, his Savior, His All, was hung on a tree and died.  He died.  For all of us.  For Peter.

And then, He rose.  He rose from the dead.  Imagine Peter… imagine being told by the women that the tomb was empty, and running with John to the tomb, out of breath, reaching the entrance, seeing the empty tomb, and the linens tossed to the side.  What to do?  And then he hid in the upper room with the disciples.  And Jesus appears in that upper room and says “Peace be with you.”  And that peace comes and rests on his heart.  And when Jesus leaves Peter’s presence that day, the peace still lingers.  He knows his God lives.  He may not understand all, but he knows deep in his soul that his Savior truly has risen.  And yet, what happens next?  What is Peter to do?

And so, Peter decides to go fishing.  That is what he knows.  He knows how to fish.  Maybe just being out on the boat and casting those nets brings his heart a little peace with all this unknown.  Letting the sun chase away some of the confusion and the breeze off the water push the questions out of his head so he can clear his mind a little.  “I am going fishing.”  And what do the other disciples do?  Well, they go too.  They follow their shepherd.  All night long – they caught nothing.  Nothing.  They would cast those nets out, far and wide, on different sides of the boat, all night long, and each time they would pull those nets back up – empty.

Are we like Peter?  Can we put ourselves into his shoes, even just in some small way?  How many times have we cast our nets?  And have hauled them in empty?  How many times have we given our all and seen no fruit in return?  How many times have we tried to give our whole heart to Christ, and have not felt His love and consolation?  How many times have we asked God for something, maybe something very important, perhaps something that just by asking makes us feel extremely vulnerable, and there is utter silence?  No answer.  Not even a whisper.  Maybe we are in the boat with Peter more times than we know.

And then, Jesus is there.  Standing on the shore.  Peter doesn’t recognize Him.  This Man on the shore calls out to him telling him where to cast his net.  Perhaps a thought crosses Peter’s mind, “But I just cast the net on the right side a bit ago.  I’ve been casting all night.  There are no fish.”  But still, Peter, in an act of humility and with an ounce left of hope, casts the net.

And what a catch!  The net was full and overflowing with fish.  One miracle.  And the net didn’t break.  Another miracle.  John knows, and he tells Peter who the Man is on the shore.  It is the Lord! Peter’s joy at that moment… the swelling of his heart… it could burst.  He doesn’t wait to haul in the boat and fish, but jumps in the water and swims to shore, to see his Lord.  Then Jesus needs fish for the fire… so Peter is back in the water again, hauling that huge net in excitement.  Peter is in Jesus’ presence again.  His heart is at peace.  He is home, for Christ’s heart is his home.  The gospel goes on to tell of their exchange … and that is another post for another day…. it is so beautiful.

There are times in our lives of empty nets.  Sometimes we cast our nets, and don’t ask Jesus for His help… and so we can come up empty.  Maybe our intentions are not as genuine as they can be and selfless, but perhaps a bit self-seeking, and the net comes back empty.  Sometimes, we cast our nets, trusting, and waiting.  And we have to wait until it’s time.  God knows the perfect time.  In the meantime, we keep casting our net.  We keep asking for that prayer intention to be answered.  We keep doing the work, and waiting for grace.  Praying for strength to keep asking, to keep casting, to keep waiting.

When it IS that time, His grace will be so abundant; it will be overflowing.  And our hearts will overflow, and bend and stretch, but will not break.  He will always supply the strength for the nets, and the fish to fill them.  May He fill our hearts to overflowing, and may He grant us patience and fortitude while we wait on the boat, casting our nets, time and time again.

083(T & T many years ago at the dock in Old Town Alexandria, VA)

John 21:1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Call Upon Mary

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(Being able to capture this moment was such a gift.  She was just looking at Our Lady… and our Lady was looking at her.  Little ones know deeply in their heart the presence of God and His Mother, His Saints, and His angels.  Of this I am certain.)

 

Alleluia! Alleluia!  He is risen!  Truly He is risen!  Alleluia!

It is a cloudy, dreary day here … again.  I never remember New England to be this gray for this long.  Today at naptime, little C requested one of my favorite books to be read, SNOW, by Uri Shelevitz.  An odd choice for spring, but as I opened to the first page, it does in fact remind me of this current spring day:

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But, yes, it is May, and spring will indeed come.  And no matter how gray it is, it is still Easter!  (hence the first line of this post… I am trying to remind myself).  🙂

May is a month dedicated to our Lady.  Mary is truly our Mother.  At the foot of the cross, Jesus gave her to us: “Behold your Mother.”  How blessed we are.  Our kiddos remind me that I am their mother on Earth, but Mary is our “Mother Mother.”  Gotta love children – they tell us like it is.  “You’re the best mom in the world!  But, Mary is the best Mom on Earth AND in Heaven!”  I am more than happy to play second fiddle to our Lady.  She is the best.

I love our Lady more than words can ever express.  There is so much I can write about her.  She has been there for me in joy and in sorrow. She has held my hand and has let me rest on her heart.  In difficult moments, I pray a prayer I  learned from a dear friend in high school: “Mary, Mother of my Lord, be a Mother to me now.”  I cannot begin to tell you how much that simple prayer has helped me.

But tonight, I leave you with a prayer from St. Bernard.  My husband worked at a school named after him, and I wanted to learn more about Saint Bernard, as I love learning more about our saints.  I came across these words of his, and I fell in love with them.  I printed them out and have placed them on my wall as a reminder.  May they be a source of comfort and hope to you.  And may our Lady wrap you in her mantle of love.

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Big Family Life Hacks – Towels

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In our new house, with the reality of the fact that we have EIGHT kids (I still sometimes can’t have a hard time believing this fact… but then I go in the bathroom, and see all the towels…) I decided to institute a new towel policy.  🙂 So far so good.  Each child has one particular color towel.  They have 2 each – I wash once a week …ish.  It is not the biggest bathroom, but we have enough hooks for all, with low enough hooks for the littles to reach.  They are responsible for hanging up their towels.  If they do not, they will be drying off with a wet towel.  I personally detest that feeling, so I am hoping our kids are the same, and it encourages them to hang them up.  One mom can hope.  As parents, we must hold on to hope.  🙂

I start this post with this disclaimer: These are some fun things I’ve done through the years to help make life work a little easier in the home.  It doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you.  It also doesn’t mean it is the right thing for me all the time.  Some things have been tried and have failed, some of worked well, and some have been great and have run their course and something new takes its place. Every house is different.  Every family is different.  And every season is different.  I’ve had systems that have worked tremendously well, and then – poof!  It’s over.  Something new must be created to help organize.  And sometimes, life is just messy.  Or I really need to rest.  And so my tidiness must look different, and I have to be ok with that.  It’s a continual work in progress.  But finding new ways to make things work efficiently is fun for me.

Oh towels!  With 8 kids … we go through a lot of towels.  Sure, when they were all little – I actually used to just create a bit of an assembly line.  Our 3rd child was born before our oldest was yet three.  And so, the baby was bathed when the baby was bathed, and the two little toddler boys were in the tub together, with fun to be had and loads of bubbles until there was a certain amount of water on the outside of the tub, and then it was time to get out.  I could use one towel to get them both dry and into PJs they went… and usually make it a couple of days before I hit the replay button.  One towel every couple of days… those were the days.  Life has changed a bit.  A lot.  Now there are 8 sweet and stinky children, none of whom can bathe together, and even if it is an assembly line… they all (minus the 2 littles) can go in and shower themselves, each use a towel, and get themselves dressed.  My, have times changed!  But oh! the towels.

I did for a time go “all white.”  I just bought a big pack, or two, of white towels from Costco, and left them in the linen closet for them to grab.  It was convenient too, because I just had a hamper they could go into, and I could run a hot bleach wash and they would be ready to go.  This worked for a while.  But then, I noticed that the bigger kids were getting bigger, and for some reason… towels were not getting hung up on those nice hooks I had for them.  It was hard to pin down the culprit, because it was all of them.  Leaving wet towels on the floor isn’t good for the towels, or the tiles, or the sub floor beneath the tiles.  And yes, they are still kids, and they just want to finish the annoying task of showering so they can get on to the next best thing of blanket forts… or catching fireflies at dusk… or last minute homework… or a summer ice cream run in their PJs… or the final pages of their library books.

I love our kids, and I want them to have a good childhood, filled with those things.  But, I also want to help them grow up to be responsible adults.  I remind them how it is not fair to their future college roommate, or spouse, or anyone else if I don’t teach them how to pick up their wet towels and hang them up, or make their beds every day, or pick up their dirty laundry and actually put it in the hamper, not on the floor.  They will learn how to be responsible adults by practicing responsibility as children.  Not an overwhelming amount of responsibility, but enough to make them caring.  So, if the rush of the morning craze to get out the door for school happens and the bed making does not –  as we drive home from school, lately I’ve been saying, “When we get home, before you can go outside to play and have a snack, you must first go upstairs and make your beds.”  And if only one happened to make his bed that day, then I try to remember and praise that one.  Or, if I go upstairs and notice that someone’s towel is wet and on the floor, I may remind them that they want to run up and hang up their towel, because drying off after their next shower will not feel good with a wet towel.  It puts the consequence in their court.  They decide if they want to dry off with a wet towel, not me.  So for now, I’m trying this route-  hoping the consistency will help.  Parenting is an interesting journey, balancing loving our children so deeply, and teaching them life skills for earth, and spiritually preparing them for Home (heaven).   May our kids love deeply the Lord and their neighbor, and may they pick up their towels by the time they grow into adults.  (and maybe make their beds without being asked.)   Please, dear God.  Thank you!

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Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!  Christ is risen!  Truly, He is risen!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

It is Easter!  And He is truly risen!  What a gift!

On Holy Thursday, it is family tradition here for my husband to take the older children to the special Holy Thursday service, and when they return, I go out to the church and stay with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament until He is taken away to be reposed in a private tabernacle.  It is one of my favorite nights of the year.  I am so grateful that I have this alone time with Jesus and  I do look forward to be able to spend this night of prayer with Dan one day when the kids are older.

I have always thought of that night as spending it with Jesus in the Garden – keeping Him company.  And just like the apostles, I get sleepy, despite my effort of having a late cup of coffee or tea before I go.  I still tire.  When the priest comes to take the Eucharist out of the church or room, I can imagine the guards taking Jesus out of the garden, away from my sight, on to continue His Passion.  And the church is so… empty.  It breaks my heart to watch Him go.

I know you might be thinking, “But I thought this was an Easter post.”  And it is.  Because, this Sacred Triduum was a little different.  Many Holy weeks it seems like I am called to stay in the garden, walk the way of the Cross with Him, be at the foot of the Cross, and enter the tomb.  There is a sadness that God allows my heart to enter, and  truly be with Him in that time of great sorrow.  The great sorrow before the rejoicing.  This Holy Week was a little different, as I said.  My heart got to see all the sorrow, but really entered in to all the hope that was at each step.  This Holy Thursday, sitting in an almost empty church, I opened up the gospel of John and read chapter 14-17, as I try to every year.  I think it is one of the most beautiful pieces of gospels.  This is the last moments He will spend with His followers.  He has so much wisdom to share and so little time.  I can just imagine being there in the upper room, and Jesus telling us so many, many things, and wanting to remember it all.  There is a solemness to it all, and a feeling that things are coming to an end, but not knowing what is about to happen.

I feel these 4 chapters are really a love letter.  This year I was struck at how much tenderness and love, and great, great hope that was in His words.  Some of my favorite Scripture quotes are actually from these 4 chapters, words I cling to in difficult moments – He shared so much in such a short time.  How deep is His love for us.

Some beautiful words of hope from our Lord to us in these few chapters:

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

“And when I go prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so where I am you may be also.”

“Whatever you ask in My Name, I will do it.”

“If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it.”

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever.”

“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.”

“He who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him.”

“My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

“Abide in me, and I in you.” 

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done.”

“As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” 

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full.”

“No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends.”

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you.”

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” 

“I chose you out of this world.”

“It is to your advantage that that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you.”

“You will be sorrowful , but your sorrow will turn into joy.” 

“So you will have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take that joy from you.”

“If you ask anything of the Father, in my name, He will give it to you.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

“The Father Himself loves you.”

“Holy Father, keep them in my name, that they may be one, even as We are one.”

“Sanctify them in the truth.”

“In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

He speaks these words to us just before He is about to undertake His Passion and Death.  He wants us to know these things.  He wants us to keep them in our hearts, and ponder them.  He wants us to be filled with hope, to truly be an Easter people.

I pray this Easter season is one of great hope and great joy.   It may come as a bursting forth from your heart, or it may be a quiet stirring within your heart.  May the Risen Lord be with you now and always.

 

And for a little dose of joy … our Easter picture.

Out of many pictures taken on Sunday – I like this one best. 🙂

Happy Easter everyone!

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The “Priest” Basket

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One of Dan and I’s Lenten resolutions was to re-do our “Priest Basket.”  It had been too long and we have been wanting to re-do it for over a year… so we made it a Lenten promise.  Finally, on Good Friday night… the 11th hour… we accomplished what we had hoped.  We made this little basket when we were first married.  In it is filled with the names of priests – priests we have met, priests that others knew, some we were close to, and some we had only met once.  The goal has been all these years to pick a priest out once a day, and pray for them for that day.  This practice has ebbed and flowed, but it has not died.  And, in times such as these, it seems of great importance to renew this practice, and pass it on to our children, with urgency.

I’m sure it was St. Therese long ago who inspired me to pray for priests.  She had a great devotion to praying for priests… a part of her Carmelite spirituality.  I really related to that early on, as I have been blessed to have good priests surround me all my life.  They have been role models, spiritual fathers, bosses, spiritual directors, confessors, and friends.  For every stage of my life, there has been a priest who has helped me spiritually.  I am so grateful to the Lord for each of them.

We need to pray for priests.  They are God’s children.  They are human.  They are sinful.   They are or have striven for holiness.  Just like us.  Called to great holiness, even in the midst of being sinners.  Some are new at the gig; “baby priests” we affectionately call them.  They are full of zeal and generally, that yearning for holiness is strong and it shows.  Some are pros… maybe have been a priest for 50 plus years, and their nearness to the end of this life and the beginning of heaven is such a reality, that that yearning again is very strong.  And many priests are in the middle … somewhere between novice and expert.  There is the priest who stays close to Jesus in the Eucharist, and our Lady, and that zeal for souls never seems to fade.  There are those who struggle to keep this zeal, being worn down by the many, many responsibilities that priests have these days.  They still believe, but they are tired and not sure how to kindle that fire again.  And there are many priests who are completely discouraged.  Perhaps the politics of their diocese has gotten to them, or the lack of faith of the “faithful”, or the empty confessionals or low attendance at their Masses, or their own personal struggles have completely weighed them down.  Some are so worn down they don’t believe what they once were so eager to share with their parishioners.  Some have walked away, leaving behind their collar for another life, forgetting that they have an indelible spiritual character imprinted on them, claiming them as one of God’s priests, forever.  Just as we have our struggles along our faith journey, our ups and downs, our moments of faith and moments of doubt, our seasons of joy and our seasons of sorrow – so do they.  We must, oh how we must pray for our priests!  They need our prayers.  Every priest.  Even the ones we are convinced are super holy.  Because every priest has their struggles.  Every priest needs encouragement.  Every priest needs the grace that comes from that person offering a prayer for them.  Just as we do.

Yesterday was Good Friday.  As I thought ahead of the service who I would offer my communion for, two priests came to mind.  One a “baby” priest, and one an “expert” priest.  Both filled with great zeal for souls.  Both very devoted to our Lord, and both close to our Lady.  Two priests people could look at and say, “Oh, they are great!  They don’t need prayers.  Offer your communion for a struggling priest.”  But, these two priests popped into my mind, out of the blue, and I usually take that as a cue from the Holy Spirit to pray for people who just pop into my mind.  Who knows what they may be struggling with internally, but perhaps my prayer will help them.  Or maybe the grace from that one communion is supposed to help continue to kindle that fire in their hearts for their zeal for souls.

Saint Jean Vianney Relic Tour

This Thursday, our diocese is very blessed to host the relic of the heart of St. John Vianney.  St. John Vianney was a simple country priest, who lived his priestly vocation to the max.  He spent hours upon hours in the confessional, bringing people back to the state of grace.  He gave simple, profound homilies on our faith, renewing faith in his parish, and really the world, as we now have access to his homilies.  He knew that death was imminent, and that his people must be ready for heaven.  He loved bringing Jesus in the Eucharist, to his people. And how he loved Mary.  He was asked once how long he loved Our Lady, his response, “I loved her almost before I could know her.”  So beautiful.  He lived an austere life, boiling potatoes on Sunday for him to eat for the week…. imagine what those potatoes tasted like on Friday…  He was often visited by demons, and even Satan himself.  If only he would have less zeal, then maybe they would have tormented him less.  If only he would become lukewarm, then maybe they would stop their visits.  But, St. John Vianney did not lose faith; he did not lose his zeal.  If anything, it made him give even more of himself to his people.  He so desired them to go to heaven, that no pain would deter him.  He is the patron saint of priests.  There is no coincidence that this year the Knights of Columbus have coordinated this relic tour in the U.S., that the shrine in France lent them the relic, that this relic is coming to our diocese.  It will be such a gift to go and pray for all the priests in my life, and I am beyond thrilled that our diocesan priests will be coming to spend time with this dear saint.  How good the Lord is!

And so, our priest basket will wait on our dining room prayer table.  We will pick one out each dinner to pray for.  And, starting this Easter, we will give the children each a priest to pray for all week.  And we will renew our practice of praying daily for an increase of people answering the call to the priesthood and religious life.  Currently, we have 178 priests in our basket.  I hope one day soon, that number will increase dramatically.  St. Therese and St. John Vianney, pray for us.

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(Photo from a dear friend of us venerating St. John Vianney’s relic in DC this January.)