Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Up The Hill To Calvary

"Let the crucifix be not only in my eyes and on my breast, but in my heart."
~St. Bernadette~

I recently made my annual pilgrimage to Calvary Hill...The name "Calvary" after the same Calvary where Our Lord took his last earthly breath.  This is yet another (now beautiful) irony to my story.  Calvary is the name of the cemetery where my late husband, Chris, was laid to rest.  It is a beautiful Catholic parish cemetery on a hill, currently managed by a 77 year old volunteer, funded by private donations.  Needless to say, we "do our own maintenance" there!  We drive quite a distance to get to our chosen family place of honor.  These hills filled with sheep (and their lambs) are part of the wondrous landscape that fills my spirit a long the way.
I call it a pilgrimage because that is what it has become over the past 17 years.  As the dictionary defines pilgrimage, it is "A journey to a sacred place for exalted or sentimental reasons." 
We climb the hill, rain or shine, and work in our hero's garden at the top.  It has become a cathartic place for my oldest son and I to honor our dearly departed AND our Father in heaven as we care for the resting place of our beloved dead.  It has become one of my favorite Lenten offerings.  Last year, my reflections on our pilgrimage led to the beginning of this blog. It's a 1 year bloggy anniversary already!
This was the first year that we arrived to the bursting beauty of daffodils!  They are a glorious addition to Calvary Hill.  Their trumpets seem to herald the hope of the Resurrection to all who tread this hallowed ground.  Daffodils are often the first flowers to burst forth even after the harshest of winters, ever vigilant with their annual return.  They remind me of Our Savior's return, even after the most horrific death on His own Calvary Hill.  They are also symbolic of my personal return to joy from sorrow. The promise of new life is all around us, most especially during the Lenten season.  How fitting to find it here in this place.
As it is in our own lives through the thickest of mud, His glory prevails. There's nothing like tilling the soil at the foot of the cross to remind us of this.
Here we have my son and my dear brother-in-law (Chris' brother) helps out almost every year.
I am also reminded that suffering yields tremendous gifts.
The cross is the greatest love story ever told through which God's grace and mercy awaits each one of us with no exceptions.  His cross unites all of our sorrows with the only One who truly understands; No doubt, it is the instrument of salvation for more reasons than one.
I can testify that if we meet Him there, we will never want to leave.
"Thank the good God for having visited you through suffering; if we knew the value of suffering, we would have asked for it." ~Blessed Brother Andre~ 
These 3 crosses of Calvary were the original inspiration for my blog.  I just might have to update my original header photo with one of these and the new daffodils!
Each year we pull out the weeds, trim the branches and bring something new to plant.  It now reminds me of what we attempt to do during Lent.  I know that I look forward to cleaning my own inner garden during this beautiful liturgical season, in preparation for Easter and the ultimate hope of a heavenly home. I have discovered that Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving and the ultimate emptying of ourselves through Reconciliaiton is freedom itself. 
"He who has made me, unmakes me." ~Blessed Eugenie Smet~
This purple plant was our new addition and gift this year.
I loved the Lenten purple color, symbolizing a Good Friday death anniversary, one we will never forget.  I find it a great blessing and comfort that Chris' death anniversary is now shared with the great Venerable Pope John Paul II.   If his saintly feast day ends up being on April 2, it will be another providential connection for me to embrace. 
I bought a duplicate plant to take home.  This way there will be one there and one here.  I will plant ours in honor of  both Chris and our late Holy Father, on Saturday.
This is the view from the top looking down.  It was a very stormy weekend but the angels arranged for the rains to stop for a bit.  We no sooner finished our gardening and the clouds opened again with a down pour!  Praise God for graces received.
Our finished garden!
 A few family photos...
Me, Mer-man and my Mom
Mer-man with Grandpa and Grandma
(Chris' parents)
Group photo (minus my Mom)
Down the hill we go but forever at the foot of the cross.
"We are pilgrims and strangers on earth.  Pilgrims sleep in tents and sometimes cross deserts, but the thought of their homeland makes them forget everything else."~Venerable Charles de Foucauld~
Daffodils


By William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Living Water Hike

"The one whose hope is in the Lord is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream."~Jer 17:7-8
Today we had a beautiful break in our very rainy and stormy weather...
It was a blessing to get outdoors to see the beauty of the lush green hills after a good rain, unfolding new life and signs of spring all around us!  
After Sunday church services, Super Boy's Tiger Den (and families) ventured out on a nature hike!  We headed for a historical trail close to a major river, just a short driving distance from our city limits.  I couldn't help but reflect on the weekend's gospel theme of living water. Whoever drinks the water that I shall give him, says the Lord, will have a spring inside him, welling up for eternal life. ~John 4:13-14 How perfect was this?  The river setting was a special place of grace to meditate upon the Word of God as the living water to cleanse and refresh the spirit.
A beautiful covered bridge (built in 1857) is the longest covered bridge still standing in our state.  It's right around 330 feet long.  I remember being able to drive through it when I was a kid but now it's only open to foot traffic.  I think it's a spectacular backdrop to the glorious, rushing, fresh, river water.
Ready, set, go...A race to the other side!
Gotta love this quote.
These mighty Oak trees were pretty amazing.  I paused to reflect upon the depth of my own roots in  frequent prayer...Are they as sturdy as this Oak?
You can see the covered bridge through the trees here.  Oh how this little boy loves to climb!
We all thirst, don't we?  Thirsting for the living God, we cry out to Him.  He cleanses us in His mercy.  "I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away all your sins.  I will give you a new spirit within you, says the Lord." ~Ez 36:23-26
 I felt each step become a prayer of thanksgiving, almost beyond myself.  It's as if our souls step outside ourselves when we are in the glory of His creation, becoming a compass pointing directly to Him. 
Regardless of your beliefs, God whispers of himself through His infinite beauty.  It is undeniably so.
The kids romped and rumbled along God's perfect playground on this, The Lord's day.
Pope Benedict XVI  has a beautiful quote about nature:
"In contact with nature, a person rediscovers his correct dimension, rediscovers himself as a creature, small but at the same time unique, with a capacity for God because interiorly he is open to the Infinite."  I'd like to add an Amen to that!
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived...
This hike was the perfect physical and spiritual rejuvenation as we approach the half way mark to our Lenten 40 days, this week.
I'd love for our whole family to do this hike together next year, using the same readings for reflection.
A nature hike transformed into a Living Water hike...I think we've just found ourselves a new Lenten tradition!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Renewing Our Yes

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
2011
As we wrap up our 2nd week of Lent, I look forward to one of my favorite feasts, The Annunciation of the Lord.  A deep feeling of thanksgiving fills my spirit as our family also celebrates a special anniversary on this feast day.  It was the Annunciation of 2007 that my husband and I made our first True Devotion Consecration to Jesus, through Mary.  We also consecrated our family at the same time.  Speaking for myself, it was another profound conversion experience...No words can quite describe it but I know it changed my life, yet again!  If you have never read True Devotion To Mary By: St. Louis De Montfort, here is an excerpt from the Preface that speaks volumes: "I would venture to warn the reader that one perusal will be very far from making him master of it. If I may dare to say so, there is a growing feeling of something inspired and supernatural about it, as we go on studying it; and with that we cannot help experiencing, after repeated readings of it, that its novelty never seems to wear off, nor its fullness to be diminished, nor the fresh fragrance and sensible fire of its unction never to abate." 


I would also like to wish a very "Happy Consecration Anniversary" to a group of my Marian Sisters in Christ to whom I wholeheartedly credit my True Devotion journey, that includes our renewal this past Advent.  I am eternally grateful for each of their inspiring lives even though I have never met some of them on our Yahoo Group. One of my dear friends has been a constant companion as we have made pilgrimages to Our Lady on many occasions.  Joan's faith and friendship continues to be a light in my life. Another friend is an awesome Catholic blogger who has been a steadfast support and authentic Catholic witness.  Lena and her family truly live the faith that continues to inspire me and so many others through her blog. Thank you to all of my dear sisters..."All For!"(All For Jesus, through Mary)


On this Solemnity of The Annunciation of The Lord, our family is renewing our
to God!
And we are honoring Our Lady for her profound "Yes" to God's will for her life, turning the key to salvation history.  If that's not a hallelujah moment, I don't know what is.
~We made this Annunciation Blueberry Oatmeal Coffee Cake to celebrate...It was one yummy Yes~
Be sure to check out my post over at Catholic Cuisine for easy instructions.
I got a crack up out of this moment...
I couldn't figure out why little Miss was loudly insisting on having something to stick on top of her coffee cake!? She was having a bit of a "cow," to put things politely.
 Then it dawned on me that maybe I had created a monster creative child since I'M the crazy lady always sticking something in or on our liturgical food {ie) Mardis Gras, most recently}
 She grabbed herself a flag out of the drawer and was one happy camper!
Hmmm what have I gotten myself into?
All I can do is proclaim "All For!"
And speaking of that All For, I just can't resist making another plug for this Lenten retreat "Consoling The Heart of Jesus" that I am making.  It's just too good to keep to myself!  As I read in my Magnificat today: "Treasure of every kind, material or not, is a gift from God, given to be shared and not hoarded. Trust in God rather than a stockpile of personal resources is the source of our salvation.  Wickedness is not always overt: the neglect of simple kindness, great or small, kills as surely as open violence." OK, so I'm sharing this little treasure! For me, this retreat has been that next turn in my faith journey, Praise God for continued conversion.  It's one of those books that just changes or gives you a whole new perspective.  It sure is doing that for me, at least. Let's just say that I'm having many "WOW" moments and I'm loving it.  It is written in conversational style and is simple to follow...Perfect for my simple brain and the smallness of my soul. Praise God for giving us spiritual leaders, like this author Fr. Michael Gaitley, to guide us back and form us unto God's will.  It's just the perfect read for Lent!
I wanted to share this excerpt from the book that is so pertinent for this feast and also for those who desire to make a consecration or have already consecrated themselves to Jesus, through His most Holy Mother:
"One of the greatest aspects of being consecrated to Mary is that she's such a gentle Mother.  She makes the lessons of the Cross into something sweet, and she pours her motherly love and solace into our every wound.  Going to her and giving her permission to do her job truly is the surest, easiest, shortest and the most perfect means to becoming a saint.  What joy it is to be consecrated to Jesus through Mary!"  The author goes on to state that every human being is invited to rest in the womb of Mary and be transformed there, by the power of the Holy Spirit, more perfectly into Christ's own image.  And how do we do this? The same way Mary did.  We just say yes.
~God Bless your Feast Day and may your Yes's outweigh your No's~


Annunciation Prayer
Lord who had been kind enough to take the human body from the virgin, unite us all in your peace.
Unite us all with your grace.  Fill us with your love so that we can share this love with you and others among us.  Make us worthy to praise thee with your blessed Mother and all the saints.
Peace be unto thee, Mother of the Sun of righteousness.
Peace be unto thee, the palace of holiness,
Peace be unto thee the ship full of blessings,
the fruit of your virginity is blessed,
Holy Mother please pray for us,
so that we would also be holy like you in our lives.
Lord have mercy on us.
Amen.
A Few Helpful Links:
Everything you need for your Consecration can be found in these 2 books!

More Information:

Fisheaters Explanation
True Devotion on Podcast via Rosary Army
A sermon and more information~Age of Mary
Free PDF Files of Consecration from Catholic Familyland
Request a free consecration package from 2 heartsnetwork
True Devotion explained by Catholic Culture



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American Girl Gone Catholic

My oldest daughter received her first American Girl last year.  She just loves her Lanie and actually plays with her quite frequently.  Dear husband helped her carve out a little space under a desk in the girls bedroom to make a house for dolls, etc.  We call it the American Girl-Gone-Catholic Cave!  I thought it was so cute how they set it up so I just had to share!
Note the Holy Water Font, Holy Card Wallpaper and Lanie's Rosary.  
I think we picked up the cute mini rosary from the San Jose Mission once upon a visit!
Princess wants to add a church veil and thinks Lanie might be considering a vocation to the religious life... Lanie is still discerning!  How's that for a little secular to sacred conversion?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lenten and St. Patrick Liturgical Wreaths

These are two liturgical wreath ideas for Lent and St. Patrick's Day!
For the Lenten wreath, I spray painted a Dollar Tree wreath (purple) and wrapped it in sheer purple ribbon, representing the colors of Lent...
These materials were all found at the Dollar Tree, including the faux barbed wire. (Bought at Halloween)  I thought this was a good representation of the crown of thorns.
I used hot glue to attach the faux crown of thorns and also to attach Christ crucified to the top.
Finally, I added white lilies, representing St. Joseph~The Month Of March is dedicated to St. Joseph.  I also liked the Easter eggs attached, representing new life after the resurrection...This seemed to tie it all together.  The silk lilies and eggs come in a bunch at the Dollar Tree too!  Since I had the crucifix and spray paint on hand, this wreath's cost was a mere $3.00.
Praying your Lenten Season is abundant in grace and love!


How about a St Patrick's Day wreath? (Maybe for next year!)
Since St. Patrick's Day fell during Lent this year,  I converted a secular St. Patrick's Day wreath into a liturgical wreath, with 1 easy step...Mod Podge and an image of St. Patrick!
I started with this grapevine wreath and added some foam glitter shamrocks with hot glue, representing the way that St. Patrick taught us about the trinity.  I think I bought these and the large bow from the Dollar Tree at one time.?
Then I added this image to the center, found at this link.  I reduced it to 30% and glued it on with a little Mod Podge.  Voila...A St. Patrick liturgical wreath!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!




Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our St. Patrick Baby

Twelve years ago today, we brought our St. Patrick's Day baby into this world.  Though he gave us quite a scare, we thank God he's with us today.  Doesn't every Mom have a "delivery story" or two to share?  Well, this little guy, my second child, was my biggest delivery story!  He had shoulder dystocia, meaning his head came out but his shoulders got stuck.  We joked (much later) that he'd be our little football player.  Well, sure enough he has grown to love this game. {With zero prompting from us!}
I can still hear the loud bellowing order from the OB for me to "PUSH!"  The yanking of our little guy tore me to timbuktu but I'll spare you the gory details on that part.  Because his head was out for a longer period than his body, he entered this world limp, blue, and not breathing.  No sooner than the OB hollered for another Dr., a whole team of help arrived within seconds.  I lay paralyzed, staring at the ceiling as my husband left my side to tend to our lifeless son.  Though it seemed like hours, the team of Doctors, by the grace of God, worked their wonder.  My baby's cry broke the silence of my heart and tears of joy poured forth.  His middle name came to be Patrick, after the heroic missionary saint, whose feast we also celebrate today.  
God Bless you, son.  May you always be a warrior for Christ!
Laser Tag (dual) Birthday Party~Army Theme
We always "go green" for Army Dude's  birthday and St. Patrick's Feast Day.  Since my husband is adopted, we don't know his heritage,  but we have a hunch that there just might be some Irish roots!  Our tradition is green breakfast, that includes green chocolate chip pancakes...This year we cut out shamrock shapes in honor of St. Patrick's teaching of the trinity.
Our St. Patrick Birthday decor also included some shamrock/trinity shaped balloons!
Here's a close-up:
We have a few more plans to sprinkle green throughout our day, ending with an Irish dinner. Thankfully, Army Dude loves Corned Beef and Cabbage so that is his traditional birthday dinner.  We always look forward to reading about St. Patrick and watching the movie, a family favorite!
For dessert ... "Hills of Ireland" Sundaes!
I also posted these over at Catholic Cuisine.
Mint Chip Ice Cream
Whipped Cream
Sprinkles
Shamrock cookies
Birthday Blessings to our St. Patrick Baby!
This is a shortened version of the Breastplate of St. Patrick:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

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