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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mary Always Gets Her Way

It is a very rainy and cooooold weekend here!
Our oldest son had a swim meet and is surely a giant icicle by now...Poor guy.  I couldn't be there since we had baseball going at the same time...I hate it when a Mom can't be more than one place at a time, don't you?
Our 8yo Superboy is trying his hand at the sport of baseball for the first time and today was Opening Day...Not much of an "Opening Day" since most of it got canceled due to rain.  
However, his actual game still played and we froze our way through it and made the best of things...
Or should I say we had a little divine intervention to help us through?
Princess brought her baggy of knotted Rosaries that she is working on making for soldiers overseas, as part of our Little Flowers (Middle Girls) group.  She's also making a few extra for gifts:)

Sitting next to us was a Mom that I had made an acquaintance with.  It turns out they are a family recently coming back to the Catholic faith.  What a joy to hear about her young son who is so devoted to his prayers each night and a teenage daughter just now humbly learning hers.  

Like the model Jewish Mother that Our Lady is, she showed her face with perfect timing to lead others straight to her Son.  Shortly after Princess brought out her bag of Rosaries, the teenaged girl immediately took interest in the project!
Princess gracefully showed the girl how to make each knot of the prayers on the Rosary decades and her friend caught on quickly!

I just sat there and smiled to myself thinking about how Mary always gets her way.  We need only to introduce her to our friends and she immediately leads all of us directly to Jesus.  Just a simple and humble introduction is all she needs, nothing flashy or preachy. 
I walked away from this baseball game quite (physically) frozen but cozy warm in my soul...That same feeling I get when my little one brings me flowers.
I never cease to be amazed and grateful for moments that God shines His face upon us when we show off His Mother.  I recently had a friend tell me a story about a wonderful priest who spoke of God's first miracle...Allowing Mary to carry His divinity within her womb.  No wonder she always gets her way!

Well, Superboy lost his baseball game but he sure made a cute little Catcher:)
Praying for my husband and second son who went trekking off on a Boy Scout backpacking trip, this same rainy and cold weekend...
God bless'em!
It's times like this when our large CAV (Catholic Assault Vehicle) sure comes in handy!
Holy Week blessings as your penitential purple violet 
 is transformed to heavenly white, all through red blood that was shed by our Savior...
+Only by the stain of the Cross are we truly free+ 

I'm linking up to Moments of Grace as this day truly was!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Climbing in the Hole

The other day I was sitting in the church for my Holy Hour of Adoration and I got the feeling that I wished I could just climb right through that hole in the Monstrance and be with Jesus...Just curl up in His arms and lay my head against His most Sacred Heart.  I have no particular trauma in my life but I was just feeling beaten down and bruised from the daily grind. Do you ever feel that way?  Plus I had (Lenten) root canal #2 coming up that was stressing me out! Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament never fails to bring me just the peace I need, coupled with the yearning for Him that keeps me persevering the storms of my faith and life journey. 

Later that same day, I was out for a run (which I've recently started back up again:) and this was the picture I saw in the clouds.  Isn't it just beautiful?  It seemed like a little hole to heaven after what I had thought about earlier during my morning Adoration.  What an amazing consolation this was and I could hardly believe my eyes!  I quickly snapped a few more photos...
The stormy sky was so dark and dramatic that it added an extra brightness to the light shining through the clouds, which triggered a flood of emotions and tears, by the way!
"Thank you, Lord", was all I could manage to utter under my breath...
The hole in the clouds heavens soon faded away but joy filled the aftermath of my heart.
A few days later, I read this quote somewhere...
"Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee, truly present beneath these veils: all my heart subdues itself before Thee, since all before Thee faints and fails."~St. Thomas Aquinas (Adoro Te Devote)
Speaking of holes, today was the dreaded day of that #2 front tooth root canal and crown, brought about from my accident right before Lent.  Lo and behold, all went perfectly fine, Praise God.  I still ache from the first one but I'm hoping that I'll soon be on a road to recovery after this one! I must say that having 2 root canals during Lent has been quite fitting. Aside from the "test" it's been since I despise dental work, the root canals have incorporated all three components of my fasting, prayer, and almsgiving!  At least this is my way of looking at it positively since those root canals have certainly brought out the wimp in me;)

And now Holy Week is nearly upon us. Thank God, the hole (tomb) at the end of Holy Week leads to the glory and hope of the resurrection. A sign in front of a nearby church, with this quote, is setting my mood!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Holy Week Art Project And Easter Book

Passion of Christ Newspaper Art Scene

This is an easy and fun art project for Holy Week!  It also leads to great discussion about the Holy Cross as the instrument of glory for our salvation.
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.~1 Cor 1:18~

We got the idea from my daughter's art class using ripped up newspaper.  She originally made this piece of newspaper art.  
The whole idea got my liturgical wheels turning since it IS Lent after all;) I thought the black construction paper made the perfect back drop for Calvary.  Relaying my thoughts to Princess started her engine and she went straight to work, designing her own Passion of Christ Newspaper Art scene! 

I think this project would be good for ages 7 and up.  My daughter is 9 (4th grade).  It's a bit messy since you have to rip up a bunch of newspaper but it cleans up easily.

Supplies needed:
Black construction paper
Old newspaper
Glue stick or Rubber Cement

1. You start by making the basic shapes of the 3 Calvary Crosses by ripping out regular newspaper. (Not cutting, but ripping)
Rip pieces of the dark colored ads for Christ crucified.  
Place pieces in the shapes that you see best fitting.  Each child might have a different idea of how this might look!  It's neat to see how their imaginations and creativity play out in amazing ways...Much better than mine:)
Use various colors from the newspaper ads for the hill and the stormy sky to complete the landscape and the project.
We hung the finished project on our Lenten mantel...I love the view from a distance:)
We hope you are inspired to give it a try!

He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.~1 Pt 2:24~

I also have a quick book recommendation.  At the beginning of Lent, I mentioned the legend of the Dogwood tree in relation to the Cross that hung our Savior.  I have since found and ordered a beautiful picture book that I just love.  The rich illustrations and story tie in the message of Easter in a new and beautiful way... You won't be disappointed!
+It would be the perfect Easter basket addition or gift+

And one last quote to share... love this one!
"Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself."~St. Gregory Nazianzen~

Equipping Catholic Families

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lenten Half Time

It's hard to believe we are officially half way through Lent! 
For me personally, it's been a topsy turvy 20 days, including a slow start out the gate.  

Our family made our Lenten Reconciliation the other night which typically leaves me feeling like a clean, soaring spirit.  But I still just didn't feel "good" a few days later and I wondered why?  I began to feel down on myself, resulting in sadness and frustration.  Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you still fail miserably and you just don't feel "good" enough?  This was how I was feeling...Almost like I needed to march myself right back down to the confessional.  Realizing I needed a half time pep talk, I shut out the tempter who was prompting me to despair, and turned my soul upwards to the divine Coach...

I believe that pausing for half time is often necessary in the spiritual life, whether it be Lent, Advent or any other ordinary time.  I know for me in my current state of mind during this particular Lent, it was critical that I stop for a moment to assess where I am, where I've come from and refuel my soul for the road ahead.  Sometimes we are tempted to just give up at this point...Or any time if the road feels long.  Undoubtedly, if we are failing, we may feel like just tossing in the towel. 

Yet we must remember with confidence that He who rescued us from great danger of death, will continue to rescue us. (2 Cor 1:8-10)

With God's gentle nudging, I picked up this book of Blessing Prayers and began reading about the Keeping of Lent.  There was a passage that talked about the many misconceptions and erroneous notions that lead us astray and deprive us of hope.  In particular, it talked about how we need to have a right understanding of the role that our limitations, our fragility, and even our failings play in our sanctification according to divine providence.  Imagine that...Our weaknesses are part of God's intimate plan to help us grow in holiness!  I knew that.  Somewhere rattling inside my overloaded brain, I knew that but my head knowledge just didn't connect with my heart until I read this today. How quickly I forget that it is, in fact, out of our nothingness that Christ rises in glory for us on the resurrection.

I am sharing this Litany of Spiritual Confidence (Blessing Prayers, p. 30) that helped me tremendously during this Lenten half time.  May it bring hope to any reader who might need it!

Litany of Spiritual Confidence
R/ Lord, keep me close to you.

  • Lord, I can do all that you ask of me because it is you who strengthen me.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, whenever I fall you delight in my confidence to trust you all the more.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, let me look to you and not to myself to find what is needed to please you.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, when I am overcome with fear it is because my peace depends on some thing instead of on your will. R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, free me from my hidden attachments to self-righteousness.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, let me always remember that it is you who move me to ask for your love.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, help me to see that the meaning of my faults is to learn to depend on you more and more.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, give me the strength to cry out for your love when all that I see is nothingness in myself.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, save me from the impulse to look for my peace and security in my own strength.R/ Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, the more you let me see what I am left to myself, the more you give me the grace to cling to you.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, to be happy, I need nothing but what you provide for me at every moment.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, the more I live in the love you give me in this moment, the more perfectly I am able to suffer whatever comes my way.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, when I come to you at those times when I am overwhelmed by my own misery I glorify you the most.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, it is in being receptive to you in the knowledge of my own weakness that I derive all my strength.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, let me always remember that you want me to let you make me perfect by your love.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
  • Lord, the measure of my union with you is my faith in the power of your love to purify me and make me worthy of you.R/Lord, keep me close to you.
I am praying to be "content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10)

Have you read the Holy Father's Lenten Message yet? A great half time read:) I also enjoyed this USCCB article about 10 Things To Remember For Lent.  By some chance if you are still looking for a little online Lenten inspiration, be sure to visit the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales for their Lenten "Retreat on the Run."

+Praying your Lenten half time is full of God's sufficient grace to meet the hope of Easter dawn+

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keeping an Eye On The Cross

I've just returned from my annual Lenten pilgrimage to Calvary Hill... It's the quaint country cemetery where my dear late husband (and father to my oldest son) lays to rest at the top of this hill.  As I mentioned last year, it is deemed a pilgrimage because we travel to a sacred place.  Here in this place, we care for and maintain our own family grave by gardening and visiting the cemetery...It feels good here, like a stopping place on the road to heaven.  This corporal work of mercy never fails to be a cathartic Lenten almsgiving...especially that hike up the hill!

“The bodies ofthe dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the 

Resurrection. The burial of the dead ...honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit.” Catechism ofthe Catholic Church (#2300).
It's about a 4 hour drive from our home in the valley to this burial place by the sea.  It's far enough away to feel like a journey...Especially when the human population decreases and the animal population increases as we get closer to this place of peace.  The landscape makes a stark change as we cross over from city sprawl to a beautiful land of rolling hills and historic family farms.
The hills are always gorgeous green this time of year and sprinkled with dairy cows and herds of sheep...I felt this to be particularly fitting and striking for me this year.  After all, I am but a lowly sheep, always eager and waiting for Christ to shepherd me.  
I am forever reminded that I cannot find my way alone.
 The lovely hymn, "Shepherd me O God," came to mind as I reflected upon our visit.
Isn't this baby lamb just adorable?

Shepherd me, O God,
beyond my wants,
beyond my fears,
from death into life.
I am thankful for our decision to bury Chris here instead of a crowded Veteran's cemetery that nearly held his remains. 
I feel profound solitude as I walk among our neighbors here and view the sweet remembrances that their loved ones have left...
Everyone has a story...
I pray a little prayer for each soul (and their story) that has passed this way.
It feels good to till the soil, root out the weeds...
and prune the branches...
How appropriate as we work to do the same thing on our Lenten spiritual path to Easter.

Regardless of our life sufferings and challenges, I am always reminded that we must pass through Calvary...
to gain new life.
We must keep our eye on the Cross...
lest we blink and miss the Easter hope of the Resurrection.

 I don't think I mentioned before that this little coastal village holds many family memories on my late husband's side.  The historical church steeple, can be seen from the cemetery where weddings and baptisms made many happy memories...
and one sorrowful memorial for my late husband's brother. (My dear in-laws have tragically lost 2 sons)
In fact, our oldest son was baptized here so we always pay a visit to this beautiful church, named after St. Teresa of Avila.  As the years swiftly pass, it's nostalgia at it's best!
We are homeward bound after a quick visit to the sea shore!
I won't lie and tell you that it doesn't hurt to live this story each day and make a painful pilgrimage each year...But I will say that I am better, my soul is better for this hurt.  One of my favorite things that Mother Teresa said was that we must "give until it hurts.  For love to be true it has to hurt.  It hurt Jesus to love us; it hurt God to love us because He had to give.  He gave His Son.  This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts."

Unfailingly, I drive away with hope. 
Passing through fields of gold, I felt the true Shepherd return to accompany us.  He gives us certainty that, together with Him, we can find our way home...Keeping an eye on the Cross!

Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God who continues to love us to the end.

"Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself."~St. Gregory Nazianzen~

Thursday, March 8, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Wreath

Anyone interested in making a St. Patrick's Day wreath? I always love converting the secular to sacred:) I dug this up from the archives as I'm hanging mine up this week.  Thought I'd re-post the tutorial for fun!

Making this St. Patrick's Day wreath into a liturgical wreath, only took a few easy steps...a long with a little Mod Podge and an image of St. Patrick!
I started with an old grapevine wreath (complete with dusty leaves that I need to clean) *wink* 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.  If you can't find them there, I have no doubt you can find these inexpensive supplies just about anywhere...Hobby Lobby, Target, Walmart?
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!  

It's nothing fancy but it's another visual that brings back the faithful meaning to a holiday that has been taken over, in large part, by the secular culture.

+Happy St. Patrick's Day!+
*For other liturgical wreath ideas, see this page*

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