A Holy Smackdown

I have been in the thick haze of newborn parenting these last weeks.  Leah Denise Pullano joined our ranks on June 29, 2016, weighing a healthy 9lbs 3oz.  She is perfect and just awesome.  Once again, this new little life feels like the greatest gift our family could ever receive! I am, as ever, in awe.
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At the same time, our household has been busy with the teenager-end of the spectrum. Noise, laughter, food, music, and lots of plans with friends, describe these lazy days of summer for the high-schoolers−though to hear them tell it they are seriously overworked!  Poor kids. 😉  One of our girls will be a junior this year and many of her friends have gotten their license. That will be a reality for us in the next weeks as well. It has been gradually sinking in this summer that my 3rd-born little baby is no longer in my grasp and it’s terrifying.
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This fear is what’s prompting me to share this experience, both to be potentially helpful to others as well as to call myself out. The stark reality is that I am terrified of losing another child. It’s a fear that forms in my mind and then takes root down deep. When I’m not paying attention, it sprouts branches and without really noticing I am suddenly that annoying, in-your-face, tell-me-your-every-move mother.  As if I am in control or something. (And oh how teenagers love having their mom in their face…)  
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The moment I realized what a monster had taken root, I just happened to be at Mass; not really much of a coincidence since Jesus has a way of laying the smackdown when we need it. With His love, mercy and compassion, He helped me start digging it out from down deep.  Gosh did that hurt. Digging out fear requires surrender. The kind that says again and again, “Yes Jesus, I trust in You, even if it means I have to lose another child.”  Ouch! But, I will not live in fear.  I cannot.  It’s no kind of living. And so, as I received my Lord, body, blood, soul, and divinity, He filled up the now-empty space, every nook and cranny, where fear had resided.  He overwhelmed me with Truth and Love so amazing, the fear was but a shadow of a memory.  Oh Lord, never let me forsake receiving You in the Eucharist; nothing can compare.  Where the enemy would steal joy and peace with the lie that I can’t handle the worst, Jesus is waiting with the Truth that I can do all things through Him. 
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My 16 year-old is an awesome teenager.  She is smart, resourceful, humble, and capable.  We will be prudent and careful, but she is fully her own agent.  She will be driving a car, working at a job, applying to colleges, and growing up, as she should.  I can’t add a minute to her life with my worry.  Maybe she will make a mistake or a bad decision that will carry a hefty consequence.  Maybe she will be an innocent bystander in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  Maybe she will get sick for no reason at all.  I certainly know that these things can and do happen.  Whatever comes, we will walk the path in faith with our Savior by our side. Jesus, I trust in You.  You are working it all for good. 
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We recently welcomed little Leah into the Church with her Baptism and Fr. Hyde made a wonderfully important distinction in his explanation of why we baptize our infants.  He said, “Evil affects us all, the innocent as well as the guilty.  If it only affected the guilty, we would call it justice.” (Thus, infants have original sin even though they are innocent and so need baptism.)  Evil is part of the human condition; no getting around it.  I may have to say goodbye to another child in my lifetime, or several, and even as I desperately beg the Lord to let that cup pass me by, I cannot and will not live in fear of it.  The lie needs to be called by name, acknowledged, and brought to the One who heals and restores.  He alone can overshadow it with Truth.  And I must not stop bringing it to Him through prayer and the sacraments, not even for a day.  I am reminded of the scripture about the unclean spirits in Matthew 12, When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its arrival, it finds the house vacant, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and dwell there; and the final plight of that man is worse than the first.”
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I cannot let my guard down.  Jesus needs to dwell always in the void created by the loss of two of my children. He is always waiting to pour Himself out when I invite Him in, and I need to invite Him with intention and my continuous attention, not the vagueness of prayer that plagues me when I am busy. 
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The other night we played a familiar game on a car ride with the kids.  My husband asked them, if they could pick one thing, anything at all in the whole world, what would they want? The answers were cute and funny, typical for their ages.  When it came around to me, I was wracking my brain for something worldly that I actually want and came up empty. But, I did share my greatest and deepest desire that all my children live with me in heaven for eternity.  I want nothing so much as that.  Evil can never steal it away, and THAT is Justice.

Three years and Treasures in Heaven

As the third anniversary of my daughter Anna’s death approaches, I wanted to write something to mark this season. I guess it’s hard for me to keep writing of suffering and grieving when really, we are doing so much living. The hard truth is that death is always a piece of our living, but it is a piece that adds meaning, and substance, and depth. In light of death, we understand the blessing and the gift of life more profoundly. In the light of this cross, I have come to find fulfillment in serving the Lord through simple everyday living. This earthen vessel holds many treasures.

We are living in joyful expectation of our 10th child these days. Our newest little princess, our eighth daughter, should arrive at the end of June, and so far she is healthy and growing beautifully. Despite my “advanced maternal age,” I feel great, too. Pregnancy sure was easier on my body 21 years ago, but it is easier now in so many ways with the wisdom of age! It seems my growing belly is like an invitation to chat about all things “children” and it presents me with a challenging but beautiful way to witness on an almost daily basis. At some point, I think every mother has been asked how many children she has. For me, this has been a loaded and difficult question since my son Michael died eight years ago. I’m always tempted to give the simple half-truth version of the answer, that this is our 10th child, and leave it at that. As you might expect this usually piques curiosity (or disbelief!) and is always followed by more questions. I usually have a split second to decide how to answer. Sometimes it’s a sacrifice for me to tell the whole truth, but more often I can’t help but think of the person on the receiving end. Imagine asking a casual and friendly question and getting socked with my whole truth that two of my children have died! But the truth is the truth and it serves, if I am willing to tell it. Most often these moments that inspire a curl of dread at the outset, turn into moments of shared faith. They are opportunities to speak Truth, open hearts, console and be consoled, to serve and be served. Sometimes, I discover someone who is suffering greatly, sometimes it’s someone who has never known the sting of loss, and other times I am pleasantly surprised to meet a fellow Christian that I would not have known otherwise. Thanks to my baby bump, these grace-filled moments happen every day. I consider that a gift and I’m thankful for the struggle of it, for these are the treasures I am storing in Heaven. Anna’s death, though still a painful reality, is serving the Kingdom. And it’s beautiful to me that it happens in these cases because of life! Isn’t this precisely the message of the Gospel after all? Because Jesus died, we can have life!

Photo courtesy of Charles Wainwright for Pillars magazine

Photo courtesy of Charles Wainwright for Pillars magazine

I love this family picture. It is happy and full of life, but it only tells half the truth. There’s so much more to the story. I often wonder how the Lord expects me to tell it without Anna and Michael here to be in the picture with us. There are a few thousand words this picture cannot tell and I feel so keenly what is missing even as I rejoice in all that we are. What I have come to understand more deeply in these past three years is that the story must serve the Kingdom in order to bear fruit. It isn’t merely for my own transformation, though that is miraculous in itself, but it must be for God’s good and holy purposes. Why do I love my neighbor and forgive my enemy? Why do I proclaim life and not death even though I know fully that life only truly comes after death? In service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He submitted to death so he could proclaim life. His death is always part of the story or there isn’t much of a story. This picture captures so much of my heart. I am blessed. I am grateful.

IMG_5692But always this picture tells the rest of the story. My treasures are in Heaven. This part that is missing gives so much more meaning to all that is here. I have learned to overcome what is missing by seeking all the life that is before me. Being pregnant at 41 is a sacrifice but it is nothing compared to the sacrifice of living without this new life.  She is loved beyond measure already.

The way to overcome death is to seek life. Jesus is life. The Gospel is life. Death is overcome.
The Mass each week calls to mind my own journey these past three years. For a time after each of my children died, Heaven came to Earth to meet me in my need and brokenness and my heart has found healing in the presence of the Giver and Creator of life. The consolations have been many and I have grown in my faith in many ways, but like the final words of blessing, there’s more to it than my own faith. There is a call to arms; “The Mass is ended, go in peace to Love and serve the Lord.”

The sacrifice has been re-presented and the resurrection has been celebrated. We will have all of Eternity to enjoy the consolations that have only been glimpsed here briefly, but today we are called to serve in God’s great army. Our sufferings and crosses become our armor and serve a great purpose in the Lord’s battle for souls. We have work to do, however small it may seem. We have treasures to store up for Heaven.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves…Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” (2 Cor 4:7,10)

Mom

So, my mom died this summer. Maybe if I write those words they will finally sink in. Just today I wanted to ask her a question and for a split second thought of sending her a message before remembering I can’t do that exactly. Yes, I know she is still with me, hopefully interceding for me as only a mother can. That is truly a gift, but it is not the same as having her here and all the faith and hope in the world doesn’t just make it better.

I’ve been here before in this familiar place of grieving, accepting, and changing. Losing my mom, so far, has not been quite like losing my children, although I know the twists and turns of grieving too well to know that could change. I will not make any sweeping blanket statements here. It could get worse. It could get better. It may do both. What I think right now is that there is something about the expected order of things that makes it a tiny bit easier to bear. Most of us grow up expecting that someday our parents will die. Or, maybe it’s because of a lifetime of growing independent and learning to say goodbye. First there was kindergarten when I went off to school, and later college, when I really went off to school, and then marriage and a family of my own; these events have all been preparing me. Each goodbye has been a necessary step in order to start something new. We just cannot stay the same. We grow up, we change, and we become more and more fully the person God created us to be. But growing pains hurt. Cancer hurts. My mom was just three weeks shy of her 68th birthday.In those moments when the loss is keen, it’s hard to find the joy in it. Human nature craves the comfortable sameness of the presence of the one we love, but death calls us to something different. Death forces our hand and calls us out of our comfort zone. It calls us out of our old selves and leads us to a new self, if we let it.

I have a choice in those moments. I have a decision to make and some work to do. I’ve written this before and I stand by it 100%. It takes determination and an act of my will to embrace the change that will come from the suffering. It takes an act of my will to acknowledge the pain of the moment or situation and then force that scene off of center stage. There are better scenes to play and I am the director calling forth new actors; the truth and reality that Heaven has grown by one and will one day be my own home. The truth is that God knows all and works all for my good if I turn to Him and love Him. I have to force myself to choose the desire for that Good of my soul over all else. The truth is that God alone is the source and summit of all happiness. The truth is that my mom wants nothing more than for me to seek and know the God she has stood before. She spent her life preparing me to go forth and she isn’t done simply because she is gone from my sight.

Yet it’s not supposed to be made all better simply because we have faith and hope in eternity. Losing your mother is a huge loss, an unparalleled loss, since there is simply no one else on earth that can be what she was. She gave me life and has been there for every minute of it since. Her absence now feels strange and unnatural and desperately wrong and yet this is the natural order of life. It is a wound that has to leave its mark in order to do a work in me. We don’t become new and emerge until we say a painful but necessary goodbye. I still have work to do and a purpose to fulfill. Lucky mom, she was done! She is living the reality I can only Hope in. She is preparing a place for me now just as she did 41 years ago. I know that saying goodbye this time is just one more step on my way to being ‘all grown up’. Goodbye, mom, until we meet again….

Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015  Denise M. Faisant Berger  7/12/47 – 6/23/15

The Hope In ISIS

I was outside playing catch with Andrew a few days ago and one of my throws went way off course. He made a running, leaping, reaching catch before falling proudly to the ground with ball in glove. He, of course, gave a play-by-play commentary afterward saying, “Terrible throw by Mom, really awesome catch by Andrew!” Just calling it as he saw it (with a big smirk on his face). I saw it a little differently and happily gave him my point of view. My terrible throw gave him the opportunity to make an incredible catch. He needed my terrible throw.

As we all know, the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq, Africa, and elsewhere are top news stories of late. Our fellow Christians are being murdered and brutalized and, as our country’s leader stands seemingly silent, the situation feels dire and dark. We are feeling helpless as we watch in wide-eyed horror, with the powerful exception of coming together in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Certainly, I don’t want to make light of the horror by suggesting it compares to something as trivial as throwing a baseball around, but I do see tremendous Hope in the horror. ISIS is providing an opportunity to stand before the world and boldly give up everything for Christ. ISIS is drawing the line in the sand in a monstrous way, thereby allowing Christ followers to set an example and send a powerful message, to their God and to the world.

Arabic-NazareneEvery night, my family prays and gives thanks to God for these faithful Christians willing to risk everything, in the eyes of the world, for the one thing only seen with the eyes of Faith. They are a beacon, a light post on top of the hill, standing up for the only thing that truly matters. They risk everything to claim Christ and they know it. They possess Christ so much so that not only are they willing to die for Him, but mothers are willing to let their children die for Him. It is beautiful and it is encouraging. It is the Hope we need in this darkness, an example to be pondered while we pray for that kind of faith and relationship with the Savior. Do you have a faith worth dying for? What is our own suffering now in light of martyrdom and persecution?

Some of the most haunting images coming across my newsfeed are those of children and babies, mutilated and beheaded. The cry comes from deep within me as I think of my own sweet innocent baby. Surely, I would die for her. Why the innocent children, Lord? But then I ask myself, “Would the slaughter of only adults make it somehow more palatable”? These children are marked for Christ and I think it is a sign of even greater hope. Just as in the days of Herod, when he slaughtered all the male children because he couldn’t find the true object of his hatred, these holy innocents are being sacrificed. Then, as now, evil thrashed about like a kid having a temper tantrum, destroying all that it could in its path. Why? The answer is so simple and so full of HOPE!! Because God lives! God lives here and now and He has a plan unfolding. The Christians in Iraq are chosen as part of the unfolding. Those who have died, now live. They are a great light for the world and yet just a shadow of the True light that is coming.

Shortly after Anna died, I had a very strong message and experience that I could not fully understand. I wrote about it here. It was of a sunrise that wasn’t quite full of the splendor and majesty I was expecting or seeking, and yet it was a sunrise that dispelled the darkness all the same. It was a sunrise with the hope and expectation of bright rays burning through the clouds at any moment, but it was incomplete and fell short. What was the Lord trying to tell me? I understand that experience with a little more clarity now. We may not feel the hot sun on our faces quite yet, but we must TRUST fully, deeply, and wholeheartedly that the sun is there and the clouds cannot last forever. Even if that sun sets behind clouds and we are steeped in darkness, we must TRUST that it is only dark for a time. The sun will rise in splendor and glory.

The time to seize opportunities to choose Christ, to choose our faith, and to choose Truth is now. It is critically important that we hone a faith like Abraham. Pray for it. Beg God for the kind of faith that willingly offers your child as a sacrifice to Him. We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac when the Lord stays the father’s hand at the 11th hour and spares the son. We breathe a sigh of relief and hug our own children a little tighter, but that’s not the end of the story. Along comes Jesus, willingly offered and sacrificed by the Father, and this time there is no stay.  Anything less than the full sacrifice just does not get the job done. The willingness to lay down life isn’t adequate, only the actual giving of life will suffice for the salvation of the world. The sacrifice of Jesus was once for all, but it is the model for each of us to follow daily. There have been many throughout history who have done exactly that. We need to be prepared to give back to the Lord all that He has given us including our very life. It is the example of faith that we need for the salvation of our souls in these dark, dark days. Every single martyr is a beacon of HOPE that sends a clear and strong message. Dying is not true death. Dying for Christ is true Life.

Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (MT 16:24-26)

These holy men, women, and children who refuse to deny their Lord are heroes and champions. I will tell you of the true horror and tragedy taking place around the globe because, sadly, it will never get reported.  It is the tragedy of the Christians who are being given the opportunity to choose Him, but instead are denying the Christ. “But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (MT 10:33) We must pray for them as we pray for ourselves.

When a gunman, the unpopular Truth, the socially unacceptable Church teaching, or the private battle with sin calls us to account, will we choose Christ or will we sever ourselves from the Body? No matter the consequence, will we have the courage to take the outstretched hand of our Blessed Mother and say, “Yes Lord. Not my will but yours be done.” At any cost? At every cost? After all, there is no cost greater than Eternity. Our brothers and sisters being persecuted by ISIS know this intimately and many have chosen boldly.

No matter their past sins or successes, when given the choice by ISIS to convert or die, their entire lives of faith have boiled down to one choice in one moment. And the rest of the Body proclaims, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Pray for us.”

The Final Hour

For the past several weeks I’ve been wishing someone could just hit a fast forward button.  Even if it is a little irrational I don’t want March 2nd to come.  In some strange way it feels like Anna’s final hour is about to happen again only this time we know it and it is frightening.  I’m not sure why I feel this way when obviously the worst has already come and gone.   I think the anticipation is far worse than the day will actually be and part of me wishes we could just skip through.  I’ve been keeping busy, keeping distracted, keeping exhausted.

I’m not at all sure what is so frightening.  Perhaps it is fear that the suffering might change or get worse but then I have to ask, “So what if it does”?   I don’t think it’s possible that it could be as hard or as awful as March 2, 2013.  And if I’m honest, I wonder, “Is it really the worst thing”?  Here I am. Alive and well.  With fruit to show for my troubles. My Surrender comes more readily, my Trust is more certain, my Faith is stronger and my Hope is a force to be reckoned with.

Why are we so afraid to suffer?  It’s hard but we embrace so many things that are hard and we do it for mere worldly gains.  Truly when the pain is the worst I throw myself before God, into Him.  I live more intimately with Him and that is not a bad place to be at all.  In that way my suffering brings my greatest Joy.

March 2, 2014 will simply be day 365 without Anna, no better or worse than the day before or the day after. I know there is much to gain and be learned in these weeks of fear and anxiety and sadness and overwhelming loss.  I know this time of trial is fleeting.  And because I am called to live in the world my time of living purely and deeply in the heart of my God is fleeting as well.

For the past year I have been confronted time and time again with thoughts of how fragile and temporary this life is.  Sometimes I carry on business as usual without giving it a thought and other times I cannot escape the simple profundity of that truth.

Anna left the house on a Friday evening and called goodbye.  I didn’t drop what I was doing to give her a long hug and a kiss goodbye.  To her that would have just been awkward.  (And it wouldn’t have been enough of a goodbye anyway)   How could we not have known it would be her final hour?  There was no sense of it.  No warning and ultimately no final Earthly goodbye.  She walked out the door full of life and hasn’t walked back in.

“But about that day or hour no one knows…” (MT 24:36)

I know for a fact she had every intention of walking back in.  And waking up in the morning.  And taking pictures of her first clients for her budding photography business.  And seeing friends.  She had a journal next to her bed.  Was she about to write in it or had she already?  I don’t dwell on all the things she left undone.  That list is too long to wrap my head around.  But it does always lead me back to the same thoughts.

What if this were my last hour?  Am I ready?  Am I  afraid?  Am I excited?  What if today I meet God face-to-face?  How am I living for Him?

Anna's friends and sister all wear a piece of the puzzle engraved with "Live a Little"

Anna’s friends and sister all wear a piece of the puzzle engraved with “Live a Little”

Anna’s famous last words have become “Live a little”.  She used it as her senior quote in the yearbook and it’s become a mantra among her friends.  And I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe Anna’s philosophy of life.  She wanted to Live and by all accounts she certainly did.  She found the fun in every situation or made her own.  She was kind, generous, loving, intelligent, compassionate, talented and the pain of losing her brother gave her a unique perspective of the fragility of life. She simply wanted to ‘Live a Little’.

I can’t help but wonder in her final hour if that philosophy served her well?  Was she living for HIM a little?

Certainly no one wants us to ‘Live a little’ more than God does.  After all He is the creator of “living”!  He sent His son for exactly that purpose.  In Jesus’ own words

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)

Jesus wants abundance for us, not mere existence.  He came and served and suffered and died so that we might live life to the full.  He knew human suffering well.  He experienced it himself even before the cross, and rightly wants us to know that our suffering is not because of Him or the Father.  Our trials are because of the enemy, but God’s plan for us is living!1961644_10152266045058678_732702104_n

As we go through these days I just can’t help but be reminded of these days last year.  It truly seems like yesterday we were in the same spot with a high school senior.  Waiting anxiously everyday for those college acceptance letters and planning college visits for March and April.  The drama department at Westhill is getting ready to put on their musical production. Last year it was Footloose and Anna had fun designing the poster for it.  Just like last year, the boys and girls basketball teams are making a sectional run and the seniors are excited to cheer on their team. There are so many plans being made for the near future and it’s such a fun and busy time for Seniors.  Lacrosse starts soon.  Spring break.  College.  Senior skip day.  Yearbook.  Ball.  Graduation.  Anna was riding on the high of earning Four Gold Keys at the scholastic art awards and her work was on display at OCC for the month of February.  She was busy getting her portfolio together and was able to take it in person for a review at SU where she received high praise and constructive criticism.  She had been accepted with scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design and was on top of the world about making that dream come true.  Then and now, there is so much living going on and it’s good.  It was an exciting time for Anna last year and this year feels much the same for Nichole.  Business as usual.

Only there is a new awareness about all of it. We will all have to face a final hour.

In this hour before the anniversary of Anna’s final hour I turn to my Mother Mary as I so often do for her example.  During her own son’s final hour she walked beside him, every painful step.  She endured until the end.  She loved, prayed, wept.  This son she thought would be a great King was murdered with criminals.  Her hopes for a savior for her people apparently shattered.  And Mary trusted.

Oh Yes I will take a page from Anna’s book, my beautiful daughter.  I will Live a Little.  For Him.  With Trust.

Testimony: Miracles

Written by Tara, age 39, Special education teacher

The testimony of a Community miracle that I never thought would happen to me. As a Catholic, I lived like every other Catholic. I went to church when the spirit moved me or it was a holiday. My heart, mind, and soul were never really in balance to receive the word of the Lord. I never went to penance to ask for forgiveness. So without cleansing my heart, mind, and soul I never felt complete as a child of God.

Seven years ago, I met this family and at first I just thought I was going to help them clean and organize their house because they had so many children. A short time later I realized that this family needed me to do much more. They discovered that their 5th child, Michael, had a cancerous brain tumor. This saddened me because he seemed to be a vibrant little 4 year-old and I wrestled with his grim prognosis. How could he be in a place where he could die?

I continued to work for this family, trying to bring a healthy and enthusiastic attitude that would help them through one of the most difficult times of their life.  As the word got out that Michael was sick the whole community started to help out as well. This gave me hope, joy, and courage that this community could help beat this sickness by their sheer support. It also gave me a sense of belonging in the community that I never felt before. Each person gave of themselves;  their time, talents, and love. People brought food and dessert constantly, and gifts for the kids and little Mikey. Every prayer group in Syracuse lifted the family in prayer and some went back to church to pray for them, who hadn’t been in a very long time.  I truly believed that Michael was going to recover and healing would take place for everyone in this family. This was the first miracle that this community and I received; hope, faith and understanding of belonging to this mystical body of Christ with the Sovereign God as our head.

A short time later the worst happened and this family lost their son to brain cancer. This was a tragedy but a second miracle was right around the corner for this community and for myself. The second miracle was the rejoicing and the power of God’s love for this family and for the whole community.  Love surrounded this family and everyone involved, helping them find healing of mind, body, and soul. It was a miracle of healing that only comes from God and we witnessed it first hand and were a part of it.

While this family was healing a third miracle was brewing for me. A new pastor came into my life to bring healing to my mind, body and soul that I didn’t know I needed. He brought new knowledge about the bible and healing and the strong bond you could have with Jesus that I never had before. He told me to simply believe. He preached that everyone is a sinner, but if you ask God for forgiveness He will forgive you and bring you closer to His heart. I wanted to be closer to Jesus and God so I went to my first healing mass to ask God and Jesus for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness was hard because I offered Jesus so much pain and imperfection. After my blessing my heart was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy. While I was there at this healing mass I saw that family that had lost their son and I saw the true power of the Lord’s healing in both of these adults.

After the first healing blessing that I received I started to feel the power of the lord’s grace. From the grace of the Lord came love and I started to feel whole again and I wanted more. I attended a second healing mass, this time to be forgiven for the sins of my ancestors. Going to this healing mass was important to me because I felt as an adult I was making the same bad choices as some of my previous ancestors.  I knew that the power of the Lord’s grace healed my soul once from my own sins. Now, I wanted to be healed from the sins of the past. This mass brought me a calmness and peace that I never felt in my life time. I stopped feeling the pain and the guilt, which I constantly carried around with me. My soul seemed to be clear and focused. I want to keep my soul filled with the Lord’s power, the power of joy, calmness, and peace for the rest of my life. After this mass, I promised myself that I was going to live a clean and honest life. It has been two years now and through the power of God’s love and presence I have done this for my daughter and myself.

The power of the Lord’s grace and forgiveness can come into your life at any time. Miracles happen all the time if we are open to them and many times they come in unexpected ways. The will of God is strong and the will of His people is stronger because we come from his love and grace. I’ve been through a lot of tragedy in my life-time but I truly can say now that God has carried me through each one with the power of community love. I will never forget these lessons and I try hard to pass them around to everyone I meet.

Year of Faith

On October 11, 2012 our Holy Father, Benedict XVI opened the Year of Faith for the Church.  In his homily he addressed the growing void of God in our society and proposed a year to renew faith and evangelize in new ways.  Here is an excerpt of his wisdom:

Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is “the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith” (12:2). 
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and perennial subject of evangelization. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts with the Father and, in the power of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to him as a body to its head. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21), says the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them, adds, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22). Through Christ, God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world; but Christ himself wished to pass on his own mission to the Church; he did so, and continues to do so, until the end of time pouring out his Spirit upon the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon him and remained in him during all his earthly life, giving him the strength “to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” and “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19).

He goes on to describe the ‘desertification’, that is, the void of God in all of society and how we are crying out to know Him in many ways.  “And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path.” (emphasis mine)

In a word, the faithful are being called to witness to Christ in our lives.  It is by this witness that we “preach the gospel to the poor”.  And each one of us as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, makes up a critical part of the whole.  Our particular stories speak Christ in many diverse ways and your words may be the very ones that lead someone to the path of Christ!  We can never underestimate what God can do with even the tiniest ‘Yes’

I would like to use this blog and take the Holy Father’s call to action very literally.  I am always inspired by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and would love to hear your stories and testimonies. Contact me HERE if you would like to share your witness of Christ in your life and have it published on this blog.  No matter where you are in your faith walk you have something valuable to offer.  By speaking up and speaking out, God can use you for the good of all His holy church.

It can be short, sweet, and to the point, detailing a single experience, or a more general faith testimony of your life (1500 words or less). If you aren’t sure how to do it ask the Holy Spirit to use you as His instrument and just speak from the heart.

I’ll publish testimonies as I get them for the entire year of faith so if you know someone with a faith story to tell send them here!

Can’t wait to hear from you and I’ll get working on mine too!

 

Another Bag

I put out a family favorite dish of homemade salsa and tostitos chips for snack the other day. My younger kids were gathered around and devouring it with gusto.  As the chips started to dwindle the kids started getting nervous. You could tell because they went from taking one chip at a time, to a few, to all-out fighting for the bag before their own little stockpile was gone.  Screeching and complaining ensued and my pleas to share and not be greedy went largely unheeded.  It was clear that they heard nothing I was trying to teach them! They became so focused on hoarding chips they didn’t even realize that they probably couldn’t eat them all.  All that fuss obscured the goal; happy healthy snack time together.

It struck me as familiar. How often do we get so caught up in our own desires and wants that we fail to see the error of our ways in achieving them? Sometimes we lose sight of a path that God lays before us because we think we have a different and better path. Or just because we, in our limited human capacity,  don’t see the wisdom of God’s plan plainly, perhaps we dismiss it as less worthy than our own.  Perhaps we are simply so driven and so focused on our own course that we neglect the critical prayer for discernment. How often does God try to get our attention and teach us in our “teachable moments” of life but we can’t or won’t hear Him?

Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations

If my kids would have stopped to listen for a minute, they would have heard me trying to tell them something important, “Fear not, Mom is the savior of snack time.!” I have another bag!”  In teenager speak that would be “I got you”. How much nicer snack time would have been if they had taken the hand I held out to them.

And how much more is that true of God in the whole of our lives?   He is Sovereign and He’s got us covered!   When our own plans go awry and we feel like we’re swimming upstream, we need to understand and trust that God definitely has a better way or a better plan.

Isaiah 55:8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

Turmoil, confusion, dissatisfaction, and hurt are not God’s “ways” for us.  Achieving any end by means of sneaking, cheating, lying, being greedy and selfish is never in God’s plan.  Any course we embark on that neglects Love at its core is less than Excellent.

Lord help us to be attentive to your teaching in all the situations of our lives and always show us your “still more excellent way”(1 Cor 12:31) Amen!

God’s-eye view

My kindergartener recently had a conversation with grandma that went something like this.
Grandma: Pretty soon you will know how to read Andrew, and then you can just pick up a book and read it!
Andrew: You mean I will just go into school one day and I will be able to read?
Grandma: Well you will have to work and learn how to do it but then you will know how to do it forever.
At this point he shrugged indifferently and ran off to play…

If only he could see what he’s missing from an adult perspective!!  How do you make a 6-year-old understand  that the whole world will start to blossom  once they do the relatively short work of learning to read?  At age 6 he simply has no idea what he’s missing and how his window to the world will expand exponentially!

God our Father must feel this way about his children all the time!  He sees not only the great potential we have of our own power but the limitless potential we have when we live through Him.   He knows the world will blossom in ways we simply can not imagine when we trust in His ways.  But to do this requires work, it requires obedience and prayer and humility and a desire to serve the will of our father more than our own. It requires perseverance in the face of self-doubt and worldly failure. Sometimes it requires a single-minded focus that is near impossible to come by in a world full of distractions. It requires patience so at odds with the attitude of instant gratification prevalent in American culture.
God is always ready and willing to teach us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)

I wanted to shout after Andrew and call him back and explain all the wonders awaiting him.  I wanted, somehow, to make him understand.  Even as I write this I’m at a loss.  The impact of knowing how to read is so undefinable.

The same thing can be said of our Loving God.  We can’t begin to define Him or understand all that he has in store for us.  Only through the steady and faithful building of a relationship with Him will our eyes be opened, will our minds be enlightened, will our hearts be filled.  Are we eager and excited to know Him or do we shrug indifferently and run off to carry out our own plans?

Lord, help us tune out the world so we can focus our attention on you, who makes the world blossom in our minds, our hearts and our souls!  Amen

LOOK UP!

Look Up! Look Up! Look Up! Melissa Look Up! Look Up! Hurry Look Up! Just lift your head and Look Up! Look at me. Look at me Melissa. Look at Mommy! Look at my Face! Look Up!!!

This is pretty much how bath time goes with my 2-year-old every time. I shampoo her hair and when she knows the rinsing is coming she looks down to try to shield her face and cries louder and louder, probably to be heard over my pleas, until she reaches full-out hysteria… and we’re done. I’ve tried reasoning and explaining, but my normally brilliant 2 yr old, just can’t seem to get the message.

If she would only listen to me, and trust me, and obey me, then the water would pour nicely down the back of her head and hair washing would be a non-event. Bath time would be considerably more enjoyable all around and I would simply have a shiny happy toddler.

If she would only LISTEN to me, and TRUST me, and OBEY me… God our Father has been saying the same darn thing to His children for thousands of years! Over and over and over we fall back into relying on our own ways and means. Old habits die-hard I guess. And we suffer for it!

Listening is critical to our prayer life. We are told to “pray always” and “be persistent in prayer” but at times it can feel like we aren’t effecting any good or getting any answers.  Perhaps because, like little Melissa,  we are overcome by our own fears and prejudices and aren’t able to quiet ourselves enough to listen. Sometimes it’s pain and suffering holding us captive or excuses of busy lives. For any number of reasons we might ask but not truly make the time to Listen to what God has to say.  HE  will ALWAYS come into our prayerful silence.

“Be still and Know that I am God” (Ps 46:11)

In the quiet stillness of our minds and souls at rest we will feel conviction in our hearts, we will know truth in our minds, we will feel moved by a gentle stirring or holy fire.  Our souls will hear Love and Truth and recognize it every time if we are listening.  For this we were created and no less.

And if we hear from God we must Trust in His almighty providence as ruler in body, mind and soul. To do anything less is cheating ourselves of the fullness of LIFE in Him.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Mt 22:37)

Through prayer or otherwise, we must then do the work of obeying the Lords’ commands. God wants nothing less than our acceptance, our fiat and our total surrender to His holy will.  Often we have to put aside our own agendas and ideas of how things should be because as mere humans we can not calculate the effect of grace in any given situation.  It is through our obedience that Grace can be at work.  God knows exactly how to calculate the effect of grace in our human situations and he sends it in abundance.  We have to trust him on that!

Our trust and obedience will bring peace. Imagine if Melissa would have just listened and really heard what I was saying to her. What if she simply said, “ok Mommy” and then tipped her head up and not insisted on doing it her own way?

In my infinite wisdom as a parent, (ahem…) I’m sure that my advice would have worked out for the best for my child whom I love. And how much more perfect is the advice of God our Father?

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:11)

God, as our loving parent, sees all and knows all, and he’s not just interested in what’s best for us, rather He sees and wants perfection for us!  So many things would be easier, better, more enjoyable if we would remember in those moments of panic and fear and indecision and temptation, to just look up. If we had the courage, despite the voice of this world that tends to drown out all else, to wholeheartedly Trust in the Lord, we would be happier.

Plain and simple

God gives us every grace we need in the moment that we need it. Always, unconditionally. We have legions of angels and saints as intercessors, especially our Lady who loves us better than our own earthly mothers. We have no excuse to live without trusting our Heavenly Parents. We aren’t 2 after all.

Lord, help us to Listen prayerfully, trust in you always and obey without reservation and may we ever remember to “Look Up”! Amen