The Birds Sing Out – why not you?

I get a lot of eye rolling my direction at Mass.  I think the word today is, “cringey”.  That’s my singing.  I don’t mean to embarrass my kids but, in a way, I can’t help it.  Not to sing and praise God would be for the best part of me to die and the shell of a woman to live.  But its not just Mass.  Its anytime that you and I feel like we have something to contribute, something of value to say, to encourage.  I’m not talking about life without a filter.  Of course timing, sensitivity, appropriateness and likely impact are all incredibly important.  But a lot of us have things inside about life, caution, beauty and love that are just bursting to come out.  Should we be quiet?

For me, its easy to feel that my voice is not important or my words are empty or that they mean little to others.  Other people can say things much better so I’ll just keep quiet.  I was praying about this the other morning while I was outside.  It was a beautiful morning.  The birds were singing, wind blowing gently and the air was fragrant.  As I paused to enjoy, I noticed a small bird repeating the same thing again and again – cauu, cauu, cauu, cauu.  It barely was a song at all.  But she was singing.  All of creation was.  I listened more closely.  The orchestra of birds and bugs which made the magnanimous sound almost entirely seemed to be composed of simple tunes repeated over and over.  Every bird and bug speaking made it better, humble as each one’s abilities were.  Your voice too is part of the beauty.  So, let’s tell our teenage daughters again that they are beautiful.  Let’s talk again with our little ones about responsibility and eye contact.  Let’s muse out loud about the sunset on walks with our friends.  Let’s sing at Mass.

 

Friday Night – Party or Penance?

Friday means pizza, drinks, the start to the weekend!  We all love Fridays!  Even our school blasts music from the loud speakers at the end of the day.  It feels great.  But traditionally, Fridays have been a day of sacrifice.   It is the day on which our Lord hung on the cross and died for our sins.  Before Vatican II, all Catholics were supposed to abstain from meat on every Friday of the year as a way of doing penance and remembering the sacrifice of Christ.  Even today, we are asked to make some small act.  How today, can I keep vigil in my heart, even while I celebrate with the rest of our culture the end of the work week?  St. Thomas More (who was beheaded for opposing King Henry VIII’s divorce), used to wear a hair shirt underneath his decorated rich garments to the parties at which he was served fine food.  Other saints up and down the ages have put little rocks in their shoes to remind them of the suffering Christ and their desire to offer up their own lives to him.

I don’t own a hair shirt and pebbles don’t fit in flip flops very well but maybe I can do something similar.  Part my hair on the other side, chew no gum, clean the toilet, stand with better posture.  What can you do today, even as you play, to whisper to Our Lord, “I love you”, “I remember you”, “your sacrifice saved me”, “I am with you”?

Pinterest Mom Heading for the Cross

The little neon green chairs and the 1940’s white leather bench were like magic in my house.  The kids actually sat down to do their homework; their shoes were neatly stowed.  Chores were cheerfully being fulfilled, somehow the laundry was already folded and the living room was tidy!  With my new furniture acquired from my husband’s grandmother and my organized crew, I felt very Pinterest-y on this sunny morning.  My house would never be chaotic again.  This was going to be It for good!  But then I looked again at the bench, the chairs and an end table with a little hole for writer’s ink.  This time I saw not Pinterest but Grandma.  The reason for this windfall- she died.  Grandma “had it all” – an organized house, neon chairs, a good routine, children who co-operated.  But that was not her crowning moment nor the goal.  Her last breath was.  Frail and empty handed, she surrendered the last bit of her life to Jesus and let go of this world.  That was it for good.  And that is it for me too.  I aim not for beauty, systems and success but for the Cross.  You too, if you are a Christian,- a little Christ – are headed for the Cross.  Total surrender, total abandonment, total brokenness, total service.  And then we shall see what it will be like for Good.  Try putting that on Pinterest.

“Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die, it remains but a single grain, with no life.”

Following God – even to Lubianka Prison

Solitary confinement, middle of the night interrogations, work camp in Siberia, starvation – Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.‘s chilling story is severe enough to capture me but, moreover, his reflections about God leading him warm and attract my heart.   In my mother-in-law’s collection, I just recently stumbled upon this 45 year old book, He Leadeth Me.  It contains the reflections of an American Jesuit who answered Pope Pius XI’s call for priests to work for the conversion of souls by entering into Russia.  Fantastic as our family’s summer fun has been, I couldn’t go more than a few days without returning to the comfort of this book.  Peace and strength followed him through out his 22 years of imprisoned punishment.  It flowed from his acceptance of God’s will in all that he experienced, in offering all the minutia of his days, the steadfastness to daily prayer, apostolate and most importantly, his total reliance on Christ.  He boldly and simply says what very few say- God’s will in everything. 

A familiar melody seems to accompany his writing.  Have I heard this song before in Scripture or the writings of the Saints?  It will hum to your heart about the depth of Christ’s incarnation in the mundane details of your life.  The cadence invites us to participate intimately in the Divine Life by accenting to His Will.  How I long to learn this tune with my children and with all of my friends and family!!!  I personally have lacked the courage and ability to articulate plainly it’s message and so I put forth Fr. Walter who has humbly lived what I have only foggily dreamt.

When I actually try to relay the core of what he has said, it seems to slip through my fingers like sand.  Never the less, I hope to summarize in future posts what he wrote about vocation, the Mass, daily prayer, trust and God’s Will.  Still, you may want to take “Best Sellers” advice on the back cover of the book, “His message is both timely and practical.  We urge everyone to read this book as soon as possible.”

 

 

Weekly Bible Verses

“May the word of God dwell in you richly.” – Col 3:16  Oh, how I long for my kids to experience this!  I know that they can be “transformed by the renewing of their minds” and touched deeply by the “living and active word.”  But the Words of Scripture first need to enter into their thoughts.  Seems like such a simple thing- for a parent or teacher to “feed” the word of God to her children but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling frustrated at the difficulty of this task.

Here’s an idea to help a bit:

Post a scripture verse for the week somewhere in your house.  Have one of your kids pick the verse out from a list of suggestions (see below).  Decorate it.  Read it out loud when you pass it.  Mention it.  During bed time prayers, see if they remember it.  Add more highlights and decorations to it as the week goes on.

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Aspirations

“My God and my all.”  “Have mercy on us.”  “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Phrases like these, issued in correspondence with the rising and falling of your breath are part of an ancient and natural method of prayer called aspirations.  My dependence on something like this type of prayer began at about age 5, as it probably has for many frightened children…

I wasn’t supposed to be watching.  The movie which took my parent’s attention away from me as I struggled to fall asleep was evidently not good for kids.  As I crept down the stairs for the third time this night in order to softly beckon my mother’s presence, I paused, crouched behind the chair to see what this attention stealer was all about.  A couple was scuba diving in beautifully dark blue water.  Bubbles cascaded from their mouths as they communicated about the lady exploring something in a darker section.  He motioned upwards but she continued.  Suddenly an eel like creature with pale orange skin, flat eyes and needle like fangs sprang from below, pulling the flailing diver into the abyss.  I winced, drawing the attention of my surprised parents.  Sternly sent to bed once more, I was paralyzed with fear lying there alone.  Ball-like and taught, even my toes fiercely dreaded the end of my bed which surly contained the eel, hidden under my covers.  With my parents lost in reprimanding mode, God was my only hope.  I envisioned a light coming straight from heaven, flooding around me, loving and protecting me.  Over and over again, I said the name of Jesus (mentally only, of course because to open my mouth would be to risk too much).  His name, first spoken at lightening fast speed, eventually slowed to a soft rhythm.  God’s presence was with me.  I calmed and slept.  Thus began my life long spiritual practice of aspirations. Continue reading

Personal Prayer

Do you ever want to pray but not really know what to do?  Here are some ideas for about 10-15 minutes of quiet personal prayer.  What do you usually do?  What are your ideas?  What is best for you?  Leave a comment if you wish!

Ideas of things to do during personal prayer time

  • With Jesus, read, think and talk about part of the New Testament, slowly.
  • Lift up your family to God. Imagine that you are standing next to them and you are all right before the throne of God.  Smile at the Lord and show him your people.
  • With God, list your responsibilities. Tell Him what you are having the most trouble with.  Note the ideas that come to mind as solutions.
  • Sit with Jesus and discuss life.
  • Go for a walk with Jesus.
  • Just be quiet.
  • Lie down and hide yourself in God’s arms. Let go of your troubles.  Trust in the Lord.  Let your breath speak His name.

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