Sunday, May 8, 2016

"The great art is to be art-less."

The late Father John Hardon, SJ called Our Lady of Fatima the example for catechists to follow, for she is the Catechist. When I turn to Our Lady for help I can not help but approach her as Mother, Teacher, and Catechist. The three roles for the Christian mother are inseparable. In them we find the essence of the heavenly call of Holy Motherhood...the heart. 

Our hearts, like in today's Gospel, desire what Christ prayed to the Father, that we may be one in Him and in the Father. And isn't this the desire of catechists, too? For all to be one in God? But how often we are faced with trials of moving another to accept the fullness of Christ and His Church. Whether it is a child, a teen, a husband, a friend, a parent, the following quote from St. Francis de Sales instructs us all who desire Christ's prayer of union. But for the catechists and mothers how true the following words ring:

"Quite simply by speaking with feeling and devotion, candidly and trustfully, by really being in love with the doctrine we are teaching and trying to get people to accept. The great art is to be art-less. The kindling power of our words must not come from outward demonstration but from within, not from the mouth but straight from the heart. Try as hard as you like but in the end only the language of the heart can reach another heart, while the sound of the tongue does not get past your listener's ear."  -from St. Francis de Sales, Selected Letters, translated with an Introduction by Elizabeth Stopp, London and New York, 1960, p. 22. Print.

Does anyone else see the gold in this advice? First, to fall in love with the doctrine of Christ passed to us in His Church; next to speak from the heart. All else is creating an environment to open hearts and unleash our own. 

God bless you!
Happy Mother's Day

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Uncle Tom's Cabin review

My 9th grader is studying American History. As preparation for her unit on the Civil War time peiod, I decided to read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beechee Stowe before she does. I was not sure what to expect, but what it gave me was immeasurable. 

For those who do not know, Harriet Beecher Stowe was asked by an Abolistionist magazine to write a story series concerning slavery;  Uncle Tom's Cabin became that series in book form. I am not able to presume what people then may have thought of the story; I can only speak for my take on it, and I say it is one of the best books I ever read. 

I was asked why I liked the book so much by our librarian last week. I told her "it is all about  forgiveness!" The story is about what it means to be Christian, to be forgiving, and being responsible. The comparison of Tom to what Christ modeled and taught as the characteristics of the blessed is hinted throughout the whole book. From the first chapter to the last, the author does an honest job in presenting not only slavery in the south, but slavery to sin and slavery to our own ways. It is an interesting book to read during Lent, no doubt. It will not only shed light on real historical events and human miseries, but also will call you to self-examination.

Sadly, I can see why the book is not read in most schools. The use of the N-word may be one reason, but in reality I think it is because it is a book about God, Christianity, sacrifice, and forgiveness. The author calls us out of our complacency over injustice and challenges the Christian, in particular, to do "what one man can" to right wrongs. These are topics the schools avoid. But we need not avoid it in our homes. 

In a day in age when public libraries are removing classics from the shelves because they are not borrowed often enough, I ask mothers to read and share this book with their older children...and all th classics! How else will they learn these great truths if all they read are easy texts that do not call the human spirit to rise up to the heights, that do not have characters that struggle and overcome? How will they learn if we hide it from them? How will we learn if we hide truth from ourselves?

The character, Tom, taught the reader that the greater evil is the loss of the soul. And the author asks the reader, what do you need to do to change to be Christ-like? We have so many evils in our world today, so many. Do we gloss over them? Ignore? To paraphrase the author when beginning the chapter about slave warehouses: man has a way of making evil look good so as not to upset the "respectable people." How awful! But are we not in the same position today? 

So what are we to? The author wisely tells the reader then, and now: you can pray! Pray to not fall into tempation and not be put to the test, says Christ. Praise God for the many who do not allow evil to steal away their faith, they are what we call martyrs. Will we? Will our children?

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

St. Don Bosco, a role model for mothers and all souls

By God's grace I was able to find and purchase an old book called "Don Bosco: A Spiritual Portrait" by Edna Beyer Phelan. Her approach to giving the reader a thorough understanding of Don Bosco's life, spirituality, and ways is surperb. I highly recommend the book to anyone who loves children and wants to be holy, to all teachers, especially.

But as a mother, a homeschooling parent, and a catechism teacher this book has been marvelous. It awakens in me an awarness of my role to model virtue and instruct in truth always. To strive to be conscious of my words so they are encouraging, yet honest. But also, that it is important not only to my soul, but to the souls I interact with, that I seek to be pure and holy. None of this is possible without the Blessed Mother's unique examle and help, as Mother, Teaching Parent, and Catechist of all God's children. When she shares her gifts with her children, the impossible happens. Don Bosco proved this repeatedly in his life.

From the early years of his life the Blessed Mother gave guidance in the extraordinary degree. She not only pointed out his mission, but more amazingly....he followed with singular purpose to carry out God's will which she had shown him. Huge undertakings were achieved through his faith: children converted, Churches built, a school for boys accomplished, a new order for educating, and extended missionary work. Countless miracles occurred, not because he was great, but because he allowed God and Mary to work in his life. He set himself aside completely for God's will to be done for his and for others' sanctification. So it is not a surprise that Don Bosco taught, "This is the will of God, your sanctification." And, "It is God's will that we should be saints; it is quit easy to become a saint...Do your duty joyously." 

Don Bosco joyously lived what he taught and God shined countless graces out of Don Bosco for all to see and seek for themselves. The qualities that stood out to me were his desire to please God unselfishly in joy and suffering;  his prayerfulness in work, in play, and trials; his love of the Church from the Pope to priests to the Sacraments; his teaching others to love the Church as well; his love of Mary, Help of Christians, and his advice to talk about her daily to show gratitude for her help and to encourage others to have devotion to her; his dedication to duty even in trials and sickness; his complete trust in God; his self awareness of the impact of personal actions and beliefs on others; and his sorrow of sin with the awareness of the importance to avoid sin, especially impurity. All this, and more, calls me to climb the ladder to God in motherhood. What else did he do, but mother all those boys!? And I have been given only just a few children to raise and instruct, so it is all the mor essential to do well. What more important task is there than to be holy and hand on holiness in truth to the young in our care?

I thank the author of this book. For her spiritual life was well formed in order to communicate such a rich life as that of St. Don Bosco. I thank Don Bosco for his example and influence on so many souls, even to this day. I thank Mary, Help of Christians, for her complete sharing of all God's gifts with those who aak her. And above all I thank God for "all He has done for us." 

Please, Lord, do not let this little one go astray; nor the little ones in her care. Bring us closer to you. Amen. 

What Saints have been a model for your motherhood? 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mediatrix of All Grace

"Please, Lord, you have given me so many graces...please give them to my son so he can do so much more with them." Could Mary have had a similar prayer?  

We all want our children to be better versions of us. We can see it in their talents and manners, but what about in grace? A mother wants to be able to share all the riches God gave her with her children. She wants them to do better. Spiritually, a mom does not want the good God has given her to be fruitless causing His graces to end with her. Rather she desires His graces to continue through her children, for God's glory and their benefit. She wants her children to be given more graces then she had receieved so they may do better things in this life than she. But that is a sinful mom's desire. How much more perfect was Our Blessed Mother's?

Mother Mary must have desired to share all God gave her so deeply that He granted her desire and made her the channel of all His grace. Since she is "full of grace," sharing God's infinite grace is her pleasure and privilege. Maybe she prayed, "That they all have Your grace." Her love of Him must have been so deep and penetrating that she wanted all God's children to share in it. Not only did God give her this honor, but He founded the Church which contains is the signs of grace so more "children" may receive His Grace and continually increase in it.

Thank you, Mary, for the prayer you did pray for all of us. Continue to pray that we do not squander God's grace, but that each of us treasures it and shares it. Amen.

Thank you, Lord, for Holy Mother Church and all the moments of grace she so kindly protects and sheds upon Your children. Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

humble thanks

I presume most parents at one point realize that the children they have been given by God are ....well, so much better than they deserve to have. Tonight is such a night for me. I am moved to countless tears in realizing the children I have are beyond what I could have ever worked to raise. 

So, I write this post to express gratitude to God for His mercy on my husband and I in giving such beautiful, humble gifts and graces to our children. He looked beyond our failings and gave them blessings without measure. May we be holy servants of such children; and may they always in turn serve You, Our Creator, realizing one day Your Love and Goodness to them.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shedding Light on Greater Truths

"Yet no sinner should ever despair of God's mercy as long as he lives. For there is  hardly a tree so thorny and knotted that men cannot make smooth and beautiful. So likewise there is no sinner in this world so bad that God cannot adorn him in many ways with grace and virtue."
-from The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Part 5: Sayings of Brother Giles
the book is by Raphael Brown; copy-write 1962

See how this quote uses the truth revealed in nature to speak in a way so we can understand God's immense power and generosity? I hope there will not come a day when these types of living analogies will be incomprehensible to the young. They will forget, or never know, if we do not teach them.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Are you Jacob or Esau?

Yesterdays Old Testament reading was about how Rebekha dressed Jacob in Esau's clothing: she added goat skin to Jacob's neck and hands to mimic Esau's hairiness, and then she helped prepare a special meal for Isaac on behalf of Jacob. See, Isaac wanted to give Esau his blessing and this blessing was very important, for it carried on God's blessing which began which his father, Abraham, had given him. Isaac was eager to give this blessing before he died, so he asked Esau to go hunt some wild game and prepare him a meal with it so he can give him his blessing. Rebekha knew of this plan and was convinced that Jacob was the one God wanted his blessing to lay upon, so she took matters in her own hands.

Many times if we look at this single section of the story, we think Jacob and his mother were going against God: lying, cheating, stealing. However, we cannot forget another important event. At an earlier time, Esau was so hungry from his work, he desired the food which Jacob had with him. Asking for it, Jacob told Esau he may have it in exchange for His birthright. Ravished with hunger, Esau sold his birthright of the first born, which assumed with it Isaac's blessing, to Jacob for the food. So you see, Jacob and Rebekha were actually acting out of justice when she disguised him as Esau. Since Esau had treated his birthright blessing as unimportant by selling it for mere pleasure, and was now about to steal it back, Rebekha took the initiative to make sure Jacob got what was due to him.

Since the Old Testament always points to the New, what can we learn?  Lets look back first with Adam and Eve. They sold their birthright for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They had been protected by living in God's grace but now had been stripped of it, and left to the world. But God gave a promise of the future crushing of the evil that entered humanity through them.

In this part of scripture we see many coverings being undone. The serpant hid itself as good, then revealed as truly evil, Adam and Eve were covered with Grace, but then that was removed since they exchanged it for lesser desires. Then God comes and covers them properly with animal skins, showing them how to cover themselves with chastity. Then He tells them of the Woman who will be covered with Virginity (perfectly chaste, full of grace) that will crush the head of the serpant by means of Her Son. Then they are told of the labors they must endure meanwhile.

Jumping foward, we enter the New Testament. In Luke, we see how Mary clothed with Grace, accepts the Motherhood of God's Son and accepts giving Him his humanity. But what does this have to do with Rebekha and Jacob? Well, let me see if I can summarize what St. Louis de Montfort teaches us sbout this: First, Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she was going to be the Mother of God's Son; she believed. The Incarnation occurred when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived of the Holy Spirit. In this she gave the full, graced humanity to God the Son. He was disguised to sinful man, but not to those who believed. Like Jacob, but better, He became took on full humanity to obtain God's blessing on behalf of all humanity. What was once uncovered and traded in for sin and pleasure was now "recovered" by faith and sacrifice by Jesus through Mary, which was foreshadowed in Jacob through Rebekha.

So what does this teach us? It teaches us to ask Mary to cloth us with God's grace and for us to live lives covering ourselves with the Life of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit teaches us that we are One Body in Christ. If we are One Body, then we too should be "re-covered" with all His truly human qualities.....we need to "live and breathe and have our being" in Him. Let me explain one more way, when Jesus took upon Himself the suffering and death of the cross, He allowed Himself to be covered with all sin, humiliation, pain, suffering, and disgrace. Then He revealed His true Nature...that of God, by rising from the dead. See, by taking on our flesh and being covered in our sin, He decieved the devil and took back what is rightfully ours....Eternal Blessing in Life with God...a life of Grace. 

Therefore, I do not see Rebekha as stealing the blessing for Jacob, rather I see her preparing the means for her son, Jacob, to recover the blessing he was promised beforehand so it was not taken away and squandered. She acted to preserve the blessing. Mary did the same thing, but with true humility and grace, she prepared a place and means for her Son to recover the blessing God had promised beforehand to all humanity. It was time to give what was promised, and Jesus and Mary accepted and carried out God's Will in order to do so for us all then, and cntinues to do for us all now.

Hence, I end with a reminder that we are like Esau, wanting God's blessing when we have already exchanged it for lesser pleasures. We want without the work, however I also desire to motivate you, and myself, to live like Jacob, allowing our Mother, Mary and the Church to "re-cover" us with grace, virute, and blessing. Because of Christ's work of redemption, we have the Sacraments for exchanging sin with Grace, our life for His. We have centuries of holy instruction on how to do good by being obedient after Christ's example. We can now confidently avoid evil knowing that when we fight the temptation to trade what God says is holy (you) for lesser pleasures, we are choosing the better Way of life. We need to spend the rest of our lives practicing these things while learning who Jesus really is through Scripture and studying how the saints have lived their lives after the example of Christ. And doing so will be much more efficient and effective if we do it under the prayers, guidance and help of Mary, the Mother of God.  All this will aid us in "re-covering" our lives with Christ, becoming "other Christ's" in the world, which is only possible through Mary and His Church.

God bless you and mine. Amen.