Thursday, October 31, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Franciscan Saints Edition

 ~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

A decided to be St. Agnes of Assisi, St. Clare's sister. I don't recall ever hearing about her, but the girls had listened to the Glory Stories version of St. Clare and remembered her sister's name. When she said she wanted to be St. Agnes I thought she meant the early Church martyr. When we finally figured out what they were talking about, I thought it was so sweet that they wanted to be Sister Sister Sisters! 


What could be happier than Sister (St. Agnes and St. Clare) Sister (M and A) Sisters?


So, when his sisters decided to be St. Clare and St. Agnes D just HAD to be St. Francis!

 {more funny}

The funny picture above reminded me of the serious picture below, thus making it more funny, if that makes any sense.  

"A Levitation of St. Francis" circa 1640

{really carving pumpkins}

 {real conversations between 
St. Francis and the Poor Clares} 

For an explanation of our thinking toward Halloween and trick or treating go read Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda. We're pretty much exactly where they are! While you're there check out her fun treasure hunt.

Click below and check out some more contentment. 

round button chicken

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feasting on the Vigil of St. Crispin

Last week, D worked very hard to plan and prepare for his first annual (we hope!) St. Crispin's Day vigil feast. He planned the menu, set the table, prepared the dessert, helped with his costume and, most important of all, practiced his speech. The day was lots of fun for the whole family and you can share in some of it in the video below.

The plan was to post this on Friday but that morning D woke up sick. Only today is he back to his cheerful, hungry self and we had the time to edit the video and post it.

So, here it is, a couple of days late:

For the sake of comparison, here is the full speech by Kenneth Branaugh in his movie version of Henry V. It is D's goal to perform this whole speech next year, making improvements on what he already knows. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Memories of Blessed Pope John Paul II

Way back in 2002 I wrote about Pope John Paul II and his very public aging and suffering. This week as I am reading a great book on the Theology of Body (These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson---review to come soon!) I recalled my thoughts from eleven years ago. I had to dig them up off the old computer and edit a little to take care to take care of some time references, but I left the present tense (I was writing when Blessed John Paul II was alive). 

I share these thoughts with you today on his feast day. 

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us. 
Jim and I meeting (and being blessed by!) Blessed Pope John Paul II. 


Pick Up Your Cross….

This past week, as we saw the Holy Father on TV, I was reminded of conversation Jim and I had in Rome. In 2001 we were on pilgrimage in Rome. As we walked through numerous churches and art galleries, not to mention gift shops, Jim pointed out that in most crucifixes Christ’s head hangs down toward his right shoulder. It was never something I noticed before, so I began to look. Sure enough, in every crucifix I saw, Jesus’ head leaned to the right. This was the case in new and old crucifixes as well as other depictions of the crucifixion. I am not sure why artists down through the centuries have done this, but it seems to be consistent.

Now, as I watched Pope John Paul II on TV I began to reflect on his appearance. Most of the world has noticed that he is looking very frail and hunched over, that he walks with difficulty, that he talks with difficulty and in fact has to wipe drool from his mouth as he speaks, and that even his face muscles seem to strain. He is willingly suffering with the dignity of a true child of God. And even in his suffering his schedule doesn’t let up and his mind is always completely present at every event. He is focused on his role as the Vicar of Christ whether it is a typical Wednesday audience or a beatification Mass.

We noticed all of these things that year as we sat in St. Peter’s Square or St. Peter’s Basilica watching him and listening to his words. We also noticed that he leans his head to one side…his right side.

The Pope and The Cross

As Catholics we know that a priest stands “in the person of Christ”, a fact so real that when he says “This is my body…” it is Christ who speaks through the priest. We also know that the successors of St. Peter represent Christ and His authority in the world. This is why we call the pope the Vicar of Christ. We further know that it is the job of every Christian to imitate Christ, in fact to become so closely connected to Him that he is Christ to the world.

The world of the third millenium has been given a special gift, because we have a man who not only stands “in the person of Christ” (since he is a priest), as the Vicar of Christ (since he is pope), and in daily, hourly imitation of Christ (since he is seeking holiness as all Christians should), but he has become for us a living icon of Christ being crucified on the cross.  This is not to say that the Holy Father is near death, at least no more than any one of us who know not the day or hour, but that he is embracing the suffering of age and infirmity for us, just as Christ embraced the Cross for us.

Don’t Dismiss An Old Man

When we look at this elderly man and see how he so openly loves the aged, the disabled, the young, the family, the single, the infant, it is natural for sentimental feelings to be stirred. We think that he is such a precious old man, like a sweet, affectionate grandfather. Yet, he is still the man who defied Hitler in his youth, who hiked in the wilderness with young people – teaching them about Christ, who has mastered many languages and achieved many degrees, who has written countless letters and encyclicals as well as several books, who brought down the Berlin Wall, and who leads the Catholics of the world to know, love and serve God each day. He keeps up with a rigorous schedule that would exhaust most of us. And he speaks and writes every day out of the wisdom of his years, and with the help of the Holy Spirit in an effort to lead the world to Christ.

Perhaps the world’s tendency to dismiss him with sentimental affection is related to our inability to appreciate the wisdom and experience of our own elderly friends and relatives. Our culture certainly does not honor age as cultures of the past have. 

As Catholics especially, we cannot fall into that trap. We cannot dismiss this Holy Father as practically dead or in the nursing home. We must look at him and see Christ, dying on the Cross, and know it is for us that he suffers, and know that in that suffering truth is triumphing over lies, good is winning the fight against evil, and God is ultimately victorious through His servants here on earth.

To dismiss this particular elderly Polish gentleman is a mistake indeed. He may look frail, and he certainly is suffering, yet he continues to teach the world, in every way possible about Christ, His Church, His plan for mankind, and our role in that plan. In fact, he writes and speaks so much, it seems as if he has no concern for whether or not he is being heard. But do not be mistaken. The Holy Father is surely writing for you and I in the hopes that we will read his words, however, he is also writing for our children, and our children’s children. It may take centuries to unpack the teachings of this papacy of 23 plus years, but his words will not, cannot fall on deaf ears.   

In Imitation of Christ

We must also look at this Christ-figure in our midst and learn to embrace our own suffering and pain. After all, we are all called to pick up our own crosses and follow Christ down the well-worn path toward the glories of heaven. Pope John Paul II suffers in a very ordinary way, especially for an 81 year old man. But his suffering is ennobled and elevated by being united to Christ on the cross. In this way, his suffering becomes a powerful force in the transformation of the world of the third millenium. Our suffering can have this same power when we unite it to Christ.

Seeing Christ in the Holy Father should move us to examine our own life. How do we imitate Christ? Do we love Christ enough to work tirelessly in the service of His Church? For some of us this could mean actual service in a parish, but for must of us, being in service of Christ’s Church is something much simpler. It means being living examples to our children. It means seeking holiness each minute of the day in the way we get up in the morning, drive our cars, treat our co-workers, speak of others, plan our day, and train our children.

When we think of the Holy Father we should ask ourselves how we embrace suffering. Our suffering can be as inconsequential as having to wait in line to buy groceries, or getting caught in traffic on the way to work. It could be morning sickness for the pregnant mom, or even stinky diapers. Or how about that co-worker that always wants to stop you in the hall and talk about his life, but never seems interested in yours? These tiny sufferings, when united with Christ’s suffering on the Cross and willingly endured for the sake of others can become powerful forces in the world. Just imagine how powerful our bigger sufferings can be, such as the loss of loved ones, illness, disabilities, even financial difficulties.

So, the next time you see the Holy Father, whether on ABC, CNN or in person, notice that his head tilts toward his right shoulder, like Christ on the crucifix in your entryway. And remember that we are all called to imitate Christ in all ways, especially in His suffering. And perhaps we will have the courage to endure whatever difficulty we encounter, large or small, willingly and with dignity and allow ourselves to join Christ on His cross, as Pope John Paul II does each day.

Here is another blog post about Blessed John Paul II reposted in 2011 and written in 2001.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

{p,h,f,r} Kennedy Kids Edition

This week the Kennedy Kids have taken over the {pretty, happy, funny, real} post. I asked them each to take one of the words and use their photography skills and my iPod to come up with a picture that suits the word. Here is what they came up with. 


Predictably, M chose to do the word "pretty". Here is what she came up with. 

Idea: M  Photographer: D
She knows her subject well, doesn't she!


D chose the word "happy" and so he headed to the library. 

Idea: D  Photographer: Me

He said "Reading good books makes you happy." Here he is "reading" a Michael O'Brien book (can't you tell by the sheer size of it?) which, of course, he can't read yet. 
However, he is always hopefully looking forward to the day when all the books in the library are "at his level". 


D and A worked together on this one. 

Idea: D and A    Photographer: A
They said it was funny "because he is using an umbrella indoors." 
I believe there was some musical accompaniment while this was being taken--to the tune of "Singing in the Rain."
I think it has a very artistic look, don't you? 


A jumped at the chance to do "real". She is adamant that her beloved home-made lion cub "Simba" is real.

So here he is "really" drinking from the pool.
Idea: A   Photographer: D

And here he is "really" climbing a tree.

Idea: A   Photographer: D

Join the others at Like Mother, Like Daughter for some everyday contentment: 

round button chicken

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is's All About Being Available

In my post about seeing my friends the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist,(I'll use DSMME as a short hand) I mentioned that I had stories about some of the sisters that I would share in the future.

So today, I have some fun memories of Sister Ave Maria.

But they really are a small part of a larger story--the story of my vocation. And I think my vocational journey can be helpful to other women--the singles ones--who may be still wondering about their own vocation.

When this story takes place, I was single and living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was working for the DSMME and though I was happy working, I was wishing I was married and having kids.

But there I was, in my mid thirties and still single.

Although I had wanted to be married with children since I was a child, it didn't seem to be happening for me. I found myself doubting that marriage was my vocation. Maybe I was called to religious life?

I could see how my current career lent itself to that vocation. I could just dedicate my whole life to teaching and catechesis. I could see the positives in that vocation--both the grand spiritual positives, and the down-to-earth, everyday positives. You know, things like never having to decide what to wear again; having someone else decide where you should go and what you should do (a Mother Superior); having lots of happy cheerful sisters to live with.

All that being said, my heart just wasn't there. And I was afraid it was because I wasn't willing to listen to God. I thought that all those other women wanting to join the Sisters were just braver than me. I was too chicken.

I wanted someone else to tell me what to do. Maybe a priest or Mother Assumpta could tell me? But, as a wise friend pointed out at the time, God calls YOU to your vocation, not someone else. If He wants you there, He will tell you.

And He did.

As I said in a previous blog post, I was very deftly prayed into a discernment retreat by Sr. Joseph Andrew. It just happened to be the same retreat that Sr. Ave Maria (still named Molly then) attended. At the time, she was living in a small house next door to the school where I was working and where the retreat would take place. We knew each other socially and had lots of friends in common. So, naturally we were drawn to each other, talking before the retreat began.

Me and Sister Ave Maria (and D). 
It turns out we both had similar attitudes about the retreat. We weren't necessarily looking forward to it.  I think we both felt like insiders (locals) who, because of that, felt like outsiders--all the other girls came from all over the country and were camping out there at the school, while Molly and I knew all the Sisters, knew the school and local community and were spending the night of the retreat at Molly's house next door.

We also were both there a little reluctantly. We both felt like we were mostly being loyal, going because we were invited, not really because we WANTED to.

So, we bonded over our similar situations and that bonding turned into playing hooky---sort of.

That night, while everyone else was enjoying the silence and peace of sleeping one room away from Jesus, present in the Eucharist, or adoring Him in the chapel, she and I were next door baking cookies before we hit the hay.

While we baked and ate, we talked. It turns out she had felt a call to religious life for a while, but she wasn't sure where, when, how. As I listened to her talk I began to see that she felt about religious life the way I felt about marriage. There was a deep attraction to it, along with a realistic fear of the hardships associated with that vocation. I desired married life, but I also feared bearing and raising children, the challenges of being in a life long commitment with a (then) unknown-to-me man.

As I reflected on this throughout that weekend, I began to see that many of the girls (not all) exuded a joy and anticipation--a hope--- that THIS, religious life, was THEIR calling. They were already in love with their Spouse and clearly called to a life as a consecrated Bride of Christ.

I was in love with Jesus but, as I came to realize, not called to religious life.

And that was okay. God had put a deep desire in my heart for marriage. I didn't know if I would ever find the guy. I realized that our own free will can keep us from following the path that might have been, but that God works for His Glory and the good of all even in that brokenness. At least I had much greater confidence that this was His will.

Of course, when I met Jim, that confidence was transformed to certainty. But there is no doubt that the discernment retreat was instrumental in my understanding my own vocation.

It is because of my own experience that I would encourage every single woman to make a discernment retreat. A true discernment weekend is not about joining an order. It is about opening yourself up to hearing God's call in your life. We are all called to a vocation: marriage, religious life, consecrated single life. When we put aside the fear and make ourselves available, He will speak to our hearts.

Of course, I highly recommend attending a retreat with the DSMME because I know them and I have been on one of their retreats. But, if not with them, I am sure there are others. Just be sure that it is a Christ-centered retreat--one that has Mass and opportunities for Adoration, or at least prayer time in front of a Tabernacle. I also highly recommend a silent retreat. In spite of my failure to keep silent the whole weekend of my discernment retreat, it was the silent parts which were crucial to hearing that "still, small voice".

Feel free to pass this on to any young (or not so young) single women you know.