This makes me think… about what it takes to know and embrace God…

Grant me, O Lord,
an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from you;
a noble heart that no base love can sully;
an upright heart that no perverse intention
can lead astray;
an invincible heart that no distress can overcome;
an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.

Amen.

-St Thomas Aquinas-

The F.U.N. Quotient… all God’s creatures small and… small…

And of course, I found a Boston Terrier duo…

St Augustine and me, 18 years cancer-free.

St Augustine and me, 18 years cancer-free.

My buddy Augustine.

St Augustine and I became buddies 18 years ago. I was vaguely aware of him growing up, save the oft-quoted lines from his Confessions. Maybe you know a few of them?

This is perhaps his most famous, the first non-scripture saint quote found in the Catechism. (See CCC, 30.)

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

And of course, this:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

It was Pope Benedict, (Augustine was the focus of his doctoral dissertation), who said: “St Augustine, in his restless seeking realized that it was not he who had found the Truth but that the Truth, who is God, had come after him and found him.” I think, for me, that might be one of the most succinct ways of describing conversion… that God has been seeking us, and we let ourselves finally be found.

Sandro Botticelli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sandro Botticelli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Today’s feast day, 1996

That summer, eighteen years back in 1996, I was in my 30s and well aware that God had found me. I trusted him with my whole life. That kind of trust means that everything is open to God, it’s all on the table. But I realized that my love had not yet been tested until I found a lump one morning. Breast cancer had found me and I found it.

After a surgical biopsy, and later, a lumpectomy, failed to remove “all of it” — meaning the cancer — there were still no clean margins. We’d have to do more. Clean margins were something I reckoned with school-ruled paper and grade school cautions to write between the lines. Clean margins meant something different entirely. Life went from pretty neat and orderly to all kinds of scribbly.

After more consultations and weighing risks and benefits, I consented to a mastectomy with reconstruction. And there was a date placed on the calendar several weeks hence. August 28. It became burned in my brain. Ever since my finding of the lump, a shadow seemed to be cast that was hard to shake. August 28, we would pray, would vanquish that.

Looking for any kind of redemption for that day, I opened the church calendar to find that it was St Augustine’s feast day… perhaps the greatest mind of Western Christianity — with over five million words written as a bishop and theologian, after his legendary conversion. God did his best work in Augustine after Augustine relinquished all to Him.

Augustine’s feast day brought me great hope.

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I am 18 — These are my gravy years.

IMG_3256You can see that God kept me around some more. Today, on the feast of St Augustine, I am 18 years cancer-free. Alleluia.

About two years after cancer struck, and when I was much recovered, I was blessed to take my first trip to Fatima. It was there, alone with Jesus in the chapel, when He started asking what my dreams were. Like, what were my dreams before cancer struck?

Job 1: Watching my children grow to adulthood.

Anything else would be gravy. 

God already knew this about me. But the question persisted. God wanted to show me that the dreams He dreamed for me were still alive somehow. I was tentative with him, not wanting to be presumptuous about the number of my days, and he dealt gently with my fears.

Well, these are my gravy years.

I’ve witnessed all my children’s sacraments – even a marriage! – graduations, and college degrees… the last one set to walk for his diploma in May.

I have traveled with my husband and children across the USA and into Europe. To see Rome, and Paris,  Fatima and Lourdes, oh, and more.

I did earn that Masters in theology in 2008 — year 12 post-cancer — and two certificates besides, and working on a third one now.

I always longed to go back to radio or broadcasting in some form, and these days God has me using a microphone to share the faith, both as a speaker on retreat and conferences, as a catechist, and as a podcaster. Gosh, back then, I never even dared to think I had a book in me.

All that happened in these last 18 years… and I know how truly blessed I’ve been to live to see dreams come true. Many of my friends from cancer-support groups have not fared as well.

I know what true gratitude is, and that nothing ought be taken for granted. Nothing. There have been many best days.

Over the years, I haven’t forgotten about St Augustine. There is a parish in the Merrimack Valley that bears his name and his image and its a lovely place to pray when I get the opportunity. 

Augustine’s prolific writing and speaking continue to inspire me. I’ve given numerous talks and written articles about his “restless heart syndrome” and how Christ is the cure. One talk I gave at a “theology on tap” setting was called “St Gus and the Restless Hearts.” What a privilege to share his story, knowing how his feast day has become a cause for rejoicing in my own life. God brought me through a tough date, and now it has become a special anniversary of God’s fidelity and graces to me.

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Praying.

I went to Mass this morning to thank Jesus and Mary for all their care over these years. The Holy Spirit gently brought so many names and faces of so many family members and friends who brought me through the cancer crisis and recovery, and those who’ve encouraged me to grow and take on new challenges. I went to adoration to continue my thanksgiving. As I was praying the rosary, I looked at my hands and the beads. My hands are older, and the body is feeling her age, but my heart is full. My rings remind me of my vocation, and my rosary bracelet, my consecration to Jesus through Mary. I thanked St Augustine for his inspirations and asked his coaching in whatever writing needs to come next.

This is where God found me, again, today.

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy. Amen.

- St Augustine of Hippo-

Among Women 182: The Power of Forgiveness

Among Women 182: The Power of Forgiveness

Set FreeIn this latest episode of Among Women  my guest, author Genevieve Kineke and I discuss the thorny problem of forgiveness and making it happen in our lives, as related to Genevieve’s book,  Set Free. You may recognize Genevieve Kineke’s name from her writings about the feminine genius, and Among Women listeners may recall our previous interview on the silver anniversary of St John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem. Together we unpack the need to make an concerted act of the will to forgive another, or to forgive ourselves. Such resolve brings freedom and healing, and Genevieve serves up some practical lessons on the subject.

I’m also profiling St Paula, a 4th century saint from Rome who eventually traveled to Bethlehem and assisted the work of St Jerome. Plus you’ll hear where I’m speaking next in the next few months, as well as find links to Catholic sources that are helping bring compassion to those most needy in our troubled world.

This makes me think… about “those” people who put up with me…

Lord, this is the other person,
with whom I do not see eye to eye.
He belongs to you.
You have created him;
you have allowed him, it not wanted him,
to be just as he is.
If you can bear with him, my God,
then I too will bear with him and put up with him,
just as you bear with and put up with me.

- Karl Rahner-

The F.U.N. Quotient… Boston Terrier edition

I’ve been on the road a lot. Been missing the family, sure. But I’ve been missing my dog, too. Boston Terriers are known for their clownish antics — all while being dressed up in a “tuxedo”!

 

 

This makes me think… about the answering the Father’s will with obedience

Obedience is the one and the only way of wisdom and prudence for us to offer glory to God. If there were another, Christ would certainly have shown it to us by word and example. Scripture, however, summed up his enter life at Nazareth in the words: He was subject to them; Scripture set obedience as the theme for the rest of his life, repeatedly declaring that he came into the world to do his Father’s will.

Let us love our loving Father with all our hearts. Let our obedience increase that love, above all when it requires us to surrender our own will. Jesus Christ crucified is our sublime guide toward growth in God’s love.

We will learn this lesson more quickly through the Immaculate Virgin, whom God has made the dispenser of his mercy. It is beyond all doubt that Mary’s will represents to us the will of God himself. By dedicating ourselves to her we become in her hands instruments of God’s mercy even as she was such an instrument in God’s hands. We should let ourselves be guided and led by Mary and rest quiet and secure in her hands. She will watch out for us, provide for us, answer our needs of body and spirit; she will dissolve all our difficulties and worries.

-St Maximilian Kolbe-
From his letters, Aug 14, Office of Readings

Catholic Bishops call for Day of Prayer on Sun. Aug 17 for the Persecuted in Iraq – videos and donation link too.

Catholic Bishops call for Day of Prayer on Sun. Aug 17 for the Persecuted in Iraq – videos and donation link too.

Our US Bishops have called for a Day of Prayer this Sunday August 17. Let us pray with the church for these intentions. Details here:

Back when Among Women was young, in 2010, then- Sister Olga Yacob spent time with me sharing her experiences of being an Iraqi who lived through the war-torn years, and who later came to the USA.  At the time of this interview with me, she was a campus minister at Boston University. Today, we call her Mother Olga, as she is the foundress of a new religious order, the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.

Given all that has been taking place in Iraq, especially with the persecution of Christians and other minorities, I was not surprised to find Mother Olga bringing a message of peace to us and to the world. In the video that follows, Mother Olga Yacob, talks about loss of life and homes and Christian heritage in Iraq, on EWTN’s “The World Over”.

 

Please continue to pray for the situation in Iraq and for all those who face violence and persecution throughout the world. They are our brothers and sisters.

To send immediate help,  donate now to Catholic Relief Services who have a special fund to help Iraqi families in need. 

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The F.U.N. Quotient… silly things that make me smile

So, I want to play human foosball…

Many of these are why I could never work in food service… I drop stuff all the time!

The Assumption: Our Lady … “a gracious reminder” because we’re forgetful.

The Assumption: Our Lady … “a gracious reminder” because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders.

Because we’re forgetful.

We need reminders of what’s true.

We need reminders that are unmistakeable.

We need reminding that God wants us… that God loves us.

God wants to be in relationship with us. He wants that to be part of our here and now. But we have to want it too. We have to choose to return this Great Love of God.

God’s Great Love of us is active. The love of the Trinity — Father, Son, and Spirit — “an eternal exchange of love” (CCC, 221) — has this plan of sheer goodness (CCC,1) — to draw us in.

It’s a plan that means we can be in relationship now. And for eternity.

Today’s feast of the Assumption helps to remind us of this Great Love — for eternity.

The Father sent his Son Jesus to seal the deal, to keep to the promise, that we are destined for glory in heaven. That means one day, by the unfathomable mercy of God, we may live body and soul in heaven, in union with the God of Love. That’s awesome, right?

It is an awesome — as in, full of awe — goal for our lives. It’s a real inspiration for being in relationship with God now, right? Like, why wait?

But it is a long wait (in our minds) to finally get there to heaven.

And even if we are longing for heaven, there are a few things we have to face before we get there.

That’s why we need reminders about how awesome this Great Love of God really is.

We still have to face death, for corruption of the body is one of leftover effects from Original Sin. And even though Jesus rescued us from Eternal death — death is no longer a dead end, but a threshold to the afterlife for our souls — it does not diminish this promise of union with God in our totality, body and soul.

We still have to face judgment. Our love still has to be weighed and measured, face to face by the lover of our souls, Jesus.

We still have to wait for the end of the world to have that total, remarkable re-union of body and soul with Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

That’s a lot of waiting.

In the meantime, we can begin to have this relationship with God now, thanks to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And today, we have a gracious reminder — a reminder full of grace — about the future glory of heaven.

One Great Woman has already said yes to this Great Love: Mary, the Immaculate Conception.

This is why the Divine Praises of the Church mention Mary’s Glorious Assumption.

Since Mary’s humanity was perfectly blessed, perfectly pure — sinless — her response to the Father’s Great Love was perfect and immediate. Her relationship with God was so perfect that she responded to the Father as an obedient Daughter, a faith-filled Mother to the Son, and an incarnate Spouse to the Holy Spirit.

Mary’s entire life was a complete and total yes – a perfect choice — to the Great Love.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 6:23-

All choices have consequences, right?

When the Father created Mary, He chose to make the future mother of his Son a sinless, perfect human person — the zenith of humanity. Since Mary knew no sin, the future consequence of this was that her body did not undergo corruption and death. Jesus brought Mary directly to heaven at the end of her life.

Mary’s obedient and Immaculate Heart always chooses the Good and the Beautiful. So her personal judgment was always in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Father’s will. In a way, her final judgment at the end of her life by God, was the same as when she was first created: she is perfect and without sin and, consequentially, bound for eternal glory.

God’s creation and redemption of Mary brought the consequence, the result, of the Assumption. Mary, taken into glory — body and soul — is “a gracious reminder”of that promise of future union with Christ — our own relationship — with God, who desired us from the very beginning.

Christ has risen from the dead, we need no further assurance of our faith. Mary assumed into heaven serves rather as a gracious reminder to the Church that our Lord wishes all whom the Father has given Him to be raised with Him. In Mary taken to glory, to union with Christ, the Church sees herself answering the invitation of the heavenly Bridegroom.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Behold Your Mother” (1973)

Just as Jesus’ Risen Body, is a glorified body in heaven, one day, we too, will have glorified bodies in heaven after the Final Judgment. (See CCC, 1060.)

Mary is our gracious reminder that all Jesus has said and done is true.

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Also on the Assumption:

From my archives: My favorite reading and podcasts about the Assumption.

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