Zipping Down Country Lanes in New England… and walking them too…

Zipping Down Country Lanes in New England… and walking them too…

First, with an emphasis on zip…

Yes, we needed something other than MGB for the cooler weather… or maybe that was just needing something cooler. Period. (Let me tell you what a great husband I have….)

(Let me tell you what a great husband I have….he knows I’m a road warrior. He knows I love blue, too! )

Bob and I were sharing a car for while. But this summer, as he began a new job, he suggested I take this for a test drive… He didn’t have to ask twice. I’ve loved these cars since I saw one on vacation in 2003. 10+ years later, the “emptying nest”can handle this. As a former ad copywriter, I certainly appreciate zippy ad copy too, but I digress…

I'm in love with this little turbo!

I’m in love with this little turbo!

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Meanwhile, back on those country lanes, this is “high season” when “leaf peepers” from around the world visit New England and enjoy the fall foliage. We are about at about 30% “turned” right now, but things are getting more gorgeous by the day. Let me show you some of my local views. (FYI: You can click on the images to make them larger.)

I pass these ladies pretty regularly…

I pass these ladies pretty regularly…

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She is outstanding in her field.

She is outstanding in her field.

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Shadows getting longer...

Shadows getting longer in the afternoons…

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I love walking to these pastures.

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We have many ponds in our neighborhood. I love the cloud reflections after some recent rainfall.

Many ponds in our neighborhood. Love the reflections.

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”  (1 Chronicles 16: 31)”

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“…let the field exult, and everything in it!” (1 Chronicles 16:32)

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“Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before the LORD…” (1 Chronicles 16: 33)

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“O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!” (1 Chronicles 16: 34)

Around our yard…

St Francis feeds the birds.

St Francis feeds the birds.

Mary, with the "burning bush" behind her.

Mary, with the “burning bush” behind her.

Brady, not quite as heavy as the pumpkin.

This is Brady, my pumpkin-sized pooch. Clearly he is not impressed by it.

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Previous autumn posts… on leaf blowers.

From the archived Among Women blog: “God’s World” by Edna St Vincent Millay, plus a poem by Maria Johnson, and finally my photo essay on barns. 

 

Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Mary with the Infant Jesus, St Catherine of Bologna, 15th century. Source: wikipedia.

Mary with the Infant Jesus, St Catherine of Bologna, 15th century. Source: wikipedia.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

I’ll go to Mass. I’ll have breakfast with a friend. Then I’m going to get my stitches out from some oral surgery that took place last week.

And I’ll pray the rosary.

In other words, its a typical day. And the rosary fits my life. It fits in my day anytime… morning, noon, or night. I often pray it in the car, or on my walks. Or with friends.

The Catechism calls the Rosary an “epitome of the Gospel (CCC 971).”

Here’s some of my favorite resources about this prayer that has shaped my life over the last thirty years.

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I’ve written about praying the rosary many times. About prayer in groups. About my grandmother’s rosary.

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I’ve got many Among Women podcasts about the rosary — about forming local rosary groups for mothers… plus interviews with several knowledgable guests like Rosary Army’s Jennifer Willits… and author Karen Edmisten with an epic primer on the rosary…  and the rosary and pregnancy with Sarah Reinhard. Plus one of my favorite podcasts of all time — the Among Women listeners sharing what they love about the rosary!

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My most favorite book to pray the rosary with is the Scriptural Rosary. 

The best advice about loving the rosary  and Marian devotion comes from the classic books of St Louis de Montfort.

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Finally, I’ve learned what St John Paul has long taught: the Rosary conforms us to Christ. Outside of the Mass, it is the most powerful prayer we can pray.

Christian spirituality is distinguished by the disciple’s commitment to become conformed ever more fully to his Master (cf. Rom 8:29; Phil 3:10,12). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism grafts the believer like a branch onto the vine which is Christ (cf. Jn 15:5) and makes him a member of Christ’s mystical Body (cf.1Cor 12:12; Rom 12:5). This initial unity, however, calls for a growing assimilation which will increasingly shape the conduct of the disciple in accordance with the “mind” of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). In the words of the Apostle, we are called “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27).

In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share his deepest feelings. In this regard Blessed Bartolo Longo has written: “Just as two friends, frequently in each other’s company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection”.

In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church, indeed her “pre-eminent and altogether singular member” is at the same time the “Mother of the Church”. As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.

-St John Paul II-
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 15
[
Emphasis mine]

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

Among Women 185: The Life of Ryan, with Mary Ellen Barrett

This latest episode of Among Women may require a box of Kleenex handy. My most wonderful and gracious guest is  Mary Ellen Barrett.

This week we look at the difficult subject of losing a child to death. Blogger and Long Island Catholic columnist Mary Ellen Barrett reflects on the fifth anniversary since the death of Ryan, her 14 year old son, who died during a camping trip. The search for Ryan, who at first was thought to be lost, went on for some time, and many, including myself, were glued to the internet for news of him during that search as prayers stormed heaven.

Listeners or blog readers familiar with this event will be encouraged by the musings and memories of Ryan’s mother, Mary Ellen. Those uninitiated will be blessed by the faith of this Long Island family who suffered the keenest of losses.

Since this is Respect Life Month, my goal with Mary Ellen is to talk about the beauty and dignity of Ryan’s life — his Christian devotion even as a young boy with special needs — as well as the ups and downs that he faced in family life and elsewhere. Finally, we discuss the outpouring of support from near and far for this grieving family, plus offer tips for helping others facing a similar grief.

In our saint segment, I once again look at the life of St Anna Schaffer, whose life of prayer and acute physical suffering offers a witness to us for how to make our heartaches and pains a path of redemptive suffering.

If you’d like to read a little bit about Mary Ellen’s life with Ryan, you might enjoy this recent article in Seton Magazine, or this one from Catholic Digest. I’ve left a few more, plus blog posts from Mary Ellen’s blog, over with the episode notes for Among Women 185.

Listen to Among Women 185 right now!

If you enjoy Among Women, kindly leave a rating and a review over on iTunes!

 

This makes me think… and makes me value my baptism all the more…

As Catholics… we believe that original sin isn’t something committed, it’s something contracted. We recognize that we have received from Adam and Eve a human nature devoid of the divine nature God originally entrusted to them. As such, we don’t so much see original sin as a “thing,” as we do a lack of a “thing” — that “thing” being sanctifying grace. And sanctifying grace isn’t just religious rhetoric for something special. It is the Holy Trinity dwelling within the soul.

What that means for us is that we receive a human nature from the moment of our conception. But because we receive a human nature without a divine nature, we’re spiritually dead from the start. That’s our inheritance from our first parents: spiritual death. We’re physically alive but spiritually dead because God’s life does not dwell in us.

Baptism changes that.

Sometimes we talk about Baptism as “wiping away the stain of original sin.” But that’s a flawed metaphor. It inadvertently suggests that something is there before Baptism that isn’t there afterward — almost as if we could perform a spiritual x-ray of our soul, before and after Baptism, showing first a dirty soul, which is later made shiny and new. But again, it’s not the presence of something before Baptism that’s the problem. It’s the absence, the absence of divine life. 

That divine life is what baptism restores. It gives us back the divine life that Adam and Eve lost. 

Scott Hahn
Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization

You are amazing. You are enough. So am I.

You are amazing. You are enough. So am I.

Ok, I just love this…

Once upon a time, I had my own “mirror” moment… a moment when the truth of love shot straight to the heart… only it wasn’t with a mirror — it was with a well-traveled, well-prayed rosary.

I talk about it in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious…

Sensitivity is a profound orientation in women that makes them quick to sense, or detect, people needing love, care, or nurture. A woman’s sensitivity picks up the cues or signals others give, and it makes her receptive nature ready to respond. It is easy to see the connection with a woman’s receptivity. Sensitivity is also deeply attuned to a woman’s maternal sensibilities (as we find out in the next chapter).

Sensitivity is both emotional and spiritual; it leads a woman to be present and ready to love and serve someone in terms of direct care and intentional prayer. A woman’s sensitivity makes connections between people and thoughtfully assists those in need.

Many times I have been on the magnificent receiving end of another woman’s sensitivity, most especially when it flows from women who are my family and friends. I have also experienced it through the different women’s ministries in my local parish.

Some of my fondest memories from my stay-at-home mothering years in New York come from my belonging to a parish prayer group for mothers. It was a weekly group, dubbed “Mothers’ Morning of Prayer,” for mothers and children to visit together to pray the Rosary aloud for one another’s intentions and needs. It was a strong source of spiritual support and friendship for me for many years.

In time, my husband’s work necessitated a move to Massachusetts. We were not looking to move away from our longtime home, so it was a hard decision. Before we left, the mother’s group gave us a lovely sendoff, complete with a Mass, a dinner, a keepsake photo album, and parting gifts for our new home. Most important, however, was their promise of their continued prayers. Not only that, the women challenged me to start a new Rosary group in my new town if one did not exist. In time, those prayers were answered. After finding some receptive women, Mothers’ Morning of Prayer was born in my new parish.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Talk about tears! The physical lump in my breast was nothing compared to the silent lump that formed each day in my throat. It was often hard to talk aloud about this situation, since my young children were always around me. Yet I let the tears and fears wash my face when I was alone or with Bob, so as to minimize the impact on my children. When I was in public, at school with the children, or at church, the women who knew my circumstances helped me keep it together.

 I found endearing comfort—and the rhythm of normalcy—praying the Rosary each week in the company of those women from my parish. One day, without my knowledge, someone passed around a set of Rosary beads to all the women in the group. Each woman prayed for me on those beads. Then, again, unbeknownst to me, they sent the same Rosary beads to my former prayer group in New York, where the women there did the same thing.

Shortly before my surgery for a mastectomy and reconstruction, I walked out to the mailbox to retrieve the daily mail. A box arrived addressed to me with the recognizable handwriting of a dear friend from New York. I did not even make it back into the house. Right there I had to open it. Out came the well-traveled, well-prayed Rosary, plus dozens of cards and letters from all the New Yorkers who lifted prayers to heaven for me.

I cannot tell you the blessings I experienced in those minutes. For a few moments, time stood still, worry and stress dissipated. Joy at being spiritually and emotionally cared for, mingled with invisible long-distant hugs from friends and old neighbors, flooded my heart and leaked profusely from my eyes. I just sat in the grass in the front yard, as tears poured out of me, and grace poured over me.

These women and their families had been reaching out to heaven on my behalf for weeks and weeks. Then they found a tangible way to share those prayers with me, through the gift of that Rosary and their written messages of hope. My kitchen soon became wallpapered in well-wishes and cards.

That was just the beginning; their spiritual concern would turn into full-fledged physical compassion and beautiful service in the days to come.

A six-week recovery followed my surgery, when I needed rest, medication, and help orchestrating the family’s schedule. I had a limited range of motion and was banned from driving—a tough situation for a busy suburban mom with children who were three, six, and nine. It was not a worry for these faith-filled women from the local Rosary group. Together with my sisters and parents, they made sure meals and carpools and laundry and housework were covered. If there was a need, someone was there to fill it, almost immediately.

What a boon—a godsend—to my husband, my children, and me. Just as Mary and others walked with Jesus on the way to Calvary, my support group was with me all the way. I was not alone in carrying my cross.

Four years later, deep into my cancer survivorship, another beautiful moment came from the hearts of these same sensitive women. For my fortieth birthday, the same two groups of women threw a surprise party at a geographically central location in Connecticut. There, the two groups from Massachusetts and New York were united for one special afternoon.

I cannot thank these beautiful women enough. Through them I healed in ways that could only come from God—thanks to their hearts being sensitive to his Spirit. Not only was I touched on the occasion of my birthday—each one a milestone for a cancer survivor—but their concern for my inner life brought an additional blessing. Missing my family and friends in New York was always a small emotional cross in relocating to Massachusetts. Through the new Rosary group, I put down roots in a new town, and survived a major health crisis with phenomenal support. On that birthday, looking across the room at the faces of those women was overwhelming. Through their prayer and care, the two sides of my heart, my old life and my new life, came together.

 

This makes me think… to keep offering it up to Jesus…

Years ago I saw a poster that said: “One person with a belief is equal in force to ninety0nine people who merely have an interest.” When we believe in our faith, rather than merely have an interest in it, we become a witness and a source of strength to others. You might be the only person in your office who refuses to curse and who won’t participate in things that aren’t right. You may be criticized. You may be shunned. But gradually some will begin to respect you and even in some cases imitate you because you are willing to be a sign. At any rate, your sacrifices will count for much in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged.

Christ said, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Is the power of Satan stronger than the power of Christ? Not at all, so don’t be afraid. Be faithful in prayer for others and offer sacrifices for them.

Often, when I think of the redemptive nature of suffering, I recall the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand with the five loveaves and two fish that a boy in the crowd offered. Such a meager food supply seems unlikely to do much good. Yet Jesus in a real sense made Himself dependent on this boy who gave so generously; Jesus multiplied the food and fed that immense group. That is what He also does with our prayers and sufferings. They seem very little in the face of the needs of the world, yet joined to His own sufferings, they take on that redemptive quality. Jesus uses them to redeem the world. This is redemptive suffering.

Jesus needs our suffering to use in redeeming souls. We need our suffering so that we can share with Him in the co-redemptive mission. The world need it that none may be lost eternally from God’s love.

Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR
Walk Humbly With Your God

The Catholic Apologetics Academy came to the Boston area

The Catholic Apologetics Academy came to the Boston area

I had some unexpected space free up in my weekend, courtesy of a change in a church calendar, and my husband being away on a business trip. So I asked the Lord — what should I do with my time?

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 3.33.35 PMI think I was one of the last ones to sign up for the Catholic Apologetics Academy  being held in Massachusetts. I was fortunate that there was a seat available, because the meeting room at St William Church in Tewksbury was full of 100+ eager students from around MA, New England, and some folks coming even farther distances!

Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Institute brought together not only the man himself, but also the always amazing Peter Kreeft, and Kenneth Hensley. 

From Thursday night, to two full days on Friday and Saturday, and Mass and a morning program on Sunday, all three gentlemen offered talks to help us learn to defend the faith better, and to do it all with love and gentleness and reverence for Christ and the other. (See 1 Peter 3: 15.) And they did it all — from offering lectures, to taking questions and tackling thorny problems — without an ounce of ego between them. What very calm, yet strong teachers. I’m grateful for their service and commitment to passing on their knowledge and conversational tips and etiquette to the rest of us.

I think Patrick said it best when he offered: “This is not about winning arguments, it is about winning souls… authenticity must accompany our apologetics.” That could be a billboard for New Evangelization 101.

"Pat and Pat" (Gohn and Madrid)

“Pat and Pat”
(Gohn and Madrid)

Finally, adding a touch of class and aural beauty to our experience, was the unexpected gift of Anna Maria Mendeita, a world-class harpist, who sat in on the weekend talks — and sat behind a harp she borrowed from a generous local person. Anna Maria played at Masses, and accompanied our meals and wine and cheese gatherings. Magnificent!

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Some photos courtesies of Catholic Apologetics Academy website.

 

The F.U.N. Quotient… silly kid jokes edition

I always love kid jokes. Clean, fun, silly. Here’s a neat website I found that specializes in clean jokes submitted by children.

Insert your own comic rim shot after each one.

Here’s a sample:

Q. How do you make seven an even number?
A. Take the s out!

Q. What dog can jump higher than a building?
A. Anydog, buildings can’t jump!

Q: What’s black and white and makes a lot of noise?
A: A zebra with a drumkit.

Q. How do you make a fruit punch?
A. Give it boxing lessons.

Q. Where can you find an ocean with no water?
A. On a map!

Q. What animal needs to wear a wig?
A. A bald eagle.

Q. Why did the Oreo go to the dentist?
A. Because he lost his filling. 

Go read some more. 

 

Among Women 184: Show Me, Lord, That I’m Beautiful

Among Women 184: Show Me, Lord, That I’m Beautiful

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.09.47 PMThis week on Among Women, in our first segment, we look at a miraculous conversion story taken from the life of St Catherine of Siena wrought through the power of prayer. In a similar vein, in our second segment, we meet a modern woman with her own story of transformation.

Life with Jesus Christ has the power to change every aspect of our lives. University of Miami Campus Minister Michelle Ducker candidly shares her life and work in this extended interview. Michelle’s story shows us that when we let Jesus do the heavy lifting, he’ll heal our hearts and minds and bring us joy, truth, and true beauty — the kind that shines from the inside out! Michelle reflects on several years of her life, including her walking away from a modeling career, dealing with illness, and wrestling with body and self-image issues. Today she shares what she has overcome in and through Christ, and how she walks with others so that they may experience friendship in Christ, and discover true beauty and love.

This is an episode you won’t want to miss! Listen!