Catholic Photo Challenge # 5: “Filial trust.” (Or, after Mass in a small town)

Catholic Photo Challenge # 5: “Filial trust.” (Or, after Mass in a small town)

Steve Nelson’s Everything Estaban blog continues to intrigue me with the Catholic Photo Challenge. The theme for this week’s challenge is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“322 Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34),
and St. Peter the apostle repeats: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps 55:23).”

Steve writes:

For this photo challenge, capture a scene or event that expresses joy in a carefree moment. A scene when you, or someone else, is living in the moment, not fettered by worries or needing to be in total control.

Anyway, since I’m caregiving and not really keeping my usual schedule, I had not planned on participating in this current challenge until something unexpected happened after Mass yesterday.  This was a photo I just happened to snap — without even trying to do the challenge… but it just happened to work out that way.

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I attended Sunday Mass at my parents’ parish which is St Joseph the Worker — a combined collaborative of St John’s in Clyde, St Patrick’s in Savannah, and St Michael’s in Lyons, NY. Dad and attended Mass at St John’s today. Since my mother is still in the nursing home getting rehab, I decided to take a few photos of the church for her, since it has been several weeks since she has been at Mass in this church.

After Mass I was busy taking photos of the tabernacle and the major statues very quietly as the church emptied out. As I focused my lens in on the statue of St Joseph, a woman quickly stepped into my frame just as I pushed the shutter. It was not until I looked at this later on, did I realize that this would make a great depiction of “filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father.”

From top to bottom… within the artistic rendering of the statue we first see Jesus gazing confidently (with filial trust) into the eyes of St Joseph, his foster father. What a model for us!

Then, in the lower portion of the photo we see this darling woman placing her own filial trust in her patron, St Joseph. She prayerfully lights a candle as she trusts Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood — after all, he is the Patron of he Universal Church — with her special intention.

Finally there is the implicit and ultimate to call to you and to me — as stated in CCC 322 above — to trust in the providence of our heavenly Father. St Joseph was the Heavenly Father’s choice and provision for his Precious Son, Jesus. Joseph, the gospel attests, was an upright and just man. He was a humble follower of God whose own filial trust in God allowed him to carry out his vocation as the earthly father of Jesus.

This photo reminds me that both Jesus and Joseph trusted the Heavenly Father to provide for their ultimate good. Those are pretty good endorsements. May we all aspire to such deep and abiding and childlike trust in our Father, “the one who searches hearts (Rom. 8:27)”.

:::

Check out the latest Catholic Photo Challenge, and be sure to read Maria Johnson’s poignant entry too.

7 Shows from the “Best of” Among Women — Great testimonies (Conversions/reversions)

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The new evangelization rises and falls with all of us sharing our stories of coming to know Jesus, to encounter the Lord of Love in a personal way. I’m happy to dive into the Among Women archives to bring you the inspiring stories of these Catholic women! You may wish to bookmark this post to come back to it!

AW 178: New Life in Christ – When an unplanned pregnancy interrupts this successful single career woman’s life plan, she returns to the faith of her youth and discovers God’s plan for her in a new way. Listen! 

AW 175 An Appointment with God - Catholic speaker, Allison Gingras, shares her reversion to Christ and what it means to be a friend of Jesus. Listen!

AW 43 A Chat with Amazing Catechist, Lisa Mladinich – Get to know the founder of Amazing Catchechists, author Lisa Mladinich, who tells the story of her reversion to the Catholic faith. Listen! 

AW 109 Metanoia! - A story of Erin Miller’s reversion — and the role Among Women played in her life. Listen! 

AW 40 Becoming a Catholic - This episode talks with Earline Tweedie, a former Methodist, now a Catholic, by way of the RCIA. Also inspiring is her sharing her story of mothering a son with Down’s Syndrome. Listen! 

AW 1 — The Among Women Premiere - (and there’s a part two) Join me on my very first podcast from March 2009, and after I overcome the jitters, listen to Virginia Kimball, a PhD in Mariology today, discuss her life and growth as a Christian, and her eventual return to school in midlife to study theology. Listen!

AW 131 The Vocation Story of a Young Nun — More of a memoir of her faith journey, Sr Emily Beata Marsh FSP, one of the newest members of the Daughters of St Paul describes her vocation experience and her recent vows. Listen!

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (a journal entry plus photos)

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 (a journal entry plus photos)

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
- Ps 90:12-

That’s what I want. A heart of wisdom.

I’ve desired that since giving my heart to Jesus Christ as a young teen. That was probably the first wise thing I’ve ever done. I’m a middle aged woman now and over 14K days have passed since.  I’m still seeking wisdom, and catch glimpses of it now and then. It’s, mostly, a holy struggle.

Lately, I am numbering my days. I am taking stock before the Lord. There are two ways to do that, just as there are ultimately two ways for just about all things. We can count up the woes, and the waste, and the worries. Some of us do that temperamentally. The second and more profitable way is by counting our blessings and, more importantly, making good use of the time God gives us. Not just in the “make every day count” kind of way, but in living our days in light of eternity. When we do that, course corrections become a regularity, not something to eschew.

The midlife years tend to be where most people bump into the reality of their mortality. That happened somewhat prematurely for me, in my thirties. Eighteen  years ago this week, as the joy of a new spring was upon me, I found a lump in my breast. It was unmistakable. Time stood still; that moment a mental snapshot forever. From the first I knew it was cancer, and the first words that came to my heart were Lord have mercy. That challenging time imbued a ‘numbering of days’ like no other. Thankfully, I don’t think about cancer every day anymore. Yet, the last few days I’ve been dealing with what I call background noise… the buzzing of that long ago memory found its way again into my consciousness. It’s like the soul alerts the psychic part of the body with a disquieting anniversary alarm… Oh yes, I remember now. The specter of death lurks despite the new life you see.  And that fear grows silently. Sure, you look fine on the outside, but…

But, that was then. That’s when I learned that Someone else was in charge of the actual numbering of my days.

My very self you know…
When I was being made in secret…
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.

-Ps 139: 14b-16-

The biggest course correction for me in those days was the mortality reality check to deepen my faith: to embrace grace radically. Embrace Christ fully. Thereby you can embrace the ones you love with abandon. Kiss all the boo boos. Laugh at every opportunity. Pack as much life as you can into a day. Number every day without regret. Embrace life.

Fast forward to today. As spring finally breaks on New England, I find myself dealing with after effects of a hard winter… both seasonally and interiorly. It’s another time of course correction for me.

Spring is seven weeks old, and I’m examining things, inside and out. Outside, there’s been a lot of damage.

Foraging deer this winter ate all of our euonymus hedge along the front of the house.

Foraging deer this winter ate our euonymus hedge.

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The mountain laurel, and we have much of that, has what I call freezer burn.

On the inside, since Advent, I have felt a little like that frozen bush. The harsh winter has brought sadness, death, extreme illness, and want and need, to those I love. The prayer needs have been mounting. Those closest to me know what’s going on, and for the sake of other’s privacy I cannot spill it all here. (I can tell you that I am healthy and well.) Yet the profound numbering of days in the lives of those I love has jolted my own heart. Praying and keeping close to the sacraments — for their sake and mine — helps a lot. But I am wearying. The demands of love are beginning to pinch.

Bob researched the mountain laurels’ leaf situation. In almost twenty years here we’ve never seen such leaf damage: it comes from the plant thirsting in the cold. Yes, there can even be a drought under the earth in winter, even when its covered in snow.

Thirsting.

That describes me.

Thirsting to pray more. I need to re-set the morning pace. My fatigue from recent travels for ministry and family obligations has been cumulative. It’s been too easy to ignore the alarm in what must be the most heroic moment of the day. I must renew the luxury necessity of getting up with the dawn, like I did not so long ago. Very soon, I will also be on a bit of a retreat, and bit of intense learning as I travel to take a few courses in spiritual direction. These will be full days with Jesus. And I am both happy and appropriately nervous to be going.

Thirsting to return to the page. My writing time has suffered a lot in the last few months. I tend to focus on one thing at a time. I know this about myself. If I’m with you, I’m fully with you. If I’m working, I’m fully engaged. Writing in snippets, well, shoot me, please. Maybe its the menopause. My writing only flourishes when I have watered it well with solitude. And a lot of my recent time of has not been my own, it has been shared. Oh, its all holy distractions. I’d gladly trade my hours at the page for the time needed for family and friends and ministry. Yet I hear it calling. The writing, that is. I sometimes think I need a cave — but then I’m afraid I’d likely imitate a cranky Jerome. But maybe I already am. *sigh* Being cranky, I mean.

Thirsting to be outdoors. Here in Massachusetts we are just starting to get the real bloom. I’m taking the allergy meds to prove it. We’ve already let the MGB out of hibernation in search of nesting Great Blue Herons. Marvelous!

I will be walking more. Bob and I discussed that we both need more of this.

The first buds to open were the magnolia trees. So today I decided to walk around and take some photos on our property with my iPhone 4S. It was a rejuvenating few minutes with God in the middle of my day.

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(I like playing with the zoom/macro setting on the iPhone.) The way the zoom carried this off in the sunlight makes this look like a painting.

(I like playing with the zoom/macro setting on the iPhone.) The way the zoom carried this off in the sunlight makes this look like a painting.

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This is one of our weeping cherry trees.

I love those delicate buds.

I love those delicate buds.

The forsythia is out too.

The forsythia is out too.

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And the azaleas…

again with the macro

again with the macro

Look who flew into my shot

Look who flew into my shot

And he stayed around to pose...

And he stayed around to pose…

His wings beating too fast for the camera.

His wings beating too fast for the camera.

This shot lets you see his wing, but a bit out of focus

This shot lets you see his wings, but a bit out of focus.

I think God was trying to put a new kind of buzzing in my brain. The kind that reminds me to see Him in all things. The natural and the supernatural. The good and the bad. The busy and the solitude. He knows and he sees all of it.

All of me.

Always.

Here's some of my favorite… flowering pear blooms.

Here’s one of my favorites… flowering pear blooms.

Again…

Again…

And the flowering pear at a distance...

And the flowering pear at a distance…

As I was walking the property I felt like God was showing me something of the measure of my days, and of the wisdom in my own heart, and He used that pear tree in particular.

That pear tree is probably one of the finest specimens we have — there are several flowering trees, and I bless the previous homeowner who planted them when they were tiny when she owned the home over twenty years ago.

If you look at the trunk of that pear tree, a closer inspection reveals that it is a casualty of our weather. There is a gash in the trunk and about 25% of the tree’s foliage was lost. A major branch broke off in that freak October snow storm in ’12.

ouch!

ouch!

That large branch that came down with such force it took out our Japanese Maple with it.

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All that is left of the Japanese Maple’s demise.

I have lamented the loss of that part of the wounded pear tree ever since it happened. But God gave me such joy is seeing the grandeur of its blossoms today, I’d almost forgot its deforming injury.

I love how its branches keep reaching to the heavens.

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Pear blossoms in the sun

I walked across the yard to get another full picture of the pear…

Beautious!

Beautious!

And then I heard Father God say in my heart: That’s how I see you, kid.

Reach for heaven. 

Don’t worry about the scars.

Don’t lament what’s been lost from the past season. 

You’re planted right where I need you now… and you’re beautiful.

That’s enough wisdom for this day and for many other days to come.

:::

As a theology geek I read a lot of books. One that made a great impact on my soul was St Louis de Montfort’s Love of Eternal Wisdom. His description of the gentleness of Jesus in revealing the Father’s love to us reminds me of my experience out in the yard today. God’s providence offered me a gentle way of seeing myself, and the gouged-out pear tree, with new eyes.

 If we consider him in his origin he is everything that is good and gentle. He is a gift sent by the love of the eternal Father and a product of the love of the Holy Spirit. He was given out of love and fashioned by love (Jn. 3:16). He is therefore all love, or rather the very love of the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was born of the sweetest, tenderest and the most beautiful of all mothers, Mary, the divinely favoured Virgin. To appreciate the gentleness of Jesus we must first consider the gentleness of Mary, his Mother, whom he resembles by his pleasing nature. Jesus is Mary’s child; consequently there is no haughtiness, or harshness, or unpleasantness in him and even less, infinitely less, in him than in his Mother, since he is the eternal Wisdom and therefore pure gentleness and beauty. 

-St Louis de Montfort-
Love of Eternal Wisdom, Chapter 10

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This shot captures almost all of it… the magnolia, the cherry, the azalea, the pear tree, even the bumble bee!

 

All photos by Pat Gohn.

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

Among Women 179: Momnipotent! With Danielle Bean

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This episode is dedicated to mothers — the physical and spiritual mothers in all of us. We celebrate the coming of Mother’s Day by first exploring the idea of Mary as a mother to us all. Then, in our conversation segment, I welcome author and editor of Catholic Digest, Danielle Bean – one of my favorite people — who discusses her new book and study: Momnipotent! The not-so perfect guide to Catholic Motherhood.  This great new book is for Moms who are busy raising families.

 

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

Good Friday Meditation: A prayer before the Crucifix, by St Francis de Sales

A while back I came across this stunning prayer by St Francis de Sales. It’s a prayer about one’s death, and the grace to die a holy death that leads to union with Christ. It is a perfect prayer,  I thought, for our own meditation before the Cross of Christ on Good Friday.

“O Jesus, agonizing on the Cross, be my model at the hour of death. Although You are the Creator and Restorer of life, You willed to undergo death and accepted it willingly in order to expiate my sins. Death had no claim on You; You are the fountain of life and immortality, in whom and by whom all creatures have life; yet You willed to subject Yourself to death in order to resemble me and to sanctify my death.

“O death, who will henceforth fear you, since the Author of life bears you in His bosom, and without doubt, everything in Him is life-giving. I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wing of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.

“O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings forth no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.” (St. Francis de Sales).

This quote is from Divine Intimacy by Fr Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdelen, OCD.

Note: I did try to find this quote within the writings of St Francis de Sales but I could not come up with its original source. I’d be obliged that if you know where the original text is from that you let me know in the comments box or send me an email.

 

Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

I’m over at CatholicMom.com this week, sharing a post on parenting…

The young bride-to-be, a good friend’s daughter, sent me a thank you note for my gift and my attendance at her bridal shower. She wrote: “Thank you for being a ‘second mother’ in my life. I am blessed to have grown up with role models of faithful, holy women.” That’s the second time I’ve heard her call me that. The first time was at the shower as she opened the gift. Her mother smiled at the compliment, recognizing how she, too, has been a kind of spiritual mother to some of my children.

Every young Catholic, especially teens, needs to find credible witnesses for the faith. I’m so grateful to the family members and the friends who have helped to spiritually mentor my children – especially in their teenage years on the way to adulthood. Those Catholic friends made the faith real to my children. I’m seeing its effects now as my grown children age into their mid-twenties.

Spiritual mentoring, or other faithful adults whose witness bears an impact, is just one of three important factors that raises the odds for our children having an adult faith.

Three powerful influences help shape the spiritual life in children in a lasting way – the faith practice of their parents, a spiritual mentor or two outside of the family, and a personal encounter with God.

The first is the practice of faith in the daily life of the family. There is no replacement for the genuine faith and devotional practices of a child’s parents in leading the family. The eyes and ears of children are the most sensitive spiritual surveillance systems ever designed. They pick up on authenticity, honesty, and integrity of their parents’ relationship to God and to the teachings of the Church better than we imagine.

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

“Love is stronger than terror.” – Dear World project #BostonStrong (the ’13 Boston Marathon survivors)

“Love is stronger than terror.” – Dear World project #BostonStrong (the ’13 Boston Marathon survivors)

Needs some inspiration? Come to Boston next week for the running of the Boston Marathon.  These are some of the people you will meet.

Dear World has given us a thoughtful photo essay: Read the stories of survivors who talk about their thrivership after being victimized by the bombings at last year’s Marathon. Check out their amazing photos posed at the finish line.

Here’s a little video to get you started.

Dear World, a love letter from Boston marathon bombing survivors. from Dear World on Vimeo.

 

The Boston Marathon is Monday, April 21.

36,000 runners will compete — 9000 more than last year.

Area marathon runners who missed the chance to finish last year’s race gear up to come back to Boston.

 

Banner photo: Screen shot of Alyssa and Brittany Loring Photo (copyright 2014 Dear World)

Embracing Lent… links to read, stuff to do, prayers to pray…  and podcasts!

Embracing Lent… links to read, stuff to do, prayers to pray… and podcasts!

This year I was feeling a bit overwhelmed facing down the Lenten season. It felt like one more thing on my to-do list. But after praying about that I realized that some of the difficult things in the family (lots of illness and joblessness for many loved ones), and in the world (you name it, just watch the news channels and you will have an instant call to prayer), and elsewhere (lots of deadlines and pending work) were weighing heavy.

Lent was not coming to weigh me down — it was coming to lighten my load through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So all the more reason to GO BIG.  Make a splash by calling on ALL the GRACES.

So I went to confession this past weekend. I made a fasting plan. I made a schedule. I’m engaging Lent, embracing it. And it requires some disengagement from other distractions that I’ve been having.

In the end, it’s not about how I feel, its about how I respond. If I do the right things I’m called to, my heart will follow.

OK Jesus – here we go!

Let us pray for one another, shall we?  

I’ve compiled good stuff that might help inspire you along the way.

:::

PRAY:

Go to Mass, or if that’s not possible, watch it daily on Catholic TV, or read the bible readings or hear reflections.

Learn how to pray the Rosary.

Learn how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Join an online retreat with Authors Vinita Hampton Wright and Kerry Weber

If you live in the Archdiocese of Boston, there’s confession everywhere… many places around the country are doing the same.

TheLightIsOnForYou.org Advent from Archdiocese of Boston on Vimeo.

READ and USE these Resources:

Get a printable Lenten calendar from the USCCB, with great suggestions for living every day.

Why Do Catholics Practice Fasting and Abstinence? by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

5 Reasons to Love Fasting by Matthew Warner (I love #4!)

Fasting suggestions from Life Teen

Read the Daily Meditations of Pope Francis

Get daily Lenten reflections from the late great Fr Henri Nouwen in your email.

Watch The Power and Purpose of Confession, a video with Johnnette Benkovic and Fr Mitch Pacwa. (an oldie from 2008)

Catholic Vote has 40 Things You Should Give Up for Lent

40 Ways to Give during Lent, from the gals at Sound Mind and Spirit blog

Simcha Fisher recommends quality spiritual reading at her Register blog.

Find great soups and inspiration for Lent from The Practicing Catholic’s series “Soup and Stories.

100 Things to Do for Lent by Meg Hunter-Kilmer

The award for the most-comprehensive-Lenten-Mega-Post goes to Aggie Catholics for the most resources in one place - you’ll find something there that you like, for sure!

The Social Media Scene:

If you are not fasting from social media, make your social media count!

Be a grateful tweeter, or tithe on your social media!

Check out these Lenten apps recommended by the iPadre - Fr Jay Finelli. Don’t forget the CRS Rice Bowl App!

Follow Pope Francis on Twitter. Oh, and there’s this:

 

Finally, some Podcasts:

Of course, there’s Among Women… 

AW 175: The newest episode is “An Appointment with God”. This features a chat with Allison Gingras about her story of growing in relationship with Christ. It also profiles Mary Clopas, friend of Jesus and Mary, and mother to James the apostle, bishop, and writer of an Epistle. 

From the archives: AW 126: Special Editon for Lent — AW listeners share their favorite Lenten practices

Word on Fire Podcasts: Don’t miss a single Sunday sermon from Fr Robert Barron, or check out his lenten reflections.

iPadre Podcast: Fr Jay Finelli has been podcasting for years!

 

About the Photo above– that’s a photo I took at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Take a virtual tour. 

Among Women 175: An Appointment with God

Among Women 175: An Appointment with God

Allison GingrassThis week on Among Women, as the liturgical calendar brings us to the season of Lent, we talk about the centrality of having a relationship with Jesus. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving are designed to draw our attention to growing in our faith in Christ. I’m delighted to welcome Allison Gingras, a speaker and writer who loves sharing her faith in Jesus with others.  This show profiles Allison’s story of conversion and growth in ministry.

I also open up the Bible and talk about  St Mary Clopas – one of the contemporaries of the Blessed Mother and Jesus — a first century convert who found herself both at the Cross and as a witness to the empty tomb on Easter morning.

Listen to this new episode of Among Women.

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