We Are Family

It’s a busy time in our home right now, with the upcoming wedding of our son and our soon-to-be-daughter-in-law!  For the next few Mondays, I’m selecting a few of my favorite “mercifulmoments” and re-publishing them in case you missed them the first time around!  I wrote and initially published this on mercifulmomentsblog May 2, 2016.   

“I can do it my SELF!”  Isn’t this a common phrase uttered by children who are trying desperately to assert some sense of independence?  It usually starts out with wanting to choose their clothes to wear, pour their own cereal or milk, ride without training wheels, etc.  As parents, we know it’s our job to raise independent, capable, caring young adults.  It’s not an easy journey and there are plenty of bumps in the road along the way complete with laughter and tears, small victories and occasional defeats. We chalk all this up to experience, life’s lessons.

As kids, many individuals got all that yearning for independence out of their systems early in life.  For other late bloomers like me, we spent a few decades trying to show how capable and independent we were only to learn that many of life’s moments are best when shared with the people we love the most.  And the people we love the most really don’t expect us to prove ANYTHING to them.  As a huge Dr. Seuss fan, I think Seuss describes this phase of our lives beautifully in Oh the Places You’ll Go:

“I’m afraid that some times

you’ll play lonely games too

Games you can’t win

’cause you’ll play against you”

One of the best lessons I have learned so far on life’s journey is that I love to be part of a family.  In fact I have three families that I love dearly:

(1) My own family and extended family including all relatives near and far, living and deceased,

(2) My community, a handful of dear neighbors and a wider circle of people in our town and our children’s schools from over the years,

(3) My parish families, past and present, and all those people in ministry who I have been blessed to call friend through the years.

Even though there are still times in life when I occasionally feel the need to prove I am capable or I am strong, most often I soon realize that the source of my happiness lies in community with others.  Pope Francis speaks of this journey in the following words:

“I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

 A few years ago I added a very special community to my prayers:  the Communion of Saints.  I used to toss this term around like any good Catholic girl, but I had no idea what it really meant.  What I’ve come to believe about the Communion of Saints is that they are all those men and women who have died and gone to heaven before us.  They’re with us in prayer and they can help connect us to God as we can reflect on their lives and learn by their examples.  Remember, most saints were ordinary people chosen by God to do extraordinary things.  With God all things are possible, so walking with the saints seems like the best path for this next leg of the journey.  Thanks for walking with me!


Encyclopedia Catholic?

It’s a busy time in our home right now, with the upcoming wedding of our son and our soon-to-be-daughter-in-law!  For the next few Mondays, I’m selecting a few of my favorite “mercifulmoments” and re-publishing them in case you missed them the first time around!  I wrote and initially published this on mercifulmomentsblog May 23, 2016.  

I have fond memories of watching black and white Mickey Mouse Club re-runs as a girl.  I mainly followed the short serials such as Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys, but there’s a short Jiminy Cricket film that I remember this morning called Encyclopedia.  In it, Cricket sings of the wonders of these big books of knowledge and how they satisfy one’s curiosity.

Our parents proudly purchased a set of encyclopedias for the family in 1972 or 1973, almost around the same time that we got our first Zenith color television set.  Those encyclopedias sat on a shelf below the TV and were well-used over the years for our homework assignments.  We were taught to respect the books, to always return them to their rightful place on the shelf and to take good care of them.  They also, however, became an integral part of proving one was right in a multitude of disagreements in our large family.  While the thirst for knowledge was recognized in our home, so was proving that one was right at all costs.  Running and grabbing the correct encyclopedia to prove a point was very common.  It was almost a survival of the fittest at times…or quickest with the answers. And in someone proving himself or herself right, subsequently someone else was wrong or at least not as fast to defend their case.

I believe for a very long time this was pretty much the way I lived my Catholic Faith.  Maybe I was, to coin a phrase, an Encyclopedia Catholic.  I could list the Corporal Works of Mercy or with some prompting, even the Seven Deadly Sins, both helpful if playing a round of Catholic Trivia.  But it was not until I started reading Scripture daily that I began to look at what it really means to encounter Christ, to love our neighbor, to show compassion or mercy.  I dare say I never “owned” my Catholic faith until I began to grow in understanding of Jesus’ encounters with others in the Gospels.

“The truth is not grasped as a thing; the truth is encountered. It is not a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

 The only drawback to “owning” one’s faith, however, is you never can sit back and do nothing again.  From that first spiritual awakening, it becomes obvious that in order to encounter Christ, we must walk with others, we must work with others, and we must laugh and cry and be with others.  We learn to realize that our actions have consequences and sometimes our words can inflict pain.  The Catholic Christian, in his/her awareness of this, must strive to see each person as one of God’s beloved sons or daughters, with their own stories, their own “baggage,” their own sorrows and joys.  If I fail to see Christ in you, I fail to see Christ at all and am only being an Encyclopedia Catholic.  Today, LORD, help me to see the person of Christ in EVERYONE I encounter.  And please help others to see Christ in me.  Amen.

Lessons of the Heart

I imagine many churches nearby, like ours, are wrapping up another catechetical year and collecting registrations for September classes which seem so far away.  This time of year is bittersweet for me, as we bid farewell to students, especially our Confirmation and First Eucharist kids and their parents.  I find myself wondering, did we teach them enough?  Will they come back?  Were we able to convey the depth and breadth of our God’s love?  Did we do more than just transmit information…were we able to reach some hearts as well? 

I do realize that most of these questions I pose repeatedly to myself don’t have easy answers and often immeasurable metrics.  But I will continue to ask them, to offer our families the best that we can give them as we journey together in our shared Catholic faith.

I also know that some of the best lessons of the heart take place when we are gathered around the Eucharistic table with our brothers and sisters each weekend as well as when we encounter Christ in others at work, in our neighborhoods, in our homes, or in our schools.  These life lessons help us to see firsthand how we are to love God and others, and often these lessons are neither neat or perfectly executed.  Some weeks we return to church the following Sunday feeling jubilant, and other times we come back deflated or discouraged, but we come back again and again, seeking nourishment, comfort, peace…

I hope this summer our families will continue to factor in Sundays or Saturday Vigil Masses around all the fun summertime activities that appear, like family reunions, camping trips, graduation parties, weddings and soccer/baseball/lacrosse tournaments.  Let’s look for one another on the weekends so that we can continue to grow in God’s love and share that love with all we encounter on the days between the Sundays.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7  



God Moments While Folding Laundry

It’s the weirdest thing.  Some mornings, I’ll sit down with that first steaming cup of coffee and settle in with the Daily Readings, ready to have some quality prayer time.  The house is quiet, except for the snoring of our dog on the couch next to me.  This is often the quietest part of my day, and I’m ready and open to sit with the WORD.  Speak to me, LORD, I’m listening, is my silent prayer.  And I read, and I sit, and I think, but sometimes…nothing happens…well, something happens, but it’s not nearly as wonderful as when I encounter God in an unexpected moment, like I did in the laundry room on a recent Sunday afternoon.  Let me explain…

I wasn’t looking for anything other than an empty laundry basket and the box of dryer sheets.  I’d moved the wet clothes to the dryer, put the second load in the washer, added detergent, and started folding a pile of clean towels that had been sitting on the nearby table for the past few days, smelling fresh but rather neglected.  That familiar why am I such a bad housewife? tape was running through my head when all of a sudden, in the action of folding a bath towel, I felt strangely peaceful.  I found myself remembering time spent long ago with my mom, when she taught me how to fold clothes.  A smile crossed my face and any angst I’d felt while playing Sunday afternoon household catch-up had dissipated.  As I folded every last towel and washcloth, I felt myself turning to God in prayer, thankful for that gift of relationship with my mom that I’d been fortunate enough to have for the first thirty-five years of my life.  I glanced around our laundry room, badly in need of sprucing up, but my eyes fell upon the sturdy washer and dryer that have served us well over the past few years.  I thanked God for the miracles of running water and electricity and stability and the reality of HOME, even with all its quirks and imperfections.

The month of May hits me hard each year as I miss our mom terribly and the anniversary of our Dad’s death is later in the month.  Many of you reading this may be able to relate to that feeling of loss.  What happened in the laundry room on a recent Sunday, I believe, was a brief God moment, a little nudge to help me open my eyes to all that I do HAVE, right here and now, a reminder to be grateful and open to God’s gifts every day.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to your name, Most High,

To proclaim your love at daybreak, your faithfulness in the night…Psalm 92: 1-2