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Encouragement from 52 Weeks with St. Faustina

I recently reviewed 52 Weeks with Saint Faustina by author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  I have greatly enjoyed leafing through Donna-Marie’s book and rededicating my prayer time to saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the prayer that Jesus gave St. Faustina.

52 Weeks with St. Faustina lends itself to people like me!  I start the year with the greatest intention of completing a 52-week devotional and then fade in dedication and zeal and have to jump back on the wagon numerous times.  Fortunately, since the chapters do not have assigned dates, readers like me can begin the book at any time or retrieve the book and re-join the spiritual exercises with St. Faustina without feeling obliged to skip weeks.

52-weeks-cover-195x300Another thing I love about the book is that the table of contents is thematic.  If you especially need prayers for overcoming fear, there’s a chapter for that!  Grace?  There’s a chapter for that, too!  Forgiveness, doubt, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or obedience?  There are weeks dedicated to these topics as well.  This book meets readers exactly where they are in life.  You can progress through the book week by week or jump around thematically.

My favorite aspect of 52 Weeks with St. Faustina is that Donna-Marie incorporates significant portions of St. Faustina’s Diary into the reflections.  This leaves readers with Jesus’ words to Faustina as well as a flavor of her personality and glimpses of her path to sanctity.  Friends, I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from St. Faustina:

On Patience:

Patience in adversity gives power to the soul.  – Diary, 607

On Staying in the Present Moment: 

Oh present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.  I desire to use you as best I can. – Diary, 2

On Humility: 

Today, as God’s Majesty swept over me, my soul understood that the Lord, so very great though He is, delights in humble souls. – Diary, 1092

For Encouragement:

O my Jesus, despite the deep night that is all around me and the dark clouds which hide the horizon, I know that the sun never goes out. – Diary, 73

On Forgiveness:

We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors. Diary, 1148

Do you have a favorite quote from St. Faustina?  Share it in the comments! As my six year-old says, “Sharing is caring!”

 

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A New Year’s Resolution to Make Haste Slowly

At 12am on January 1, 2019, my family gathered around the TV screen to watch the ball drop in Time Square.  Droves of people, saturated from spending the day in persistent rain, cheered the New Year and its possibilities.  People danced, couples kissed, and Frank Sinatra belted New York, New York, for all to hear.  My family clinked champagne flutes and enjoyed the music.

In those first moments of 2019 I wondered, “What should my New Year’s resolution be?”  I rapidly ran through noble and not-so-noble things I could do:  Keto diet!  No.  Weight Watchers?  Volunteer for the PTA!  Take the kids with me to volunteer!  Leave love notes for my husband more frequently!  Don’t skip my prayers in the morning!  Organize my closet!  Stop listening to naysayers!  The list went on.

In less time than it took the champagne to travel from my mouth to my stomach, I had overwhelmed myself with scads of things I could do.  However, a New Year’s resolution is better if it is something you should do.  A New Year’s resolution should be something good for us and something that we have fidelity to accomplish.  A spur of the moment, arbitrary decision to swear off carbs for a year just because every third ad in my Instagram feed promises that doing so will drastically decrease my hip circumference is probably not a helpful resolution.  Rather than make a snappy decision, I decided to take time to discern what I should resolve to do in 2019.

I found my resolution from St. Katharine Drexel.  During the first week of January, I read a book about her life and work.  I learned that as Katharine discerned her vocation to religious life, people around her urged her to get married, become a cloistered nun, or live a single life in service to the poor.  Throughout her discernment, Katharine’s spiritual director urged her to “festina lente” – make haste slowly.  Festina lente – I found those words encouraging.

Always drawn to serve the poor, in 1887, when Katharine attended a private audience with Pope Leo XIII, she urged that the Holy Father should send missionary priests to the United States to serve the Indians.  He responded, “Why not my child, yourself become a missionary.”  In one sentence, the Holy Father named Katharine’s “should” statement for what it was:  an expression of the vocation that the Holy Spirit had placed into her heart.  But Katharine made haste slowly.  It was not until four years later, in 1891, that Katharine became a missionary and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a religious order dedicated to working with Native Americans and African Americans.

Katharine spent the rest of her life founding missions and schools throughout the United States.  Notably in 1925, while schools in the United States were still plagued by segregation, Katharine founded Xavier University of Louisiana, for African American students.  By 1987, more than forty percent of public school teachers in New Orleans were Xavier alumni.  Had Katharine jumped at all the things that she could have done with her life, she might not have become, as some describe, an “apostle to the poor.”

Meditating on this reading made my New Year’s resolution clear.  My resolution is a prayer to festina lente – to make haste slowly this year – to avoid that instinct to accomplish all the things I could do, and instead, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that reveal the things I should strive to accomplish.

2019 is still new, and as the adage goes, it takes 21 days to form a habit.  St. Katharine Drexel, perfected her vocation of missionary service through over fifty years of active ministry.  I’m going to need more than 21 days and a lot more practice to learn to festina lenta.  Did you plunge head first into an unrealistic resolution at midnight on January 1, 2019?  Have you already abandoned your resolution?  Are you still looking for that perfect resolution?  If so, perhaps you could make haste slowly with me.

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Everything is Grace – Especially Snow Days

Northern Virginia did not anticipate snow this morning.  I expected a few more sunny, crisp fall days for my lingering roses, but they now hold ice crystals.  Today was supposed to be about completing a mile-long to-do list.  On the top of the list was quiet time to write. Heck, I’m trying to finish my first book manuscript in five months! 

I did not initially welcome the snow this morning.  In fact, I rolled my eyes when the school text message notifying us of a two-hour delay pinged my phone last night.  This morning, however, it was clear that the school made the right call.  Eventually they had to cancel school all together.

Rather than putting the kids in front of the TV and hiding in my room to work, I decided to make memories today.  Memories of a hot breakfast, cocoa, snow angels, and a walk in the woods.  So that’s what we did, and wow, God is good. 

After returning to the house to thaw our frozen fingers, I sat down to read with St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  Thérèse appreciated snow.  She  reflect about wearing the white habit of the Discalced Carmelites for the first time, and wrote in her autobiography, “I had always wished that on the day I received the habit, nature would be adorned in white just like me.”  She received her wish.  Much like today, despite mild weather, it snowed on the day that she received her habit.  “What thoughtfulness on the part of Jesus!”  she remarked. Thérèse reminded me today that “Everything is grace.”  Grace, “the free and undeserved help that God gives to respond to his call to become children of God.” (CCC 1996).

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The grace of snow nudged my children and me into a morning of togetherness and play on what would otherwise have been a routine Thursday of packing lunches, inching the minivan through the school carpool lane, and commuting to work in relentless DC traffic. 

Instead, I’m grateful for the grace of snow, and grateful for the grace God gave to shake me out of my busy to-do list and toward just being.  Being present.  Being thankful.  Being covered in snowflakes.  What thoughtfulness on the part of Jesus.     

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Hospitality in the Pews: Four Gestures that Encouraged my Child in Church and One Sweet Reward

Four Gestures that Encouraged my Child in Church and One Sweet Reward

When was the last time you walked into a parish for mass without knowing anyone from the community?  Did you feel welcomed by an usher at the door, or the friendly smile of the Eucharistic minister?  Or did you feel anonymous, like a burden to the person you had to scoot past clumsily to get to the center of the pew, or ignored by your neighbors during the sign of peace?

Our family regularly visits new parishes, especially in the summertime.  When school is out of session, we like to spend weekends adventuring and exploring new places that are within driving distance of our home in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  We often spend one night away from our home on Saturday evenings, and then make our way home on Sunday afternoons.  We stop for mass wherever our exploring leads us.

1. Greet Everyone – Even the Tardy!

This weekend, we made a retreat our family’s little cottage in Cape May, New Jersey, and attended mass at a nearby church.  As we scurried into the church three minutes before mass was to start, two ushers greeted us with huge smiles and held the door open for us.  One said, “We’re glad you’re here.”  I felt encouraged.

2. Smile at the Kiddos

Unfortunately, my five year-old, George, was not as quiet or as still in mass as I had hoped.  In fact, he really had ants in his pants, and he could not refrain from asking all about what we were going to do at the beach the next day, or singing Christmas carols.  Yes, fa-la-la-la-la in September. And flossing!  I was afraid that the woman in front of us was going to get irritated.  Instead, she just turned around on occasion, and smiled and winked at George.

3. Praise the Effort

When mass ended, an elderly gentleman walked up to George and said, “You were very good today.  It must have been really hard to sit so still.”  I prompted George to thank the man for his compliment.  The man turned around, pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to George.  It was a one dollar bill.  He told George, “You should go buy yourself a little treat.”  George was ecstatic!

4. Give Generously  

As we waited in the back of the church for the end of the closing hymn (because I could not wrangle George in the pew any longer), the faithful shuffled past us, accepting bulletins from the ushers on their way on the door.  As it happened, we were standing by the poor box, where elderly women dutifully slid their neatly folded one dollar bills into the slot in the front of the box.  It certainly made me consider the widow’s mite from the Gospel.  Always inquisitive, George and I shared a brief chat that the money in the poor box is given to people who need it.  George nodded but resumed his dancing.  He even attempted a handstand just out of my arm’s reach.

Your Hospitality Will Be Rewarded in Ways you Never Anticipated

Once we left the front door of the church, a light bulb went on for George, he said, “I know what I’m going to do with my dollar!”  “What?” I asked.  “I’m going to give it to the poor box.  Do you have another dollar,” he asked.  I told him that I did.  He asked, “Well, can we put another dollar in the candle box and say a prayer for someone?”  Sure.

So that is what we did.  We worked our way upstream through the church narthex and back to the poor box.  George folded his dollar and carefully placed it in the box.  I handed him a new dollar, and he made his way to the candles, where he placed that dollar in the money slot and gingerly lit his candle.

I asked for whom we should pray, and he said, “For Aunt Pat.  And for all the people of this church.”  Of all the prayers that George could have said, he chose the Fatima Prayer . . . George style.

George’s Fatima Prayer

Oh my Jesus

Forgive us our sins.

Save us from the fires of health.

Lead all souls to heaven,

Especially those in most need of my mercy.

Amen.

Amen, George.  This reminded me that we never know how simple gestures of hospitality – a smile, a reward, a greeting at the door, a donation – will serve as encouragement or examples to someone else, and that our small gestures will be repaid in ways we will never know.  My family felt welcomed by the greeter and the woman in front of us.  The man who showed kindness to my antsy son has helped me consider how to be more generous.  Beyond the immediate assistance to the poor, the women placing money in the poor box taught my son by example to share his reward and sparked a mindfulness of others.  Going full circle, all of the people George encountered were lifted in prayer to a God who especially asks for the children to come to Him.

Thanks for the hospitality, Cape May.  We’ll see you soon!

 

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Pleased to meet you!

Hello, pleased to meet you!  This is an inaugural leap for Joyful Momentum on this Feast of the Assumption, I thought I’d keep things light and introduce myself.  I’m Elizabeth.  I’m a mom, army wife, Catholic, lawyer, and adventurer.

I love to pen stories and share experiences of keeping the joyful momentum and zest of life and faith through the turns of parenting, work, army life, and more!

I am passionate about building women’s ministry and want to use this blog-deavor to do just that.  We are called to build the Church and can only do it by joining our little living stones.  To that end, Joyful Momentum will be sharing resources for building women’s ministry groups – printables, book recommendations, how-tos, and more.  Follow the blog for weekly tools for women’s ministry delivered straight to your inbox!

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My plan was to publish the blog in a few weeks.  But my love of flowers and Our Lady collided today in the backyard.  While admiring all of the new and lovely flowers, this John Paul II rose greeted me with its glory  Since it was such a fitting greeting on this feast day, it inspired me to hit publish.  I’ll keep working on content, but in the meantime, hello world, thanks for stopping by!