Dignity, Encyclical

I See You; You Matter

**Elizabeth here – I’m very glad to share with my readers that my dear friend (and fellow redhead) Erin Raymond is contributing to the blog this week.  Erin is a gifted speaker, former stand-up comic and speaks frequently about Catholic theology of the body. Her wit and wisdom make her a very compelling speaker to young adult and college age audiences, in particular.  This reflection is from observations she made when we attended a large Catholic conference earlier this spring. Enjoy!** 

—–
This is my very first blog, which seems a little weird in 2019, but there you go. I may have never attempted this had it not been for a near-midnight bar conversation with some Catholic authors at the Mid Atlantic Congress in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Said one man author to a table of women: I need some contributors for my blog – anyone interested? 

Woman author #1: It’s always kinda awkward to write a blog for someone’s page. 

Woman author #2: IKR? Who wants to hear what I have to say? 

Me: Are you kidding? Who doesn’t want to hear what I have to say? (said in a joking but not really joking manner).

I may have been joking, but the self-doubt in these talented women was palpable.

Do you recognize yourself in those comments? You have a desire to share the message that God has put on your heart, but somewhere in your psyche there a lack of confidence, fear, maybe even self-loathing?  There’s a chance that the insecurity demon may have jumped in and answer that question for you. 

If you’ve ever thought, “No one wants to hear what I have to say,” I want you to say very loudly, “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!” Discouragement is not of God.

You are a beloved child of the King, and God would never speak to you that way, or permit you to belittle yourself. God loves your thoughts and ideas and wants you to share them wherever and whenever appropriate. 

Several years ago, I had the great fortune to take a class on St. John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens, with Msgr. Brian Donahue at West Point, New York. (And thank goodness! – I could never have worked through it all alone!) It’s the first time I’ve really understood the value of overtly recognizing the dignity of another human being. 

In the encyclical, St. John Paul II helped me learn to look someone directly in the eyes and tell them, “I see you; you matter.” You – the person who has experienced one bad break too many and now finds herself in the soup kitchen line – I see you! 

You are a beloved daughter of God. You – the man who is so tired from working two jobs just to feed his family, and one of those jobs is cleaning the bathrooms at the airport – I see you and you are a beloved son of God.

And I say to you – reader of my very first blog: I see you. And I want to know your story. And I want to hear your thoughts. You are overflowing with the dignity of humanity, and you bring that dignity with you every step of your day. You bring the dignity to your job – don’t ever expect your job to bestow dignity on you (shout out to JPII for that nugget of wisdom). 
One of my favorite saints, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world.” I challenge you to look out with those holy eyes, and see the world as God made it.  Look at others with compassion. See their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God. I especially challenge you to start with your own dignity, worth, and value. Look at yourself in the mirror with God’s eyes. What do you see?

Catholic Family, Saints

Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles

Who is your favorite saint? Mary Magdalene is one of mine.

Today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles. Jesus cured Mary of seven demons (Lk 8:2). Seven! Seven is symbolic that Mary’s life was replete with hardships – demons – as described by the gospel writers. Possibly her demons were mental or physical illness, living the consequences of her past sins, or maybe abusive or difficult family situations. Whatever the exact sources of her demons, Jesus cured Mary body and soul, restored her, and loved her. She loved Jesus so much that she followed him to the foot of the cross.

Jesus trusted Mary to make her the first eye witness and herald of his resurrection. But Jesus doesn’t let Mary merely cling to him and her own experience. Nope! Instead, he inspires her to run with an evangelistic spirit to spread the news of his resurrection. She announces to the disciples on the third day, “I have seen the Lord” (Jn 20:18). In this, she is the Apostle to the Apostles.

I love Mary Magdalene because she shows us how good a life with Jesus can be. No matter how wounded your past, Jesus can heal you, restore you, and send you forth to announce the good news.

In honor of Mary Magdalene, share the message of Jesus with someone who is suffering today. And as a special offering, let that sharing be with someone outside your comfort zone, even if that means talking to a stranger or a person you find difficult to love.

Would you like to talk more about Mary Magdalene and other favorite saints? Join us in the Joyful Momentum online community in our Facebook Group!

Miraculous Medal
Uncategorized

May is for Mary Gardens

May! It’s the month of Mary, and we’re already halfway through.  Parishes are honoring Mary with May Crownings and daily rosaries.  We, too, can bring our parish traditions of honoring Mary into our homes.  How are you honoring Mary this month?

One of my family’s favorite month of Mary traditions is to plant our Mary Garden.  Every year around mid-May, my children and I make a pilgrimage to the plant nursery to pick out annuals and a few perennials to add to our garden.  I always reserve a few of these plants to a pot on the patio that serves as my Mary Garden.  The colors and fragrance create an inviting space to read, pray, or gather with friends.

With so many beautiful flowers, choosing what to plant can involve a lot of decisions.  I like to think, “WWMP? – What would Mary plant?  What would Mary have planted if she walked in your garden, lived in your climate, and enjoyed your yard or garden pots?

Here are the flowers that we chose this year:

Columbines – Another name for the blue columbine is our “Our Lady’s Shoes.”  Myth is that that they sprouted wherever the Blessed Mother stepped on her way to visit Elizabeth.  Columbines are hearty and can last in the sun or the shade.

Bleeding Heart – The bleeding heart is a perennial flower that truly looks like a pink heart.  These flowers remind us of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, her love, and even her heart’s sorrows.

Roses – Roses have long been the flower of Mary.  When Mary appeared in Lourdes, St. Bernadette said that our Lady was wearing a white garment with blue sash and that there were yellow roses on her feet.  St. Juan Diego picked rose petals from the hill where Mary directed him to build a church and put them in his tilma to carry to the bishop.  It was on this tilma that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted.

Lily of the Valley –  Another legend is that when Mary cried at the cross, her tears turned into Lily of the Valley.

Lilies – “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” – Luke 12:27-28.  If you plant lilies, let them serve as a colorful reminder to trust in God.

Now that I’ve shared a few of my gardening ideas, I’m curious to know yours!  What do you plant in your Mary Garden?

Uncategorized

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!”

 

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

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!