Monday, November 30, 2009

Prayer to Obtain Favors-Feast of St. Andrew

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer 15 times a day from the feast of St. Andrew-Nov. 30th- until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I am thankful for my faith, my family and my friends.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reconciliation


Time flies is an understatement. This youngest daughter of ours celebrated her First Penance a week and a half ago and I mean celebrated. I peered back just in time to see her run to the station set up around the inside of our Church and plop down in front of our associate pastor. I knelt to pray for her as she "bared her soul" until I felt her snug up next to me and jump up to her knees remembering "Oh, I have to do my penance." As she sat and waited for the other children to go for their First Confessions, she expressed her deep desire to wait for them to finish so I could go. Suddenly and unexpectantly, she turned towards me in a whirl and asked, "Do ya want me to tell you my sins?" "No, babe. That's okay. They're already all taken care of now." She proceeded to keep talking until she punched me in a slight bit of anger as I teased her about something. No sooner did the strike occur than she exclaimed, "Oh no. That's a sin. Can I go over to another priest and tell him." Now can we imagine? "Bless me Father...it's been 15 minutes since my last confession." The night was awesome as I expected and this last child of mine was comfortable. She knew that this night was about God loving her no matter what. She knew it was about His incredible forgiveness no matter what. What more could I ask?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Devotions

I truly meant to get this blog in for Halloween but didn't get it done. So here it is a little late.

Devotion to promises and instruction and prayers passed down from God through the apostles and other holy men and women are meant to help us live a good life. God wants us to love Him and to be dedicated to Him and to be happy and to prosper. He has sent His mother to ask us to pray and has revealed His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary filled with promises including, “I promise you in the excessive Mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the graces of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in the last moment.” First Friday Mass and first Friday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was and is still a strong belief and devotion of my father. After all, a promise is a promise.

Halloween was always a big deal in our neighborhood because the houses were relatively close to one another and everyone knew each other and we could stay out late and still be safe. The emphasis was always on All Souls and All Saints days in our house but we were never kept from good old fashion trick or treating. As high school arrived, the tricks became more enticing then the treats. We would hang the occasional toilet paper on a tree or move “for sale” signs from one yard to the next but nothing really harmful to person or property, until …

I just had to be cool. My sister Donna and I had some friends to spend the night and we decided to throw eggs at our neighbor’s house. Newly built. Beautiful glass front doors. Nice people. We rode to school with the oldest of the four girls. We had gone home and at midnight decided to sneak out our bedroom window, across the roof, down the brick wall to the ground. My sister and I remained in the ditch as lookouts because we were chicken compared to the girls we hung around. We watched them and cheered them on as they methodically covered the panes with raw drippings. Suddenly, it was not the sound of eggs cracking but more like glass. Donna and I got a head start back to the house and straddled a ladder on the brick wall to get everyone back up to the roof and across to the window. Ellen’s legs were still hanging out when I heard our back door open. Ellen froze, half in and half out, while I watched my father get into his car and drive away. She scurried in and we watched as police cars arrived across the street. Who would have thought that what we tapped with a knife to crack could possibly have crashed the heavy, thick glass on those doors?

We promised one another not to talk about the incident at school. Then Donna and I spent several minutes explaining to our friends about dad going in the middle of the night to keep Jesus company in the Chapel. As if maybe taking time to explain my dad’s devotion to the Sacred Heart would somehow deliver us from evil. Or better yet, passing on the few promises we remembered would somehow allow us His mercy.

Lord, teach me to use the many prayers and devotions You have passed down. Help me to remember to promote devotion to the rosary and to Your Sacred Heart. You know I am easily tempted to fall from Your grace. Show me how to make up for my many shortcomings by praying to and spending time with You.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Endurance

"For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance."
Today we hope for what we do not see. Sunday's reading about Bartimaeus the blind beggar taught us of a man who literally waited all his life for Jesus, for Hope, to pass by one day and cure his blindness. He threw aside all he had, his cloak, and followed Hope.
The woman in the Gospel yesterday, bent over for eighteen years, waited for Hope.
Each day, we wait. We all wait in hope for what we do not see. Be strong. Hold fast. Endure.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops."

Today's reading sure makes a person stop and think about all the whispering done in a lifetime. I know how embarassed I would be if some of the people in this world heard what I've said under my breath or behind closed doors. Thank God that He knows us and loves us despite all He knows, so much so that "Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Speak up. It'll all come out in the end anyway!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

St. Teresa of Avila
















I'd be slacking on this Feast Day of St. Teresa of Avila not to say a few words about this great Saint and her great city. As my two older girls and my mother were traveling in Spain and Portugal last summer, one of our first out trips from Madrid was to Avila. A beautiful train ride through the countryside brought us to an old walled city where a short walking tour led us to the Basilica of St. Vincent, the Monastery of St. Thomas and the Cathedral of Avila. Teresa was a Carmelite and along with St. John of the Cross worked to reform the order back to the stricter rule. She published many great writings including Interior Castle, Way of Perfection and The Life of Teresa of Jesus. She is a Doctor of the Church.
“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life. . . . If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Maggie Valley, NC










The first full week of each October I am fortunate enough to set up a store in Maggie Valley, NC for the annual retreat for the priests of the Diocese of Charlotte. No doubt it is a lot of hard work to take vestments, churchware and books to fill an entire retreat house out-building but the priests always make the time worth the effort. I stay for four days, hanging out from 9-7 each day, "staying open", awaiting customers. This year my kids had fall break for a couple of the days and my husband brought them up to enjoy this beautiful part of our country. (Kicking walnuts into the water, my son's school shoe took a trip down the above creek. My husband got a true feel of the force of the water as well as the cool temperature.) It is always a time to reflect, to write and to read, as well as to talk and to listen and to pray. The motto written below the Living Waters Reflection Center sign reads, "to reflect the Son, deep in the heart of a mountain." Time to reflect. We all need time to reflect the Son, in our homes, in our work, in our communities. We don't need a mountain although sometimes atmosphere can help. What I often get in my own reflections is a reminder of God's amazing creation, an awareness of His unconditional love, this world's challenges, His constant pursuit and my need for frequent reconciliation. I thank God for my time in Maggie Valley and challenge myself to take more time like this right in my own back yard. (I do have a creek. Hahaha.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"I, Ezra, rose in my wretchedness, and with cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees, stretching out my hands to the LORD, my God."

I just find it interesting after commenting on the conference I went to yesterday that in today's reading Ezra tears apart all that holds him back from the Lord, his shame, his wicked deeds and his guilt, and stands with his wretchedness bared. "In a short time", mercy came to Him from the Lord.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Woman at the Well

Today I had the good fortune of participating in a mom's retreat at the Nashville Dominican's St. Cecilia Motherhouse. Sr. Mary Angela gave two conferences during the day and we spent time in the incredible chapel during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, invited to go to confession and left alone in silence (the most difficult part for me of course). The day was awesome and I'd like to share a few thoughts.
The day was themed, "Moms at the well" based naturally on the scene where Jesus meets the woman at the well and asks her for something to drink. She is there in the heat of the day probably because it's the only time she can be there without the other women who know her and know she is a sinner. Jesus tells her to call her husband and when she says she has no husband, Jesus tells her "what you have said is true." Jesus wants us to name our difficulties. He doesn't want us to dress them up and make our families or ourselves look or sound better than we are. He wants us to put a name to our problems and give Him the truth. People who tell us that all is great and their kids are awesome, over the top, are probably not telling us the whole story. After they have spoken and Jesus reveals that He is "he, the one who is speaking with you." And this is my favorite part of the day, she puts down her water jar. She puts everything, all her burdens, all her cares, all her imperfections AT THE FEET OF JESUS. The big burden, the huge jug is left at His feet. We have to put down everything that keeps us from loving others so that we can go out and tell the town the good news of Jesus Christ. I just simply love that entire scene. And, something to remember is that neither of them drank water and yet both were quenched, filled. Today, I was filled.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here's to my mom's birthday today! Born and raised in East Nashville with two brothers, Joe and Billy. Homestead Road, Holy Name, St. Cecilia (8th and Clay), St. Mary's (New Orleans), married (Dayton with Bill). Plays, art, drama, sweet William, indian dances, hard times, good times, sandwiches, yellow page ads, apartments, Loveman's window displays, children, more children, Normandy Circle, Moss Rose Drive, Vaughn's Gap, Brookhollow, Sunnybrook, Estes, West End. Every Country imaginable and many States. Grandchildren, more grandchildren, St. Mary's Bookstore, and another, more grandchildren, fun, games, Naples. A woman of strong faith, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, an artist. Jean, Nona, Mimi. Worried about all, feeds everyone, sends leftovers. Awesome woman. Loved by all. Happy Birthday!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thirst Quenching Opportunities

So many times in my life I feel just like this picture of my son behind this waterfall. God gives me just what I need to quench my thirst. All I have to do is cup my hand and drink and yet I let it just fall all around me. Opportunities wasted. And not just simply wasted by not taking the initiative, but also wasted by not removing my goggles to see God's plan clearly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Artist


I just have to share this picture of my mom, the artist, my sister and my niece in the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in New York. Three awesome women who use their talents to the fullest. It was the premier of some of my mom's newest paintings. I know I've blogged before about her art and the link to her site is on my page but I can't help but share one more time. Pretty cool to raise eight kids, run a four-story bookstore and be an artist who shows in a gallery in New York! No small fete. All three have never stopped learning and continually teach.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ambition

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
--Philippians 2:3-4
I have to say that I have been working once again on a daily meditation. It is tireless work and yet rewarding. There is no doubt that I have nothing to say that would make a difference in this world. I have to sit and wait for the words and then write what is given. Oftentimes, if I don't write it down the thought is gone forever and sometimes when I read it over days later, I have no recollection of the words. Now, I will say that when I write what I want and when I write just to finish something so I can turn it in and say "look at me", the words are just a group of words. Meaningless. I want to be published again but I have to understand that there are so many out there who are better. I have to continue to read and to learn and to listen and to practice. I am no better and what I do have to give really has nothing to do with me. I am an instrument to be used and I must allow myself to be just that. Dang it! Once again I'm reminded that it's not all about me. Use me today Lord to make a difference. Let Your words flow through me because I've heard myself and I have nothing to say.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ears to Hear

I absolutely love when I fall into a talk or workshop that clicks perfectly with something going on in my life or the lives of my children. And, to top it off it relates back to a homily or Gospel reading for the week. I began the week hearing our priest relate the story of Jesus healing the man unable to hear and to speak. How Jesus stuck His fingers in the man's ears and spit in His hand and touched his tongue so he could be cured. He left us with the message, "As Jesus opens our ears, let us listen to what He wants us to hear." What does Jesus want us to hear?
As I started Monday night at Vanderbilt's Campus in a "Love and Responsibility" talk that would be a 4 part series for 4 nights I had to ask, "Lord, what do You want me to hear?" The Dominican Sister giving the well attended talks started with the alarming statistics of the high divorce rate and sad state of families in today's society. She spoke mainly about love and sacrifice and selflessness. She shared that the only way to break the cycle of the high divorce rate and deterioration of the family is by living in the complete love of Jesus Christ. Any experience of love is an experience of God and the opposite of love is selfishness. Mother Teresa said "You are as miserable as you are selfish." Love gives life meaning. The more we teach our children to sacrifice while they're young the more they will be prepared for bigger sacrifices in their relationships and in their lives as they get older. As Jesus' fingers popped from my ears, I continued to hear the importance of selflessness both for myself and to pass on to our children. We live in such an "It's All About Me" world and "if it feels good do it", that I, through 24 years of marriage and 20 of those years of raising children, often forget the importance of self sacrifice; of giving in; of letting someone else feel good about it or take the credit; of sharing; of it's not all about me. Living in the complete love of Jesus is selfless. Lord, open my ears to what You want me to hear.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turtles

I've been so lax about this blog. I'm working at night right now and since putting the kids back in school have not had much of a moment to just sit and meditate. So.....for a little while, I'm popping on these stories I wrote some time ago for a little entertainment. In other words, I'm stalling until some fresh ideas come to the worn out brain.

God is our protection. Our shelter. Our hard shell that we can duck into and feel safe from the outside would. We carry Him with us, inside us always, and although we may feel His ways are too slow and meticulous, He gives us all we need. If we follow the rules, if we listen, if we love, then when we step outside our shell, we will be strong enough for all the world has to give.
Seventh grade welcomed our class’s first boy/girl party and I was on the list. Renee’s birthday could pop me up a notch in the cool group if I could choose just the right gift to make an impression. Other girls were talking about music and make-up and jewelry but I couldn‘t possibly pick a knowledgeable gift in those departments. Then it hit me, and word spread quickly that I was going to buy Renee a turtle. Cool. Complete with the bowl with the built-in island and rocks and food. My mom was not as excited but agreed to take me to Kuhn’s on Friday for all I needed. As Friday arrived, I had a basketball practice that ran late. Consequently, my mom purchased Renee’s birthday gift. The party was that night so I was stuck with whatever she decided. I expected her to have the turtle and his needs but as I was getting ready she walked into my room with a medium sized wrapped gift. Knowing it wasn’t a turtle, I dared to ask. She had forgotten about the turtle and been by Cain Sloan and picked up a purse. “A purse! I promised a turtle.” I was furious. I begged not to take the gift and go anyway but when she dropped me off the gift was in my hand. I was just about to stick the box behind the front bush when Mrs. Duke opened the door.
People were all over the house. I immediately found a game being played outside and joined. Susu, Julia, Gina and I shot basketball and talked to a group of boys until Mrs. Duke called us inside. I ran up the back stairs across the deck and wham! Right into the sliding glass door. I rocked back a few steps and felt my forehead begin to swell.
With an ice bag securely in place and sympathy definitely in my court, I watched painfully as Renee opened the shiny black purse my mom had purchased. A few murmurs went through the crowd about a turtle but I continued to hold my head and avoid eye contact. I’m didn’t know what other gifts Renee received because my eyes stayed focused on that black patent leather purse. I cared too much what everyone thought. I let a stupid promise that I never should have made ruin my night. I thought I would never be invited to another party again. My life was doomed.
When I got in my mom’s car, I asked sincerely if she sent a gift that had previously been my owned by my grandmother. “I bought that purse. I thought it was cute.” After explaining all that happened, I tucked into my shell and didn’t speak for the rest of the night. I knew that hand-me-downs stayed in the family and I knew that my parents did everything they could to protect us from getting hurt. But for some reason, I wanted to hurt her feelings.

Lord, today help me not to make promises that I cannot keep. Teach me to seek You in times of difficulty and to know that You will be me shelter. Although I am all over the place, constantly going, remind me that when life is tough, my home, Your heart, is my shelter.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To know, to love, to serve

Yesterday afternoon I took my three younger children to the store so my son, Nicholas, could decide on some gift ideas for his birthday today. Needless to say, I went ahead and purchased the few items he chose. On the way home, he asked why the guy who checked us out had those big holes in his ears with the rings in them. I first explained that I think he had to start with small holes and continually put larger rings in them to make his skin stretch that way. Then I proceeded to give the opinion that not everyone we meet really has the same concepts about what our time on earth is all about. I shared that I think many people do different things to try to get attention drawn to themselves while others believe that we should give the attention to one another and draw and give attention to God. He commented more on the many tatoos and agreed with the idea of the need for attention by saying, "He certainly got my attention!" My sixth grade daughter piped in that we are here to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and be happy forever with Him in the next. I spun my head around and said, "Hey that was my blog this morning." We both agreed how cool it is when things like that happen and how great it feels to be in sinc. She proceeded to ask if her picture was on that blog from yesterday as if I knew she would share the subject with me that afternoon. So, today I wish my 10 year old son happy birthday but I picture my daughter because her words prompted the text. I love to be in sinc. I also realize that it is somewhat comical that my daughter who shared her lesson of Faith is wearing a Bourbon Street t-shirt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catechism

Instruction on living a Christ-centered life is written clearly in the Word of God and impressed upon further in the writings of the many saints, theologians, doctors and other holy men and women of the Church. In our formal lessons of the Catholic faith, whether as youth in religious education or as adults in faith formation classes, we are all given that same opportunity to share in a Catholic faith rich in tradition handed down through the centuries. But to maintain and practice that faith, we must continue to share and live the life Christ passed down. What we choose to read, to learn, to accept and to be open to is how we choose our walk with Christ.
“God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this life and be happy with Him forever in the next.” When I was in catholic grade school and high school I heard some form, if not the exact same words, of this message every year. Twelve years of Catholic schools for us kids and for our parents kept us in sync with the teachings of the Church. We knew that life was different for our mom and dad then it was for us and yet the catechism we learned was filled with the same teachings, the same commandments and the same message of a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son as our hope and salvation.
When I graduated from college, a friend and I decided to backpack through Europe for a couple of months. We had no set plans, just a Eurorail card, some cash, a credit card and a backpack. We landed in Amsterdam with not a clue about a place to stay but wandered around enough to find other Americans in our similar situation. Together , we managed. We traveled through Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, France, and Belgium. I found myself homesick most every day of the journey. The only relief I could find was in the Mass. Although I could not understand a word that was spoken except parts of the Our Father, I instantly recognized the same Jesus Christ in the Consecration. At the sign of peace and as we joined to receive the Eucharist, I recognized a familiar people who were taught to know and to love and to serve. In my heart, with these people, I was home.

Lord, help me to continue to hunger for Your Word and to grow in wisdom. Strengthen my heart by Your grace that I may be an example of Your love. Guide my path today and every day to know You, to serve You and to love You.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Purpose Driven Life

Again I take this moment to share the flip calendar verse from Rick Warren for today. "When you grasp the eternal consequences of your character development, you'll pray fewer 'Comfort me' prayers (Help me feel good) and more 'Conform me' prayers (Use this to make me more like you). If you are facing trouble right now, don't ask, 'Why me?' Instead ask, 'What do you want me to learn?' Then trust God and keep on doing what's right."

I took one of my daughters to college this weekend and coming home from dinner Friday night witnessed a bad wreck. All air bags were deployed when a car running a stop sign at full speed plowed into another coming through the intersection we were approaching. I saw what was about to happen and screamed for my daughter to stop as the incident unfolded before us. My daughter backed up the van into a parking lot and went to check on the family with two young boys who were in the car hit by a man and a woman headed to the hospital to see her mother who was expected to die. I watched as my young daughter comforted the young boys who we found out were visiting from another city. She talked to them about nothing and about everything. She spent an hour of her time that she wanted to be working on her dorm room, caring for a family she had no connection to and yet for that hour became connected. She did not pass on one thought of the "why me?" but shared everything she could think of to help them get through a scary time and move on trusting that there was nothing that they did to be at fault, we were all lucky not to be seriously hurt and all would be okay.
After the entire deal, as we drove back to the dorm, we talked about the importance of her being there at that time for those kids and what we have to learn from the situations we encounter. God is good to give us those times of confirmations where we can watch our children act and react in situations beyond their control and be great. She was used to be something more to someone totally unknown to her.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Character

"Every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber. What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever."
Each morning I read a small daily flip calendar that my goddaughter gave me last Christmas based on the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I always get something quite insightful from the small messages and oftentimes they hit square in the target of my life. Today's reflection was for me not necessarily about problems but more about my crazy schedule getting my children in school, two colleges, one new high school and three to grade school, running the bookstore and training five new employees, while setting up off-site book tables for a workshop in the Diocese for three days. Here's where my lack of organizational skills puts me in a panic. Here's when I have to stop and take each day as an opportunity to build character not just within myself but within my family. They are the ones highly affected by my schedule. Around them I try to demonstrate patience. While my brains screams "let's move along", my heart tells me to relax. These days are so temporary. The time I have with these children and co-workers and customers passes so quickly. Opportunities disappear before us. In our hectic lives, may we all take the time to build a little character by simply handling the craziness well.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mustard Seeds

“Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
The readings today hit me right in the face with my lack of trust in God and my lack of example to my little ones around me. This past week especially I have been unable to write and barely able to concentrate on anything except getting my children back to school. My son started high school this week and my anxiety level was over the top. My two older girls and myself went to an all girls high school and had 50 and 60 girls in each class. My son is in a co-ed high school with 270 in just his class, more than in our entire school. It's nerve racking and yet as I sat in the parent's night Monday I felt a huge sense of community. My dad and my brothers and my uncles went to this high school. I knew many of the teachers and the principal and the president because of St. Marys Bookstore or from high school or through my brothers. I should be one of the calmest parents in the school and yet, each day I wonder and I worry. If I truly just had faith the size of that tiny little mustard seed! How hard could this be? I have worked the beads on my rosary every day and stormed more Saints in heaven for help this week than maybe ever before and I should know, He's right here with me. I've talked to Mary about her understanding of sending a son out into a crowd and I should know, she's right here with me. I send the three little ones to grade school and take one to college this week as the boy goes full days to high school and all I'm asked to bank on is faith the size of a mustard seed! I'd like six please but if You say one's enough, I'll try to trust in my fair share. This week maybe I could be a tiny example of His love and His trust, but this world sure tests my faith.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house." Todays Gospel reading is one of my favorites because it smacks my life with "what goes around comes around". When I looked up the definition of prophet I found: "a prophet is a person who has been encountered by the supernatural or the divine, often one who serves as an intermediary with humanity" and when I looked up intermediary, I get something about being a conduit.
Now I get it! All those "things" my parents told me for all those years and I did not honor the teachings - to be expected - but now I realize it connects me, electrically, shockingly, to something that is just greater than myself and the world in which I live. And I, the connection, now, having children of my own, who has no one who accepts anything in this house that I say, have to persist. I have to make the connection for these kids and maybe someday, they too will be shocked - no, no, no - will be the conduit for others. Maybe someday we will all make the big connection, will accept the prophet and will encounter the Divine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Simple Days




Well the St. Patrick's BBQ was more fun than I remembered. We threw darts, shot pop guns, tried to win a cake at the cake walk, threw the baseball, won prizes and ate BBQ. We even bought more to take home for later. We saw lots of people we knew, made a visit to the beautiful little church and generally just spent time together away from home and work. It was nice to see the kids enjoy a simple day of fun.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Each year that passes makes me appreciate a little more just how blessed I am. I have a wonderful family that loves me unconditionally (believe me, I give them plenty of reasons not to), a kind and supportive husband, great parents who continue to pass on daily lessons of faith and life (whether I'm asking or not) both verbally and by example and a challenging job with fun co-workers and great customers. I know it sounds hokey but I can sound however I want on my birthday. Yes, and today, my family is taking me to the St. Patrick's Irish Picnic in McEwen, TN. One of the priests in the Diocese used to work with us at St. Mary's and has been assigned to St. Patrick's and so we are venturing down Hwy 70 for about an hour and spending the day playing games and eating BBQ and checking out Fr. Michael's new home.
In the past several weeks, as I've pondered my life as I always do close to a birthday, I've noticed my biggest fault in life is that I'm not focused. Not to mention that I have a bad habit of jumping on band wagons but that confession will have to wait for a different time. I've pondered and I've deceided to spend this next year trying to rein in my life and stay focused on one "thing" at a time. And I mean in a spiritual sense. The most difficult part is that I love everything I do. I love spending time with my family and I love working and I love my friends and I love to write and I love to read and to learn and to send those mini biographies of the Saints to Italy and I love to work in the yard and I have to cook and to shop and I have to do the laundry and pick up and I'm all over the place. So today I hand down a little piece of my personal self and admit that for one year I'm going to work on improving my focus on how all these "things" I do can get me closer to Jesus and I'll let you know little by little how it goes. But for today, I'm spending the day with family and friends in McEwen, TN focused just on them (after I work a little on a few more Saint's bios). God please give us good weather.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

As my children head out to the neighborhood to play, I can't help but remember how great it was growing up in this neighborhood. I know God puts us in the places He wants us to be but I also know we have to be open to where He leads. We have been led back to the comfortable place where it all began for me - the lessons, the faith and the friendships. As so it goes...
Early lessons of faith and values taught by my parents were duly noted but dodged. Stored but ignored so to speak. Along with Vatican II, the sixties brought us a new neighborhood which for me meant a whole new world of possibilities. As Latin became English and altar rails were removed to welcome the flock more fully to the table, houses in our neighborhood were being completed and families were moving in weekly. As Pope John XXIII had opened the doors of the Vatican to other religions, I was knocking on doors meeting new families as soon as the moving vans rolled away. In a family of eight, soon to be ten, I took it upon myself to scout out new members of the hood and report back to my tribe. Open wide the doors became my motto also and I felt comfortable anywhere I landed.
The hood was my home. "Hello my name is Julie Dortch and our family lives over on Vaughns Gap and I'd like to welcome you to the neighborhood." That was my line. I learned. I practiced. I delivered. Although I couldn't separate people as religions but as possibilities of friendships or clients or attention, most of the families in our area seemed to be either Catholic or Jewish. From almost anywhere in the hood, we could see the steeple of the new Catholic Church and not too many years after we moved in, the Jewish Community Center was built on the back side of the Church property with a stretch of land and trees in between. A huge swimming pool and tennis courts brought together the Old and New Testament kids without politics. We became a community before "communities" were in and the area was soon referred to as Vatican Valley.

Vatican Valley became my comfortable place where I sought opportunities and learned from mistakes and received faith to carry me through life. This same hood is now a place for my children to live and to learn and to pass on.
We can still hear the church bells and despite the many added electrical wires, we can still see the steeple from our house. We belong to the Jewish Community Center as do many of the families in the hood, Catholic, Jewish or any other religion. We are fortunate to be in this place where all are welcome and some of the old remains with the new.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Enjoy the Moment

Well as usual the summer is flying by! July has completely slipped through my hands and I can see the beginning of the school year on the horizon. Man how I'd rather just have all my kids home together and not scattered all over in four different schools. But that's just not how it is and time does move forward and it reminds me just how important it is to enjoy each and every moment. We stayed in Nashville this summer and went to the pool, bowling, the movies, the zoo and the Opryland Hotel so far. I've tried to take off an extra day and just spend time with the kids. While shopping in Walmart this weekend, I saw a friend who used to work at the bookstore who's in her 70's and I made the usual comment of my life just being "busy". As we parted, she said, "You enjoy that ya hear?" "Yes ma'am I will." As I drove home I realized that she meant what she said. In our hectic lives with our children and our families and our friends and our co-workers, we need to make a conscience choice to "enjoy that, ya hear!" Time passes and children go back to school and people move and we can be left with a bunch of wonderful memories or we can be simply left with the past. As we move forward through July, enjoy time with one another. Listen to your co-worker, they may find another job tomorrow. Spend time with your children, they'll be raising a family of their own soon. Invite your neighbors to cook out, they may be moving. But most of all - Love the one you're with.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Personal Touch

My mom and I drove down to Atlanta, Sunday, to shop at the Merchandise Mart for the bookstore. Each year my youngest brother Pat is there, set up in a temporary exhibit, showing his beautiful furniture. Each year I am amazed at his new designs and at just what he can manage to fit into a small rectangular spot and make look appealing. I watch as everyone who passes has to stop and sit or talk or ask for a brochure. Each one seems to want to know just what he's selling. Do you sell the bedspreads? Do you make the monogramed headboards? Do you upholster? Are the chairs for sale? Can we just buy the fabric? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. He's designed the piece, he's cut the wood, he's upholstered, he's loved it and he's ready to pass it on. Each piece is usually named for a family member with whom it shares some quality. And that is what is handed on. In this small booth in this random aisle in this huge building in Atlanta, Pat passes on his God given talent to create for a total stranger a way to rest their head or their feet or their bodies. It's never just about a piece of furniture, but it's always about helping someone else make their home a little more personal. He shares our family stories so that all who come know that every cut, every tuck, every carriage bolt is personal. It's worth sharing. Learn more at http://www.carriagehousefurniture.com/ .

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friendships

A couple of days ago my high school class of '78 gathered to have dinner and just be together. As always, we had plenty to eat and much to say. We started these "supper clubs" quite some time ago and used to have them more frequently but as with everything, our lives got so busy with our families and our work that before we knew it, another 6 months had gone by and we hadn't managed to work it out. But I have to say, once we are together, it's just like old times. There are those of us who had gone to grade school together and some who had just known each other since high school and a few who ventured on to college together. We share our families and our travels and our work and our food. Each time we get to know something new about somebody and each time we promise to get together a little more frequently. But, who cares how often because the quality way surpasses the quantity. There's just something about gathering together and sharing a meal.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Richness of Time

The other day I was in my office at home and my daughter Julia came in and asked me if I'd like to see where she hid her dollar. I stopped long enough to look up and notice that she was standing near my bookcase. She stuck her hand into the bookcase and pulled out her dollar and I had her freeze until I got my camera, remembering an old great aunt of whom many stories were told of her hiding all her wealth inside books. And the story goes...

Summer jobs for 13 year old girls were scarce in our neighborhood when I was young. The boys grabbed all the lawn jobs early and parents chose the older girls for babysitting. My dad's mention of my great aunt's need for a house cleaner once a week was immediately appealing. Well, it was until my brother Mike heard and started telling me that Aunt Nell was scary. He talked of a house filled with cats and bookcases loaded with books where she hid all her money because she didn't trust the banks. I was petrified and tried to break the deal but my dad would never go back on his word to Aunt Nell. Maybe he too was afraid of her.

Each week that summer my dad dropped me off and my sister or my mom picked me up 4 hours later. Each week Aunt Nell begged me to sit and talk instead of clean and so I tried to squeeze in a little work between our spending time together. She was quite a sight, I must say. Her wiry, burning red hair, her extremely long fingernails and her bulging eyeballs were hard to look at. She smacked her lips together when she spoke like she was trying to hold on to her teeth and every time I'd rise to go do something she'd ask me what I was doing. Trips to the kitchen to put her "Meals on Wheels" lunch together included cleaning and putting away dishes and wiping out the oven and the fridge. When the postman came to the window to deliver her mail and to talk, I escaped to dust the bookshelves and the end tables. Bookcases did line her walls and I couldn't help but wonder if there was truly money stashed in the pages. We spoke many times about books and she'd occasionally have me pull a title and bring it to her. I couldn't believe when I checked out her bedroom and found more bookcases with the "bulkier" titles so to speak. I promised myself I'd never tell everything about my visits with Aunt Nell; not what we talked about and not what I found in those bookcases. But, I did repeat what I learned from her about her Baptist background and Bible stories and her cat Jezebel. The lessons that complimented my visit and my time. That gift of time was all she wanted.

Aunt Nell was a character; a wild, flaming red-headed, untamed, say anything chick. She didn't care what people thought or said about her. The less they knew, the better, except that she hated to be alone. She kept the house and the chores and the gooseneck rocker so people would need to visit and those who did were pleasantly surprised. I even received a book that summer which I still have in tact with all the content. It's a constant reminder of the wealth found in reading and the importance of taking time with one another.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

America

Independence Day brings on board two great Americans, St. John Neumann and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha. Hard for us to believe today, John Neumann was born in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic and there was such an overabundance of priests, he had to find another country to live in if he wanted to pursue his vocation. Coming to New York to be ordained, establishing parish schools and ultimately becoming Bishop of Philadelphia, his is some story. But, the stories that touched me most were those surrounding his language skills. He took time to learn at least six different languages so that the immigrants could hear Mass and attend Confession in their own languages. Stories of making all feel welcome. In our own country, he literally taught all nations.

Tekakwitha lost her parents and brother to a smallpox epidemic and she was left with partial blindness and a scarred face. She became Catholic when she was 20 after some Jesuit missionaries came to her village. Her aunts and uncle were not happy with her new religion and she eventually had to flee to Canada to escape ridicule. Because she took the Lord's Day seriously, she would not work on that day but would spend time in prayer. Her aunts and uncle would deny her any food on that day since she would not work and her life was even threatened. She spent a lot of time in the woods making crosses from sticks and spending time in prayer. She is actually the patron of the environment and ecology and in these times, she would be a good one to prayer to for our planet. She needs a miracle to be declared a saint and we could use some help to save our lands.

So on this day to celebrate our freedom, we share a saint who welcomed all and a blessed who loved the land and it's environment. God Bless America.

Saints continued

I was thinking on my way to work yesterday about St. Pancras and St. Rosalia from the previous blog and I realized that I never mentioned that what we get passed to us from these saints are such lessons as standing up for our beliefs and sacrificing everything for Jesus. Now we have a difficult time picturing our 14 year olds going before an Emperor and standing up for his beliefs and we hope they never have to but we can picture them in a crowd of older boys being tempted by "a good time" or "money" or "friendship" to do something ridiculous. We can picture our young girls choosing to take time alone to pray for the world or for friends in need or instead of spending time in a "cave" as sacrifice, spending time with the aged or the lonely or someone in the hospital.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Saints for today

I've been writing some new mini biographies for an Italian holy card line. I thought my new list had some truly obscure saints to write about and yet their stories are found everywhere. Many of the stories come with the idea that they are legends passed down and embellished along the way. Hey, I understand that fully because in our family, that's how stories flow. By the time the tenth person hears what has happened, they are truly amazed. Truth is, we entertain as we go and keep life exciting. On to the saints...

The first bio I had to write of whom I knew nothing was St. Pancras. He's young when both parents die and he goes to live in Rome with his uncle. This is during the persecutions of Diocletian and although everything I read says it couldn't possibly match the dates, the stories are all the same. Both he and his uncle convert to Christianity and as Pancras begins to give away all his possessions to those in need, he draws attention to his beliefs. He's brought before the courts and asked to worship false gods, which he refuses. Then, he's offered wealth and power if he'll deny his religion and he refuses. At age 14, he's beheaded. Age 14.

The next obscure saint is St. Rosalia. I'm thinking they'll be nothing on her only to find out that in Palermo, Sicily there is a huge celebration on July 15th around her life in a cave and her saving of the city. Legend tells that she dedicated her life to Jesus by living in a cave. Years after she died, a plague broke out in Palermo and she appeared to a hunter and told him to get her relics and process with them through the streets of the city. He found her body just as she had said and three days after the procession, the plague ended completely. I found many pictures and information about the grotto they've built inside her cave and the huge celebration in July around her life. It tempts me to plan a trip next July just to see the festivities.

As I read the hundreds of stories about these saints' lives, I try to write something that would make us want to learn more. They're all fascinating in their own odd ways. There's always a life event that prompts their choices. Most start life just as we do but, the paths they lead us through in their choosing to follow Christ so intently is truly amazing. Those choices, and many at such a young age, are what sets them apart. Choices that each one of us could probably make most days if we walked with our eyes wide open. Some simple. Some complex. If you want to be truly fascinated by the legends and the lives, read on. I have put these mini bios on my website, http://www.juliecragon.com/ or http://www.stmarysbookstore.com/ or you can find them in most Catholic book or gift shops. I hope they prompt you to want to know more. They are truly amazing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salt

It may seem odd but I can't help but think today about poor Lot's wife being turned to a pillar of salt. She just couldn't follow the instructions. She just had to turn around and it cost her and her family a great loss.

My friend Maureen and I were always looking for ways to make money when we were young. We would collect the cokes bottles left at construction sites and turn them in for refunds, pull bag worms from trees (yuk), sell the indian money found in pebble driveways and shovel snow from sidewalks. One particular winter when the snow masked a layer of ice, Maureen and I decided to get some help from good ole Morton Salt. As we moved from one job to the next, we needed more salt from our parents' kitchen and as we grabbed another box, Maureen's sister grabbed us. She explained that pouring the salt all over the concrete sidewalks would make our job easier now but come summer, when our clients discovered their sidewalks chipping away, our job would be much more difficult and costly repairing the concrete. We cleaned what we could of any salt residue and went back to the tedious task of breaking up the ice with our shovels and cleaning the sidewalks as we had promised. Our job was much tougher but following Colleen's instructions saved us in the long run.

Of course, when I went to the Morton Salt website to get the above picture, they now have salt specifically to melt ice from the sidewalks. Boy could Maureen and I make some money now! Pass it on and don't look back.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scripture

The Bible is very obviously the greatest hand me down that leads us to our Father. The daily Scripture readings are the best way I can think of to start each day so that even if I don't listen to them or follow what they say as I should, I know what I'm supposed to be doing in life to stay close to God and to strive for Heaven.

Today's reading about healing reminds me of my trip to Rome in the '80s. I will never forget gathering in St. Peter's Square waiting for Pope John Paul II to drive around and bestow a blessing on me. Fr. Thoni had told Bubba and I to get to the square early and stand as close to the barracades as we could and wait. When we arrived, we were all alone and within an hour a crowd began to form. As the time got closer for the Pope's arrival, the crowd began to press against us. I envision today people walking with Jesus as He is headed to cure Jairus' daughter and how the crowd must have been for the woman with hemorrhages who wanted simply to "touch His cloak". As the Pope spoke, the crowd went wild and as he got in His golf cart looking thing the crowd began pushing and shoving, trying to get closer to the front where Bubba and I stood. As the Pope got closer and much to my surprise, women started passing their children through the crowd and screaming "please". The Pope approached and I had to decide whether to take his picture, touch him or lift these children as fast as I could to have him touch them. And in what seemed a long, long moment, the Pope paused, blessed the children, shook my hand and I took his picture. My energy was drained from my body and I remember to this day the touch of his hand. There was no screaming of miracles on that day as that Holy man of God touched the crowd - or was there? Jesus worked through Pope John Paul II and He works through us.
Reach out and touch those in need. As we read the Scriptures to find out what we should be doing each day and as the world pushes against us, may we be His hands and His feet and His voice on this earth. Pass on the Word.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strong Foundation

We are formed to be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. With Christ as our foundation and with the teachings of men and women God has sent before us, we grow as one in community. We are supposed to fit together, to live together, and to grow as one body.

When I was young, my dad changed from work with Steel Service Company to a business of his own, Concrete Form Erectors. I could ride down the main street toward downtown Nashville and see the many buildings where my father had laid the foundation. Parking garages, office buildings, hotels, stadiums and anything else that needed based in concrete was his specialty. Although his base structures were not the prettiest part of the projects (sorry dad) they were what held everything together.
My mom loved the arts. Through her high school years at St. Cecilia, a woman herself known for her music and art, my mom loved to draw and paint and perform. As her children were born, she continued her love of art in different ways. As one who loved to create, she worked on her house and the children and the furniture. Oh, the crazy things we could do to furniture in the '70s.
Together, a builder and an artist can bless the world with a firm foundation that looks good. Together my parents laid a foundation in our hearts that could withstand the outside world. They gave us examples of how to live our faith and of how to cherish family values. They gave us a strong base and backed it with education and a neighborhood community that made the whole package appealing.

A solid base. Today and every day I pray that I may build on that foundation and pass it on. Pass on the importance of building a dwelling place in my heart for the Holy Spirit. Pass on the beauty of a faithful life. May we all be examples of a structure pieced together in God's love with a strong foundation. May we fit together and live together and grow as one body.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Narrow Gate

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."

Today's readings has always been one of my favorites because I can picture myself in the midst of what Jesus says to us. I've always wanted to be different (and I don't mean strange because at times I have that hands down). I mean really different. The kind of different that blazes trails and finds the tiny ways in life that make others feel the life of Christ in our midst. But, no. I've always gone with the crowd. I've always jumped on the band wagon and ended up playing one of the loudest instruments.
Last summer my mother treated my two oldest daughters and myself to a trip to Spain and Portugal. It was truly incredible. It was also a great example of the narrow gate and the broad road. As we journeyed, we walked many wide open roads to food and shopping and massive Cathedrals and palaces and castles. But, we also happened on tiny, rocky pathways that led to unique shops and quaint cafes and incredible Chapels. There were many, many tiny alcoves that led to such places as St. Anthony's birthplace and the Miracle of the Eucharist in Santarem.
As we were walking down the cobbled, steep street in Toledo, we were shopping the many vendors who were set up outside between tourist sites. I looked to my left and spotted an old beggar sitting outside a slim entranceway with simply a leather flap covering the opening. I pulled back the flap to find a tiny room with about 10 pews and an altar with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. I entered and knelt. The tiniest opening, the smallest room and there in the midst of this busy tourist-packed city known for it's beautiful Synagogues was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed and I thanked and I spent a few moments I wandered back out through the small opening into the crowded street and found my companions several shops ahead.
Today, Jesus reminds me in the Gospel to enter the tiniest openings and to walk the narrow pathways and to find Him in most unexpected places and the most unlikely people. May we all find that constricted road that leads to life.
Thanks for the picture mom. http://www.jeandortch.com/

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shadow

The St. Cecilia Alumnae Luncheon honored several classes this past week including my sister's Class of 1974. I was lucky enough to capture this picture of the four girls I shadowed most of my eight grade year. And the story goes...

Although we were four years apart, my sister and her friends allowed me to hang around them. I guess since she was my ride to basketball and football games and anywhere else I wanted to go without parents, I was just there. I was included and there was really no better feeling in the world than to be a part of an older crowd. I loved to watch them roll their hair with empty frozen orange juice cans and sneak smokes out the bedroom window. I loved that I knew the inside jokes about hiding extra clothes in bushes and making cokes and sunflower seeds and boys they worked with at Opryland. Even the simplest things they did seemed really big. Jeanne seemed to know everybody and it wasn't long before most of her friends knew me. It also wasn't long before her friend, John Dwyer, nicknamed me Shadow.

Near the end of an awesome summer, before leaving for her first year of college, Jeanne gave me a bright red cotton jersey for my birthday. She practically ripped it out of my hands to show me the back. A large white number twenty, which was my new number as she passed on her place on the SCA basketball team, and above that the name Shadow. It was a jersey I wore until the name and the number wore off. It was a name I answered to proudly and it was the feeling of being comfortable and being included that I would never forget.

In the shadow of His wings, we find a comfortable place to be with God in safety. He looms over us, engulfs us and satisfies us. He shelters us and protects us. We are happy under His careful watch. He stays close enough to cast a shadow and to be our help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Siblings


My husband and I where headed to Chicago on an annual business trip and gathered the kids to take a simple, quick picture so we would have something in our briefcases if anyone asked to see their lovely faces. It was quite a chore for these siblings to take a simple picture. They were laughing and cracking up and making comments for almost every shot. Right! A quick picture.
Amazingly, God made each of us different. We each have our own individual selves that are like no other. Each person is a miracle in themselves. Just think, as we look into the eyes of the many, many people we encounter each day, each of us have our own gifts and our own look and no matter how hard we try, it's different from any other. If we truly looked at each person, took time to stop and see them as they are, individually, our eyes would be open to the many miracles of that day and the gifts each miracle has to offer.
It took me quite some time in my life to realize that God gave each of us our own gifts. He made us unique and although I may have wanted the gifts that my siblings had, those were not mine to pass onto in life. I had my own talents and blessings and I had to gather them, be thankful for them and use them as God intended. Not to say that I could not and did not pick up bits and pieces of the examples my siblings passed down. I did. Spending lots of time together as a family naturally has it's perks but I still had to open myself to their gifts and I hope my children are willing to do the same.
My siblings could easily win the high school awards of valedictorian, salutatorian, best all around, friendliest, prettiest. most athletic and most talented. Each one with their own gifts of leadership, intelligence, ingenuity, confidence, hard work, competitiveness, love, beauty, creativity, sensitivity, humor and talent taught me to use my own gifts to the fullest. I secretly, at some point, wanted to be like each of them, yet, I had to find my own way that would contribute to the completion of our family. We were constantly called one another's name and compared by those who taught us and coached us but our parents urged us to be our own persons. That is what I'd like to pass on to every child, especially those of my own who can't quite take a quick, simple picture. I'd like each to seek their own talents and their own gifts and to use them to the fullest. All our imprints make a difference. All are a part of the completion of the family of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Angels

Hand me down heaven is put together for us to think of "things" in our lives that have been passed down to us that will help us eventually gain the great reward. People share traditions passed on by their parents. One family shared that their mom or their dad would go through the house each morning and take the crucifixes from the kids' walls and lay them on the pillows of their bed. Every night the children had to rehang the crucifix and be reminded of the love of Jesus. What a neat idea! I'd love to know more about other family traditions.

My mother shared with me one day that if you say the prayer to the Guardian Angel 5 times before you go to sleep, your protector's name would come to you the next day, somehow, plain and clear. So, that night before I lay my head on my pillow, I prayed. Around 2 a.m., I sat up in bed and the name Ferrell came into my head very clearly and that was all. I lay my head down and the alarm woke me up at 5 a.m., my mom picked me up at 6 a.m. and we drove to the airport to fly to Chicago to buy for Christmas. In the plane, I told my mom about my middle of the night experience and she simply confirmed, "Well, he's it." "He's what?" "Ferrell's your Guardian Angel. Now you can call him by name when you pray to him." Being a doubting one, I needed more proof and told her that if one of the new angels in the Roman showroom was named Ferrell, I'd be convinced. My mom couldn't believe I was making it so difficult.

We arrived in Chicago and were driven to the showroom where our representative was waiting to work with us. After buying for Christmas, we ate lunch and continued through the huge showroom, meticulously looking at each item. As we were about to end the day, we walked to the front to look at the new Seriphim angels and I said to mom, "Now if one of these new angel's name is Ferrell, then I'll believe." Our rep shuffled up behind us and asked why were were talking about the name Ferrell. I told him it was a long story and I'd share later. "I just asked because that's my middle name, Ferrell. It was my mother's maiden name and I don't hear it much. My full name is Jack Ferrell Carmody." I whipped my disbelieving head around to my mother who was wearing that goofy smile and just said, "Okay. Okay. I believe."

Believe in angels or not, if you have a tradition, pass it on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Baseball Gloves

Many things in life come previously prepared making our challenge seem a little more possible. Our foods, if we want them, are freeze dried and ready in minutes. Communication from coast to coast is planned and laid out and at our fingertips. Most of us have the advantage of instant relief, instant gratification, instant coffee and instant answers. But somewhere, somehow, someone has made all this possible. Someone has previously prepared all of this to make our lives a little less hectic. But, we still have to put it into action. We have to plug it in, mix it up, receive it and respond to it.

Leather baseball gloves were no doubt a good investment when we were growing up because they would last for years and only get better with age. When first purchased, I can remember my brothers rubbing the middle with Vaseline to soften the leather, putting a baseball inside and wrapping the whole thing with rubber bands, putting them under their mattresses and then sleeping on the lumpy mass. They went to great lengths to get their gloves in just the right shape for the many games they played. As their hands grew, the gloves would be passed down to the next sibling and the process would begin again for the following season. Consequently, I always had a loose, soft leather glove with the finger hole beside the thumb matted down to just the right comfort. All the work had been done and the vessel was ready. The only challenge left for me was to follow the ball into the glove and hold on.

God sets the table before us. He sends His only Son to prepare the way for us but we still have to put forth effort. We still have to know Him and to obey His ways and to follow Him. The challenge is made possible because of the preparation but we still must actually open ourselves to His way and His truth and His life.
May we open our vessels, plug in, receive, respond, follow and hold on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Time

“He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.” Ecclesiastes 3:11,12

God gives us the gift of time with one another. We may think we never have enough time but in God’s time everything fits. We squander time, wish we had more time or lose time but in God’s time the work that truly needs done, will get done. In God’s time, all will be well and we shall be glad. Life works when we take our eyes off the clock and keep watch with God.

As I entered my grandparent’s TV room, the clock was always right on top of the television, on the right side. No matter where they lived the clock was always in the same place. My grandmother would turn it on and if it were working correctly the light inside would show a waterfall coming down over a ridge. The movement was simple. There was no great splashing or appearances of rafts or people or even branches about to go over the edge. Just the simple continuous flow of the water. The time on the clock meant nothing. I couldn’t even say that the clock worked if the waterfall didn’t because it was the beauty of the falls I cared about, not the time.

My grandparents were just like that clock that sat upon their television. They were just simply continually there for us grandchildren. No matter when I might show up at their house or when I might call to talk, they were always there. They simply had time for us to visit. There was never anything really spectacular about the time we spent with them or the talks we had or the dinners we shared. They were glad to see us and glad to know we were doing well.


Pass along the gift of time with one another. Simple time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Slip and Slide

I have to laugh because slip and slide could be the lead into words about my spiritual life but today it's all about summer fun.

I sat yesterday and watched as my children played on this long strip of plastic I purchased for $5.00. Oh that so much fun could always cost so little! Set up down the small hill in our backyard with a few added enhancements, and the laughter and summer fun began. At one point a "boogie board" was added but after one hard fall, discarded. Just a few times down from a running start and head first dive and the 13 year old pulled a hole in the side near the bottom but that didn't stop this crew. The hose was repositioned and the fun restarted.

Hey, it does sound a little like my spiritual life; adding a few enhancements, jumping head first into something and having it fall apart just to reposition parts and start all over again.

The boys dropped out of the games on the slip and slide and threw baseball for a while with an older daughter joining and proving she can catch after all. Where was that golden glove during all the early days Allen and I sat in the stands and watched those balls roll farther into the outfield? Oh well, times change and so do the kids.

May they always find this joy in these simple ways.

Monday, May 25, 2009

50 Years

I know that I've dedicated May to our Blessed Mother but today is my sister's 50th birthday and since there were many times in my life when she saved me from some really bad trouble while acting as a mom, I feel inclined to say a few words.
Hand-me-downs in life come in all shapes and sizes. From older sisters they naturally come in the form of clothes and shoes and toys. My sister has always gone well beyond the "physical" hand-me-downs. Advice flows freely from this one and believing God puts everyone in our paths for a reason, I've listened to every word. "Mom will smell that smoke on your clothes." "Don't go out with him, he's gross." "You better get in to practice, coach is mad." "Are you gonna wear that?" "Did you remember mom's birthday?" "You know what we can do to your house?" "Leave your kids with me." "Put carpet down." "Strip those floors." "You can do it." "You need to call Jeanne." "I'm coming in." "I'll fix it when I get there." And so much more. She has saved me more times than I can count.
Donna has survived 48 years and 10 months of me beneath her in a bunk bed and doubling on the seat of our bike, pretending like I was her while talking to her boyfriends on the phone (oooo!), having her drive me around all over the place and sharing the same everything.
Funny thing in all these years is that although God made us complete opposites, we're perfect for one another. She's a cheerleader and I'm an athlete. She loves the farm and I'm a city girl. She's dark haired and I'm blond. She's slight and I'm slightly not. She's always one step ahead of me, but I'm right behind. Another year and 2 months and she'll be passing on the big 5-0. With that, I'm sure they'll always be more. Keep passing it on sista. I love you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Medjugorje

October 25, 1987

“Dear children, today I want to call all of you to decide for Paradise. The way is difficult for those who have not decided for God. Dear children, decide and believe that God is offering Himself to you in His fullness. You are invited and you need to answer the call of the Father, who is calling you through me. Pray, because in prayer each one of you will be able to achieve complete love. I am blessing you and I desire to help you so that each one of you might be under my motherly mantle. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

In October 1987, following a long flight in a large airplane, a short flight in a small airplane and a long bus ride, my mom and I landed in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia to find out more about "what was going on over there." What we found, what we participated in and what we heard was the deep faith of thousands of pilgrims in Our Lady, in her Son and in the Church. We listened to the message given to the visionaries, much like the message above, about prayer and about peace and about the Blessed Mother's gentle love for each of us and her desire for each of us to gain Heaven. We attended masses, prayed rosaries, climbed mountains and witnessed indescribable happenings. The local people were more than hospitable and we were treated as family by most we met. We saw those who climbed the slate mountain in bare feet, we had one in our group climb in patent leather shoes, we heard songs to Mary, the familiar meditations on the Stations of the Cross and multiple versions of the rosary. We took the long journey, we experienced "what was going on over there" and we were once again moved by the deep love of a Mother trying desperately to save her children. A protective, tireless Mother teaching us to pray, to repent, to love one another and to believe in the teachings of her Son. Listen to His call.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reed of God

Through beautiful prose and meditations, Caryll Houselander depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God's music to be played through her. Lovingly bringing Our Lady down off her time-honored, ancient pedestal, Houselander shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal "Yes." With profound theological teachings and appealing imagery, The Reed of God is a spiritual classic written in the mystical tradition of Julian of Norwich.

I would be remiss not to suggest some amazing readings on the Blessed Mother during the month of May. In the introduction to The Reed of God, Houselander speaks to us today.
"In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistable love."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fatima


On this day in 1917 in the small village of Fatima in Portugal, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three poor shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucy.
"Our Lady's requests include praying the daily rosary, wearing the Brown Scapular, sacrifices to save sinners, devotion of reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the first five Saturdays, amendment of life and the consecration of Russia to the IHM by the Holy Father in union with all the Bishops of the world."

Today, we continue to pass on these messages

My mother and two oldest daughters visited last summer and as with all the apparition sites I have visited, once inside the Basilica and the area near where Mary appeared to the children, there is a presence, a difference, a noticeable holiness.


Replacement oak to symbolize where children were during apparition.


Chapel of Apparition built on the site of the appearance



We carved the names of our family members in the bottom of the candles we lit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rose

Life offers many reasons for unceasing prayer and many reasons for constant thanks. Life is both a challenge and a joy. God has sent us so many ways to offer prayer and thanksgiving. And we know that He finds importance in both because He has sent His Son and His mother and many others to teach us to pray. He also sends us the occasional sign that our prayer is answered and it seems the more answers we receive, the more apt we are to continue the prayers. God knows our very being. He knows how to get us back on our knees.
My mother would often, out of nowhere, ask, “Can you smell that?” We knew that meant mom had been praying a novena to St. Theresa and her plea had been answered. St. Theresa must have planted a garden of roses each year just for my mother. Mom always shared when prayers worked with outward physical signs we could understand. She knew if she had proof, there was a chance we’d try them ourselves in our deepest needs.
My grandmother, Rose Reginald Mary Claire Dalton Dortch, was an amazing woman. Another person in our lives who loved and lived her Catholic faith. My grandfather had a Baptist upbringing and my grandmother told me how she never pushed Catholicism on him. She invited but never pushed and eventually he joined the Catholic Church. She was gentle and kind and incredibly intelligent. Always offering but never unloading. Her pleasure in giving to anyone around her made her a constant joy to be around. We rarely went to her house that we did not leave with something from her cedar chest. “Come back in my room and let’s see if I have anything you want.” She’d open that big chest, always at the end of her bed, and offer us whatever treasure she happened to have at the time. The huge wooden box was always filled with surprises. She was constantly giving.
At the age of one hundred and two, with my grandfather long since gone, my grandmother moved to a place where she could have round the clock help if she needed. As I left Mass one day, a young woman approached me and introduced herself as one of the nurses taking care of my grandmother, Rose. She felt compelled to share that she had prayed a novena to St. Theresa for a desperate need and after the nine days was distraught not to have received a confirmation that all would be well. On that day, she was assigned my grandmother as a patient. So focused in search of a long stemmed flower or the scent of such, it took her some time to realize that St. Theresa had sent her Rose in a different way.

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY !

Monday, May 4, 2009

Our Lady of Lourdes

-Catholic Weekly-January, 1958
"Few indeed are those who are present as eyewitnesses of one of those rare but terribly real occurrences in which the omnipotence of God strikes through the shadows of time and space to bind up and heal the broken bodies of men. But the evidence of these visitations is indisputable... God of course chooses His own times and places and occasions for the miraculous, but His power shines forth most frequently where His Mother is honored and venerated."

June 25, 1984
My first visit to Lourdes was while backpacking through Europe. One of the Nashville Dominicans had given me the name of a Sister at the Poor Clare Convent with whom I could stay. Sr. Benigne, her brother Dominique and the cook ran the place. They put me in a small room with a shower down the hall. They fed me and four seminarians an incredible lunch. We helped clean the dishes; Dominique informed me of the rules and I went out to walk around Lourdes. I entered the huge Basilica and was taken with the massive mosaics of the Stations of the Cross. Visited the crypt then took the steep hike to the life size bronze Stations of the Cross. As I walked, I was completely moved by the peace that encompassed these mountains. I could not help but spend time at each of these life like figures. I then went down to the Grotto where Mary appeared to Bernadette. I washed my hands and my face in the waters and wondered why I had come to this remote place in the Pyrenees so far from anyone I knew. I went back to my room and rested until dinner then headed back to the Basilica for the Procession. I stood on top of the Basilica as thousands of people prayed and sang together, each in their own language. The rosary was prayed in at least six different languages. Everyone raised their torches up during certain parts. Small children went by in wheelchairs and strollers, as well as the young and the old. The number of volunteers was unreal, especially the girls no older than me. Somehow, standing on top of that Basilica, watching the amazing faith of all those thousands of people, I was changed. I could never explain how or why, but I was one of those present when "the power of God shines forth where His Mother is honored and venerated." I was strengthened in faith, proud to be Catholic and to this day strive to follow the messages of prayer, repentance and fasting.

Mary came a long way to the most remote places to deliver what could be our way to Heaven. In a stable; in remote villages; in tiny chapels. She goes on our behalf to deliver messages to save us. She teaches us unconditional love and we in turn are challenged to pass on those teachings; to lead others back to Jesus, to pray and to sacrifice and to repent and to simply love. We are challenged to go to the most remote places in our hearts and in the hearts of others and to spread the love of Christ; to show compassion, to show kindness, to show forgiveness, to show hospitality and acceptance. It is our duty to continue Mary's messages.