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


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


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


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.


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.

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Communion, May Procession, Mary

Mary is our perfect model of faith. She is our example of saying “yes” and trusting in God totally and completely.

The month of May in our house and at school was filled with the reminder that Mary is important in the Church. We took time to pray the rosary at home as a family and our school took time to honor Mary in the May procession. The second graders came dressed in their full white communion outfits and the eight grade girls wore pastel or white dresses as they walked in procession and lay “flowers of the rarest” at the feet of the large Lady of Grace statue in our church. Two second graders would present a wreath of flowers to a chosen eighth grade girl who would proceed in climbing a step ladder to place the wreath upon Mary’s head. The entire school sang songs to Mary, “Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May”. Every person in the Church seemed to participate in singing and honoring the Blessed Mother.

Many years after my grade school days, Sr. Mary Samuel, a Dominican sister and family friend, said she would never forget the year she was principal in Memphis and she asked the children the day before May Procession to remember to bring fresh flowers to school to present to the Blessed Mother. The next day the church was filled with fresh flowers to honor Mary and the kindergartners were filled with excitement as they got in their cars at the end of the day. Sister was helping a young child in her car when she heard a mom ask her child, “Honey, how was May Crowning? Did you take your flowers to Mary?” Sister listened carefully for the child‘s excited reaction to the May procession but instead heard a disappointing sigh. “Mom, I took those flowers all the way into the Church and Mary didn’t even show up. And,” sister waited, “we had to put the crown for her on a statue.”

Lord, remind us to use Your Mother as an example of faith. As we pray the rosary, give us the strength to answer “yes” to Your call each day. Teach us to listen, to take time and to respond. Help us to proclaim Your greatness in word and in deed.

Pass It On: This week take time each day to pray the Hail Mary or the Magnificat or the Memorare, slowly, contemplating the words. Talk to our Mother and ask her to help you to see the simple joys in life, listening to Jesus and responding “yes