Monday, December 31, 2012

Radio Maria

I had the extreme pleasure of joining Ken Huck at Maria Radio for "Meet the Author" to talk about my new book "Jesus at My Side" as well as a few other titles. I wondered how I would ever fill an hour and yet time seemed to fly by as we discussed books and family and business. Thank you Ken!



http://radiomaria.us/meettheauthor/2012/12/23/december-20-2012-julie-cragon/

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Littlest Lamb

When our children get to fifth grade at St. Henry's, each December they are assigned a "Nativity Project". They are asked to create a nativity scene from items around the house (in our case with help from Michael's) and write a meditation from the perspective of one of the "characters" in the scene.  My children have chosen the star and the shepherd and the donkey and others, all special and well thought-out, each making me cry for a different reason; a memory, a connection, a love of the sensitivity. This year my youngest chose to make her nativity from clay and to write her meditation from the perspective of the littlest lamb.  How appropriate for the youngest to choose the smallest! I was moved by her excitement and creativeness, using cotton pads for angel wings, her Nike shoe box with bark on top for a stable and crayon tips for the kings' crowns.  But most of all, I loved the gifts from the kings.  The gold, frankincense and myrrh were a gold Hershey wrapper, coffee grounds mixed with paprika and crunched sugar pops. They looked great and I was all ready to blog about the great gifts the kings brought to offer to the sweet baby Jesus. But then, it happened on the day the project was due; this past Tuesday. The Gospel reading was about the Good Shepherd...the lost sheep...the leaving all to save just one. I was reminded quickly and blatantly of my child's meditation. I was reminded of her seriousness about her poor little lamb who followed this shepherd who was led by a star across fields he had never crossed, to a place where poor parents were huddled around a small newborn baby in a "hay-filled" stable.  This little lamb moved closer to the baby to offer him warmth. And days later as the kings presented their gifts, the little lamb realized that this child was special. He realized that although he had his own shepherd who led him to this place far from home, he now was in the presence of the true shepherd who would give everything to save even one, even the littlest one. This child who made gifts for royalty to present to the newborn king from coffee grounds and candy wrappers and sugar pops found the true gift to all of us in the story of the birth of the One who will shepherd us, who will lead us, protect us, carry us.  To her it wasn't about the gifts that were given but the gift that we received and we continue to receive every Christmas morning. It is all about that newborn baby, our Shepherd, our Savior, Jesus.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Are You Willing to Risk Going Without Tomorrow

I read somewhere recently in a blog or a magazine or a book (I wish I could remember where so I could give the writer credit), "What if you only had left today what you thanked God for yesterday?" Now I realize that seems pretty obvious. We should be grateful and I believe most of the people I come into contact with during my day would say they are grateful for what they receive each day and for the people in their lives but think about the question on a more literal level. What if we happen to forget for one day to literally get down on our knees or sit on our couch or at our desk or our kitchen table and thank God for our parents or our children or our job or the house we live in or the school we attend, our clothes, our shoes, our mode of transportation, etc. etc? This has really made me pause each day and form sentences of gratefulness to our great God. Personally, I know I have a lot of "stuff" I can do without but there is also much I would never want to lose.
This Advent Season has been and still is one of specific, verbalized thankfulness for the people and the comforts in my life. This challenge, this question of gratefulness should make us stop and think about all we have and all we are willing to lose. I know, I know, God knows we are grateful just as well as we know our children are grateful for all we provide, but don't we think every now and then, every day of this joyful season, we could take the time to say the words? We know how much it means to us to hear those words of thanks for a good dinner or a new pair of shoes. Today and from this day forward, thank Him. Take nothing for granted. Say the words. Don't risk it. Be grateful.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St Andrew Novena Starts Tomorrow!

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 Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Question For Today

If we were asked to give of ourselves by God Himself, for example maybe the very coat off our backs in this cold weather, would we have to clear out so much of our own "stuff" beforehand that we might just miss the opportunity?

As I went to stand in the Chapel for Mass, I reached my chilled hands into my coat pockets only to find them full of junk. Notes I had made at Christmas Village over the weekend for customers, my phone for some reason (turned off), my wallet, my keys and a few other receipts from a previous trip along with some change. Now really. Why all the junk? And, I heard loud and clear, "If I needed you to give that coat to someone less fortunate right this very minute, you would have to take several minutes just to clear out your own "stuff" and by then, the need could be over." Seriously. It made me stop and think about how much I have in my life that I truly need to get rid of physically or mentally so that I can give to those God wants me to give to instantly. We often burden ourselves or bog down ourselves so much that we make ourselves unable to do His work efficiently and in this world, with all that is going on, we need to be efficient and effective in God's work on earth.

Between this week and last I have been stopped inside the store, inside Church, at a Christmas show and at a workshop and asked to stop everything I was doing and pay attention to one of God's people. I have been asked to listen to, to pray for, to work with and to take time for and as I reached into my pockets this morning, I was given an image of what God saw as I tried my best in the midst of my busyness. I'm not saying that I didn't do well or poor pitiful me, I have so much on my plate. I'm just saying that I heard Him say to me this very morning, Be Ready! Lighten your personal load and help me out! Be an empty vessel! Be open! Be prepared!

So, if you're like me during the Holiday Seasons and you tend to load yourself with a lot of your own "stuff" or even throughout the year if your mind and your heart and your calendar are always cluttered, maybe it's time to let go of some things and make room for the One that really matters.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week at a Glance

My parents subscribe to the Magnificat; therefore, so do I. They both read morning Scripture; therefore, so do I. They both attend morning Mass; therefore, I'm working on that. Ya see, I see that they have had a pretty good life overall. Yes, the trials (me included) and yes, the daily grind, but overall I bet they would say it's been good. And, I bet they'd say they attribute most of it, if not all of it, to their faith. Many "things" our parents hand down to us, we may not really want. For instance, in the doctor's office yesterday for my son's physical, the doc started going over all the medical issues on both sides of our family and man, please, feel free not to hand those down. But, the faith, the trust in God for everything, the gratefulness to God for it all, even in the toughest times...that, we welcome to be handed down.
All of this brings me to a quick sharing of a glance at my week. Monday morning, my eldest had a late start so as my routine is to wake him at 6am then my daughter next, I completely forgot to wake my daughter. As 6:36 rolled around, I jumped from in front of my computer and ran to her room. Her ride was outside the house at 6:40. At 6:50 she got in the car. "Tell them I am so sorry. And yes, you can also set the alarm on your phone from now on." I didn't want all the blame. Now, the 6:30 shower for the next son was off time wise, and so was mine, which made the youngest late to wake and we were rushing to school like a crazy family. Thank goodness we are 3 minutes away. As I knelt before Mass, all I could say was "hectic" and all I got in return was "rest in Me". All I needed. And the morning prayer in the Magnificat, "Every morning we arise afresh in Christ our Light". Thank the good Lord tomorrow morning promises the possibility of a better start. Tuesday morning, all was well and again, I knelt before Mass and lifted up my children to be watched over and guided and guarded and I received that my eldest' pause in her job (Monday was her first day without work so she is doing much needed online work for the bookstore) was not about anything more than using her as an instrument to further evangelize. And the meditation in the Magnificat, "Stop trying to think out a solution for the moment; there isn't one. One day there may be; God will then show it to you. In the meantime, accept it all as being the big thing for God and his Church that he asks of you..." Wednesday, my youngest was serving for the all school Mass and as I sat in the Church, the sun was shining right into my face, blinding me. I kept my head down and read in my Magnificat before Mass, "The bright light of the risen Sun, Jesus Christ, shines to all parts of the earth. Let us walk in His light and follow His way, that, reflecting His brightness, we may enlighten the eyes of the blind with faith and hope." As the Mass progressed, I noticed that same Sun was shining intensely on the face of my little altar server. And lastly for any readers that have hung on this long, today, on my day off, I was headed to vote and read, "Let us put into God's hands our heart, our soul, the deep recesses of our being wherein dwell those beliefs and thoughts that govern our actions, so that He may guide us in the ways of the Gospel." May the Gospel be our guide, every hour of every day, a day at a time and a week at a glance. And, may God Bless America!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ugly, Awful, Feet

I truly believe that all we need for our day, to know what to do and how to do it, is Scripture. If we could just read Scripture and follow it, we would be a much better world. Today, I get this message, not just once in the morning meditation from the Magnificat, but a second time as the entrance antiphon. Gosh, talkin about God really wanting me to get the message! 


"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation."  Isaiah 52:7

Okay, that was weird. I typed this once and it jumped off the page and I had to type in again. Man, okay, I get it already!

Anyway, this morning I was thinking about how completely selfish I have been the past couple of weeks because I have been so incredibly busy and I have had many "things" due for mid-October. The bookstore had to be in 3 different locations in one week, I had to write wording for a couple of different TV commercials, I had a proposal due for a book I am working on, I needed to order contacts for my daughter, get her to her orthodontist appointment, get her to the dentist for some teeth to be pulled, finish up volleyball season with another daughter, I had to schedule dentist and doctor appointments for my son, get hotel rooms for my trips to Lake Barkley, Cleveland and New Orleans, and along with it all, I still had to work at the store and do laundry, cook and help with homework and college applications. I was no fun what so ever! I was really very selfish thinking that I was the only one who had anything to do. I even whined to one of my good friends about how much I had to do. Come on! Hahaha. We can all see the common word in this hoopla. Sounds like one side of the Debate the other night...I, I, I. Then, I get this in my morning meditation and at Mass this morning. "How beautiful...brings glad tidings...peace...good news...salvation." All I see is "how ugly...brings selfishness...I'm too busy...not right now...I'm the only one in the world."

Then, the Scripture message goes even further, "he sent ahead of him in pairs". In pairs! We are not meant to do this alone. This is when we could get caught by the evil one. And I so did. This is when we are apt to be tested...when we try to go it alone...then we are vulnerable. We are meant to be paired up. To go in twos at least. To ask for and receive help. We must get over the "poor pitiful me, I have to do everything myself" and get the help we need. So what if we have to continually ask when we really want others to jump in like they should automatically. So what. So...I made lists and my husband and my mom and my sister helped me get the workshops done and my husband helped call around and get appointments and hotel reservations. (By the way babe, we still need one for New Orleans, if you're reading.) And my kids pitched in and helped unload the van from the workshops and ate whatever I brought home and my son actually cooked for the other kids in my absence and drove others where they needed to be. And, my eldest came in, took a personal day at work, and entertained some out of town guests with my husband, sister, mom and employees at the store. She and my mom really did the wording for the TV commercials. And my two oldest called and listened and sympathized as they usually do for pooooorrrr mom.

Ya see, despite my ugly, awful feet, others helped to bring gladness and peace and good news. I was never alone even when I thought I might be and Scripture is point blank on target in my life...as it is in all our lives if we just open the Book.

St. Luke, Patron Saint of Artists

 On this Feast Day of St. Luke, I'd like to share some of my mom's wonderful artwork. 
You can see more at www.jeandortch.com .


Call to Prayer

Just Before Sunset

Raw Beauty

Spring at Radnor

North Carolina Beauty

Light in the Dark


Mountain Majesty

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On the Road Again

Once again I had the incredible opportunity to set up shop in Maggie Valley, NC for the priests of the Charlotte Diocese. Each year I take a van load of books and vestments and churchware for them to peruse between scheduled events of their retreat. Each year I come away with a little more on my mind. The area alone is worth the drive and the time. It is beautiful in those mountains as the leaves are turning colors, with the cool air moving in.

I was a little hectic before I left, setting up a book fair for one of the area schools and leaving my family to host the Midwest Church Guild for the weekend and on Monday and having my mom and my sister cover for me at a book club on Tuesday taking books to be donated to an area hospital. But, it all worked out as usual and I am home, having driven until after midnight and picking up the last of the book fair this morning.

Each day that I was in Maggie Valley I thought about how hectic I had been trying to get everything settled before I left. I thought about how hectic I make my life and I thought about what I could do to make things a little less hectic. Hmmm. Not take the bookstore out to the people. Well, no, that's part of our mission. Not be in the Catholic Book Club. Well, no, I enjoy those people and it makes me read books I normally may never read. Not allow people from other parts of the U.S. to come visit our store and see how we operate and what an amazing job my mom and sister do with our displays and my husband does in the small space we allow him to have. Well, no, I think God gave them talents that need to be shared. Not write. Well, no way, I love to write. So, this day as I begin the first day of a Year of Faith, I am contemplating all that God has put into my life, my awesome kids included, and I am thanking Him every day for the opportunity to have to juggle, to have to find creative ways to get it all done. Sitting alone for 3 days with the occasional visit from a priest can make a person contemplate. Lord, what do You want me to do each day? Teach me Your ways. Let me be Your hands. Let me walk Your path. Show me. Lead me. Give me Faith.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Humbling

I just have to share this moment. God is so good. He knows I do much better with the flashing light signs and signals and confirmations. He knows that I am more like Thomas than I would ever care to admit. He knows that every once in a while I need a message that tells me that no matter what type of struggles I may be going through or what others may think or say, I'm doing okay in His book. Keep working hard. Keep praying that what you do or say works for someone. Keep believing in the mission. One person could be changed by one word or one book or one bit of kindness.
A couple of weeks ago, I was on the balcony at the store taking a look to see what kind of books I could take for a workshop. We have had a lot of book tables lately...a good thing...and I am grateful. Before I could exit, this big man came toward me and said, "You've worked here quite a few years haven't you?" He had my undivided attention because I was not getting past him anyway. "Yes sir." "Do you have a second?" Here it comes..."I just wanted to tell you that I have come in here since the 1980's and when I first started coming with my friend I was Church of Christ. He convinced me to become Episcopal. We have continued to come into the store a couple of times a year." "Oh. That is great." Then...it surprised me..."Well, I am now studying to be Catholic. I am taking RCIA classes and I wanted you to know that this store has been a large part of my journey to the Catholic Faith." Well, I thanked him for sharing that, truly thanked him and found myself crying as I spoke. I was completely choked up.
You see, my mom has done such an amazing job keeping this Catholic Bookstore up in Nashville against the odds. I say that because when she bought it from the Diocese and enlarged it to the four story building it sits in today, it was really a leap of faith. The percentage of Catholics at that time was I believe 2.5% in Nashville and it may be 7% now. She was very careful to make the store a place for everyone, of all faiths and of no faith. Today there is a flashing sign right in front of me, actually blocking my way, that says that her hard work, her prayer, her belief in the mission, her faith, our God, has made a difference. It was humbling to hear this man speak of his journey, to share his story, to include the store. Completely humbling.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Forest For the Trees

Path thru the Gates
We had a new priest Sunday from the Josephites in New Orleans. May I say, what a delight! Our Parish has been very fortunate in that because our pastor has been on leave for an extended time, we have had visiting priests who have all brought their own flavor to the Mass, of course, including the homily. Some chant, some don't, some speak very good English, some don't, some follow the same way as far as the mechanics, some don't, but they all make us pay close attention for some reason or another and they all wake us from the sometimes regular Mass (although I know no Mass is really "regular"), same voice, same motions, similar lessons we have come accustomed to hearing. And, that has been a beautiful thing, for me at least. Anyway, to the point...

Fr. John opened his homily Sunday with the old saying, "can't see the forest for the trees". He used this to make the point that neither the elders who prophesied with Moses nor John could see that the men who were working outside "their" groups were still doing good. They were so busy nit-picking the fact that they were not "one of them" that they couldn't see the good work happening. This hit me right between the eyes because I had just sat with a small group, each of us bemoaning some nit-picky person or thing in our lives that just wasn't working with us. You know, our way. As the priest spoke, it hit me how important it is to look beyond the person, the place or the thing and see the big picture. For all we know, God has sent us that very occasion as an aide to get us one rung up on the ladder to Heaven. The very person, the very thing in our lives that drives us absolutely out of our minds, could be who or what we should be the most grateful for in such a way that how we handle it or him or her could make for a wonderful spiritual encounter. Hmmm. Something to truly ponder. What is the big picture for me? How can I trim down all those trees and prune away all those branches so as to find a path that will guide me in the right direction? Through the gates? Not necessarily an easy path, but once found and surrendered to, a path to complete happiness.

Unlike the football fans, I've loved our replacements and yet like those fans, I will love having our pastor back.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doesn't Look Like 80

My dad gave my mom 80 roses for her 80th Birthday last week. How sweet is that? My niece and my daughter had to count them because the way they were so beautifully arranged made it seem like there could not possibly be 80 roses in the vase. Well, there were and they were big and they were beautiful and they are extremely long lasting. Thinking about these roses has made me think a lot about my mom. She too is beautiful and for her barely 5' frame (so she believes...I think she's 4'11" now) she is big and she is bold. When she is in a room, people love to look at her and they admire her and they want to talk to her and hear what she has to say. Heck, she never stops making others look good or sharing God's handiwork or passing on some bit of wisdom she has acquired. She rarely sits still, constantly doing something to make herself grow or learn or to make one of her grandchildren or children grow or better themselves.

Her favorite and probably most frequented prayer is (I think) the Novena Prayer to St. Therese of Lisieux:

Saint Therese, the Little Flower, please pick me a rose from the heavenly garden and send it to me with a message of love. Ask God to grant me the favor I thee implore and tell Him I will love Him each day more and more. Amen

(The prayer above, plus five Our Father’s, five Hail Mary’s, and five Glory Be to the Father’s, must be said on five successive days before 11 a.m. On the fifth day, when the fifth set of prayers have been completed, offer one more set - five Our Father’s, five Hail Mary’s, and five Glory be to the Father’s) 

Invariably after saying this prayer in intercession for someone, she has received a rose, roses or the fragrance of roses to confirm her prayers were heard. So it is no wonder that the gift of roses is very special to my mom.

She certainly does not look or act 80, whatever that's suppose to be I suspect. She asks, "What am I suppose to be like at 80?" as she fills out the third entry form for another art exhibit in October or as she moves a display at the bookstore with one of her grandchildren or as she hops on the computer to check her email or drags her easel out of the car to paint at Radnor Lake. I'm pretty sure for her 80 is just like that huge vase of roses that she got from my dad. Big. Bold. Full of Life. Blooming. Hard to hold in one place. And Beautiful.

Just so ya know, I flipped the roses image about 10 times and every time I put it on this page it ends up on it's side. I guess that's another quality this vase of roses shares with my mom, she is not easily swayed once she gets her mind set so we might as well just go with it her way. Usually, all is well if not better.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wash With Tears

Today we read in the Gospel the story of the "sinful woman" who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears. She never says a word. She uses her sorrow for her sins for the good of another and in return, without asking, she is made clean. Her faith saves her and she is given the gift of peace.

I have to ask myself today, what do I do in times of sorrow? How do I react to others? Is there some way to actually turn my times of sorrow into some sort of good for someone else? Why should I? It's the time when I may want others to come to my rescue, to attend to my needs, to give me attention. And yet, maybe it's the time when Jesus asks me to have Faith, to sit with Him and to accept the gift of peace, to be an example to those around me. This lesson I read today is a tough lesson for me to even fathom. In the times of my greatest loss, of my greatest fear, of my greatest anxiety, how can I turn this into something good for others? How can I see beyond myself?

Jesus tells me today that especially in my darkest moments, in my brokenness, in my sorrow, I am to have faith. He will bring me peace. He will cleanse me of my sins. He will be my consolation.

My mother has always, and I have mentioned it before, told us to "wash feet". She has passed on the idea that until we have been in someone else' shoes, we have no idea. Maybe it is times such as this, our own times of sadness, or fear, or anxiety, that we can understand just what others go through and we can ourselves be witnesses to what it means to truly have Faith.

Today, as I envision this woman's tears washing the feet of Christ, may I learn to wash, may I take the time, may I make a difference, and most of all, may I not say a word and simply have Faith.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Language of Kindness

"Being a disciple of Christ means being meek and gentle." St. John Chrysostom

As I park, I notice she is at the Grotto, bowing slightly toward the large figure of Our Blessed Mother. I don't walk past her, not wanting to disturb her time in prayer. I walk around and hop up the larger flight of stairs and head for the Chapel. I sit and read a little about the Saint of the Day, St. John Chrysostom, "Golden Mouth". I read a bit on his amazing talent of preaching and of using his words, the words of Christ, to turn others to the Faith. I sit and listen. Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I notice she enters the room. As usual, those who come in after her, old and young alike, stop for a hug or exchange a smile or a soft spoken word. It happens every morning but this particular morning it hits me. She speaks very little English and even that is rarely understandable. And. That's. Just. It. We all understand the language of kindness. She is meek and she is gentle and she is always kind and all can understand. She never fails to ask me about my children and my parents and to tell me about her grandchildren. She is always smiling and praying and touching her lips to her hands and passing that kiss on to the figure of Mary or of Joseph or of Jesus. She is always in that Chapel and her kindness and her love for her Faith is an example to us all. She is truly an example of being a disciple of Christ and although we can rarely translate the words, we easily understand the language. As St. John Chrysostom spoke to small and great alike and all were able to understand by his word and his example, so too can those who have mastered the language of kindness.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Barely Squeezing By

Last week as I was headed into the Chapel, the automatic door was closing and I turned slightly sideways and squeezed in, not having to push the door back open. I immediately thought, that is so me, just barely squeezing by in my spiritual life.
Mass was about to start and I didn't have time to read my Magnificat so I squeezed in the morning reading and the meditation on the Gospel during the short pauses of the Mass and some of the parts of the Homily. (Don't tell Fr.)
I've been thinking about my lack of organization lately, at home and at work. I blame it all on being out of town for a week and having a difficult time catching up but truth is it's more about goofin' off. Not that there's anything wrong with a little goofy around but let's face it, it can cause us to get behind and stay behind and we don't want to be continually late with God. Um, I can picture the Gates just closing as I sprint to squeeze into my Eternal Reward, or not. And why? Because I didn't take His Words seriously? Because I was goofin' off instead of working? Because I didn't take time to listen?
I'm pretty sure that I'm barely squeezing by because I'm doing more talking than listening. That's how it was the other day. I was outside the Chapel talking to a friend and her children before school, ya know, entertaining them with my mouth, and I missed my time for spiritual reading. Missed it. So often, I kneel down in there and start all my yammerin and I hear Him say clearly, "Shhhhh! Listen! I have the words of Everlasting Life." How more direct can that be?
For the most part, my dad gets to the Chapel for morning prayer about two hours before Mass. He's passed that example on to us just as he and my mom have of going to daily Mass. They both give time to Jesus in the morning and in return He gives them time to get all that needs done in a day, done. Now why in the world am I still just squeezing by? Fifty some years of hand me downs and I am still goofin' off. Lord, help me to do more than just squeeze by in this life. Teach me to close my mouth and open my heart and get where You want me to be.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Working As One



When we were young, my mom tried the “new” peanut butter and jelly in one jar. Thinking this would be easier, she proudly placed the jar in the cabinet, or was it in the refrigerator? Maybe that was the problem. We decided it should be kept cold after it was opened because of the jelly and then the peanut butter was difficult to spread because it was hard. Back to the old way quickly. Let the peanut butter be peanut butter and the jelly be jelly, so when they are put together they are one—perfectly one. The best of both together.
As Jesus speaks to us, He reminds us of the importance of a husband and a wife joining together to become one. They bring out the best of themselves and make a better life. We are called to leave our father and our mother and find our vocation where we will bring the best of ourselves to make this life a little better, to become one with what He has planned for us. Whether we are the thick, smooth peanut butter or the chunky, sweet jelly, we are made to join together with Jesus, with His Church, with one another to become one, to become better.  To mesh.     "Jesus at My Side"


“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”
Mark 10:7, 8


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You Look So Familiar. Do I Know You?

Using Social Media Tools to Communicate and to Serve
Last week I traveled to Arlington, Texas for the CMN Trade Show, Catholic Writers Conference, and CMNC. What a wonderful opportunity to sit and listen to professionals speak about the importance of social media to our businesses whether we are bookstore owners (brick and mortar as well as on-line), writers or publishers.

I have a habit of thinking that I know people when in reality I have only seen them somewhere or they simply look like someone I know. I can't help it and now neither can my daughter. We actually can be driving down the interstate, halfway to Florida, and she can swear she knows someone in the car next to us. Now come on! Really! But, most of the time, she does know people in the most unlikely places.

As I jumped on board the Trolley outside the Crown Plaza Hotel at 6:30 A.M., heading for Mass at the Arlington Convention Center, I greeted a nice young girl seated in the first seat. I'm thinking, Wow! She looks familiar. Of course she does. We as a family know everyone as does my brother and my parents...ha. She swings around and notices my name tag and says, "I thought I recognized you. You're from St. Mary's Bookstore." "I am. Where are you from?" "I'm from Gallatin but I was in the store last week and I think you found a book for me for the Catechetical program I'm in." "Oh yes! The Craft of Catechesis. I remember." Ahhhh! Great. Someone to hang with a little while I'm a long way from home alone. Seems she was there for the Catholic Writers Conference. I was so fortunate to find her and sit with her during a few sessions of the Catholic Writers Conference and the Catholic Media Conference. What a great time! We both have a lot to learn and the talks were so helpful. Now we just have to put them into practice.

But, here's something else important about the entire week. I recognized so many of the authors, both of books and of blogs. I was in awe of the group of talented people so willing to give of their time and their energy to share with us the importance of what we do as Catholic authors. I realized that people do recognize us because of what we do and what we say. It is very important to understand that we do represent this large Faith Community and we can make a difference in this world. We can bring others to Christ. We are here to serve. And, hey, I do know you. I have read your words, I have bought your products and they have made a difference in my world. I knew you looked familiar.

Monday, August 27, 2012

St. Monica and St. Augustine

On these back to back Feasts of St. Monica and St. Augustine, it is difficult not to realize the responsibility we have to not just raise our children, but to raise them in the Faith and to keep at it until they fully understand what Jesus wants from us in this world. We have all heard parents say, “Well, they are old enough to make their own decisions.” “It’s time for them to make big kid choices.” From the stories of St. Monica and St. Augustine, we should never assume our kids will come back to the Faith or will make the right choices. Monica was hard core when it came to her son. She followed him all over and never stopped praying for him to turn his life around. Sixteen years of prayer and tears. Sixteen years! Finally, it all paid off. Monica could move on up to Heaven where she longed to be with God and she would know that Augustine would someday be there too.

Yesterday was my boy’s birthday. The Feast of St. Monica and St. Augustine is truly a good connection because they remind me how important my job is as his mother. They remind me that I can never do enough, ask enough questions, give enough instructions or pray enough. Years can pass and yet, they are still the children that God entrusted to me to get back to Him.

“You have made us for yourself , O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (St . Augustine)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sharing my Magnificat today. I have read this from Maximilian Kolbe twice this month so it must be worth repeating:

"Mary has a right to be loved as Queen of all hearts so that, through her, hearts would be cleansed and themselves become immaculate, similar and like unto her own heart, and so worthy of union with God."

"Today's feast reminds us that holiness means depending on God. The Queenship of Mary invites us to exercise our obedience to God in a way that results in, not submission, but likeness."

"Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." Heb. 4:16

This picture was taken this summer in the Chapel at the University of Dayton when my kids and I stopped to see where my dad went to college. Love this campus and this Chapel!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Eye of the Needle

“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24

Every year, I don’t fully understand it, but either my children grow or their clothes shrink in the dryer because I am constantly changing the hem on their pants. Even with my reading glasses, it is getting more difficult to put the thread through that tiny slit in the needle to get started. I know, bigger needles, bigger eyes, but then it is more difficult to sew and make it look nice. So, I have grown fond of the “needle threader” with the flexible wire loop on the end that I can slip through the eye of the needle and pull the thread through easily. The cheapest item in the sewing department and yet I have found it the most helpful.

Jesus tells us that entering His kingdom will not be easy. He never said life would be easy. His way is simple but difficult, especially in today’s world. We have to go against the grain. We have to find the tiniest little loop holes and we have to make conscious efforts. We have to fit into the smallest spaces. We have to work hard at the most difficult tasks. Strive to pass.

-Jesus at My Side

Jesus gives us much to think about today. The eye of the needle, giving up brothers and sisters and mother and father, inheriting eternal life, the last shall be first. Figuring out all of these words and putting them into practice can be a monumental task but I believe He wants us to take things one step at a time meticulously working toward a full inheritance. Pull out something from all the Words today or from the life of St. Pius X or from his words “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor” and work on one task at a time. In this world we will need all the help we can get to pass through the eye of a needle. Some days I know that eye is getting smaller and smaller for me. Pray for one another. Strive.

Monday, August 20, 2012

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Today is the Feast Day of St. Bernard and while reading a short bio of his life I not only read about his reform of Monastic life and his settling of schisms in the church but also about his deep love for Mary. I found his words most comforting for this time in our world when life seems uncertain. I have been spending quite a bit of time lately reading about Our Lady. I have a "bee in my bonnet" as my mother would say and I have been working it through with Her, believing she has something to help me with that I haven't quite "put my finger on". These particular words, this particular morning, were exactly what I needed. As you well know, I love when this happens. Just the right sign, at just the right time, sent from above. God-incidence.

“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal” (St. Bernard).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Legacy Continues

Today's a big day! My third daughter Margaret is going for registration and orientation at St. Cecilia Academy. Attending SCA is a long standing tradition in our family. My grandmother (Rose Dalton Dortch), her niece (Agnes Eckhardt Nixon), my mother (Jean Drennan Dortch), my two sisters (Jeanne Dortch Rast and Donna Dortch Turner), my sister-in-law and her girls (Mary Jo Luster Dortch, Betsy and Claire, and me and my two older daughters (Beth and Sarah) have all gone to SCA. This Friday, the legacy continues. Off and on for over 100 years, we have been a part of an awesome family, the St. Cecilia Dominican Sisters. We are blessed to have our children taught by this congregation of amazing women who's love for God and complete joy speaks the Gospel message and the love of Jesus Christ. We are excited to have another daughter who will enjoy the fun of Freshman-Senior week, St. Cecilia Day and Father-Daughter Dance. She is very excited to finally begin to experience some of the same traditions she has heard about in many, many stories. So today, the legacy continues and I hope and pray these four years are as memorable and wonderful as the four years I had at St. Cecilia. We are proud of you Margaret!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Human and Divine

Father's explanation of the Gospel reading today struck home big time. I so often wonder how I can be so bad and yet feel God pull me toward writing for the good or working in His name. You know, like how I can pull close in traffic so someone who has obviously seen the "lane closed" sign just like the rest of us cannot get way up at the front of the line, while I am praying the second Joyful Mystery. Or, kneel in the Chapel and wonder when the lady down front is going to take out her crying child. Or, buy some saints medals to bring home from a beautiful grotto visit and express to others that the clerk who waited on me was cranky. (Be careful. As my mother would say, what goes around comes around.)

Today, when asked by Jesus, "Who do you say that I am?", we hear Peter say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And in return, Peter is made head of the church and given the keys of the Kingdom. Later, we hear Jesus tell of his upcoming suffering and death and Peter reacts instantly saying that he would never let something like that happen and Jesus responds, "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Peter is seen here as both thinking in the ways of the Divine and the human. And, he is still made the head of the church on earth. He is still given the keys. God still loves him, trusts him and empowers him and so He does us.

God knows we are not perfect. He knows we share both the sides of the human and the divine. He simply wants us to work more toward the Divine. He wants us to strive. He wants us to pray and He wants us to ask for the grace to do better every day. In the midst of this crazy world, ask for the grace.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Welcome to the World

I just had to share this sweet picture of my great nephews born August 1st.

Knowing their mom and dad, they have a wonderful, full life ahead of them!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

One week ago today three of my daughters and I were cruising around Washington, DC. As unplanned as the trip was with no hotel reservations (proved to be stressful a couple of nights), an atlas, a GPS (Emma) and some ideas about where I wanted to go in our 5 day tour (ideas that changed daily), it all turned out to be quite amazing. We literally looked up addresses at night, punched them into the GPS in the morning and drove. The girls often thought Emma was leading us to our death but I thought she was wonderful. She got us in and back out of some tough places.

We drove from Manassas, VA where we had found a hotel the night before into Washington to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception without a hitch. Did not know the USCCB was right across the street. Heck, could have picked up my order for encyclicals and Spanish Catechisms for the bookstore.

We entered the Basilica on the lower level and must have looked out of place. A security guard politely asked if we needed help and proceeded showing us where to start in the lower Chapels and how to move to the Upper Level. We toured for several hours. Stopping in each Chapel and reading the prayers on the kneelers in front of the Visions of Our Lady. Seeing where both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict had been. Watching the other people who had come to pray and to touch. Entering the lower Sanctuary and happening upon Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Mary leading us to her Son. Seeing the workmen diligently and reverently replacing the used devotional candles, hundreds burning as prayers to Our Lady for requests, in thanksgiving and in honor. And finally, the same security guard giving us directions to Mary's Garden, one of his "favorite spots". (understandably)

The tour of the Basilica on this day and others was interesting to me for another reason, as well. Each of my girls had different responses, different interests, different gifts to offer. The youngest would not hesitate going straight to the front, kneeling, reading, taking it all in. The oldest could not take enough pictures and read enough of the writings on the walls, from the great Saints and about Our Lady, loving the idea of the many different images from around the world, respectful of all who have immigrated to the U.S. and all who visit. And then my middle girl, watching, waiting at a slight distance, taking it all in cautiously and in her own way loving different areas and happenings, lighting candles for specific requests.

The first tour of the many places in the U.S. where Mary is loved by so many and where so many are loved by her. The first of many places where the people who work there have a love for the people who come as well as a willingness to share their love for Our Mother and her Son. The first of several areas where the young and the old and all in between witness openly to the fact that Christ is alive and waiting, as well as His Mother, for us to come and to visit and to receive the gifts these special places, made to honor them, have to offer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Black Madonna Shrine - Eureka, MO

"Welcome to the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos. A shining example of what one man with faith can achieve."


Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grotto


Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, Mother's Sanctuary, Nativity Grotto,
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto