Monday, October 21, 2013

Black Madonna Shrine, Eureka, Missouri

Often we search with great expectations because of information we have been given in the past or pictures we have seen, only to discover that time changes things. Things, but not love. Things, but not the feeling one gets from standing amongst the Holy. Things, but not the story.
 As we come upon the sign for the Black Madonna Shrine, we are leery about where our salesmen (who sell to both our bookstore and this Shrine) are leading us. We know many of the stories from the past. We know there is a trailer, we know the original Chapel was burned, we know about the story of Our Lady of Czestochowa but we are filled with much more as we wander and as we read and as we visit Mary, alone, just our family. Not another car in the gravel lot, not a person to be seen, the trailer is closed tight with sheets hung over the windows, just us. It is also probably 100 degrees outside so those who may have been around most likely think there will be no visitors. But there is cold water. There are lit candles. She has been visited early and she waits. For us.
Here we are. Here we stand on a concrete slab with pews facing an altar adorned with the image of Our Lady, candles burning.

Here we are given the grace as a family to continue the journey to visit Our Lady in her many Shrines in the United States. Here we are given answers to questions. We are taught about love and sacrifice.

Here we spend time despite the blazing heat and we are given what we need to persevere.

Here we are shown the Way ...

And we find rest.

And so much more...

 I am excited to share our journeys and our stories. This Shrine made the cover of a new book coming in April, 2014. As the date draws closer, I will be sharing many of the pictures from our travels and a little about the visits to Our Lady in hopes that all will want to know more about Her and Her beautiful Shrines throughout the U.S.

Friday, October 18, 2013

St. Luke - Patron Saint of Artists

On this Feast Day of St. Luke, my mother's patron, I thought it would be nice to post some Jean Dortch originals.

Light into Dark

Before Sunset

Raw Beauty

Fall at Radnor

Creek Runs Through

Call to Prayer
Halls of Higher Learning

One talented mama! What a gift!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Charity of Heart

Probably would have been better had I posted this Tuesday when I heard the reading and homily but I am just behind right now. Too much on my plate but enjoying every bite.

"But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you." Luke 11:41

Pretty sure the Pharisees did not understand everything Jesus' was telling them anymore than I usually do, but I'm trying to listen and sometimes, just showing up helps immensely. After the Gospel reading, Fr. spoke about "Charity of Heart". He told a little about the movie "On Golden Pond" and finished with this from Ethel Thayer,

"Sometimes you have to look hard at a person, and realize he's doing the best he can."

Now that's something I can use at home, at work and at school and something I hope others can use when they work with me. Charity of Heart.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Working in the Midst of the Holy

"Hey! Can you help me with candles?" "Sure." "Ya see I've got this little room with my mom's religious things in it and I'd like to light some candles like she used to do. You may have known her. Margaret Booker?" "Known her? I didn't know." "She passed away in 2011. I'm just moving back and trying to get myself together." "She came in here all the time." "I know that's why I'm here."

The man was looking for all the people who connected him to his mom. I, in my usual busy way, did not even realize it had been that long since she had been in. Was she sick? She never seemed sick. She was rather passive most days, just wanting to get her candles and move along. She always asked for me. She was sweet, asking occasionally how she could get the best deal. I got it. I understood. Or did I? Why the hurry? Why did we never chat like I do with other customers? Why did I not realize she hadn't been by the store?

She was just one of those souls who wander the earth, flying low under the radar, making a difference to those who may never remember or realize and yet, to many who will never forget. "Ya know, my mom used to go by the Church and get the flowers they were ready to replace and take them home. I would go in and she would have flowers all over the place, taking out the wilted and replacing them with fresh. She took them to the nursing homes for people who did not have visitors. When she ran out of flowers, she just sat and talked." "What a wonderful woman your mother was!" "She wasn't even sick. She just died one day." "I'm so sorry."

Today after Mass, I had a little sidewalk talk with a long time friend about the meaning of ASK - Ask, Seek, Knock. We agree that God wants us to Ask. He knows what we need. He knows, but He wants us to ASK. He wants us to seek...answers, needs, people, Him, goodness, love and on and on. Look for Him. Look for the good. Look for the needs of others. And, put it into action. Knock on the door, go to Him, let Him open up a whole new world. Be aware of one another. Bang on it if you must but move. Don't sit around waiting for someone or something to come to you.

I am fortunate to work in the midst of so many holy people who I really barely touch the surface of knowing. I am fortunate to have a God who knows me and loves me anyway. To have a God who despite my busy-ness allows me to witness something so much more. I am fortunate that when I don't remember to ASK or am too busy to SEEK, that He pursues me and He knocks. And sometimes, YES, He knocks me over... with His love and His goodness and His mercy.

To Mrs. Booker, my holy friend, and to all who work quietly in our midst, who go unnoticed by our busy lives, I am grateful that you were truly His hands and His feet and His heart. I am grateful for all who do the will of God and ask and seek and knock and make a difference. I am grateful for the son who shared and who wants to take the hand-me-down and pass it on. This is how we learn. This is why the holy are working in our midst.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Retreat at Bethany - Choosing the Better Part

I was fortunate to spend a weekend at the Bethany Retreat Center in Dickson, run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, given by Fr. Kevin from Aquinas College. Along with other mothers from St. Cecilia Academy and Overbrook, I learned about Lectio Divina, about living in this world and not of it, about the importance of praying the Rosary and about myself, who I am called to be. There was absolutely no "new" material given at this retreat and yet I came away with a whole new way of praying and of seeing and of living. Now don't get me wrong, OH THE MILES I HAVE TO GO! But during this weekend (that I was not going to attend until a sweet young Sister happened in the store and reminded me to leave the decision up to the Holy Spirit) I allowed the Sisters at Bethany to "be Martha" and I "Mary" and I sat and I listened. In this weekend, I found SOMETHING MORE, which is just what I need...more.
The place is amazing!
My Quiet Time Spot
Fr. Kevin gave a beautiful talk and shared an example of praying Lectio Divina using the Call of Matthew. As he went through the passage, word by word or a phrase at a time, he contemplated out loud. This was a huge help for me not just with this passage but in praying the Scriptures in general. But, in this passage, he made one particular comment that hit me. He said aloud, "he saw a man named Matthew, he saw a man, he saw Matthew, he saw the potential of what Matthew could be, of what He created him to be, he saw St. Matthew." Fr. Kevin took each couple of words or so this way and after 30 minutes, we had prayed Matthew 9:9-13. That's all! Just 5 verses. And in that one space, I understood that this is what Jesus is asking me to do with my children. I am called to see them not in the moment, not in who they are in front of me as I try to help my youngest study for a test, but who they are to become, what their potential is, who they are called by God to be, the Saints they are to become. And, IT IS NOT EASY. I have been home almost 2 weeks and I think about this passage, this "way", every day. And, IT IS NOT EASY. As I ask what tests my youngest has the following day and as she responds "spelling, but I don't have the words", I'd like to wring her small "potential to be a Saint" neck. She makes me pause. She makes me realize that God has an amazing sense of humor and that from this we will both develop great character. (Oh please tell me it's true).

I have come to understand, as I am reading Scripture, as I am praying Scripture, that the messages are truly beautiful and intense when prayed in this manner. I have come to understand too that the Rosary, which has always been one of my favorite prayers anyway, is truly even more beautiful when contemplated on in this manner. I have come to understand and hope that I can further develop the idea that all of Scripture is meant for this moment. This makes me even more happy that I have taken just the words of Christ and meditated on them in "Jesus at My Side" as I have. And, now, not just His words but every word. This is where we find answers. This is where we find life. Life with Christ. Life in Christ. Life the way He wants it to be, the way He meant it to be. And, it's nothing we haven't all heard before; nothing we don't already know. In His words may we find the help we need to live in this world and not of it. In His words, may we find peace. We sure do need it.

I thank God for sending in the young Sister who reminded me to listen to the Holy Spirit. With me, it takes a village but I continue to try to take all that is Handed Down and pass it on.