Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Crucifix

"Sacramentals are given to us by the Church, unlike Sacraments which are instituted by Christ. They help to draw us closer to Christ because with prayer and with the proper intention, the rosary, the sign of the cross, the crucifix, medals, pictures, holy water and the many other beautiful sacramentals, help us to focus on that which is holy and to make holy the different occasions of our lives.  Although we do not need them for Salvation, sacramentals draw us into deeper devotion and prayer." Amazing Graces
In our homes, in our cars, in our churches, in our daily view, what do we see and how does what we see effect our lives?  What do our children, our friends, our neighbors see that we find is important to be a part of our lives? Is our yard perfectly manicured and our car sparkling clean and our family beautifully dressed? Does the family portrait hang in a prominent place in our living room? Do visitors love looking at all the family pictures on the wall? Friends love to look at our picutres when they come into our house and we have long discussions about where they were taken and what year and who all the other people are surrounding our children. They are reminders of receiving the Sacraments and participating in sports and attending weddings. They are images that bring to mind the great times we have had with one another and those in our community and our family.  Nearby hangs a crucifix, a reminder of one Man's love for all people. What does this image bring to our minds? What is the discussion? Is there discussion? Does it hang there because it is a tradition to have the crucifix hang in our homes or is it there to prompt discussion, to be a reminder of something good? Honestly, do I pay attention to that beautiful reminder that is in our kitchen and in the bedrooms and in my office? If I did, might I hear, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe," and have reassurance everyday that there is so much more?
I have a friend who shared that she removes the crucifix from her children's wall every morning and lays it on their pillow so that every night they have to touch Jesus on the crucifix before they climb into bed. Reassurance that He is real, that He is with them, that He loves them unconditionally. I love that and it truly made me wonder if we pay any attention whatsoever to the crucifixes in our home. As we know, just hanging it in the house doesn't mean much if it does not in some way help us to focus a little more on what is holy, if it does not draw us into prayer, if it does not make our visitors realize and maybe even talk about our commitment. 

I visited Holy Family Church yesterday and saw my friend Catherine who was gracious enough to share her story of the Crucifix in my book Amazing Graces. She was busy in the church with hundreds of small children and many young adults gathered during Vacation Bible School, beneath the beautiful crucifix, to sing about God's goodness and mercy and love.  He was looking down upon them and all anyone who stood there could think is "How Great is Jesus!" These children were all gathered singing His praises and His arms were stretched out embracing each and every one. Truly brought focus on the holy, on prayer in song and on our commitment to Him in our lives.

Together let's try to put this sacramental to use on a more personal level, to make it more than just a decoration, to truly (if only in our minds) touch His side and see His hands and His feet and believe, every minute of every day and to recommit ourselves to His great gift of Love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Help for Our Daily Walk

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you."

Jesus' reminder today from the Law speaks volumes. Taken one little section at a time, we have much work to do. First and foremost, we most do. We are called to action. We are asked to put ourselves in motion. And, not for ourselves but for others. Jesus does not stop with merely getting us going and telling us to be there for one another and physically do something but here's the big word in the statement...whatever. So, here we go. We are not to pick and choose what we are going to do today. Jesus puts people, tasks in our paths and tells us to do...for others.  What is it Lord that you want us to do for these people you have put in our lives? And He is clear. "What is it that you would want them to do for you?"

As humans, we love for people to serve us in some way, shape or form. It's natural to love being cared for. Who wouldn't want to be served meals and have our work load made lighter and our feet rubbed. All these things and more that we love as simply being human beings are all the things we are asked to do for others. Whatever. Do we think in this manner? Do we stop in our day and think "Man, I would love a cup of coffee but before I get myself something, I wonder if anyone else in my path might need a drink?" I really have never thought about it. Oh sure, if someone comes along and asks me for something, I am more than willing to do something about it but I have to say, I have rarely thought to do something for them that I would want for myself. That is a much taller order.

I also would like to think today about all of those along my daily walk who do for me. I have an entire crew around me each day that help make me a better person, that comfort me and help me through the day and I am not really sure they know how grateful I am. They help me carry my daily crosses as well as bring me simple joys. They set themselves aside and do for me. Most times, whatever.

Today I have plenty to think and pray about. I have those whom Jesus sets before me to do whatever for and I have those to be grateful for as they do for me. Take time. Do. Whatever. And be grateful for those who help us in our daily walk. With. Whatever.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Camp Cousins in Harry Potter World

Five of my six children went to Universal in Orlando with seven of their cousins and my sister Jeanne, arriving home yesterday with story upon story as usual from the annual "Camp Cousins" summer vacation. My sister started this several years ago and has kept the tradition regardless of the fact that the cousins are no longer "little kids". But as my father mentioned as pictures kept arriving on our phones, "They are definitely still kids aren't they? These are bigger "kids" than some of the younger ones. Looks like they are having a blast." Since he's the "backer" of the trip, he always loves to see that the cousins are enjoying the place they have chosen and one another.

I know there's a lot of "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" but I love hearing the stories from my children about their adventures with my sister and their cousins. It allows me to be a tiny part of the experience without being a part of the craziness. Dr. Rast is so busy that it tends to be a little crazy trying to get together a date that is suitable for a large number of the cousins. This year they certainly missed Kate, Molly and Jack who were wrapped up in school or sport functions, and Beth and Stuart who had to work but my hat goes off to Jeanne for all the planning and constant shuffling of days. I guess they would never go anywhere if they tried to include all twenty-five grandchildren. But, as usual, my children had a great time with their cousins and as always the stories were all about the crazy hectic fun of traveling with a large family.

They came back from a ten hour car ride, after meeting my brother in Atlanta with his two children and dropping off my son  in Chattanooga, exhausted, with blisters on their feet and sun on their faces and story after story of conversations with random people in the park and workers from the different areas and scary rides and wet rides and balloon hats and group dinners. The greatest thing of all to me was that even in their differences, they all had a wonderful time together, as a family.

Growing up, my parents took the eight children along with my grandmother somewhere every summer on vacation. Eleven of us packed into a station wagon headed to the beach and one summer all the way to Disney Land. Yep CA in a wagon, all of us. So, my sister obviously was handed down the gene for taking large groups of kids on summer vacation. Memories to last a lifetime. Thank you Aunt Jeanne for a successful Camp Cousins 2015. #soybeans

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What's in Your Wallet?

On June 6th, I wrote the above title as a starter for a post and I have no idea what I was going to say about it. Do you ever do that? Scribble down a few words that you want to get back to and when you see them again, you have no idea what they mean. Well, great. So I'm not alone in this but it still doesn't help me figure out why I posed the question.

I have been putting together my new office at my house and while cleaning out my old office have found many surprising things. I have found a $100 gift card, three $5 bills, a fifty and just today five $20 bills (well five for me and five in an envelope addressed to a sweet lady who comes by the bookstore to buy books to give out to people she meets on the street). I remember a customer giving us that money to pass along to her ministry. Oops. I will get it there don't worry. I also found an old wallet with a bunch of credit cards I no longer use (obviously) but nothing too exciting otherwise.

I remember one of the girls at the store telling me about stopping to give a man on the side of the street some money and as she opened her wallet he peered in, saw what she had and asked for more than what she gave him. Hmm. No. Not that.

I received this nifty little wallet from my sister-in-law for Christmas with a gift card which I have not used yet. She makes beautiful handbags, etc. which can be found at Marge and Rudy. This is my new wallet now and I have scoured it to find that there is nothing in at that would be of interest to anyone.

So, from maybe a spiritual standpoint, let's think about what it is that we carry around with us all the time. What is the thing we dig for when someone asks us for something? Do we reach for a little cash just to get someone to move along and not bother us anymore or simply to be nice? Do we hand our kids the credit card to shut them up from crabbing about having to buy their own gas? What is it in our wallets and how do we use what we have? I even went as far as to send my daughter down yesterday with money for a homeless man. What I couldn't walk down and show a little compassion? Really? Come on.

People need so much more than just what's in that wallet. I know that. What else is there? Well, there may be your family pics. They would certainly love to be a part of your family, a part of a group of people you care for and love. And, there may be a holy card !!!! That's it!!!! It was a prayer that a customer had from his mother that was so well used by this man that we could hardly read the words anymore. I had to retype it and print it on the back of holy cards for him to give to his family. And that's another item that we might find inside our wallet; an old prayer that our parents used to get them through tough times or to simply thank God for the many gifts He'd given. Some carry a Sacred Heart badge or a Scapular. Others a crucifix or medal. Reminders that what you have and pass along with a little spiritual lift is so much more.

Whatever it is that you carry in your wallet, I hope it goes farther than it's cash value. I hope it makes a difference. I hope it changes a life. I hope it means something.

So, what's in your wallet?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sacre Coeur - 1999

Sacre Coeur - 1999 with my mom, sisters,  niece and sister-in-law.

1887- 14 year old Thérèse Martin (later Saint Thérèse of Lisieux), devotes herself to the Sacred Heart at St. Peter's Altar in the Crypt of the Basilica.
St. Margaret Mary - with heart in hands accepting the mission to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Little booklets like this from your local Catholic bookstore are full of the gifts of the Church. Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and if you have never read the promises that Jesus shared with St. Margaret Mary for those who show devotion to His Sacred Heart, this booklet and others are well worth reading. The promises and the devotion are also shared in Amazing Graces: The Blessings of Sacramentals.

from The Nine First Fridays

#12. In the abundant mercy of my heart, I promise that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance. They will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments, and my heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.

I need every bit of help I can find. Gifts like this are given to us through the pure mercy and love of Christ so that we can have every opportunity we need to live a fully Christian life and to gain eternal happiness. Today could be the first Friday for many to gain the promises of The Nine First Fridays.