Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What Are You Doing on New Year's Eve?

It's nice to know that Catholics who aren't into the whole "New Year's Eve scene" have some prayerful alternatives. At the Carmelite Monastery at 66th Ave. and Old York Road, there will be Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 10pm followed by Holy Mass at Midnight. I've always wanted to get to the Monastery on this evening and one of these days I will.

A little closer to home, St. Rita's at Broad and Ellsworth Street will also offer Midnight Mass in the lower shrine chapel preceded by Adoration at 10pm, Recitation of the Rosary at 11:15 followed by the Divine Mercy Chaplet and then Mass. Father Bill Rechuitti, OSA is the celebrant. This beautiful tradition was formerly handled by Father Jim Galligan, OSA who is now retired and living at Villanova. It's such a blessing that Father Bill resumed this custom at St. Rita's.

For something a little different on New Year's Day, St Paul at 10th and Christian will offer Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) at Noon followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

This is the kind of New Year's celebration I can look forward to. How about you?

Happy New Year, whatever your plans!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rest in Peace, Father Clement Kurowski, OFM

I was saddened to hear of the loss of Father Clem on Christmas Eve. Unbeknownst to me, Father had bone cancer, to which he finally succumbed. Whether it was saintliness or a stoic nature or both, Father Clem gave no indication that I could see that he was suffering in an extraordinary way. I am reminded of what happened when a novice came to St. Therese in tears to complain about a particular burden she was silently carrying. Our Saint gently admonished her. "It is because no one knows about your pain that you feel it so acutely." I never knew Father Clem personally but had him for Mass several mornings a week, up until recently. He also heard confessions on Wednesdays until a few years ago at St. John the Evangelist in Center City. When a friend lamented his passing to me today he said "They don't make them like Clem anymore." I'd like to think that if I faced similar suffering in life, that I could make the effort Father Clem did to carry out his duties. He was a diamond in the rough and will be missed. May he rest in peace.

The Ironies of Our God

A most memorable joke told to us by Father Benedict Groeschel a few years back concerned the reaction of a priest upon his arrival in Heaven. Recognizing the cast of characters whose confessions he had heard, he asked St. Peter: "How did THEY get in here?" Nodding his head toward Mary, St. Peter replied: "His mother." You just never know.

At Christmas, it seems people come out of the woodwork, or wherever they've been hiding, to return to the Church. This is a good thing. None of us knows what another person has been through or how it is that they have returned to the Lord. What we do know is the Lord often chooses the weak things of the world to carry out His will. And the person who is a seemingly annoying pest who cannot contain their exuberance at Mass may well have been sent to teach us more about ourselves than we realize. Do we see what Our Lord sees, or what we choose to see? For all we know, the Lord is estatic to see a fallen-away son or daughter return to Him and perhaps He does not care that the person makes it difficult for the rest of us to pray. At times like that, do I complain to myself, or do I offer the lack of quiet as a gift in thanksgiving for a lost soul coming back home?

At this time of year when external charity can come so easily, it seems a good time for me to do some soul-searching about my interior charity and remind myself once again that it's not about me, it's about Him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Last year for Christmas, my husband took all of his late father's WWII films that he shot during the war and had them transferred to DVD's for his 5 siblings. This year, he took his father's films that he shot throughout numerous Christmastides and had them transferred to DVD. We previewed a little last night and it was like watching episodes of Lassie or Ozzie and Harriet. Little children in their PJ's kneeling by their beds while their older sister lead them in prayer before bedtime. Sleepy-eyed children making their way down the stairs to open packages containing dolls, cowboy hats, holsters and plastic rocket ships. The Nativity scene under the tree which each child acknowledged before moving on to the packages. A homemade Italian rum cake decorated with a single candle for the family to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. The footage from 1960 showed a monstrous snow storm and all 5 siblings joining in to shovel (number 6 had just arrived) amid the backdrop of their picket-fenced home adorned with big old fashioned Christmas bulbs, wreaths and two large candles that sat on either side of the entrance to the house.

It's part of human nature to become nostalgic at times for bygone eras where everything just seemed to be better. In our own household, we tried very hard to make the Holy Family the focus of Christmas, but it wasn't easy. It wasn't just that Santa was coming - it was that on Christmas Eve we'd get together with my 4 cousins, with whom I was practically raised, and enjoy a feast like no other. My grandmother's strufuli. The Seven fishes. The colored lights strewn across Wolf Street. And best of all, it seemed the adults were in the happiest mood ever on Christmas Eve. My uncle would simultaneously entertain us with stories about the time he encountered Old St. Nick on the lawn with warnings about how bad we'd been and should probably expect nothing more than coal in our stockings.

On Christmas Day, we attended Mass as a family and then in the afternoon, headed over to my uncle's diner, where the Banquet Room was transformed into a giant family dining room for about 30 people. His German-born baker would prepare tantalizing sweets ornately decorated for Christmas that were as delicious as they were beautiful. Everyone was dressed to the nines, and there was no shortage of playmates. I'm not sure how much the adults enjoyed it but we kids had a blast. We sang on the microphone, danced and relished one another's company. Believe it or not, for me, one of the most exciting parts of this day was seeing the statue of St. Rita all lit up outside the church named for her. I would think about the nuns in my school and how they probably spent Christmas. I pictured Rosalind Russell carrying a large lit candle into the chapel in the Trouble With Angels.

The best thing about my Christmases past was their simplicity and the joy in family. Sure, we were undeniably excited about our gifts, but there was none of the greed we have today. No fascination with electronic gadgets that have kids typing on keyboards rather than engaging their families and friends. No demands for high-priced items that rack up credit card debt and put families into near-bankruptcy.

Despite the greed that has come to mar the meaning of Christmas, there is no shortage of inspiring stories. My colleague at Pennsylvania Hospital, and her husband, who go out at 4 am on Christmas morning to deliver packages to homeless people living on the streets. Our Jewish friends who volunteer in hospital cafeterias so kitchen workers can spend Christmas at home with their families. The secret Santas that never make the news - cops, firemen and ordinary citizens who make sure children they've never met find something to smile about under the tree. And this infectious generosity is not something that happens just once a year for these folks - it's they way they live their lives every day of the year. Surely, they know the Reason for the Season and they carry Him with them everywhere they go, not just on Christmas Eve.

A Blessed Christmas to all and best wishes for a peaceful and healthy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Waiting With Mary: Purity

Here's what's been on my mind the last few days.

As I have alluded to on this little blog a few times in the past week or so, I've been struggling with some issues in the workplace. I came to the resolution that I need to stop reacting and allow myself to carry out Christ's will by no longer imposing my own. Refusing to act in haste is somewhat easier than thinking about what I'd like to do.

There is no greater model of human purity of body, mind and soul than Mary, the Mother of God. When we refuse to respond to our detractors, we emulate her. When we refuse to dress provocatively, we emulate her. When we treat our bodies as temples of the Lord, we emulate her. When we read, view or say nothing that would stain our modesty and chastity, we emulate her. When we do nothing to lead another into sin, we emulate her. And when we put her Divine Son above all else in our lives, we emulate her.

Consider how many times a day Our Mother in Heaven is approached by creatures less than she is. She does not look upon us and see how inferior we are. She looks upon us with mercy and love and sees children in need of her help. So when the instigator at work tries to provoke me, rather than see someone I can look down on, I must now see a brother or sister in need of my help and lift them in prayer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Reason for the Season

This morning I went to see the youngest of my 3, Rebecca, in a Christmas Posada at Old St. Mary's Church in Olde City. Rebecca's name was drawn out of a hat to play the part of Mary and she was accompanied by Joseph and a well-dressed coterie of angels, shepherds and innkeepers. The children sang in Spanish and moved from inn to inn and finally to the altar, where the Nativity took place. Several readers from the lower school took turns reading the Christmas story while the rest of the school sang carols. It was a very moving little performance.

At some schools, such pageants are topped off by Santa making a grand entrance at the end. Thankfully, that did not happen here, but I've been told about a local church that has a special children's Vigil Mass at 4:30 on Christmas Eve. Shortly after Holy Communion, Santa sneaks in a side door. He says nothing to anyone but quietly tiptpoes to the creche, where he kneels in silent adoration of the Christ Child.

Our children are inundated with the secular meaning of Christmas and it's good to see Catholic schools emphasizing what's most important. As the little ones in kindergarten reminded us this morning as they sang Happy Birthday to the Baby Jesus, He is the Reason for the Season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Here is a little poem I wrote while in high school. It's nothing prolific or deep - just a cute little tribute to snow. English was my favorite subject (despite my poor grammar) and one of my classes required writing haiku and other forms of poetry. Here goes:

Winter is the time
when the angels sweep the clouds.
The dust falls in a bridal veil
and settles in sugar mounds.

It gathers on the window panes
and branches of the trees
And dances on the rooftops
Each time the angels sneeze.

Waiting With Our Lady: Humility

When I was a little girl, I was in love with the movie "Song of Bernadette". I remember being permitted to stay up a little later one Sunday night to watch it and crying myself to sleep because I wanted to see the Blessed Mother so badly. It's no accident that Marian visionaries are so often people like Bernadette Soubirous: simple, unassuming and humble in all things. Had I been privileged to view the face of the Mother of God, I probably would not have been able to get through a doorway for the size of my head.

The first thing Mary does after Gabriel's visit to her is to head for the hill country so she can wait on her cousin Elizabeth. She doesn't take a moment to rest on her laurels, so to speak. After proclaiming herself as the handmaid of the Lord, she goes out in service of another, despite the way she herself may have been feeling. Later, as she and Joseph head to Bethlehem for the census, she says nothing to the innkeepers who turn them away. She doesn't berate them for refusing lodging to the Mother of God, nor does she mention that she is carrying in her womb the Messiah. Rather, she goes quietly with Joseph to the stable where she will give birth.

Mary recognized that any greatness she had came not from within but from God. She did all things in His service. When we are so infatuated with ourselves that we are blinded by our own nothingness, we prevent God from working through us. Mary achieved perfect union with Him not only because she gave birth to Jesus but because she made herself less to make Him more. When we don't get recognized for something; when we are overlooked while others are exalted; when we get our feelings hurt because someone forgot to mention us - we should remember Mary. A most simple girl who was the most privileged woman in history and the least self-seeking.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pro-Life March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 22nd

Once again, St. Rita's at Broad and Ellsworth Street is sponsoring a bus to the pro-life march and rally in Washington D.C. on Friday, Jan. 22nd. There are a limited number of seats available. The bus departs from St Rita's at 7 am promptly and the cost of a ticket is $41. The day includes Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Last year, to get to the rally after Mass, we took the Metro into downtown D.C. which was very easy to do. We met up back at the Basilica for departure home. If interested, contact Deborah at St. Rita's at 215-546-8333 . The money is not due until after the Christmas holidays.

Why This Blog?

I started this blog as a way to "evangelize" to some of my fallen away Catholic friends and family members. I often link my posts to my Facebook page in the hopes that I can plant a seed in a softening heart. It is so named because of my devotion to St. Therese and her Little Way of gaining souls for Jesus. It was St. Therese who brought me back to the one true faith and in gratitude to her, I try in every little way possible to help her fulfill her wish that her work be continued while she is in heaven. In the meantime, here is a prayer that St. Therese wrote for one of her brother priests and she beseeched him to continue to pray it for her even after her death.

Mericful Father, in the name of Thy Sweet Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, I beg Thee to consume my sister Therese with Thy Spirit of Love and to grant her the grace to make Thee greatly loved. Amen

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waiting With Our Lady: Trust in God's Plan

It is rare to go to confession and not have the priest advise that I should look to Mary as an example of how to try to live my life. The first we know of Mary in the Bible is when she is greeted by the Angel Gabriel. What a beautiful Gospel passage it is, to think of God sending His angel to see a betrothed virgin of only about 15 years old. There is no shortage of exquisite artwork depicting the image of a terrified young girl in the presence of a heavenly being. It's difficult sometimes not to put ourselves in Mary's position and imagine how we might have reacted.

To me, the most amazing thing is that Mary had complete and total trust in God. Despite her virginal fear, she didn't ask Gabriel a million questions - no what ifs or yeah buts - just the simple yes that changed the world. No other singular consent has ever impacted the human race as her fiat has. Though Mary speaks few words in the Gospels, what is abundantly clear is that she never questioned God's will. She was the perfect instrument of His Divine Plan.

Later, when, the adult Jesus begins His public ministry, the inherent trust she had in God is evident at the Wedding Feast at Cana when she brings the embarrassment of the wedding hosts to her Son. When Jesus admonished her that His hour had not yet come, she didn't question Him and berate Him by asking "What in the world are you waiting for? Do something already". Her perfect trust in God assured her that Jesus would be of help. It was St. Therese who noted that "for those with faith the size of a mustard seed, He moves mountains. But for those with much faith, He makes them wait, like His mother at the Wedding Feast."

In my efforts to keep the Grand Silence in my own way, I look to Mary as a perfect example of one who questioned nothing and accepted all that she was privileged to receive from God. Every one of us can carry the Christ Child in our hearts and present Him to a broken world by imitating His mother in her total acceptance of and obedience to God's will.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Silence is Golden

I have wondered what the purpose of The Grand Silence is in monasteries aside from providing the kind of solitude conducive to the contemplative life. It occurred to me that at least part of the reason is because talk is such a dangerous thing for all of us, even those living the cloistered life. In the secular world, where so many of us feel the need to vent, myself included, I wish we, too had a Grand Silence. It's human to want to discuss our feelings and frustrations. What's harder is to offer those who present challenges to us in our daily lives in prayer and be thankful to the Lord for putting them in our paths. As Jesus said, what good is it if we love only those who love us? The more difficult someone is, the more of an opportunity they present for us to put matters in God's hands through prayer and the kind of self-control necessary to "keep things to ourselves."

It was the poet Emily Dickinson who wrote:

"We must be careful what we say; no bird resumes its egg."

And the less we say, somehow the better off we are, especially in difficult situations. I've made an Advent Resolution to myself today that the next time I feel the need to "vent", I will do so through prayer, and in particular for the person or persons who make life difficult.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just A Thought

I was walking to work this morning and was thinking of how Saint Faustina came to join the convent. She was at a dance when Our Lord appeared to her, bloody from the scourge, and He asked her: How long must I wait for you? She went immediately to seek out a convent and was not received enthusiastically. This lead me to think about how many times I've felt called to do something for Jesus, only to encounter opposition. Obstacles can lead one to believe they are headed down the wrong path and it's only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able let God accomplish His will in our lives. Just something to think about the next time you find yourself headed down a rocky path.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting Ready

There are two questions that cause me to recoil inside like garlic presented to a vampire: What are you doing this weekend, and, Are you ready for Christmas? Now the latter question has an entirely different meaning when it is posed to me by my friends in the Catholic circles in which I travel but it means something else altogether when put to me by those who scoff at any thing religious. And most of the time this question is presented to me, it's by the latter. Every year, I get a little lazier in putting up the decorations. The folks down the street have their decorations up by the end of the day on Thanksgiving. I manage to find the Nativity scene and place it in the front window, and then everything else just sort of happens.

What does it mean to be ready for Christmas? It means if the end of my life should suddenly come today, I'm as ready as I can be spiritually to make an accounting of my life. That begins with silent contemplation, frequent reception of the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion and a sincere desire for a change of heart. For the past few years, I've done my best to get to the Silent Retreat at the Carmelite Monastery. I go to confession the night before, and then I spend as much time as I possibly can before the Blessed Sacrament. I have never come away from that day without having some sort of Epiphany about myself. I leave feeling strengthened to take on the enemy, or at least be prepared for his attacks. And usually, a day or two later, I fall flat on my face.

The first time it happened, I was caught completely and totally off-guard. A person who could best be described as a pagan asked me what I had done the day before, and when I told her how I'd spent my day, she launched into a vitriolic attack on my religion. This is a person who is well-aware of where I stand on both her beliefs and mine and I'd made the conscious decision to tell her how spiritually-fulfilling the retreat was for me, out of a perhaps misguided desire to defend the faith. I simply wasn't prepared for what was spewed at me. I did the best I could to withstand the attack and then I avoided any conversation with this person for as long as I oould (hard to do when you work someone).

When I relayed what happened to the friend who had invited me to the retreat, she was incredulous that I didn't see it coming. My late grandmother had a saying: the devil sits on monastery walls. I didn't know how true that was, that those striving for holiness are prime targets, but my friend apparently did. She advised me that while it was too late to be on guard this year, next year I could try to do a better job. "You need to prepare to be attacked next time. What are you going to do next time? That's what you have to figure out". In subsequent years, I think I did a better job of withstanding the assaults. Then this year rolled around.

Saturday, a day of great personal progress in my spiritual life. Sunday, on guard. Provoked a bit here and there but nothing major. I'm safe I thought. Silly me. Walked into work on Monday morning and faced a constant barrage of attacks to the point that by 10 am, I had my head on my desk in tears. And the most shameful part of it all is tnat I never once asked for the Lord's help in fending off the attackers. I've had other Mondays where I knew it was going to be an ugly day, but I spent considerable time in prayer beforehand and told Jesus I needed to place everything in His hands because I was incapable of dealing with it. Did I do that this time? No, and worse, I stupidly thought that because I had survived the day after the retreat, that it would be clear sailing from then on.

At Christmas, we hear a lot about peace and joy. What does that mean? Is it sensible, or felt, joy? Not always. It's more of a contentment knowing that whatever happens in the world, there is a better one to come. And we have inner-peace because despite the insanity going on around us - outright greed amid a lack of attention to Jesus, we have Him and we always will. But don't forget, as I seemed to have, that even Our Lord was faced with temptation. Desire to achieve union with Him means undergoing trials. An endless number of silent retreats can't change that. But they can strengthen our resolve to be like Him and to always place our entire trust in Him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

St. Therese on the Virgin Mary, Whose Feast Day We Celebrate Today Under Her Title Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

"We know very well that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth, but she is more mother than queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children's glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she'll increase the splendor of the elect very much..."

Tonight, I was fortunate to be able to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. Paul's, and the celebrant recalled his dearly departed grandmother, who was often the recipient of fine gifts for her birthday or Christmas but who tucked them away in a drawer, thinking they were "too good" for her. How many of us think the Virgin Mary is too good for us? Because she has reached a level not accorded to any other human, we fear we will defile her by asking her help. Because she was free from every kind of sin, we, who commit every kind of sin, recoil at the notion of pleading for her protection. Our Lord, from His agony on the cross, gave His mother to us, as a protectress and an advocate. He didn't tell us to sit her on a pedestal that we dared not approach. The apostle whom Jesus loved took Mary into his home and we are called to take her into our hearts.

Mary is the greatest of the Saints. The Saints did not live to garner glory for themselves but to win souls for Jesus. How could we go wrong if we follow the disciple who was closest to Him, Mary?

Monday, December 7, 2009


Any time I make a retreat at the Monastery, I try, in the silence of the chapel, to converse with the Lord and ask what I can do to be more like Him. Unfortunately, I'm still working on the same issue: Pride. Pride in all its forms. The stealth kind, the overt kind, the insidious kind - pride is a major obstacle between me and the Lord which prevents me from being closer to Him. Actually, it is my stubborn refusal to give up my attachment to pride so I have only myself to blame. I had goosebumps when the retreat master mentioned the damage that pride does to our relationship with God. But it's also reassuring to know it's something so many other struggle with.

It is pride that causes me to become distracted at Mass. It is pride that compels me to mention things about myself in a way that is not obvious; nonetheless, I still manage to pat myself on the back in some way. It is pride that causes me to lose my temper when someone insinuates that I've done something wrong. It's pride that causes me to try and think of something clever to say to the priest after Mass. It's pride that causes me to be unable to say I'm wrong after an argument. It's pride that prevents me from covering my head at Mass. It's pride that lures me into mentioning some devotion I've acquired. The list goes on. What to do?

It's difficult to get in trouble when you keep silence. St. Therese was especially noted for her ability to stand accused of something without jumping to defend herself. More than once she had to run away to keep from defending herself and voicing her innocence, which is one of the many reasons why she is a Saint with a capital S.

It's also a work in progress to catch myself in the act of pride, whether it be in thought, word or deed. It is difficult not to relate a situation to myself and how I would handle it or like things to go. A person who is unattached to themselves would not think of him or her self in this way. Now that I know what my problem is, what am I going to do about it?

Frequent conversation with the Lord, for one thing. How many times do I become lost in my own thoughts, usually concerning some problem or another at work. Rather than dwell on things, why not spend that time talking to Jesus, whether through rote prayer or simple conversation? How many times have I relied on myself to fix one of these problems when His help is just there for the asking?

Fasting is another opportunity I so rarely take advantage of anymore. Some years ago, a priest detected that my confession was a bit too glib and he said "you need prayer AND fasting." He was right. I've gotten away from it and I need to give it another try. That priest and I are good friends to this day.

The last thing I can do, at least for right now, is think of others first. When the Virgin Mary learned she would carry the Son of God in her womb, what was the first thing she did? She didn't send out announcements or gossip to everyone she knew. She immediately departed for Elizabeth's house, where she waited upon her for the next three months. There is nothing to help you forget yourself like immersing yourself in someone else's needs.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent: Think Everyday of Jesus*

*Composed by St. Teresa of the Andes, Carmelite Nun

Prepare Yourself for the Birth of Jesus

Think everyday of Jesus, who, though the eternal God, was born as a fragile Child. Though all-powerful, He was born poor with nowhere to go from the cold. He needed His mother to live, though He was life itself. Here is a list of things you can do to prepare a crib for Jesus:

Little Shirts to Keep Him Warm:
Five acts of love a day and longings to receive Him in Communion. "My Jesus, come to my poor heart which wants to beat only for You."

Little Blankets to Cover His Tiny Feet
Since He cannot walk, you will go and do acts of charity to all, sacrificing yourself and setting aside your own comfort.

Swaddling bands to wrap around Him:
Never grumble when you are told to do something you do not like. Just do as you are told.

Little Cap:
Study and do everything for Jesus, thinking of His love.

Do not sleep late in bed. Go to Mass and Communion

Pieces of Straw:
Do some little act. Like giving up candy or eating something you don't like. Do it all for the love of Jesus

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rest in Peace, Mr. Tabasco

Today I was privileged to behold a beautiful sight - a church packed with Catholic schoolchildren, and their parents, to bid farewell to a man who made everyone's life a little easier. Mr. Virgil Tabasco, one of the custodians at St. Mary's Interparochial School, died suddenly on Sunday and today the school was closed, in his honor, so that teachers and students alike could pay their final respects.

When my son had to leave St. Mary's so he could benefit from a special education program for autistic children, Mr. Tobasco continued to ask for him. One day he said, with obvious sadness, " I really miss having Matthew around. He was always a good boy and I miss seeing him everyday. I wish he was still here." It meant the world to my son to hear this. Mr. Tobasco was a constant figure at St. Paul's at Mass and during the weekly Novena. He loved to see my daughter Rebecca, an altar server, at Mass and would always comment to my husband and I that "she serves a beautiful Mass." He was genuinely touched by how attentive she was, especially knowing the physical problems she's had.

One day, I was frantic to discover that Rebecca had left her lunch at home, and I had no way of getting it to her before Noon. I called St. Mary's and the grandfatherly Mr. Tobasco answered the phone. After listening to me carry on about how stupid I was to let her forget it, he reassured me. "It's no big deal. It happens all the time. Is it ok with you if I make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and give her some chocolate milk with it?" I could have hugged him through the phone. Once before when she forgot her lunch, Rebecca was too afraid to speak up, and she went the whole day without eating. That's what made my carelessness all the more painful but the guardian angel who worked at St. Mary's took care of her, and me, with out fanfare.

Mr. Tabasco had no biological children of his own, but every one of those children who came to that church today, many of them in tears, were his. He was the first person they saw when they got dropped off each day and he made sure he gave each one the kind of greeting that would start them off on the right foot. He had some serious health problems throughout the years but you would never know it. Mr. Tabasco had nieces and nephews who loved him dearly, and the last thing I remember about today was the sheer gratitude on his niece Helen's face as she walked behind his casket and saw for the first time how many grieving children filled the church. It was a beautiful testament to a man who exemplified a humble servant of God.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Striving Daily to Be Holy

Today did not exactly go like it should have for a person who is fortunate to assist at Daily Mass. First, Tuesdays and Thursdays are often chaotic and stressful, particularly when just one of our surgeons had a total of 17 cases today. Then, there are the folks who like to make life unpleasant for others for whatever reason. Interestingly, a colleague and I took a minute to reflect together on how challenging it sometimes is to retain our faith in the workplace, and we both agreed that we didn't do a very good job today of walking the path.

What my friend shared with me is something that has been tugging at me for awhile, and that is the tendency to react to things that happen, rather than just accept them and trust God to handle the problems. The workplace can be a microcosm of the world at large, where despite our best efforts, things happen that can really test a person, no matter how religious we think we are. A favorite confessor at St. John's will always ask me this question: Did you lift the person up in prayer? Sadly, there are too many times when I've had to say no. This is another indication of an attachment to myself and my own will. It's my duty to pray for everyone, especially those perceived to be "enemies", and how quickly I can forget this when under attack.

So, in addition to working on impatience this season of Advent, I'm going to do my best to let things roll off my back, so to speak, and ask God for the patience to endure and the wisdom to handle these challenges that often appear in my path. And I'm going to try my best to pray for the person or persons in question. As Our Lord said, of what merit is it to love only those who love us back? That's why at every Novus Ordo Mass we ask Blessed Mary Ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and our brothers and sisters to pray for us that we may avoid sin and be favored with the mercy of God. It's time for me to make more of an effort to benefit from the grace that is available for the asking.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Around the Parishes in South Philadelphia

Just a reminder that there will be a Family Holy Hour next Sunday, December 6th at St. Monica Church at 17th and Ritner Streets at 7 pm. There will be Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, readings, hymns and the Divine Mercy Chaplet will be sung.

Also, St. Monica's will also start its annual Novena to Our Lady of Grace leading up to the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mass and Novena prayers will be said daily at 8 and 9 am and again at 7pm starting tomorrow.

Finally, Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be offered at St. Paul Church at 10th and Christian Streets on Tuesday, Dec. 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at 7pm in the evening.

First Sunday in Advent: Sleepers Awake!

I heard more than one homily this weekend about the seemingly doom-and-gloom readings and Gospel for the start of Advent but all were sobering reminders of the need to remain vigilant. We can be seduced by the things of this world without even realizing it. Even the necessary activities of our daily lives can be traps if we aren't careful. Many is the time I have to remind myself that in every thought, word and deed I must be mindful of the will of God and not let pass a single opportunity to serve Him.

Sometimes, we are so accustomed to reacting to certain situations in a particular way that we become insulated from our own faults. Luckily, I have some live-in critics (kids) who are quick to let me know if they find any behavior on my part less than Christian. On Thursday, we had a guest who joins us every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas because he has no other place to go. While I was serving the turkey and the 10 sides dishes that went with it, he asked me a detailed question about something that I told him I would answer a little later because I was too consumed with getting everything on the table. My oldest pointed out later that I should have been a little more patient in the way I responded. I would have to say looking inward that impatience is probably one of my biggest faults, and what a selfish one it is. Impatience means I still haven't learned to put myself aside and that I haven't relinquished my attachment to my own will.

None of us are perfect, but we're not excused from trying. And every time I think I have conquered some other fault, I am enlightened to the fact that I have plenty of others. Before I hang a single decoration or bake a single batch of cookies, I pray for God to give me the strength to lose myself more and more every day so that I may be a worthy instrument of His Holy Will.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Attacks on the Church

In today's Inquirer was a letter to the editor from yet another Catholic-basher. Of course, he made the obligatory sex-abuse scandal reference. After I regained my composure, I responded to the misinformed author of the letter and pointed out the following:

- the sex-abuse scandal has nothing at all to do with the subject at hand and has become a cheap canard for attackers of the Church to use whenever they fail to develop a legitimate argument. The majority of priests knew nothing about and had nothing to do with this scandal and were deeply hurt by it and it is unfair to keep throwing this up in their faces.

-it is the official teaching of the Church that extra-marital sex is a sin, and that sex between a married couple should be unitive and procreative. Therefore, it would be incongruous for the church to sanction the use of artificial birth control.

-the same Church which condemns artificial birth control and abortion is the same church that is the primary provider of care to unwed mothers, AIDS victims and other social outcasts who are often rejected by their own families. The Catholic Church is also the major provider of foster care and adoption for children born out of wedlock so to call the Church hypocritical is erroneous.

I suspect the author is a former Catholic with an axe to grind, but who knows? The important thing is that such opinions do not go unchallenged. Also, out of charity, we are compelled to correct such thinking. I ended the letter politely - I refuse to stoop to the level from which the letter was written and would advise the same.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day After

As I sit here still in a coma from overindulgence of carbs, I'm laughing at the number of text messages my sister got at dinner from cooks who had an assortment of turkey disasters to relate - from the frozen- in- the- middle turkey to the person who forgot to remove the giblet bag. Too funny.

At any rate, once the guests left and I could collapse on the couch in front of the Broncos/Giants game, I was appalled to see one ad after another hawking a 4am bugle call for shoppers on the hunt for bargains. I'm not one for Black Friday shopping so the last place you'd ever see me is in line at Wal-Mart in the wee hours ready to pounce. This practice is one of the saddest I associate with the Christmas season. How many of the folks in line do YOU think will even take the time to go to Mass on Sunday or better yet, get in line for Confession on Christmas Eve? Some year I would like to get to one of these greed-fests and hand out little cards reminding people of the Reason for the Season. Until then, I'm content to do my part by refusing to participate in the commercial version of Christmas.

Before coming home to the Catholic Church some years ago, I attended an Anglo-catholic, or Episcopal, church which had a very strong outreach program for the homeless. It was the tradition to hold a breakfast on the Saturday before Christmas for all of the soup-kitchen regulars and present them with gift bags of items needed for survival on the streets. One year, I got put in charge of this which essentially means you go out and buy everything that everyone else forgot to get. It was exhausting but it pretty much changed the way I had always looked at Christmas. Sure, there were the few who probably didn't really need what was in the gift bag but a good many of the men were genuinely grateful and touched that someone remembered them. A few were in tears. The gift bag contained a change of underwear, thermal underwear, hat and gloves, toiletries and a rain poncho. It also contained a little baggie full of homemade Christmas cookies. You would think from the reaction that we were giving away 20 dollar bills.

It is said that it's better to give than to receive. What's not said is that when you give genuinely from the heart, you receive something to which nothing can compare. As Mother Teresa said, Christ is there, present in the distressing disguise of the poor, and when we minister to such people, we heed His call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned. For those who might be tempted to call me a bleeding heart liberal, allow me to share this with you.

Yesterday, I realized I had no whipped cream for the pumpkin pie so I abandoned my post in the kitchen to make a quick run to the ACME. I ran into a man I had met there a few years ago who offered to carry bags for change. I enjoyed talking to Nate as we walked to my car and one day I asked him what put him on the street. He told me it was a combination of drugs and alcohol and how much he would love to be free of both demons. He also wanted nothing more than a real job but with no address, he couldn't get the documentation he needed to get one. I did a little investigating and found out about Ready, Willing and Able - the Doe Fund that helps people like Nate get back on their feet. I asked Nate how ready he was to change his life and he assured me he was. The Doe Fund got him into rehab and then gave him a place to live and a low-paying job. When they felt he was ready, they sent him to a halfway house and found him another low-paying job. Now he's clean enough to live with his sister and while he doesn't earn enough money to be able to afford a place of his own, he isn't drinking or taking drugs and he told me he had been looking for me for months to share his good news with me. In reality, I had nothing at all to do with Nate's success. All I did was simply allow Christ to act through me in helping one of the least ones among us. I thank Him for putting Nate in my path.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for one day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Anti-Catholic Editorial in Today's Philadelphia Inquirer

Today on its editorial page, the Inquirer has as its central op-ed piece a scathing attack on American bishops who advise pro-abortion Catholic politicians not to receive Holy Communion if they continue to fail to defend innocent life through their legislative efforts. If possible, think about sending a letter of rebuttal to the Inquirer. If they get enough letters, they might, as they have in the past, dedicate a whole editorial page to these letters because of the overwhelming response they have gotten. Plus, you never know how just one letter might influence someone who is on the fence. You can email responses to:

The Inquirer does not publish anonymous letters but if the editorial board chooses your letter, they will contact you for verification and ask permission to publish your email address, which you are under no obligation to grant.

Also, don't be discouraged when attackers bring up the sex abuse scandal. One thing has nothing to do with the other and the scandal is now an easy canard for attackers to use to distract attention from what they're doing. You can read the editorial yourself at the following:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

Thanksgiving crept up on me much faster than it normally does, probably because I was out of the country only a week ago. I had the presence of mind to order my turkey from Harry Ochs in the Reading Terminal Market before I left for Panama and I picked it up last Saturday morning in my little shopping cart. The butcher was nice enough to load the turkey in the cart for me, thus avoiding further strain on my ailing back. Right now, it's soaking in a nice brine solution so that it will be flavorful and juicy tomorrow when I roast it.

The morning will begin with me putting The Bird in the oven and then leaving for Mass at St. Paul's. We'll have too much food and dessert but the nice part is being able to send leftovers home with my guests so they don't have to cook one night in the next few days. It will just be the immediate family and a friend of my husband's who has no place to go or anyone to be with. I tried to persuade one of the janitorial crew at work to join us tomorrow but he insisted he has a place to go. I can't stand the thought of anyone eating alone on Sundays or holidays.

I can't imagine a Thanksgiving that doesn't begin by thanking God in the Real Presence of His Son for the blessings of the past year. The fact that no one is seriously ill, that we have jobs and a roof over our heads, that the worst loss we faced this past year was that of a pet and not, thank God, a child - acknowledgement of these favors comes before the bird, the football, and the pie. When I was growing up, the only day of the year on which we said grace was Thanksgiving. It wasn't until I met my husband's family that I encountered the practice of giving thanks before every meal, every day. Now my children are trained to give thanks for their meal no matter where they are and I'm proud of my son, who will quickly remind us in a restaurant or other public place if we forget. It's a simple way to bear witness to our faith.

All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine Own have we given Thee. Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Politics and Religion

As you may know if you've been following the news over the past several days, there is a very public battle going on between Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island and Congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy criticized the American bishops for opposing any health-care reform legislation that would fund abortion. In turn, Bishop Tobin took Kennedy to task for putting politics ahead of his faith and went so far as to say that he should not present himself for Holy Communion.

Sadly, too many of our Catholic politicians cast the teachings of their church aside in favor of political expediency or gain. Coming to Rep. Kennedy's defense was Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, who is another Catholic politician in name only who totally doesn't get it. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is an intrinsic evil. A politician cannot say he or she is personally opposed to abortion and then support or sponsor any legislation that protects the so-called right to choose (choose what? infanticide? ) Rep. Murphy went on to say that a pries refused to "bless" his marriage because of his public stance on abortion.

What does it mean to be Catholic? It doesn't mean picking and choosing what we will and will not obey. For one who puts the will of God ahead of his or her own will, it's not difficult to be obedient, especially if that obedience is borne out of love for God. I'm sure Bishop Tobin did not enjoy publicly taking Patrick Kennedy to task but he would be remiss in his duties as a faithful shepherd if had simply ignored the Congressman, particularly when his scandal was public. We can all hope and pray that elected officials like Kennedy and Murphy will come to see the precious treasure we have in the Eucharist and how nothing or no one can be permitted to profane the Lord by receiving Him while not in a state of grace. It's not possible to call one's self a faithful Catholic while openly flouting the direction of a bishop. Bishop Tobin deserves our support for his courage in going where not many bishops and other clergy have had the courage to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Operation Walk November 2009

It is tough to know where to begin. We arrived in Panama close to 11 pm Thursday (Panama is in the same time zone as we are on the East coast) and by the time we got to our hotel rooms, it was 1 am! We had to be at breakfast at 6 am to hear about our assignments for the day and this lack of sleep was to become a norm. By the end of the trip, most of us were running on sheer adrenaline.

We arrived at Hospital San Tomas around 7 am but nearly all the entrances were blocked by numerous rescue vehicles. When we finally got to the hospital and were in the cargo room on the 5th floor, we saw why - a massive tree had fallen early in the morning and smashed a car that was being driven by an intern who had just made rounds at the pediatric hospital. It took the firemen hours to remove his body because they had to chop the massive tree in pieces before they could get to him. It was a very sad way to begin our mission.

At any rate, we spent hours in a hot room going through supplies and building packs for the surgeries. At noon we got word that the Panamanian doctors were finishing for the day and we would have 4 OR's at 1 pm. It was pretty much what one would expect of a third-world hospital. Very few resources, antiquated equipment and less than ideal conditions. At home, we work in rooms that are nearly freezing cold. Here, it was difficult not to complain about the heat. Soon, the first patients arrived and in just one afternoon we were able to provide about 6 joint replacements.
After the surgeries concluded we were sent back to the cargo room to build more packs for the following day - single knee or hip, bilateral knee or hip. Everyone was pretty much exhausted but no one dared complain. Around 10 pm we left to go back to the hotel where a lovely buffet dinner was waiting. My roommate got home an hour after I did and she was too wired to sleep, so we talked to nearly 1 am which isn't very conducive when you need to get up at 5:30 am.

Saturday was a repeat of Friday except the American surgeons had the run of the OR except for a few trauma rooms. Many of the Panamanian nurses were there to observe and help translate as best as they could. I left the hospital around 6:30 pm for a trip to the Panama Canal. Anyone who was new to Panama and Operation Walk was permitted to go. It was quite an experience as we got to see several large tankers pass through the locks. We were given a private tour of the musuem and then headed to dinner at the invitation of Dr. Booth. Again, it was midnight before we got home.

I was very fortunate to be able to attend Mass Sunday morning at 6 am. I barely caught a word that I understood and the Mass was very different from what we do here in the US. The tabernacle was off to the side, the congregation never knelt for the Consecration and I couldn't even recognize the Gloria or the Creed. The sermon sounded like a Spanish fire and brimstone variety and the few words I caught were that the treasures of earth amount to nothing in the end and where do we choose to go? I was completely mesmerized by the statue of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel that sat above the altar surrounded by red votive lights. It was the most beautiful depiction of the Blessed Mother I'd ever seen. I couldn't linger to take photos because I had to catch the next bus to the hospital. We operated until nearly 6 pm Sunday and then we were treated to dinner at a fun Panamanian restaurant by Dr. Dennis. The next day we operated until about 4 in the afternoon, and then we had to be in the lobby by 7pm to go to a reception in our honor at the Union Club. I used the down time to back over to the church to take some photos and pray my Rosary. The guardian angel who looked after us, Alfredo, a wealthy philanthropist committed to making the lives of others better, arranged the dinner and provided traditional Panamanian dancers to entertain us.

The next morning, we attended a reception at the hospital with the President and First Lady of Panama along with the remaining total joint patients we did. In less than four days, we did 64 joint replacements for 59 patients (some had bilateral joints). Many of our patients went home the day after their surgeries. One of the patients the group had done last April came and she was a marvel to see. She had been wheelchair-bound for 10 years until Operation Walk replaced both hips and she was overjoyed to see the surgeon who had helped her. One of the patients walked to greet the president and first lady and then President Martinelli shook hands with each and every one of us and thanked us for our help.

Afterward, we left for an afternoon of relaxation at Alfredo's idyllic beach house on the Pacific. I was struck by how in every room of his house, there was no shortage of Bible passages. I pray for God to give him more wealth because he uses most of it to help others. He was truly an inspiration. We got home around 8 and everyone packed up for home.

We arrived back in the US a little before 4 yesterday.

Panama is a country of extremes - opulence here, abject poverty there. As we were traveling to one of our destinations, I saw one-legged man hopping along the side of the highway as fast as someone running on two legs. He had no crutches or walker and he was a picture of both tragedy and triumph. For me, he summed up the difficult circumstance many of these people live with as well as their determination and ability to make do. We learned as a group that we were capable of reaching down and finding more to get the job done. We had very little help and a great deal of work. Things we are accustomed to in our own OR were not to be had in Panama but we managed. It was fun sometimes to have to improvise so that we could get the job done well.

Anyway, it was a wonderful experience. I thank God for putting these people in our paths so we could carry out His Holy Will and for bringing us home safely and looking after my family in my absence.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Operation Walk

Tonight will be the last time I post for a little while. I am leaving for Panama City, Panama on Thursday as part of Operation Walk Philadelphia. We will be providing needy patients with total hip and knee replacements. This is my first medical mission and I'm looking forward to it but I do have quite a bit of anxiety about leaving my family for a week, especially for another country.

If you would, please say a prayer for the safety of the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who will be making this journey. Although Operation Walk is not a Catholic organization, the hospital we will be working in is. Please pray also that everyone conducts themselves in a worthy manner and that we are able to do some good while we are there. I helped get some of the supplies together, which was an enormous undertaking for the woman placed in charge of this, and I'm also praying that we have everything we need. We will be using a lot of equipment we're not entirely familiar with so we're hopeful that we haven't overlooked anything.

I nearly said no to this trip, not only because I have two high-needs children but also because I couldn't stand the thought of missing Mass. As fate would have it, our hotel is directly across from a church run by Carmelites, Iglesia de Nuestra Senor del Carmen ( or, the Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel). How's that for luck? What's more, the logistics coordinator called Panama and got a Mass schedule and I've been assured that the organizers will see to it that I and anyone else who is inclined will at least get to Sunday Mass (the first of which is scheduled for 6 am Sunday morning). The bulk of our surgeries will be done on the weekend because most of the Panamanian surgeons don't operate then, so I was a bit concerned but not so much anymore.

One of these days, I will figure out how to post photos to this blog and I will share pictures of not only the patients but the church as well. It's known as a remarkable example of Gothic architecture. At any rate, I will be spending the next two nights getting some meals together for the family for when I'm away and packing. It's hot and humid in Panama so it's a bit unusual for me to have to pack summer clothes. I'm also told the Panamanians often ask the American nurses to give them their scrubs at the end of each work day, so I've packed some extras to leave behind.

I don't know that I'll be able to leave my family like this again for at least a little while so I'm going to make the most of this and offer every moment to God. In the future, our group may consider doing a mission in another country since they've run a number of missions to Panama already. I would dearly love to go to India, where there is great need for medical missions. God-willing, that will happen some day.

See you sometime next week! God Bless you

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Advent Women's Silent Retreat at the Carmelite Monastery

The annual women's silent Advent retreat will take place at the Carmelite Monastery on Saturday, Dec. 5th. The retreat master is Father William Ricchuiti, OSA, associate pastor of the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia. The day begins with Mass at 8 am and includes 2 spiritual conferences, confessions, all-day Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and Rosary and concludes with Benediction at 4pm. Continental breakfast and lunch are included. The cost is $25 and space is limited. Any interested women, please leave me your email address and I'll forward the information to you. The utmost silence will be kept. This is a beautiful way to give yourself to God for a day and enrich your observance of Advent. At lunchtime there will be an opportunity to do some Christmas shopping in the Avila Bookstore, which features one of the most comprehensive selections of Catholic books, devotions and sacramentals.

A friend invited me to this retreat a few years ago and I wish everyone would have the opportunity to participate at least once.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Saturday Devotion to Mary

The following words were spoken to Sister Lucia, one of the three visionaries of Fatima, by the Blessed Virgin Mary:

"Look, daughter, my Heart is all pierced with thorns, which men drive into it every moment with their blasphemies and ingratitude. Do you at least seek to console me, and let men know that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, will:

1. Go to confession and receive Holy Communion
2. Recite the Rosary
3. Keep me company during a quarter of an hour, meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation."

I'm so struck by Mary's third request - to keep her company for fifteen minutes by meditating on the Gospel mysteries of the Rosary. Even though she is the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of God, Mary still desires OUR company. Which one of us would hesitate to console her in this way?

This is also a good time to make a little pitch here - every Saturday morning at 8am you are most welcome to join us for Mass at St Paul Church, 10th and Christian Streets, in honor of Mary, and after Mass, to stay and pray the Rosary for priests, followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. If you can't make it every Saturday, why not try for the First Saturday of the month? Your prayerful presence will help to make reparation for the wounds inflicted on her Immaculate Heart and enlist her aid for our priests, who are Mary's sons in a most special way because of the brotherhood they share with Jesus Christ her Son, the Eternal High Priest.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Holy Hour For Priests Today at 3 pm

Sorry this is late but for those who can make it, there will be a Holy Hour for Priests between 3 and 4 today at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church at 3rd and Wolf Streets in South Philadelphia. The faithful are invited to attend as part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's year-long observation of the Year of the Priest.

I've been away from the blog for a few days but hope to offer a reflection or two tomorrow.

God Bless

Monday, November 2, 2009

Departed Souls

Today, we remember the faithful who have gone before us in the hope of rising again with Christ. A priest once told me that when you pray for a soul that has not yet gone to Heaven, Our Lord goes to the person to console them with the knowledge that someone remembered them in prayer. Every day in my own prayers I try to remember all the souls in Purgatory who have no one to pray for them. Some day, I will be where they are, God-willing, and they will reciprocate.

I especially remember my brother-in-law, Fred, who God called home at a time of great personal happiness for him and his wife. They had tried for years to have a child of their own and after giving up, were surprised to learn that Tina was pregnant. Little Maria was only three when Fred was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, to which he succumbed in a matter of weeks. I remember driving home from his funeral at dusk, and seeing the beauty of a barn set against a backdrop of leafless trees, illuminated by the setting November sun. In the sadness of the quiet ride home on the Turnpike, that little glimpse of the beauty of God's creation, seen fleetingly through the car window, provided much solace. May Fred's soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Feast of All Our Saints

Today, the Church recognizes all its saints - those with a capital S who have been canonized and all those with a small s who have earned their heavenly reward. What are saints? Some define a saint as a Christian who does ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Not every saint could be a Joan of Arc, the improbable teenaged girl who led armies of her fellow Frenchmen to victory over the English. Some were hidden from the world, like Therese of Lisieux who underwent a simultaneous martyrdom of mind, body and soul while living as a cloistered religious in a Carmel. Some were privileged to be visionaries, like St. Bernadette of Lourdes and St. Catherine Laboure.

Some of the saints certainly did not start life out on the right foot, spiritually speaking. St. Paul persecuted the early Christians. St. Augustine fathered a child out of wedlock and caused his mother, St. Monica, much agony and grief. St. Margaret of Cortona led a life of promiscuity that would have earned her a death by stoning in Biblical times. These saints especially give hope to those who have lived a life of sin that with God's grace, anything is possible.

Growing up with a grandmother who was born in Calabria, Italy, I was educated early in life on the lives of the saints. My grandmother had a shrine that would make some of our churches green with envy for her collection of fine Italian statuary that depicted so many images that we are familiar with; St. Anthony of Padua, holding the Christ child; St. Lucy holding a plate with two eyes resting on it; St. Therese, pressing her crucifix and a bouquet of roses to her heart, and countless other saints. These were my role models and I loved reading about their lives in stories which were modified for children. I thought, for example, that St. Therese had sent of shower of literal roses to earth after her death and that the sure way to know if a relative went to heaven was if roses fell from the sky. As an adult with children of my own, I know a bit better.

Few, if any of us, will be canonized after our deaths. While we are alive, we can do our best to imitate the saints in giving ourselves over completely to Christ. We can admire them but more importantly we can emulate them and realize that they, like us, were completely human and given to the same weaknesses we are. We can use their own examples to overcome our personal weaknesses so that we, too, may rejoice with them in heaven one day.

"Led on their way by this triumphant sign, the Hosts of God in conquering rank combine"!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Make a Good Confession

As a continuation of last Saturday's topic, here are some guidelines for making a good confession.

1. Don't wait til 5 minutes before confession ends to get in line, unless it absolutely could not be helped. Get to church in plenty of time.

2. Take the time to practice good dental hygeine before going to confession. It's a simple consideration that we should show our priests. I have an image of a priest from childhood hearing confessions with a hanky over his mouth and nose. Need I say more?

3. Be honest and don't hide anything from the priest. You may succeed in hiding your sins from Father, but not from Jesus Christ, on whose behalf and upon whose authority the priest hears our confessions. There are many faithful Catholics who do not make a good confession because they're so ashamed of something they've done they can't bring themselves to admit it. That's why we have confession - so we can be thoroughly cleansed. You won't be the first to admit to a particular sin and you won't be the last. It's all part of the humility of going to confession but also the joy that will be yours when you unload that burden you've been carrying.

4. Don't turn your confession into a therapy session. Offer no excuses or rationales for why you did what you did - simply admit your sins and acknowledge your sorrow for having offended God. If the priest needs to know more, he'll ask you. If something is truly troubling you and requires more time than a few minutes, best to schedule an appointment with your priest. If you wish to maintain anonymity, consider going to confession at a church that offers them frequently. There are likely to be fewer people in line, possibly giving the priest more time to hear your issues.

5. If I get to confession and the line is really long, I sometimes decide to forego confession at that time so as to give someone else the opportunity. My thinking is this: someone in a state of mortal sin needs to go to confession more than someone who isn't. This is a particularly courteous thing to do if Mass is scheduled immediately after confession and there is the chance that not everyone who is in line can have their confession heard before hand.

6. Along that same line, if the line is long and a Mass is approaching, as a courtesy I might let Father know approximately how many people are waiting for him.

7. Remember that this is YOUR confession - not your husband's or your mother's or your kids', etc. You are there to confess YOUR sins and take ownership for what YOU'VE done, not someone else. Don't confess a sin and then blame someone else for making you commit it. No one can make us do anything. We can exercise our free will for our own good or we can use our free will to do spiritual harm to ourselves. "The devil made me do it" isn't a valid excuse.

8. Remember that you should say or do your penance immediately after your confession, or as soon as you possibly can if there is some reason why you can't do it immediately. For instance, some priests will assign you to read a particular psalm for your penance and you may need to wait til you get home to read it in your Bible.

9. If you remember something you did after you leave the confessional, that sin is still forgiven PROVIDED you confess it at your next confession.

10. Remember to thank Father for hearing your confession and to assure him that he will be remembered in your prayers. Priests need prayers as much as, if not more than, everyone else.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Praying for Priests

I am passing this along at the request of Father Z as posted on his blog What Does the Prayer Really Say? Father asked if we could make a special effort on All Souls Day to remember to pray for the souls of deceased priests. This being the Year of the Priest, it would be especially significant to pray not only for those priests who are living but also for those who have departed from us. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deliver Us From Evil

There was a time when the Halloween season had me very cautiously flipping channels. I never knew when one of the cable movie stations would be airing "The Exorcist" and I didn't want the horrible images of a possessed young girl rattling around in my head. Now that I am older and more wiser in my spiritual life, this movie is of little consequence to me. The whole subject of demonic possession is fascinating but one that should be approached with extreme care and caution. Truly, the only thing we need to know is that evil does exist in our world and the best way to overcome it is to engage in a life of prayer, especially through devotion to Mary.

Some folks get a thrill out of being scared out of their wits. Read enough about exorcisms and it's hard not to be both curious and afraid. But it's important to remember that there are people in this world who do not even believe in the devil yet do his dirty work for him every day by living a life of grave sin. Possession of one's soul holds a much worse fate, one of eternal damnation, than does physical possession. Again, the best way to overcome vice is through prayer, especially the Rosary.

The chief Vatican exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, once said that every Hail Mary is like a hammer blow to the devil's head. Lay people should never, ever attempt to engage the devil in any way and only a priest who has the permission of his bishop can attempt an exorcism. However, praying the Rosary is something all of us can and should do every day. St. Michael is also a most powerful advocate in our battle against evil. In fact, a well-known exorcism took place in Philadelphia many years ago and what finally exorcised the demon was placing a blessed statue of St. Michael by the possessed boy's bedside.

So, as fascinating as this subject is, it's best to occupy one's mind with holy thoughts, such as prayer, spiritual reading and especially reading about the lives of the saints. One other caution. At this time of year in our city, it's commonplace to see guides dressed in colonial garb leading tourists on a "ghostwalk" through historic cemeteries. Of course the hope is to actually encounter a ghost. Well, be careful what you wish for, because you may get it and when you appropriate something that doesn't belong to you, you go down a dangerous path. You don't know what you might awaken and what spiritual harm it may bring to you. Evil needs your cooperation. Don't offer it a portal into your body or soul by engaging in seances, palm readings, Ouiji boards and other activities that are in direct contradiction to our faith.

Thanks to Father Z and his blog for inspiring me to write about this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Family Holy Hour Sunday Nov. 1st at St. Monica's Church

This coming Sunday Nov. 1st, there will be a Family Holy Hour with Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament, chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, silent adoration and Benediction. This will take place at St. Monica's Church (upper church) at 7 pm. St. Monica's is located at 17th and Ritner Streets in South Philadelphia and Father Ronald Check cordially invites everyone to come. Remember! "the family that prays together, stays together." With all of the mindless drivel that occupies our time on television, here is an opportunity for families to end the weekend with the Lord and put all their petitions before Him with love, in adoration.

Monday, October 26, 2009

All God's Children

Today I came home from work early to look after my son, who is laid up in bed with what is probably the Swine flu. I was having some soup for lunch when I read about the little girl who died last week at the hands of her abusive parents. Her father killed himself in prison yesterday and her stepmother, who is also alleged to have participated in this child's abuse, is in a women's correctional facility. Despite the best effort by school nurses to protect little Charleeni Ferreira, authorties failed to detect any credibility to the abuse allegations and as a result, failed miserably in their duties to protect this child. Charleeni died of infection as the result of a collapsed lung and was found to have a fractured hip and a head injury that was masked by a hair weave. A 10-year-old child walking around on a FRACTURED HIP! It just defies belief that one human being could treat another, especially a child, in this way. There are also allegations of sexual abuse.

Today, a friend posted something on her Facebook page about the horrors of birds who died as a result of ingesting plastic. Everyday on Facebook it's commonplace to read pleas to adopt dogs and cats who face euthanasia if they do not soon find a home. There are heart-tugging photos of dogs that have been beaten and scarred for life by cruel owners. It is wonderful that people care enough to give them a home, but it's still a very sad commentary on our society that there is more effort made to defend animals than there is our own children, whether those children are in-utero or already born. Is it any wonder people will do what they do to animals when they can do what they do to human beings and get away with it?

I thought the city had seen the end of its horrific failure to protect children when the case of Danieal Kelly came to light. If the city pursued child abuse in the same way it does parking violations, it would be some safe haven for children. Instead, children, who through no fault of their own, are born into less-than-ideal situations, are at the mercy of less-than-fit parents and an inept agency that has run out of excuses and justificaiton for existence. I cannot imagine the outrage of those school nurses who KNEW something was wrong and had their pleas disregarded.

Last week, another tragedy gripped the country, that of the little Florida girl who had a falling out with her older sister on the way home from school and made the fatal mistake of walking ahead, never to be seen alive again. I can't imagine the guilt the older sister must feel. I can only hope her mother wrapped her arms around her and told her how much she loved her. I pray this poor child understands that it is not her fault the world is crawling with evil that preys upon innocent life. Hearing that little Somers' body was dumped in a landfill filled us with revulsion and rightfully so. Where is the same revulsion for the 50,000,000 little bodies discarded as nobodies like some infectious medical waste? Shame on us.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Power of Prayer

For the past several years, I have tried to set aside time once a month to pray a novena to St. Therese for 9 days. This novena is a most powerful prayer and while it takes about 15 minutes a day to pray it, it is a very small investment for the return, if I may speak of prayer in those terms. You might think it would be a challenge to come up with a different intention to pray for every month but you'd be surprised how easily several come to mind. Sometimes, I pray the novena for someone I don't see very often or hear much about. It isn't until I hear of some suprising news about them that I recall having prayed the novena for them.

To date, I've prayed for a co-worker struggling with infertility, a cousin battling brain cancer, another cousin battling colon cancer, two relatives struggling with addictions, and countless other people in need of prayer. On Friday, I was stunned to learn that a relative who has been in and out of jail and battling drug addiction was in a halfway house and expected to be released in December. He's been cleaner than he has for many years and doing remarkably well. I was embarassed that I didn't know about this sooner so I could offer thanks to St. Therese for her glorious intercession. When my mother relayed the news to me about this relative, I told her how I had prayed to St. Therese on his behalf. I was disappointed in her response. "You know" she said "you should really save your powerful prayers for emergencies". I had to remind her that God is not a politician with a limited tolerance for doing favors but a loving Father of infinite mercy who wants His children to come to Him with their needs.

Prayer is not always easy for me. I'm the poster-child for adult ADD when it comes to concentrating on the words I'm saying, and I often catch myself drifting somewhere else. I wouldn't dare to presume that I pray any harder than anyone else. What I do have in my favor is the complete confidence that God listens and wants to give us things, especially those things that will help us better conform to His will. I also know that we can do nothing without Him, whatever else we might think, and that when we call to Him, He doesn't see a wretched sinner but a child who is much loved. I also know that prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments are the most powerful weapons we have against sin and vice. Yet they are often the last resort for the desperate rather than a steady diet for the faithful.

Remember that saying, God helps those who help themselves? It's true. We can't just sit back and do nothing and expect God to handle everything. There are those situations, however, when the only way we can help ourselves is to pray and we should never lose sight of this.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sacrament of Reconcilation

Back in the good ole days when I was growing up, Saturday was the only day that confession was offered. You would get to church by 3 pm and wait in line for your turn. There was no marker on the outside of the confessional to tell you which parish priest would be hearing your confession so you never knew what to expect until you were "in the box". Some priests were patient and understanding, others not so much. The other notable difference was "back then" the confessionals were set up so as to allow two people to enter, one on either side of the part where the priest sat. It got tricky sometimes. I remember thinking I was next when in fact I was not and getting a severe reprimand for starting my confession while the poor priest was listening to the person on the other side. It wasn't funny at the time, but it is now, with the years that have passed putting the event in its proper perspective.

I think that the way the Church handles confession now as opposed to then is actually a change for the better. In some busy parishes, confessions are heard every day except Sunday. I am always saddened to hear that one of the major reasons people do not want to convert to Catholicism is because they don't want to go to confession. They don't know what they are missing. First off, it is nearly unheard of today to come across a priest who is harsh or insulting. If a person presents themselves in the proper disposition, approaching the sacrament with honesty, humility and a sincere sorrow for having offended God, they may certainly expect to have their sins heard and forgiven with kindnes and mercy. After all, it is not the priest who forgives our sins but Jesus, Who invested that authority in His priests. I can personally attest to the incredible feeling of lightness that comes with unloading my sins in the confessional. What others dread, I see as one of the most supreme gifts left to us by Our Lord.

Sometimes, a person will tell me they don't see the point in going to confession if they're going to commit the same sin again. The way to look at that is so long as you realize the sin is wrong, and you really do repent of having committed it, it's ok. Remember that Jesus fell three times on His way to Calvary. He knows that we, too, will fall many times and the mercy He extends to us is infinite. Going to confession isn't an instant fix for our failings in life but it is a means by which to obtain the graces necessary to overcome them.

Last week, on the feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the priest celebrant shared this incident that happened when St. Margaret was receivng revelations from Our Lord and shared them with one of her spiritual directors. The priest told her to ask Jesus: What was the most offensive sin I committed in my youth? When St. Margaret Mary relayed the question to Jesus, His answer was: I don't recall. St. Therese once said that even if she had commimtted the most horrible sin she could possibly could, it would be like throwing a single drop of water into a blazing furnace because of the infinite mercy and love Our Savior has for us. Mother Angelica once observed "It is a kind of sin against God to assume that our sins are greater than His mercy."

So OK, now that we have established that you SHOULD go to confession, how do you go about it, particularly if it's been awhile? First, be honest with the priest in telling him how long it's been since the last time. Then, tell him your sins. I try to keep things as brief and general as possible. The reality is that there are fewer priests to hear confessions and Father may not have time for long explanations. If he needs to hear more, he'll ask you. Remember approximately how many times the sin was committed. When you are finished, say that you are sorry for these and all the sins you've committed in life. Father will offer a brief counsel,give you a penance, ask you to say the Act of Contrition(more on that in a moment) and then give you Absolution of your sins. Some priests prefer to have you pray the Act of Contrition while they say the prayers of Absolution but this is not generally the case. I always like to say thank you and God Bless you to the priest before exiting. A small but greatly appreciated gesture. It is best to do or say your penance immediately, rather than put it off

Usually, penance consists of saying prescribed prayers such as "ten Hail Mary's and two Our Fathers". Some priests will want you to read a particular psalm, pray a decade of the Rosary, or perform some act, such as doing something nice for a person you may have offended.

For the love of all that is God's, please do not let the Act of Contrition deter you from going to confession. The priest will help you say it if you can't remember. I will print one at the bottom of this post that you can print and take with you, which is perfectly acceptable to do. At St. Rita's the friars have the Act of Contrition posted right there on the confessional so you can read it if necessary.

You can do this, and you should do this, so get going. St. John the Evangelist Church at 13th and Market Streets offers confessions Wed. thru Saturday from 3:15 until 5:00pm. St. Rita's at Broad and Ellsworth offers confessions twice daily from Monday thur Saturday, at 11 am and again at 4 pm.

Here is an Act of Contrition you can print and take with you:

Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment but also because I've offended thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of they grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

No more excuses, just do it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Divine Love Prayer

I do not know the author or origin of this prayer but after I heard it, I had to learn it because I wanted to say it all the time. It was taught to me by the very holy Father Jim Galligan, OSA, before he retired from active ministry. Father Jim would recite the first part of the prayer at Benediction and those of us in the congregation would say the response. I later found out that the prayer can also be recited on ordinary Rosary beads by saying each part of the nine-part prayer 10 times, followed by a Glory Be. Or, it can simply be recited upon reception of Holy Communion.


Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

I adore You and I praise You in union with the nine choirs of angels

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Burning with love for me, inflame my heart with love for You

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Thy Kingdom come

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Make us one in mind, heart and will with You, the Father and the Holy Spirit

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

Through the infinite value of each Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered now and until the end of time, have mercy on us and on the whole world

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

Thank you for the personal love You have for me in the Blessed Sacrament

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

With all my heart, I love You

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

I put all my trust in You


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Traditional Latin Mass

This coming Sunday, Oct. 25th, St Paul Church at 10th and Christian Streets in Philadelphia will begin offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form every Sunday at Noon. This Sunday marks the Feast of Christ the King according to the Traditional Calendar and the Mass will be a high sung solemn Mass. At one time, permission was required from the bishop of the diocese for Mass to be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, but Pope Benedict has relaxed this restriction much to the joy of those who either grew up with Mass or came to love it out of a desire for a more reverent and solemn form of worship. Mass in the Extraordinary Form is also known as the Traditional Latin Mass because the readings, responses and propers are chanted in Latin. The homily is given in English.

While it takes a little while to become familiar with this form of the Mass, it's not complicated. At the few TLM's I've been fortunate enough to have assisted at, there was adequate instruction given beforehand to prepare the congregation for what to expect. Unlike the Novus Ordo (the Ordinary Form of the Mass) the people receive Holy Communion kneeling at the altar and reception in the hand is not permitted. Also, the Communicant does not respond "Amen" - instead, the priest says this before placing the Sacred Host on the person's tongue. I have noticed a greater sense of reverence in the manner in which people dress and in their silence and prayer before and after Mass. It is not required that women cover their heads but those who long to do so will feel quite comfortable wearing a mantilla or other head covering to the TLM.

When referring to the TLM, many people mistakenly say that the priest celebrates Mass with his back to the congregation. On the contrary; with the congregation, Father offers prayers facing the Cross and the Tabernacle. This is known as ad orientem posture and if you think about it, would we really want Father to turn his back on Our Lord?

While everything but the homily is chanted in Latin, those who are not familiar with the language need not worry. I was able to pick up a very inexpensive but helpful booklet that has the prayers for the TLM in both English and Latin for less then $10 at the Carmelite Monastery. At the few TLM's I've assisted at, books were printed and given out that contained all of the prayers and readings as well.

The TLM has been referred to by some as the closest we can get to Heaven while on Earth. Come see for yourself.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pray for a Catholic Politician

Back in May, I was fortunate to be able to join Cardinal Justin Rigali and many of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a pilgramage to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. On the bus trip home, little cards were handed out, each of which bore the name of a seminarian at St. Charles Seminary. The idea was for us to pray for whichever seminarian whose card we received. I was thinking of this the other day when the card fell out of my Magnificat and something occurred to me. This is the month both dedicated to the Rosary and to the protection of life from conception to natural death.

It is wonderful to pray for priests and seminarians by name. Certainly, they need our prayers for the strength, patience and guidance to see their vocation to its completion. But wouldn't it be something if all of us could pray for one of our wayward Catholic politicians in the same way we pray for priests by name? Certainly, these public figures are every bit in need of our prayers, especially those who have fallen away from their faith in the interest of garnering votes. If all of us made a sincere effort to devoutly pray at least one Rosary a week, preferably a day, for the intention of a Catholic politician who is not living his/her faith out in accordance with the Church's teachings on life - imagine the graces! Perhaps anyone who reads this blog will consider this effort and start to pray by name for Vice President Joe Biden that he may convert to a culture of life and publicly renounce any legislation that does not protect all life, especially the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, Our Little Heaven on Earth Day

In her autobiography, The Story of A Soul, St. Therese recalled how much she loved Sundays during her childhood. She called them her "little heavens" and on this day she especially made an effort to adore God. At the end of the day, when her dear Marie and Pauline were getting her ready for bed, she would ask "Are the little angels flying all around me"? as she believed they would if she had spent the day in a manner pleasing to God.

For too many people, Sunday is just another day. How filled the Church is when attendance is mandatory for First Holy Communion or Confirmation, and how quickly the pews thin out once those sacraments have been dispensed. There is time for sports, time to shop, time for just about everything but God. Some folks traipse in late and are the first to barge down the aisle before Father. Sad. In His revelations to Saint Faustina, Our Lord lamented that it was these lukewarm souls that pained Him most. Others feel they are doing God a favor if they show up on Christmas and Easter, and still others make all kinds of excuses about why God doesn't care. Well, He does. Isn't that heartbreaking that a God Who loves us so much is so little loved in return?

My prayer is that those who are away, as I once was, will realize God's love for them and return to Him with all their hearts. Then they, like St. Therese, can experience the joy of heaven on earth.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Silence is Golden

Yesterday, I spent a litle time in Adoration following Mass and if I didn't get up and leave when I did, I would have had to go back to confession. It began with a gentlemen behind me not only answering his cell phone but standing at the back of the chapel and carrying on a conversation that was clearly not of an urgent nature.
Next, the woman across from me, who also neglected to heed the sign warning her to turn off her cell phone, allowed hers to ring rather loudly while she prayed her Rosary, making no effort to silence it. Following that, a distraught man rushed in searching for his lost Missal. He asked the cell-phone lady if she'd seen it and she proceeded to answer him in what a teacher might call an "outside voice." Following that, her cell phone rang yet again and this time she got up and went outside the chapel to answer it. At this point, an elderly gentlemen blew his stack and chastised everyone for their lack of reverence. "Put the damn things on vibrate" he said, and then he immediately apologized to Our Lord for swearing in front of Him.

It's like that some days. You set out trying to spend some time in prayer, and wind up commiting a sin against charity. I would venture to guess that in the past year, clearly half the sins I've committed have been in church, either for judging someone or for wanting to throttle someone who wouldn't be quiet. It's a tough call sometimes. Do you continue to watch the Lord disrespected, or do you take a chance committing a sin against charity and speak up?

On one occasion, when two people spoke in "outside" voices in the chapel, I did shush them. I got a lecture from the woman about being holier-than-thou and then she talked more and even louder. Another time, I respectfully asked a group of ladies to please take their conversation outside out of reverence for the Exposed Blessed Sacrament. They were very nice, apologized, and left the chapel. No one wants to be a cop, but the last place I want to hear a cell-phone or inane chatter is in Church. There is absolutely no conversation so important that it has to take place in front of Jesus in the Eucharist.

I think our priests need to help this situation a little with frequent reminders that the sacred silence must be kept in the Lord's Presence. And all of us can help by setting pristine examples for others.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of The Church

Today is the feast of one of my very favorite saints. In all humility, I feel I probably identify more with her than any other saint because of everything she juggled. In the back of my breviary is a prayer that was found in her breviary after her death. But of the many profound writings she left behind, my favorite phrase is a simple one that I will paraphrase here: " Let the only thing you fear be separation from God."

Teresa aspired to martyrdom at an early age. However, as she grew older, she wasn't exactly on fire with love for the Lord. Shortly after entering the convent, she fell ill with a mysterious illness and was paralyzed and near death. It took nearly 3 years before she was well enough to return to the Carmel. Teresa was disturbed by the laxity that was rampant in her Carmel and many other convents in Spain. Some sisters went so far as to wear make-up and jewelry with their habits and were known to socialize with gentlemen more frequently than they prayed. Still, it wasn't until she was in her 40's that Teresa underwent her conversion. Praying before the crucifix, she observed that Our Lord "was poor and naked, and so I, too, wanted to be poor with Him". From that point onward, she reformed the Carmelite order and traveled throughout Spain to start many foundations.

St. Teresa was also a mystic who experienced ectasies and levitation. There are almost comical accounts of her gripping the Carmel grille to avoid levitating. Sometimes she fell into ectasies in meetings and other public places and she begged the Lord to spare her from them, which He did. She referred to Our Lord as "Your Majesty" and He, in turn, called her "Daugther". She wrote many spiritual books including Interior Castle, La Vida ( her autobiography) and the Way of Perfection.

St. Teresa was often not well, but she didn't let that stop her from her work to found Carmels and hermitages throughout Spain. She found herself on the wrong side of the Inquisition but managed to elude harm. She was known to wear nettles for bracelets and a hair shirt under her habit. I have a little saying of hers in my kitchen. "The Lord Walks Among the Pots and Pans". In other words, even the most mundane tasks can be offered as prayer. She once remarked "Heaven preserve us from stupid nuns" and was renowned for her ability to quickly determine whether a young woman truly had a vocation as a Carmelite. At a meeting in her Carmel, which was anticipated to be contentious because of some opposition to her and her reforms, she completely disarmed her critics by placing a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Prioress' chair. Overwhelmingly, the nuns voiced their love and support for her.

St. Teresa died of internal bleeding. Upon her death, the Carmel was filled with the perfume of flowers. She was buried at the Carmel in Avila. St. Teresa is the first woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Lady of Fatima

Today marks the anniversary of the "Miracle of the Sun" in Portugal in 1917. Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to 3 shepherd children with a message of prayer and penance, promised a miracle to the faithful who came to Cova de Iria hoping for a glimpse of the glorious apparition seen only by the children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. On this day, which began with heavy rains, soaking the people and turning the ground to mud, the sun appeared to hurl towards the earth, sending the crowds into sheer terror. Then, just as suddenly, it veered back towards its place in the sky.

When atheists and blasphemers start in on me because of my faith, I urge them to read about the events of Fatima, not because of the miracle of the sun but because of the improbability of 3 ignorant uneducated children fabricating such a tale. The political climate was such that it was dangerous to be a Catholic and there was nothing to be gained by inventing a tale of a beautiful lady appearing to the children and urging them to spread her message to consecrate Russia to her, pray the Rosary and make many sacrifices for the salvation of sinners. The apparitions began on May 13th and occured on the 13th day of each subsequent month. Sister Lucia died on the 13th of the February. Pope John Paul II, who credited the Virgin of Fatima with saving his life, was shot on May 13th, the Feast of Fatima. As St. Therese once said, for those with faith the size of a mustard seed, our Lord moves mountains. I think it would very difficult to hear the story of Fatima and not at least be moved to ask some questions.

And let those of us who believe remain committed to praying the Rosary daily and offering many penances and sacrifices to save souls from falling into Hell.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Little Levity Pt II

This morning, I woke up bleary-eyed and exhausted from staying up too late watching baseball. I nearly didn't make it to Mass at all. As it was, I walked in during the Kyrie. In fact, I'm ashamed to admit this, but I had to FORCE myself to turn off the television during the Red Sox/Angels game to pray my Rosary. Vet appointments and other responsibilities prevented me from carrying out my usual Friday devotions according to my normal routine. Had the Phillies been playing, it would have been even harder to concentrate on prayer. I'm ashamed to admit this but I doubt I am alone.

On Sundays, it often takes every bit of willpower I have to turn off a football game and head down the street for a little time in Adoration. Worse, I used to plea-bargain. "Lord, I'll turn off the game and talk to you for a litle while. How about you let the Cowboys beat the Giants in the meantime?" It's nothing to be proud of and perhaps I shouldn't even joke about it, but I was thinking of my sports addiction during the homily this evening. A young man who has lead an other-wise good life asks Jesus what more he must do to get to Heaven. I put myself in that man's place.

First, I think there is almost nothing among my earthly possessions that I couldn't give up easily. Jewelry means nothing to me; money has no value, tho I clearly recognize the problem of going without any. My furniture is all second-hand. I like the computer but if push came to shove, I'd survive without it. But baseball and football? These would be difficult to give up. Would I? I'd like to think I would. And clearly, I could put myself to the test by turning off the game at a critical point and engaging God in prayer.

Last year, one of the St. Patrick Missionary Fathers came to speak to us at Mass. I swear he was a pupil of Therese, tho he never said so. Anyway, he asked us to consider making some small sacrifices and offer them in prayer on behalf of those he served in the mission. One of his suggestions was to turn off the Phils when the bases are loaded and go to bed without knowing the outcome. I can tell you I've tried this. But it's difficult not to know the score when you live withing earshot of Citizens Bank Park. It's decidedly quieter after a loss and even when I've succeeded in turning off the game, I strain my ears to hear the din from the ballpark. Pathetic. But it's something to work on.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lord, What Have I Done For You Lately?

One of the many benefits of getting caught in St. Therese's little web is that it causes you to pause and think about how your every action might serve God. Come to a stop sign when you're in a hurry and a lollygagger is trying to cross the street, you wave them on. You know you were in line before the pushy person who edges in ahead of you, you let them go. You get the picture. Some days, I have to really struggle to come up with a single thing I've done for God. Which leads me to this: today is Friday, a penitential day in the life of the Church. Growing up, meat was forbidden on Fridays. Now, it is permitted, provided we perform some act of mercy or perform some penance. It's a small thing to give up, given the expanse of meatless food choices we have now compared to when I was growing up in the 60's. Still, it requires some effort, particularly when invited to eat at someone's home.
Last Friday I served fried fish for dinner and my son asked me why because it wasn't Lent. Even though it may not seem like a big sacrifice, it at least gives us pause to stop and think on Fridays about why we will not eat meat.

(I wrote this last night and forgot to post it, hence it's a day late)