Friday, December 31, 2010

God's Special Blessings This Year

As you may remember from a prior post, I accompanied a friend to an appointment a few weeks ago at Fox Chase Cancer Center because she'd been given a dire prognosis for survival from her cancer. The doctors at Fox Chase offered her several options, all of which involved trials for chemotherapy that is still in experimental stages. She asked me what I thought she should do, and I suggested she sign up for the study drug but review the side effects, etc. with her primary doctor before starting treatment. Apparently, her primary was very alarmed by what he read and he urged her not to participate. Instead, she went to another university hospital and yesterday, she was informed that she is much healthier than she has been lead to believe and that there are many non-experimental options for her cancer. I give thanks to God for this good news.

From a post much earlier this year, you may recall that I gave thanks to St. Therese for her glorious intercession in helping a couple conceive a child. They're not Catholic and to my knowledge, they were not even religious, but I prayed that if God chose to bless them with a child, they would come to know and love Him. Last week, I learned that the family has started going to church every week. The Sunday school teacher asked them if she could borrow their daughter because she needed a baby Jesus for the live nativity. When they agreed, she said "good, and you can be Joseph, since you'll be here anyway." The dad is a bit rough around the edges, but nonetheless, he and the baby took part in the nativity. Who'd have thunk it?

In our household, our autistic son has begun training as an altar server and the oldest is going to Mass and confession again.

There are many less dramatic ways that God bestows His blessings on us each day. We have only to look at the human misery and suffering in places like Haiti and the Sudan to realize that simply living in this very wealthy country is a blessing of sorts. We have a roof over our heads, indoor plumbing and enough food to eat. We are free to worship God in a country where gunmen do not burst in the door and murder the congregation in cold blood.

I, for one, need to resolve to be more grateful for what I have and not sweat the small stuff. For the life of me, I do not understand why I can react more calmly to bad medical news and financial worries than I do to trash trucks blocking the streets or the dishes being done sloppily. As a very wise old priest told me a few weeks before Christmas, God gives us these trials not to trip us up but to enable us to perfect ourselves, which is a life-long process. "Think of yourself as a piece of unfinished wood, and every fault and failing is a piece of sandpaper". But, we're full of pride, and we like to think that we can achieve a point in life where we will never sin again. When you're tempted to fall into that trap, look out. Chances are, there were more saints like the cantankerous Jerome and once-wayward Augustine than a Teresa or Therese, and like them, God sees the potential for holiness in every one of us, even when we can't.

The other thing we can't lose sight of is the people God places in our midst. As important as it is to bless God and praise Him for the wonderful people He places in our lives, it's perhaps more important to praise Him for those who agitate us, insult us and go out of their way to make life difficult. Perhaps we have an unpleasant encounter with a co-worker or even a stranger. Maybe it's because it's an opportunity for us to pray for that person, and if we did not have an unpleasant exchange with them, it's possible no one at all would have prayed for them on a day when they desperately needed it.

In my own life, I am grateful for the graces God gave me to deal with two very difficult co-workers. I literally had a visceral reaction to one person to the point where I couldn't stand to be in the same room with her. How could a person who goes to Mass nearly every day and prays as much as I do possibly react to another human being in such a way? With God's help, I overcame my difficulties with this person to the extent that I could be civil and charitable toward her. And as a result, I'd like to think that God used me as an instrument to help her take a look inward and change her ways as well.

When we pray and beg God to answer us, let's remember the unexpected way in which our Lord and Savior entered the world. God does things as He sees fit, including the manner in which His Son was born. The answer to our prayers may not be accompanied by thunder bolts and flashes of lightning. Most of the time, His response will come in a way not wholly apparent to us at first. Let us always remember to give Him thanks and praise, even when the gifts He sends us are not as apparently beautiful as those He sends to others. Trust that He knows best.

Happy and Holy New Year and may God bless you and your families.

New Year's Eve in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

If anyone knows of Mass or Adoration this evening, please let me know. St. Rita's is NOT having services tonight as they have in the past, and I've been unable to confirm if the Carmelite Monastery is having Adoration at 10pm followed my Midnight Mass, as has been their custom.

Thanks, and a Happy and Blessed New Year to all. Let's pray that, above all, it will be a spiritually profitable year for everyone, especially those who need it most.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Tiny Life Snuffed Out

The region is reeling from the news that a 2-month-old infant died of starvation and neglect in a West Philadelphia shelter. The "mother" and "father" are being sought for questioning and the couple's other children have been taken into protective custody. There are reports that an agency contracted by the city's department of human services checked on the infant a few days ago and reported that everything was hunky-dory. Babies, even ones this fragile, don't die of starvation in the course of two days.

Not to get graphic or personal, but how is it that people who don't even have a roof over their heads can continue to fornicate and reproduce? And where were the other children at the time their new baby brother was being conceived? One can say that animal instincts can overtake people in any circumstances, but even animals care for their young better than these two did. Apparently, the mother has skipped town.

When I was in college, I got into a rather public debate with one of my sociology professors about the inclination of certain segments of our society to reproduce outside of marriage with little or no means of caring for the innocent lives brought into the world. The professor accused me of being prejudiced (against who?) and ignorant. She asked me to consider that mothers without means of support repeatedly bring babies into the world because they are seeking love - to get and give love to a child. Perhaps this is the case in certain circumstances, but no one can convince me that love would induce a woman to continue to reproduce with a man incapable of caring for his family and then starve the resultant infant to death. Apparently, the mere fact that they were residents at this particular shelter meant that they had ample access to infant formula. Heaven forbid these mothers should breastfeed their babies, which costs next to nothing.

Meanwhile, on Father Z's blog, a commenter lamented that she and her husband are open to adopting children of any race, but because of the high number of babies being aborted, there simply aren't children available. There would be if someone would recognize abuse when they see it and intervene on behalf of innocent children who prematurely leave this world with the same level of care and concern in which they were brought into it. None.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life's Cycles

My father was a highway patrolman who rode a Harley to work and patrolled some of the worst neighborhoods in Philadelphia. There was never any doubt about who wore the pants in our house. Dad was a strict disciplinarian, a man's man who earned badges for his sharp-shooting abilities and who piled up commendation after commendation for locking up some really bad people. He spent hours upon hours in court testifying about some of the criminals he arrested and then headed off on his motorcycle to arrest some more. When he would leave our house to start up his Harley, all of the kids on our block would encircle him and watch with awe as he rode off to to work his shift. My sister and I were the envy of the neighborhood and there was no doubt who had the toughest dad on our street.

My dad retired from the police force after just 20 years so that he could move out of the city and away from the crime and the filth that he saw everywhere. He got a job at an insurance company in the suburbs and shortly thereafter, he and my mother moved to their little suburban paradise.

In my father's mind, he is still that tough-talking highway cop, but not in anyone else's mind. Now he is a slight little old man, bent somewhat by age and affected by a terrible accident he suffered 5 years ago that left him with permanent hearing loss and some deficits in his cognitive abilities. He can't hear at all in his right ear thanks to the damage to his cranial nerve and if he'd wear his hearing aid, he might hear something in the left. Did I mention that he's probably the most stubborn person you'd ever want to meet and doesn't think he needs to hear?

My dad was nearly 70 when he had the accident, which required three surgeries on his skull. I was convinced my entire life that he would never retire but would die at work. However, life seldom happens as we think it will, and after months of recuperating from his accident, he realized it was time to call it quits.

My father keeps himself busy on the little homestead he has, caring for the birds and the grounds of the house he shares with my mother. His friends sometimes refer to him as the salt of the earth and I would agree. He spends at least an hour a day in prayer, attends daily Mass and sits with Jesus for hours on the day his church offers Adoration. He also spends entirely too much time listening to political propaganda and in order to keep the peace, I do not discuss politics with him, even though he is constantly trying to bait me into a "discussion" with him. For one thing, he'll never listen long enough to let me make a point and for another, what point is there trying to convince the already-convinced of anything?

Lately, it occurs to me that I am going to have to step in and force my parents to face some facts about the way things are. I do not think it's safe for my dad to get behind the wheel of a car anymore. He has impaired depth perception, as anyone who's driven with him lately when he's making a left turn could certainly attest to, and the fact that he can't hear means he's oblivious to sirens and other sounds that alert us to danger, like a car that's passing too closely. I have offered to drive him and my mother on their weekly outings to Lancaster County, but he becomes indignant at the suggestion. My mother is in denial and thinks it's perfectly safe to let him drive so long as she's the co-pilot, but her own driving skills of late leave something to desire. I do not want him to kill himself and my mother behind the wheel of the car but even more, I do not want him to kill someone else. Talking to either of them about it only invites insults, more denial and sometimes the receiver clicking in my ear. His doctor wants no part of the discussion, which doesn't help. My sister has tried talking to both of them but it only results in frustration.

When did this happen? And how does it happen that the two people who nurtured us when we were small and helpless are now becoming dependent on us? It's not just the driving. At Christmas dinner, I looked over to see my father tearing at his rib roast with his hands instead of using the knife provided for that reason. He appeared almost feeble when I handed him the knife and I couldn't help but shudder at the thought of him driving home on I-95 in the dark. My sister's offer to drive his car were met with resentment and anger. I know what I have to do, and I know that the result will not be pleasant. Hopefully, both my parents will come to realize that I am doing what I am not to anger them or treat them disrespectfully but to protect them and everyone else. It's no fun when you become the parent to your parents, but it's all part of the cycle of life that sees us cared for as children, then caring for our children, then caring for those who cared for us when we were children.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What is Going on?

So, I'm taking a walk down Broad Street last week and, just as I pass a man who is headed into Starbuck's, he spits and just barely misses me. I don't say or do anything but then it happens again and this time, he just misses my shoe. So I turn around to see who the manner-less cretin is and he blasts me with a barrage of racist and vile obscenities. He finishes his tirade by calling me a piece of trash who thinks they're better than everyone else. I glared at him, but I concluded all the bulbs on his strand weren't lit, and I moved on. A day later, in almost the exact same spot, again someone nearly spits on me. This time it's a young man and upon realizing how close he came to spitting on me, he issued a profuse apology. A few days after that, I'm closer to home, on 11th Street, and lo and behold, I encounter another spitter, this time issuing no apology but no tirade either.

This next story, however, is the icing on the cake. About a block from home this evening, I heard a window slam shut about 3 stories above me and the lit cigarette someone tossed out of it barely missed the top of my head. I stopped and stared upward to see who the offending party was, but they did not make themselves known.

I remember reading in a little Adoration booklet once that we will never know Jesus until we've been spat upon and cursed at. I'm not quite sure my experiences were what this author had in mind. However, when I look back at myself about five years ago, I can see that these minor annoyances are God's way of testing me, because I would never have just walked away from such blatant disrespect. Now, it bothers me, but not enough to lower myself to respond in kind. And not so much that I don't remember to pray for the conversion of the offending person.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Around the Parishes

Next Saturday, January 1st is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. The Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at Noon at St. Paul's Church, followed by Exposition and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th Streets and free parking is available in the school yard directly across from the church. Because of the anticipated Mummer's Parade on Saturday, you might want to consider taking public transportation or, if possible, walking to church.

O Come All Ye Faithful

Holy Family Sunday

On this Holy Family Sunday, here is an article written by Maureen O'Riordan, a noted author on St. Therese and her family as well as a Secular Carmelite, on the parents of St. Therese, Zelie and Louis Martin. God's graces are there for our families, too, as they were for the Martins, and we have only to ask for them.

Family Prayer
Although Zélie and Louis were constantly pressed for time, each was faithful to the contemplative life, the life of family prayer, and the liturgical life of the Church, and they created a family similarly faithful.
Husband and wife maintained a demanding schedule. Yet every morning they attended 5:30 Mass, saying it was the only one the poor and working persons could attend. When the neighbors heard their door shut as they left for church, they would say, “Oh, it’s only that holy Martin couple going to church; we can turn over and sleep a while longer.”
Every morning and evening they prayed as a family; they observed Sundays and the feasts of the Church with care. Louis was a leader in the nocturnal adoration of the Eucharist. Zélie, always the last to go to bed, was often up till nearly midnight. There were many demands on their time, but they gave it generously to serve God and their neighbor.
Loving Each Other and Their Children
Louis and Zélie loved each other very much. In October 1863, away on business, Louis wrote to Zélie: “My dearest, I cannot get back to Alencon before Monday; the time seems long to me, for I want so much to be with you . . . I embrace you all with my whole heart, while awaiting the joy of being with you again . . . . Your husband and true friend who loves you forever.”
In August 1873, when Zélie took the little girls to Lisieux to see their relatives, she wrote to him: “I am with you all day in spirit, and say to myself: ‘Now he is doing such and such a thing.’ I long to be with you, Louis dear. I love you with all my heart, and I feel my affection doubled by being deprived of your company. I could not live apart from you.”
They also loved their children deeply. A few weeks before the birth of Thérèse, Zélie wrote to her sister-in-law: “I love children to the point of folly; I was born to have them. . . . But it will soon be time for all this to end . . . I’m at an age when I should be a grandmother!”
On March 4, 1877, Zélie wrote to her daughter Pauline: “When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. From then on we lived only for them. They made all our happiness, and we would not have found it except in them. Nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven.…”
In the midst of this family life, however, the parents formed each daughter carefully from childhood in the spiritual life. They studied each child as an individual, nurtured her confidence, and encouraged her to give God a free hand in her life. About the decision to allow Marie to go on a retreat at the Visitation Convent where she had been educated, Zélie wrote, “I did have a good reason for wanting Marie to make the retreat. It’s true that it is an expense, but money is nothing when it comes to the sanctification of a soul; and, last year, Marie came back completely changed.”
Louis had a profound respect for the spiritual lives of his daughters and reverently supported each in fulfilling her vocation.…
Loving Christ in the Poor
While supporting a large family, Zélie and Louis gave generously of their energy and money to the poor, to the Church, and to causing charity and justice in their society.
Louis was a member of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, and he also reached out to the poor persons around them. When he went out, he always carried loose change to give alms to those who begged of him. If he met a drunken man in the street, he helped him get home.…
Zélie took good care of her maids, nursing them herself when they were ill. She did not want to send them to the hospital or to burden their families. For three weeks she nursed her maid, Louise Marais, day and night. She was kind to the fifteen women who worked as her lacemakers, visiting them on Sundays after Vespers and making sure they lacked nothing.…
Thérèse’s sister Céline testified that she often saw poor people coming into her home to receive food and clothes from Zélie, who often cried when she heard their tales of distress. Both had great reverence for the poor, in whom Jesus still suffers poverty today. After Louis had brought one poor man home from church and given him a meal, he asked Céline and Thérèse to kneel to receive the poor man’s blessing.
Complete Surrender to God
After leading heroic lives, Louis and Zélie surrendered themselves to long and painful illnesses and, in Zélie’s case, to a premature death.
She died of breast cancer at age forty-six, when Thérèse was only four years old. After she was diagnosed, she wrote, “So let us leave it in God’s hands. He knows what is for our good much better than we do. It is He who wounds and He who heals. I will go to Lourdes on the first pilgrimage, and I hope that the Blessed Virgin will cure me if that is necessary.”
When she was not cured at Lourdes, she still kept the faith. About her return to Louis, who had been waiting at Lisieux for news of a cure, she wrote: “He was not a little surprised to see me returning cheerfully, as if I had obtained the hoped-for miracle. It gave him renewed courage, and all the house was filled with cheerfulness.”
Not long before her death Zélie asked prayers “if not for a cure, then for perfect resignation to the will of God.” The miracle she had hoped for on the feast of the Assumption did not happen. The next day, twelve days before her death, she ended her last letter, to her brother, with the words: “Obviously, the Blessed Virgin does not want to cure me . . . . What would you have? If the Blessed Virgin has not cured me, it is because my time has come, and God wills me to rest elsewhere than on earth.”
Later Louis became ill with dementia, and he was confined in a mental asylum for three years. He accepted this trial generously and brought many other patients back to God.
On February 27, 1889, Céline wrote: “The Sister said to him that he was rendering them a great service by bringing back the fallen-away patients to God. ‘You are an apostle,’ she told him. ‘That’s true,’ answered dear little Father, ‘but I would prefer to be an apostle elsewhere; however, since it is God’s will! I believe it is to break down my pride.’”
Sister Costard, who looked after Louis, wrote: “He is really admirable; not only does he not complain, but he finds that everything we give him is perfect.” When his family and friends made a novena that he might be well enough to return to Lisieux, he said “No, you must not ask for that, but only that God’s will be done.
In 1892 he was well enough to return to Lisieux, where Céline and the Guérins looked after him devotedly. He said, “In heaven, I’ll repay you for all this!”
On learning of his death, Father Almire Pichon, a Jesuit then working in Canada and a close friend of the Martin family, wrote prophetically to Louis’s daughters: “Jesus is taking him from you only to beatify him.…

To read the full article, please visit Maureen O’Riordan’s website:

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Minute With St. Therese

"My heart was broken when going to the Midnight Mass; I was counting on assisting at it behind Carmel's grilles! This trial was very great for my faith, but the One Whose heart watches even when He sleeps, made me understand that to those whose faith is like that of a mustard seed, He grants miracles and moves mountains in order to strengthen this faith, which is still small; but for His intimate friends, for His Mother, He works no miracles before having tried their faith. Did He not allow Lazarus to die, even after Martha and Mary told Him he was sick? As the wedding of Cana when the Blessed Virgin asked Jesus to come to the help of the head of the house, didn't He answer her that His hour had not yet come? But after the trial, what a reward! The water was changed into wine..... Lazarus was raised from the dead! Thus Jesus acted toward His little Therese; after having tried her for a long time, He granted all the desires of her heart."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Little Bit of Christmas Nostalgia

Like many of us, I have fond memories of my childhood at Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we first visited the home of my paternal grandparents, where the cooking seemed to go on forever. My grandmother prepared the traditional Seven Fishes, though not a single adult could explain the significance of the number to us. Just when you thought you couldn't possibly eat another thing, out came the desserts. Piled high on a plate would be mounds of my grandmother's strufoli, which were the best I've ever eaten. These little fried dough balls soaked in honey were topped with decorative jimmies and candied almonds. I wish I had learned to make these from my grandmother, though I'm not sure what good it would have done to ask her for the recipe. Her pat response was always "It's not important for you to know how to make them. It's only important that I know." I guess she thought she was going to live forever. Or, perhaps it was her way of making sure we missed her when she was gone, to never show any of us how to carry on her traditions.

Her pizzelles tasted remarkably like her pancakes - too big, too much egg and too soft, but she made up for it with her biscotti which she iced and topped with green and red jimmies.

My grandparents never had a Christmas tree, but to shut us kids up, my grandfather would decorate the lemon tree in the living room (which incidentally never produced a single lemon) with a strand of multi-colored lights. A star that changed colors brightened up their front window, but that was the extent of it. My grandparents put all of their energies into the food and the wine and left the decorating to their Americanized children. I wondered aloud how Santa Claus ever found such a sparsely decorated abode, particularly one that had no chimney, which would prompt my Uncle Sonny to tell us some fish tale about encountering Old St. Nick in the hallway when he was just a boy. Christmas at my Calabrian grandparents' house bore little resemblance to the Victorian holidays of my dreams.

After dinner and dessert, we would depart for the home of my maternal grandmother, who did have a tree and lots of lights and decorations. When we would drive down the 1300 block of Wolf Street, which was the brightest-lit block in South Philadelphia, the excitement would really mount. The neighbors to this day carry on the tradition of stringing large old-fashioned bulbs in horizontal strands connecting the north side of the street with the south side. When we drove under them, the enchantment was indescribable.

From there, we would visit my uncle John in his apartment above his restaurant on Broad Street, where he lived when he wasn't at his palatial estate in Florida. The only time I'd ever seen my uncle in church was for funerals but come Christmas Eve, without fail, the television was tuned to Mass at the Vatican. My sister and I couldn't wait to get home and would worry ourselves into a frenzy that Santa was going to skip our house because we weren't at home in bed.

As a child, I only attended one Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and I'll never live down what happened. I was in the school choir, and Sister Edna got the idea that we would sing a little concert of carols at 11:30pm before Mass began. We were all dressed in choir robes and beanies that had to be returned to the convent on the day after Christmas. We also carried candles with paper doilies, and the church was darkened so that the primary source of light came from our candles.

About 3 carols into our repertoire, hot wax began dripping down my arm. I was more afraid of Sister's reaction if I disrupted her concert than I was of getting burned, so I stood stoically still. Then all hell broke loose - literally. The paper doily caught fire and fell to the beautiful oriental carpet on the altar. I stomped on the blaze and put it out with my foot. I could see Sister's eyes open wide as saucers and she was so stunned by what happened, that she started us off on the wrong stanza of Silent Night. To this day, it is with great trepidation that I carry a lit candle in church.

What do all of these memories have to do with Our Savior's birth? They go to show His extreme generosity and the profound effect His coming has had on our lives. There is no other event in the world that produces the excitement and memories that Christmas does, even if it's true that too many people overlook the real reason for the season. Nor is there any other time of year when so much cheer and goodwill is evident. And it all started with Him.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Have Patience With Yourself

One of the saints I wish to know more about is St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Whenever an atheist accuses me of being intellectually dishonest, naive and stupid because I believe in God, I refer them to her, even though I know so little about her. Why? Because she was born to devout Jewish parents, lived atheistically for roughly 15 years, and was a brilliant student and professor of philosophy who not only converted to Catholicism but entered the Carmel after all. This pretty much tosses all their arguments out the window and hopefully, plants a seed for God to water.

In one of her letters, Sister Teresa wrote: "God is truth. All who seek truth seek God, whether this is clear to them or not." Her spiritual advice to those seeking the truth was "Have patience with yourself, God does too."

In his beatification homily for her, Pope John Paul II noted her love for truth, obvious in another passage she had written: "My search for the truth was a constant prayer."

For some in this life, truth may have to do with questions on God's existence. For others, it will be a search for the purpose for which God intended our lives and a desire to know His will for us. It seems to me that as we pray for the conversion of sinners and non-believers, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross would be a very appropriate and sympathetic intercessor not only for them but for us as we continue on our journey.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We're in Good Company With Jesus

Those of us who have a few so-called black sheep in the family should be comforted by today's Gospel from St. Matthew. Among those in the lineage of Jesus are counted, among other things, a prostitute and a philanderer. Even the Good Lord had His share of family skeletons in the closet. When one of the crowned heads of England decides to wed, all sorts of inquiries are made about the intended commoner's background. I remember hearing it said about the late Princess Diana that she had a "history but not a past." Not so with those who preceded Our Lord.

We have had quite a few sordid relatives in our family, some still with us, some not any longer. I could write a book about one person in particular that would make for a very amusing read. Then there is my friend Tom who loved to talk about his crazy uncle who set the attic on fire right before dinner, and then kept excusing himself with a glass of water to run upstairs to put it out. You can't make stuff like that up. Well, you could, but you'd be hard-pressed to find something as outlandish as the reality of some of our lives.

In all seriousness, why is the genealogy included in the Gospels? Perhaps as one more proof of how Jesus humbled Himself to take on our humanity, so that we might share in His Divinity. And as we prepare for Christmas and family get-togethers with some of our less-than-desirable relatives, let's remember that where we came from isn't nearly as important as where we're going. And the more humble we are about where we are, the more we will resemble the Savior and help the people we encounter to see Him in us.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kids These Days

The youngest progeny asked me to accompany her to her high school's annual holiday concert. I remember being very impressed with the concert put on at my own high school (Philadelphia High School for Girls, Class of 1978), so much so that I begged my parents to see it that evening. Getting my father to drive to Broad and Olney at night with my mother and sister in the car was no small feat, but everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. So, it was with a certain sense of nostalgia that I eagerly went with Rebecca this evening.

The orchestra was wonderful. Not quite the caliber of Central's orchestra, but very good. They played Beethoven's Ode to Joy and I had to chuckle when Becca asked me if it was supposed to sound like that. The wind section definitely carried the piece but still, a lot of the kids had only started playing their instruments in September and deserved praise just for getting on that stage. The choir sang Vivaldi's Gloria. I heard some voices I thought would be suitable for the schola at church. They even had a couple of wannabe rockers do a few songs and the guitarist did his best Eddie Van Halen solo. Not sure it was quite in the holiday spirit, but it was entertaining. It was all very pleasant except for one thing: at no time was the auditorium ever quiet. Sadly, I cannot blame the bad behavior solely on the students. Glancing over at one particular chatty parent, I could see why the kids didn't zip it. Their parents never taught them any better.

The other thing I'll probably never get used to is the constant text messaging. I was so happy to be sitting next to a child who was enjoying the music and exhibiting appropriate behavior. I know that the principal was not pleased with the disrespect shown toward the performers because she said so. Problem is, she said it to the students. Had she addressed the rude parents, we might have had silence and rapt attention paid to the student performers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pro-Life March Bus Trip to D.C. from Philadelphia on January 24, 2011

Once again, St.Rita's Church at 1166 S. Broad Street in South Philadelphia will sponsor a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life on Monday, January 24th. The price is $45 and includes continental breakfast at 6:30am at St. Rita's prior to departure,the cost of the bus including tip for the driver, round-trip Metro pass to the Walk and Rally on the Mall, Pro-Life sign to carry (which also helps the group to stay together)and snacks on the bus. Pro-life Rosary and other prayers will be said on the bus preceding arrival at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Cardinal Justin Rigali will celebrate Mass.

The bus will depart from St. Rita's promptly at 6:55 a.m.

A short rest stop will be made on the return trip home and the group should arrive back at St. Rita's around 8 p.m. If you cannot walk, consider coming anyway as you can remain behind at the Shrine and offer prayers in the Adoration Chapel in the crypt.

Free parking is available if you drive to St. Rita's to meet the bus. For the third year in a row, Father Bill Recchuiti, OSA, will be traveling to D.C. with the group.

If interested, or if you need further information, call Deborah at St. Rita Friary at 215-546-8333 Ext. 12

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Lady's Knight

If you have a moment, please visit this website dedicated to a young man named Charles Untz, a remarkably pious Catholic who was killed in front of his home some years ago. He planned to enter the seminary after graduation from high school. I first learned of Charles from Father David Engo when Father was at St. John the Evangelist in Center City. I am praying to Charles to intercede for the healing of a seminarian who suffered a setback in his battle against an inoperable brain tumor. Charles was a remarkable person and worth reading about, if you have the time.

Just a little while longer....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Roses From Heaven

It is no secret that I have not been happy in my job. I feel that the environment is one which does its best to rob people of their joy and spirit, so I've been on the hunt for something else. There have been a few promising prospects, but it's been a slow process. However, one hospital in particular seemed anxious to close the deal with me, which I would be willing to do it except for one thing - they want me in too early in the morning to allow me to get to morning Mass. I was down in the dumps all day yesterday, even though I spent a pleasant afternoon in Lancaster with my mom and my youngest and had solid job offer. "What's your obstacle?", my mother asked me.

"That I may not be able to get to daily Mass. I don't know if I'm willing to give that up for a new job, but I know I can't stay in the one I'm in."

My mother is a life-long Catholic and a daily communicant, but I know she doesn't understand how much it means to me to be able to go to Mass nearly every day. All day yesterday, I asked God to show me what He wants of me and, if possible, to present me with another opportunity which might allow me to maintain my daily devotions. I asked St. Therese if she could help. She, who once said she did not count getting up from her sick bed every morning to go to chapel too much to win just one Holy Communion, would understand.

Wouldn't you know?

The phone rings this afternoon, and it's a woman I used to work for when she was a director. Would I like to come work for her? In her CATHOLIC hospital, which offers two Masses a day?

I nearly deafened her on the phone with my yelp of joy!

I also remembered something else that might have helped my cause. When I was dropping my friend off the other day from our trip to Fox Chase Cancer Center, she wanted to know what she could for me in return.

"Say a Rosary for me."

"For what intention?"

"Ask God to help me find a job I would like."

Just like that.

OK, I didn't formally interview or anything yet, but it's in the works and the decision ultimately belongs to the woman who called me this afternoon, so I have faith that what should happen, will happen.

Thank you, sweet Jesus, for looking upon your servant with such love that the little I do for You isn't even a drop in the bucket.

You Know I'm Not Too Swift When...

...I've been writing this blog for over a year and I just discovered the feature called stats. The blog has been seen by people as far away as Russia and even China. In fact, with the exception of the United States, Russia is nearly at the top of the list of countries where someone regularly views this blog. And today, I saw that someone as far away as Malaysia checked in.

As I have said before, the sole purpose of this blog is to offer some reflection that might help strengthen some one's faith or bring them back into the fold. OK, so there is an occasional glimpse of what happens in the kitchen. But hey, don't forget - the Lord walks among the pots and pans, too!

So, let other bloggers have their millions of viewers and donation buttons and condescending remarks that denigrate people. The minute this blog resembles those blogs, you have my permission to cut me down to size.

May God Bless you!

Maybe I've Done Something Right Because.....

...the only things on my youngest child's wish list are a missal for the Traditional Latin Mass and a Danny Briere jersey. She never asked for much anyway but, at an age when other girls are asking for clothes, make-up and hi-tech cell phones, her simple requests bring me real joy and peace of mind that she's on the right path.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Kind of Wow

One of my Loyola professors sent this to our class as an example of the kind of influence one person can have over an entire group. I'm not sure I agree with the classification, but this moved me to tears. I had seen the Macy's flash mob of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah, but this touched me because of the sheer youth of most of the singers. And, that somewhere in the middle of a mall, accolades were paid to Our Savior from people of all walks of life.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Loaves and Fishes.... Sort Of

My one vanity is that I get my hair professionally colored. So, the stylist casually asked me what I was making for dinner and I gasped, remembering that I forgot to stop at the store. As fate would have it, I also forgot that I had a package of chicken thighs in the fridge, but unfortunately, not much else. The amazons I call my children went through the groceries at an alarming rate this week. But not to worry - I had some bacon on hand as well as some shallots, garlic (the last of the bounty from Bud, my CSA farmer) and some tomato sauce. So I threw together an abbreviated version of Hunter's Chicken, one of my favorite winter dishes. I'm sure it's not healthy, but I sure as heck don't care, either!

Lucky for me, I had all the key ingredients on hand. I omitted the bay leaves and lemon.

Anyway, fry 4 strips of bacon in a deep pan that can withstand the oven. When the bacon is crisp, set it aside on a plate and brown the chicken in the bacon fat. The recipe I have, from the cookbook Best Lost Suppers (American Test Kitchen) calls for 4 split breasts, but thighs are all I have. Once the chicken is slightly browned on either side, set aside and then add 5 shallots, sliced thin, and 12 cloves of chopped garlic to the bacon fat. Let the shallots wilt and then add 3 chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of tomato paste until fragrant. Next add 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth and 1 1/2 cups of long grain rice. Mix, and then nestle the chicken, skin side up, into the mixture and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle with paprika. Crumble the bacon and top off the chicken/rice mixture with it. Transfer the glorious mixture to the oven and bake at 375 until the chicken is cooked, about 45 minutes.

It was with some sadness that I used up the garlic and shallots as they are my last remnants from Bud's farm (although I do have another turkey from him in the freezer downstairs). This is one of those dishes that never draws a complaint from anyone, except maybe that I didn't make enough.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How I Spent My Feast Day

When a novice complained to St. Therese about some aches and pains she was having, she told her: "It's because no one knows about these pains that you feel them so acutely." It's human nature, I think, to want to share our misery with others, whether out of a desire for sympathy or empathy, I'm not entirely sure. At the risk of negating whatever spiritual profit I may derive from the way I spent my day, I wanted to talk about it a little anyway because of the many people I encountered.

A woman I know from church was crying last week because she had gotten a terrible prognosis from her doctor. She had an appointment at another cancer center, but no means of getting there as the hospital is a considerable distance from where we live. I don't know what came over me, but I volunteered to take her, knowing I had to work. I managed to be able to get the day off and all I'll say is that it was a very long day that involved a lot of waiting, very little food, and a considerable bit of hope.

As I sat in the waiting room for my friend, I didn't know where to look. Everywhere were signs of human misery and suffering. The worst part was seeing young people having to be pushed in wheelchairs because the cancer or treatment or maybe both had severely debilitated them. I was struck in particular by one young woman. Clearly, she had lost all her hair, and despite the fact that she was bald and very sick, she was very beautiful. She was walking the halls and had a visitor holding either arm to support her as they walked. I could tell that she had a Port-a-cath by the dressing that peeked out of her shirt. She was listening intently as one of the visitors recounted to her the activities of a young child, who, after eavesdropping on this conversation for awhile, I surmised was the patient's young daughter. The visitor was trying to fill her in on all that she was missing, down to the last detail, and the patient would just smile as she listened. I thought she looked at peace and as a nurse, I couldn't help but wonder what type of cancer she had and how I hoped she'd be home with her child for Christmas. I like to pray for people by name, but the Lord and His holy Mother will know who I mean when I pray for the young mother from Fox Chase Cancer Center.

There were a lot of married couples, some older, some not so old. Some people appeared to be "regulars" and exchanged stories about their treatments with others who waited with them. Some people seemed to be taking their trials in stride while others were clearly upset, bewildered and maybe even a little angry. I thought of something Fulton Sheen once said as he passed a hospital. "There is so much wasted suffering in there." Not today at least, as I offered the inconvenience of spending 6 hours in a waiting room for the intention of all those who waited with me and their families, that God may give them His unsurpassed peace to accept whatever He had willed for them.

I have been praying for this woman and another man with cancer who I know from daily Mass. Every time I see the man, he tells me the cancer has spread to a new place in his body. Yet every morning at 6am, there he is. "They tell me it's everywhere, but I don't feel a thing. In fact, I feel pretty good." I couldn't help but think that perhaps this is how God has chosen to answer prayers for this man. He may not be cured, but he certainly doesn't appear to be suffering. Riddled with cancer as he is, he still manages to get to Mass every morning, in all kinds of weather. I ask God to accept his effort on behalf of all those who can't manage an hour a week on Sundays, that they may come to realize the precious treasure they are squandering.

O Mary Conceived Without Sin, Pray For Us Who Have Recourse To Thee

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clerical Reform

You may notice an addition to the blogs to which I link. Visit Clerical Reform when you have a chance and please remember to pray for the priest who authors it, Father S. Pray, also, that we may have more priests like him, "the salt of the earth for the salvation of souls." The blog is written for priests, but much of what Father S writes about is applicable and useful to laity as well. I don't post many comments on his blog because I'd rather that the priests for whom the blog is intended would do so. I never have the feeling that Father minds questions or comments from laity, but I wish more priests would read his counsels and take them to heart.

My Own Personal Purgatory

If you want to know what torture is, try writing a 10-page paper on a not particularly interesting subject and, to top it off, make sure it's in APA format. For the uninitiated (and fortunate) APA format refers to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. It's de rigueuer for writing papers for nursing courses, some of which are about as exciting as watching grass grow. Once I get started, the writing comes somewhat easily. But when it comes to formatting, you may as well ask me to explain calculus. The particular course I'm taking now requires that before a paper can be submitted, it has to be reviewed by an academic resource committee. I find it nothing short of amazing that the reviewers never have a comment about my content but instead hone in on the ample number of violations in APA format. This struggle dates way back to my college days when I chose to write a paper on Emily Dickinson for a prof who earned his doctoral dissertation on her poetry. I got an A for writing and an F for mechanics. Things aren't quite that bad, but pretty close! A few weeks ago, I accidentally deleted three days' worth of writing and couldn't retrieve it. I've since learned to hit the save button after every paragraph.

A friend recommended a program called Scholar Word, which is supposed to format for you, but I think I wasted my money. Anyway, I am in the process of writing and ordering the references so I will only have to type them once. And, in between, running to the kitchen for a pizzelle. I'm hoping to have this all wrapped up tonight so I can submit the accursed thing before Friday's deadline. It's difficult to think of dragging the Christmas decorations down from the attic or getting the tree when I have this obstacle in front of me, not to mention preparing for a second interview in a few days.

In the meantime, I was reading "Progress of a Soul" last night before retiring and I thought the passage I opened to was fitting, given how unpleasant I am finding this course. St. Teresa of Jesus was staying in yet another miserable inn and had the misfortune to be assigned the worst possible bed. The lopsidedness of the mattress made it impossible to roll over, and she commented that it gave her an inkling of what it must be like in hell, where one cannot change position and where there is no escape from the torments.

This isn't that bad. In a few days, it will be all over. And then I get to start all over again in January.

I usually don't decorate until after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I don't know why, but I've always had the innate sense that it was appropriate to wait until Dec. 8th. Now that it's the eve before, the lilac bush in the backyard is illuminated by miniature globes of blue. A little bit of the white stuff is all that's missing. It's my simple little gesture of love for Mary.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Meditations and St. Joseph, Continued

The following prayer is taken from the St. Joseph Daily Missal printed in 1957 and is a prayer meant to be prayed before Mass. An indulgence of 3 years was attached to it. Regardless, I think it is a beautiful prayer and reminds me of what I have overlooked about St. Joseph.

O Blessed Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and to guard and defend Him.

V:Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

Let us pray: O God, Who have given us a royal priesthood, we beseech You, that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands, and to bear in his arms, Your Only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life, to minister at Your holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Only-begotten Son, and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving an everlasting reward. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Meditation for First Saturday, Through the Eyes of St. Joseph

I confess that sometimes, it is a challenge for me to meditate on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary as I should. Fortunately, there are many more inspired people than I who have put the "the thoughts of their hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" to paper. For a long time, I have been meaning to spend more time in devotion to St. Joseph, who was the patron of every foundation started by St. Teresa of Jesus in Avila. I picked up a little booklet today written by Brother Daniel Korn of the Redemptorist Fathers that offered, among other things to contemplate, the Joyful Mysteries through the eyes of the foster father of Jesus. Here is a little excerpt from his book, "Prayers and Devotions to St. Joseph", from Liguori Press.


St. Joseph, what sorrow and anxiety filled your soul when you realized the child Jesus was not among your relatives and friends. Many were the discouraging thoughts that filled your mind and heart as you spent three days searching for him. Great was your joy when you found him in the temple among the teachers and doctors of the law. Pray for me, St. Joseph, and obtain for me the desire to know more about my faith. Lead me to seek the presence of Jesus in the many people and events of each day. Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

First Friday of December

Tonight at St. Albert the Great Church in Huntingdon Valley, First Friday Mass will be offered in the Extraordinary Form at 7pm in the rectory chapel. The celebrant is our own Father Gerald Carey of St. Paul's in Philadelphia. Father will hear confessions at 6:30 pm. St. Albert the Great is located at 212 Welsh Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA.

Also tonight, St. John the Evangelist Church at 13th and Market Sts. will commence "No Greater Love Weekend" in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Devotions begin in the lower church at 6:30 pm and continue into tomorrow with Mass, Adoration, Pro-Life witness and homeless outreach. See St. John's website for further details.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Another Rose Dropped From Heaven

As I may have shared a few weeks ago, I have been praying fervently, along with many other people, for the relative of someone I work with. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor a scant three weeks ago and underwent surgery to remove the growth, which produced a sudden onset of symptoms consistent with a glioma. The surgeon was so concerned by what he saw on the CT scan that he scheduled the patient for surgery immediately. The tumor was sent to pathology, but the surgeon gave the family the grim news that the tumor was malignant, and the only thing that would come from pathology was the type of cancer so that a course of treatment could be developed.

The man in question has a young son who is already suffering from issues of loss in his young life, so I prayed for the little boy as much as I prayed for his dad. The day before Thanksgiving, the family was overjoyed to learn that the pathology showed that the tumor was benign. The patient will require a few courses of radiation, and then he'll be on his way. I had not seen my co-worker since last week, so I was elated to hear the news, but not surprised.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.... When my pastor came to dinner on Nov. 13th, I bought a beautiful bouquet of roses with green foliage and some other flowers for the vase on the Victrola. A week later, the flowers had all wilted, with the exception of one rose. I bought a Thanksgiving bouquet last week, and incorporated the rose into the new arrangement. I found it amazing that two weeks after its purchase, the rose was still pristine, without a hint of brown, and its petals were entirely intact. It also retained its scent. I think I know why. I offered my monthly novena , Joy in Suffering, to St. Therese on behalf of this young father. Whenever possible, I prayed it in front of the Blessed Sacrament. And I have offered every Eucharist for him since learning of his trials. I don't know if the surgeon is calling this a miracle, but I surely am. Never underestimate the power of prayer and the benevolence of God.

The Grinch Who Tried to Steal Christmas

From the illustrious city of Philadelphia comes word of an absurd objection to the word "Christmas" in a sign promoting a German-replica shopping village on the grounds of City Hall. Supposedly, a little Jewish girl asked her father why "they" didn't have a village. Rather than explain to his child that Jews don't celebrate Christmas but Christians do, he chose to protest to City Government. So, in the interest of "fairness and inclusion", the village is to be renamed "Holiday Village". Never mind the fact that Christmas ornaments feature prominently among the wares being sold, and that in Germany, where this village originated, it's a Christmas village, not a Hanukah-Kwanza-Saturnalia-Festivus-whathaveyou Village. One of the Muslim vendors thought the name should transcend religion. She should try selling her stuff around Ramadan and see how many customers she gets.

I have a real problem with people who want to declare war on Christmas at the same time they're lining their pockets off the generosity and goodwill of others.


Mayor Nutter came to his senses and the word "Christmas" is going to be re-inserted on the sign. Always good to see when an elected official can admit a mistake and take steps to correct it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pope Benedict's Prayer for the Unborn

As posted on Father Z's blog, the following prayer, translated into English by Vatican Radio, written by Pope Benedict XVI.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Random Thoughts From a Long Walk on The First Sunday of Advent

This morning when I arrived at church for Mass, I encountered a woman standing at the foot of the steps, clearly daunted by the task of having to get herself and her walker to the top. I offered to carry the walker up for her and then I went back down to assist her up the steps. I was touched that she was not only physically handicapped but that speech was also an effort for her. Clearly, it was an enormous effort for her to get into that church, but here she was. Meanwhile, how many fit and able Catholics stayed home from Mass today because it was too much trouble to give an hour to God?

I'm not sure if I have shared this before on the blog, but before I returned to the Catholic faith, I belonged to an Anglo-catholic church where, for awhile, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I loved the interior of the church, with its beautiful stained glass window behind the altar and the rood screen depicting the Crucifixion. It was dark and somewhat medieval looking and I found the interior an easy place to meditate and pray. Surrounding the exterior of the church was a beautiful garden lovingly cared for by a core group of parishioners who often gave up their Saturday morning to to prune the roses and tend to the hedges. In the Gothic spire that rose high above the church hung a peal of bells that rang out on Sunday mornings in a compelling display of change-ringing. On Saturdays, I helped with the soup kitchen, where mostly homeless men and a handful of homeless women sought solace, a hot meal and warm place to go. The church had everything I had searched for and everything I needed - or so I thought it did.

One day, I was sitting in the pews during Evensong and Benediction, and as the minister raised the monstrance, I had an uncomfortable feeling. I doubted that the monstrance contained the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and I thought that if I participated in this ritual again, it would be akin to worship of a false idol. Not long after, I found myself back in the arms of Holy Mother Church.

I was keenly aware that this being the First Sunday in Advent, a service of lessons and carols would be held at this church. I knew that benediction would not be part of the service, so I thought perhaps it wouldn't be a terrible thing if I went. The church has one of the best organs in the city and a choir of truly angelic voices, so what could be the harm in sitting in a pew and listening to stories from the Bible and beautiful music? I got to the doors of the church, and I just could not bring myself to enter. Why? Because there was a reason why God lead me away from this place, not the least of which was because for many of those inside, what goes on in that magnificent building is nothing more than entertainment. I remember being told of people withholding their pledges because they were dissatisfied with the quality of the music. Imagine if they'd been subjected to "Gather Us In" on a weekly basis? I had the feeling that I was no better than they were, seeking to enter a house of worship merely to be entertained. I wanted to hear the choir sing " O Come O Come Emmanuel", even though I knew He wasn't there in the Real Presence.

On my way home, I passed a Catholic church, not my own parish, that is just a few blocks from my house. I remember when this church held Vespers on every Sunday of Advent. It doesn't any more, and it closes after the last Mass on Sunday. Anyway, as I passed by the church on my way home today, I saw a man standing at the top of the steps. I recognized him as someone I frequently see at Adoration. He was going through all his usual gestures as he prayed, facing the altar. He wasn't going to let a locked church stop him from adoring the Lord. I stopped briefly to offer my own words of adoration, as I try to remember to do every time I pass a Catholic church, and then I headed home to finish getting Sunday dinner ready for the family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

A few years ago, we were lazing around the house on Black Friday when suddenly, water started pouring out of the ceiling and onto the dining room table where, only 24 hours prior, the turkey sat waiting to be carved. Can you imagine if this disaster had happened while we were sitting down to dinner? We probably would have laughed about it years later, but I would not have found it funny at the time. In fact, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. Despite the mess, I kept offering thanks to God that this calamity did not occur in the middle of my Thanksgiving dinner. Even in the "small stuff" I try never to forget that His hand is always there, guiding things that I might take for granted. Thank You, dear Lord, for all the ways, big and small, in which You look out for me and my family. I can never say it often enough - I love You.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sign of the Times

In today's Gospel, Jesus talks about the signs that will accompany the end of this life as we know it, with nation rising against nation and every kind of natural disaster occurring. Jesus speaks of signs in the sky, and I couldn't help but remember this Gospel later in the day when I heard the news about North and South Korea firing on each other. Here we are, ready to roll into Advent, when we commemorate His first coming and look forward to His next coming, and we have this ominous Gospel and events in the news. When the angel comes with his sickle to harvest the grapes, I do not want to wind up in the fire. God, grant me the grace to always do Your Will and set aside petty differences. Help me to avoid the trappings of this world, especially at this time of year when the birth of the Savior is an afterthought and is so easily forgotten in the rush to acquire material possessions. Help me to never take the Eucharist for granted, by being ever mindful of His Divine Presence, and by making sure that I receive Him worthily by avoiding sin and making frequent use of confession, prayer and sacrifice. And above all, grant me the grace, as St. Therese prayed also, to make You greatly loved by others who do not yet know You.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayerful Presence

In your charity, would you please say a prayer for Scott, Bob and Marlene? All are facing serious medical problems and have asked for prayers. Scott underwent surgery for cancer and his young son is already dealing with issues of loss;Bob is awaiting a heart transplant, and Marlene is awaiting test results after having symptoms notoriously linked to cancer. Sometimes I worry because now when anything happens at work, people come to me to ask me to pray for them. Not everyone is going to get the answer they seek, so all I can do is ask God to grant them what they ask for and if, in His Divine Wisdom, He sees fit to do otherwise, I beg that He will grant them the grace to accept what He has willed. Why do I say I worry? Because I don't want people to think of my prayers as if they're some kind of magic. A co-worker who is not religious and did not even baptize her children recently asked me about my brown scapular. I was disappointed when she asked me one day if I wanted to wave it over someone who was giving me fits. Her ignorant remark lead me to believe she didn't understand what I told her at all and that she was mocking the significance of the scapular. On the other hand, the fact that so many people do ask for my prayers tells me that I have been a satisfactory witness to the faith and have, through the grace of God, demonstrated my commitment.

Another thing happens after people who don't know me have been around me for awhile. They are very careful not to take the Lord's name in vain in my presence and they're also careful about their language. The latter doesn't bother so me much as the former. A priest once told me that every time we hear someone use the Lord's name in a profanity that we should stop immediately and offer some ejaculation of love, such as "My God, I love You!". It's a good practice, well worthy of exercising whenever the opportunity arises.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Small Mercies

This has been a doozie of a week. I think the father of lies threw himself into overdrive in an attempt to get to me. It started with one of my subordinates suddenly and quite unexpectedly launching into a vicious personal attack on me Tuesday evening. I was so stunned I hardly knew what to say. I could have disciplined the person, but chose to do nothing immediately except walk away and wonder what had happened. The following day, a surgeon suddenly and unexpectedly ripped into me, ending our phone conversation abruptly by slamming the phone down. I didn't know what to make of that either. I asked the priest to say a prayer for me yesterday morning after Mass before I headed off to work. "You-know-who is working overtime at my job," I told him and he understood.

In the midst of all this drama, a friend who belongs to another parish emailed me to say that her pastor had seen my son at church and wondered if he'd like to be an altar server. My son does not normally go to Mass with me on Sundays because he doesn't have the patience for the Latin Mass so he either goes with my husband or by himself to the church down the street. Father went so far as to ask if I thought Matthew had a calling. You just never know when God is going to hold out His hand and offer you help getting to next rung on the ladder. I was so saddened by the behavior of the two people at work and then I got this email and suddenly, none of the nonsense mattered.

I also prayed to God and to St. Rita that I would be able to reconcile with the two people in question. Yesterday, the subordinate asked to speak to me and told me she'd been sick for two days about what happened. Apparently, she was feeling ultra-sensitive and she took something innocent I said to mean something entirely different. We were both happy to bury the hatchet. As for Dr So and So.... I ran into him today and told him I'd lost the hearing in my right ear. "From what?" he asked, concerned. "From some fool slamming the phone down in my ear." He turned fifty shades of purple and walked away, muttering "you'll get over it." Apparently, he is feeling miffed because I didn't confide my future plans to him and he's feeling neglected and abandoned. He didn't choose an appropriate way to demonstrate his feelings, but there's no point in dragging something out. I extended my pinky finger to him, like I used to do with my best friend when I was 7 years old, and he extended his back and we made up.

Tomorrow evening, our pastor is coming to dinner. I've never had a priest over for a meal before so I've been in a panic. Nothing around the house looks clean enough or neat enough. I tried to get my mother to take the dogs for the night, but she wouldn't bite. I should have taken off today to get more of the house in order, but we have a big conference happening tomorrow for one of our surgeons and I had to get things ready today. Everything that could go wrong did, with one calamity happening after another. But with God's help, it all worked out. I had hoped to work a half day today, but as it turned out, I couldn't leave until nearly 5, so the work I intended to get done had to wait until tonight. On top of it all, my husband started getting the powder room ready to be repainted, but he lost track of time, so now the walls are primed but not painted. I was ready to throw his belongings into the middle of the street when I got home, but then who'd be around to help me with the heavy lifting tomorrow? My oldest is very entertained by all this. "What, a priest can't use an unpainted bathroom?" she laughed. Which leads me to the next moment of grace.

Amid all the turmoil of this week, the oldest asked me to help her with a project she's taken on. In return she promised to go to confession and Mass. OK, so she probably won't go to the Latin Mass with me, but the fact that she'll go at all is an answer to a prayer I've been praying for a long time. So try as he might, the father of lies did not succeed in driving me further from God. Thank you Jesus.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let the Guilt Begin!

A few weeks ago, a friend wrote to me inviting me to travel to Italy with her church next Fall. "Pray on it", she said. The itinerary was to-die-for. Overnight flight into Rome. Visits to the Vatican including a Papal audience. Mass every day in some of Italy's most important Catholic sites including Cascia, St. Rita's monastery, the church where St. Padre Pio received the stigmata, the Grotto of St. Michael and other important monasteries and basilicas.

Pray on it I did, and I've decided I'm going to do it. I'm not sure how just yet, but God has always provided for anything I've wanted to do, and this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Naturally, I'm being eaten alive with guilt because I'm not taking the family with me, but both of my sweet girls urged me to do it. "You might not get another chance," the youngest told me. "You work hard and you shouldn't feel bad about doing something you've always wanted to do."

As with the trip to Panama last year, I can justify going. Obviously, the former was an opportunity to help others. The trip to Italy is an opportunity to bolster my spiritual life while seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meditation for First Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The following is an excerpt from Father Benedict Groeschel's book, "Rosary, Chain of Hope."

"The bitter and iniquitous humiliation of the crown of thorns is almost incomprehensible to us. When most Western people think of thorns, we think of rose bushes, whose thorns are bad enough. But the spinae of Jerusalem grow three or four inches long. They were wove into something like a helmet and pressed down into the skull, ripping the flesh in every direction, perhaps even penetrating parts of the skull where there might have been an anatomical fissure around the edges. How terrible was this pain, how unimaginable! How did Christ even survive such an ordeal! And it was accompanied by mockery - mockery of the Son of God, the King of Kings.

In all our lives we live through unnecessary pain, and we may encounter the mockery of what is very good and very holy. By our own failures we have sometimes even participated in that mockery. The image of the crown of thorns should reach deeply into our souls. In the midst of the bitter sufferings that come to all of us at times, we should have hope because Jesus Christ sanctified suffering and the grief of death and the horror of mental illness. Mother Teresa used to say that mental illness is Jesus' crown of thorns. These words can be an immense consolation and hope to those whose lot it is to wear this crown."

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Dig, I Am Not Able

Today's Gospel according to St. Luke is most perplexing and I'm relieved to hear that lay people aren't the only folks who struggle with making sense of it. Our Lord tells a parable about a lazy steward who is dismissed from his position because he squandered his master's money. He realizes he will likely starve to death because he can't dig ditches and he's too proud to beg. He devises a scheme to make his master's debtors become ingratiated to him by falsely reducing the amount that they owe. Our Lord commends the ingenuity of this wicked servant, saying the children of this world are more prudent in worldly matters than are the children of light.

Finally, I heard a sermon today that makes sense of this Gospel. Our Lord is not so much commending the servant for his wickedness as he is lamenting that sinful man is not so resourceful with heavenly treasures as he is with worldly matters. Father pointed out that if we took advantage of every spiritual grace and blessing made available to us in the sacraments and prayer, we would be very well invested in that which matters most. In an excellent analogy, he asked to consider if all of Donald Trump's wealth was not material but spiritual. If he amassed in grace what he has amassed financially, Father said we would be calling him "St. Donald". Amusing, but true! How many people do we know obsess about their financial investments but haven't stepped foot in church or gone to confession in decades? Once we squander our opportunity to earn our Heavenly reward, we are at the mercy of God. Money, houses, jewels and I would throw in there political power are transient. Heaven or Hell are eternal. Will we be able to make an honest accounting to demonstrate we've earned a place among the elect? With God's help, I am going to do everything in my power to assure that everyone I know and love is aware of what's at stake.

As Our Lord advises in Matthew's Gospel, heard every Ash Wednesday, let us store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where rust does not corrupt and thieves cannot break in and steal. None of us are too holy to stop and think for a moment how what we say, do and think is in conformity with God's will. The worst mistakes I've made have come when pride has interfered and I've allowed myself to think I could just coast along. Am I as holy as I should be? Am I as holy as I can be? There's always room for improvement.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Commemoration of All Souls

Yesterday, we remembered all those saints with a small "s" who were not necessarily canonized but have merited a place in Heaven for their faithfulness in carrying out God's Will in their lives. Today, we remember those faithful departed who must still undergo purification before they can enter the Kingdom of God. Some folks left this earth with little or no relatives or friends to pray for them. During this month of November, please remember to pray for those souls who have no one to pray for them, whether out of attrition or because of neglect. We may one day find ourselves in the same position and even in death, we are obligated to do unto others as we would have them do for us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

For All The Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bearing Witness

It's that time of year again, when it's impossible to traverse certain streets of Philadelphia without getting accosted by the ACLU. So tonight, I'm on my way home and the oldest progeny calls and asks if I can get her some butter so she can bake some goodies to take to her friend in Massachusetts tomorrow. She miscounted the number of sticks in the fridge, as it turns out, but I digress. And as I'm walking towards the entrance to Whole Foods, my little wooden Rosary around my hand and in use, I'm approached by a young man with an ACLU t-shirt and a clipboard in his hand. "Hello ma'am, can I ask you for your help in overturning don't ask, don't tell?" And at that point, he notices the Rosary and pointing to my hand, says, "I guess not, but have a good day anyway." I went on my way. Should I have said something? Or did I make all the statement I needed to make? You decide.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All Saints and All Souls

Next Monday Nov. 1st, The Feast of All Saints will be celebrated at St. Paul Church with Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 7 pm. The following evening, Nov. 2nd at 7 pm, the pastor of St. Paul's, Father Gerald P. Carey, will offer his first requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the commemoration of All Souls Day. A catafalque draped in black and surrounded by four unbleached candles will be used as part of the requiem Mass.

Father shared something with me that another priest told him about the Traditional Latin Mass and how it's like Heaven. I'm paraphrasing, but here goes: You won't believe who you see there, you won't believe that you're there, and you won't believe how beautiful it is.

You don't have to be familiar with the Traditional Latin Mass to come. The booklets supplied before Mass are very helpful, as are many members of the congregation who will be glad to help you with whatever you need. St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th with parking available in the schoolyard directly across the street from the church.

One of the things that may immediately jump out at you is how quiet it is before Mass begins. People actually pray before and after Mass. Another thing is the number of large families (by today's standards, anyway). Women are dressed modestly and the men are dressed appropriately. This doesn't mean you have to be dressed expensively or elaborately. It just means dressing in a manner that conveys respect to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It does cause me to wonder whether or not the Church would have lost so many members and whether our society would be in its current state of deterioration had this Mass not been mothballed. Thankfully, it's been liberated by Pope Benedict XVI. I do hope more of you will take advantage of this priceless opportunity to take part in such a beautiful liturgy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Praying the Rosary

For whatever reason, I started praying the Rosary every day months before I decided to return to the Church. I still can't recall exactly what prompted me to look in top drawer for the Rosary my late maternal grandmother gave me. In fact, when I first started praying it again, I didn't recite it correctly. Fortunately, I picked up a helpful pamphlet in the back of a church and learned to pray it "by the book."

Also for reasons unknown to me, I found it much easier to meditate on the sacred mysteries of the Rosary at first. Today, I must confess, my mind often wanders and I am continually catching myself as I contemplate more worldly matters. It is definitely more easy for me to keep my mind and heart focused when I pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. However, it's not always possible for me to do this, and there are times when I pray the Rosary while I'm walking to or from work. I do the best I can and I have an agreement with Our Lady that whenever I pass an undesirable or obnoxious person on the street or some poor soul who appears lost, I offer the Rosary prayers for them.

St. Therese once lamented how difficult she found it to pray the Rosary alone, when not in the company of her sisters, saying that at times, she "found it more difficult than wearing an instrument of torture." Still, she did not stop praying it. Knowing how ardently the Blessed Virgin Mary urged the visionaries of Lourdes and Fatima to pray the Rosary, it is a wonder to me that any faithful Catholic might still not feel compelled to oblige her. There are just a few days left in October, the month dedicated to both the sanctity of life and the Rosary. What will you do to increase this devotion to Mary, which she called a weapon against sin and vice? What will you do to strengthen your own Rosary prayer?

Sometimes, when I pray the Rosary while walking, I'm ashamed at how far my mind can drift from the Gospel mysteries. I think of how easily the words of the angelic salutation and the Our Father can roll off my lips, but how seldom they flow from my heart. I need to do something about that, but I also take encouragement from St. Therese, who admitted to her own struggles. "I think that the Queen of Heaven, since she is also my mother, must see my goodwill and she is satisfied with it."

Yes, because she is our mother, Mary understands our shortcomings. But just as we would not hand our mother a wilted bouquet, so must we try to offer Mary prayer as free as possible of worldly distraction and mindless lip-service.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Do Unto Others

For reasons still unbeknown to me, my former pastor asked me if I would consider being an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion only about a year after I returned to the Church. I said yes but I had some reservations about how worthy I was for this privilege. "No one is worthy" another priest told me, "but so long as you never start to think that you are, you can do it." In our parish, only one EMHC is ever used at a time at Mass and our principal function is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and home bound of the parish. When my first three-year term came to an end, I decided I no longer wanted to assist at Mass. I was a always a nervous wreck and I found myself constantly frustrated with the way people presented themselves to receive the Lord. There was the little girl still wearing filthy gloves who wanted to receive in the hand. There was the woman who insisted on receiving in her hands but never kept them flat, causing the Sacred host to slide down her hand and nearly onto the floor. I was much more comfortable with making home calls and our next pastor agreed that I could limit myself to that duty.

I never make home visits without first going to Confession, even if I don't feel the need. The time when I am carrying The Lord is not only a great privilege but also a great opportunity for personal adoration. I would never for a moment compare myself in any way to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but I sometimes think that I have been given the unique privilege of knowing what it's like to carry Jesus. I have to constantly remind myself and occasionally, when my mind wanders to some mundane thought, like what I'm going to make for dinner when I return home, I make every apology for my lack of attention and devotion.

Some of the homes I have visited left me feeling frustrated. One woman did not open the door, did not answer her phone, yet, after she thought I had left her building, came out of the elevator headed out the door to smoke. I was nearly livid. Never mind the disregard for me. How disrespectful toward Our Lord! Nothing is worse than taking the Lord into a house full of smoke. Still, some of my ladies and gents are helpless victims of their circumstances and allowances have to be made. They can't help it if their children think it's too much trouble to take them to Mass but it's no problem to take them to the casinos. I kid you not.

A few weeks ago, the coordinator of the EMHC's at my church called and asked if I would be willing to take another person. I agreed, even though the call would be a bit out of my way. I arrived at the building at the designated hour and met my new lady for the first time. She was one of the most pathetic little creatures I have encountered in a long time. Hobbled by arthritis, she could barely make it to the door with her walker. It was a great effort for her to be able to settle into her chair. She thought that she should remain standing to receive, but I insisted that she sit.

After the ritual prescribed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for home calls, I talked to the elderly woman for a little bit and accepted her profuse thanks for visiting her. I assured her I would be coming to visit her every month. I was a little confused about whether she was actually a member of our parish or another one, and she quickly corrected me. "I've only been this bad for about a year, honey. A year ago, I was still going to Mass every morning. You don't know how much that means to me." I was very touched.

Sometimes, I admit that I don't always feel like going out on my calls. The weather might not be the best, or I might have to decline an invitation to do something else, but then I have visits like the one tonight and I think of how sinful I am. I know how I feel if I can't get to Mass every day. I can only imagine what it must be like to be home bound and not be able to go at all. Some of the people I visit don't even clear a space for me to lay the pyx containing Our Lord, but this poor hobbled old woman managed to make one on a table with a crucifix, a statue of Mary with the Christ Child and a painting of the Sacred Heart. "I should have lit a candle", she told me. No one in four years of making calls has ever suggested lighting a candle for reception of Holy Communion. Sometimes, it's a struggle to get people to turn off the television. As I was leaving, my new lady asked me if I could find her prayer books on the little table she had set up next to her chair. "I want to say after-Communion prayers once you leave," she told me.

As a layperson, I feel an enormous burden in carrying the Lord on my person and giving Him to the sick and home bound. I admit that I was looking forward to the end of my second and final term, but then I met this endearing little old woman, who is nearly all alone in the world and barely able to get around, and the thought that my visit will mean so much to her made me ashamed of myself. "I'm 87, honey," she told me. "At this point, I'm living life day to day." I kept thinking of what she said as I walked home, alone since she was my last stop. I wondered what I had done to earn such an awesome opportunity to bring comfort and joy to this frail but faithful little old woman. I hope that someday, if I find myself in a situation like she is in, the Lord will see fit to send someone to bring Him to me in my infirmity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

St. Teresa of Jesus

If, Lord, Thy love for me is strong

As this which binds me unto thee,

What holds me from thee Lord so long,

What holds thee Lord so long from me?

O soul, what then desirest thou?

Lord I would see thee, who thus choose thee.

What fears can yet assail thee now?

All that I fear is but lose thee.

Love's whole possession I entreat,

Lord make my soul thine own abode,

And I will build a nest so sweet

It may not be too poor for God.

A sould in God hidden from sin,

What more desires for thee remain,

Save but to love again,

And all on flame with love within,

Love on, and turn to love again.

- St Teresa Avila

- Translated by by Arthur Symons (1865-1945) , from Cities and Sea-Coasts and Islands, published 1918

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Evening Prayer

OK, I admit it. I'm a terrible mother. I came home from work and decided I'd rather take a walk than make dinner, so I put Rebecca in charge of boiling some potatoes and then headed out for a good brisk jaunt. On the way home, I passed by St. Rita's and realized the chapel was still open at 6:30pm because there was another Mass and novena at 7:30pm. What a treat to have the chapel practically to myself for a little quiet time with Jesus. My work situation has deteriorated to the point of no return and as I wait to hear about some other possibilities, it's been difficult to have the patience to accept that God does not work by my time clock. So I asked for the grace to embrace my current situation for the time-being and offer the displeasure in reparation for sins. Anyway, it was so pleasant, that I lost track of time and we didn't eat dinner until nearly 8pm. I didn't dare tell them why I was late. My son, who has "issues", cannot understand why I would want to go Mass every day when it's not required of me. Sometimes it's funny but at others, I wonder what I have done to help my family grow in faith. I have heard Father Corapi say that one of the most important thing we can do as mothers is get ourselves to Mass every day. I only wish someone in my family would follow suit.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Around the Parishes

Help us to observe the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! On Thursday evening Oct. 7at St. Paul Church, we will meet at 7pm to pray the Most Holy Rosary. Weather permitting, the Rosary will be recited outside the church at Our Lady's Shrine on Hutchinson Street. Come bear public witness to our faith and honor Our Blessed Mother by following her counsel to pray the Rosary.

St. Paul's is located on Christian Street between 9th and 10th. There is off-street parking available in the schoolyard across from the church.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Distressing Disguise of the Poor

Father Kelley at St. Monica's has often told us that when people are skeptical that the devil exists, he offers them $20 to go to Broad and Snyder at 2am. "I guarantee you, you'll meet the devil within 20 seconds" he says, and anyone familiar with the area knows he's not kidding. But during the day, it's another story. Go to Broad and Snyder in broad daylight and you will see the face of Christ. You might not recognize Him at first under the layers of filth and dirty clothing, but he's there,in, as Mother Teresa reminded us, the distressing disguise of the poor. So many people today in need. And oddly enough, none of them were asking for help. Perhaps they were too down-trodden and in too much despair. In Center City, I'm familiar with a lot of the faces that haunt street corners and doorways, but I can honestly say I had never seen any of the faces that I encountered today. A man in t-shirt and shorts, with a hospital bracelet still on his wrist, emiting a putrid odor and sporting some kind of rash all over his body. An elderly woman whose gray hair was discolored from dirt, her face streaked with filth, wearing winter clothes that reeked of amonia and other bodily secretions. Where do they come from? And where do they go when you return to help them and can't find them?

It can be very discouraging for those of us who don't like to walk past anyone in need without stopping to help. I wasn't prepared for what I saw today. But it goes to show you never know when and how Christ is going make Himself known to you.