Tuesday, October 16, 2012

December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar.  Many people of varying backgrounds, beliefs and disciplines believe that this points to a cataclysmic event or even the end of the world.  Hollywood has been happy to capitalize on this frenzy with everything from “history” programs on television to enormous budget full length films.  What is the Catholic response to this, and other similar phenomena?  When we worry about things that we have no control over, we can think about what Our Lady said to Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico:

Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightens you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing: Do not let it disturb you.  Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you.

End-of-the-world dates come and end-of-the-world dates go.  But Our Lord reminds us that no one knows the day nor the hour, not even He, only the Father.  We are all called to work while it’s day, be in a continual state of growth towards Jesus, be in a state of grace and prepared for our own individual “end-of-the-world”, that is, our deaths.  As world and national events grow darker and more violent, we as Christians are called to be brighter lights and to ever deepening conversion.  If each Christian truly followed Christ, God could change the world very quickly.  Look what He did with Our Lady's one little, “Yes”.  So let us celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this year, on 12/12/12, with full confidence in being her beloved children, who needn't worry about things beyond our control, but simply remain in Her arms and in His Love.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nick Wallenda's Mercy Walk

Years ago I was given a vision of Niagara Falls as a symbol of Jesus’ Divine Mercy.  The vision started up in the hill country of Western New York, in the creeks and streams.  My eyes were drawn along the gathering waters, through small towns, past industrial sights, the waters working their way to Lake Erie.  I sensed that the water represented the events of our lives, but most importantly, our sins.  Where Erie flows into the Niagara River, the waters got rough.  The speed increased; the waters dashed against the rocks.  Eventually all of these trickles and flows lead to the Mighty Falls.  Each individual drop goes over, unheard in the deafening collective roar. 

The flow continues down the Gorge, carved out by millennia of movement.  Through whirls and swirls, a calmer, deep green area is met, near where Stella Niagara Monastery and Our Lady of Fatima Shrine are.  It’s as if Blessed Mother turns us around, after all that chaos and hurt, to finally look and see.  She says, “Find your sins.  Look for the drops of your sins in my Son’s Mercy.” Of course, we cannot find them.  When we throw ourselves into His Mercy, our sins are forgiven, they are gone, forever.  When blood and water gushed forth from His Sacred Heart, a Niagara Falls of Mercy began.  It continues to flow, needed more than ever in our time.  We look at the Falls from the Gorge and we see the power, the majesty, but not the individual drops.  Blessed Mother always turns us towards her Son and His Mercy.  In the deep green calm, she smiles and turns us to His Love. 

Niagara Falls has always been a sacred place.  As such it attracts all kinds of people and all kinds of spirits.  What should be a holy, inspiring place is surrounded by gambling and prostitution and your garden variety of human degradation.  But, to St. Faustina, Jesus said that the greatest sinners have more right to His Mercy.  Jesus also said that one day He will return and separate the sheep from the goats.  What is the island that separates the two main cataracts of Niagara?  Yup, Goat Island.  One can imagine a flock of goats scrambling up onto the island just seconds before going over to their demise.  Pray for the goats in your life.  Pray that they scramble up before they are dashed against the rocks. 

In St. Faustina’s vision she was shown the now very familiar image of Our Lord with one red and one white ray coming forth from Jesus’ Sacred Heart.  “Oh blood and water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, I Trust in You!”  The morning after I had this vision, I opened the “Buffalo News” to the picture page, and there, half a page large, was a photo of the Falls, one lit up red, the other white.  It was in honor of our fallen soldiers for Memorial Day, but it was a confirmation for me.  A confirmation of Jesus’ Love and Mercy.

So what does this have to do with Nick Wallenda?  Well, I must admit, when I first heard of Mr. Wallenda’s desire to cross the Falls on a wire, in the long tradition of his family (some 16 whom have died in this unusual profession, if I’m not mistaken), I thought it was foolish and irresponsible.  He is a husband and father; how could he even consider this?  Throughout his weeks of preparation I noted his Christian t-shirts, his ever present cross necklace and most of all his gentlemanly manners.  Then he submitted to the harness and I really wondered what he was about.  Still not really being my “thing” I didn’t pay too much attention, until the big day.  Then I started thinking about how the whole world was going to be focusing their attention on Niagara Falls, or as I think of it, Mercy Falls.  And so I watched.  Nick Wallenda, diligently prepared and humbly smiling, got up and walked.  Then it happened!  He started praising Jesus and giving thanks to his Heavenly Father.  The whole world was watching and He was giving Jesus praise.  How powerful!  Various newscasters and even his father tried to get him to stop, but Mr. Wallenda kept giving God praise.  Awesome.  What is noteworthy is that when the mist was thickest, the swirling winds heaviest, that is the moment when he was praying the Holy Name and giving praise the most.  “I will praise You in the storm!” 

Afterwards, when asked by Canadian Customs officials what the purpose of his visit was, Mr. Wallenda said, “To inspire people worldwide!”  Indeed he did.  We Christians especially should be mindful of his lesson to Praise Jesus in the midst of the storms.  Praise is a powerful weapon and should be wielded liberally! 

Although Nick Wallenda is not a Catholic and probably did not know it, the date he walked was June 15th, which this year was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  As Catholics we are taught that we can make “reparation” to Jesus’ Heart by our good works.  This means that when Jesus’ Heart is wounded by the sins of the world, we can comfort Him!  One very real, but almost disregarded way in which Our Lord’s Sacred Heart is wounded is by using His Sacred Name in ugly ways.  It’s against the 2nd Commandment, and no, that did not change when “everybody” started doing it.  HOW BEAUTIFUL that, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Nick Wallenda, made worldwide reparation for this particular sin, by praising and speaking Jesus Holy Name with love and reverence. 

Nick Wallenda showed himself to be a complete gentleman, and a good steward of the gifts and talents God gave him.  God bless him and his beautiful family.  May the Sacred Heart of Jesus always be their grateful abode.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy Red Velvet Cupcakes

I belong to an amazing prayer group at my parish called "Ladies of the Lord".  These wonderful ladies (and an occasional husband or two), lead by Dawn Curazzato, do the most important work of the Church; they pray.  Today they are running the now annual parish Divine Mercy Celebration, which means in addition to prayer, we offer food!  These ladies can BAKE.  I was asking Our Lord, "What could I bake that would be Divine-Mercy-ish?"   Goofy, I know, but this is my prayer life.  I kept asking and didn't feel drawn to anything.  Then I walked by my husband's Saveur magazine, which had a big slice of red velvet cake with white icing adorning the cover.  OOooH!  Red and white and bake-able!  So I settled on red velvet cupcakes as the Ladies always order a big beautiful cake for the reception.

As I was getting ready to bake I thought, "I wish I had gone to Michael's to get a pack of gold foil cupcake liners.  That would be really perfect for Jesus' big Feast."  I went hunting for my plain old white cupcake liners.  I have a pack of about 1,000 of them which I bought at a bakery supply store (I bake gluten-free goodies for sale).  I could not find the dern thing.  I searched all my usual spots; I think my Guardian Angel hid them on me.  Then I had one more spot to look where I keep some lesser used, holiday oriented things.  Nope, no white liners.  However, as I reached past the Valentine and Halloween items, my hand fell upon what felt like a brand-new pack of liners.  I pulled it out and it there it was, a pack of exactly 24 gold foil liners, pretty as could be.  Don't remember buying them, though I'm sure I did.    I joyfully baked my Mercy Cupcakes and will add them to the tables, heavy laden with God's bounty.  They probably won't be the tastiest offering there, nor even the prettiest, but to me they are just perfect.  Jesus, you are so good to me!

By the way, I looked again and my white cupcake liners were right there, in the same spot they always are...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

For a couple of years now, I have had a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.  In fact, my all time favorite statue of Our Lady is one depicting her as such.  It seems her beauty is in full bloom in sorrow.  “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” moves from vow to verb.  There are many ways to pray this devotion, but I have latched on to the simplest (and shortest) which allows me to pray it daily, and linger when possible:

The First Sorrow:  The Presentation at the TempleIt is powerful that this is also one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  There is deep sorrow and deep joy out of walking in God’s will.   Here I pray against the spirit of disappointment.  Mary may have been remembering her own presentation at the Temple by Ss. Anne and Joachim.  She may have hoped Jesus would live a life at the Temple, absolutely absorbed in learning about His Father.   When we allow ourselves to be disappointed, we open ourselves up to bitterness and resentment.  Mary’s perfect acceptance of this first sword in her heart, and the prophecy of a difficult life, opened the Holy Family up to the grace they would need. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Second Sorrow:  The Flight into EgyptEvery Passover Mary would have heard the story of her people’s deliverance from the Egyptians.  Now Joseph learned from an angel that they should seek deliverance from Herod in Egypt?  I pray against fear.  In how many instances does the Lord, through scripture, tell us to, “be not afraid”?  This is not something He suggests; it is a command.  He does not expect us to never feel afraid, but not to set up camp there.  Mary’s faithfulness in this trial would serve her well for the larger trials God was preparing her for. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Third Sorrow:  Losing the Child Jesus in the TempleFor three days Mary and Joseph were without their son.  They were separated from the Lord in the only way these two pure souls could be.  They must have battled terrible feelings of failure and an anxiety unprecedented in the world.  Anxiety:  a most debilitating spirit.   How many great works has God graced His saints to do which were defeated by anxiety?  An ongoing fearful situation can whittle away at the strongest faith and cause us to look to ourselves, to others, to worldly solutions when we should be keeping our eyes on God.  Mary kept her eyes on God.  She felt the anxiety, but overcame it.  She countered the thoughts with the truths of God’s word.  She and Joseph persevered.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Fourth Sorrow:  The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.  Joachim means “God prepares”.  Before Mary was even born God was preparing her for these hours, for these days.  What greater sorrow is there than that of a parent who cannot help their suffering child?  Yet Mary did help.  She defined the word “compassion” in these hours.  Mary suffered with the Redeemer, her Jesus, along the road.  Here I pray that we offer up our pain and that of our loved ones, when it comes. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Fifth Sorrow:  The Crucifixion.  Agony.  And yet she stood; Mary stood. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Sixth Sorrow:  Mary receives Jesus’ lifeless Body from the Cross.  Michelangelo’s Pieta so perfectly captures the beauty of this moment, done in pure white, though the scene certainly was not.  The word means pity, but I always think of the virtue Piety which is not about devotions and prayers, but doing the right thing out of love for God.  We pray the Rosary out of the overflow of love in our hearts for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  It is right and just to pray devotions because of Love!  In this most difficult moment, Mary did what was right and just; she cradled her son.  Mary’s willingness to receive Jesus’ lifeless Body, in some mystical way, allows us, her children, to receive His risen Body in Eucharist.  Here all her life’s “yeses” bear the precious fruit of the virtue of acceptance.  Mary accepts this moment.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Seventh Sorrow:  The burial and sealing of the Tomb.  Now Mary must leave Him.  She must be separated from Him.  She must watch as the stone is rolled into place, and walk away.   Trust.  The virtue of acceptance, moved into future, is Trust.  Mary trusted that Jesus would rise in three days as He said.  But, she still had to put one foot in front of the other, walk away, and somehow do ordinary things like sleep and eat and wash and breathe, for three days.  Jesus, I trust in You!

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The Promises of this devotion, according to the visions of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373):   Blessed Mother promises to grant seven graces to those who honor her and draw near to her and her Son every day by meditating on her dolors (sorrows) and entering into her grief.

"I will grant peace to their families."

"They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries." 

"I will console them in their pains and will accompany them in their work." 

"I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls." 

"I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives." 

"I will visibly help them at the moment of their death-- they will see the face of their mother." 

"I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy." 

Who could resist that?  I have received many graces and consolations through this devotion.  But, more importantly, I hope I have consoled Mary's Immaculate Heart as she continues to sorrow, in some mystical way, over her children.