Once upon a time in the future, I’ll be a more organized writer person and know exactly when things I’ve written will post on other sites ahead of time. Apparently, today is not that day.
Some time last year, I looked ahead to today’s Gospel and wrote a devotion for CatholicMom.com about perseverance in clinging to Jesus and the Cross. As is often the case (I blame the Holy Spirit), the words I wrote in the past hit me right between the eyes in the present.
If there’s anything the roller coaster of 2017 has taught me, it’s that, if everything else in my life was completely stripped away, Jesus would remain. He is constant. He would never forsake nor abandons me. He simply beckons.
The only “sales-y” message I genuinely look forward to receiving is my daily email from the EWTN religious catalogue. Sure, they have some beautiful religious articles and books (aka Heather’s kryptonite), but they always include a quote from my favorite Saint-in-waiting, Mother Angelica. Here’s today’s gem:
“God is simple. He doesn’t have multiple ends. He doesn’t say, “If I do this, she’s going to do that,” and “If I do that, she’ll be humble.” No. Those are all merely effects. God has one thing in mind: To make you run to Him in all your needs.”
That’s what I’m talking about, friends. Let’s run to Him with our needs, tired and weary as we may be. He wants to hear from us!
I’m over at Blessed is She today sharing some thoughts about mission and courage and stinky locust-eaters. Here’s a taste:
Saint John did exactly what he was created to do.
In some ways, I envy him. John’s mission was crystal clear, whereas mine often appears murky. His resolve to serve God was unshakable, whereas I wrestle with making good choices more frequently than I’d like to admit.
So, where’s the prophecy detailing the unquestionable purpose for my life?
I’m not sure exactly why, but the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy has been a wee bit emotional for me. It’s not like I didn’t take advantage of its graces. It’s not like I was surprised that the end of the Year was coming. It’s not like, just because the Year of Mercy is over, that the Vatican will announce some other, non-Holy Spirit-inspired “Year.” See Larry’s post if you want to laugh about the possibilities.
Maybe this year has been so personal for me because, in all humility, I often feel like the Poster Child for mercy. Trust me – that’s not a point of pride – simply the way things are. Glory to Christ the King, however, I once was lost (very, very lost), but now I am found. I once was blind, but now I see. And now you have the song “Amazing Grace” running through your mind. You’re welcome. 😉
Friends, there’s a reason Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son has hung in our home for many years. There’s a reason I asked for a Divine Mercy image for my birthday a few years back. These pieces of art are certainly not trophies, my friends, nor are they meant to make my home look like a Catholic bookstore. Rather, along with other items in my life, these pictures are frequent reminders of where I’ve been, but most importantly, how far I’ve been able to come through the almighty grace of God, acts of the will, and, in no small measure, God’s infinite, unfathomable mercy.
Upon further reflection, I suppose I’m grateful (and gratified) that God’s omnipresent mercy is significant and worthy of keen focus in the greater Church, not just in my own life. Maybe that’s it. That’s gotta be it.
As we near the end of this amazing Year, let’s keep in mind that God’s mercy (and our ability to give and receive it) is not a lightswitch – something to be flipped on and off. Mercy is at the very heart of our Christian walk. Let’s keep the mercy flowing, friends. Lord knows I need it. And I would hazard to guess that perhaps you do, too.
Keep scrolling for one of Papa Francesco’s recent tweets, the Closing Prayer for the Jubliee Year, and video for the commercial that made me cry. For reals.
May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst! – Pope Francis @pontifex via Twitter
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
And here’s the commercial that, I admit, made me cry. I was just minding my own business, watching football with my husband. Man!! #peace
Here at Real Catholic Mom, I’ve written about lots of stuff. Perhaps not as much as some, but lots for a crazy chicken like me. I’ve written about superficial stuff. Deep stuff. Hard stuff. Fun stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of where I’m coming from or where I’m going, content-wise, since I’m all over the map (thanks, brain). I can only imagine what I put you through, dear reader!
If there is one constant thread that weaves its way through my life, howeve, it’s knowing that our Mighty God can write straight with crooked lines. He can shine brightly through a little cracked pot. He can make magnificence out of mess. He can craft His own perfect order from chaos. I’ve seen it in my own life, time after time after time.
And I know that I know that I know He wants to make something beautiful out of every single part of your life, too.
I hate to leave you hanging here, folks, but I promise (!!) I will write more about this topic in this space soon. Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about why forgiveness is so very, very close to my heart, I’ll be touching on it during tonight’s Blessed is She workshop, which YOU can attend from the comfort of your own home – it’s online! In addition to personal testimony, I’ll be offering some practical tips and tricks for having a heart that’s after God’s own Sacred Heart, and – because this is me we’re talking about, there WILL be giveaways. Oh, yes – there will be giveaways. I’m even told there will be time for a “stump the Real Catholic Mom” Q&A session toward the end.
Let’s finish out this Jubilee Year of Mercy even more free, more joy-filled, and more compassionate than we began it, my friend. Who’s with me??
Anyway, the bags under my eyes are carrying their own luggage these days, and I’m not quite my usual perky self. The to-do lists have birthed multiple longer to-do lists, and while the work is beyond plentiful, the laborers are excruciatingly few.
Over the years, people have peppered me with questions about my involvement with this event:
“Are you getting enough sleep?” No.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” Because.
“You have young kids at home!” Yep.
“It’s so much work.” Amen.
“Women are too busy to go to something like this, anyway.” Um, really?
“Why don’t you just give up?“
My friends, the very best reason to do something is because God asks you to do it. A close second is because the devil doesn’t want you to do it and whispers in your ear that what you’re doing isn’t worth it, and you’re not worth it, and the women who will be served aren’t worth it, and it’s just a big hassle, and you’re underqualified and crazy and you should just give up.
Apparently God made me extraordinarily stubborn for such a time as this, because I will NOT quit, and I will NOT give up.
Time after time, God has shown me that women absolutely do need opportunities like this. They need space for community, for fellowship, for encounter. For praise. And, like the little boy giving Jesus what he had to help feed the crowds, I believe God can take what precious little I give and use it to bless and heal women, their families, whole communities, and our broken and beautiful world, all for His greater glory.
What we Catholic women are doing – trying to live faithfully and joyfully – is an utterly counter-cultural existence. That’s right – we’re rebels. The Pacific NW, where I live, is consistently cited as one of the most unchurched areas in the nation, with Catholics as the crystal-clear minority or minorities. And we can feel it. We hear:
“You know what causes that, don’t you?” as we shop with our children in the grocery store.
“How come you let a bunch of old men in Rome to tell you what to do?” as we engage in the workplace.
“Why aren’t you taking more time for yourself and going on some exotic vacation?” as we pursue social media.
“Why do you need to confess your sins to a priest?” as we chat with our friends.
“Isn’t it enough to just be a good person?” as we talk with our neighbors.
“Live and let live, man,” as we’re told by our legislature.
Time after time our culture tells us: “That may be your truth, but it’s not my truth,” and, my favorite: “Be more tolerant,” as society drifts further and further away from the actual Truth.
Between you and me, as a Catholic woman, I have felt very alone in our society. I have felt isolated. I have felt extremely discouraged. I have believed the lie that I am the only one trying to do this work – this beautiful, difficult, amazing work – that Catholic women do. I have cried myself to sleep, wondering *where my people* were, and whether I would ever find them.
Eventually, though, I decided to quit complaining and do something. Since there wasn’t anything happening in my area where a big group of Catholic women could get together and be joyful about being Catholic women, I was going to start something. And so, with no money, no location scouted, and no speakers booked, I began planning the first general Catholic women’s conference in the Pacific Northwest with nothing but faith, hope, and a telephone.
I didn’t know if anyone would show. But they did. And they kept coming back.
Catholic Women Rejoice and other conferences like it exist because someone decided to take a chance on the idea that women need a place (even if it’s only once a year) to gather together outside of Sunday Mass and know that we are most certainlynot alone, that who we are as women matters, and that the gift of our common Catholic faith is something for which we should rejoice!
Now, there’s nothing wrong with connecting with other women online – in fact, it’s probably where I connect with friends most consistently, because that’s the season of life in which I find myself. But there is something about seeing other women – being in their presence – looking into their eyes and seeing the underlying compassion and deep understanding that transcends spoken language: “You get it.”
At a typical Catholic women’s conference, participants are free to be fully themselves without fear or worry. A woman can bless herself and her food before eating and no one will give it a second thought. Another can nurse her baby while enjoying a conversation. Someone can be comforted in her struggles with infertility. Another can discuss the Pope’s latest encyclical, or the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning. Still another can steal away to the Adoration Chapel for a few quiet, distraction-free moments with Jesus.
No one will be accused of being a Papist. Or a bigot. Or an idol-worshipper. Or a hater. Or a breeder. Or a weirdo. We can celebrate Mass, go to confession, and pray. We can sing, laugh, and praise. We can ask Mary and the saints and each other to pray for our needs. We can eat good food that is still warm that we didn’t have to prepare ourselves. And, you know what? We can have FUN. You know, like, smiling ’til your face hurts, laughing ’til you can’t breathe anymore, fun.
I honestly believe that Catholic conferences and events uplift women and reinvigorate them to go back into the world and do God’s will through their individual vocation*, whatever it may be. They remind us that we are not alone in this work. They remind us that we are Catholic. And that we are strong, resilient women – wonderfully, fearfully, and beautifully made. And because of these things, we are free to truly rejoice.
And so, as I continue to wade through my myriad to-do lists, I am praying for all the women who will come to Catholic Women Rejoice, or any other conference, for that matter, that in that time and space with their sisters in Christ, they will encounter Jesus and emerge renewed and transformed. And after that? After that I’ll sleep.
*Whether a woman is a stay-at-home Mom, a career woman, a single woman, a religious, a work-inside-or-outside-the-home Mom, discerning her vocation, not a Mom, retired, a full-time volunteer, an Auntie, Grandma, high school student, college student, or any other iteration of Catholic woman of goodwill, she is welcome at Catholic Women Rejoice.