This Lent, all we need is love.

This Lent, all we need is love.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of our Lenten journey, which means I’ve faltered at least 462 times in my observances so far, with approximately 2,954 failures to go until we finally reach Easter Sunday.

It’s a good thing we serve a merciful God, isn’t it?

I’m cut from the “all or nothing” cloth. Let’s just say moderation isn’t my thing, and compiling Lenten observances is no exception: My biggest temptation during Lent is to do ALL THE THINGS. 

During the season of Lent, I want to quit hitting my snooze alarm, read more spiritual writing, get in shape, pray the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet and at least two novenas every day, eat better, stop spending money, go to adoration every day, go to bed sooner, pay off that debt, attend daily Mass, spend quality time with the kids, go to Stations of the Cross every Friday, attend confession more often, mail off all those thank you notes, keep up with the laundry and dishes and meal planning, and, of course, purge my family members’ closets, dressers, and souls.

I want to stop eating out and give that money to the poor. I want our family to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, St. Vincent de Paul, and the memory care facility. I want to give up strife, impatience, and lack of kindness in our home. And, last but not least, I want to sing hymns as I sort through the endless piles in the attic and garage and other hidden places, paring our material possessions down once and for all by recycling, repurposing, and donating as much as possible. And I want to accomplish all these things (and more!) with joy and energy, while wearing sackcloth and ashes. Surely, once I have accomplished all these things during this ultimate season of penance, I will finally get holy! 

But …

Read the rest here.

Share
Heading in to the holidays with intention

Heading in to the holidays with intention

and breathe 2018-11-19 BLOGAs a kid, I often wondered how long it would be until the weekend, or spring break, or when we ate dinner. My mom advised me to enjoy the present moment, because she said time would fly by at lightning speed when I was an adult.

Of course, Mom was right. Again.

The holidays in particular are so sneaky! I mean, they happen at the same time each year, but … wasn’t it just New Year’s Eve a month ago??

At the very least, it seems like only yesterday we were brushing sticky summer sand from sun-kissed toes and checking items off back-to-school supply lists. And yet, here we are: pumpkin carving and midterm elections are in the rearview mirror, and Thanksgiving, Advent and (gasp!) Christmas are coming up fast. It surely doesn’t help matters that, long before we can say, “Boo!” retailers are hauling out Santa and snowmen and candy canes for purchase.

While this time of year is jam-packed with more nutty goodness than Auntie Gen’s famous fruitcake, Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, encourages us to observe one day at a time by following the liturgical calendar. First comes All Saints’ and All Souls’, then Thanksgiving, then Advent and, finally, Christmas.

As Catholics, we celebrate Advent as its own season apart from Christmas — a time prayerfully to prepare our hearts to welcome the Christ Child. Here are some ways our family observes this special time: An Advent wreath sits at the center of our dining room table, and we mark the days with an Advent calendar. I try to finish gift shopping early so it’s not my focus. I write Advent cards or wait until late December to mail Christmas cards since, it’s still Christmas, after all! In years past, we’ve waited until Christmas Day to add lights to our tree and home decor, symbolizing that the Light of the World has come into the world. Baby Jesus doesn’t appear in our Nativity sets until Christmas Day. I attend an extra daily Mass, mission, or day retreat whenever I can. I personally prefer to limit Christmas music during Advent, too, although it’s quite challenging. My point is this: Whatever helps you to prepare the way for the Lord, I encourage you to do it.

Here are some upcoming highlights from the church’s liturgical calendar, including some ways to help make your celebrations more meaningful and memorable (in a good way):

Thursday, Nov. 22: Thanksgiving Day. While not a holy day of obligation, every day is a holy day of opportunity.What better way to thank and praise God for all our blessings than to spend an hour at the holy sacrifice of the Mass? Check out the Oregon Catholic Directory for the Mass schedule at a parish near you, whether you’re home for the holidays or away.

Sunday, Nov. 25: The solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Visit pbgrace.com for celebration ideas, and download their free activity called “Who’s the Real Superhero?” Remembering that Jesus is King over everything is a wonderful way to celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Friday, Nov. 30: feast of St. Andrew, Apostle. Today begins the Christmas Novena, a prayer traditionally recited 15 times each day until Christmas. Our family has prayed this novena in years past; I think we’ll resume the practice this year.

Sunday, Dec. 2: Advent begins! Say a prayer before you light one purple candle in your Advent wreath. “Light the Advent Candle” and “The Whole World is Waiting for Love” are simple songs I remember singing as a child. Your local Catholic bookstore and the Holy Heroes website have a wide variety of Advent resources and activities for your family.

Thursday, Dec. 6: While not officially on the church calendar, many families celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day. Traditionally revered as the real-life inspiration for Santa Claus, St. Nicholas fills our children’s shoes with small treats and golden coins. There’s a fun Veggie Tales movie about St. Nicholas you likely can find at the library. Find a kid-friendly story about this saint online, and share with your little saints-in-training.

In part two of this holiday series, I’ll cover ways to commemorate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (12/8), the Second Sunday of Advent (12/9), the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe (12/12), the Third (12/16) and Fourth (12/23) Sundays of Advent, and the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (12/25). I might even write about how you can extend the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord through the 12 days of Christmas. Or perhaps I’ll succumb to a long winter’s nap. Either way, I’d better start looking for our Advent wreath. Dec. 2 will be here before you know it. But first: Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Sentinel

photo by Max van den Oetelaar used following unsplash guidelines

Share
Mea Maxima Cuppa: Prayerful, grateful, distracted

Mea Maxima Cuppa: Prayerful, grateful, distracted

This past month, I attended the second annual Northwest Catholic Women’s Conference near Bend, Oregon. One of the speakers, a mom of seven children, discussed her struggles to be fully present in her busy, day-to-day life.

I could relate.

I tend to get caught up in multiple projects, biting off more than I can chew. I think that’s how my phone ended up in the freezer that one time and how I accidentally triple-booked my family that other time.

Anyway, the speaker recently gained helpful perspective from a wise priest. He said, “Commend your past to Divine Mercy. Entrust your future to Divine Providence. Live holy the present moment.”

The priest’s words sounded familiar. Apparently, various iterations of this sentiment have been passed on for ages. In the calm of the retreat center, however, I received them in a new, heart-changing way.

I’ve been clinging to Jesus’s Divine Mercy for a long while now. I often rejoice in God’s love and mercy as I shed the baggage of guilt, shame, and regret in the confessional.

But I’m human, so sometimes I don’t truly let things go even after I’ve received absolution. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus puts my sins as far from me as the east is from the west, and yet I pick up the baggage again, allowing it to weigh me down. Commending my past to Divine Mercy means I must drop everything at the foot of the Cross and – this is key – leave it there.

Please read the rest here.

Share
Holy Spirit nudges

Holy Spirit nudges

It began like most other days; I realized with great resignation that there were, as usual, many more items on my to-do list than hours and energy with which to complete them.

And then, somehow, I remembered it was the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of my all-time favorite Marian celebrations.

Encouraged, I did something I hadn’t done in ages: I asked Mama Mary to grant me extra grace in my vocation because, honestly, I needed all the help I could get. It had been a rough few weeks with no relief in sight. I hoped the Blessed Mother would take pity on her overextended child and throw me a spiritual bone or 12.

Wouldn’t you know it? The Queen of Heaven and Earth heard my cry and answered in the most gentle and powerful way. Throughout the day, I heard the Holy Spirit whispering simple promptings into my heart. The most peace, joy, and satisfaction that day happened when I heeded and obeyed God’s voice.

Now I know what you’re thinking: I experienced peace and joy by listening to and — gasp — obeying God? Yes; I get it. An amazing concept, right? But as I have likely proved via previous content in this space, I’m a bit slow on the uptake. Things just don’t quite sink into my stubborn head … until they do.

Read the rest here

photo credit: @Sunyu used with permission via unsplash
Share
For the smile is the beginning of love

For the smile is the beginning of love

Our eldest just received the Sacrament of Confirmation, and the chrism oil smeared across her teenaged forehead transported me back to when she received the same glorious-smelling oil on her bitty baby head at baptism. Incidentally, teenagers don’t tolerate their mothers huffing their sweet-smelling heads as well as infants do. Truly, truly I say to you: The days are long, yet the years are short.

Now, as a young Mom, my skin crawled whenever someone observed my spirited youngsters and felt compelled to offer this gem: “Treasure every! single! minute!” I’d force a smile and bite my tongue to keep from pelting the well-meaning stranger with a litany of grievances. Did she expect me to cherish every blow-out diaper, each sleepless night, all ear infections and colicky episodes? How about the countless tantrums and the myriad other exhausting maladies of young motherhood?

Today, comments about how full my hands are don’t irk me like they used to. When the cashier at the store is mortified that I have the audacity to mother five—FIVE!!—children and declares: “That’s too many kids!” I’m neither shocked nor angry, and I’m certainly not losing any sleep over her ridiculous opinion. Rather, I laugh heartily and ask: “Which one would you like me to take back?”

Read the rest here

photo credit: Marie Sylvester

Share