Tuesday adoration….why am I here?

ChildofChrist

Why did God create you?  Do you ever think about that?  I do.

Many years ago while on retreat, I wrote across the top of the first page of my journal:  Dear God, what is my purpose in life?  Who am I supposed to be?

I prayed all weekend for an answer, bringing my question continually before the Lord.  But I never heard an answer…and I was somewhat disappointed.

But, now years later, I realize that I didn’t hear the answer because I was listening for the wrong kind of answer.  I wanted something specific and concrete.  I wanted to leave my retreat with a plan…maybe even a list which I could check off.  Here is what God has sent me to do.  Here is how I will make a difference in the world.   I wanted a mission.

But as the years passed, and life moved on with its sorrows and its joys, I began to hear the answer I sought.  It is always the same, and it takes root deeper and deeper in my heart, and the joy it imparts is a reassuring certainty.

Today, I heard a young woman describe her very first visit to the Eucharistic Adoration chapel in her parish.

She went in, not knowing what to expect.  And to her amazement, she saw a type of vision…one which arose within her imagination.  She saw a large tree and beneath it she was seated with Jesus.  To her great surprise, Jesus carved His initials and hers in the tree, and then He drew a heart around it.

He looked at her so tenderly and told her, “You could never understand how very much I love you.  Fall in love with Me.  I so much want you to fall in love with Me.”

Then she went on to say that God  always knows just what we need to hear, and the way we need to hear it.

And, I understood.  So many times in the adoration chapel, I have had a similar “vision,” only in mine, I am a little girl, all dressed up with ribbons in her hair, and I am snuggled in the arms of Jesus, or sometimes standing on his lap, looking into His eyes, or hugging His neck so tight.  And….I am so very peaceful, both in the scene, and as I quietly sit there being loved.

Getting out of the car, after hearing the young woman’s encounter with Jesus, I looked up at the blue sky and the trees in their tender spring leaves.  I listened to the bird songs of some cardinals nearby.  I gazed at all of this and with wide-eyed wonder, marveled that the God Who had created it all, and Who sustains a world teeming with life and beauty, would so love me, and you….would so love us above all of His material creation combined.  Yet, I know that He does…because He told us so.

This is the answer I have been hearing for so long…in the quiet of the adoration chapel, in the writings of the mystics, in the longing of my heart which nothing on earth can fill.  The answer is the echo in the restlessness of my soul which yearns to be totally accepted, completely understood, unconditionally loved.  The answer is in my quest to rest in ravishing Beauty which will never fade, never end.

Yes, God answered my question on that retreat so long ago, but His answer was too wonderful, too beautiful, too perfect for me to hear at the time.  But He has repeated it over and over until at last I began to listen:

I created you so that I could love you.  And, I made you in My Own Image and Likeness so that your soul would be so beautiful in its resemblance of Me, that I would thirst for you to love Me in return.

It is really that simple.  We were created for Love. God is always loving us, always giving Himself to us, never turning His gaze from His beloved.  And we, at every moment, can be loving Him in return, whether in thought or deed or absence of malice.

And we can grow, moment by moment, in that love for Him…the more we forgive, the more we give, the more we  forget ourselves….always inviting Him to refine His Image more visibly within our souls.

O Jesus, what a glorious “mission!”  What a sublime purpose for my life….to be Your Heart’s desire!   Teach me to surrender myself to Your Love….and grant that I may love You in return by doing all that I can to imitate You.  Amen.

 “Jesus make me resemble You…”  prayed St. Therese.

“For in reflecting upon it carefully, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He finds His delight.  So then, what do you think that abode will be like where a King so powerful, so wise, so pure, so full of all good things takes His delight?  I don’t find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity.  Indeed, out intellects, however keen, can hardly comprehend it, just as they cannot comprehend God; but He Himself says that He created us in His own image and likeness.”

The Interior Castle, Study Edition: pp. 33-34, nos. 83-84.
St. Teresa of Avila
ICS Publications
Washington, DC

(a personal favorite from the archives, as we await Corpus Christi Sunday)

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Tuesday Adoration… embraced by Mercy

Today, I was all alone with Jesus for my entire two hours of Eucharistic Adoration. This is a rare grace for me, although I feel sad when Jesus does not have other visitors.

But, His Love is so great that He is pleased and happy to remain in the monstrance for just one little soul.

When I have Him all to myself, I feel a special kind of joy. I recall St. Jean Marie Vianney’s words, “His eyes are fixed on you alone.” And I know, that if I truly understood that, I would surely die on the spot.

Being alone with Jesus is being like Mary of Bethany, sitting at His feet, fixing a loving gaze upon His Divine Countenance, choosing to do the “one necessary thing.”

I know that wherever Jesus is, all of Heaven dwells, and so I am never truly alone in the chapel. But Jesus doesn’t remain in the Eucharist for the angels and Saints, but for you, and for me…. He waits.

I used to wonder what Jesus does when we visit Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. How does He greet us?

Once when I was on a women’s retreat, we were kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a rather large chapel. It was the first night of the retreat, and we were praying the Rosary before dinner.

I was kneeling toward the back praying with the others, when to my great surprise, I saw a beautiful image in my mind. Jesus, clothed in white, was standing in front of the first pew in the chapel. As I watched the scene unfold, I saw Jesus bend over and most lovingly and tenderly caress the face of the lady kneeling nearest to Him. Holding her face in His Sacred Hands, He gently tilted it upward toward His Own. Then He did the same to the lady kneeling beside the first one.

I only saw this for a few moments, but the unforgettable memory of this sweet and tender welcome by Jesus is still with me 20 years later. I know that He greeted each one of us that night with this same most loving and affectionate caress.

And He welcomes you the same way too, whenever you visit Him in any church or chapel where His Eucharistic Presence dwells. Can we ever expect too much from His Love? Just imagine the warmth and the kindness and affection…and the gratitude, pouring out of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ when He beholds us coming into His Presence…longing for Him….loving Him….seeking Him….trusting Him…wanting to spend time with Him. He Who is so often lonely and despised.

You help to quench His Thirst for love, and He gives you His Heart.

We would do Him an injustice if we imagined anything less than the most loving and tender caresses and embraces from the Bridegroom of our souls.

But are we in sin?  Let us come to our Savior.  We know the story of the Prodigal Son. Will Jesus not welcome us back with joy infinite beyond that of the father in that parable? And He will supply much more than a robe and ring and sandals, but rather all the graces needed to confess our sins and be washed in His Most Precious Blood. Then we shall dine not on the fatted calf, but on the Bread of Life.

Today, after telling Jesus everything in my heart, I asked Him what He wanted to talk about. And after a moment, I opened a book and immediately read:  As often as you want to make Me Happy, speak to the world about My great and unfathomable Mercy….

Before I made the world, I loved you with the love your heart is experiencing today and, throughout the centuries, My Love will never change.

Quotations from the book:
Consoling the Heart of Jesus, pp. 263, 275
By Father Michael E. Gaitley, MIC

(First published 11/30/2011)

The Three in One are calling….

trinity011.jpg

My love lifts up his voice
he says to me,
“Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

Flowers are appearing on the earth
The seasons of glad songs has come,
the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.
Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come. (Song of Songs 2:10-13) NJB

I love these verses. God has used them to speak so meaningfully to my heart at different times in my life. They bring back a special memory, as I anticipate the Feast of the Holy Trinity this Sunday. It was on that Feast, 14 years ago, that I made my Definitive (final) profession as a Secular Discalced Carmelite.

How appropriate those words seemed on that very special day of final commitment to the Most Holy Trinity, through the life of contemplative prayer to which a Carmelite is called.

I will be on our annual Carmelite retreat this weekend…a special joy that it fell on my anniversary this year. Hopefully in the silence, I will better hear the words of the Lover of souls, who never ceases to call each one of us.

Listen, He is calling you….in that longing you have to be loved completely. In that emptiness in your heart which nothing on earth seems to fill. He is calling you when you feel lonely, rejected, abandoned. When you are in pain, confused, or burdened. Jesus is calling.

You ravish my heart,
my sister, my promised bride,
You ravish my hearat
with a single one of your glances,
with a single link of your necklace.
What spells lie in your love,
my sister, my promised bride! (Song of Songs 4:9-10) NJB

God is so in love with you!

Mary of the morning glories…..

(In tribute to the loveliest Mother of all…a favorite post from the archives.)
Happy Mother’s Day, Sweet Mary!

The above statue of Our Lady has accompanied my husband and me throughout almost our entire life together.

He surprised me with it at our first real home in Greenville, NC, three years after we were wed. He placed it on a pedestal beneath a large maple tree in the backyard. Then he planted a vine of large blue morning glories at the base of the tree. It quickly took root and wound gracefully around the trunk, creating a blanket of blue each morning behind Mary’s statue.

I loved looking out of my kitchen window, sipping my first morning cup of tea and seeing morning glories and Mary. As the day wore on, the warmth of the sun would cause the flowers to fade and by afternoon, their beauty was gone. But each morning, they returned, glorious, with the dawn.

During those happy days, I never imagined how much Mary and the morning glories would soon come to mean to me. Only a year after she took her place beneath the maple tree, I was diagnosed with the cancer which destroyed all of our dreams of having babies…an unexpected tragic end to four years of trying to conceive.

I packed a small statue of Mary to take to the hospital with me, and placed her upon the window sill where I could glance at her comforting presence. But there were no morning glories for me, and I felt that there never would be again.

Eventually, I came home, and I would sit on the backyard swing, near Mary’s tree and pray my rosary..over and over. I prayed to live, and I prayed for some relief from the unbearable pain of losing children I had never even known. And Mary listened, and the morning glories brought beauty into an otherwise barren, thirsting, aching season of my life.

We moved back to our home state in the deep South a year later. My husband could not get morning glories to grow in our sunny yard which had no mature trees. So, he placed Mary’s statue in front of the rose garden he had planted. And she reigned there for twenty years.

She smiled, I know, on the day we brought home our adopted infant son. And as he played in the yard as a little boy, I imagined Mary watching over him. When he was old enough, we sometimes had May crownings with his friends who lived next door. And when he became a teenager, I would run sobbing to the rose garden and unburden my heart to Mary…just as I had years before with the cancer. Only this time I was too distraught to even say my rosary. But I knew she understood.

Now, it is just my husband and I again, and we have moved to yet another home. As you can see, Mary’s garden is now filled with lilies and roses and other assorted flowers which change with the seasons. Right across from her statue, there is a garden bench, a place where one can sit and pray or simply enjoy the sounds of the birds and squirrels playing. Often my husband will relax there with a beer, after cutting the lawn. Sometimes, I pray my Divine Office or a rosary in this shady spot. Glancing at Mary’s statue, I feel a certain peace. She is still with us, and we have survived the many crosses which have fallen upon us since Mary of the morning glories first took her place beneath the maple tree.

Her statue reveals the toll of decades spent in the sun, wind and rain. The surface is no longer a smooth gray color, and her features have been worn down from their original loveliness. She, like my husband and me, reflects the passage of time. Yet we would never dream of replacing our precious statue with a new one. She has watched over us all these years…through all the joys and sorrows life brings. And we want her with us until the last page of our lives has been written.

The blows of life have buffeted and scarred us as well. But they have taught us to depend on God alone and to put all of our faith in Him. Gone from this life forever are those carefree morning glory days of youth …now we dream of the glory of Heaven. There we hope to see, no longer a faded statue, but our Most Beloved Mother in all of her eternal beauty….

Thank you, Mary, for accompanying us with your living presence, throughout our lifetime together. I know you have held us when we were broken with sorrow and that you have rejoiced with us in the good times. What a comfort to know that you will always be with us until that day when at last we behold Your Divine Son Jesus in Glory.

Stay near, dearest Mother, until the morning glories bloom again….forever.  I love you!

Ouija, the movie…why you shouldn’t see it

Tomorrow is Halloween, and there is a horror movie being released called Ouija.  I’ve read reviews of it and throughout the movie, the young people “playing” with this extremely dangerous tool of the occult keep saying, “It’s only a game.”

But it isn’t.  I am re-posting today my own terrifying experience resulting from involvement with this so-called “game.”

Sadly, ouija boards are sold in the toy departments of many popular stores.  Tragically, sales will probably increase after the release of this movie.

I hope you will read my story below, which is also an account of God’s Grace and Mercy.

If my story doesn’t convince you, please at least listen to Catholic exorcists who warn about ouija boards being one of the portals though which the devil and his demons can enter into your life in powerful ways.

Praised be Jesus Christ Whose Holy Name makes all of hell tremble!

St.Michael(St. Michael the Archangel, protect us from evil.)

As I reached the top of the staircase, intense hatred rushed upon me, almost smothering me with its rage.  I gagged as though I were being choked, and the unseen evil fled as swiftly as it had come.

It all started a few months before with that ouija board.  My husband was away on business, and I had gone to spend two weeks with my former college roommate.  We were working on a writing project together.

I arrived on a Sunday evening, which also happened to be March 25, Feast of the Annunciation….but I hadn’t even been to Mass.  I was a confused Catholic, steeped in my sins, ashamed to go to confession, and who with an arrogance which now horrifies me, had decided I would “fix” everything when I was “old”….like maybe  60 or so.

My friend, Anne, brought out some entertainment after dinner….a homemade ouija board.  I laughed.  My mother had one when I was a child, and none of use had ever been able to make it “work.”

But Anne explained that her husband’s cousin had visited recently and that she had the “gift,”  and now Anne had it too.  I was completely skeptical until I touched the base of the delicate sherry glass we were using as a pointer, and it literally flew across the table in search of a letter.

I was astounded.  There was no doubt that something unworldly was happening.  We spent hours at the table, asking questions and getting answers from “deceased relatives,”  all of whom claimed to be in Purgatory.

Thus began my entry into the world of the occult– months of deception and confusion, and contact with evil, the potential danger of which I will only fully understand when God reveals it to me in eternity.

God, O God!  How can I ever praise Him enough for His Grace and Mercy!   Never can I doubt that He can bring great good out of evil…no matter how dark that evil is.  He literally brought me to conversion and a return to my faith at the same time that I was caught up in this dangerous foray into the occult.

Anne and I had no intentions of doing anything evil. Neither of us thought that what we were doing was sinful.  Anne had placed a rosary on the table and we had prayed a Hail Mary before we touched the sherry glass.  But, praying before one enters into sinful activity, especially when it involves opening oneself up to the power of evil spirits is an abuse of prayer.

Why God protected us from worse harm, and even brought great good out of this situation remains another mystery for now.  But He did, and briefly, this is how it came about.

As Anne and I continued to “converse” with spirits on the ouija board for several days, we soon became aware that we could also “hear” them in our thoughts.  This began slowly, with our “hearing” the words before they were actually spelled out on the board.  In our ignorance and foolishness, we were delighted.  We could now “talk” with our deceased loved ones without the slow and cumbersome ouija board.

One afternoon, about mid-week, I was working alone on our writing project when suddenly, unexpected words broke into my consciousness.  As stated above, I had become used to this by now.  But, I was not expecting the message I was given.

“You must go to confession.”  I froze.  Confession?  We had been going to Mass all week.  I was talking to souls in Purgatory.  I thought things were “cool” between God and me.  I thought He had waived the confession thing.  Wasn’t I special….even allowed to talk to “holy souls?”

“You must go to confession, or God will be so sad.”  This second command cut through my resistance and went straight to my heart.  “….God will be so sad.”  How could I refuse now?  I had longed for Him ever since I could remember….ever since I had committed what my seven-year-old conscience deemed a mortal sin.  (Please see https://theholyfaceofjesus.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/on-my-way-to-hell-at-seven/ for a helpful introduction to this current post.)

As it dawned upon me that yes, I would have to obey, I heard a comforting promise, “Don’t worry.  We will be with you and give you strength.”

Over the many years since this happened at age 25, I have pondered the above message.  At first I thought it was the evil spirits putting me to a test they thought I would fail, and thus enable them to have even more access to me.  But, as I have grown in faith and knowledge, and hopefully in God’s Grace throughout the years, I have come to think that it was perhaps my guardian angel……permitted by God to offer an invitation to me.  To offer it in such a way that it would be so very hard to refuse. To phrase it almost as though he were speaking to that seven-year-old.  The tone of this voice was kind and encouraging……something the other voices seemed unable to imitate.

I immediately told Anne, crying in her arms in terror.  She was very supportive and encouraging.  She even suggested that we talk to her pastor after I went to confession, and ask him what he thought about what we had been doing with the ouija board, and how we now had voices in our heads.

When Saturday afternoon arrived, Anne drove me to her parish church, and I did what I had avoided for the past 18  years.  I entered the dark confessional and knelt down, my heart pounding out of my chest.  But, I wasn’t alone.  Just like the voice had said, there was a presence with me, a warm and loving and strong presence.  The priest slid open the little window and I felt surreal, as I somehow stammered out an honest confession.  Although my body was in a panic, my mind and spirit were clear, and strangely calm.

The priest was most kind.  Hearing my situation, he gently led me through the Ten Commandments, listening carefully, but asking only a few questions.  It was all over in what seemed a brief moment, and then I heard the most beautiful words in the world, “I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

But, I hadn’t confessed playing with the ouija board.  I didn’t think it was a sin.  However, shortly after Father finished hearing confessions, Anne and I entered the sacristy to tell him all about it, and to ask his advice.  Although well-intentioned, he did not send us away with the wise counsel we needed.  And we were led further into the darkness.

(click here for part II)

To those who will not return to read the next installment, please know this:  never, ever, dabble in the occult.  Do not even read horoscopes for fun.  All of these “fun” things have the capacity to open the door to the powers of evil  (fallen angels) which are very real, and which hate you beyond anything you can imagine.  As I will explain next time, even a soul in the state of grace can still suffer from the effects of past involvement in the occult.

But God is so faithful, so merciful and loving that there is nothing to fear, if one asks His forgiveness and places themselves in His care, determined to never, ever again go near ouija, boards, tarot cards, crystals, fortune tellers, mediums, etc.  Avoid like poison anything even remotely associated with the occult.  Please!

Rescuing Lent……

THANK YOU to everyone who so kindly expressed thoughtful concern and promises of prayer upon the sudden illness and death of my sister. I will be forever grateful for your goodness and generosity. I hope to respond to each comment individually over the next day or two.

Below is a post about one of my “favorite” Lenten seasons. Each one is different, as you know. This one was shared with a friend. I call it my Lent of “flowers.”

How is your Lent going?  Are you keeping all of those penances and promises?

As I see the mid-point of Lent fast approaching, I realize that I have not been as faithful and consistent as I had hoped, with all of my Lenten resolutions.  In fact, I can only remember one Lent when I felt I made it to the finish line, keeping all of my promises.

I call it my Lenten Springtime, or the Lent of flowers.

About 15 years ago, I met someone who had recently returned to the Church after an absence of over 30 years.  He was very excited and on fire with his re-found faith, but was a bit intimidated by Lent, and had no idea what he might do for penance.  He wanted to choose something very difficult…almost to punish himself, it seemed, for his years away from the Lord.

So, I suggested that together, we offer an extra 1000 prayers and/or sacrifices to Jesus throughout the 40 days of Lent.  That meant a total of 25 offerings each day between us.  He was delighted with the idea of one thousand sacrifices, and we decided to express each offering by a flower of our own choosing.

Making an extra holy hour for example, could be a beautiful long-stemmed red rose, or a magnificent white orchid, while saying an extra decade of the rosary might earn a sunny yellow daffodil.

My friend and I soon became ingenious at collecting our daily tally…..we left food unsalted,went thirsty for an hour, took cool baths/showers, etc.  We scored gorgeous roses with sacrifices like holding our tongue when treated unjustly, or going out of our way to be nice to someone we didn’t especially like.

We thought up so many penances as well as good deeds to accomplish, that I’m quite sure our guardian angels must have gotten in on the fun.

Each night, we exchanged emails recording that day’s bounty of flowers.  As Easter approached, we were filled with joy, seeing that our goal was in sight.  We worked extra hard during Holy Week to be sure that we would not fall short at the last moment.

When Easter morning finally arrived, we printed out our very long list of well over one thousand flowers of all kinds, colors and fragrances.  With great joy and excitement, I received Jesus in Holy Communion, and presented to Him this lovely spiritual bouquet.

It was a simple Lent, a joyful Lent, a Lent shared with a friend recently renewed in his faith.  Yet, the prayers, the sacrifices and penances had all cost  us….but we hadn’t felt it so much, since our focus was on gathering the most beautiful flowers for Jesus.

Like every season of life, each Lent is different.  But that Lent seemed just about perfect to me.  In a way, it reminds me of Therese who as a little girl, liked to count her sacrifices on a string of beads.

Sometimes when attempting all of those grown-up, demanding and challenging Lenten practices seems to weigh us down, burden and discourage us, it might be a nudge from the Lord to return to the simple things of a child….like gathering flowers.

So if your Lent is in need of a bit of “rescuing,” there is still plenty of time to assemble a truly gorgeous bouquet.

But you can be sure that even if you can only manage a bunch of wildflowers, He Who numbers the very hairs of your head will receive them with the greatest Joy!  And one day in Heaven, you will see those very flowers, eternally fresh, fragrant and beautiful at the feet of Jesus.

(First published March 12, 2012)

The day I met the King…..

The new movie, Son of God, opened last weekend. I had to go see it. You see, movies about Jesus remind me of a long ago spring day when I first met the King. You can read about it in a re-post from two years ago below.

I first met the King of the Universe in a movie theater when I was twelve years old. And I still consider it one of the great graces of my life.

Mom worked in retail downtown in New Orleans.  Adjacent to the store where she was employed was a movie theater.

It was magical.  It had a lovely balcony, and in the ceiling were tiny lights that twinkled like stars.  Grecian inspired statues posed elegantly on pedestals nestled against luxurious drapery that ringed the theater ceiling to floor.  And it was huge.  Row after row of seats stretched across several aisles before the huge screen.

One glorious spring day, I accompanied my mother to work, so that I could meet a friend to have lunch and shop at the five and dime store nearby.  But my friend wasn’t feeling well, and couldn’t meet me.

Mom was going to send me home in a taxi, but then I looked up at the marquee on the magical theater and read the words:  King of Kings.

“Mom, there is a movie about a king playing next door.  Can I please go see it?”

And so, I bought my ticket for the eleven o’clock matinée.  Those were the days when movies ran consecutively, without pause to empty out the theater…so you could stay as long as you liked.  I settled into the end seat on a side aisle, with my popcorn, and waited for the movie to begin.

From the moment I heard the majestic music, and saw the title flash on the screen in imposing letters, I realized that this would be a movie about Jesus.  He was a King, wasn’t He?

I didn’t consider myself to be very religious.  I had book knowledge about God from my Catholic school, but I didn’t know Him at all.  In fact, I was rather afraid of Him. Yet, for as long as I could remember, I had always felt a strong attraction to this mysterious God, and would sometimes catch myself daydreaming about Him, most especially, Jesus…the Crucified One.

But, I certainly had no intention of falling in love with Him while watching a movie. Yet, when Jeffrey Hunter appeared on the screen as the adult Christ, my heart soared….not for the handsome actor. Even then, I knew the difference. No, it was the Person of Jesus Christ Who attracted every fiber of my being. I was mesmerized as I watched Him gently hold in His arms the foaming at the mouth demoniac.  And when He visited John the Baptist in prison, I wanted to grasp His hand and hold on the way John did.

I loved Him for defending that poor woman caught in adultery,  and I imbibed every peaceful, loving and challenging word of the Sermon on the Mount. I wept with Him in His Agony in the Garden, and could barely watch the scourging and crucifixion. And then it all ended…. with only His shadow on the sand and those awesome words: ” I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”

If ever there was a movie I didn’t want to end, it was this one.  And yet the screen went dark…for a few minutes. But then it all began again: the music, the title, the Story…and I stayed. I stayed and watched the second viewing of this three hour long movie.

I was alone, in an empty part of the theater, yet I did not feel alone. I felt warm and joyful and hopeful inside…and yes, even loved.   I followed Jesus throughout His life again…this time focusing more on Who He was than what He did.

Jesus came alive for me on that screen, as He never had in my religion books or sermons I’d heard, or even the Bible stories we read at school. He knew I had needed to “see” Him.

And although it would be 13 more years before we sealed that first encounter, I never forgot our “first” meeting.  He was always with me…calling me, reminding me of His Love.  Although I fell into sin, and even stopped attending Mass for a time, He was always there. He was unforgettable.

In the theater, the third showing had begun, and I desperately wanted to stay…to stay forever, but I knew my parents would be waiting for me.  I stayed as long as I could, about an hour, and then slowly left the theater, fighting back tears.

Mom and Dad were amazed that I had spent the entire day at one movie, but they didn’t ask any questions. And I was grateful for that, as I had a need to be silent in that way that we do when we have felt the Master’s touch.

Since then, other more sophisticated and refined productions of the Life of Jesus have been produced, and I have seen as many as I heard about.

But superior though they may be by critics’ standards, none have ever transformed my life like that day I spent at the movies with the King of all kings.

Jesus, You are so beyond words…even the tongues of angels cannot praise You as You deserve.  Thank You for capturing my heart when I was twelve.  I didn’t realize at the time the depth of what I had experienced.  It would lie buried within for the next several years, but I knew You and I never ceased to desire You, even when I was running away from You.  O my King, may we never be separated again!  I love You!

How great and wonderful are all your works,
Lord God Almighty;
upright and true are all Your ways,
King of nations.
Who does not revere and glorify your name, O Lord?

For you alone are holy,
and all nations will come and adore you
for the many acts of saving justice you have shown. (Revelation 15: 3-4) NJB

A lullaby for Jesus…

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Hello again! I’ve been absent from my blog for several weeks for the loveliest of reasons. My family and I were blessed to spend a few weeks in Italy during the Christmas season. We returned about a week ago, and I’ve been trying to catch up at home, as well as adjust to the time change. I don’t do the latter very well, and suddenly get overwhelmed by sleep at the most inconvenient times. I’m doing better now though.

I had hoped to tell you all about our Christmas in Italy, and to share some of their customs, etc. But, since I was busy sleeping ;), I didn’t get it done in time. Now we are past the Christmas season, so maybe I will share my memories next year.

But, I thought it would be okay to mention one sweet surprise that occurred at midnight Mass in a beautiful little church near the Vatican. Well, actually it was one great gift and then the sweet surprise.

We arrived at the church about 10:45pm, hoping to get seats. Well, it wasn’t crowded at all, so we easily found places across from a statue of Our Lady of Fatima which had the most beautiful smile I have ever seen on a statue of Mary.

As we were getting settled in our pew, I noticed to my surprise and great joy that Eucharistic Adoration was underway. So, in this silent church, in a darkness illuminated only by flickering trays of candles in front of the side chapels lining both sides of the walls, we knelt in adoration of the King of kings whose birth we were preparing to celebrate.

“What a perfect way to welcome Him,” I thought.

At midnight, soft lights were turned on, and as the priest celebrant carried the image of the Infant Jesus down the aisle to lay him in the crèche, the congregation began to sing…not a Christmas carol, but a lullaby. Softly and sweetly, they sang in Italian. But it was a familiar melody, so I was able to sing along in English, a lullaby I had often sung to my own baby son.  Surely, Mary had sung lullabies to the newborn Son of God…her Son.

So there is a glimpse of my Christmas.  I hope that yours was most blessed and beautiful too!

Lullaby and goodnight, go to sleep now and sleep tight, sweet Baby Jesus….

When I could make the sun shine…

This is a melancholy time of the year for me. I lost both of my parents in 2008. Mom passed away on November 24, which was their 71st wedding anniversary. Dad followed her into eternal life only 13 days later. I miss them very much, especially during the approaching holidays, which they loved to celebrate.

Dad was a huge football fan, especially of his New Orleans Saints. They won their first Super Bowl in the 2009 season, which we naturally attributed to Dad’s heavenly intercession 🙂

Dad seemed to send us another gift shortly after his death. Two days before his funeral, 6 inches of beautiful snow tumbled out of the sky and blanketed everything in white until the day he was buried. In south Louisiana, that was even more of a miracle than the Saints winning the Super Bowl! Both mom and dad knew how much we loved the extremely rare snowfalls we’d experienced during a lifetime of living in the deep South. Was it just a coincidence, or was it a sign from Heaven: We’re home! It’s beautiful here…and we are with you still. “Love never ends.”

Below is a post from the archives, remembering my beloved parents.

Have you ever walked into a room, and filled it with sunshine?  Do you have the power to elicit the most beautiful smiles merely by saying hello?  Do others rush to greet you and embrace you as though you were the most important person in the world?

I have regularly experienced all of the above, not by being rich or famous, but simply by being daughter — to my elderly parents during their last years on earth.

Until they passed away, within 13 days of each other in 2008, I didn’t fully appreciate how much it meant to be so loved and cherished simply for being me.  I now know that I will never again be loved on earth with that uniquely unselfish, unabashedly proud, and unconditional love of a parent for their child.

Mom died first, on the day they would have celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.  How could she be gone?  She had always been there for me.  Even in those last few years when dementia had set in, she always recognized my voice and broke into a radiant smile which lit up her gray-green eyes, blinded by macular degeneration.  “Patty,” she would call.  “Come give me a hug.”

Dad had dementia too, but he covered it well most of the time.  Being alert and observant, his would roll his wheelchair into the kitchen as soon as he saw me pulling into the driveway.  “Oh, you made my day!  Honey, Patty’s here!”  He would call out to my mom as she sat swathed in fleece blankets in her bright pink recliner.

My parents had always taken care of me.  I remember mom holding cold compresses on my head and supporting me throughout agonizing waves of nausea during migraine attacks when I was a teenager.  And, I can still see the trays of tea and broth and crackers she brought when the worst of it was over.

They were there when cancer surgery put an end to my dreams of having babies.  They were devastated, but mom kept vigil with me, and dad cooked up all my favorite dishes.

We shared many happy times too — like the summer after my first year of college, when my best friend and I went to Europe with a study group.  We had taken off a semester to “type our way to England.”.  My parents gave me a small going away party with close family and friends.

But what I remember most about that party, and what I treasured more than any of the other gifts I received, was a glass coffee jar into which mom and dad had both collected all of their spare change over the preceding months.  They surprised me with this extra bit of spending money.

I don’t remember how much was in that jar — perhaps around $50.00 or so.  But it might as well have been a million dollars to me.  I was so touched by the joy on their faces when they handed me this little sacrificial gift.

Mom worked in retail, and she bought up the cutest clothes as soon as they went to markdown, so that my sisters and I could have a nice wardrobe during our teen years.  We had many good laughs over all the compliments we received on outfits that had cost less than ten dollars.

Dad borrowed on his life insurance to give me a beautiful wedding — because he wanted to.

Even as a child, I was humbled watching my parents deny themselves nice things in order to give my sisters and me piano lessons and pay tuition to Catholic schools.

But it was during those last five years of their lives, that they taught me more than I had learned in all those years growing up in the two-story, two bedroom brick home which they loved so much.

I experienced the great dignity which accompanies advanced age.  There was something almost sacred about my parents in their helplessness and frailty.  The trust in their eyes, the personal modesty they tried to maintain while being bathed and dressed by live-in caregivers was hauntingly beautiful.

My dad had been an artist, and even when Alzheimer’s had taken its toll, he still commented on the clothes my sisters and I wore — especially a pretty handbag or cool looking shoes.  He also liked to study the art hanging on the walls of the many doctors’ offices we visited.

During their last years, I lost count of the answers to prayer, some miraculous, which were associated with my parents’ needs and care.  Truly God has great tenderness for those who are old and infirm.

I am so grateful that I was able to be there for my parents during those last five years.  It is my greatest comfort now in missing them….and it is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.

Both of their deaths were unexpected.  Mom was only ill for two weeks before she left us, and dad died only five weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer the doctors had somehow overlooked for months.  But all was as it was meant to be.

Our Blessed Lord took mom first, and dad never knew she was gone.  We just had time to bury her and then to see him through the last week of his life.  He didn’t know he was dying.  God was so merciful.  Dad slipped in and out of a coma, watching his beloved football games from his favorite chair on a Saturday afternoon, and drifted away to God (and mom) the next morning.

Losing them both at the same time was so hard, but was exactly what they would have wanted.

Of all that I miss about them, it is not what they gave when I was young or what they did when I needed them.

What I miss most of all is lighting up their lives and their faces simply by walking in the door.  I miss being their child.  No supermodel, no rock star ever received such an enthusiastic welcome.  I felt like the most important person in the world.

But as much as my parents made me feel loved, what will God’s Love be?  Like the Father of the prodigal son, will He not, with unrestrained Divine Love, rush down the path to meet us when we take our first steps into eternity?

Mom, Dad, I love you!

Lesson from a closet…happy birthday to my husband!

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday.  So, I thought I would honor him by revisiting a post which I wrote during my first months of blogging in 2011.
My husband wakes me up with a cup of hot tea each morning, and often a vase of freshly cut roses from the garden.  When he has to leave early, the tea is in the microwave.  When he knows I’m especially tired, or have one of my famous migraines, he suggests leftovers or takeout for dinner.  Sometimes, he will even cook dinner for us himself.
Now that he is retired, I usually find stacks of neatly folded clothes whenever I head to the laundry room.  The dishwasher is almost always empty.  The cat is fed and brushed.
He loves to take me out to dinner, and on little mini-vacations.  I often find out about the latter when he sends me an e-mail (from upstairs!) with the reservation information.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  So I would just like to say:
Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!
Boston 281
I have a migraine today, and so while I have been hanging around not doing much of anything, my husband got out his tools and went to work in my closet.  He lowered the clothes bar from 75 inches to 65 inches.  The contractor had installed it too high when we built the house a few years ago.  It was usable, but not convenient.  (My arms did get a nice workout though.)

My sweet husband even took out all of my clothes to do this chore, and then re-hung them again after he was finished.  He insisted that I rest with my headache.

After he was done, I was genuinely surprised at how much of a difference those ten inches made, and I gratefully exclaimed, “Oh, this is SO MUCH BETTER!  Thank you!”  And I gave him a big hug.

I could tell by the way he hugged me back, and the proud little grin on his face, that he was happy I was so pleased.

I found myself thinking about all the times I take for granted the really nice things he does for me.  I try to thank him, but we all know the difference between a routine thank-you, and a really heartfelt expression of genuine gratitude.

And, I’m ashamed of some of the things I complain about, especially that he doesn’t follow some of my fanatical protocols in the kitchen:  Did you soak the tomatoes in a bleach solution?  I don’t think you washed your hands long enough.  Blah, blah!

Hmm, I wouldn’t blame him if he threw a tomato at me.  Often the people we live with are the ones we forget to appreciate the most.  It’s so easy to notice what they do to annoy us, because they are always around, but we grow used to their kindnesses, as though we deserve them.

I’m going to make a real effort to truly give thanks to my husband, for all his little expressions of love to me.  I really am grateful.  I just need to express it more.

Oh, he just came in from the supermarket with bags of groceries.  He’s fixing dinner tonight so I can rest my head.

Thank you, Lord, for this good man you have given to me.  Help me to see my own faults and failings, but give me the grace to overlook his.  And most of all, grant that I may not permit even one act of love and kindness he shows me to go unappreciated.

P.S.  And Lord, remind me to make him his beloved cheesecake tomorrow.  : )

(First published, May 14, 2011)