Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Message from Father Darragh Connolly

Dear lay apostles 

Below are some of the final words from our Holy Father. We wish him every blessing. Let us unite in prayer with Catholics around the world asking The Lord to bless and protect our cardinals in the upcoming election. 

With sadness we say farewell to our beloved Holy Father but with great joy we will greet his successor. 

God bless, 
Fr. Darragh 

"Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to "climb the mountain", to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength." 

-Pope Benedict XVI, February 24th, 2013

Worldwide Novena Opportunity for the Election of the Next Holy Father

(Written by Dr. Mark Miravalle) 

As the conclave for the next Holy Father soon approaches, it is the joyful responsibility of every Catholic to pray for the election process, to ensure the choice of the best possible successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

We must be on guard against all complacency which concludes, "The Holy Spirit elects the pope. I don't need to pray for the conclave."

When Pope Benedict was asked, "Does the Holy Spirit elect the next pope?" He responded:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote.

The Pope's response underscores the imperative for the Catholic faithful to pray fervently with committed hearts to the Holy Spirit, that the conclave of cardinals elect the candidate most pleasing to God to become the next Vicar of Christ on earth. We, the faithful, must enter this historical papal election process by praying to the Holy Spirit that He will descend upon the conclave for the choice most pleasing to Jesus and most beneficial for the Church and for the world today.

Beginning March 1, 2013, the first day when the Chair of Peter will be vacant, I encourage you to join in this Worldwide Novena for the Election of the Next Holy Father. Please join Catholic brothers and sisters the world over in daily praying the Novena Prayer below (or any other prayer to the Holy Spirit that you may prefer) that the Holy Spirit may truly inspire the hearts of the cardinals of the conclave to choose the man that Jesus wants to guide the Church at this precise moment of human history. This Conclave Novena will end on the day the Church and the world hears the words, "Habemus Papam!" ("We have a Pope!").

Conclave Novena Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send down your Spirit over the conclave. Let the Holy Spirit inspire the hearts of the cardinals, that they may choose the man most pleasing to You, as Successor of Peter and Your Vicar on Earth. May Mary, Your Mother and Mother of the Church, be our Advocate. Amen.

Dr. Mark Miravalle
Professor of Theology and Mariology
Franciscan University of Steubenville 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's Hard To Be Humble

Before I begin writing my blog posts for the day, I ponder the daily readings and the Gospel. I close my eyes and ask the Lord to put into my head thoughts He desires me to articulate. Well, this song popped into my head by Mac Davis, It's Hard to be Humble:

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
when your perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror 
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
but I'm doing the best that I can.

Emoting false humility may entertain some, but the truth is, we need to be humble in order to receive the graces God has intended for us. And as we receive those graces, we are
able to remain peaceful in a world constantly changing. Without humility, we block the possibility of receiving those graces and therefore remain restless.

In todays Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12), Jesus teaches us without humility, we may receive an earthly reward, but it pales in comparison to the reward and graces which come directly from Him:

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In the July 2007 Monthly Message, steady service in humility is what Jesus asks of us:

"My beloved ones, when you see signs that God has been rejected, you must remain peaceful. I, Jesus, have told you that change is necessary. I, Jesus, have told you that I desire change. I do not abandon you and I do not abandon the world. I have many friends in this world and you are among them. You trust Me, I know. I will honour the trust you have placed in Me. I will bring all things to the good, both in your life and in the world. I, the Blameless One, have never betrayed another and I will not betray you. Think often on the promises I have made to you. I have said I will never leave you. I have said I will protect My interests in your soul. I have said I will pursue conversion of your loved ones. During this time, I want each apostle to consider these promises. Serve Me in steadiness, of course, but also, serve Me in peace. Dear apostles, you are connected to Me. You accept My love. You know that just as I cherish you, I cherish all others. My dear friends, please live these truths because others are looking to you for example. Please. Give an example of joyful trust. I need this from you so that I can draw hurting souls back to Me. I am with you. I will help you to do this."

Lay apostles, it's easy to fall into the traps of the secular world where winning means being number one at all costs. Bigger, faster, stronger, more. God defines winning spiritually as more of Him and less of us. Read the Litany of Humility which I have referred to many times on my blog. In the end it comes down to giving credit where credit is due . . . to God. If we choose Him, we will be filled with joy and peace which can only come from heaven. 

Thank you, Lord, for the chances at humility thrown my way. It's hard to be humble, but once understood, life becomes more meaningful.

God bless,
Bonnie and Jay
(Jay is a beautiful writer and helped me with this post tonight! Thank you, my love!)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Turn It Around

It's easy to get caught up in chaos. It's easy to try to predict reasons behind erratic behavior. Analyzing every possible scenario is exhausting. So why try? Well, it's just how my brain works. Luckily, I have learned that when my brain starts calculating worst case and best case scenarios, it's time to call in the Big Guy. My job is to love, leading by example. And, set very clear boundaries. 

Reminds me of an incident when my three girls were teenagers. It was around the time Ricky Martin was the big teen heartthrob. He had just opened a restaurant in Miami, so we decided it would be a fun day trip. (The girls were hoping they would get a glimpse of him, although it was highly unlikely). We were on the highway for about 20 minutes, when my oldest Mallorie was arguing with her youngest sister Taylor. The first "girls, stop the fighting" calmly escaped my lips. They quieted for about 5 minutes. Then, the bickering began again. Now my voice was a little louder. "Girls, if you argue one more time we are turning around and going home," I said (regretfully after I realized I would have to follow through with the threat!). "Noooooo, mom, we won't fight anymore. We promise!"  I was actually pretty excited to visit the restaurant, too, so I hoped they would get along for the next hour. Mind you, my middle daughter Whitney stayed out of the conflict. After the first warning, she reiterated my words to her sisters. After the second warning, she was starting to get upset with them. We were about 10 miles from Alligator Alley where turning around wasn't an option for quite awhile. Then from the back seat, it happened. I can't remember who started it. "OK, no Ricky Martin today! You guys blew it!" Got off at the next exit and turned around with three girls crying and apologizing and begging for another chance. Although they knew I almost always followed through with my threats (I did let some things slip once in a while!). The lesson is, stop the chaos. I am completely aware teenagers = drama. But as adults, unacceptable behavior is just that . . . unacceptable.  With clear boundaries intact, nothing can disturb my peace anymore. I love unconditionally, but won't hesitate to pull off the highway and head back home!

In todays Gospel (Luke 6:36-38), Jesus talks about U-turns:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

In Volume Four, Jesus encourages us to remain peaceful, allowing Him to fill the void. He is ready to help you turn around:

"I want you to look closely today at your life, at your relationships, and at your level of contentment. Do you have true peace? Are others drawn to you because love flows from you? Do you communicate joy to others? That is what I offer. You should possess true peace and security and joy and love should flow from you. Not a false peace, offered by the world and those that avoid Me. That peace does not last and does not pierce the boundary of your soul. The temporary peace offered by the world numbs your pain for a time, leading you to believe you have found the object of your search. Then that feeling wears off and you begin to search again, always looking for that thing which can only be found in Me. Shall I minister to you? Would you like Me to infuse your soul with courage and joy? Dear one, that is what I do for My true followers. They do not escape life’s difficulties. They have a steadiness that sets them apart from those who do not follow Me and who do not take advantage of heaven’s gifts. I want to share these gifts. On this day I want you to tell Me all day long that you believe in Me. You may not feel this. You may have a difficult time even forming the words. But in your heart, all of this day, tell Me this. I can then give you graces that will help your disbelief. We will begin to shift the stubborn doubts sowed by the father of lies. You have nothing to lose."

Lay apostles, Jay has an analogy I love when things become chaotic. An American gentleman one day goes to India. He's meeting with an Indian executive on the first floor of a high rise building. Behind the executive is a large glass window through which he observes people outside the building spinning in circles. Finally he interrupts the executive and asks what the people outside were doing. The executive explains it is part of a religious sect called the Whirling Dervishes. They whirl because it's part of their belief system. The American asked him "how do you deal with them whirling directly outside your building?" He responds, "I don't do anything.  I leave them alone. Don't allow them to disturb me. I allow them to whirl because they are going to do it wherever they are." The moral of the story is even though some people choose to whirl, we can allow them to do so without getting caught up in their vortex of chaos. We can choose to detach with love. In doing so, we will obtain more clarity, peacefulness and energy to do His Will.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me step away with love from chaotic behavior. Thank you especially for a partner who is wise and has a desire to focus on Your Will.

God bless, 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Use Lent Productively

So, how is Lent going for you so far? I'm doing pretty good . . . but still have a lot of room for improvement. This last week Jay and I had a conversation about being around negative people. It's very easy to be drawn into conversations leading nowhere, commiserating with their experience from lessons learned long ago. It takes actual concentration to turn those conversations around, focusing on the positive. I had a conversation the other morning with a young person. He complained about his job, and how unfair his boss was . . . yada, yada, yada. I have had difficult bosses in the past, so I can understand the frustration. But with age comes wisdom, right? I took my shot at turning his annoyance into empathy by explaining we never know the lives people lead when they are not at work. Some wear their emotions on their sleeve . . . and some hide despair appearing upbeat and happy. He listened and agreed you never know what's behind angry words. Then proceeded to complain some more!  The lesson I left with? I needed to add another virtue to work on during Lent . . . not letting negative talk emerge from my mouth in any way, shape or form. My goal is to use Lent productively by remembering to be more of Him and less of me. 

In todays Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19) Jesus shows us how faith in Him leads to the gates of heaven:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply,  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

In the Monthly Message of July 2012, Jesus asks us to faithfully be His messengers on earth:

"Dearest apostles, to make way for your King you will have to fall back from drawing attention to yourself. One falls back, in this instance, by giving constant credit to the One who is fighting the battles and winning the souls. And the war is for souls, dear apostles. I am craving allegiance from all of God’s children because I am craving what is good for them. Those who are away from Me must see the goodness in you. You are truly offering the best possible message for everyone you encounter. Your message is one of love and welcome and you give the message as the messenger of the King. Be at peace. I am all powerful and you are on the side of heaven."

Lay apostles, how are you using your time during Lent? There are only 5 weeks left before we celebrate Easter Sunday! Make some changes. Pray more. Read spiritual literature daily. Grow closer to Our Lord.  What better time then Lent?

Thank you, Lord, for helping me focus on the positive when there is so much negative in the world. But especially help me to shine Your Light to change the hearts of those in need.

God bless,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do Unto Others

I can hear her voice now . . . "do unto others what you would have them do unto you." My mother probably said that to me a million times growing up.  Nineteen months separate my younger sister and me. Being so close in age, we were together a lot. One thing she was very good at . . . subtly provoking me during play time to react loudly, quickly propelling mother in our direction yelling "Bonnie Ann!" (My middle name was over exaggerated when she yelled, the "n" drawn out as if the longer she kept the "n" going, the closer she was in proximity!) I must have been in trouble at least once a day. By the time I was a struggling rebellious teenager, I took that saying and made it my own . . . "do unto others what they did unto you!" I was pretty rough on my sister in high school.  When we moved from California to Colorado the middle of my junior year (her sophomore year), people would ask me if I had a red-headed younger sister, to which I replied, "nope, I'm the youngest." Eventually word would get back to her of my denial, causing her to react loudly. You will be happy to know we grew up and actually love each other. But, every once in a while over the years, she lovingly recalls the torment I caused her to which I respond with my apologies. I wish I would have known then what I know now . . . the true meaning of my mother's words. My daughters growing up were so much kinder to each other than my sister and me. Hopefully, my grandchildren will be even better.

Todays Gospel (Matthew 7:7-12) gives us easy answers when we are struggling:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.  This is the law and the prophets.”

In Volume Seven, St. Damien asks us to remain centered on Christ when we struggle with our ego:

"I watch your difficulties and understand your struggles. You walk with Jesus, though, and if you remain in an awareness of His presence you will feel stronger and more confident. Many of your struggles can be minimized with constant acts of Holy Indifference. Jesus, along with all of His many helpers, needs you to be His hands, His heart, and His representatives. He can get the work done through you quite easily. You are a part of the work but not the whole work. Let me make this even clearer. If you remain small, understanding that without the help of God you are without power, He can do the greatest things through you. When man swells in his heart and feels that it is he himself who is accomplishing these things, the trouble begins. Egos are difficult friends and dreadful rulers. Keep your ego on a very short leash and understand that your merit lies in your obedience to Christ. Do not take credit for what Christ does through you. He cannot entrust great missions to you if your ego swells with each success. When your work is successful, praise God. When your work fails, praise God. When the sun shines, praise God. When the rain falls, praise God. Do you get the idea? You serve Him and He will do great things through you. These great things have nothing to do with you except that you allowed heaven to use you as an instrument."

Lay apostles, how do you react when accused? By yelling and screaming, seeking justice to heal your wounded ego? Or, do you respond calmly with the facts? Sometimes, not reacting is the right answer. Instead of yelling, ask God to open another door.  Ask Him to fight the fight for you. Did you realize He always wins, but in His time, not ours? Make it easy. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

Thank you, Lord, for the ability to let go and continue climbing the mountain. 

God bless,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Transgressions? Who Me?

Monthly Confession has been an eye opener (see my blog post Clarity) since I have committed to it on a monthly basis. Did you know there is a "Confession" iPhone app that actually has the Imprimatur? I use it as a way to record the little ways in which I sin.  It goes through the Ten Commandments, asking questions relating to each. You check the box of those sins you have committed, and it creates a list. I review the list before I sit in front of the priest (remember, using the app does NOT give you absolution from your sins, only a priest has Christ's authority to do that). It's amazing how much you forget in one month's time! Keeping better track of my transgressions in preparation for my monthly purging works wonders in my soul. There is nothing more powerful than the graces and forgiveness received in the Sacrament of Confession. And, doing it on a monthly basis sure makes the list much shorter!

In the Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15) from 19Feb2013, Jesus asks us to never ridicule others transgressions, lest God our Father hold ours against us:

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,

thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

In Volume One, Anne a lay apostle provides a wonderful analogy for why we should focus on our own sins, not the sins of others:

"How short are our memories when it comes to our own transgressions. I was worried that my prayer be disturbed by my concern over what to write in the journal. The Blessed Mother said, “Do not worry about your journal. We will tell you if you are doing something wrong.” When I entered a strange church for the first time, I looked around, examining the architecture, etc. It would not have been my choice, and I did not love the design. I gave a sigh, and looked at the tabernacle, with the crucifix hanging above it. Oh well, I thought, it gets the job done. It immediately struck me that it was kind of like me, imperfect, guilty of flaws and not at all ideal. But Jesus was using me, in all of my imperfections, to move His plan forward. Kind of like driving an old car. You might not go fast. You might have delays. And often you might have to coax and prod. In the end, though, you usually arrive at your destination. The more spiritual work we do, the more we practice following Christ in even the smallest details of our lives, the faster our car will drive for Jesus. I guess this is the movement to unify our will to His. We all must strive to be fast cars. What a curious analogy."

Lay apostles, we all sin. Today, if you haven't been to Confession in a while, start with finding out Confession times in your area. Make a list of your transgressions. If you're not ready for the big reveal, take baby steps. Work on your list every day. Then, when you have the will, get to a priest. For me, my first time back after 25 years was the scariest thing I ever attempted . . . until I received absolution for all my sins. I was on Cloud Nine and haven't stepped off since. I am far from perfect, but I am making every effort to live my life fully as a Catholic woman. Once you confess, it's a new day to try and get it right. 

Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful Sacrament of Confession. I want my soul as clean as possible when it's time for me to head home and see Your Face!

God bless,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Well Worth It

(This is from 18Feb2013)

It was a long day today. I picked up my grandson Colton around 10:30am to run to Best Buy to purchase a new router. He was in a wonderful mood, giggling as I made a complete fool of myself in the store.  I loved every second of it. Got to my house and all went as it usually does. He went down for his nap and I was able to install the new router with the help of a friend on the phone. Just as I finished, Colt began fussing, and wanted to be in perpetual motion from that moment until his daddy picked him up. We went outside and it kept him happy until I sat down of course (he weighed in at 20lbs at his 6 month checkup . . . big boy!). He rocked on his rocking horse for a bit until he was bored. We read books and did just about anything I could think of. His first tooth emerged last week with another one about to break through, so it has been a rough few weeks for his mommy and daddy, let alone our sweet baby boy!  As much as I hate to admit I am aging, the fact remains, I am. My stamina isn't what it used to be. Despite complete exhaustion after watching Colt, I wouldn't trade one minute of wet kisses on my cheek, arms extended when I say "come to grammie," the feel of this little boy asleep in my arms, and the little bit of comfort I can bring my daughter knowing her son is in loving hands while she is at work. Service to others. It's what Jesus asks of us. Our salvation depends on it. In whatever way you serve on a daily basis, just serve with Him in mind. It is well worth it.

In the Gospel from 18Feb2013 (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus explains the importance of service:

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In Volume One, our Blessed Mother urgently calls us to serve her Son:

"Children, Jesus is trying to tell you gently that you must join Him now. Not later, but now. The time of darkness is mercifully near its end and Jesus is going to intervene in the world in an extraordinary fashion. You must be prepared and that is why we are sending you these messages. Do not ignore the prophets we send as an act of extended mercy. Can you imagine how you will feel if you have been warned but failed to respond? Can you ignore Jesus after He has shown you so much love? Can you continue, possibly, to turn your back on Him? Of course not. Because in your heart you know that Jesus is the Way, and you know that He calls you for the last time in this world. My children must obey their God and hasten to assist Him. Be on our side, dear child. Our side is the side of love. Our side is the side of obedience. Our side is the side of light, happiness, and service to others. There is no real choice for you. Your God cries out to you sharply and you must answer Him. I, your heavenly mother, will help you. We are doing everything. We need only your “yes” to unleash all manner of graces upon you. Your mother blesses you and helps you in every decision, including the decision to serve. Be at peace with your service to Christ, little one, as it is the only correct decision."

Lay apostles, how are you serving today?  Each morning, begin with an attitude of service to others. By doing so, you are also serving Our Lord. Personally, I want to be in the group on His right!

Thank you, Lord, for all the opportunities You provide in a day to serve others. Help me to always be aware of those in need, and provide the knowledge essential to fulfill those needs.

God bless,

Friday, February 15, 2013

What's the Point of Fasting?

Today is the first Friday of Lent.  You will see in both the first reading and the Gospel, God is giving us powerful messages to aid in our conversion. After reading them, my mind drifted to a time when I was a little girl at Christmastime. My little sister and I, when our parents would leave the house (we had two older sisters at home), sneaked into Mom and Dad's room to count the number of Christmas presents bearing our names, hidden in their closet. The first time we did this, I remember boasting my number excitedly. Then came my sister's number . . . it was two more than mine!  She, in little sister style, did her happy dance. And boisterously taunted she had two more than me with her "ha ha ha-ha ha" added for effect. I was so mad! How come she got two more than me? I painfully wondered. It's not fair! I think that was the year I said something to my mother about it. Every Christmas thereafter, the numbers were equal and presents were strategically stored on the upper shelf of their closet (although, unbeknownst to them, we would bring a stool or chair in to peek!). Just as my sister and I should have been thankful our parents could afford and wanted to give us gifts, we should be grateful God, in Sacred Scripture, gives us clear guidance in what He expects of His Children. 

In todays first reading (Isaiah 58:1-9A), God defines, through the prophet Isaiah, what true fasting looks like (and doesn't look like):

Thus says the Lord GOD: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;  Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins.  They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Todays Gospel (Matthew 9:14-15) reminds us to keep our fasting to ourselves, and not compare it to another's:

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

In Volume Seven, St. Philomena has wonderful advice during our Lenten fasting:

"Do not fear bodily hardships because these things are fleeting. Be in the habit of denying your body a little every day. Again, this is practice. When you deny yourself, perhaps in fasting, you have not said, 'I will never eat again.' You have said, 'I will not eat for now. I will eat later.' It is the same. If you are in a position where your body is being denied something, simply tell yourself that you are being denied at the moment but not forever. You will pray and give thanks to God whatever the circumstances and souls will be saved in great numbers from your prayers of acceptance. There will be the greatest graces available so I do not fear for you because when you experience these times you will have exactly the graces you require. Jesus is so good and He loves us so much! Concentrate on this, my dear friends, and you will not nourish useless fears."

Lay apostles, were you aware of what God wishes us to do in regard to fasting? I know I've read this passage many times before, but reading it today it has new meaning. Doing without food opens us to surrender our own wants and needs to God, heightening our awareness of how much we need Him. But how we use that awareness is what counts. What good works can you do today? If you need some help figuring that out, just reread Isaiah above. The Lord is very clear. 

Thank you, Lord, for this time of fasting during Lent. Please give me the strength to adhere to food fasting so I am open and aware of the fasting You truly desire. 

God bless,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Journey Begins

Last night at Mass, as I held my grandson Colton, I thought about new beginnings. Every Lent we get a "do over." A time to reflect on where we got it wrong over the last year.  A time to look deeper into our hearts to try, once again, aligning ourselves with Christ. If you're like me, a valiant effort was made to change . . . to pray more, to help build the Kingdom of God, to continue climbing the mountain of holiness. But just as New Year's resolutions fade after a few months, I find myself slacking in areas I worked hard to develop in my prayer life last Lent. For example, praying the Rosary. I got to the point I was praying it every day with my morning coffee. Then life gets busy and other activities take its place. So I'm sitting here contemplating why I let something as important as the Rosary be replaced with other "time fillers." Maybe it's laziness on my part. But now is not the time to be lazy, lay apostles. The timing of Volume Five being released is no coincidence. I was blessed to have received a copy of it while I was in Ireland this past December. I truly believe Jesus has chosen Lent to reveal His words of Truth and encouragement during a time of reflection and prayer. After reading Volume Five, I knew God was serious about me becoming very focused. Jesus is loving but firm in the messages. We, lay apostles, are so very blessed to have the Volumes and all the messages in Anne's writings. I feel completely prepared for His return, as does Jay. If you haven't read all the Volumes, begin now. Then, when Volume Five is available, you will see how our dear, sweet Jesus has given us what we need to prepare for the day He comes in all His Glory! 

My adorable little Catholic grandsons on their first Ash Wednesday!

In todays Gospel (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus tells us to take up our crosses . . . with no fear:

Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Here is a small clip from Volume Five. Jesus the Redeemer is asking us to repent now, for HIs Mercy is abundant:

"Any person who makes an act of sorrow and contrition for his sins will know Me instantaneously and be the recipient of My Light and guidance. I am a God of mercy, first and foremost, but I am also a God of justice. My justice, tendered with mercy, will flow into your world. Be joyful, followers of heaven, for your prayer will be answered and your souls liberated." 

Lay apostles, where is your journey beginning this Lent? What are you focusing on? For me, there are a few things:

1. Pray the Rosary every day.
2. Reread Volume Five with Jay
3. More nights with the TV off.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to begin my journey yet another year. I am much wiser than last year, but please give me the persistance to spend more time in prayer and reflection. 

God bless,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday - Beginning of Lent

Lay apostles, since today is when Lent begins, I wanted to share what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops ( describes as Lenten practice for Catholics. Actually, it's great practice for any Christian. The links will clarify further.  

Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 13 this year, and is a a day of fast and abstinence for Catholics.  At Mass on Ash Wednesday, the imposition of ashes replicates an ancient penitential practice and symbolizes our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness.

During this Lent, the U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives. They have issued a statement,"God's Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation" that can be distributed and shared in parishes.  Dioceses are encouraged to make the sacrament available often during Lent and to use these resources to promote participation.  We are also providing resources to help individuals who have not been to confession in a while "rediscover" the sacrament. 
During Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.
rosary-hands-istock-montageThe three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer,fasting and almsgiving. The Church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting that all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents.
The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
On these pages, you will find a variety of suggestions and resources to support your Lenten practice, enhance your prayer, and embrace your baptismal commitment.

Todays Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) teaches us to do our penance quietly, not drawing attention to ourselves:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

In Anne a lay apostle's book Lessons in Love, she beautifully illustrates the importance of penance:

"God knew exactly what we would need to successfully complete our time on earth. The graces available in the Sacrament of Penance are a wonder to behold. If I were to summarize these graces in one word, I would use the all important word, clarity. Through Confession, God sends clarity. This is good and necessary if one is to advance at the desired speed. To return to a point that is important to our Father in heaven, I address again the mystical and contemplative realities. The mystical reality is the truth that good and evil are coexisting on earth and that a spiritual war is always taking place. At any given time, there is a state of the world in terms of spiritual warfare. A person who understands this truth will be poignantly alert to God’s goals with regard to brothers and sisters who are not safe. Why do I use the word poignantly? Because God cares so much for each one who is at risk. Our pain is His pain and since He loves us and we love Him, His pain must be our pain. What will this person do, given her attentiveness? She will be vigilant in the pursuit of personal holiness so that the enemy cannot turn her into a weapon to use against God’s children, regardless of their condition or disposition. In other words, the war is against the enemy, not the people the enemy is using."

Lay apostles, what are you doing for penance this Lent? I always try to work on a virtue and in addition give something up.  Hmmm . . . haven't exactly pinpointed it as of this writing! But I will share on my next post! 

Thank you, Lord, for this time of Lent.  A time to focus on You and Your Life. A time to work on being a better me. 

God bless,

Pious on the Outside

Collecting testimonies for Heavenly Healing sometimes consisted of two to three hour telephone conversations. Each lay apostle graciously opened their lives to a total stranger. I cried with some, laughed with some. It was such an honor to speak with others who were touched by the apostolate. The Gospel from 12Feb2013 (Mark 7:1-13) reminded me of one of those three hour conversations.  I knew it was going to be a long call when within the first 5 minutes she said she was bipolar. Just like my mother, this woman loved to talk. One of the comments she made was before she began reading the Volumes, she would walk into her church looking very pious on the outside. But on the inside, everything was scrambled. She thought if she appeared a certain way, no one would know about her mental illness. No one would judge her. She actually convinced herself she was a much better Catholic than all the others because she carried a Rosary in her hand. Life in the privacy of her own home was chaotic. Reading the Volumes made her realize He loves us all, no matter what we suffer from. We are human. She learned, to the best of her ability, to make the inside match the outside. And, avoid judging others who appeared unholy. Accepting our flaws and weaknesses is a harsh reality. The kicker is to understand God accepts us, warts and all. The first step is to stop worrying about what others think!

Today, Jesus asks us to stay focused and release our human tendencies of disobedience: 

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”  He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.” 

In the booklet Heaven Speaks to Consecrated Souls, St. Dominic boldly describes how disobedience begins when we don't want to obey Christ:

"My dearest beloved friends, one of the ways that darkness is being spread is through the promotion of healing powers that do not originate with Christ. These powers, limited of course, originate with the enemy of Christ. Jesus is sending unlimited graces for spiritual healing and conversion. He is sending great peace to those who come to Him and to those for whom you intercede during this period. I am asking you to speak out against powers that are not from heaven. The enemy would like to make the world think we live in a new age but as I have said, we live not in a new age but an Age of Disobedience. Souls do not seek Jesus because if they seek Jesus they will have to obey. If you are looking to avoid service, you do not seek the One who requires your service. Do you understand? Let us take the example of a fortune teller. Why does a soul seek to have his fortune told? The holy path leads to trusting Jesus with the future and relying on His providence. The exercise of such patience and trust builds sanctity and unity with heaven. In this time, though, the enemy lures souls to disobedience by saying that such things as fortune telling are simply amusing and harmless. I assure you, we in heaven are appalled and saddened, not only by such widespread acceptance of these sinful practices, but by the failure of many of God’s servants to speak out strongly against them. If you are walking with Jesus in the way in which you are called to walk with Jesus, you will not miss an opportunity to correct those in error. Always identify the source of the alleged power. If it is not Jesus, it is not from heaven and it is not acceptable for God’s children."

Lay apostles, I have been there before. Living a life which looks happy and carefree on the outside when I felt trapped on the inside. So how did I finally escape the secrets? I began by going to Confession the day I first saw Anne a lay apostle speak. Then, by slowly detaching from those judging me. Then, by realizing as long as I am making Jesus smile, all the others didn't matter. And finally, by speaking about what was hidden from my past to others . . . one on one, in a group, on this blog, at work.  The freedom derived from being an open book is nothing other than miraculous. 

Thank you, Lord, for protecting me as my true self is being revealed. And, for showing me those who truly love me don't care about my mistakes. 

God bless,