Our Lady's Garden
Affection for Sin
March 25, 2017
Lent started out rough this year.
Early in the Lenten season, I received the call each mother dreads - a car accident.
I cried out to God and He heard my prayer!
I booked a flight, kissed my husband goodbye, called family and friends,
and everyone prayed.
We experienced a miracle.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!
A week later, I hit a fallen rock in the road. My favorite car could not be fixed. My five-year-old daughter asked what the word, “totaled,” meant. Through tears, I explained, “Totaled means that the cost of repairs is more than what the car is worth.”
I reminded myself often that we love people and we use things.
We do not use people and love things.
I really liked that car.
A week later, driving a rental van, I picked up a few things at the store. In addition to the things on my list, I purchased a box of Hostess Strawberry Cupcakes. I wanted them, they would taste good, and I couldn’t wait to eat them.
The first cupcake tasted exactly like I thought it would. Yum. It was gone in a moment. The second one called my name, “Eat me.” I knew on an empty stomach, a second cupcake would upset my stomach, and it did.
This is not a blog about giving up sweets for Lent.
I do not give up sweets for Lent.
This is a blog about how our human nature knowing what is right and best and is still drawn to sin. I knew the cupcake was a temporary distraction from my emotional pain. I knew that the pleasure would not change the fear I had experienced in that phone call, the constant changes of life, the vulnerability I feel as my children become adults. The cupcake was a pleasure, a distraction. The second cupcake was more of the same but came with a cost, an icky feeling. This blog is about the feeling that I experienced after eating the second cupcake. With an upset stomach, I wished that the feeling would pass quickly, so I could eat a third, no matter the consequences . . .
Maybe, you have never felt this temptation. Knowing what was best for me, I wished a pleasure that was already causing me pain. That is the best description for the affection for sin that I can think of. Consider someone who gossips about a neighbor and experiences the pain and the isolation of that sin. “Do they know?” she may consider when offering her neighborly hello. “Are they aware of my words, my observations, my criticism?” She wonders with a guilty conscience before picking up the phone to call another friend, again.
“Oh, the wages of sin are death”, says the Lord.
Lent is about changing our minds. It is about Metanoia or repentance. "Change your heart!" says our Lord. What affection for sin handicaps you? What sin do you hold in front of your heart preventing God’s mercy from transforming you? Is it a grudge that you cater to? Reminding yourself of how you were hurt. Who said what, and how it still affects you.
Have you built a nest for your affection for sin? Decorating the space with the reasons you can’t change.
Stop! Stop believing that you are unable to change!
Experience that joy of doing what you know is right and good. Remove the power of sin that paralyzes your spiritual growth. Conversion is the real power of Lent. Good Friday and Easter Sunday is coming and the Feast of Divine Mercy of Jesus will follow. His call is to change, grow, and lead a life far better than you or I imagine. If we can simply recognize our negative patterns and seek a new way
– A way of Hope and Life.
May God abundantly bless you this Lent!
I am poured out like water
Preparing for Lent and Life
February 22, 2017
In a dramatic moment last summer, God asked me to make room for something new. I accepted this message from God with . . . sorrow. In accepting His most Holy Will, I have had moments of pain, disillusionment, and fear. I have accepted the loss of friends, ministry, and position. How hard it is to accept change, and to accept it willingly. Where do we find strength when we have no more of our own?
It is times like this that I am proud to be Catholic. In no other religion, can one look to the lives of the saints and history of the church and say, “This is the way it is supposed to be.” The lives of Holy Family demonstrate it best and tonight I find solace in the prayer to Saint Joseph. It was a blessing to find this prayer when I needed it
[Saint Joseph is my patron saint].
This Prayer was posted to Aleteia.org by correspondent Diane Montagne.
Thank you, Diane.
In these days before Ash Wednesday, I ask myself, “What is my response when God says "no" to my plans.” I believe this to be the most difficult part of living a Christian life. People face this question each day in cancer diagnosis and auto accidents when they cry out, “Where is God in the pain and suffering.” I can share that I have stood in those moments and God has sustained me. My faith was strong and God does not abandon us in our need.
My question tonight is a different one. What is my response when God doesn’t give us what we want in the little things in life? The adage is true: “It is not the mountain in your path but the rock in your shoe.” Tonight, my shoes are filled with rocks and God is calling me again to follow Him in Faith on a path I do not know or understand.
Please consider the life of Joseph, as reflected in this prayer. Joseph is chosen by Joachim to be Mary’s husband. Actually, that is a subject of a great book and a bit over simplified. Joseph is chosen by God to be Mary’s husband. In a miraculous and astounding way (and holding a lily-blooming- staff) all involved can see that Joseph is following God’s plan. Perfect. Right? Joseph is chosen to marry the most beautiful woman in the world, and then everything . . . goes wrong.
Can you imagine the depth of pain that Joseph experiences when Mary leaves, without a word, to visit Elizabeth and then is found to be with child? I believe that no human before Jesus has experienced that depth of personal loss. No one has suffered that level of confusion, doubt, and betrayal. I can hear Joseph’s cry, “How can this be, Lord?” Isn’t that our cry? “How can this be?”
That question is the beginning of every prayer of petition. How can it be . . .? That my child is dead? That my loved one is suffering?
The list could go on and on. All the suffering of the world is reduced to “How can this be your plan, Lord?”
It is not in Joseph’s petition but his response that we see the power of faith. It is his response to follow God no matter the path, the cost, the confusion, or the loss. In the end, I, like Joseph, am called not to understand but to follow.
I must humble myself in accepting life's small changes knowing that Joseph accepted that there was no room for them at the inn. I must accept change, remembering the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. I must abandon my earthly plans and desires, contemplating Joseph and Mary searching for their lost son, Jesus. I must not be an obstacle to anyone’s faith, imagining the strength of Joseph raising an unknown Jesus quietly in Nazareth.
How much I expect. How much I desire for myself. My position, my reputation, MY EVERYTHING – belongs to God alone.
He is my refuge and He is my strength.
Perhaps as Lent begins, by meditating on Joseph. I can lift my eyes to see the sacrifice of Good Friday with new eyes and experience Easter Morning with an increased faith.
Jesus. I trust in You!
Mother Mary, please walk with me. I need you.
THIRTY DAY PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH
IN HONOR OF THE 30 YEARS HE SPENT WITH JESUS AND MARY
Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father,
and helpful friend of all in sorrow!
You are the good father and protector of orphans,
the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow.
Look kindly on my request.
My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God,
and so I am surrounded with unhappiness.
To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth,
do I go for help and protection.
Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern,
to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.
I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God,
which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.
I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the Holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world’s Redeemer in a cave.
I ask it by the loveliness and power of that sacred Name,
Jesus, which you conferred on the adorable Infant.
I ask it by the painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon,
which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.
I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan, you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt.
I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.
I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country.
I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows.
I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His mother for three days.
I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus.
I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.
I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life,
and from the company of Jesus and Mary.
I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.
I ask it through Mary’s glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God. O good father!
I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.
(Here name your petitions or think of them.)
Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of: JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH.
“A blameless life, St. Joseph, may we lead, by your kind patronage from danger freed.”
Prayer Published in a post by Diane Montagne
"THIRTY DAY PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH IN HONOR OF THE 30 YEARS HE SPENT WITH JESUS AND MARY"
Encourage One Another!
February 14, 2017
I received an early Valentine on Sunday at Mass. Attending Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Cheyenne brings the opportunity to see many good friends. The Mass at 9 am was celebrated by an old and dear friend, Father August.
What a treat it is to listen to his words of love. He handed out the prayer cards shown above and shared that we do know 4 things about St. Valentine.
- He was a Bishop in Rome in the 3rd Century.
- He was a martyr.
- He was a support to many Roman soldiers who had secretly converted to Catholicism.
- He sent love letters
The Roman government had plans to strike militarily against the Germans who were growing in strength. Claudius, the ruler, prohibited engagements and marriages because roman soldiers were prohibited from being married. Bishop Valentine joined in marriage these Roman men and their wives as well as others wishing to join in the sacrament. Perhaps, Claudius was surprised by the number of his men who were Christian or he was offended by the actions of "another authority", a religious authority, who did not need his permission to marry these citizens. This conflict explains the Martyr part of Valentine's bio.
An important part of the story of Valentine is that he wrote notes of encouragement to his people. Faithful people living in a difficult time, under persecution, were sent notes of encouragement by their Bishop. Isn't that delightful! In writing to them, encouraging them, he signed his notes, "Your Valentine".
So today, Celebrate!
Celebrate your marriage!
Celebrate the ability to marry!
Celebrate the grace existing in your vows and perhaps pray for the strength and virtue to live your vows fully; but especially, encourage one another. Send a simple note of love and encouragement and do it often. Isn't that the part of Valentine's Day that we love the most - the beautiful handmade Valentine, signed with love.
Oh, and don't forget you pastor or bishop, they need encouragement too!
Happy Valentines Day!
Saint May's Cathedral
Diocese of Cheyenne
Seeing Angels and Saints
at Saint Mary's Cathedral
February 19, 2017
At Mass last week, something unusual happened. During the First Reading, the side doors of the Cathedral opened and with what seemed a rush of air, a woman using a walker appeared. Standing in the side aisle, she removed her coat and her hat and gave a big, extraordinary wave to the parish. It was as if she was shouting,
"I know you were worried. I am okay and I am here."
I expected that she would sit down in the handicapped seating within arms reach, but she didn't. As the Psalm was sung, she crossed to the center aisle and reverently bowed to the altar.
Hmmm, I thought, "She will sit on the other side." She did not. She wheeled her walker up the ramp and onto the side altar. She gazed up at the statue of the Blessed Virgin and prayed. She bowed her head and finally with great satisfaction returned back down the ramp, bowed deeply again to the altar and took her seat where the story began. The Alleluia was sung and the Gospel preached.
All was well.
After Mass, I mentioned this to My Favorite who had been seated next to me.
[Excuse this momentary interruption – my children deserve more privacy than I give them in my humble musings. It is an ongoing conversation that perhaps they should choose a name. This child has chosen not Jane or Bridget but "My Favorite."
Back to the story. My Favorite explained that she didn't see the woman as she was "paying attention to Mass". Not expecting the level of judgment for having noticed the unusual occurrence, I paused a moment and then continued. Certainly, the woman might have been ill, physically or mentally. I mean no disrespect but ill or not her actions were beautiful; everything she did spoke fully to the reality of God, His Presence, and The Church.
Wouldn't the world be a more beautiful place if our church family watched and missed one another? Wouldn't the Church be a truer reflection of Jesus if everyone were welcome and welcomed? This beautiful woman wheeling her walker knew the way to address the Altar of Our Lord; never have I seen a more honest and sincere bow. Finally, it makes perfect sense that in arriving, this woman had to say hello to Mary. As a child feels at home in her grandmother's house, this woman was at home in the church. May that childlike love live in all of us and may we show our love and respect in such a way.
In sharing this story, my husband asked if perhaps I was the only one who saw this lady. I assured him that others had seen her. He wasn't convinced and his response was, "Maybe she is your Guardian, Angel?" Considering my driving habits that might explain a few things, I am sure my guardian angel is worn out.
It would be an honor to have this lady watching over me but even more, I wish to be like her, reflecting her faith.
February 11, 2017
I am traveling and woke up early this morning. I looked to see if there was a Saturday morning Mass available. There was and I quickly dressed and left the hotel. I had never been to this church so I clicked directions on my phone and recognized a few landmarks and the area. The problem was there are two hospitals in town and the medical center near this church was not the meical center I knew. I made an assumption and was about to make a mistake.
Needing “no stinking directions”, I headed out and soon was in trouble. The road I had chosen was not a east and west road but a diagonal northwest road . . .
Looking at my phone, I knew I had to change direction and admit that I didn’t know where I was going.
This is a familiar scenario for me. I make a lot of U-Turns while driving and in life. My kids repeat my saying; “It’s not a party until you take a U-Turn.” I could write a book about my U-Turn adventures.
I arrived at Mass during a very nice homily about not only listening to Mary’s words, “Do whatever He tells you” but actually doing what Jesus tells us to do. It was beautiful and I was blessed to be there. The unusual part of the morning was that the church was deeply under renovation. I wasn’t surprised because the parish website featured the big red thermometer donation goal graphic and offered information about the construction. I was surprised to see scaffolding in the church. It is not the first time but it always gets a fella’s attention.
It made me consider that I, too, am under construction. I bet you are too. It is February and my New Year’s intentions are a blur as I look forward to Ash Wednesday on March 1st. My thoughts were, of course there is scaffolding in this church, ladders, and tools, if they removed everything, they would never make progress.
Do you want to make progress on the improvement of your heart? I do. Do you wish to stop the bad habits and avoid the occasion of sin that frequently affects you? I do. It is so difficult to change. Saint Paul says it best in Romans 7:15-16.
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
Change is hard. I think we make it harder than it needs to be. We don’t allow others to see the ladders in our lives. We try to make real change in our lives only to wake up the next morning and do the same thing we did yesterday.
I must remember that God love me unconditionally but he loves me enough not to leave me broken. Join me in making change. Be kind to yourself and allow that change in your life to show. Allow others to see the “Under Construction” sign on your heart; perhaps they will show you their struggle with personal and spiritual change as well.
So, Happy Saturday!
May the most important home improvement projects happen to our insides.