May, the Month of Mary

May, the Month of Mary
Read time: 5 minutes

“Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring blossoms the fairest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and dale.

Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Flower of the dale.

Oh Mary we crown thee
With blossoms today,
Queen of the angels
and Queen of the May.”

Each year, when the month of May begins, this hymn starts to run through my brain accompanied by many beautiful memories of the celebrations we used to have involving school and parish.

At the beginning of May we would start to practise this hymn, and others, but this is the one I remember and love the most. We would talk about Mary our Mother. We would practise how to form a procession and how to walk in a procession.  Then, when the special day arrived, we would all be dressed up, carrying little bunches of flowers, our parents would come and the celebration would begin.  We would process to the church, carrying our flowers, with one child having been selected to carry Mary’s crown.

Once inside the church we would sing some more hymns, say some prayers, maybe the Rosary was said. Then the child carrying the crown would be helped to carefully climb up and place the crown of flowers on the head of the statue of Mary. The flowers we had brought to the church would be placed all around the statue. The crown would remain in place for the entire month and the flowers would be continually added to so that Mary’s statue was always surrounded with flowers.

This old Catholic tradition was a simple, tangible way of honouring Mary our Mother and recognizing her as our Queen and Intercessor and still continues in some places. Devotion to Mary is a long standing Church tradition, going back to Gospel times when in Luke1: 42-43 Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin says “Of all women you are the most blessed.”  Dedication of the month of May to Mary officially became part of Catholic tradition in the 13th century and has been encouraged and approved by many popes since then.

There are different ways of maintaining this tradition of Marian devotion and it is up to each of us to find an activity we are comfortable with. We could begin by reading the gospels to be reminded about Mary’s faith and trust and obedience to God. Her example can be an inspiration to each of us.  Some honour Mary by reciting the rosary in a group or some like to connect with friends and family who are far away, but still honour Mary together, using zoom to connect in prayer.  Another idea is to make a home altar with a statue of Mary, a candle and flowers.  A statue of Mary can also be placed outside in the front yard.  Yet another tradition is the Mary garden where certain flowers are planted that have a special Marian connection to honour our blessed Mother.  For example, Roses – Mary is the mystical Rose. Different colours have different meanings: white roses stand for Mary’s purity, red roses stand for her sorrows and yellow roses stand for her glory.  Marigolds mean Mary’s gold and represent Mary’s queenship.  So working in a flower garden can be part of a beautiful Marian devotion.

Another idea for a Marian devotion might be to research and adopt a different devotion to Mary, or make a novena under one of her titles, eg Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Our Lady of Perpetual help, to name just a few. A more personal Marian devotion for the month of May could be creative, eg a painting of Mary, a poem about Mary, whatever your creative talent is, can be used to honour Mary our mother.

The month of May is an opportunity to honour Mary and get to know her better. How we take advantage of this opportunity is up to each one of us.

Living in the Spirit

Living in the Spirit
Read Time: 6 minutes

What does it mean to live in the spirit? I mean to live every day doing God’s will in our lives. How do we, as baptized Christians live this out?

Let’s look at the Acts of the Apostles to see how the early church did this. At the very beginning of Acts Jesus tells his apostles not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father, namely the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:4-5

Wait on the Lord. Sometimes that is very difficult to do. We think that we have this great idea, and we are going to go ahead with it on our own. Waiting on the Lord means prayer and discernment, which can be frustrating to a world that demands immediate action, which many times can lead to failure.

I am sure that the apostles did not feel very well equipped to continue Jesus’ mission. But Pentecost is the fulfilment of the promise that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. As Pope Benedict says Pentecost was the crowning moment of Jesus’ whole mission. He went on to add that the grace of Pentecost is not confined to the past but is a gift to be desired, prayed for, and rediscovered today.

Once the Holy Spirit descended upon them, everything changed. As we read in Acts, the apostles continued to wait and pray, so that they would act in the immediate moment of grace that the spirit moved them towards.

One of the first instances after Pentecost, was the Holy Spirit working through Peter and John to cure the crippled man from birth at the beautiful gate of the temple, which also resulted in the conversion of many people that day.

Does this happen today? Yes. Absolutely.

I recently attended the Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto. The LJHR is the largest indoor Catholic gathering of praise, worship, adoration and inspiring talks in front of an audience of 5000 people. I was particularly inspired by the talk that Angele Regnier gave. Her talk was entitled Standing on the Word: Faith over Fear. She described her experience about bringing the relic of St. Francis Xavier to Canada in 2018.

Her Bishop asked her to undertake this project and to take the arm of St. Francis Xavier on a tour to 40 locations in Canada. Who me? I’m just a mother and grandmother I don’t know how to even begin to do this. The bishop told her to pray and that many people would also be praying for her.

She mentioned some of the challenges and fears that she faced. The arm required its own seat on the plane. What if we lost the arm? Or broke the arm? She also had to deal with the media, so the bishop decided to hire a media consultant to help her. There was an interview scheduled with a secular reporter. The consultant tried to prepare her by telling her that this reporter eats Catholics for breakfast. Throughout her trials and tribulations, she turned to the Word of God.

You shall not be put to shame. That passage, one of over 60 passages like it in the Bible gave her the strength and courage to persevere, and the event was a total success. Many healings and conversions happened all over the country, not unlike the events that happened 2000 years ago. This is Standing on the Word of God in Faith.

18 months ago, a friend of mine had a conversion experience. A baptism in the Holy Spirit. He recounted to me the other day that he came upon 2 homeless people that seemed to need help. This thought occurred to him as he was driving by. Then something compelled him to turn around and go back. He can’t explain what it was. He just needed to go back. He helped them get their shopping cart unstuck and handed them a $50.00 dollar bill. He’d never done anything like that before in his life. He continues to wait, to pray, and to act. I was hungry and you gave me food…

Whether it is a big event or a small daily encounter, these things are not of human designs or plans. These events are supernatural works of the Holy Spirit, and they are happening right here, right now, every day, right under our noses. As Pope Benedict said: Let us rediscover the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Let us be aware of our baptism and our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.

Mrs. Edward’s “Little Visits”


Mrs. Edward’s “Little Visits”
Read Time 8 Minutes

People have been getting lost in the forests ever since the land was first settled and far too often, going astray has had a tragic ending. Hunters have gotten lost within earshot of their own home when darkness overtook them and their sense of direction was confused.

Mrs. Edward was a jolly, cheerful woman with dimpled cheeks and twinkling eyes which belied a mischievous, loving character. Her grey hair was done in an “old style bun” held up with large pins. She was known for her kindness, going about her day doing “small things with great love” (Saint Theresa of Calcutta). She frequently visited people in the “little village” and environs; people who could not easily leave their homes.

Mrs. Edward was the sole resident of the former Congregation of Notre Dame convent in the “little village”. Her husband, Edward, a victim of the World War 1 slaughter at Vimy Ridge in 1917, had been a man of reasonable means and had purchased the dwelling before leaving for war. Mrs. Edward loved children but she had none.

Sometime in the month of March in the 1930s she decided to pay a visit to Mairi “Glen” about 5 miles away. Mairi had been feeling poorly and was fairly isolated. A little visit would do her well.  She packed up some biscuits and molasses cookies and set off. Traveling on foot her plan was to return before dark and she stopped at her “lights next door” neighbor, Sadie, on her way to let her know when she would be back.

Mairi “Glenn” was delighted to see her. Widowed for about 5 years and with many of her children working in the fancy homes in Boston, she was alone for much of her days. Her one son, nearby, was busy with his farm and forestry work. Over “the tea” and biscuits, they reminisced about years gone by, Morag’s children and life in general in the “little village”.

As the afternoon grew later, there were warm embraces and Mrs. Edward began her return journey. She decided to take a short cut through the woods, found the path and set off in the correct direction. However other roads used by woodcutters working in the area, led off from the main road.  By mistake, Mrs. Edward took one of these roads and when it came to a dead end, she became quite confused.  With some snow on the ground, she tried to retrace her footsteps but with darkness fast approaching her tracks were now invisible.

When she felt she had walked for miles she came to a tree that had fallen down, climbed onto it and settled herself between some limbs for now she was quite exhausted.  She pulled her beads from her pocket and began to pray in earnest for now she fully realized that she was indeed lost.  At the end of each decade, she called out as loud as possible, “I’m lost” in hope of a nearby ear. Although there was no reply, she prevailed hoping someone would hear her.

Fortunately, the evening was not too cold but after resting for a short time she began to feel the chill of the lonely night.  The thought of having to sit on that tree between two limbs until dawn terrified her.

Meanwhile, Sadie, could see no lights next door. She sent her son, Alex, over to check on Mrs. Edward and when she got the bad news, sent him to Johnnie Ban’s house for reinforcements to begin the search. With lanterns in hand, the little regiment of 5 set forth retracing what would have been her steps.

They spread out in the forest keeping with in hearing distance of each other. “Listen, what is that sound?” the men stopped in their tracks, faintly hearing “I’m lost!”  In the stillness of the evening, the acoustics were good and as they were getting closer the victim’s voice became clearer.

They quickened their pace. Johnnie Ban responded, “Mrs. Edward, is that you? Keep answering and we will find you,” he shouted as the men rushed towards the stricken women

She replied, “I’m here and I’m lost!” And burst into joyful tears now knowing someone heard her.

Frothing her hands and wrapping her in a warm coat revived her immensely and the group headed for her home, where Sadie had the lanterns lit, the fire glowing and the soup pot brimming. Everyone was thankful that a tragedy had been averted.

As she embraced sleep that night, Mrs. Edward may have had second thoughts about her “little visits” after this scare. Nevertheless, she continued to visit the sick and lonely in the “little village”. Love reciprocated, saved her own life.

Mrs. Edward, Sadie, Johnnie Ban and his family – none of these people changed the world like Mother Theresa, Ghandi or Martin Luther King, but they made a difference. I often think of Mrs. Edward and her “little visits”. She brought comfort and companionship to so many people. “Little visits” can change the world; one visit at a time; in a home, in the lineup at the grocery store, waiting at an office, on the street with a neighbor, calling someone you haven’t seen for awhile or sending a message or email.

The person standing next to me could be carrying a cross much heavier than mine. Loneliness is pervasive in our society. We can be present, listen, and bring a bit of cheer and joy.

Mrs. Edward lived into her late 80s. She sat behind us in Mass and would frequently hold my baby brother, Timmy. Mrs. Edward changed the world one little visit at a time.

A true story told by Mrs. Edward to my father, with some embellishments to compensate for details lost in time.

Desperate Times Call for Prayer

Desperate Times Call for Prayer

Recently, I saw two movies that had recently been released and which won fame because of the number of awards they have won. However, though they were not “religious” in nature, what impressed me was what they said to me about our life in Christ. Or rather, it was what they had to say about not living a life in Christ that struck me!

The first movie was “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (2021)”, the most awarded movie of all time, according to Wikipedia. It shows a family on the edge of total financial, relationship and family breakdown. In a confusing interdimensional rupture of reality, a main character, Evelyn, must try to battle forces in the “multiverse” that threaten to destroy the world. As the movie progresses one begins to understand that it is a metaphor for the chaotic life we live in 2023.

Our current world is fractured by angry, polarized opinion and discourse politically, culturally, and regionally, and in schools, churches, online and in person. It is a difficult age in which to live. It is hard to meet the demands coming from every side as a spouse, parent, employee, and citizen. Add to the mix aging and infirm parents, concern for the environment, post-pandemic issues and an uncertain future and one comes to the very edge of sanity. We are all headed for a breakdown of some sort, it seems.

The second movie was “The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)”. This was a disturbing film to watch. It involves the breakdown of a friendship between Pádraic and Colm, two life-long friends. More importantly, it shows the devastating effect of having no inner life of faith or imagination. Colm is suffering from despair and asking the eternal questions about the meaning of life. He is a musician devoted to the fiddle and reading poetry. Pádraic does not read and lives for the moment. He is devoted to his donkey and going to the pub. When the friendship ends he has no inner resources, no inner life.

God and prayer are not part of either universe in these movies, despite the fact the The Banshees of Inisherin takes place in early 1900s Ireland and everyone goes to church. The Priest is not particularly approachable, nor is he particularly skilled in dealing with despair. Things do not go well.

Pope Benedict, talking about the inner life says: What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer. God by his very nature speaks, hears, and replies. Indeed, Saint Paul reminds us: we can and should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). Far from turning in on ourselves or withdrawing from the ups and downs of life, by praying we turn towards God and through him to each other, including the marginalized and those following ways other than God’s path.

There is another aspect of prayer which we need to remember: silent contemplation. Saint John, for example, tells us that to embrace God’s revelation we must first listen, then respond by proclaiming what we have heard and seen. Have we perhaps lost something of the art of listening? Do you leave space to hear God’s whisper, calling you forth into goodness? Friends, do not be afraid of silence or stillness, listen to God, and adore him in the Eucharist. Let his word shape your journey as an unfolding of holiness.

Your personal prayer, your times of silent contemplation, and your participation in the Church’s liturgy, bring you closer to God and also prepare you to serve others. The saints accompanying us this evening show us that the life of faith and hope is also a life of charity. Contemplating Jesus on the Cross we see love in its most radical form. We can begin to imagine the path of love along which we must move.

What an inner life of prayer offers is rich and lively and full of hope and love. It is not bleak and empty, like Pádraic felt his life was after the breakdown of his friendship, the one thing that gave his life meaning. Evelyn, on the other hand, had only her wits and some newfound powers to battle the forces seeking to destroy her world. Neither were apparently aware of God or the salvation that Christ offers. Thus, though Evelyn is able to hold things together at the end, the future is uncertain. Pádraic, desperate to keep the friendship going at all costs, delivers an ultimatum with shocking results. In the end, both movies end in some ways unhappily, because Grace is not present. How can God act in a person’s life if they neither know God exists, nor allows Grace to enter in?

For Christians, as the Easter season approaches, the redemptive power of Christ’s gospel message is our hope. Those of us who have suffered deeply in the past know that God’s love changes everything once one surrenders to God. Spending quality time in prayer each day helps one develop the inner life necessary to survive and thrive even in desperate times. Prayer and contemplation help us to be calm when the storm is brewing, and to know that God is with us and will not let us drown even in the deep water. Happy Easter!

Conversations with God – The Narrow Way

Conversations with God – The narrow way

This morning Lord I see that more of my thoughts are going to imaginations than prayers.  Lord I don’t want to live in a make believe world … it occurs to me that this is the devil’s counterfeit for faith in the spiritual realm.  He knows we are made to live by faith in the unseen so he offers alternatives that are easy and makes no demands upon us.  It also occurs to me that he offers various options.

We could try to ignore everything but the natural world – the materialists.

We could chase knowledge of every kind getting lost in a world of ideas – the philosopher.

We could focus on the beauty of creation and attach spiritual meaning to it – the naturalist.

We could allow the imagination to create alternative realities that put us at the center – the narcissists.

We could be focused on the gratification of bodily desires – the carnal person.

We could deny the spirit realm but acknowledge the good in loving others – secular humanist.

Instead of all that, we could enter the biblical paradigm and allow the life of Jesus to repeat itself in our lives (in a way that is ordained for us) following the Holy Spirit every step of the way – the disciple who seeks the narrow way.

It is only in this last option that I find lasting peace Lord.

It is hard for me to get too invested in the natural world and its future when I know that I am just passing through and that others are passing through as well.

It is hard for me to embrace knowledge and the wisdom of man when I know that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God (1Cor 3:19).

Lord why am I thinking along these lines now?

Jesus speaks to my heart

“You are constantly struggling to find the narrow way because you have opened yourselves to all these paths at various times.  The narrow way is not natural to you and requires effort.  It is why I said that it is narrow and few find it.  But you have been called to the narrow way and you will find your way in it.  Your enemy will attempt to distract you with the alternatives but you will not follow his way.”

Jesus speaks in my heart about some of his Miracles

“Zacchaeus had learned that wealth does not make one happy, and that the human heart was made for love. Secretly he was hoping that I (Jesus) would call him out, and that he would find out that it was not too late for him. I saw this and eagerly saved him for the sake of all that is good.”

“The officer’s heart was moved by his servants suffering.  The officer did all he could to help his servant and then put his hope on me. The officer was already following me but did not yet understand. Because of his compassion and faith I healed his servant.”

“The woman who bled for 12 years saw in me (Jesus) a chance for a new life. Her condition caused her to pray often, and she had come to know how dependent she was on me. Because of her many prayers she had great faith. By faith she touched the very door of heaven.”

“Jairus’s daughter was a wonderful opportunity to show the heart of the Father for his people. I knew what was to happen when Jairus put his faith in me despite the fact that she had died. It was such a joy for me to raise her up and restore her to her parents.”

Lord are you really speaking to me or is this the desire of my heart wishfully thinking?

“Yes you are hearing me, and, yes it is the desire of your heart – that I planted so many years ago. Do not doubt what I have told you.  Study all that I have said so that it will becomes rooted in your heart and mind.”

Yes Lord!

The Sacrifice in Lent

Read Time: 5 minutes
We are often told that Lent is sacrifice, and that it will help prepare us for Good Friday and Easter. We hear that the bit of pain we feel when we forgo something that we’ve “given up” for Lent helps put us in solidarity with others who have much less, or in fact, nothing.
These are good things; they are truths we need to consider.
But along with “giving up” something, equally worth considering is the idea of “adding to”.
I wonder, what does God desire of me — what is most precious to God…and to us?
God is love (1Jn 4:8,16).
Love is relationship.
Relationship is time together.
God desires our time, and our attention — so that God can heal and lead us further into the way of love.
If there is a sacrifice that God wants, it is the “sacrifice of our time”. Time spent with God — prayer, meditation, contemplation…healing.
There is an important place for words — prayers of supplication, thanksgiving, and praise are essential to us and our relationship with God.
There is also an equally important place for adding silence.
The noise and busy-ness of activity is necessary for our work and survival. It can also be a powerful distraction.
God seems to work best in silence. In fact, our silence is our attention — God’s love teaches and heals best when God has our attention.
When our inner and our outer lives are not in balance, life is skewed. We may not realize it, but we are not all we can be — not all that God calls us to be.
The healing of our heart and our psyche cannot take root in noise and activity. Our soul longs to return to rest in God, to be immersed and engulfed in God’s life-giving love and peace.
God’s healing is born of peace, and peace is the fruit of healing. This spiral penetrates the layers of our hurt until it finds rest in the seed of love that God planted in us. There and only there is it nourished and tended. There, is where the seed grows and bears it’s fruit in our lives. There, is the source of God’s light in us.
The silence of meditation and contemplation is difficult for us. Our mind is created and designed to think — and it is constantly at work. Even in our sleep our unconscious mind is busy through our dreams.
The silence of prayer is not the banishing of all distractions — it is the channeling of our thought into God…and the gentle return of ourselves to God when the inevitable distractions pull us away.
This dynamic is not ‘The Struggle’ — it is not about wrestling with ourselves to achieve ‘purity of thought’. The old adage of “we feed what we fight” bears its truth through our inner conflict.
Silent prayer lives in the gentle return to silence from the distractions our mind will draw us to.
To paraphrase Fr. Anthony DeMello SJ: We do not control the birds that fly overhead; we do have something to say about what nests on our head.
For those interested in learning more, Fr. Thomas Keating OCSO, among others, is well worth listening to, especially for background and guidance in the way of silent prayer.

An introductory prayer for those looking to try silent prayer; may it help settle mind and mood for the prayer time…
Paradox of God
I come to You,
who is everywhere.
I turn to You,
who is within me.
My ears listen,
for Your silent voice.
My eyes search,
for Your gaze that never leaves me.
My soul opens,
to Your healing presence.
My heart rejoices,
in Your saving grace.
My being rests,
in simply being.
So that I may free myself,
from myself.
So that You may be born again
in me.
So that I may be born again
in You.

Ordinary Timemarch

Read Time: 4.5 minutes

After all the Christmas liturgical seasonal celebrations, we are now back in “Ordinary Time”. This is the longest liturgical season in the year and lasts 33 to 34 weeks, in two chunks, one short and the other long.  The first after the Epiphany until the beginning of Lent and then again after Pentecost, lasting until Advent.

So here we are, in Ordinary Time, in the month of February, waiting for Lent to begin. Someone once described February as a claustrophobic month.  We can’t get out of it, just plough through its cold and miserable weather.  Valentine’s Day brightens up the month with love and kindness, but then along comes Ash Wednesday, reminding us that we are all sinners and need to do penance before we die.

But the good news is that right now, before Lent, we are in Ordinary Time.  This liturgical season reminds us that God’s Kingdom can be seen in the ordinary activities of our daily lives.

We are called to be saints in our ordinariness.

Jesus’ ministry on earth serves as an example to each of us that God is ready to use us in our ordinariness as His messengers on earth.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this liturgical season of Ordinary Time, while not as exciting as Christmas or as penitential as Lent, gives each of us a chance to quietly demonstrate kindness, gentleness and caring in the ordinary moments of our lives and to recognize the gifts given by others in their ordinariness.

There are so many groups in our parish who, by their ordinary actions are calling us all to holiness.  Here are just a few:
The ushers, who are the first people we see upon entering the church on Sunday and who welcome and gently guide parishioners to their place.
All those who plan, cook, do dishes, set up, clean up, etc., for parish activities such as last Friday’s Ham supper.
The Refugee Committee, working quietly, patiently and with determination behind the scenes, to bring and welcome refugees to our parish.
Family & Children Ministries, guiding our children and families to follow God’s plan.
The Quilting Believers who quietly and generously create beautiful, intricate quilts for those who need them.
Cursillo Groups, connecting us in prayer and actions with Christians all over the world.
Youth leaders and Youth groups who give so much of their time and bring energy, sincerity and generosity to our parish.
Music Ministry, helping us to experience God’s love through the beauty of music.
CWL and Knights of Columbus, the backbone of our parish.
Sacristans, whom we rarely see, just the results of their quiet work.
Social Justice Committee teaching us about fairness and justice in the world.
Those who visit the sick, bringing hope, comfort and joy.
Bible Study groups, helping us to understand God’s Word

These are just a few of the many ordinary groups in our parish, doing ordinary things, quietly, often unseen, building up the Kingdom of God.  How many more can you think of?

So, let us celebrate and give thanks for this love and kindness in our parish where we live and move and have our being.
Such concrete ordinary demonstrations of solidarity, love and kindness by so many turn abstract ideas like “The Kingdom of God” into living tangible, visible, ordinary, reality.

Praise God for Ordinariness and Ordinary Time!

No Greater Love

No Greater Love
Read time: 3.5 minutes

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

One night a man had a dream. He found himself standing in front of a judge. On his right, stood the accuser. He was going over and over and listing all the sins that he had ever committed in his life. It was a long list.

In his defense, well there was no defense, only people standing beside him, mostly in silence. Some people were praying. There was a woman with her head bowed down holding a rosary in her hand. At any rate there was no answer to any of the accusations.

The accuser stated that this was an open and shut case, and that he should receive the maximum penalty allowed by law.

Finally, the judge spoke. “Based upon the overwhelming evidence before me, I have no choice but to sentence you to death.” Just as he was going to be taken away, the judge suddenly comes down from the bench and pushes him out of the way and says, “I will take his place, I will suffer his punishment.

“Why?” he cried. “Because I love you.”

Suddenly he woke up and he was in a church in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He knelt and he began to shed tears. Tears of joy and thanksgiving. He didn’t know that he was loved that much.

Just how high, how wide and how deep is God’s love for us. He is always there waiting for us in the tabernacle or on the altar. Waiting, hoping that we won’t forget him. Why? Because He loves us.

The mystery of the Eucharist, the most sublime of all the mysteries shows us how big God is, and at the same time how small God is. We can feed on the Word of God where we can get to know Him – to ponder and meditate on His Word – to let Him change us. We can also feed on His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The most intimate communion of His entire self with ourselves. We can even spend time with Him, in His Presence, in Adoration.

Why? Because He loves us.

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him. Deuteronomy 4:7

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20

Without adoration, there is no transformation of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI

My Brother’s Hand

My Brother’s Hand
Read time 4 Minutes 

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom God’s love commits me here,
Ever this night, be at my side,
To light and guard, Rule and guide. Amen.

Excitement permeated the little village. It was December, 1961; the night of the annual Christmas concert. The nuns of the Congrégation de Notre Dame and students had been preparing for weeks; skits, solos, instrumentals, choir pieces, the pageant and snacks for the “tea” afterwards; coffee was never served. The children, dressed in whatever “finery” a parent could manage, glowed with anticipation. The instruments were tuned and lines were memorized. An impressive evening passed rapidly and it was time to head home. We students would take the bus which “put on an extra run” for this evening to ensure that all children had a way to attend.

Murdock had it all warmed up and ready to go; his calloused hand on the knob of the clutch; the familiar roll ’em cigarette stub between his yellow fingers. A man well known for the little bottle tucked into his jacket pocket, he may have sipped more than a “wee dram” that night!

Nevertheless, off we went over the frozen dirt roads. The lake was beginning to freeze over but Lady Moon, radiating her beams on the ebony waters lit up the night sky with her glimmering glow.

We bounced along, stopping off here and there; Roddie Frank’s, Big Hector’s, the Lighthouse, Mickey Ben’s and finally up the hill to drop off the last 4 families.  Suddenly, the bus lurched and we were trapped in a snowbank. Murdock did his best; rocking the bus back and forth, but it was futile.

He turned to us all and said in a loud voice, “You two!”, pointing at my 6-year-old brother and myself.
“Us?” I thought, I’m only 7 what could he possibly want with us?
“Get out and walk up the road to your farm. Your dad has a tractor. He will need to pull us out.”
“Us?” I thought again. It’s dark and cold. It’s probably 10 miles (it was one!)
But no one ever disobeyed Murdock so out we went … and up the road.

The starry moon-filled night provided light to see, but could not eradicate the fear from our young hearts. I took my brother’s hand.
“Let’s say the rosary and pray to our guardian angels. They will protect us.”
Was it our guardian angels or the strength we found in holding hands? They brought comfort and courage. We were sheltered from the “terrors of the night.”

I can only imagine the fear in my poor father as we woke him that night. He had left the concert early as he had an important date with 20 cows at 6 am.
Off he went with the tractor and pulled the bus out.

I have always been thankful for my brother’s hand that night. Someday, with the angels, I hope to hold my brother’s hand again.                                   ~a true story

The Trees Are Gone

The Trees are gone

A sign of the times… in old age the changes just keep on coming. Lord those two Weeping Birch trees were such a beautiful feature of the property you gave us and now they are gone never to be seen again.  The trees gave us shade from the heat and, some privacy… which we valued in the past more than we do now.  They were beautiful to look at but not so much in recent times.  Sort of like us.  Soon we will be those trees, gone never to be seen again on this earth.
Unlike the trees however we will be resurrected to a new heavens and a new earth where change and loss will be remembered no more.  However, while we are still here there is life to live.  The Holy Spirit is not finished his work in our lives yet.  As he works to make us more like Jesus and prepare us for our homecoming he invites us to cooperate with his promptings.
St Paul says “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”.  In other words change the way that you think.  Transformation, or positive change, has a lot to do with the thoughts that we allow into our minds.  As a general rule if we do not conform our thinking to the thoughts of God (as in the Bible) then transformation is slow and may even cease.
As an example of how important our thinking is, consider temptation.  Temptation comes in many ways but almost always ends up as unwanted thoughts in our minds which, if allowed to stay will lead us to act.

The battle continues
The battle against the devil, the flesh, and the world is constant.  Last night I had to fight again.  I called upon the Holy Spirit and asked Mary to pray for me again.  As I allowed the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts away from the temptation (to recall moments of grace in the past) temptation left and sleep came.  It really is that simple.
Proverbs 23:7 for as a person thinks (in the heart) so shall they act … the battle ground seems to be the mind. The thoughts we allow to remain deep in our heart define our actions. The Holy Spirit brings us a sound mind (right thinking), and self-control, and courage to fight (2 Timothy1:7).  The thoughts of God will always point out and dislodge the erroneous thoughts of the world, the devil, and the flesh.
This was Brother Lawrence’s secret. He was a 16th century monk who mastered the art of thinking about God all the time.  The person whose mind is fixed upon God all the time will soon be walking with God.  The one who thinks about the things of God will not follow the ways of the devil.  At the end of his life Brother Lawrence said I see that God is so close to me now that I almost don’t need faith.
St. Paul says we have the mind of Christ (Ephesians 2:16)… meaning that the Holy Spirit will give us the very thoughts of God on a matter and show us the way that we should walk (the way out of temptation for example).  Ephesians chapter 2 is an excellent guide for walking with the Holy Spirit.

The Best is yet to come
We may have to deal with a lot of unwanted change as time moves on.  And we will have to continue to fight against the enemies of our soul (the devil, the world, and the flesh), but no matter how bad (or good) things get the best is yet to come for those who love and try to follow Jesus.
Jesus is the reason for the season.  We have all heard this in reference to Christmas.  The truth is he is the reason for hope in every season in our lives.  He came as a man, showed us the very heart and love of the Father, suffered in our place the penalty for sin, and reveled himself to be God … all to give assurance of a better future to all who choose to become his disciples.
It is the name of Jesus that brings hope to the lost and salvation to all who call on that name.  Let us keep the name of Jesus always on our minds and lips.  So that, by his name, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will fight the good fight and attract others to come and receive the best … that is yet to come.