Polluted Rags, Withered Leaves

Abba Father, I begin this first Sunday of Advent reflecting on the words from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel according to St. Mark.Oh that you would rend the Heavens and come down to us ” to me. Oh that on a good day you may find me doing good deeds with great love, putting on your mind and heart. I realize my own sinfulness and I feel drawn to be reconciled with you again, may I prepare for a good confession. I desire to be like Mary, a vessel open and free to follow your will without conditions. I desire to be ready to proclaim my own Fiat at Christmas, to be an empty vessel to let you fill me up, Holy and without blemish. My desires I place in your hands that you fill them with your graces.

You scold me me through and through with these words , ” you are polluted rags withered like leaves”. Harsh words for me to hear from a loving God. Yet Isaiah calls me back to hear these words, I am clay in the hands of the Potter, ready to be reformed in your image. I much prefer those words to being described as polluted rag or a withered leave, but perhaps at times I deserve that description, may this advent wake me up to that reality and carry me to your hands which mold me , your words which heal me.

Do your work in me over the next 4 weeks, let me not grow lazy, weary, impatient or get caught up with worldly expectations of Christmas. Help me stay awake, because you have placed me and many in charge of this household on earth until you come again. I am one of your tenants here on earth. I pray you will be proud of all your tenants, your servants at the end of these 4 weeks and that you will find all of us humble and awake and ready to celebrate with your Son and your Mother Mary at Christmas.

Lord make me turn to you, let me see your face and I shall be saved.

Yes, No, Maybe later?

As I do on most Sundays after morning mass I come home finish morning prayers and then begin to cook the Sunday meal. When cooking since Covid hit in March I listen to many homilies from all parts of our Country.

I have a few favorites including all the local Parishes but lately I have added three, one from Omaha, Divine Mercy in Kenner, and of course Holy Family with Fr. Joe Krupp in Michigan. The message today was very similar. So my story reflects what I have heard in those homilies today.

Which son are you Diane? Have you all considered how you may answer that question. On any given day I may be the one who would answer Yes quickly but then regret it, think about it , realize how much is necessary and head for the nearest exit. It’s not easy being all in, it requires, time, money, and getting uncomfortable. It means putting on the mind and heart of Jesus. I have been known to say No immediately and then change my mind when the good angel appears on my shoulder and tells me, Diane you are wrong , get up and do what your suppose to do. When I do this I wish I had just said yes from the beginning .When I say maybe I procrastinate way to long which most times I find myself not responding to the requests at all.

In this Gospel I recall the consideration St. Ignatius gives us in the Spiritual exercises on the Three couples. The first couple are all talk no action, the Second couple does whatever their will is without consulting and praying, and Third couple does God’s will. When I prayed this during the 19th annotation on retreat I told my spiritual Director oh I am definitely in agreement with whatever God’s will is, but when I had to look back at the many decisions I have made in my life I would see how often I chose like the first and second couple. I desire to have the desire to be with God’s will and I certainly continue to pray that I can in the future. I trust God has a lot more work to do in and through me. I pray today I can be open to his work in me.

The week ahead for me presents many opportunities to follow God’s ways, especially with my own family. One person needing surgery and will need my undivided attention for a while. To be honest I am not excited about another season of caregiving but today’s reading cuts to the heart and tells me that is where I must go for God to continue his work in me. In another family member we have been asked to give our treasure to someone very close to us, its an ongoing problem for years that has been difficult, but the Lord tells us, when you see him you must see me. Again, I want to answer in my own way and not hear God’s voice or God’s will, today I ask for his strength that I may respond with a humble and compassionate heart, saying Yes from the very beginning.

Today will you join me wherever you find yourself. We are all being challenged as people of faith, to go out and Be Christ to others. It is not an easy road in this society that wants to cancel us out. Each day we are faced with a choice , a free choice, not a forced choice. The most current example in our society was yesterday’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States; Mrs. Amy Coney Barrett. She knows her Yes will cause her a lot of headaches, false accusations, and pain for her family as she will be beat up in the press and through our political system, but she goes forth in faith. Let us all be bold like her and go out and say Yes, not Yes then No or Maybe. Let us join together and help each other with the choices we face each day to Be Christ and to help HIM get his world back. AMEN AMEN

Everybody has a Restless Heart

This morning before Mass began I prayed that I would just rest on Jesus’ Heart and ask Him what he needs today. I am always asking Him for things so I thought it would be a nice change of pace to just embrace Him , and we could just enjoy each other’s company instead of my constant asking and talking about my needs.

Of course that lasted for all of about five minutes when my wondering mind went elsewhere. I started to ask for the grace to be filled with something new, something that would linger with me today.

At mass I felt Him telling me trust my Mother , have faith like her and she will lead you to me, have faith Diane. Rest awhile.

After Mass I put on Catholic Radio. Jesus always knows how to find me through podcasts, radio and music. On the radio was Cardinal Dolan interviewing Dino Dimucci. Of course he would reach me through an Italian. This Brooklyn man spoke wisdom to me. He is 80 years old now but still wise as Solomon. Let me share with you what stayed with me from that interview.

Dino shared that as a young man he would go to Mass in the city and a local Bishop would always grab him with a guestion. Dino what does that song mean” Rebel without a cause”; Bishop you know the song . Yes but should’t it be A Rebel for the truth. Hmm! Next week the Bishop asks what makes a man happy? Dino answered a nice car, a big house, a pretty lady in my life. etc ;he went on about all the pleasures in life that would make Dino happy. No! the Bishop answers Virtue makes a man happy. Dino had to look up what is virtue. He was not familiar with that word.

Do we live for success, honor, glory, wealth prestige? Dino thought at first that would make him happy, but then he read from St. Thomas Acquinas. If we have God in our lives and put him first our wealth will be used to serve God and wealth will not serve us, our virtuous living will be Godly living. It will free us from the excesses of life. Then Dino quotes from Bruce Springsteens song, “Everybody got a restless heart.’ Dino told Bruce you know that is from St. Augustine,” Our hearts are restless until it rests in thee.”

Dino than went on to talk about his good friend Ralph Martin who wrote Fulfillment of all Desire. That is really the point of it all he told the Cardinal, Jesus, is the Fulfillment of all our hearts desire.

The Cardinal was astonished at how Dino remembered the questions and answers from his local bishop after many years . This encounter Dino had with the Bishop was when he was a young man searching. This Bishop met Dino where he was in his faith and now 80 years later Dino is preaching it and living it in his music and in his life.

I am thankful to You Dino and for Jesus answering my prayer through an interview on Catholic Radio. My heart Rests only in your O Lord.

Jesus is in all things, where will you hear him or find him in your Restless Heart today?

Jesus Eyes

As I prepared myself before Mass last evening I asked Jesus for the grace to penetrate my dry ears and fill me with His words that I may feel His strength, love and guidance.

My grace was answered by the Priest boldly breaking open the Gospel of the five loaves and two fishes. I am still pondering those words as I write my blog this morning.

This is what I heard, Jesus had just gone off to the desert to pray alone, mourning the death of his cousin John the Baptist. He had very little time to do so as the crowds were desiring to be with him, to be healed , to be fed.

Jesus unselfish as He is always, goes to them with his disciples. He is compassionate, His feelings of compassion towards them leads Him to action, action which includes a challenge to His Apostles ; He tells them feed them yourselves, this challenge leads to the miracle of the abundance of food which feeds everyone. The miracle I often take for granted every time the Eucharist is taken, blest, broken and given to me.

Our Eucharist is our food , food for the journey , food to accept the challenges the Lord gives us each day like he did his disciples on the grassy plain. Do I trust enough to accept that when given the challenge of daily life ,this Spiritual nourishment will be all that I need to pick up my cross and follow in the ways of Hope, Justice and love? I hope so I pray so.

The priest also shared that we must see with Jesus eyes, eyes of hope, eyes of compassion and love. When we do so we can forgive, we can accept the cross, we can be joyful in the midst of storms, we can accept each other with Jesus eyes. Miracles can happen, when we have the right attitude, which leads us to the right actions. Jesus will multiply whatever I offer and leave me with plenty left over.

Today I pray for compassion, courage, acceptance of self, forgiveness, spiritual eyes, spiritual nourishment. JESUS take my meager offering , multiply it and make it plentiful that others may be brought to Christ as well. Remind me of whose I am, your beloved daughter in whom you I well pleased.

Lastly let me see all things with your Jesus eyes, that ordinary things become extraordinary masterpieces.


“All is Gift”

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I first learned about St. Ignatius when I began going to Spiritual Direction . If you have not read about his life I encourage you to do so. In Spiritual Direction I was encouraged to do the 19th annotation which is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in daily life. I started in September of 2011 and finished in July of 2012. It was quite a commitment to daily prayer for at least an hour a day and meeting with your Spiritual Director once a week to review my experiences in praying the exercises. Through all of it I came to love prayer more .Entering into imaginative prayer was new for me and it took some time to be vulnerable and open to that way of praying .

St. Ignatius also developed the rules for Discernment of Spirits as he struggled through many decisions big and small on his journey of faith. The 14 rules of discernment have guided me through the many invitations and calls to serve the church, my family, and my community. My favorite rule is make no changes when in times of desolation. If you forget any of the rules never forget that one, because when you are down or troubled you want to stay the course and wait for consolation to return so you do not make a big mistake.

St. Ignatius also showed me how to notice things, everyday ordinary things. I started to notice the beauty of creation, where God is everywhere, in the flowers, in the beautiful tapestry of the sky, in the cool breeze across my face. No matter how bad a day it has been I can always find God by noticing. God is in all things, St. Ignatius was very clear about that!

St. Ignatius also believed and lived that everything we choose to do should be for the greater glory of God. He taught me how to be indifferent to accept God’s will and surrender my will for God’s plan. It’s not easy when you think you are in control and you want to hold on to your ideas of how things should be. I still struggle with it but at least I am more self-aware now when I make that mistake.

I titled this blog “All is Gift” because that is the one of the best things I learned from him. Even in difficult times if we trust in God’s plans for us it is a Gift. Every encounter with another soul is a gift, every drop of rain, every mountain we climb to holiness , every disappointment, every victory, it is all Gift.

One more thing before I close, St. Ignatius instructs us that we should pray the Examen prayer everyday and never miss it, even if we miss our other ways of praying. I have done that since I began Spiritual Direction, it helps me notice things in my day, it helps me notice what God wants me to notice, it guides me to see my faults and strengths and where I need his grace going forward. It also keeps me grounded, helps me to apologize when I have been wrong, lifts me from laziness, and keeps me from thinking too much of my self . St. Ignatius taught me I have accepted this after many years that I am a “loved sinner.” I will continue to make mistakes but God loves me anyway and he will continue to take be back in his loving arms and give me infinite chances .

St. Ignatius started the Society of Jesus. the Jesuits in the 16 th century.To this day the Spiritual Exercises and his Rules for discernement are still being used and studied by not only Catholics but many denominations to this day. Thank-you St. Ignatius for taking to bed after your cannonball injury and studying the Lives of the Saints and the Life of Christ while in rehab and choosing to follow that path that led you to share your pilgrimage towards holiness with all the world.

The Hope of Heaven

So many thoughts to reflect on this Sunday, some coming from personal time in prayer, some from Mass for the first time in nearly two months in community, and some from conversations with others. This time is short, the end for which we are created is everlasting it is eternal, we live here for such a short time, but our hope is eternal. It is what gives me hope, hope in the Risen Christ who has survived this earthly experience and He shows us the Way to do the same.

The one question that keeps coming back to me is what is the “Reason for your hope “? What is the reason for my Hope? That is the question posit to us at Mass by Peter today. My husband Deacon Richard heard the word of God as he proclaimed the Gospel and then broke open the homily today with this answer for hope: “God has our back.”

For some it may seem as if God did not have our back, because of job loss, isolation, church at home and not in community, public graduations cancelled, school at home and not with fellow students and friends, deaths experienced alone and those in hospitals dying alone, weddings cancelled or postpone. You may ask the question how did God have my back in all of that mess and still for some those things have not gotten any better.

Well, I would say God is always in the mess of things even when we don’t understand it , can’t hear him, and we ask what are we suppose to do about it. I sense He is forging a transformation, a new church revived and longing and desiring for Him, because we know now as we have never known before what it is like to be separated from Him and the body of Christ. He is showing us how to have the domestic church, to make Sunday a day of rest and Sabbath, to enjoy the beautiful weather.If you have not noticed except for one or two days of heavy rain we have had gorgeous skies , cool breezes and Sun. Families are gathering for dinners, praying together, riding bikes, taking walks , playing board games again, connecting in new ways. We have learned to evangelized using social media, live streaming masses, using zoom, FaceTime, twitter, instagram, google duo, and the internet in holy ways. Nothing can separate from the Love of God.

Of course we could go on complaining about what we don’t have as yet, but how much better it feels to be grateful for what we have been given. If we look back at these past 8 weeks we will see how the Spirit guided us and protected us. Maybe it was help from grandparents with homeschooling your children, maybe it was a meal sent for you an essential worker, maybe it was a generous donation from a neighbor. Maybe you received a card in the mail or a driveway greeting. He has had our backs, and will continue to have our backs .

The Holy Spirit has been with us since our baptisms and sealed in us at our confirmation, the spirit is alive and well in us. It is evident by all the different ways graduations are celebrated with drive by cars with balloons and signs, teachers finding ways to visit their students safely with gift packages, people are showing appreciation to the essential workers among us, parents are working from home in new and creative ways and learning patience as they teach their children, pastors have become creative in getting the word out to their communities and the world, colleges , schools and universities have not stopped teaching using the virtual world of the internet for good. I could go on to what has come from this, I am sure you have many examples as well. I give glory and praise to our Creator who always has our back and will never abandon us, He may be in disguise but He is among us.

Let us pray together for all those who do not believe as yet in the Power of God who is Risen and who gave us the Holy Spirit so we may know God always has our Back and that is The Reason for My hope, the Hope of Heaven the Risen Christ . Alleluia! Amen.

7 Miles

Today the reading takes us from Jerusalem to Emmaus . It takes this pair 7 miles to get back home. I don’t know about you but I walk on average 2 – 3 miles a day, so to think they walked 7 miles one way and 7 miles back to Jerusalem! Wow, what an encounter it must have been , because they also walked back at night in the dark, tired , exhausted but now the encounter they had experienced with Jesus gave them the spiritual energy to make the journey back again .

7 is also a complete number which is very significant in scripture. Jesus only meets them when the journey is exactly 7 miles to Emmaus, and they leave Emmaus only when the encounter is completed with Jesus to return to Jerusalem . Only when their eyes were opened and their hearts burning to share the good news with others would they have the spiritual energy to embark on the journey to meet the 11 and the woman who witnessed the empty tomb and many others.

Jesus also did not reveal himself to them in Emmaus until he was invited into their homes to break bread with them. He did not force himself on them he hid himself. Actually he was going to continue on until the invitation came from them to share a meal at their. He waited till their hearts were open to receive and encounter Him in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus gives me and you that same freedom to choose to invite him in or to let him go on his way. 7 miles to encounter Jesus, 7 miles to bring the good news to others. 7 miles changed lives for the two in Emmaus and the many in Jerusalem that day, that same Jesus wants to walk those same 7 miles with us today. ITE, MISSA EST”

Here I am Jesus, I come to do Your Will

The Readings and Gospel for today could go in many directions, but it seems that the theme I am hearing the most from many sources including the Deacon that I happen to be married to is” What is the will of God?” And how do I follow it?

How do we follow it, how do we know it and do we even desire it at all?As I ponder these questions myself I remember the wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola. When discerning we must decide if we are in a good place to make a decision, in other words are we in a state of grace and moving closer to God and not away from God. Are the decisions between two good things?What advice we would give to a friend making this decision? If I was on my death bed pondering the decision I have to make ,would I still be happy with my Yes or No to God’s will. What if I am at my final judgement before the throne of God, would I still be happy with how I followed God’s will?

Of course spending time with God’s words in scripture, church teachings, and “Knowing” that I am “Loved” child of God is foundational to following God’s will and recognizing God’s call to me. I also must believe that if it is God’s will and call He will also give me the graces and strength to follow it and He will send me good guides and friends on Earth to help hear it. Yes, God’s sends earthly messengers to us, God with skin I call them, they may be in a checkout line at Walmart, or your friend in the pew at Church, you never know where He will encounter you in your day.

As I listened to the many sources this morning that support me in my relationship to the Father , two things stayed with me. The first is a quote from the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen that my husband quoted in ending his Homily this morning:” You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Will what God wills and your Joy no man shall take from you.” And the second was From Father Paul’s homily I listened to livestream from St. George Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, “The will of God is the only way to Holiness and Holiness is the only way to Heaven.”

So now the questions for you and I to ponder, consider and pray with today. Am I willing to trust in God’s grace and God’s will to follow in His plan ? Do I know in the deepest caverns of my heart and soul, that God loves me and desires what is only for my Good. Perhaps today spend some time thinking about the choices you will make , how will spend your time, talent and treasure and is that your will or God’s will?

It all sounds so good and so easy on paper it is not so easy to carry out or to even hear or recognize, because the noise of an unholy spirit or the world blocks out the Good and Holy voice of our Creator, but trust God is greater and He has the final word. So today I pray that we together may come to know His will this day and everyday until we meet Him face to face.

Mother Mary intercede for us, Jesus save us, God Love us. Amen

Looking back before Looking forward

I have been itching to write for a few months now and resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but this morning in prayer He was very insistent so I begin again.

Before we can make any adjustments to how we want 2020 to be I feel it is very important to look back at how we lived, prayed and served in the past year. Last night in the homily at our Church our Priest asked us to consider looking at what we did right and take those things forward to the New Year and leave behind all the mistakes and regrets , I added that second part.

Three questions I find helpful is to ask yourself, what do I need to continue, what do I need to stop doing and what do I need to start? I am sure when you look back you will find many blessings that God has given you, starting from a place of gratitude is the best way to begin this pondering. Then how do you want to respond to God in thanksgiving for all the many wonders and blessings you experienced . Remembering blessings can also come from tears and sorrow. Why? The Enemy of God ( Lucifer, Satan) thought he had the victory when Jesus took his last breath on the cross, but Jesus always waits till things seem so dark and desperate until he acts, he acted boldly in the resurrection and ascension, he had the final word. He transformed a hopeless dark situation into light and hope for all those who believe in Him. He continues to do this for our suffering world and the suffering the Church is undergoing today, we must never lose hope in the Power of Jesus( God saves)

If we remember well the story, Jesus came as a baby in a manger among animals, one reason it is thought, because everyone loves babies and we would not be scared of a infant. He grows up just like any other child and as he grows in wisdom and grace he teaches us how to do the same, he shows how to suffer and die, but also how to rise from the ashes of pain and suffering. He never abandons us, he left us with a small powerful host, his very body to consume as often as we can to sustain us until he brings us home. He left us with the Holy Spirit, who by the way is guiding the fingers typing this today, because it is being prompted by that Spirit to write.

So as you begin your pondering on 2019 and your actions going forward, listen to the still small voice inside of you, drown out any negatives thoughts they are not from God and then put your pen to the paper or your fingers to the computer.

May God bless you abundantly my friends and family, Be not afraid, God saves and He keeps his promises. Be assured of my prayers for you in the year ahead and pray for me whenever the Spirit prompts you. Happy and Holy New Year to all.

We all bleed the same, Mandisa

Today as I was working out at the gym this song from Mandisa was playing on my iPhone. I had heard it many times before and believe strongly in the message . But today it made me pause and think about the lyrics .

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Woke up today
Another headline
Another innocent life is taken
In the name of hatred
So hard to take (hey!)
And if we think that it’s all good
Then we’re mistaken
‘Cause my heart is breaking (tell it, ‘Dis)

Are you left?
Are you right?
Pointing fingers, taking sides
When are we gonna realize?

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Tell me, who are we
To judge someone
By the kind of clothes they’re wearing
Or the color of their skin?

Are you black? (black)
Are you white? (white)
Aren’t we all the same inside? (the same inside)
Father, open our eyes to see!

We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other (fight for each other!)
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry (be the cry!)
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided

Only love can drive out all the darkness
What are we fighting for?
We were made to carry one another
We were made for more, said
Only love can drive out all the darkness
What are we fighting for? yeah

We were made to carry one another
We were made for more!

We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
We’re more beautiful when we come together (let’s stand united!)
We all bleed the same (we all bleed the same)
So tell me why, tell me why
We’re divided
If we’re gonna fight
Let’s fight for each other (fight for each other!)
If we’re gonna shout
Let love be the cry (be the cry!)
We all bleed the same(we all bleed the same) (bleed the same)
Let’s stand united (let’s stand united)
Let’s stand united!

So Father God, I pray
That our families will come together right now
And seek Your face
You will forgive our sins
And You will heal our incredible land
In the name of the only Savior, Jesus Christ

In light of the divisions in our society right now it is clear to me that these words reflected upon should make us all stop and look at how we are all the same , created in God’s image and likeness. Why do we make it so difficult. We continue to fight each other and we all suffer. How beautiful it would be if we could all come together and stop fighting for our piece of the pie or being afraid of someone who looks different from us or acts differently. Inside we are the same . We all come from God and we are returning to God. He has given us this life, to take care of it, to bring others to Christ , to serve one another , to give him all glory, honor and thanksgiving, for we deserve none of it, it is all gift from a generous God.

I had a wake up call to my own prejudices, feelings and opinions just a few years ago when my daughter Kristen told she was dating an african american male. I was not my best self nor did I treat him well or my daughter. I had to face things in myself that were very difficult. Thankfully, this young man had patience with me more than deserved at the time. I have since come light years from that day because of God’s mercy and Israel”s( My son in law) forgiveness.. This young man is now my son-in – law and the father to my biracial grandson Oliver Jai. Because of this experience my eyes have been opened to see the world as it really is today and it hurts me to know the pain that my son-in -law, my daughter and my grandson will have to endure because the world sees color as the division. I fear for them when driving in a car ,or if they choose to live in a neighborhood where everyone looks the same except for them, or when they walk into all white church and get stares from the congregation and not acceptance and welcome. Division, and prejudice, does end in color but along so many others lines, political, religious, gender, education I could go on and on.

But its not just about race as I said already it is also about the divisions of political agendas and parties. It is sickening to watch both debates , Republican and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. We are fighting against each other and like the song goes we should be fighting for each other, joining together in our differences, finding common ground, dialogue, searching for truth, fighting for the good for the whole human race, not just our piece of the pie. It is not ours anyone, we just lease space here, we are to take of it and each other until we are called home. Because we will be held accountable for what we have done or not done in our lifetime here on earth.

Jesus came to show us the way, the truth and the life. He lead with Love always, he used righteous anger when necessary, he forgave, he healed, he suffered and was persecuted for us, all of us. We must stand together and witness that love . God is love, he created us for love and to be love, yes we have fallen many times and so he came and sent his son to rescue us again, now we must respond to that Love by being Christ to a hurting world. Hurt people, hurt people and I heard it was said, that healed people heal people. Let us all pray we can be healers in our world today.