Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Canonization Pilgrimage

"Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy." 
Our Lord to Sister Faustina

Divine Mercy Sunday. Present with 5 million pilgrims in the city of Rome from all over the world to celebrate the canonization of 2 Popes by 2 Popes.

My pilgrimage, however, began 10 days earlier in Warsaw, Poland. 

Staying at the shrine of Blessed Jerzy Popoleski, we toured Plock, Warsaw and Niepokalonow. From there we went to Jonas Gora to visit Our Lady of Czestehowa.  Captured behind the image during the consecration (I realize at this moment that I would need to do a couple blogs about this trip to do it any justice), kneeling with my hand on the stone backing of the altar, I had the most beautiful gift of love and consolation. At that moment, with the image of Our Lady between me and the lifted, consecrated Host I prayed for all the people I love most dearly.

Next our pilgrimage took us to Krakow, Wadowice, and Kalawaria. We also paid tribute to Auschwitz and the Jewish people, Catholic religious and minorities who died in the holocaust.

After spending many grace filled moments at the Divine Mercy Shrine, the Pope's favorite retreat center and Saint John Paul II's birthplace we boarded the plane for Rome. 

The next several days brought us to basilicas and holy sites all over the city and even on the Amalfi Coast. At 3 am on Sunday we arose and made our way to St Peters. Joining hundreds of thousands in the wee hours of the morning, we waited in prayer, standing together to hear the words of the Holy Father: 

“We declare and define John XXIII and John Paul II be saints and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You have everything you need RIGHT NOW

I feel like I've been struggling with being overly blessed lately...I sort of feel guilty for all the amazing and beautiful things that fill my life...especially when I read about Somalian refugees writing to Syrian refugees or school girls abducted in Nigeria.  Oddly enough I found it easier to draw near to God when I was in the midst of my own personal suffering...but now while I'm on a bit of a peak, I forget to turn to him and emotionally don't feel as close.  

This morning I read the lenten meditation sent out by Father Barron.  In it he said, "Life becomes a constant quest to get, to attain possessions. Remember the foolish rich man from Jesus' parable, the one who filled his barns with all his possessions. Because he had no more room, he decided to tear his barns down and build bigger ones. Jesus calls him a fool because--and I want you to repeat this to yourself as you read it--you have everything you need right now, right in front of you, to be happy."

It was like a lightbulb went on!  It is in this moment that God is meeting me, giving me exactly what I need and when I need it.  So if He sends me pain and suffering...so be it!  But I also need to trust Him when I find myself in these times of plenty!  I need to realize that God is with me, even when all seems to be going well and the whole walking on water seems to be a bit too easy.  Because God is carrying me as much now as when the waves surge and the winds buffet me.  True joy does not hinge on the good or bad events in my life but rather my soul's response to the grace He is giving me at this moment.

I'm leaving today for a beautiful and blessed pilgrimage to Poland to visit Blessed John Paul II sites as well as Saint Faustina, Our Lady of Czestohowa and Auschwitz before heading to Rome for the Canonization of Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII.  I am making a commitment to accept whatever Our Lord sends with gratitude and trust.  Please have a blessed and holy Triduum!  God's blessings!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pseudo-moms and single parenting...

I (very stupidly?) offered to watch my sisters children so she and her husband could go away for the weekend.  Originally this was last year on their 10th anniversary.  They took me up on it a year later...which happened to be this past weekend.

"But a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else." ~Emma, by Jane Austen

  Until she is suddenly the uninitiated care-taker of three little children.  Then her sensibleness and pleasantness no longer exist...

Thursday: Learn that children test you when their parents are gone.  Pass test.  Meanest aunt ever.  Also learn that neighbors are going away so must take care of their dog.  And my sister's dog.  And my dog.  Oh and the kids.  Feed kids.  Early night, school tomorrow.  Brush teeth.  Wash face.  Bathroom.  No water after 6:30pm...don't want wet beds.  Wake up four times during the night to crying 2 year old who just wants his bot-bot.  Give kid his bot-bot.  Boy little falls back asleep.  So does aunt...eventually.

Friday: 7 am get the big boy up. Feed, dress, pack lunch and then pile all the kids in the car to drive to the head of the neighborhood to meet the bus by 8.  Don't miss the bus because you don't know where the school is.  Return home, feed remaining kids, dogs, fish, etc.  Load kids back in car.  Drive to preschool.  Drop off the girl.  Go to grocery store.  Come home and do laundry or whatever else real mothers do (I put Blues Clues on and then ran on the treadmill).  

11:45 go back to preschool and get the girl.  Take both littles to the playground.  Feed snacks.  When girl little bites boy little, time to leave immediately.  Come home and have two kids fight for hour or so, go through 2 time outs each, and then threaten "no beach later" until boy little falls asleep for nap.  Then play with girl until time to wake boy little up to go get big boy from bus.  Do not miss bus.  You do not know where school is and you would not be allowed to pick him up from there (my sister: "just smile and wave from the van and the driver will think you are me anyway").  

Collect big boy and drive to the beach.  Bring dog who is not allowed on beach.  Play for hour.  Return home and order pizza from parlor that delivers.  Find out they do not deliver.  Load all kids back in car and go get pizza.  After dinner bathe all kids and then play exciting movie: first Dora for the girl and then School House Rocks for the boys.  Put kids to bed.  Stay up a few more minutes because adults do not go to bed at 8 o'clock.  They do go to bed at 9.

Saturday: All the kids get up by 7:30 because it is Saturday and they don't have school so they WANT to get up.  Be ecstatic because no one wet the bed.  Make pancakes.  Eat pancakes.  Clean up after pancakes.  Pack lunch, get everyone dressed and then climb in the car.  Remember to dress yourself.  

Drive to Children's Museum and get Aunt of the Year Award because you know how to program Pandora to the Disney channel and they play one million Frozen songs.  Spend three hours at the museum and think how your sister's kids who seemed so bratty yesterday are actually perfect and make all the other kids seem bratty.  Come home and wait for grandma and special needs aunt to arrive.  Boy little takes nap.  

Grandma arrives, one hour late, and head out for ice cream.  Ice cream place closed.  Drive opposite direction and find second ice cream place, this time open.  Eat ice cream.  Remember pizza and ice cream are not on diet.  Eat anyway...being a pseudo mom is stressful.  Go home and have kids play while making dinner.  Eat dinner.  Make kids go outside to play afterwards because the weather is perfect and get labeled worst aunt ever....again.  

Now time for grandma to go home.  Grandma trips going out front steps and falls down.  Says she is okay but now boy little is coming around the side of the house with blood down his face.  Grandma panics.  Aunt is calm.  Ear is cut but everything is okay.  Hate it when 2 year olds run into walls.  Having difficulty finding bandaids.  Finally find ones with hearts on them.  Boy little doesn't like heart bandaids.  Use bossy voice and say "when you are bleeding you don't get to pick out your bandaid."  

Hold pressure on ear until grandma decides to leave again, this time out back door.  Send big boy out to walk her to car.  Hear screaming again.  This time it is because the dogs are loose.  Grandma is at one end of the road and girl little at other.  Call everyone back and dogs come too.  

Finally grandma leaves and children change into PJs and wash dirty faces.  Put on movie and make popcorn.  Decide to go to bed at 7:30 and tell kids to put themselves to bed at 8.  Told I am not allowed to do this.  Who makes these rules anyway?

Time to go home.  Big hugs and questions, "Can you come back next weekend?"  Big hugs back and answer, "We'll do this again in another ten years!"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Special Trips: Molokai

The first thing you need to know if you wish to visit Molokai, home of the famous leper colony where St Joseph Damien worked and died, is that you MUST PLAN AHEAD.  Kalaupapa, the remote side of this Hawaiian island, is only accessible by boat, helicopter or mule.  Yes, you heard correctly: MULE.  And in order to visit you need to have permission and be accompanied by a guide...but is it worth it??  Yes!!  And again, a resounding YES!

It's a long 3 miles going back and forth along 26 switchbacks on a steep mountainside to reach the colony.  Several lepers still live there...8 at the time I visited.  They choose to live there even though they have been "cured" of their illness (now known as Hansen's disease).

Besides St Damian, who came to serve the sick before there was a known cure, there was also Mother Marianne Cope (at the time of my visit she was a Blessed but now she is a Saint!).  She, along with several other heroic sisters, founded a school and a home for girls.  On the opposite side of the island there was a home for boys.

We met several of the lepers while visiting the church but there is a law in the town that prohibits taking pictures of them.  I also met a nun who invited me up to the convent but I was restricted by my guide.  The former lepers who live in the colony create their own laws.  At the time I was there, cats had the right of way to cross the street!

The less inhabited side of the island is where the lepers were originally dropped off.  It was here that St Damien constructed his church.  This is the original part that he built himself by hand:

The graveyard next to the church is where Joseph Dutton, a strong and dedicated laborer in Kalaupapa, is buried along with other lepers.

The scenery is breathtaking but what really strikes you are the stories...stories of people torn away from their families at the first sign of this dreaded disease, brought in fear like animals on ships, only to be thrown over the side and let make their way as best they could to an island of despair.  Only when St Damien arrived were people able to realize their dignity as children of God.

After taking in the sights we were fed a simple picnic lunch near the water, surrounded by palm trees.  The sky was perfect and the water pristine.

The ride back was steep but the mules had no problem getting us home.

Looking down as we neared the top, I thought about how I had been privileged to witness a piece of history, a piece of humanity, and a piece of sanctity.  I thought about how meaningless my own life could seem in comparison...how my priorities were so often shallow...my perceptions self-centered and one-sided.  The depth of sacrifice and love I witnessed just in the remnants of a bygone time resonated within me.  I was grateful to God not to be called to such greatness and at the same time humbled to know that if I was, I have no idea if I would have been able to respond.

I'm truly glad God gives us the crosses that we are capable of carrying and the grace we need, when we need, to be able to carry them.  I hope and pray that someday, if He asks heroic things of me, with His grace I will do them.

* * * * * * * * *

For more information, this is the website I booked through.  I made a day trip of it, taking a bumper flight from Oahu early in the morning and returning late in the evening.  I rented a car at the airport and drove to the mule tour site using GPS.  I went alone as a single female and never had a moment of fear or nervousness.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's all downhill from here!

Completed another half marathon yesterday!!  So if this is another then OBVIOUSLY it wasn't my first....so WHY DID I THINK I WAS ONLY RUNNING 12 MILES???  Seriously, until we pulled into the parking lot and saw all the cars with 13.1 and a black circle plastered on the bumpers...I had totally convinced myself I only had 12 miles to run!

Running is a mental sport.  You can run as far as you want...as long as you can convince your mind of it.  And in order to get your mind to go along with your body, there are little games you can play...like..."I can do this, it's only half a marathon...remember how painful it was when you went twice as far?"  and "I'm already one mile in!  That's practically one tenth...two miles in!  That's practically a quarter...that hill wasn't steep, it was just a small one...mile 10!  How did that happen?  Only a 5k left!  It's as if I haven't run at all...its just 3 miles and that's it!  Oh wow, down to two...wait that's only 20 minutes left to run...ten minutes...there's the finish line!"

I wasn't sure how this would go...I haven't been able to train up like I wanted to with travel and unexpected illnesses...so I pretty much spent the entire race praising God that I was running!!  And not dying!!  I am so grateful to run...it doesn't matter how I look, how fast I am, or how late I finish: I am grateful for this gift!  God is good.  :o)


Friday, April 4, 2014

QTs: 7 big ideas that didn't change my life

"We only have today!"

Its a nice thought, but yikes!  I'd better be cognizant of tomorrow...it's not all about me, right now, right here.  And what a relief!  I am so glad to learn as I age that I am a work in progress: God is doing things in my life that will bear fruit YEARS down the road!  Whether in my life or another...it takes so much pressure off the now.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

Sometimes, when suffering comes, it hurts.  And its supposed to hurt.  And you are supposed to feel it.  Because when God gives us our cross, it is for a reason.  And just because you trust Him, have the strength to carry it, and hope for the future DOES NOT mean it isn't heavy.  Or there won't be splinters.  Or times when you fall down.  Or need the help of someone else to carry it.  And somedays when you feel like you can't carry it...that's okay too.  Cause there will be those days.

"Nothing is impossible, if you truly want it."

Yes, some things are impossible.  Some things are improbable.  And some things are just difficult.  Its discerning that is the real challenge.  As the serenity prayer says, "Lord, help me to change the things I can, accept the things I can't, and the courage to know the difference."

"All you have to do to have a friend is to be a friend."

Well, I guess this is true sometimes...you must be a friend to have a friend but there will always be people who will not be your friend...no matter how much you are a friend to them.  And that's okay.  Because there are so many levels of friendship and it would just be awkward to be intimate friends with the whole world. 


"If you don't, someone else will."

I'm assuming this means I will miss out on something of ubra-importance...like food, career options, relationships, televisions in Walmart on Black Friday...you name it.  But the older I get and the more I learn to value those things in my life that I um...really want...well, if I don't take it, it is because I don't need it...so yah...they can have it.  Less is so often more.


"Grumpy people are mean."

Sometimes grumpy people are sad or sick or in pain.  Sometimes grumpy people are lonely.  Sometimes it is a learned behavior or a cultural norm.  And sometimes they are just grumpy, cause we all have those days...

"Live each day as though it were your last."

This is a nice thought when you want to tell those that mean the most to you how much you love them.  But it is always a good idea to get groceries for the week or pay your bills.  

Maybe for a Christian its different...because I am pretty sure that when I do go, I want to be living perfectly in the Father's will...so when I get past that last day it will be only to begin my first day...of forever.  And since I think that cooking dinner and mowing my lawn are all apart of what God is calling me to do...I guess that these are the kinds of things I'll be doing on my last day.

And now please see the 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Interior Castle

This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… 

~St Teresa de Avila

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dull saws and iron trees

Father Cleveland talked about a lot of things related to prayer this past weekend.  

One story he told was about a young man who took a job with a lumber company.  He was a hard worker and on the first day he went out and cut down 100 trees.  The manager was impressed as the other men had only cut down 20 trees each.  But the second day the young man returned with only 50 trees and the day after that only brought back 20.  By the last day he returned with only 2.  The manager was very confused and approached the young man, saying, "I don't understand!  Why have you only brought back two trees today?  On Monday you returned with 100!"  The young man looked exhausted and frustrated.  Shaking his head, he answered, "I don't know!  I chopped and chopped, then worked through lunch, and all I could bring down were these two trees.  It was like they were made of iron!"

The manager studied the honest young man intently before reaching out and taking the axe from his shoulder.  After studying the axe head he looked at the young man perplexedly and asked, "Didn't you sharpen the blade?"  Shaking his head, the young man responded, "No, I didn't have time."

When I am wondering where God is taking me, what His "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" will bring...its important to realize that the waiting, the sharpening, the growing are all for a purpose.  His purpose.  

Watch out iron trees!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014