Suffering is the Thread. . . .

St. Mary's in snow ©, 2011-2012.

This is one of those stories that is a bit too personal to share, however, for the potential hope it may offer, I’m willing to swallow my trepidation and post it. Yesterday we were at the funeral of one of my husband’s patients. This lovely lady died on Monday, which happened to be the eleventh anniversary of my Dad’s death; and now her funeral coincided exactly with the anniversary of his burial. Earlier in the day the kids and I had stopped out at the cemetery to pray and reflect.

My eldest son reminded me of the stark contrast in weather. Yesterday was sunny and warm, and it was relatively easy to navigate our path to the grave to pray. Our favorite little white church stood silhouetted against the blue sky, and offered a peaceful vista. Eleven years ago, the winter had supplied a record 100+ inches of snow. The wind howled as we cautiously trudged through the snow and ice. The VFW members who provided the twenty-one- gun salute and taps had a treacherous descent down the steep hill to the grave. The memory of their kindness and devotion still brings a lump to my throat. Yesterday the kids and I prayed and reminisced, sharing stories, snowballs and joy. With delight I watched them bound through small drifts and patches of grass to stand outside St. Mary’s and offer a prayer. I smiled as my ten-year-old daughter chased her little brother back to the car, her long-braids bouncing in the sunlight. I knew her Grandpa George would find the moment as picturesque as I, and was probably smiling an approval from up above.

Later that afternoon, we paid our respects to one of my husband’s 77 year-old patients. My daughters had visited her in the hospital, and now watching her family struggle between faith and grief brought back a flood of emotions. I shared part of the following story with her daughters and as they seemed to derive hope from it, I have decided to share it here.

Weeks before my Dad had been diagnosed with a devastating immunoblastic cancer, I had suffered a miscarriage. The loss was devastating. My soul and body ached. As I struggled to cope with the loss of my child, I also began to prepare myself for the loss of my father. The renowned French Henri de Lubac once wrote, “Suffering is the thread from which the stuff of joy is woven.” Those words perfectly reflect the path my soul was on.

Joined Forever in Love ©, 2011-2012.

Each day that autumn I would bundle three small kids in the car, and head off to the hospital for radiation or chemo for Dad. We’d stop at St. Hubert’s Chapel on the way home, to utter a quick prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and an “Ave” before Our Lady’s statue. If Dad was up to it, we’d stop at the Alzheimer’s unit of the nearby nursing home to visit my Mom. While my parents held hands in the corner like a pair of teen-agers, the kids crawled around , caused mischief, and utterly entertained the residents. Through the profound sadness, there was deep and raw love. Dad would smile and tell me that when he looked into Mom’s eyes she appeared to him as lovely as she had forty-seven years ago. True beauty existed here amid walkers, wheelchairs, and canes. Those vivid memories are a treasure.

On the Epiphany, our dear friends Fr. Bernie and Msgr. Roger stopped by to anoint my Dad, and officially receive him into the Church. Roof-rakes had proved useless that year. Now a January thaw had begun, and as the pack ice that enveloped the roof had begun to melt, water was seeping into the house. The light-fixture in the foyer looked like a fish bowl with a couple of petrified lady-bugs floating on top. God has a sense of humor. Never would I have imagined this to be an occasion of grace, but it was. Monsignor Roger was visiting from Ghana. Bundled like a polar-bear, he joked about how delightful it was to experience our North American winter. He gingerly stepped over the towels, and buckets, and ignored the dripping ice-water to embrace my Dad with Fr. Bernie. I was mortified at the state of the house. However, my dear priests were completely nonplussed. With joy my Dad received his Sacraments, and entered the Catholic Church on his death-bed.

Later, as Dad and I reflected in the joy of the moment, I knelt at his feet, and took his hands in mine. Looking up, I simply asked: “Dad, if you get to Heaven before I do, would you take care of my little Francis, and would you ask God for another child for us?” With fatherly love, Dad smiled that great smile of his, nodded his assurance, with an “of course.”

God's Gift of Pure Joy! ©, 2011-2012.

Dad died two weeks later. Exactly nine months to the day of his funeral ( and to the hour of his Mass of Christian burial), I held a newborn baby girl in my arms. Yes indeed, “Suffering is the thread from which the stuff of joy is woven.” Each time I smile at the face of my now 10 year-old daughter, I am reminded of God’s eternal love. In her I see the answer to my deepest prayer. I know God’s plan exits beyond the limits of our horizon; The Communion of Saints is as real as the depth of His love. He answers each of our prayers, and makes sense out of the tumult and apparent chaos of our daily lives – though often we cannot see it at the time. Even suffering itself is a gift; a precious one, not to be wasted; for in it the fabric of joy is contained.

Benjamin Malachi Franklin’s beloved poem expresses this so well:

The Weaver

My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.

Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.

Benjamin Malachi Franklin (1882-1965)
U.S. Library Of Congress, Washington DC, Card # 20060727210211

Through Our Lord’s skillful hand, may all your sorrows be turned to joy.


Ad Jesum per Mariam


The Invisible March For Life 2012

March For Life Jan. 23, 2013 Photo courtesy of Fr. Rocky Relevant Radio

How do you annually hide hundreds of thousands of pro-life supporters from the main-stream media? Have them congregate on the National Mall, and peacefully march up Constitution Avenue to the steps of the Supreme Court. Invite political heavy-weights like Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Religious leaders like Cardinal Elect-Dolan to address the crowd, along with other senators, congressmen, and newsmakers.

The 39th Anniversary of the Roe – v – Wade debacle was again marked in Washington D.C. with the annual March For Life. The peaceful demonstration draws estimated crowds of nearly 500,000, yet year after year the main-stream media fails to cover it. The few photos that surface are invariably distorted. These photos are taken from such angles as to misrepresent the few pro-abortionists as being equal in number to the pro-lifers. This year there is a photo of an older sister (in habit) who appears to be wagging her finger and a group of pro- abortionists. This photo is carefully crafted to give the impression that contentious exchanges between mature nuns and youthful pro-abortionists are taking place on every street corner; hardly a reality. Perhaps this sister is merely saying something as disagreeable as “I’ll pray for you.” or “Excuse me, is this your Blackberry?” The hundreds of thousands of faithful, joyful hearts, united in a common respect for the dignity of human life are invisible to the mainstream press.

Equally transparent are the courageous voices of such respected leaders as: Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who noted that coming from a family with 12 children, being a pro-lifer isn’t just a political position, it is “who I am.” Boehner told the crowd that

“When we affirm our commitment to life, we affirm our commitment to liberty and freedom. When our commitment to life is diminished, our commitment to freedom is diminished.”

The Speaker of the House noted that he represents a bipartisan majority, a majority that opposes tax-payer funding of abortion. Boehner closed by bidding the Marchers: “God go with all of you today, and God Bless America!” Likewise the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, New Jersey’s Chris Smith urged the crowds on with:

“Mr. President, killing babies is not an American value! Mr. President, stop violating conscience rights!  Mr. President, stop exporting abortion!”

Pro-Life Wisconsin Protects Life! Photo Courtesy of Pro-Life Wisconsin

Smith ominously warned that a second Obama term would result in even greater assaults on the unborn, as tax-payer funded abortion is elevated to a “health” care right. With the assault on conscience that Obama delivered to Cardinal-elect Dolan this week, it is clear that Smith’s warning heralds a truly sinister threat.

Credible speaker after speaker braved the cold, damp D.C. day to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the hundreds of thousands of brave souls united in defense of vulnerable life, on this anniversary of state sanctioned death. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Tom Price of Georgia, Todd Akin of Missouri,  Jim Sensenbrenner and Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, joined representatives, from: Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, and Louisiana in voicing their opposition to the unmitigated slaughter of human life which was legalized 39 years ago under Roe –v- Wade.

Free to Be Born! Photo Courtesy of Pro-Life Wisconsin

This year again the kids and I sat glued to the couch, flipping channels between C-SPAN and EWTN as we watched hundreds of thousands of faithful individuals and families give witness to the sanctity of human life. We watched as our friends from Pro-Life Wisconsin marched toward the Supreme Court, carrying their banner and our hopes high. We Tweeted and followed along on Facebook, praying for Fr. Rocky, Drew Mariani, Bishop Ricken and our friends from Relevant Radio and the Green Bay Diocese as they defended the unborn with their very presence. What a Civics lesson! History was made, and again the mainstream media turned a blind eye. However, the truth that so frightens the pro-death proponents as to force them to squelch the visible reality of the March For Life will prevail. Those of us who were present only in prayer and spirit can insure that this truth is spread. For the sake of the voiceless, we will pray, we will defend life, and we will vote!

May God Bless You,


Dark as Night

Safe and warm ©, 2011-2012

Standing outside in the pitch-darkness, listening to the coyotes howl at the 4:30 in the morning is an enlightening experience. The new pup isn’t quite potty-trained, thus Moriah and I have been spending some early mornings crunching through the snow in the yard, bracing ourselves as a bitter wind whips through the trees. I warm her little paws on the way back to the house, and utter a silent prayer for the homeless. These frigid mornings force me to count my blessings – a cozy house,  solid shoes, and a warm winter coat, just to name a few. So many others have so little, and these cold and dark moments force me to consider their plight in light of my abundant blessings.

Staring at the starry night sky seems to magnify my insignificance before God. Night after night, as I stand out there holding a 15 pound pup on a leash, I can’t help but contemplate the transcendent majesty of God. The house is quiet and dark. Here I am, alone with my thoughts, and yet God is there. I wonder at His goodness in creating the beauty that is reflected by the snow, even under the cover of darkness. The snow shimmers like glitter as the moon beans dance across it. Even in this bitter chill, I can feel that God is present. As I stand there alone and cold, I feel God’s Almighty gaze upon the very shadow of my presence.

St. John of the Cross once said: “Our greatest need is to be silent before this great God…for the only language He hears is the language of love.” Here in the frigid blackness my soul seeks His Light. Ordinary meets extraordinary. Were I sleeping, (like any normal person) I would miss this opportunity for voiceless reflection. Other than the call of the coyotes, silence and meditation are pretty plentiful out here at 4:30 a.m. As I begin to count the blessings in my life, my thoughts and prayers turn to those whose lives are in need of HIs Grace. I feel His Love most abundantly when I ask for it on behalf of others.

The coyotes again howl, and Moriah seeks shelter between my feet. As I scoop up the pup and warm her tiny paws with my hands, I realize that God treats us likewise. When we are spiritually cold and in need of shelter, He lovingly reaches down, lifts us high, holds us close, and warms away the chill.

The Psalmist says it best:

O Lord, You search me and you know me,

You know my resting and my rising,

You discern my purpose from afar.

You mark when I walk or lie down,

All my ways lie open to you.


Before ever a word is on my tongue

You know it, O Lord, through and through.

Behind and before you besiege me,

Your hand ever laid upon me.

Too wonderful for me this knowledge,

Too high beyond my reach.


O where can  I go from Your Spirit,

Or where can I flee from Your face?

If I climb to the Heavens, you are there.

If I lie down in the grave, you are there.


If  I take the wings of the dawn

And dwell at the sea’s furthest end,

Even there Your hand would lead me.

Your right hand would hold me fast.


If I say: “Let the darkness hide me

And the light around me be night,”

Even darkness is not dark for You

And the night is as clear as day (Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24).

May God grant you His warmth and His Light,

Ad Jesum per Mariam


Liebster Surprise!

As members of the Body of Christ, we are all in this together. Thus, “if one part is honored, all parts share its joy (1 Corinthians 12: 26).” Last week I had the privilege of receiving recognition as one of the recent recipients of the newly circulating Liebster Blog Award. This award is bestowed upon small blogs; those with 200 or less registered followers (trust me, I qualify on that point). To merit this award, recipient blogs are to reflect a certain  je ne sais pas: a unique, endearing and beloved (Liebster) quality.


I am always checking for new posts on my dear friend Anne Bender’s blog, Imprisoned in My Bones. I was flabbergasted (and delighted) to read that she had bestowed Liebster Award on Salve Sancta Mater Dei, mentioning also my son Kenny’s blog: God Alone Sufficeth. Anne and I share the unique privilege of mothering sons who aspire to the priesthood. The joys and challenges involved in preparing them to discern and answer God’s call (whether it ultimately be to the priesthood, or to married or single life) are many. Our friendship has blossomed as we rejoice (and commiserate) over the many facets of our God-given vocation.

Anne is rock solid Catholic; a formidable woman of heart. She is Mom to five terrific children, and an aspirant to the Oblates of the Precious Blood. Anne brings Christ’s love to so many, not only through her blog, but also through her work as a certified nutritionist/WIC counselor, and through her work initiating the Roses for Our Lady organization. Imprisoned in My Bones has been an inspiration to me! Anne’s sincere, well-written and witty style is itself endearing. Without her encouragement, I would not have had the gumption to initiate Salve Mater Dei. Thus, I am grateful both for her mentoring and the Liebster Award.

Let me give you a hand. ©, 2011-2012

The purpose of the Liebster Award is to recognize noteworthy small blogs, and augment the process of having good readers stumble upon them, identify the nuggets they contain and thereby increase the visibility of these budding sites. The requirement of the Liebster Award is that the recipient is to pass the award on to five blogs they love (including links), in hopes that others will likewise recognize their inspirational value. As this award was bestowed in essence on both Kenny and I, we have collaborated in identifying five terrific blogs we wish to honor.

The first blog we unanimously picked is: Writings of a Boy Discerning God’s Call. This blog is run by Anne Bender’s son, John. This was the first blog either Kenny or I stumbled upon, and the impetus for his (and our) venture into this form of evangelization. Nearly two years ago, when Kenny returned home from the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, “Is it I Lord?” Summer Camp with the enthusiastic request to initiate a vocations blog, I met him with an equally resounding “NO!” No adolescent of mine was going to have a presence on the Web. Not happening. No way. No negotiation. Ne dit jamais jamais. . . .

Boy Discerning God's Call. ©, 2011-2012

I must admit my technological ignorance, for at that point I didn’t even know what a blog was. It sounded like some take on Christmas dessert – you know, a yummy Yule cake-roll type of confection. Kenny was undaunted. He patiently showed me John’s outstanding blog, and demonstrated how John’s passion for Christ was subtly supporting his own priestly aspirations. Like Kenny, I became a frequent flyer on John’s blog. I enjoyed his depth, honesty and humor. Through his posts, I found Anne’s Imprisoned in My Bones. One good thing led to another. Over the months, I found myself softening my position with regard to Kenny’s request – especially when he’d announce that he hoped his blog would provide the seeds of his future homilies (words that melt a mom’s heart). It was John’s outstanding blog that propelled our efforts. Now, as John prepares to enter St. Francis de Sales Seminary, and encounters the challenges of rigorous psychological and academic testing we continue to watch in admiration and prayer. John Bender and his Writings of a Boy Discerning God’s Call continue to be an inspiration to us.

Carmelite Community of Holy Hill Basilica ©, 2011-2012

The second blog we chose to receive the Liebster Award is The Discalced Carmel – Called to the Royal Road of Prayer, run by Fr. Michael Berry, OCD. Fr. Michael Berry is the Vocations Director for the Discalced Carmelites of the Immaculate Heart Province. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of hearing one of Fr. Michael Berry’s homilies at Holy Hill Basilica, National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, knows the depth of his intellect and the fervor of his devotion. This dynamic, young Carmelite has an uncanny ability to distill the insights of Carmel, and make them accessible to the rest of us. I love his posts on St. Teresa of Avila, as well as his Easter homily. It has been a little while since Fr. Michael posted – like good strong coffee, I’m sure greatness must be brewing. Thus, he is the second recipient of the Liebster award.

It is interesting that three of the five recipients that Kenny and I chose have a role in vocations: one vocations director, and two young men discerning the priesthood. The third Liebster blog is: On With The Motley, by the Licensed Fool. Like the next two recipients, neither Kenny nor I have ever met this young man (who resides in England) however, we both enjoy following his road to Christ. LF began this blog as a journal to collect his personal thoughts as he discerned whether or not God was indeed calling him to the holy Priesthood. After several years of discerning, LF believes he is being called to the life of a Franciscan Friar. This blog reflects the many of same endearing qualities of the other recipients: faith, honesty, humor to name a few. Both Kenny and I thoroughly enjoy following On With the Motley, and hope you will as well.

The Sword of Peter is our fourth choice for recipient of the Liebster Award. This blog, by Jeff B. Harris is unlike any other, and we enjoy it! With the nature of his site, I presume Mr. Harris will have to waive the requirement to pass this award on to five other blogs. Surprisingly, this site does not contain a single cleverly written essay. Rather, every two weeks, Mr. Harris posts an outstanding Catholic cartoon. This is Catholic cultural satire at its finest! Mr. Harris is quite talented, and unabashedly bold about his pro-Catholic position. These cartoons are bound to offend some. They are neither for the faint-of-heart nor the RCINO’s (Roman Catholics in Name Only). Mr. Harris’s cartoons are equally humorous and hard-hitting; not to mention refreshingly politically incorrect. I wish this site were better known – hence the Liebster Award.

He is the Alpha and the Omega  ©, 2011-2012

He is the Alpha and the Omega ©, 2011-2012

The final recipient of the Liebster Award is a site that I recently began to follow: Flos Domini. This site is run by a faith-filled young woman who is attending a state liberal arts college in Virginia. She is passionately faithful to the Magisterium, and candid about the challenges involved in living her faith in a secular, often pagan, college atmosphere. This well written blog is sincere and insightful. The author of Flos Domini deserves kudos and encouragement as she strives to live each day for Christ, and bring the Hope of His Light to her peers. This blog deserves the Liebster Award and the increased visibility that accompanies it.

We are all striving to give the greatest honor and glory God, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the source of every inspiration, the foundation of each effort, and the ultimate goal of all action.

Reflecting on the Reason for every breath we take, together may we pray:


may everything we do begin with Your inspiration

and continue with your saving help.

Let our work always find its origin in You,

And through You reach completion.

We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord,

Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,

One God , forever and ever. Amen. (Morning Prayer, The Divine Office)

Thanks again, Anne!

Blessings in Christ,

Ad Jesum per Mariam


Every Knee Shall Bend. . . .


All Nations Shall Come to Adore Him. ©, 2011-2012. EA Photographer

Lord every nation on earth will adore you (Psalm 72: 11)! Joyous Feast of the Epiphany to you and yours! Today we celebrate a royal feast – our Infant Christ is acknowledged Divine and worshiped by kings. Each and every human heart is called to adore Him. Like the Magi of long ago, we are summoned to do likewise. Today’s Liturgy of the Hours directs:

Mighty and wonderful are your works, Lord God Almighty! Righteous and true are Your ways, O King of the nations.

Who would dare refuse you honor or the glory due Your Name O Lord?

Since you alone are holy, all nations shall come to worship in Your presence. For your righteous deeds have been revealed.

Since You alone are holy all nations shall come and worship in your presence. Your mighty deeds are clearly seen (Revelations 15: 3-4).

The Feast of the Epiphany is so beautiful! What heart can remain frozen when contemplating the image of the young Virgin shyly unwrapping the newborn Christ child before the adoring Magi, as they offer gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?  This Feast is an intricate mingling of bitter and sweet. While we rejoice in the triumphant arrival of the kings, a shadow of Herod’s dark threats looms in the background. Even the royal gifts are tinged with hint of impending sorrow. The Epiphany finalizes Christmas-  with their arrival, the Magi bring a sense of completeness. With their arrival, the ancient prophecies are fulfilled:

O God, with Your judgment endow the King and with Your justice the King’s Son; He shall govern Your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Justice shall flower in His days, and profound peace till the moon be no more. May He rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts and the Kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him (Respnsorial Psalm from Epiphany Mass, Psalm 72: 1, 8, 10).

King of Kings! ©, 2011-2012.

Yet, today as we rejoice in the exuberance that is the Feast of the Epiphany, tomorrow we return to Ordinary Time. The figures of porcelain  are packed away for another year, the pines are hauled out of our homes and churches, and we turn from celebration  to the daily duty of living Christmas in our hearts. Like the Magi, we must return to our former lives. This is a challenge. It is easy to glow in the presence of the Christmas Christ-Child, yet far more difficult to bring His presence into the hum of daily life. Even more thorny is the daily preparation to follow Him along the way of the cross to Calvary.

The Magi had embarked upon a long and perilous journey. As we celebrate their Epiphany today, Sacred Scripture in the Gospel Reading relates that they followed an amazing star, a sign from God.

And behold, the star they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the Child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary, His Mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage. They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, Frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2: 9-11).

We can only imagine their delight as they encountered the One for Whom they had so earnestly sought. These well-born and powerful men were not the first to adore the Christ-child;  angels, shepherds, and countless others claimed that honor. Yet, even as among the last, these were the first of many nations to give the glory that is due Him.  A miraculous star had illumined their path, guiding their journey –insuring a safe arrival. Now as they embarked upon their return travel, the real challenge began. Without the brilliance  of the star, they were forced to navigate unknown darkness. Recall, they had been warned in a dream of Herod’s intentions, and were forced to return home by an unchartered route. They had come to know the King of Kings, and now were challenged to accept His Light within themselves. No longer would a beacon of light travel ahead of them, rather it was now to illumine their path by traveling inside of them.

Come Let Us Adore Him! ©, 2011-2012.

Many centuries later, we too must walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7). We were not among the shepherds and angels who adored Him face to face on Christmas night, but like the Magi, we may continue to approach, bringing the gift of our very selves. Similarly, we too embark upon a challenging journey. This week, as we begin to set aside the visible images of the Nativity scene, a more enduring image must take root within our hearts. While the plastic and porcelain figures are wrapped and packed away, we are called to render a permanent abode within our hearts for Jesus, our Savior. As the people in darkness who have seen a Great Light (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:14) we must  endeavor to carry this Light within our hearts, and bring it to the very ends of the earth.

Epiphany Blessings!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,



What Are You Looking For?

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found. ©, 2011-2012

“What are you looking for?” In yesterday’s Gospel St. John the Baptist acknowledges Christ with the words: “Behold the Lamb of God.” St. John and St. Andrew catch up with Jesus, and begin following along with Him. Our Lord, then poses the question: “What are you looking for?”

He addresses the same query to each of us. We are all seekers. Just like the Magi, we seek Our God, our Creator, our Savior, our Alpha and Omega. There is a longing in each and every human heart. Our inmost being is directed to discover He Who IS. We are commanded: “Seek Me that you may live (Amos 5:4)!”

God implants the desire to know, love, and serve Him deep within the very fiber of our being, and our eternity depends upon the degree to which we respond to His call. Yet the world is full of distractions that can mute our perception of God’s invitation. Like children, we run after our own pursuits – often ignoring the security of responding to God’s request to seek Him with a sincere heart. We are like young chicks, each seeking its own interests.

How I long to gather your children under my wings. . . ©, 2011-2012

Every year our yard is full of baby turkeys. Early in spring the kids and I are entertained by  the daily courtship ritual that unfolds in our back yard. A handful of Tom’s poof-out their feathers and strut around, while a parade of nonchalant lady-birds trot to and fro frequenting feeders in our garden. By early Summer we delight in watching these same hens waddle through the yard with their newly hatched broods. As they grow and develop over the summer we notice their individual personalities. For the most part, they are fearless, strutting past the kids on the swing, the adults on the patio, and the two Labrador Retrievers in the yard, to get to their bird feeders. Its is a constant parade of fowl.

One day last summer, as this daily ritual was unfolding, about thirty turkeys trotted through the yard. There were a few hens with many fledglings in tow. One confident little guy wandered off from the brood, finding the snacks left under the picnic table to be superior to the corn in the feeder. Something must have spooked the other birds because they quickly scattered to our nearby woods. This exodus escaped the notice of the little cowboy under the table. When he looked up and realized he had been left behind, he began to squawk a high-pitched panicky cry, which was returned from the woods by an equally alarmed vocalization. The kids and I watched as the fledgling scurried around the perimeter of the yard, crying and calling for the security that now eluded him. We have often seen coyotes in the yard about this time of day, thus his panic was well justified. The series of shrill calls from chick to hen and back again continued for nearly a half an hour. Finally success: Mom and baby were reunited.

Lost? ©, 2011-2012

As we recalled this event during tonight’s dinner discussion, I realized just how much of an impact it made on the children and I. As much as we wanted to intervene, we were helpless to aid the little guy.  There were a few quick prayers to St. Francis, but otherwise we felt  powerless.

This event seems to parallel our relationship with God. Our eternal safety depends upon the ability to freely answer His call. We are free to wander off and seek satisfaction for the longings we experience. We have the liberty, the free will to fill the emptiness of our hearts with flimsy substitutes – lesser goods in place of the Supreme Good.  However, those freedoms can lead us either toward or away from the object of our desire. Sometimes the pursuit of apparent goods can interfere with the realization of our ultimate Good. Even when we wander off, God continues to call – to pursue us. He seeks us, even when we ignore our need to seek Him. Like that baby turkey, the danger of separating ourselves by losing sight of our decisive Good, is real.

We are called to seek Him with our whole heart. In so doing, all the other joys we desire will be given as gifts. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides (Matthew 5:33).” Often our ability to seek and find Him depends upon the methods we choose.

Tonight after dinner, I plopped The Catholic Bible Concordance into the lap of my fourth-grader. This heavy, red, (2,183 page) book is a bit daunting. Gemma’s eyes looked like Oreo-cookies when I assigned her the task of counting how many times the word “seek” appears in the Bible. She flipped through the reference text and stared at me blankly with that  you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-look. Relief came almost immediately as her older sister chimed in from the family room, “Well, why don’t you just Google it?” For the record, the word seek appears 303 times in Sacred Scripture. We are perpetually instructed to seek and find our God.

From the merchant who buys the pearl of great value, to the homemaker looking for a lost coin (Luke 15:8), we are directed to seek that which is of supreme value. Whether we are kings, wise men, or servants, or shepherds, we are each called to “Devote your hearts and souls to seeking the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 11:19).” Perhaps, we may just stumble upon that which we seek. However, bumbling and stumbling along solo, are uncertain methods, and their success is unlikely.  Rather, like the Magi, we are called to actively seek His Holy Face. We can expect to struggle as we travel through the dark nights following only the star of His Light. Yet, like the Magi, His Radiance is sufficient to guide us to the object of deepest longing: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we approach the Epiphany, together seeking the joy of His Presence, may His Light envelope and guide us. Therefore, together let us prepare to answer wholeheartedly His query: “What are you looking for?”

Christmas Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam


Fear Not!

Uncorrupted Ark of His Dwelling Place- Please pray for us! ©, 2012 EA photographer

The flash of the fireworks is gone from the sky. That gaudy-glitzy ball has dropped.  Noise-makers are silent, and punchbowls are empty. 2012 is officially underway. Thankfully, this is not the end of a mere night-long celebration, but the beginning of a time of grace. As we begin our new year, we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we focus our admiration on the Blessed Mother and our gratitude on God, for His gift of Divine Maternity to the Blessed Virgin. We celebrate Mary as the Theotokos – the Mother of Son of God.

Antiphon 3 from the Vespers for today’s feast reads:

Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush flaming, yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us Mother of God.

Christ was fully human and fully Divine. He did not just take up residence in the belly of the Blessed Virgin, or merely temporarily occupy available space. Rather, in His humility and wisdom, Jesus Christ willed that His very flesh and blood would be drawn from the Spotless Virgin. Mary was the Immaculate Tabernacle that He chose to house and form the substance of His humanity. Today, we celebrate this mystery which is beyond human comprehension. Tonight’s Vespers Antiphons express it so beautifully:

O marvelous exchange! Man’s creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

By your miraculous birth of the Virgin You have fulfilled the Scriptures: like a gentle rain falling upon the Earth You have come down to save Your people. O God, we praise You!

This is a moment of joy, of intense gratitude, and celebration. Together we rejoice the singular honor and privilege given to Our Lady, while we simultaneously celebrate our own share in Christ’s gift of grace.

What a fitting start to the new year! Today we recall the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, as he heralded her high calling. St. Gabriel greets Mary with: “Hail Full of Grace (Luke 1: 28).”  Recall, the Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is scripturally used only here, and the connotation is that Mary is the one who is so replete with grace that not even the slightest shadow of darkness is present. Before St. Gabriel announces God’s salvific plan, which elicits Mary’s fiat, he first directs her to: “Fear not Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1:30).”

Mother of Our Redeermer, Please pray for us! ©, 2012 EA photographer

Today as we embark on a new year, this message is profound. St. Gabriel is the messenger of God’s grace, and He well understands how overwhelming this pure Gift will be. “Perfect Love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).” It is only with this Love that Mary (and the rest of us) can complete the mission assigned by God. It is only by accepting the Gift of Pure Love, that – like Mary –  we can say “yes” to God. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that that the Divine Child, the Emmanuel Whom she is to bear, is to be named “Jesus.” This Child’s very name reflects His essence and means “God is with us!”

As 2012 dawns, we do well to remember that God is indeed with us. Just like Mary, we are told to “Be Not Afraid!” In fact, the admonition to “Be Not Afraid!” appears 365 times in the Bible! In nearly every book of the Bible we find those words. This new year is pregnant with possibilities. We have been given a great gift. 2012 will be full of joys and challenges. Yet, through it all God is indeed with us. In accepting His perfect Love, fear melts.

With Mary, let us rejoice in this new day, this new year.With hearts full of gratitude, let us turn to Our Creator, and through Mary, may we ask His Blessing upon this year.  From the Divine Office together let us pray:

God Our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for You bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

A Blessed 2012 to you and yours!

Ad Jesum per Mariam