Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally

Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally ©,2012. EA photographer

Do you recall ever wanting to be invisible? As a child, playing hide-n-seek, I remember thinking that it would be really cool to just be invisible. Through the years, I can recall numerous occasions where being invisible would have been desirable, or at the very least saved some embarrassment. For example, I remember looking down at my feet during an early morning board meeting, only to realize that one navy blue pump, and the other jet black one were not a fashion statement I had intended to make. Motherhood itself is replete with instances when invisibility would be boon. Yes, I’d love to witness the diligence of my homeschool pupils on those rare occasions when the older lot are left home to work independently. Just what does happen when my car pulls out of the garage? How many trips to the fridge are required to complete an Algebra lesson? All in all, selective invisibility would be an asset.

500+ Invisible Protesters ©, 2011-2012.

Friday, I and hundreds of others had an opportunity to be invisible. My eight children and I stood shoulder to shoulder with approximately 500-700 other Stand Up for Religious Freedom Protesters, for over an hour in front of the Reuss Federal Building, on busy Wisconsin Avenue, in Downtown Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s finest knew we were there. We were polite and respectful, and so were they. I appreciated that they were there to keep the peace, and safeguard our Constitutional Right to Free Speech. Likewise, the security guards at the Reuss Federal Building were aware of our presence. We interacted with them as they urged us to stay on the sidewalk. The hundreds of motorists who passed by in cars and buses, often honking their support, saw us and responded to our presence. However, none of the Milwaukee news media saw us. Strange, how does one hide such a large crowd of peaceful protesters in the middle of busy city, at noon on a Friday? It is especially surprising when one considers that they were protesting such a hot-button issue in American politics.

It is a lie! ©, 2012.

Such has this skirmish been waged nationwide. We philosophically clash with those who seek to eviscerate our Religious Freedoms, yet that clash is a muffled one. The propaganda of the opposition is widely promulgated with the assent of the liberal media, yet our voices of dissent are silenced. We are invisible.

Stand Up for Religious Freedom ©,2012.

With a stroke of a pen, President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, have attempted to force Catholic Americans to choose between the inviolable demands of our consciences and an unjust law. The HHS Mandate would force Catholic, and other religious institutions, to pay for insurance coverage for contraception, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization –without co-pay- for all students and employees. Many of us understand that life is a gift from our Divine Creator, a gift that is given at the moment of natural conception, a gift that lasts until the moment of natural death, when united with Christ, it becomes transformed, and transcends even death for all eternity.

Stand Up for Religious Freedom ©, 2012.

Today’s First Reading speaks of the Eternal Law of God, of His covenant with us. It states: “I will place My Law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31: 33).” God’s Law is Eternal, and immutable. It is unchanging. What is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong; always and forever so. It is written on our very hearts. Politicians come and go, as do their subjective legislative whims. But God’s law emanates from the Wisdom and Love that is His Being Itself. His law cannot be compromised. For when we betray it, we betray Him, and thus betray the deepest longing of our human hearts.

We Stand with the USCCB ©,2012. EA photographer

This is a battle for the hearts and minds of a generation, and the soul of a nation. Invisibility has a way of disappearing at the voting booth. We need to make our voices heard – even if the media outlets refuse to acknowledge our presence.

In today’s Fifth Sunday of Lent Gospel Reading, Our Lord Jesus states:

“Whoever serves me must follow me, where I am, there also my servant will be. The Father will honor whoever serves me (John 12: 26).”

Let Freedom Ring! ©,2012. EA photogrpher

We are at a cross-road. It is decision time. Standing still is not an option- one way or another, we must respond to demands of the moment. We must choose to follow our Savior- even to the cross, obeying the law that is written on our hearts, or choose to follow the whims of those who promote the culture of death.  Following Him means ignoring the cloak of invisibility forced upon our shoulders, and prayerfully speaking the truth- with the assurance that it alone will triumph.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

The Just Man Shall Blossom Forever Like the Lily. . . .

St. Joseph, Please Pray for Us! ©, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Joseph! This is one of my favorite feasts. Our beloved Carmelite Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, directed that St. Joseph’s Feast be celebrated with utmost joy of the highest of solemnities. Who am I to argue with the Holy Mother? How awesome of Our Good Lord to offer His foster father’s feast as an oasis in our penitential sojourn through the desert of Lent.

Little is known about the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin. No direct quotes from Sacred Scripture can be attributed to St. Joseph. He did not make lofty speeches, nor was he a celebrated theologian. Instead, St. Joseph worked hard, sacrificed much, dreamed dreams, and loved deeply. Thus, he is the Patron of the Universal Catholic Church,

Protect them O, Lord! ©, 2012

Today is my little Joseph’s feast. It also happens to be the anniversary of his First Holy Communion. One of my favorite Joseph stories took place when he was the tender age of six. It was the feast of the Holy Family, and we were kneeling in prayer during those precious moments of sacred silence prior to the celebration of Holy Mass. My little Joseph nudged me, and with all earnestness whispered, “Mom, why did God make St. Joseph with cinnamon?” Quizzically, I looked down at his solemn little face, and said, “Sweetie, God most certainly did not make St. Joseph with cinnamon.” To which my indignant little man replied, “I did NOT ask why God made St. Joseph with cinnamon, I asked why God made St. Joseph with Sin – in – him; you know Mom, because He made the Blessed Virgin without Sin-in- Her.” WOW! God is amazing! How magnificent of Him to place such questions with the hearts of mere children. Like St. Joseph, my little Joseph was responding to the love of God with a grace that could have only come from above.

Why is it that so many of us mothers name our sons after St. Joseph? Surely we seek his unparalleled protection for our cherished progeny. Cognizant that God Himself chose St. Joseph to safeguard His Divine Son and the Blessed Virgin, we reason that St. Joseph will likewise shelter our sons from harm.

However, our decision to choose St. Joseph as a patron does not end with our confidence in his powerful protection. Rather, we choose him in part because we hope our sons will emulate his example. We see St. Joseph as the strong, silent man, who would willingly sacrifice his well-earned reputation, to do the right thing. We admire St. Joseph the Worker, and pray our sons will likewise be industrious in the service of the Lord. We stand in awe of St. Joseph’s ability to act on his dreams, and respond to the slightest whisper of God’s Holy Will. We recognize that God Himself trusted St. Joseph to guard the purity of the Blessed Virgin, and pray the Lord will also give our sons the grace to not only remain chaste, but also to guard the purity of those entrusted to them. We see in St. Joseph the model father, who derives his authority from God the Father, and exercises it with gentleness and humility, and can ask no greater gift for our young men as well. In St. Joseph we appreciate a life of service and uncompromised love, and desire that our sons too may be willing to sacrifice all for the Love of God.

Window from Maternity of the Blessed Virgin, Richfield ©, 2012

On this Feast of St. Joseph, honor him by telling a Joseph in your life how much he resembles his Holy Patron, and pray to St. Joseph for his intercession for the blessing this special man needs to live in the Grace of God. Join me in praying this nearly 2,000 year old prayer to the beloved foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ:


Oh St. Joseph, whose protection is so great,

so strong, so prompt before the throne of God,

I place in you all my interests and desires.

Please, St. Joseph, do assist me with your powerful intercession,

And obtain for me from your Divine Son all possible spiritual blessings.

So that having engaged here below your heavenly power,

I may offer thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers.

St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you,

and the Child Jesus asleep in your arms.

Press Him in my name.

Kiss his fine head for me,

and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, I place my petitions in thy tender care.

I consecrate myself and my family to the Holy Heart of St. Joseph. St. Joseph, please pray for us! Happy Feast Day!


Ad Jesus per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

Serenity Amid Chaos: Practicing the Presence of God with Brother Lawrence

“He longs to be in you; He wants His breath to be your breath, His heart in your heart, His soul in your soul.” – St. John Eudes

The Wheels on the Bus. . . ©, 2011-2012.

Throughout the year I find myself yearning for sacred silence. This is never more true than during the season of Lent. The Daily Mass readings, as well as those Matins and Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours, speak to my heart, compelling me to greater union with God. I long to spend hours conversing with Christ; adoring Him in the Blessed Sacrament, while contemplating the mysteries of our redemption. However, the whirlwind of daily duty takes precedence. The reality of potty-training the littlest one while coaxing the eldest to finish his Algebra, scrubbing floors, refereeing squabbling siblings (not to mention the 3 dogs) and sorting a bazillion socks relegates that much sought after sacred silence to an unrequited desire. In His Wisdom, God placed my contemplative soul in the body of a homeschooling Mom of eight. Our busy home is the hallowed ground upon which I seek my own sanctification, as well as that of my family. Thus, while my soul craves sacred solitude, the necessity of surrender to daily duty is an ever-present reality. As the incomparable St. Therese once stated, “Love consumes us only in the measure of our self-surrender.” I am a work in progress.

I know God must love me a lot. Not only did He bless me with a terrific husband, and eight lovely children, He continues to provide the daily challenges essential for sanctification. If Our Lord is sculpting a masterpiece from the marble of my soul, then the hammer, chisel, and sandpaper of daily life are as necessary in His vast eternal plan as the caress of His loving gaze. Like most seekers, there are days I feel that sandpaper and chisel more acutely than others.

Thus, the need to balance an active family life – in the flux of the world – with a contemplative prayer life – within the shelter of my soul – is a perpetual challenge. I find it a daily struggle to juggle the demands and desires of both aspects of my being.

Abide in Me ©, 2011-2012.

The trepidation that accompanies driving 8 kids to morning Mass at Holy Hill, amid snow and ice, via the bucket of bolts (my 96 Suburban) we affectionately termed “Mom’s Bus” is probably not what St. Paul had in mind when he penned the directive: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).” However, this admonition is one I take seriously. Without Holy Mass, daily Eucharist, and frequent Confession, the prospect of maintaining a placid, prayerful relationship with Christ, while living in the world would be an insurmountable task. Those moments of serenity are golden- the midnight rosary, a brief Adoration before Holy Mass, the joy of Holy Communion and a prolonged thanksgiving – all replenish my soul with supernatural grace. Armed with this treasure I am able to accomplish the tasks Our Lord has planned for me.

As I strive to achieve an appropriate balance between the demands of daily duty, and the desire for contemplative union with God, I seek the counsel of those who have successfully achieved this goal. Among my favorite spiritual writers is a little known French Carmelite Friar- a lay brother, who died on February 12, 1691. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection spent most of his religious life working in the kitchen of a busy Discalced Carmelite Monastery on the Rue de Vaugirard, in Paris. In this setting, he learned to balance the rigors of daily duty with an intense prayer life, and was rewarded with a profound union with God. His writings continue to guide spiritual seekers 300+ years after his death.

Live in My Love ©, 2011-2012.

Brother Lawrence developed an ability to live each moment in the Presence of God. Early in his monastic life, Brother Lawrence was assailed with spiritual darkness, and intense suffering. Like other spiritual greats (St. John of the Cross, Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Therese, St. Padre Pio to name a few), this Carmelite lay brother was acutely aware of his sins, feared damnation, and perceived himself as radically unworthy of the tremendous graces Our Lord chose to lavish upon him. This “dark night of the soul” was a tremendous trial for Brother Lawrence- but one he eventually conquered by surrendering it all to God’s Grace. This dedicated Carmelite endured intense anguish for a decade, at which time he vowed to endure this suffering for not only the remainder of his earthly life, but for all eternity if that were pleasing to Almighty God. Instantly, his spiritual chains were loosened, and he resolved to forever remain in the presence of God.

From that moment on, Brother Lawrence strove to live each and every moment cognizant of Our Lord’s intimate Presence. While this task was difficult early on, with humility and dedication, he found it possible to enjoy God’s presence in every moment of the day.

He states:

“I possess God as tranquility in the bustle of my kitchen – where sometimes several people are asking me for different things at one time – as if I were on my knees before the Blessed Sacrament (Walking With the Father, Wisdom From Brother Lawrence, Patricia Mitchell Gen. Editor, 1999, p. 10).”

With ardent desire, and faithful endeavor, Brother Lawrence found the secret of intense union with God, while fulfilling the necessities of daily life. He called this way of life “practicing the presence of God.” He passed each hour in heart-to-heart conversation with God, merely glancing in His direction when that was all duty allowed.

In his Spiritual Maxims, Brother Lawrence states:

“Next, the soul’s eyes must be kept on God, particularly when something is being done in the outside world. Since time and effort are needed to perfect this practice, one should not be discouraged by failure. Although the habit is difficult to form, it is the source of divine pleasure once it is learned (The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, Whitaker House ed. 1944).”

My Soul in Stillness Waits ©, 2011-2012. EA photographer

Brother Lawrence lived each day in humility, enjoying a continuing conversation with a loving God. Other great Saints have also written about the sublime beauty of this path to intimacy with our Creator. In both her Interior Castle and Way of Perfection, St. Teresa of Avila details a straightforward path to sanctity, via an intimate relationship with God. The simplicity and success of this time-tested approach to spiritual union cannot be argued. Yet, as these great contemplatives note, persistence and humility are required for spiritual success.

From the Spiritual Maxims gleaned from Brother Lawrence’s letters and conversations, comes the following insight:

“You must continually try to make all of your actions, without distinction, a sort of little conversation with God – not in a rehearsed way but just as they happen, with purity and simplicity of heart pleasure (Walking With the Father, Wisdom From Brother Lawrence, Patricia Mitchell Gen. Editor, 1999, p. 127).”

Over the years I have stumbled upon many translations of Brother Lawrence’s work (Cosimo Classics and Whitaker Press are among my favorites) – in each the clear beauty of his message is conveyed. While out of humility Brother Lawrence attempted to destroy all of the letters and recollections written during his lifetime, his Abbot, Abbe de Beaufort, recognized their spiritual worth, and compiled what he could rescue into Practicing the Presence of God. Perhaps you may find Brother Lawrence’s simple wisdom as beneficial to your spiritual life as have I.

As we continue to journey through the desert with Christ, may we always walk in the Presence of God.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,


May Your Mother Intercede for Us Lord

The Queen Stands at His Right Hand Arrayed in Gold . . . ©, 2012 EA photographer

“Blessed are those who abandon themselves into Our Lady’s hands. Their names are written in the Book of Life (St. Bonaventure).”

Ad Jesum per Mariam– through Jesus to Mary – the old adage affirms. Yes, Our Lady is the surest, most direct route to Her Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Cognizant of this reality, the Holy Mother Church has traditionally reserved Saturday for veneration of Our Lady. This one day a week is set apart as a reminder of the benefit to our souls in seeking Mary’s powerful intercession. For we know that as the Mother of the King, Our Lady has a very special role, and her maternal supplication is uniquely effective.

In ancient times, the mother of the king often had more power than any of the king’s many wives. This was true among the ancient Near Eastern Kingdoms, including the peoples of Assyria, Israel, and Egypt. With the practice of polygamy, the king often had many wives – recall Solomon reportedly espoused 700 women – and difficulty would certainly result were the king to favor the counsel of one wife in particular. Thus, the Queen Mother, or the gebirah, held the official position at court, and wielded great political influence.

Mary is the Mother of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords. While the Old Testament prefigures her role as gebirah, she alone fulfills it, beginning in the New Testament and continuing through the end of time.

Recall the Wedding at Cana, Our Lady confided the earnest needs of the young couple to Our Lord: “They have no wine (John 2:3).” Our Lord seemed to have another plan: “Woman, how does your concern affect Me? My hour has not yet come (John 2:4).” Yet, at her gentle, confident bidding, – “Do whatever He tells you (John 2: 5),” Our Lord immediately intervenes in a miraculous manner. At Our Lady’s humble, maternal request, Jesus turns His attention to even the most mundane of concerns, and acts swiftly. Our Lord will respond just as favorably to His Mother’s requests when they are uttered on our behalf as He did to her pleas for the wedding couple at Cana.

The great St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, once stated: “The heart of our good Mother Mary is all love and mercy. She desires nothing else but our happiness. We need only have recourse to her and we will be heard.”

Pray for us sinners now and the the hour. . . . ©, 2011-2012

Our Lady seeks nothing else than to bring us to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. She knows our eternal happiness depends upon our fiat – our yes. She yearns to lead us along the path to sanctity, not for her sake, but for ours. Like any true mother, Mary is deeply concerned for our well-being, most especially our eternal salvation.

Over the centuries, Our Lady has perpetually  proven her maternal love. Reports of her authentic apparitions and celestial assistance hail from every part of the globe. There are many lovely devotions that have sprung from these Heavenly visits. One of those I hold dear is the devotion to Our Lady’s Tears and Dolors. Through this devotion, one shares Our Lady’s sorrow while contemplating the most distressing moments of her life. Lent is a fitting time to begin this practice. This devotion is laden with grace for those who piously apply themselves to accompanying Our Lady during these times of trial. The anticipation of growing closer to Our Lord, by following along as Our Lady ratifies her fiat with every challenge is a tremendous reward in itself. Yet, St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373) related that the Blessed Mother additionally offered the following promises to those who honor her daily by praying seven Hail Mary’s while meditating on her Tears and Dolors.

(1) I will grant peace to their families.

(2) They will be enlightened about the Divine Mysteries.

(3) I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.

(4) I will give then as much as they ask for, as long as it does not oppose the Adorable Will of my Divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.

(5) I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.

(6) I will visibly help them at the moment of their deaths; they will see the face of their Mother.

(7) I have obtained (this grace) from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my Tears and Dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all of their sins will be forgiven and my son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy.

A Sword of Sorrow Shall Pierce Your Heart. . . ©, 2012 GM photographer

While all that is required to honor Our Lady’s request is a Hail Mary, and meditation with each of the seven sorrows, over the years I have compiled the following reflection that I use to aid my personal meditation.

(1) Simeon’s prophesy of the sword of sorrow piecing Mary’s Heart – Holiest Virgin, as you contemplate the sword of sorrow piercing Your Immaculate Heart, grant me and mine the grace to love deeply, even when pain and suffering accompany such love.

Hail Mary . . . .

(2) The Flight into Egypt – Holiest Virgin, as You, St. Joseph and the infant Jesus are forced to escape to the land of Egypt, grant me and mine the grace to flee from sin and obey the every whisper of God’s Holy Will.

Hail Mary . . . .

(3) The Loss of the Child in the Temple of Jerusalem – Holiest Virgin, as you anxiously search for the Child Jesus, help me and mine to always seek and find the Holy Face of God.

Hail Mary . . . .

(4) The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross – Holiest Virgin, as you gaze into the eyes of your beloved Son, watching helplessly as He carries the Cross upon His sacred shoulders, help me and mine to patiently carry our crosses and help others shoulder their burdens as well.

Hail Mary . . . .

(5) The Crucifixion – Holiest Virgin, as you stand at the foot of the Cross beholding Jesus die in agony, imprint this image upon my soul, my mind and my heart, that I too may bear witness to it, and forever appreciate the enormity of His great sacrifice.

Hail Mary . . . .

(6) Jesus is laid in Mary’s arms.- Holiest Virgin, as the body of Jesus is laid in your arms, help me and mine forgive as you and your Divine Son do.

Hail Mary . . . .

(7) The Burial of Christ – Holiness Virgin, as you prepare your Son’s body for burial, grant me and mine the grace that in living and dying with Christ, we will also rise with Him.

Hail Mary . . . .

As we journey together through Lent, may our Blessed Mother guide our steps that our efforts may bear fruit in Eternal life.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.