Why is May Mary’s Month?

Virgin Mary

In the Catholic Church the month of May is Mary’s month. It’s the month we honor Blessed Mary as the Mother of Jesus and our Heavenly Mother. If you attended Catholic school, you probably remember taking part in the “May crowning” in the beginning of May–where a wreath of flowers was placed on the head of the statue of Mary as prayers were said. As an older student you understood that this ritual was a way to show our love for Mary. Continue reading

Saint Catherine of Siena — Feast Day April 29th

saint catherine siena

The Feast Day for Saint Catherine of Siena is April 29th

saint catherine siena

St. Catherine of Siena was a great philosopher and theologian and is considered a Doctor of the Church. is the patron saint of fire prevention, illness, miscarriage, Europe and nurses. At the age of 6, a vision of the Lord came to her and she became very spiritual. She died at the early age of 33 and was canonized in 1461. In 1970, Pope Paul VI granted her the title of Doctor of the Church.

Saint Catherine of Siena is the Patron: Against fire; bodily ills; Europe; fire prevention; firefighters; illness; Italy; miscarriages; nurses; nursing services; people ridiculed for their piety; sexual temptation; sick people; sickness; Siena, Italy; temptations.

[quote]You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love.[/quote]

Saint Catherine of Siena Goods:

St. Catherine of Siena Medal

“It was so wonderful to find exactly what I was looking for as a first communion gift for our granddaughter.”

St. Catherine of Siena Statue 3.5"

Catherine was well know for her abilities and was judged by some to be a saint and others to be a fanatic.

St. Catherine of Siena Rosary Heirloom Fancy Crucifix

“I just loved my St Catherine rosary”

St. Catherine of Siena Laminated Prayer Cards 25 Pack

St. Catherine is the patron saint of Italy. This prayer card has an image of St. Catherine of Siena on the front and a short biography on the back panel.

Baptism Gift Ideas – What to Buy For a Baptism

Your Child's Baptism

​Your Guide to Baptism Gift Ideas

​You received an invitation to a baptism and you are wondering what to give as a baptism gift. We have great baptism gift ideas here at the Catholic Faith Store, come on over and take a look!

Whether you are a practicing Catholic or simply a friend of the family that isn’t particularly religious, there is no need to stress when it comes to selecting an appropriate baptism gift.

Continue reading

Chalice of Love – Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner! There is just something unique and mysterious about mothers. But I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be unique and mysterious simply because I was a mom. In fact, it was just the opposite for me…

I was a Catholic Worker for several years as a young adult. While my college friends were getting pregnant, I was with a social justice movement marching for changes in society. As a group of young people, we fed and sheltered hundreds of homeless people. We performed the works of mercy on a daily basis, working from early in the morning until late at night.

So when I heard an elderly priest say, [quote]The highest calling for a woman is to be a mother,[/quote]

my ego stood up in protest. There I was, doing “big” things to make the world better.… “How dare he say, ‘the biggest thing is to be a mom,” I thought.

But that was before I became a mom. Now I know what that priest was trying to say. Motherhood is achingly hard and the only thing that lightens the load is a good husband and a regular prayer commitment.

To be a mom is so much more than going through nine months of uncomfortable pregnancy, and numerous hours of painful labor; being a mom is a “til death do us part” commitment. Moms watch over and protect. We guide and minister. We treat physical wounds and try to mend broken hearts. We attempt to answer the most bizarre questions. We pick up messes only to have them recreated again a few minutes later.

It’s the confusion that gets to me these days….I mean, moms are expected to know everything and sometimes…we just don’t. That’s hard. We want so much to help.

The truth is, when I helped the homeless I felt a deep sense of fullness. We were filled up by drinking from the chalice of “righteousness”; but moms are filled up by drinking from the chalice of “love.”

Our hope and strength as mothers comes from the Blessed Mother who understands our trials and tears.  Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana are especially helpful to me. She told Jesus the celebrants were out of wine, but Jesus had said, “What concern is that to me? It is not yet My time.” (When our kids become young adults we can’t just say, “I’m ordering you to do it.”)  But Mary trusts that the Good will be done, even though she can’t see into the future. She says to the servants five words that are filled with meaning: “Do whatever He tells you.”

Doubt, confusion, pain, fear, trust, confidence and wonderment—those are the ingredients in the Chalice of Love.  But we are to “do whatever the Lord (and His mother) tells us.” We seem to walk in darkness at times. But the light is always on up in Heaven.

Pray for me. I’ll pray for you. May the Blessed Mother shower us all with JOY this Mother’s Day! Hurrah for Moms everywhere!

The Feast of St. George

Saint George

About that Dragon…

St. GeorgeThere was a historical figure named George, who lived from approximately 280 to 303. We know that he traded a military career for the role of “knight for Christ, defender of the faith.” In many of our holy card images of St. George he is portrayed as slaying a dragon….Here’s the story:

According to the old legends about George, an entire pagan village lived in fear of a large and terrifying creature. (Was it a crocodile perhaps?) It had taken up residence in the community spring—their only source of water—and the people wanted to placate it.

In order to fill their buckets, the people tempted the creepy creature to leave the water by offering it a sheep. When the villagers didn’t have enough sheep to give up, they began to surrender their daughters as an offering to the croc. The girls were picked by lottery.

One day a beautiful maiden was chosen as the sacrifice. As she was being bound, a young man on a strong horse appears on the horizon. He prays fervently and then goes into battles against the crocodile. When he defeats the creature, the people of the village convert to Christianity and St. George rides off with the beautiful maiden.

This allegorical narrative reminds us that the world—our village–tells us we should compromise with evil. “Don’t try to resist its mighty power.…placate the devil in order to keep the peace.” But, what the villagers never realize, is that the price of “giving in” increases over time until we are giving away all that is most precious. We end up giving away life itself.

St. George & the Armor of Truth

St. George reminds us to take up the armor of truth. Put on the shield of faith. Confront the devil and defeat his power over our lives!

As far as we know, the historical person named George was a man who defended the faith and made converts as a result of his virtue and the strength of his convictions. Although he was murdered for his faith, his soul triumphed by rising to heaven.

St. George’s feast is celebrated during the Easter season to remind us to take on the “new life in Christ” and be strengthened for battle through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During this Easter season we celebrate the gift of truth and faith that tells us life continues after death. For those who have been cleansed from sin and are clothed in love for Jesus, we will rise with Him to eternal life!

So today is a day to take courage and prepare to slay those nasty dragons!

Thoughts for Good Friday – Ready to Walk, Come Rain or Shine

Ready to Walk, Come Rain or Shine

Tomorrow is a big day. My children and I will be joining dozens of other Catholic families in walking approximately 14 miles while reflecting on the Via Dolorosa. Fourteen miles to remember the 14 Stations of the Passion of Jesus.

For the kids the question on Thursday is: What is the weather going to be like? Last weekend we had freezing weather here in New Mexico and 60 mile an hour winds! There was no escape from the piercing daggers of the wind. But we know that tomorrow, that’s what it’s about…to offer up the discomfort, whatever it is. Continue reading

Prayer to Saint Joseph, Who is Saint Joseph?

Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph was a common manual laborer who descended from the royal house of David. He was destined to become the spouse of Mary, the Mother of God. Joseph was a just man whose faith in God led him to fulfill his holy calling in life to protect and guard God’s greatest treasures upon the earth.

After Joseph was witness to the Messiah’s virgin birth, he modestly retires into the background of the Holy Scripture. He lived out his years in Nazareth and was almost forgotten through the centuries of Church history. Only in more recent times has he been given more honor in the story of Jesus.

There are two major feasts in his honor. On March 19 we honor him personally and to his part in the redemption, while on May 1 we honor him as the patron of workmen throughout the world.

Not much was said about Joseph’s death other than having the most beautiful death; in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

St. Joseph is invoked as patron for many causes. He is the patron of the Universal Church. He is also the patron of fathers, of carpenters, and of social justice.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

Oh Saint Joseph whose protection is so great so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh Saint Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So that having engaged here below your heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of fathers. Oh Saint Joseph I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart press him in my name and kiss His forehead for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. Saint Joseph Patron of departing Souls Pray for me.
Amen.

Find great St. Joseph Statues. & Saint Joseph Medals you will love.

Leprechauns Know Where the Real Treasure is Located!

My mom is 87 years old and she’s a “leprechaun!”

The story starts many years ago…

When she had six little kids at home, Mary Costello pulled out a “Wearin’ Green” box every year during this week preceding St. Patrick’s Day. Whether we liked it or not, each of her children wore wide green belts, green hats, green buttons and green necklaces to school. And St. Patrick’s Day had a certain kind of “magic” to it!

After all her wee ones grew up and left home, Mary and a neighbor, who also had six kids, would visit and swap their green items.

Then Mrs. Ryan got sick. Mom bought a big “cat in the hat” hat, stripped knee-hi’s, floppy felt shoes, and shamrock pins. She brought these items to Mrs. Ryan to cheer her up. When Mrs. Ryan died, Mom boxed up those thing and her Paddy days seemed to have ended.

Then last year she brought them out again to show her Jazzercise teacher. (Yes, not only is she an 87 year old leprechaun but she jumps around on a regular basis!) Pictures were taken. The local priest discovered the secret identity of his parishioner. And presto—treasures have been discovered. The rainbow has an end!

Here’s the conversation between the priest and the leprechaun. It happened just this week:

“Praised be to God, this is a mite beautiful place!” the leprechaun said looking around the Church. She seems to know just where to go. Before the tabernacle the one in green bows low. “Heavenly Day! There it tis!”

“Oh,I hear someone coming. I’ll act casual.”

Father has come out of the door near the sanctuary only to discover a creature in a tall green hat who looks a lot like Mary Costelly. “Ah, so you’re the leprechaun of Cork Hill! What are you doing there? I understand that leprechauns know all about treasure. Is that true?”

“Ayah!  I don’t share my treasure information with everyone. But I know y’er a special one—the pastor of the Cork Hill Parish himself. I fear I cannot hide from you any longer.”

The leprechaun looks furtively toward the tabernacle and then says slowly, “Well, treasure is always adorned in gold. Here, in that box, hidden inside, is the greatest treasure of all the world. It’s a wee house it is, but inside is the King of kings. He’s right there! Isn’t it a wonder?”

“A wonder indeed! Thank you for sharing. It is sad to me that this seems to be a secret from so many. Do you know why they don’t recognize the real treasure when it is right in front of them?”

“Oh don’t be sad, good Father. We’ll spread the word together. I happen to know this treasure will last forever and ever, so I won’t keep it a secret anymore! Good day to you now Father. And may the luck of the Irish be with you!”

Forty Days and Forty Thoughts, Part 2 of 2

Lent & Jesus

In my Sunday School class there’s a little girl who doesn’t say much…ever. When I ran into her at the grocery store after Ash Wednesday, I asked what she was giving up for Lent. She whispered, “All sweets and all desserts.” That’s a tough commitment in the modern world—and she’s only eight years old! Then in class this last Sunday, my daughter handed out freshly baked, homemade cookies to the students. This girl shook her head to refuse, but those around her insisted. “They’re so good!” She left that cookie sitting on the napkin, sending out a sweet aroma, causing some of those around her to beg for it. At the end of the class period she gave it to her mother with a smile. Now that’s inspiring!

Here’s the second half of our Thoughts for 40 Days:

21. Fasting during Lent is quite different from writing a New Year’s resolution. We have only 40 days to get it “right.” It seems like both a LONG time and a SHORT time to put on “the new man.”

22. Padre Pio had the stigmata on his hands. That must have been a trial. Everyone sees your hands. Everyone gawked at his. But trials and blessings are intimately connected.

23. Does it seem to you that everything that could go wrong, does go wrong during these 40 days? It’s like an intense year all crammed in to a short time period.

24. Why 40? It seems to be the number necessary for testing, learning and purification before big changes occur. The Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Moses was on the mountain for forty days. It rained for forty days and night when Noah was in his boat. Elijah went without food for 40 days, and so did Jesus.  All of these were times of preparation and change. Are you ready for change?

25. We will have a new pope by Easter! We pray that the Holy Spirit is, at this very moment, descending on the Conclave and working through the cardinals.

26. We pray for a strengthening of families in this time when the nature of “family” is being pushed and pulled.   Lord, protect and guide our nation that it will defend and support our families.

27. These last few weeks are a time of “pilgrimage.” We are journeying toward our true Home.  It’s time to run the good race and put extra effort into this discipline.

28. Stations of the Cross are one of the most powerful devotions available to us. We need to get our young people to participate so that this memorial doesn’t disappear. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, began in Jerusalem in 313 after Constantine assumed power. Before that, there had been 250 years in which Christians were actively persecuted.

29. Les Miserables is a good movie for the Lenten season. It is a story of misery and hope; sin and grace.

30. The rosary can be said as a “walking meditation.” Try it. It offers balm for both the body and the soul.

31. “Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives….So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy.” Words of wisdom from St. Peter Chrysologus, a doctor of the Church who lived from 400-450.

32. Here’s another quote from this 5th Century saint about the Real Presence; “He is the bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, placed in the churches, and set upon the altars, which daily supplies heavenly food to the faithful.”

33. Nowadays, love is defined by “how he/she makes me feel.” The goal of life is said to be “self-fulfillment.” But the truth is: we are filled up, only when we empty ourselves and give to the other without expecting anything in return. That’s one of those paradoxes we learn from Jesus.

34. St. Paul says we are to “boast in Christ.” God is the source of all goodness, all truth, all love, all success. It’s important to give the credit to Him.

35. There are great rewards that come to those who let go of worldly desires. It’s hard to see that truth when we are entrenched in the world. That is why Lent has so much to offer.

36. We peel back one attachment at a time. “I’m letting go of meat on Fridays. Now I’m letting go of eating between meals. Now I’m letting go of other attachments.” The peelings are gone. The essence is revealed: we belong to Christ.

37. “We are in a race and run to win,” says St. Paul. This competition is against the devil. Can we escape from his snares? Self-discipline is required, which all runners know is essential.

38. We hope and trust in our Lord. His generous mercy is boundless.

39. Jesus, my Lord and my God, have mercy on me a sinner.

40. By the paradox of surrender and death, Jesus conquered. We surrender to Him in order to receive new life. May this Easter be a special blessing!

Forty Days and Forty Thoughts on the Beauty and Mystery of Lent

Lent and Christ

Part 1 of 2 of the Mysteries of Lent

My son will be confirmed in April. In writing a letter to the bishop to apply for this sacrament he wrote, “I’m proud to be Catholic because the Church speaks up for Truth. We Catholics know why we were made. God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him. It’s reassuring to understand this.” What he wrote reminded me that Lent is the season to re-align ourselves with Truth…we were made for a purpose…to love in the way Jesus loved.

Here are forty thoughts for the forty days when we contemplate the meaning of love. (Twenty thoughts for February and 20 more to come in March.)

  1. On Ash Wednesday, we are “marked for Christ.” We belong to Him. This is a wake-up call.
  2. Most of the year, we go “one step forward and two steps backward” in our spiritual growth. It takes constant attention to continue forward. Now is the time.
  3. What about making a special place for prayer? This can be a visual reminder of what we need to be doing.
  4. Sometimes Lent seems gloomy. It comes at a time when winter is hanging on. The beauty of Lent is in the challenge to “walk with Christ.” Forty days for Him…that’s the least we can offer!
  5. We all love the discipline and routine of going to a gym, an aerobics class or a regular exercise routine. We know it makes us feel better. Lent is a discipline, routine and “feel better” system for the soul!
  6. Lent is a good time to take back control of the tongue! It’s easy to spout off or share stories about others. But it’s better to hold back, wait and consider the consequences of any speech.
  7. We are called to be saints. There are no excuses for not putting in the effort.
  8. When our teenagers whine about “what am I gonna do with my life?” it’s good to remind them… “God made you for a purpose….you are called to be a saint.”
  9. Light comes only after darkness. In the difficulties of this time in our lives, there is hope. There is light. It shines most brightly at Easter.
  10. When I was a kid, I spent every evening during Lent drawing religious pictures. It’s time to return to the wisdom of childhood.
  11. All of history is hinged on the few days of Christ’s passion and death. That’s the point of this forty days. We return our hearts to that pivotal event.
  12. After Jesus spent his preparation time of forty days in the desert, the devil’s first temptation was food. “Eat. Eat!”  It may be a struggle to control what we eat but therein lies the reason for it. We need to “just say no” to the devil’s many temptations.
  13. Candles are significant during Lent. A candle lights a small area. God gives us enough light for this moment. For the moments ahead we are to trust Him.
  14. Jesus chose to suffer and die out of love for you, love for me. “I scarce can take it in” are the words in the song “How Great Thou Art.”
  15. Post pictures of Jesus around the house. We remember how He loves us.
  16. Offer up anything that’s difficult. Imagine it is united with the sufferings of Jesus. Maybe out small sacrifices go across the centuries and make the pain He suffered just a little bit easier to bear.
  17. We are going to have a new Pope soon. Lent is a time to offer up special prayers for the cardinals who will make this momentous decision.
  18. In all our communities there are people who are suffering from loneliness, divorce, illness, hunger and homelessness. Feel for a moment what those things are like. Feel the hurt. Pray for all of those who are suffering.
  19. Read the story of a modern day hero. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe was captured by the Nazis for hiding Jews and speaking out against oppression. In Auschwitz, another man was scheduled to be killed. St. Maximilian said, “I’ll take his place.” He offered up his life for a stranger.
  20.  Every day is a new opportunity to offer up our lives in love for Jesus.

Lent is the Power Season

Lent and Fasting

Lent and FastingThe Power Season
Lent is the Power Season. It’s the time to rein in all those straying practices…the “pig out” tendency, the munchies tendency, the “grouchy ‘til 4 cups of coffee” tendency, the “I’ll pray later” tendency. It’s our time to feel the power of true Love.

When my daughter was learning to ride horses, the first lesson from her teacher was “How to Stop: Use your Reins.” When you’re a little girl on a big, powerful animal, you’d better know how to get it to stop, or you could be in big trouble! Similarly, the Church in her infinite wisdom, gives us a season to Stop. It is lesson #1, the first and the best way to grow in faith.

I use that word, STOP, as an acronym for: Stillness, Training, Orderliness, Perseverance.
Lent means seeking the stillness of the desert. We join Jesus on his 40 days of pilgrimage.
Lent means training the body through self discipline. “Why?” my Sunday School students asked. “Why can’t we eat meat on Friday? I hate fish.” We practice fasting and abstinence, as voluntary sacrifices. We join our small offerings of sacrifice with Jesus’ great offering of Himself. What is the giving up of meat or candies, or the between-meal munching in comparison to the love of Jesus, who surrendered His life on our behalf? Our forms of training in self discipline and sacrifice, prepares us for greater giving. Jesus gave up life itself, in order to show us the way to New Life. Only in training our minds, hearts and bodies can we fully understand this great gift.

Lent means creating order in the chaos of our lives. First, and most important in all the demands of our lives, is our relationship with God. Nothing is more important. Love flows when we are filled up by He Who Loves. We order our priorities. We order our time.
Lent means we must be persevering. It’s never easy. But the more we STOP, during Lent, the more we will grow in love for the King of kings!

Claim the power that can come when you STOP this Lent to “Look at Him!”

Are you Ready for a New Year Challenge?

Happy New Year

The New You

Although the liturgical calendar doesn’t celebrate New Year’s Day per se, we are often exhorted to “put on the new man.” In Ephesians 4:24, St. Paul tells us to assume a new nature as Christians.  This is not a trifling change we are called to make. The Apostle doesn’t say “put on a new garment” or “wear new shoes”….instead we are called to a whole new life!

It makes sense to take up this renewal and regeneration once a year. In the midst of winter, when snow covers much of the ground and the earth retreats into itself, we should take the time to make an inventory of our efforts to be holy—as Jesus said, “Be holy because  I am holy.” (1Peter 1:16).

I have often wondered about that word—“holy”.  So I looked it up! It comes from the Old English word hāl  which literally mean “whole” and the word “health” also has the same derivation.  So holiness really means to be healthy and whole from a spiritual perspective. That is certainly what it means to put on the new man.  We need to patch up the places where virtue has been lost; re-commit to prayer and the sacraments; fix the relationships that are broken; start a new life devoted to faith.

It makes me think of my grandfather, John Aubry. Every year during my childhood, my mom would talk about what Christmas meant to her.  She lived through the Great Depression, during a time when my grandfather worked for the railroad line that came through Moline, IL. There were times when there wasn’t a lot of food and there was certainly no money for gifts. But my grandfather had a Santa Claus physique and attitude. He was jolly no matter what was happening in the world.

At Christmas time he scoured the dumpsters behind stores and asked around among the neighbors. Then he brought home piles of broken and mutilated toys. These he carefully twisted and soldered. He painted and polished, while humming tunes to himself. Soon, he had a supply of shiny, new-looking gifts. And that’s what my mom and the needy children of the area received for Christmas! The children felt they were receiving treasures!

John Aubry had many qualities of holiness. He was charitable, kind and joyful. And he showed these qualities because of the outward difficulties of life.  He refrained from negativity and worked toward peace instead.  And he was committed to his faith in every way. Those are godly qualities.

To be whole and totally Christian, is to be disciplined by virtue and devoted to the sacraments. We need the food of angels, the Bread of Life (Eucharist); we need the health that comes from cleanliness of spirit (Confession); we need the words of healing (Scripture and Prayer.) This is a good time to begin anew.

Take the challenge: Put on the new self in the New Year!  

Christmas Tales, Father Larry’s Cat

Fr Larry's Christmas Cat

Father Larry’s Cat

This is our babies’ First Christmas. “How sweet,” you say.  Well, not really…

That’s because one “baby” is a cat named Freckle. The fat cat fights with baby #2, an overgrown puppy. Between the two of them we have Christmas troubles.

Freckle came to us on the fourth of July. Independence Day is quite appropriate as the new beginning for a stray kitten. Back then, Freckle was tiny and cuddly  and interested in religious things. Brigit, age 13, found him roaming around outside the church, crying out his prayer that some unsuspecting person would take him home.

And that would have to be the child who regularly brings home strays. Brigit carried him into the sacristy to show him to her favorite priest, Fr. Larry.

“I see you found my kitten,” Father said.  Brigit’s face turned from a smile to a frown. But Father continued. “That kitty has been here since last night trying to sneak into Church. And I’d take him home in a minute. But our parish pastor is allergic to cats. So…that means….”

“That means I can hold him during Mass, right?”

“If you keep him quiet and you pray!”

So that’s how we brought home “Fr. Larry’s cat.” My husband made a contract with us–Fr. Larry owns the back half and we own the front. So, Fr. Larry obligingly brings the cat regular gifts of …cat litter!

Now, fast forward six months to his first Christmas. Freckle has grown to be a bruiser of a cat at sixteen pounds! He likes to pounce, PLOP, on the middle of my computer keyboard. There is not a shred of gracefulness in him. And he has been eyeing the Christmas tree since it went up.

Meanwhile, a trip to the grocery store meant we returned with few groceries but one large puppy! Now the cat pulls down the Christmas tree and the puppy tries to eat it! When they aren’t attacking the tree, they are rolling over each other in one round ball of fur.

The top of the recliner is where Freckle likes to spread himself out like a thick bear rug.  Sadly, Brigit’s brother, Peter, ignored the cat-proofing regulations and set a box of fragile glass ornaments on top of the chair. Freckle saw the toy but was quite disappointed since it only took one swat to send that box crashing. The fat cat sifted through the mess, spreading glass crumbs far and wide.

If we reprimand Freckle he knows how to cross his paws to look like he’s praying. He looks up with those big moist eyes and says, “At least Fr. Larry loves me!”

Meanwhile the puppy ate one of my presents from under the mutilated tree.

O, there goes the present. O, there goes the tree. This is the Christmas, God has given to thee!!

Musings:

In honor of Freckle’s priest, Fr. Larry, we want to remind everyone not to forget the parish priest this Christmas. In the past, I have created religious artwork for our pastor. This year, though, I think Fr. Larry will get a portrait of his “praying kitty.”

One of our priests told me secretly that he has been given enough scarves as Christmas presents to create a mummy! And priests tend to receive enough sweets to start a special ward for diabetics at the local hospital. So think about creative alternatives this year!

Our Prayer for the Victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School

Prayers for Sandy Hook Elementary School

Prayers for Sandy Hook Elementary SchoolChildren of Light

The Friday killings of 1st grade children in Connecticut is a fearful thing that has shaken our country. It is a stark reminder that evil exists. For children to be murdered…there can be no reason or sense.

The souls of children are pure and the devil hates that purity. But the clean hearts of children will shine through any bloodshed.

Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río, age 14, and St. Maria Goretti, age 11, are two children who were tortured and murdered in the 20th century. Their faith shined through the darkness of death. These young saints call us to persevere in faith, prayer and love for Our Suffering Savior. We pray to them now for help in healing.

Jesus made the greatest acts of generosity and love the world has ever seen. He who is God, King, Lord and Ruler, came to earth as a vulnerable baby, born in the poorest of circumstances. He came to give hope to the hopeless, to bring light into darkness, and to let us know that no matter how atrocious the devil can be when he takes over human hearts, no matter what the devil does, Jesus conquers death and rewards the pure of heart.

Blessed Jose Luis and St. Maria pray for our country and help the families who are in shock and grief.

The Grand Conversion Story – Our Lady of Guadalupe December 12th

Our Lady of Guadalupe

How can the story of She-Who-Transformed-a-Nation be so unknown?  The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe is far more than just an apparition to one man. It is more than just her miraculously leaving an image of herself on a cloak made of cactus fibers.  But you would think the truth is a secret.   Does anyone know this story?

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531.  During that same time period, the Reformation was taking hold in Europe and thousands of people were deserting the Catholic Church to follow new ideas.  Meanwhile in Mexico, the opposite was soon to be true!

But in year 1531, the Aztec religion still had a hold on the native peoples of Mexico.  Many felt the gods they had known needed to be placated with human sacrifices. The number of bloody sacrifices in previous generations had been astronomical.

Our Lady appeared to a humble peasant who had no power to change anything. But Mary’s image spoke volumes to Juan Diego and to all the people of Mexico. Her brown skin and deferential posture said that she came for both the Aztec and Spanish people. She unites the two. She wears a black belt meaning she is pregnant. She stands on a black moon which is the Aztec symbol for Mexico. The moon is lifted up by a winged angel which means that she is a heavenly creature.

In the pictographic language of the Aztecs, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe communicated that the child of her womb is true royalty and He is more powerful and important than other gods of the Aztecs.

The amazing story of Our Lady of Guadalupe continues. By 1541, just 10 years after her appearance to Juan Diego, a historian of the time wrote that 9 million people in Mexico had converted to Catholicism! In a non-bloody way, the people of an entire country were converted. They left behind their old gods and discovered the truth of the Incarnation.

Our Lady of Guadalupe freed an entire people from a culture that had relied on the sacrificing of thousands of innocents each year.  I am thrilled to know the true story of the conversion of a nation! Our Lady of Guadalupe looks down in humility. But in her eyes, she carries all people. Her beauty and her presence is a powerful witness to Truth.

When the young priest first came to our Church right around Dec. 12 two years ago, he said, “We need Our Lady of Guadalupe NOW. Spread the word.”

So that’s what I’m doing. Spread the word. This is no time to keep good news a secret!

Why is Advent Special?

Advent Calendar

To me, Advent is a time of Love, Joy, Family, Friends, and Jesus.  It is more than just purple candles and flip-open paper calendars.  This Catholic celebration is more than 2000 years old and is filled with tradition and spiritual meaning for all of us to partake in.  But why is it so special?

The Meaning of Advent

Advent WreathLet’s start with the basics, what does Advent mean?  Its literal Latin translation is “coming” or “arrival”.   The more complete meaning is one of great spiritual importance as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ in all forms – The birth of Baby Jesus the Messiah, the anticipation of the future second coming of Christ, and the celebration of Christ in our lives through the sacrament of Holy Communion.

For Catholics, Advent is a celebration of the truth of God.  The revelation of God in Christ. The belief that we are all created by God and the faithfulness of His arrival on Earth.  All in an attempt to help us overcome the judgment of sin and experience the joy of eternal life.

We believe and celebrate that Jesus is among us, that he is one of us and isn’t revealing himself until he is really ready.  He will return again and help the poor and the disabled with his powers. To help us love one another as we should “love your neighbour as yourself”, without loving yourself how can you love someone else? Jesus will return and help us realise how to love ourselves and others.

The Advents Wreath Colors and Meaning

The Advent wreath is traditionally made out of evergreen and symbolises the start of something new and great and that there is always hope no matter what the situation.  More contemporary Advent wreaths come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the use and intention are always the same.  The candle combination can be comprised of four or five candles. If there is a fifth candle it is typically white and is lit on the last Sunday of Advent.  There is one pink candle and 3 purple candles.  In some churches they use either royal blue or bright blue.

 

Pink / Rose – The arrival of Christ our King.

Purple – Represents penitence and fasting as well as royalty to welcome the king.

White – Represents Purity

Royal Blue – Symbolises royalty

Bright Blue – Symbolise the night sky

 

• December 3, 2017 – First Sunday of Advent  (purple candle, theme is Hope)
• December 10, 2017 – Second Sunday of Advent  (purple candle, theme is Love)
• December 17, 2017 – Third Sunday of Advent  (purple or pink candle, theme is Joy)
• December 24, 2017 – Fourth Sunday of Advent (purple candle, theme is Peace)

Advent and Christmas abroad – Cologne, Germany

Advent has always been a special time for me as it prepares my family, my soul, my mind, and my home for the Christmas season.  Being raised in a Catholic home in Cologne, Germany, the four weeks of Advent were the perfect celebration and reminder of what the real meaning of Christmas is all about.  As children, we followed our Advent Calendar, made Advent tree decorations, lit Advent Candles and prayed.  The four weeks prior to Christmas are always filled with spiritual excitement and anticipation!

In many countries the Advent and Christmas celebrations are different and the city / country I am most familiar with is Cologne (Köln) in Germany. In Cologne the celebration of Advent begins with opening a huge Christmas Market (Weihnachts Markt) which is an event that is hundreds of years old.  The market is huge and is set against the backdrop of the famous and beautiful Cologne Cathedral.  The market stalls are filled with a wonderful variety of goods from local artisans and businesses and includes the sale of food, clothes, sweets, movies and much, much more. The market is more than just a place to buy things it is a place to FEEL things.  It is a great way of communicating with other people and making new friends. The spirit of giving and love and Christ is in the air!

In Germany the Catholic Church has a tradition whereby teenagers volunteer at the church during services and the biggest church celebration is during Advent.  I was an altar server for several years while living in Cologne and love my memories of working in the church, especially during Advent where you want everything with the church celebrations to be PERFECT!  It isn’t always an easy task but doing it is fun!  That is me in the picture above, I’m the last girl in line holding a large votive candle during an Advent service.

Enjoy the celebration of Advent.  I know I will!  God bless!

November is Gratitude Month

Gratitude

The month of November is a great time to focus on gratitude. I teach my Sunday School students to learn this phrasing from Psalm 136: “We give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever!”

It’s good to remind kids every day about how much we have to be grateful for.

Here’s our list of Gratitude

  • We are grateful for a cat who keeps us on our toes! The big, fat cat, will sleep close to your face purring. But the proximity is not for showing affection, instead, when he sees an eyelid flutter he tries to stop the motion. Fortunately, he keeps his claws in!
  • We are grateful for our barn even though the roof is falling, because it hasn’t caved in and it still keeps the hay dry.
  • We are grateful for the thousands of books we have in our house because it gives us an excuse not to buy furniture…there would be no room for it!
  •  We are grateful for the old dog our elderly neighbor left behind when she moved into the big city…the old dog is unable to jump up on people, in contrast to the excitable puppy.
  • We try to be grateful for the excitable puppy who turns one year old this month. She’s got to have something in her mouth at all times, which is reminiscent of her teenage owner. Peter is always eating! We stay stocked in stuffed toys for the dog, and granola bars for her owner!
  • We are grateful for the excuse, “There is no money, honey” so we don’t have to even think about buying the new technology fads that come along, for the teenager who wishes she had what other’s have. One child begs for it. But we are grateful that the other child yawns over it!
  • We are grateful that our children are now teenagers. (Did I really say that?!) There are only a few more years of insanity left!
  • We are grateful for Church because it is “Mom’s second home.” The kids like to say, “Do you know where your Mom is at? At least we know!”
  • We are grateful for GPS because Mom only gets lost half the time (instead of ALL the time) when she goes into the “big city” now.
  • We are grateful for a “trac phone” because we have “no plan” to keep paying, when we don’t use it much.
  • We are grateful for neighbors. When the barn roof was flapping in the wind, the neighbor quietly went and pounded it back in place. Only a glance out the window revealed who that secret helper was.

We give thanks to the Lord for He is all Good. Look at the Love that endures forever!

A New Saint – Kateri Tekakwitha

Kateri

I had never heard about the “North American martyrs” growing up.  But I moved to New Mexico and our parish priest here liked to talk about them. These were 8 priests who came during the early 1600s to convert the Native people along the northeast coast up into Canada.

The Hurons were a fierce tribe. When sickness broke out, it was easy to blame it on the foreigners. The priests were tortured in especially brutal ways by the Mohawks. Yet, these men showed incredible courage, continuing to preach and pray in spite of the horrors, and many were converted.

Just ten years after the blood of these martyrs was spilled, a young woman was born to the Mohawks. Kateri Tekakwitha converted and faced persecution in her tribe. But she remained devoted to the Eucharist and spent her short life caring for the elderly and the sick. She died at age 24.

On October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a saint.

A New Saint: Kateri Tekakwitha

Over twenty years ago, when our community was building a new church, the question was “Who will be our patron?”  Kateri Tekakwitha was a popular suggestion. But, at that time, she was still a “blessed.” Not yet a saint. But now that’s changed. She’s a saint and we are celebrating here in New Mexico! Kateri is dear to our hearts because she’s the first Native American saint and we have many Native people in our parishes.

So we are happy to know that the Lilly of the Mohawks” has been officially named as a saint.

Kateri came from a fierce tribe. She was born in New York but up along the northeast border with Canada. She comes from the area where eight North American missionaries were martyred.

The  8 priests who came during the early 1600s to convert the Native peoples were accused of bringing bad luck to the people. When sickness broke out, it was easy to blame it on the foreigners. The priests were tortured in especially brutal ways by the Mohawks. Yet, these men showed incredible courage, continuing to preach and pray in spite of the horrors, and many were converted.

Just ten years later, after the blood of these martyrs was spilled, a young woman was born in that Mohawk village. Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism and faced persecution in her tribe. But she remained devoted to the Eucharist and spent her short life caring for the elderly and the sick. She died at age 24.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was declared a model of courage and humility.

St. Kateri  is one of seven new saints who were canonized on World Mission Sunday. They help us realize that saints come from many walks of life. They are young and old. They are beautiful, like Kateri, and homely. They are LIKE US. And like St. Paul they said, “I come to share the message of Jesus. Yet, more than that, I share my life with you.”

Celebrating Saints: October is a good month to begin!

October Saint Celebration

October Saint CelebrationIn my Religious Formation classes we spend most of October talking about saints. The saints lived out the Gospel message of love and devotion in different ways. They weren’t perfect people. Many, like St. Augustine, didn’t turn away from a sinful lifestyle until later in their lives. What the saints all have in common is a deep longing to be closer to God. There are pilgrims who set out on a certain path for Home.

Christian philosophers say that God planted that same longing for Heaven in every soul. That means we all have what it takes to become saints! It’s like setting out on a hike. The urge to go forward is there. But to succeed we need a backpack of supplies…a “Spiritual Backpack.” And we need to stay on the path. In our Backpack we put in prayer, the sacraments and our angels! The great love of God is all around us—it just takes better awareness to know that great truth. God has given us invisible angels, and angelic friends. We have the help of a Heavenly Mother who is loving us in every moment. And we have the witness of saints standing there on the road up ahead.

So first we pray—that’s the nourishment of the great Longing to set out on this path. Then we keep focused on the path ahead. We do this by going to Mass more often and by surrounding ourselves with things that tell us about the saints and their faith: books, websites, daily quotes delivered to email, study groups at church and adult formation opportunities.

The saints are there just ahead of us, calling out, “If I can do it, you can do it!” Every year at this time I tell my students about saints they may not have heard of. Here’s an October list:

Saint Paul of the Cross

who lived from 1694-1775 in Italy, has a feast day on Oct. 20. St. Paul felt that meditating on the Passion of Jesus is the best way to stay focused on the path ahead.  Jesus suffered terribly when He could have struck down His persecutors with one gesture. Instead, He endured pain and death out of love for us. Since we too know suffering, although not to that extreme, we have some empathy and understanding. St. Paul of the Cross founded a religious order, the Passionists, to spread greater awareness of the reason for Jesus’ suffering. He walked across Italy carrying a large wooden crucifix, making sacrifices for others and teaching.  At one point a large crowd surrounded him. When dark clouds gathered and thunder echoed all around, St. Paul held up his crucifix. The rain pelted down but no one listening to St. Paul got wet! He was a mystic and visionary who predicted that a crucifix he left behind in a church would continue the teaching he began. The crucifix began to sweat a blue liquid and all who saw it were converted!

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

was the French visionary of the 17th century who saw the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her feast day is Oct. 16.  St. Margaret was a sickly child but she made a vow to the Blessed Mother to dedicate her life to prayer. She was instantly healed.  In her visions of Jesus she was told to promote the practice of receiving Communion on the First Friday of every month and attending Adoration to spend a “Holy Hour” with Jesus in His suffering at the Garden of Gethsemane.

These are important things to add to our “Spiritual Backpack,” St. Margaret Mary tells us.

Saint Anthony Mary Claret

lived from 1807 to 1870 and his feast day is Oct. 24. His autobiography can be found online! St. Anthony Mary started out his adulthood as an accomplished and successful weaver.  One day while walking along the seashore in Spain, a wave swept him out to deep water. He was drowning so he called out to the Blessed Mother. Instantly he was back on shore.  He recognized the message of this incident: the “sea of peril” in worldly things was causing him to neglect his soul. He had gone off the path and he understood that “neglect” is what kills the soul. St. Anthony Mary had a missionary spirit and set out to preach in both Spain and Cuba. He was devoted to the Immaculate Conception after seeing Our Lady in visions. She asked him to promote the rosary in the modern world.

Saint Hedwig

  was a Duchess from Poland who died in 1243. Her feast day is also on Oct. 16. She was from a royal family but she rejected the trappings of wealth and gave to the poor. She washed the feet of lepers, fasted and prayed for others, and helped start monasteries. After her husband’s death she joined a convent led by her daughter. There she grew in holiness, developing and using the “tools in the Spiritual Backpack.”  Her life story isn’t flashy. She was simply prayerful and pious every single day. During the process of canonization, the Pope asked for her intercession for a blind girl. The girl was immediately cured.

The urge to set out on the saintly road is inside of us. Let’s begin!

Saint Hedwig and St. Margaret Mary: Oct 16

Saint Paul of the Cross: Oct 20

Saint Anthony Mary Claret: Oct. 24

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