Tag Archives: prayer

An Advent Reflection

December 3, 2014

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I have agreed to be a guest writer on facebook for a new organization -Women In the New Evangelization. The acronym is WINE. To my delight, the first time I write the daily post, the daily readings include one of my favorite passages about food and WINE.
Below is my post. If you would like to follow the daily Advent reflections just like us on facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/WomenIntheNewEvangelization/posts/292443567616033:0

A favorite passage from today’s readings.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
Isaiah 25:6

A feast of rich food and choice wines! This is what God promises us!

A feast of rich food and choice wines!

A feast of rich food and choice wines!

I don’t know about you but I love a party and I love to host parties. Gathering friends around for special moments is a wonderful part of the Christmas season. Parties take preparation and that is what Advent is about – preparing for the feast.

Preparation includes arraigning for and cooking the food. Planning the drinks decorating and making sure everyone has a place to sit. It may require rearranging a room, polishing the silver or plates from a friend. There are centerpieces to think about and…. the list goes on.

I have a friend who has the spiritual gift of hospitality. No matter what is going on in her life, when you enter her home you always feel welcome. It helps that she is an excellent cook! One day she shared with me a secret of her party prep.

She prays!

She prays for every guest that is coming, she prays for good and enlightening conversation, she prays for all to feel welcomed and loved. Sitting quietly and praying before 6 or 20 people are set to arrive at my house is not something I usually turn to in the frenzy of last minute prep but when I did it, it put my heart in the right place. I focused on my guests and not if my hors d’oeuvres would get a complement or that no one notices the stain in the carpet. Those worries are all wrong because they are focused on me and not on my guests.

This Advent as you prepare for your feasts – add prayer to your party preparation. It is one thing that isn’t mentioned in the Martha Stewart handbook!

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A time for waiting . . . and thanksgiving

December 1, 2014

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Father Michael Becker, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, poses for a picture with his 10-point buck.

Father Michael Becker, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, poses for a picture with his 10-point buck.

As we make the transition from Thanksgiving season to Advent, I offer a story that combines both — offering thanks to God and waiting for his blessing. It comes from Father Michael Becker, rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul and avid deer hunter. In his own words:

“The first weekend of deer hunting opener, I was stationed in a stand one hour west of Bemidji. I saw a total of 10 small 1-year-old deer at different moments in the morning and late afternoon.  The party I hunt with abides by the rule that one never shoots a buck with less than eight points on a full rack, so that the young bucks can grow, and one never shoots a yearling unless you want to be made fun of.

About fifteen minutes after sunset, I decided that I would get on my knees and thank God for the beauty of his creation — the sun, the moon and the stars, the vegetation, the snow on the ground, and all these 1-year old small deer frolicking around the tree line.

It was not but thirty seconds after I knelt down and offered my thanks to God that a larger 2-year-old fork buck trotted past my stand. I saw it head toward the woods 40 yards to my east, and watched it elegantly scope out the territory before heading into the woods.

As I am a guest on Jerry and Bitsy Dehmer’s land, I abide by the same rules they follow, which is again not to shoot any bucks with less than full racks, but to let them grow to full stature. Suddenly, the fork buck took off running at high speed away from the woods. I thought, ‘Wow, there must be a bigger buck in that woods claiming the territory and chasing him away.’

So, I lifted my rifle and got in place, ready to shoot. The next sight was stunning. I watched a 200-pound black bear climb a tree on the edge of the forest like a monkey. I was in awe at how fast it ascended and descended, and realized, ‘One trying to escape a black bear by climbing a tree would never make it.’

Then, it climbed a second tree. I’m not sure what it was looking for, as the trees were barren, but the sight left me in awe. I continued to thank God for his small and great gifts of love.

The second day followed a cold storm, which lifted about midnight, leaving a very bright moon to shine on the landscape. As a result, most deer were out feeding in the night, and no one saw deer in the morning’s hunt. At dusk Sunday evening — and, mind you, I had celebrated Mass the evening before with the whole Dehmer clan — we all went out to our stands, and I took the stand on what is called, ‘Machinery Hill,’ as a few old combining pieces rest on the 15-foot hill overlooking a patch of corn and beans.

Jerry Dehmer, the grandfather and owner of the land, instructed me to go to Machinery Hill because there was more food left in that area for the deer to graze. Internally I wondered, ‘Maybe I should go to another stand in which no one has yet sat,’ but this little interior voice told me, ‘Trust Jerry’s advice.’

You see, Jerry has been hunting and trapping since he was 8 years old. For much of his youth he trapped fox and skunk, selling the hides for money. He is an expert huntsman, who has shot many whitetail deer, elk, antelope, etc. So, I trusted Jerry and went to his recommended stand. One other thing about Jerry and his family: No matter how good the hunt, one always gets out of his stand on Sunday to go to church!

Now sunset was judged to be 4:46 p.m. that evening; thus the final minute to shoot would be 5:16 p.m., which is one half hour after sunset. As in the first day, I saw only small yearlings, but this time 13 of them in different packs. They were cute and playful.

About the last 10 minutes of my hunt, because I could not go out on the second weekend, I decided again to simply thank God for all his gifts of love, in creation, in prayer, in the Sacraments, in the Scriptures, in my family and in friends like the Dehmers, in my vocation as a Catholic priest, and in these 13 small deer who scampered around 20 yards from my stand.

As soon as I completed my prayer of thanksgiving, sure enough, this large buck comes strutting out of the woods. It chased some of the yearlings, only to discover they were not ready for mating, then left a large scrape on the ground under a twig, into which it pressed its facial gland, leaving notice to any does in heat.

Sighting the buck in my scope, I recognized the antlers widened beyond the ears, revealing it to be a fully mature male whitetail deer. My first shot was over the buck, highly unusual for me, but the sound the bullet made in the woods behind him confused his judgment, and thus he stood for another second trying to get his bearings. This gave me the opportunity to lower the rifle and put a bullet through the heart. Upon retrieval, I found that it was a 10-point buck with a beautiful, full body. God is good to the grateful man!”

Congratulations go to Father Becker! I’m sure that made quite a story for dozens of seminarians at SJV. We’ll have to see if that buck makes it to the wall of his office. If it does, it will join two other handsome buck mounts already there.

I think my strategy for next year should include asking Father Becker to bless all of my deer hunting gear, especially my bow and my gun!

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When is Enough, Enough?

November 28, 2014

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Liscenced under creative commomsI have not been a Black Friday shopper ever since I used to work in retail.  Although I would go out with the family and grab lunch or look around, it was a rare occasion that I would head out early and brave the crowds while I muscle my way into a store.  When our children were little, my husband did head out at 4 a.m. to get a special electronic gift for our son, but in general I have tried to avoid the shopping frenzy.  Part of my reasoning to minimized my Black Friday shopping has come from my many years of working in retail and from working on Black Friday.  Crazy is even crazier from the other side of the cash register.

The practice if detachment is spiritual practice.  Their may be some people who are called to rid themselves of all material goods but detachment is not just about or for those in a religious order.  Just as their are different ways to approach our prayer life based on our state of life – we approach the practice of detachment in different ways. The Church teaches that we can serve the Lord and grow in holiness through many ways.  But St. Paul also tells us that the Christian engaged in secular activities must inwardly detach from them: “those who have wives should live as though they have none . . . buyers should conduct themselves as if they owned nothing, and those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away.”  (I Cor 7:29-31)

Detachment  is a response to God’s love for us. When you fall in love, everyone else in your life pales beside the beloved. You change your schedule and your priorities.

Putting Paul’s advise from first century Palestine into practice in 21st century America can be tough. Having news reports and ads constantly telling you that you are missing out leave you feeling like you really are missing out but I try to remember that I have enough.  Their is this little anxiety thing that  happens. It is a cross between feeling like you are missing out because you are not spending money and the fear of not having enough or being enough. This year I am even more apprehensive to fall into the spend just to spend frenzy that happens in theses days after Thanksgiving.  Long term financial security is uncertain as I work through my next career move and though I am looking forward to the time off to enjoy the holidays I do have the realization that my life seems to give me time when I have no money.

Sticking to our holiday buying budget is always important but this year we will be trying to put our spending to where it is most important.  That may mean that if the must have item is 50% off today only, I will brave the elements to get the deal but work really hard not to fall into buying the impulse item sitting next to it.  I am focusing on my time I get to spend with family and recognizing that my time is a gift as I try to be thankful for all I already have.

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Saints and souls

October 31, 2014

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This weekend, the Church gives honor to the saints in heaven and the souls of those who have died. Both are worthy of our prayers and attention.The saints in heaven are the “cloud of witnesses” whose model for living in the earthly world shows us how possible it is for us to live holy lives — even though it is challenging. Their prayers for us can provide real strength in our daily lives. I highly recommend that every home have a book about the saints for the family to share. Personally, I like to read about a different saint each day in Alban Butler’s “Lives of the Saints.”

All Saints Day is immediately followed by All Souls Day – the Day of the Dead – a day when we especially remember those who have died. On this day we pray for their souls and ask them to pray for us as we continue our work here on earth. Again,  I especially pray for and ask for prayers from many loved ones who are gone but who modeled Christ-like living for me.I recently went on a pilgrimage with my parents to Osakis, Minn., and Cando, N.D., to visit the graves of my grandparents. I went with them at a time when I was struggling with the weight of expectations that often feel so overwhelming that I am bowed by them. I went seeking the peace and reassurance that their faith in God and strength of character instilled in me by the model of their lives. As I traced their names on their gravestones and prayed for a reminder of their belief in me and their personal resolve in challenging times, I felt God’s holy presence — past, present, future — in all the memories of my time with them: in the current moment as I stood at their graves, in the day when I hope to stand with them again in eternity. And as I walked away with tears in my eyes, my dad reminded me of the strength that they instilled in me by their faith and that I indeed have all the strength I need to meet the tasks before me. Just because my family created a strong faith foundation didn’t mean that everything would be easy, but it would  always be founded on love for the Lord and love for others.

You may wonder why I share this with you today. I write because I feel called to as I anticipate both All Saints and All Souls Day. I write because I love Pope John Paul II Catholic School and my Catholic faith, and I write because I love the children of this school — past, present and future. Educating the whole person means that our first and primary obligation is to introduce the children to Jesus Christ at the same time as we provide them with an academic education that prepares them for high school. I write because this school makes a difference in northeast Minneapolis and it is only in strong, united Catholic parishes and schools that we can introduce the Lord to the children in our community who do not attend our school.

May all the Saints and Souls who have gone before us — pray for us!

 

Debbie King is principal at St. John Paul II School in northeast Minneapolis.

 

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Brittany Maynard, Starlings & the Body of Christ

October 11, 2014

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starling-swarm

Brittany Maynard’s story was covered in media all over the country.  If you haven’t heard, it is the story of a 29 year old woman diagnosed with brain cancer who has decided to take her own life.  By all accounts; the news, social media, and the medical community see this as a good thing and the pro-Euthanasia group Compassion and Choices (Formerly the Hemlock Society) is using this press to get more political clout to change the laws in more states to allow for mercy killing. The story painted in these reports is very easy to enter into with misguided compassion.  Brittany has been told by experts that her type of cancer is a terrible way to die and she plans to take her own life by a doctor prescribed drug on November 1, just 2 days after her husband’s birthday. The video that accompanies her story contains her testimony as well as that of her husband and parents.  It seems they are all in agreement that this is the right thing to do.
As I read this report I know their is something missing in this story.  Of course – I could site examples when people have been cured of incurable diseases. I could point out the slippery slope of euthanasia where it has become legal like Belgium where now children of any age can make the choice to be euthanized and diagnoses such as depression can be deemed a medical reason to assist them in suicide.  I could point out the lack of understanding about redemptive suffering.  A teaching of our faith that very few – even the faithful can understand. Or I could point out how this is selfish to deny others of being with her – and her time left on earth. The open letter by Kara Tippets - herself a woman dying of cancer addresses much of what is missing in this story of Brittany.

We have heard from Brittany’s perspective and her parents and her husband but the story not being told is the story from our Heavenly Father’s point of view. We do not know God’s plan.  The hardest words for me to say in the prayer the Our Father is “Thy will be done.” Who is to say that God’s plan doesn’t include a conversion of heart of those around her through caring for Brittany in her last natural hours of life on earth? Who is to say that her life will not have meaning to others? Who is to say that God’s plan and communion with Brittany is finished on this side of the veil?   We tend to think our stories are about us but in reality it is the bigger story of God’s great plan that we need to keep in mind. In our small minds we loose sight of God’s larger plan just because we cannot comprehend it.  We think because we don’t know why, then it cannot be.

A priest once reminded me that our lives are not about “me and God.” Sure – we need that personal relationship with Christ but our lives and the teaching about our faith is that it is about “US and God.” Our understanding of the Eucharist and heaven is about how we are all together – we move together  and when one person is lost it effects us all.
I recently saw a U-Tube video of a group of starlings flying together with perfect accuracy. They moved together as if they are of one mind, as if they are being controlled by something outside of themselves, as if they were being panted on canvas by a great artist.  In researching how these birds move I found out that each bird is in communion with six other birds.  They interact with those around them to synchronize their movements.  Scientists have been able to discern how the birds move together in unison but as of yet, they do not know why.  We don’t know why, but it certainly can be.

This image of swarming starlings has become an analogy for me of the Body of Christ.  I am not at all surprised that the number of birds bound with each other is seven. Seven- like our seven sacraments that bind us together.

 

I have little hope that this young woman will change her mind. Many have said, “Let Brittany die with dignity. It is her choice.” But when even one of us falls it effects us all.

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

 

Take a few moments and contemplate the Body of Christ as you watch this video of starlings swarming.  Wonder at God’s great plan.

YouTube Preview Image
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Guilt: Too heavy a burden? A must-read novel

August 26, 2014

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How much guilt can you live with?

Knowing you’ve done something illegal and even hurtful, can the fact that the wrongful act also has brought joy be enough to overwhelm that guilt? And for how long?

M. L. Stedman brings those question out from hiding in the superbly written drama “The Light Between Oceans,” a New York Times bestseller that will soon come to movie screens.

Stedman’s setting of a lighthouse off the southwest coast of Australia and the small town that is its closest port takes readers to virgin literary territory. That’s always attractive, of course, to discover new lands through the written word.

But it’s the story that Stedman weaves that will grab readers’ attention and hold it for 322 pages, and the question she leads us to ask: What would we do?

The light coverOn that lonely island with the lighthouse between the Indian Ocean and the Great Southern Ocean below Australia, 100 miles from the nearest land, a married couple suffers through three miscarriages, the last very recent.

Then a dinghy washes up. In it is the body of a man. Although he’s dead, in the boat a baby cries, wrapped in a woman’s shawl. So the test begins.

Should the lighthouse keeper report this unusual event, or can the child become the baby he and his wife seem to be unable to create? Will he risk his career or, by dutifully telling the authorities about the child and the dead man, risk earning the scorn of his wife, who already has seen the baby’s arrival as a miracle from God?

Despite his misgivings, they keep the baby, pretending the wife has given birth. But how long with the charade last? How long can a person stand knowing that another woman is heartbroken and nearly insane from the loss of her infant child?

“The Light Between Oceans” is a wonderful read, a piece with both droplets of foreshadowing and unexpected turns of events, a testament to hope and prayer, an in-depth delving into joys and sorrows, into human nature and families, into life itself.

 

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So much to be thankful for

August 19, 2014

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thank you god coverQuick, list all the things for which you’d like to thank God.

I’ll bet you haven’t come up with as many as are in the new children’s book, “Thank You, God.”

Author J. Bradley Wigger lists in 26 pages more things for which we ought to be grateful for than most parents are likely to come up with as they pray with their young ones.

And, with typical family scenes colorfully illustrating the prayer-like text with all kinds of details, “Thank You, God” will keep the interest of young people as well, thanks to the artistry of Jago.

Just published in August, this is an imprint of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

 

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Prayer discount at the diner

August 4, 2014

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A woman and her co-workers prayed over a meal at a diner in North Carolina. When it was time for the check she found that she had received a “praying in public” discount. As any sane modern person would do, she posted the receipt on Facebook and it became a viral phenomenon.

Read more:

Local story from Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Story from The Blaze

NPR wonders if the practice is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

 

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station's Facebook post that shared the receipt.

Screen shot of the Orlando radio station’s Facebook post that shared the receipt.

 

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Mary Magdalene and Me

July 22, 2014

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I suppose it is fitting that I write a post on this day – July 22.  Mary of Magdala is my patron saint and today is her feast day.  She is the saint name I took for my confirmation.  When I was in fourth grade as to what name I was to take for my confirmation name – I said Mary.  My confirmation instructor praised me for choosing Mary – the mother of Christ but I quickly retorted and said, “Oh no, I want to be the bad Mary.” I am not sure if this speaks to the bad preparation I received in my catechesis and confirmation prep or if it speaks of the bad idea of having 4th graders confirmed.

Through the years and through my reconversion to the faith, I have come to love Mary Magdalene and embrace her as my patron saint.  She is often associated with the woman caught in adultery, (John 8:1-11) but there is no biblical reference that the woman was Mary Magdalene.  She is mentioned as the women whom Jesus has cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9) and of course she was one of the women who stayed at the cross of Jesus even when others fled. Maybe the most important role she played as the apostle to the apostles is to be the first to witness Jesus after the resurrection!

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’

Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ — which means Master. (John 20:15-16)

I love this narrative – I often joked that Mary Magdalene must have been a blonde! I mean really, how can someone be looking right at Jesus and think he is the gardener? But, if I am honest, how many times have I been looking at Jesus and not seen Him? And how many times have I been looking at a gardener and think he was Jesus.

Following Jesus in the steps of Mary Magdalene is very fitting for me.  I am a sinner.  I have my seven demons and I believe Jesus is casting them out one by one.  And even if the biblical figure of the woman caught in adultery isn’t Mary Magdalene, I know Jesus forgives me  like the woman caught in adultery.  I also know that Jesus defends me even when I have no other advocate (John 8:7).

So today I celebrate my Saint Day and be reminded that my sins are forgiven, that Jesus defends me and that he loves me through the most difficult times.

 

'Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb', artist unknown

‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb’, artist unknown

A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

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Turn, Turn, Turn…

July 5, 2014

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flowersTo Everything Turn, Turn, Turn….

Or so goes the song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
I have come to reflect again on this bit of scripture as I find myself moving from one era of my life to another. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser I have been taking time in my prayer to reflect on these movements in my life and how they really do fit into God’s plan.
A few years ago my children when off to college and thus I started a new era in my life. My mother recently passed away and a good friend has moved away (By coincidence she lives in the same town that Pete Seeger made famous – Beacon New York) . My pastor and spiritual guide has been reassigned to a different parish. I might be ready for a midlife crisis but the seasons of life are not only for empty-nesters – these seasons have been happening all of my life.
As a High school student, I readily anticipated and embraced going off to college and being independent (or so I thought) but even the anticipation left me with fear as I left behind security and family. My 20’s were filled with college, marriage and establishing some sort of career. It was quite hedonistic in it’s way, at least in that it was a time of the unholy trinity of Me, Myself, and I, but God was still leading me even though I didn’t know it. I learned about love through my marriage to my husband. I may not have known the fulness of God’s love for me yet, but I was learning. By my 30’s the season of raising children entered into my life. I would write more about it but it is a blur of diapers, potty training, sports camps, music lessons and play dates. Yet even during this crazy time of my life, I remember savoring every minute with my little children and never wanting it to change. God has his hand in teaching me about love here too. The sacrificial way in which we love our children, but I had more to learn.
My forties brought me a surprise. My children grew more independent and this season of my life brought me the surprise of God through a conversion experience I was not prepared for. I realized I was a child of God, His beloved and loved! I filled my life with learning and a zeal for evangelization. This season of my life brought me to volunteering for my church, to my work for the Archdiocese and in contact with mentors and friends who have helped me to learn more and grow deaper in my faith. Most of all this season has taught me how to pray.
I have lately realized that God is moving me into another season. A dear friend and spiritual sister has moved with her family to New York and my pastor who brought me to my faith and guided me through much of my spiritual life has been transferred. Like my children leaving the nest, it feels like the end of an era.
Even though my children graduating from High School left me reminiscent for the past, I relish the time with my grown up children and sharing their new lives as adults! I wonder what God has planned for me in this next season of my life. Maybe this season will bring me to more  wisdom and maturity in my faith? We will see.

I am sad to see the end of this season of my life, but it may be a time to deepen my friendships with those close and who have moved away, explore my relationships with my adult children and find out what God has in store for me next!
All I know is that seasons turn, turn, turn…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

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