August 29, 2015
Have you ever had a prayer petition that you took to bed and was waiting when you awoke? Of course you have, me too, so has everyone. One of my good friends has been asking me about the Nine First Fridays devotion for months. She has decided to start in September so she called me. “Just tell me the deal.” she said. I started to explain only to hear the request, “Just text me.” I’ll do better, I answered. I will finally write the devotional post I have wanted to do for a year. “Great,” was her response . . . “Print it out so I can put it on my refrigerator.” As honored as I feel to grace her refrigerator door, the First Friday devotion is worthy of the space.
The best way I can explain the Nine First Fridays is to remind you of a favorite bible story. Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how and He taught them the Our Father. In Luke’s gospel, that significant moment is followed by this story -
“Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him, and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything. I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Luke 11: 6-13
Knock and the door will be answered to you. Isn’t this our heart's desire? Don’t we all have prayers, concerns, heartaches that we want to offer Jesus and ask him to take our intentions, petitions, hurts and reconcile them? We all have family or friends who we wish would walk through the threshold of Jesus’ Mercy and fall into His Embrace. That is the type of emotion that brings one to the Sacred Heart of Jesus' First Friday Devotion. This is a decisive move to bring your petition to the altar in a significant way and hold nothing back from Our Lord for NINE MONTHS. Each month will offer a new obstacle in scheduling, travel, timing, sickness, work . . .
It will cause a "gut check" as you make the decisions to attend that Friday Mass or do something else and start over the next month. It will change your life. I could write a book about the 20 months it took me to begin, yes begin, my first successful 9 First Fridays. It was 19 years ago and I was at a crossroad in my life and I put all my eggs in Jesus’ basket and I am here to tell you it is a story of God's love and fidelity.
“The Deal” as my friend put it is this:
To attend Mass and receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months.
Yep, if you miss one, you start over.
To pray for the Pope and his intentions. I usually offer my petition in prayer at Mass and then pray the required Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.
To go to Confession (The Sacrament of Reconciliation)
the week prior to or the week following the First Friday. 8 days before or after
Lastly – To have no affection for sin.
That’s it, but it’s enough to take you to your knees I guarantee it. So about these “requirements”, let me tell you -
I didn’t know about most of them when I began. I knew there was a promise that good would come if I took my petition to Mass on the 9 First Fridays and that all I needed to know. I didn’t know about getting to confession, I learned about that later, but God didn’t care. He honored a daughter’s request. When I was ready for the next step, I learned of the monthly confession. Funny, I really needed a reason to get to confession more often.
I didn’t know about praying for the Pope (it was before there was internet) but God answered a daughter’s prayer. I only recently heard about the part without the affection for sin. “Who is without an affection for sin!” I hollered. That month I had to struggle with my lack of forgiveness. I had to decide to lay down my anger because it was clear I could not carry both my petition and my anger to the altar. I let it fall, God knew what was best for me.
I am sorry that you have now learned the “whole deal”. I couldn’t keep it from you because you have the internet and you would search it anyway.
Maybe God knows you can handle it but please allow me to remind you that God is not a bureaucrat. He is not just checking off boxes - He is offering you an opportunity! An opportunity to bring your petition to Him and accept that change of heart and life’s circumstances take time. The duration needed for a change of heart in us and those we pray for. That it takes time for us to change our perspective on life and see things as they are. Nine months will provide you that time. You will find out very quickly how important that petition is and how faithful your good Papa in Heaven is. He loves you and Jesus’ story tells us to know and ask for what we need. He is a Good Father and that reminder is also worth a spot on your refrigerator.
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"Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Pilgrimage to Heart Mountain
August 22, 2015
Heart Mountain Relocation Camp was located 15 miles east of Cody, Wyoming during the Second World War. During the aftermath of Pearl Harbor in a climate of fear and pain, the American government made the decision to forcibly remove 120,000 Japanese and Japanese American from western coast states to 10 relocation camps, one of which was in Wyoming.
As a child growing up in this area, I remember the landmark of the tall chimney that served only as a mark for “half-way home”. I understood nothing about why it stood alone, what had been there, or why it should matter. Today, I can say I know different.
Heart Mountain Relocation Camp housed at its peak 10,767 people behind barbed wire who endured from Aug 11, 1942, when the first train arrived, to Dec. 17, 1944 when the government determined the detention centers no longer to be necessary. By the end of the war, 14,000 internees had passed through the gate and 550 babies were born at the camp. During those two-plus years, the people in the camp lived, worked, and waited. The camp grew to be one of the larger towns in Wyoming with a schools and a high school (8-12) which served over 1,400 students, there was a full hospital and 800 men went to war.
After the war, evidence of their years in Wyoming was erased by the removal of barracks, fence, and buildings. Today I was fortunate to meet a man from California who had traveled to Wyoming to see where his father and family had lived during the war. He wore his father’s fire engineer medal with pride as he shared pictures and hoped to meet someone who had known his father, his aunt, - his family.
Encountering him was delightful and the few moments we shared was rich, I miss him already. This Pilgrimage to Heart Mountain was interesting in that most of the adults who arrived at the camp have since passed away. The group of people I saw were mostly the children who wished to walk their parent’s path, encounter the stark landscape seen in pictures and recounted in stories. In the past few years, an effort to educate and remember the history resulted in the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center please consider visiting them if you can.
What causes one to pilgrimage to such a place that should recall hurt, pain, and loss? I am sure the answer is different for each visitor. I suspect that for many the reasoning is that Heart Mountain is an important part of their family's story. This was a crucial place in their history that they need to touch, feel and see the location where so many stories started, ended, or identities forged. Raise a cheer with me for a group of Americans who value their heritage, seek with honor and pride to walk in their father’s footprints.
Let us linger at the elbow of a grandmother or father, an aunt or an uncle. May we ask a question about where they met, how they grew, and nature of their world. A great quote is “sometimes it take an immigrant to teach patriotism to the native.” May the lives of immigrants, refugees, and internees cause us to reflect on the past, be thankful for the present, and treasure the future.
Learn more about the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center at
http://www.heartmountain.org or clicking any of the Center's pictures above.
August 16, 2015
I was fine, I really was. It was a beautiful morning and we were in our parish church for the first time in weeks after a busy summer. It was nice to see friends and be at home. Then it happened, I looked up and saw my son serving at the altar, and the tears started. My son is a senior in high school and honestly, the tears have been flowing for weeks. When leaving the house for Mass, I mentioned that he would only be serving about 7 times before, before . . . leaving. Yep, he has made his plans, they are good ones but it means he is going, really going.
It feels like going, going, gone. I cry.
What makes this worse is that I know we are approaching a transition, a hard one. Next year three big kids are leaving the state and starting the next phase of life. They have good plans but again - going, going, gone. I cry. I try to remind myself that I could/should be enjoying these times, that every time that we are together is that much more of a time to fully appreciate our “togetherness” and I should, if I could just stop the tears.
I know I am more emotional and yes, I have googled “perimenopause” a lot lately but it doesn’t change the fact that my life is changing. So what’s a Moma to do in such a situation - the only reasonable thing. Grab a little one! I snatched my four year old and snuggled her. Yep, I used a preschooler for a tissue. Her arms around my neck soothed and comforted me and her white sundress was very absorbent. I also hoped that a cute little face would distract other from watching me try to overcome my tears.
Emotionally, I am a front-end loader. I deal with things ahead of time and that is why this hits me now. I am preparing myself for the inevitable, the anticipated, the events to be celebrated. This is not my first kid to graduate and go to college. I have had three college kids and I remember being excited for all the things that will happen this year. I was ready to fill out applications, make plans, and send out invitations. I know the joy and happiness that comes from kids doing well and succeeding. I also know what it feels like to see them marry, move, to anticipate holidays to see them and to bless and kiss them as they return to “their homes”. It is this knowledge fuels my emotion as I know fully that things will never be the same.
I was comforted to think today, one day after The Feast of the Assumption, of how excited Mary was to be reunited with Jesus. How the Trinity joyfully assumed her, body and soul, into Heaven. I considered that Mary had Jesus with her for 30 years before His ministry. Thirty years they shared dinner meals, some with Joseph, many after his death. Can you imagine their conversations? Consider the kind of Gospel Jesus taught the heart of Mary. Imagine how fully she understood His message, His parables, His suffering.
By the age of thirty, Jesus would no longer have been considered a young man; yet, He remained with Mary. He continued to stay close to her as others his age would have married, left . . . gone. It is fascinating that it was Mary’s words, “They have no wine” that sets His feet on His Path. His response, “My Hour has not yet come” indicates that both of them knew something about where His ministry will lead - to the Cross. Perhaps it was with more that one tear in her eye that Mary uttered “Do as He tells you.”
She had enjoyed her time with Him and now it was time for Him to do His Father’s Will.
Let us join our hearts to Mary and our will to that of Jesus and allow ourself to be immersed in the ocean of His Mercy. The trials we face in life are the same as Jesus and Mary experienced. Be of good heart, we do not walk this road alone!
P.S. And carry Kleenex.
The Assumption of
Outside the Wall
August 12, 2015
The gift was exquisite, a sandwich bag filled with popcorn, gum, and a single pack of fruit by the foot. The preschoolers squealed with delight. The gum had been thoughtfully unwrapped and torn into bite-sized pieces, four year olds are so thoughtful :)
It was a love gift!
I first learned the term love gift from listening to Mossie White, a long time school board member and president of the National School Board Association. Mossie is a beautiful woman and a fantastic speaker. Having grown up in Norway, she reminded me a lot of my Grandma. She shared a story from her childhood that I remember this way:
As a young child, Mossie was spending Christmas Eve with her grandmother. It was a special night and with much to be done it was unexpected to hear a knock at the door. A tired man entered the home and the grandmother stopped everything to sit down with him. The adult conversation did not hold the interest of a young Mossie but the single orange the man offered her grandmother did. While saying goodbye and a “Merry Chirstmas”, a young Mossie scooped up the orange and was rounding the corner to the dining room when caught. She had intended to add this orange to the bowl of oranges on the dining room table but that was not to be. “This orange does not belong with the other oranges, “ the grandmother said. “It is different. It is a love gift.”
It looked like the others, what could be so different about this orange. The man, a neighbor with several small children, had lost his wife earlier that year. Grandmother had done what she could to help. She was happy to do what she could. The man had little money but a lot of gratitude and a gift of an orange - it was a love gift. That Christmas Eve The grandmother sat, peeled, and ate that orange with a young Mossie White. Mossie, who would later leave her home in Norway and immigrate to America and share her little story about gratitude, the simple story of love gifts.
I know it is a crazy idea but as school begins with at least two months before the nuttiness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday we can celebrate the true and beautiful nature of Love Gifts. So, I plan to spend a little more time tucking in children tonight, to try to listen to every word of their nighttime prayer. These are the gifts of love our children will cherish. Next, let us take the time to enjoy that homemade card, accept a mud pie, tuck at dandelion behind your ear. In our adult friendships, we can recognize that gift of a glass of iced tea and time together. We can choose to appreciate small gifts of kindness that sometimes become lost in everyday life. Enjoy the length of these summer days, watch a sunset with a loved one and then sit down together and eat an orange.
God is Good, all the Time.
All the Time, God is Good!
From Colleen Carrol Campbell's website -
"A poignant and powerful spiritual memoir about how the lives of the saints changed the life of a modern woman.
In My Sisters the Saints, author Colleen Carroll Campbell blends her personal narrative of spiritual seeking, trials, stumbles, and breakthroughs with the stories of six women saints who profoundly changed her life: Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina of Poland, Edith Stein of Germany, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary of Nazareth. Drawing upon the rich writings and examples of these extraordinary women, the author reveals Christianity’s liberating power for women and the relevance of the saints to the lives of contemporary Christians."
A Book Review
My Sisters The Saints
You have to read this book!
August 5, 2015
One of my dear friends gave me a book, which she does frequently. I was already reading several and making no progress so I ditched them and started reading. My Sisters The Saints was a beautiful surprise and I am not spoiling this for you. I would love to discuss each part, but I can’t and I won’t. No spoilers here. I know in suggesting it, you will have higher expectations than I did. I didn’t really think that much about it, I made assumptions. I assumed that its title, My Sisters The Saints, indicated a retelling of the lives of the author’s favorite saints. Perhaps, it would share an insight or two about how to incorporate the wisdom of these beautiful souls into our present reality.
It did. It shared the insight of a beautiful soul and the wisdom she shares about our present reality.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is a familiar face to many of us. She is the face of Faith and Culture on EWTN. Her strong presence during news events from Rome never surprise me. I don’t know how old she is, I imagine she is younger than I am, but her beautiful elegant style always reminds me of the older sisters of my childhood friends. These sisters would arrive and disappear almost in an instant and I was left amazed that someone could grow into a tall beautiful woman like that. They took my breath away just like Colleen Carroll Campbell.
I was proud to have someone like her, poised and articulate, stand up for The Church and THE TRUTH. Amazing, I thought. Still, I underestimated her new book. My reaction was reasonable, I tell myself, after all who would expect someone to sit down and share the most important and private parts of their life? I guess the answer is - Colleen Carroll Campbell. This awe-inspiring book holds nothing back. She bears not only her soul but the real struggle for faith in our culture. This author does a great job of answering the most common and difficult questions of living a faith filled life in the telling of her story.
Once I realized this was not the “run of the mill” saint book, I reevaluated the cover. It is self-described as “A Spiritual Memoir.” Interesting, I thought, a memoir? That brings me to the topic of this blog: why would someone, anyone, share the deepest most intimate details of their life? What strength is required to bare one’s soul to strangers, to critics, to unbelievers? As I continue to share my own life, my struggles, and my story with my readers, I continually ask the same question. What is acceptable to share? What is prudent? Is it wise to be vulnerable?
I do not know the answers but know that this book and the stories of others bless me. I believe The Church, in her wisdom, points us in the right direction. We believe in the Church. We believe in the Communion of Saints. We believe in the Church, Militant and Triumphant.
It is us, and we need one another!
We need to hear stories of faith, authentic, and true. We need to be reminded that we are not alone in the many difficulties and struggles of life. Thank you Colleen for this book, for your courage in sharing it, and your expression of faith. This is not advice intended for authors, speakers and bloggers,I am talking to you. Someone out there may need to hear your story. They may be wondering how you do it, what makes you tick, how you always pull things together and keep your faith so strong. If that surprises you, don't let it. Please pray for the strength to be God's witness in this broken world. Be open to serving others with . . . you.
Together, we are all sisters in faith, who pray to be saints for an eternity.
We can be assured that this is one prayer that is in accordance with God’s Will.
P.S. When you are all done with the book, let me know.
Let's all have coffee and discuss it.
Until then, know that you remain in my prayers.