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Now What?

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.” Luke 1:46-55

Mary had her encounter with the Angel and was able to listen and believe what the Angel told her. Mary, in her humility, gave her Yes when she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1:38. The next line says that the Angel left, Now What? What was Mary thinking?

Apparently, she was thinking of her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant in her old age! Mary hurried to her cousin’s home which was in another town. When she arrived, Elizabeth knew that Mary was pregnant with the Child, and now the Mother of the Lord! Miracles abound! Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and I’m sure they talked and talked about the babies that were coming soon, as women do with their relatives and friends. Perhaps they were making baby clothes, cleaning, cooking and taking care of Zachariah. And, soon, it was time for Mary to go back home. She really needed to talk to Joseph and her parents. She had had the time to think about what she would say.

We know that Joseph was shocked, but through a dream he came to understand that this was the Lord’s work and plan. He followed through with his marriage to Mary and was an earthly father to her Son. Joseph was a protector, a provider, and a teacher to his son Jesus, but we don’t hear about him after the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12.

If all babies could be welcomed into homes of love between the parents and a love for God! Children need to be loved and cared for and they do much better with two parents. Not all children are planned . . .but it doesn’t mean they aren’t wanted. Some are not wanted and it is heartbreaking. If we all had a cousin Elizabeth to visit and discuss the future of our children, we would probably feel better. Having a mother or a sister to share our concerns with would be so reassuring. A man such as Joseph would give us comfort and reassurance.

Today is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Let us pray for all children, born and unborn.

That all children will know the love of a family. . .

That children will have food to satisfy their nutritional needs and not be worried about when they can eat again . . .

That children will be treated with kindness and respect; May they not suffer from fear of harm to their bodies, emotions, or mental health . . .May children live in safe communities . . .

That good people will come forward to care for children when parents cannot . . .

That our laws will protect our children. . .end child-trafficking and sexual abuse of children,

In The Name of Jesus, Amen

We All Fall Down

Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down! The children’s rhyme goes round and round in our heads from long ago memories! There are several interpretations of Ring Around the Roses, but there doesn’t seem to be one definitive one. Is it related to the plague in Europe or something about the King of England? As a child, I don’t think we really cared, it was a sweet song with a little dance to go with it. Children love it!

For many years, Catholics have marked the start of Lent with ashes on the forehead. It’s supposed to be a cross, but most often looks like a black smudge. Many people, leave the ashes on their forehead throughout the day, not because it’s required but to remind themselves of the reason we “celebrate” Lent. Lent is 4o days to contemplate what Jesus did for us. Mankind fell into sin, not accidentally or by making a mistake, but by a deliberate choice not to obey God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 RSV). It is about the Love of God for his people. It is through Him that we have eternal life. He conquered death and sin; yes, our bodies die and decay, but we will have eternal life with God. We are striving for perfection, but we all fall down.

This year, due to the COVID19 pandemic, ashes will be sprinkled on our heads. Yes, on our heads, in our hair! this is to avoid the priest touching each person who wants to receive the ashes. In Biblical times, people who repented of their sins, sprinkled ashes over their bodies and walked the street to declare their repentance. During Lent, we are encouraged to fast and pray, to give alms and to sacrifice. As Christians we live in the world, but we are not part of the world. The ashes of Ash Wednesday are visual, mental and physical reminders that He gave his life for us; and, we give our lives to Him. We choose life in Christ! Sometimes, we fail in this, but we get back up and try again.

Isaiah 61:1-3 declares A Year of the Lord’s Favor:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Husband, Father, Miner, Martyr, Saint

Blessed Nikolaus Gross

Nikolaus Gross, born in 1898 in Germany, was a member of the Christian miner’s labor union at 19 and joined the Zentrum Christian Party at 20. Nikolaus worked on West German Worker’s Newspaper, known as the newspaper of the Catholic Workers’ Movement at 22 and was named its director at age 24.

He nonviolently opposed the Nazi regime from the beginning along with other Catholic intellectuals. Through his newspaper he was able to expose the lies of the propaganda and encouraged a “revolt of consciences” which made him an enemy of the state. They shut down his newspaper. But he fought back by going underground to publish. Nikolaus worked hard for his education and was not really a good speaker. However, it is reported that he had a power of persuasion and a warm heart with a passion for the faith that allowed him to speak convincingly. He tried to organize a Catholic resistance for the planned assassination of Hitler. It was his Catholic faith conviction which led him to join the resistance. For him, the most important thing was “that one must obey God more than man.” He was charged with treason even though he was not implicated. Arrested in August, 1944, he was sentenced to death in January and executed on the 23 January 1945. Nikolaus was cremated and his ashes scattered in a sewage field.

Nikolaus had become engaged to Elisabeth Koch and they were married on 24 May 1923. They were married 21 years when he was killed and Elizabeth died 26 years later. The couple had seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls. His oldest child was about 20 and the youngest about 6 when their father was murdered? Pope John Paul said in his homily at the beatification Mass, “He loved his family above everything and was an exemplary father in his responsibility for their education and upbringing in the faith.” Nikolaus wrote in his Profession of Faith, “The majority of great achievements come into being through the daily performance of one’s duties on the little things of everyday routine. Our special love here is always for the poor and the sick.”

Pray for us, Blessed Nikolaus Gross.

THE NEIGHBORS!

In my previous post today, I said to tell a lie is wrong. The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

The word “neighbor” carries us directly to the New Testament, The Good Samaritan. “And, who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25:29)

There were very strict guidelines on how people ranked in the Hebrew world. The people were used to the Hebrew being the hero of any storytelling. If you weren’t Hebrew, your ability to live lawfully was highly discounted. The worst of these were the people of Samaria. They were enemies who wouldn’t even travel to Jerusalem to go to the Temple.

Jesus tells the story of the injured man on the roadside who is half-dead. A priest passes by and does not over assistance; then a Levite did the same. The average Hebrew was not too concerned with the actions of the priests and Levites; most were probably anticipating that the next character would be a strong, Hebrew man. Jesus continues his story with a Samaritan who was passing by and stops to help the man! He washed his wounds and poured oil on them to help the healing. Next, the Samaritan lifted the man to his donkey to carry him on the trail the way he was going. When he reached an inn, he secured a room for the injured man. He also paid the innkeeper to care for the man. Then, the Samaritan says he will come back to cover the cost. (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus does answer the expert in the law when he asks who is my neighbor. Or, rather Jesus asks him who he thinks is the neighbor to the injured man. “The law expert responds, the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:36-37)

How does The Good Samaritan relate to the Eighth Commandment? Neighbor, who is our neighbor? The one we are to love as we love ourselves; the one we show mercy to in situations of distress. As much as I hate being lied to, I have to give mercy to the one who lied. Lying is a secret sin that eats away at the soul. Denying a lie continues the lie. When a person tells a lie, our brains respond to the lie by activating three sections of our brains: 1) frontal lobe where we make decisions, 2) the limbic system which recognizes deception, 3) the temporal lobe which pulls up memories and mental images. This results in a depletion of learning, fear of punishment, lower self-worth. If a society accepts lying it can harm our ability to trust in the system. Loving our neighbor, showing mercy and encouraging people to be truthful from an early age should help this. Regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or as we used to say, Confession is always helpful with habitual sins. Most parishes have Reconciliation each week. It’s always a little nerve wracking to admit your sins, but God loves us and He forgives us. Fear not! He is Mercy!

THAT’S THE TRUTH!

In the last couple of months, I’ve heard people say that 99% or 80%, of people agree or don’t agree with some news item, social media post or a comment overheard in the grocery check-out line. now, that sounds like a true statement is being made. But, is it true?

As a teacher, I frequently taught lessons on distinguishing the difference between fact and opinion. Some opinions do provide accurate information and some do not. It is a fact that some opinions give accurate information; while most opinions are biased is also true. We see this in advertisements, politics, and every day conversations. Objective observers are hard to find. People tend to interpret what they have seen, heard or participated in based on perceptions of racial characteristics, masculine or feminine ideas, time, place and circumstances. People do not always hear accurately what another person said. It doesn’t necessarily mean there was a lie as it could be misunderstanding or a mistake. Lying to people is almost always wrong. It can result in mistrust, anger and fear which harm relationships with family, friends and acquaintances.

What is Truth? We think of Truth as something that is fact and reality, although, some people have an altered sense of reality. Facts and reality can be jarring in their failure to support the other. Scientific and mathematical facts and concepts are questioned and tested to the point that great minds declare them to be true. Philosophy, art, theology, also fall into this group. In our reality, if something isn’t true then, it must be false.

My concern is sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. In John 14, Jesus is telling his Apostles that He is the way to the Father. By this time, He had spent three years with them and they were still having difficulty understanding what he said. He told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (V. 1) They were still troubled. Understanding would come shortly, but they just didn’t get it yet. Jesus tells them, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (V. 6-7). Jesus speaks the truth.

Jesus requires us to make a choice. Either he is who he says he is or he is not. If he is not, then he must be lying or mentally ill. There is the middle position of being an ordinary man, who was kind, generous and wise beyond his years. Neither Buddha or Confucius said anything close to what Jesus said. Buddha could tell his followers that he had found a néw way; Confucius could say he found a néw form of life; and, Mohammed said the divine truth was communicated through him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (V. 6).

WHERE IS GOD WHEN WE NEED HIM?

I’ve heard people ask this question when bad things happen or they are made aware that not everyone has the same opportunities! God has not left us; He is still here with us, but are we paying attention?

Have you every received a call for help from a friend you haven’t seen, spoken to or heard from in a very long time? We are glad to hear from them, until we learn the reason for the contact. Perhaps, the husband has lost his job, a parent has cancer, or their college student is addicted to a drug. What they need is money, a place to live, or help with car repairs. These things do happen. Many of us may have no experience with such scenarios, but these are real issues for the other half of humanity in our country and can be much worse in other countries.

In contrast, when we stay in touch with people, we develop a relationship; we get to know more about them. We learn about their character, what they are like in good times and in bad times. Talking, socializing and caring take us a long way toward friendship and love.

When the crowds of people looked for Jesus, they would find him with the people most avoided! He was often with the sick, the lonely, the sinners talking to them, even eating with them. He spent many hours with his disciples teaching them his way. The disciples followed him wherever he went. it took the disciples and the Apostles, quite sometime to understand what Jesus was doing. They even abandoned Him on the night he was arrested (exception of John, Mary) and hid as he carried his cross to His death. Perhaps they weren’t hiding, but there is no mention of them during this time.

If you are looking for Jesus, let me make a few suggestions.

1. Pick up a Bible and start reading. You can start anywhere, but I suggest you start with Matthew. Read a little or a lot. When you pause for a moment, speak to Jesus asking him to help you understand.

2. Talk to Jesus every day! Several time’s a day would be good. Tell him what you don’t understand. He is listening. Tell him what it is you don’t believe about him. He will help you.

3. Talk to others who seem to know Jesus. Maybe it’s someone you live with or someone at work or a friend. Ask a few questions about their faith. Perhaps they know someone else who they feel could answer your questions better. Take them up on an introduction.

4. Volunteer! Sounds strange to you perhaps, but it could be a wonderful opportunity to meet Jesus: food banks, nursing homes or tutoring are just three ideas. Some churches are serving public meals once or twice a week for anyone. Attend the meal or volunteer to help with the meal.

Look for God in the poor, the disadvantaged, the lonely, the sick and the imprisoned. Look for God in your neighbor, your family and your co-workers. Look for God in the multiple churches which are found in the small towns and the large cities. Ask questions.

May you find the peace and joy that comes from the Lord. Jesus loves you unconditionally and forgives your sins. He loves you so much that he died for you and rose again. All you have to do is turn to him and invite him into your life. Ask him for forgiveness; repent and be Baptized.

When I Get To Heaven

I will be overjoyed to see Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit! I can’t get past that as far as what happens next. Saint Therese of Lisieux knew when she reached heaven, her work on earth would begin; maybe that’s how it is for everyone and she just knew ahead of time. I think I’m going to talk to Jesus about that while I’m still here on Earth. I don’t know what the job descriptions are in heaven.

St. Therese knew, however, that she would be busy in heaven helping people on earth. We know she did because she wrote about it. She saw herself as the tiny flower growing in the field; not the beautiful red roses people grow in their gardens. And, yet, she is often pictured with a bouquet of long stemmed red roses. She was humble and said she was sure that God loved the small flower in the field as much as he loved the rose.

It wasn’t long after she died that people heard about her and started coming to the convent cemetery to pray and ask her intercession. Healings were reported and positive outcomes of difficult situations occurred. As her cause for Sainthood progressed, this continued. St. Therese began leaving a flower for the person asking her for help as a sign that the request was granted. Many people find this a little unbelievable! Oh, ye of little faith! Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!

I have experienced the gift of intercession by St. Therese and have witnessed the gift of a rose to a friend who had prayed to God and asked St. Therese to pray for her. It is amazing, miraculous and humbling. One time, although I did not live in Austin, I volunteered for the 40 days of prayer outside of an abortion clinic about 15-20 years ago. Each week I walked up and down in the ditch (it wasn’t deep) in front of the abortion clinic at a very busy intersection where traffic came from 3 directions. Some people would blow their horns and shout encouragement and some would not be as kind. Most of the time I was by myself as I walked back and forth, pacing, praying and wishing someone else would come to relieve me. I prayed my own Litany of the Saints on my rosary naming every saint I could possibly remember to please intercede to stop abortion!

One day was a scorcher, the water and umbrella was not enough to cool me. I decided to cross over the driveway to the other ditch where there was a bit of shade. As I stepped down a few inches into the ditch, I saw a rose! Thanking the Lord for hearing “our” prayer. Over several years progress was made. Abortion has not ended in the USA, but one day, it will.

So I ask you, when you have a problem, pray to our Lord and ask his help; as you ask your friends to pray for your intentions, don’t forget to ask the Saints to pray with you.

The Lord’s Vineyard

Pondering the parable of the Landowner and the Workmen—again. (Matt 20:1-15) the Lord’s rules are not our rules, but should be. Understanding how His Kingdom works would be helpful. And, at times, seems something that I can understand, then, I come across a single sentence that makes me just stop. Let’s go back and read it again. How many times have we heard it, or really listened to it?

“The teaching of this parable is extremely important for those on the spiritual journey,” says Thomas Keating in Meditations on the Parables of Jesus, pg. 76. Complacency creeps in, especially if we have equated good deeds with rewards of eternal life. We cannot earn eternal life. We depend on Gods mercy and grace alone. So, how do we get eternal life? We must say yes to God which implies an invitation.

Where are you in this parable? I am an early riser, and the Lord comes by and says, come, to my Kingdom. yes, Lord! We are eager to work in the Kingdom. The parable goes on with the land owner going out every few hours to gather more workers; more come each time. Day is done and it’s time for receiving what the landowner chooses to give. And, it is His choice! Nothing I do, or you do, earns us eternal life. Nothing.

Those who accepted the Land Owner’s invitation to work in the vineyard, were given the grace! At the end of the day, they all received the same reward. Don’t start thinking how good you’ve been ALL your life. There is no need to worry, either, that you just started this journey. God meets our needs as different as they are; HE knows our needs as individuals.

The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the Earth is full of his unfailing love. Ps 33:5

As a child tries to “behave,” because he has learned that his parents want it, so we follow Jesus, but fail miserably. Jesus loves us anyway as good parents do their child. We always have another chance to learn. We try because He loves us first and loves us unconditionally, so we love HIM.

Lord, hear my prayer.

The election is over, but we still need this prayer.

O Lord, my God, Help us to live in peace. Open our hearts and our ears to your ways with a burning desire to serve you. Let your love shine through us to others who do not know your ways. inspire us to care for one another with disregard to the things that can separate us. Open our ears to the concerns of others. Give us the words to speak the truth and the hearts to hear each other. We are all your creation and depend on you alone. Give us courage to speak, to reach out, to serve, and to worship in the situations of distrust, hatred, disregard for law and anything else that can cause people to harm others. In Jesus name, Amen.

While standing for truth, we must be peacemakers.

We must comfort those who mourn the losses that seem so unfair.

We must stand on truth and fairness to be righteous.

We must be meek and humble when dealing with anger.

We must show mercy when determining what is just.

Climbing the Mountain

Many people knew of Therese Martin’s desire to be a nun at the convent of the Carmelites in Lisieux. Most thought she wanted to be with her sister, Pauline. She may have started out that way, but her desire for Jesus was her sole purpose as she grew. At nine years of age she visited with the Mother Superior of the Carmelite convent and expressed her desire to become one of them. The Mother listened to her and did not discourage her, except to tell Therese that they could not take children. She would have to wait until she was 16 years old.

Therese suffered physically from headaches and had nervous trembling and hallucinations in late 1882. This is when she saw the Blessed Mother Mary smile at her. She suffered spiritually and emotionally during this time. Therese never lost the desire to be a saint, a bride of Christ or to enter the convent. Over the course of several years, she spoke to her parish priest, the bishop and finally to the Pope! Her desire was even stronger after she received her First Holy Communion on the same day that Pauline took her vows as a Carmelite and receives her habit; Pauline is now known as Sister Agnes of Jesus.

Therese was finally granted permission to enter the convent of the Carmelites in Lisieux where two of her sisters were. Therese was so happy to be there! She received many menial assignments, but in great humility she performed each one. She had time for prayer, Mass and Holy Communion. She continued to record her thoughts and spiritual habits. She discovered new material to inspire her: the Suffering Servant from Isaiah and the writing of St. John of the Cross. Therese wrote poetry, plays and many letters. It was getting close to her time to profess her vows and to receive her veil when the profession was delayed. Finally, September 24, 1890, Therese received her veil as a novice. Sadly, due to illness, her father was unable to be there.

There were now 4 Martin sisters at the same convent and Sister Agnes (Pauline) was designated Mother Superior. She ordered Therese to write her childhood memories which eventually became her Story of a Soul. It must have been obvious that Therese was different in some ways than others. Therese was assigned as a spiritual sister to seminarians planning to be missionaries. She cares for the elderly nuns in the convent and was assigned as second portress and is associated with spiritual training of the other novices. Additionally, she writes several manuscripts .

Sister Therese had physical ailments during these years in the convent. She didn’t mention them to others and proceeded with her assigned duties. She spontaneously wrote a poem about love, Vivre d’Amour. While Therese was at Mass with Celine, she was inspired to give herself to “Merciful Love.” She and Celine make this offering together. In 1996, she suffered her first instance of coughing up blood. It happened in her cell between Holy Thursday and Good Friday; then, again in the evening of Good Friday. Sometime around Easter, she experienced a “Night of Faith” which was a trial which lasted until she died. It wasn’t until after Lent in 1897 that she was seriously ill.

In June, 1897, she is ordered to continue her autobiography, “Manuscript C.” She is brought to the infirmary and is experiencing coughing up blood. She is anointed and receives Holy Communion for the last time, September 30; she died after suffering , “agony” two days later and was buried in the Convent cemetery on October 4.

The Carmelites received permission from the Bishop of the diocese to print 2000 copies of sister Therese’s “Histoire d’ume.” Pilgrims begin to come to her grave to pray and the first cures are seen. The Carmel introduces the Cause of Sister Therese at Rome. Pope Pius X calls her “the greatest Saint of modern times. She was beatified in 1923 and Canonized at St Peter’s in Rome on May 17, 1925. On Dec. 14, Pope Pius XI proclaimed St Therese of the Child Jesus Principal Patroness, equal to St. Francis Xavier, of all missionaries, men and women, and of the missions in the whole world. She was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Pray for us, Saint Therese.

For more information: littleflower.org

Quotes from St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.

Therese Martin

Take each quote as a small flower, or lovely rose, to make a bouquet of meditations in the coming year. The quotes are from “Story of a Soul, the autobiography of st. Therese of Lisieux, translated from the original manuscripts by John Clark, O.C.D. ICS Publications.

1. Perfection consists in doing God’s will, in being what he wills us to be. Pg. 14

2. Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them. Pg. 14

3. As I had an excessive self-love and also a love for good, as soon as I began to think seriously, it was enough for one to say a thing wasn’t good and I had no desire to repeat it twice. Pg. 25

4. I loved God very much and offered my heart to Him very often. pg. 38

5. My dear mother helped me understand that I. Heaven God will grant His Elect as much glory as they can take, the last having nothing to envy in the first. Pg. 45

6. She knows that nothing in herself was capable of attracting the divine glances, and His mercy alone brought about everything that is good for her. Pg. 15

7. I have noticed that Jesus doesn’t want to try His children on the day of their espousals, for this day must be without any clouds, a foretaste of heaven’s joys. Pg. 61

8. The Blessed Virgin had appeared very beautiful, and I had seen her smile at me. Pg. 67

9. Oh! How happy I would be if they called me Therese of the Child Jesus! Pg. 71

10. And, I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one’s heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth. Pg 73

To be continued. . .

8.

A SPOILED CHILD

I was surprised when a friend of mine said that Therese Martin was spoiled and just too sweet! I had not read her book, “A Story of a Soul,” but I soon did read it and a few other biographical books about her. St. Therese was a very loved child, but suffered much early in life. I believe her family overcompensated for this and, yes, she was a bit spoiled, but it didn’t spoil her spirit. She is a favorite saint of mine.

When Therese was born, the last of 9 children, she was the 5th living child of the Martins. This sweet baby would not nurse with her mother. The family found a wet nurse and Therese stayed with her during her first year , often visiting her parents when the nurse needed to be in town. Eventually, little Therese was back in her birth home where she was very cherished! It turned out that her mother had breast cancer and she died when Therese was about 4 years old.

Her father was so saddened by his wife’s death and he called Therese, his Little Queen. The oldest sister took on the role of mother for her youngest sister. The parents had been drawn to each other many years before because of their faith and love for God. They maintained a very Christian home, so much so, that all their daughters became nuns. They were able to foster the faith with their children and demonstrated virtues to them. Even with their Mother passing on, the girls continued to grow in their relationship with Jesus including little Therese.

Therese was only 4 when her mother died and she missed her terribly. Therese would often play alone in the garden where she, at times, would pretend to be at Mass. She learned to say the Rosary with her family and attended Mass with them. Her oldest sister was soon old enough to enter the cloistered convent of the Carmelites. This broke Therese’s little heart! She had lost her mother, the wet nurse and now her sister. Granted she still had 3 sisters at home and again the older one took on the role of Mother. Therese fell ill, possibly from the distress put on her at such a young age. She was confined to bed and people were coming to pray for her as they thought she was dying. Therese notice how her sisters and father were praying and how they looked lovingly at the statue of Mary. She began to gaze upon it, also, and saw Mary smile upon her. Therese recovered from her illness. She had developed, at this young age, the ability to do mental prayer. She would sometimes crouch down between her bed and the wall to pray, or stand behind a curtain to do the same.

Soon, two more sisters had entered the convent. Therese wanted so much to do the same, but she wasn’t old enough at 13. When the last older sister entered the convent, Therese was ok’d enough to be at home with her father without a caretaker. He decided they would travel to Rome and would see the Pope. Therese was very excited by the prospect! She was sure the Pope would give her permission to enter the convent at a younger age. She had been growing in her faith and prayer life. She was practicing self-control, but did have difficulties with that, but she continued to try. Therese was allowed to receive her First Holy Communion at an earlier age for the time. She loved and cared for her Father as best that she could, but she knew that Jesus was calling her to the convent; to spend her life in prayer.

The trip to Rome was exciting! Seeing the Pope was not as difficult then as it is now, but they did have rules. People approached the Pope in their small group, knelt down for a blessing, and dismissed by an attendant. There was no talking! Therese could not contain herself, and quickly asked the Pope to give her permission to enter the convent at an earlier age. He did ask her how old she was and he replied that she needed to speak with the Nun who was in charge at the convent. Her father practically had to pull her away! She talked to her parish priest for help, wrote a letter to the Mother Superior and prayed for assistance.

Therese was able to enter the convent early at the age of 15. She had to ask permission to do just about everything. She worked in the kitchen scrubbing and cleaning; rose in the middle of the night for chapel, ate whatever was put in front of her without complaining, and prayed constantly. She kept a journal where she recorded her prayers, frustrations, poems and everything else. The other nuns sometimes found her annoying, even though 3 of them were her biological sisters. the nuns came to realize that Therese would do the most menial jobs and never complain; if told she had made an error, especially something she had not done, Therese would beg forgiveness. Since she would eat whatever was put in front of her, she would sometimes get the least favored leftovers. And all the time, in her journals, she was writing down her “Little Way” of faith, hope and love in and for Jesus.

There is much more to say about this great Saint Therese, The Little Flower, who became a Doctor of the Church. She promised that her work on earth would begin when she was in heaven. If you haven’t read her autobiography, A Story of a Soul, I highly recommend it. There are other books about her life and her writing. Ask for her intercession.

Pray for us, St Therese.

Three Questions For You

Once, as a teenager, I applied for a job at grocery store in 1966. The opening had been announced at my high school; our counselor sent three of us to apply that day after school. The three of us were friends and eagerly hoped that we would all be hired. After introducing ourselves to the manager, he gave us a two sided sheet of paper and a pencil so we could take the Math test! Now, Math wasn’t my strong point; at least not Algebra II!

Quietly, we began the test. It was Math and it was timed. I don’t remember how much time we had, but I do remember working quickly. The manager took our papers and checked them in front of us. The other two girls had scores of 100; I had made two mistakes! The manager said he needed someone who could start that weekend. One girl said her family was going out of town and the other girl said she would have to check with her mother. He looked at me and I said, “yes” I can start this weekend. Much to my surprise, he hired me! When I arrived home, I told my parents that I had a job and was starting on Saturday at 9 a.m. it wasn’t my first job as I had been babysitting for fifty cents an hour since I was 12. I also held a job at a local drug store soda fountain and was saving my money for college. My parents congratulated me and asked what my hourly wage would be, but I didn’t know as I hadn’t asked that question. Mom and Dad just laughed and assured me it would be more than what I had been earning. I worked at the grocery store for two years!

This episode taught me the lesson that having the highest score doesn’t always get you a job. It also showed me that being willing to work and being assertive could pay off. I worked very hard to be sure that any math I had to do was correct! Later on in college, I found out that my practical experience on the job helped me in my chosen field of teaching high school students in a cooperative education program.

You are probably wondering why I am telling you all this—if you are still reading! We’ve all had jobs where some people make more than others, and most significantly, we may make less. Often times we find ourselves wanting more. . . More money per hour, more hours, more time off etc, our focus becomes the money.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Matthew 20:1-16

The landowner actually went out to hire laborers at dawn, nine a.m., noon, three p.m. and at five p.m. Each time, he hired more laborers. When evening came, he told his foreman to pay them starting with the last ones hired. They were surprised when they were handed the daily wage. Each group in turn received the day’s wages! In our society, we would find the first group irritated, angry, when they also received the daily wage! They had worked a long, hot day and had received only the day’s wage while those hired last may have only worked for an hour. How was this fair, they asked. They must have felt cheated!

Jesus explains how things work in His kingdom.

Did the men agree to work for the daily wage? Yes, they did at Baptism. The landowner asked them, “Am I allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” What Jesus is giving us cannot be attained by our own doing. Jesus is the one who decides on the gifts and graces he bestows to each of us. He loves us so much he is willing to die for us! And, last, he asks, “Are you envious because I am generous? (They) we realize we are! Lord, have mercy! Whatever Jesus gives us, it is enough. It is generosity and love. What more do we need? (Matthew 20:1-16)

Lord, my God, I ask forgiveness for thinking that I deserve more than someone else; your love for me is enough. I do not deserve that. My human brain is trying to comprehend your generosity and kindness to me. I love you, Lord! Have mercy on me, a sinner.

From US Council of Catholic Bishops:

REFLECT ON TRADITION:
Read these passages aloud.
“The obligation to earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace.”
—St. John Paul II, The Hundredth Year (Centesimus Annus), no. 43


“In many cases, poverty results from a violation of the dignity of human work, either because work opportunities are limited (through unemployment or underemployment), or ‘because a low value is put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage and to the personal security of the worker and his or her family.’”
—Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate), no. 63, quoting St. John Paul II, On Human Work (Laborem Exercens), no. 8


DISCUSS:
■ Where are the dignity of work or the rights of workers violated or protected— both in your own community and around the world?
■ How can our purchasing choices impact whether others’ rights are violated or protected?

https://www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-campaign-human-development/poverty-awareness-month

Our US Bishops web page is a wonderful resource of information! If you haven’t visited this site, please do! It will keep you very informed of what is going on in the Catholic world and in what ways the Church is living out her mission. This is vital information for all Catholics and non-Catholics who have questions about the Church.

Matthew 5:1-11; 25:31-46

WE REMEMBER!

Let’s celebrate! It’s finally December 31, 2020! How does that feel to you? We are all looking forward to an end of the pandemic, self-quarantining, and having a few larger group gatherings. Hopefully, the vaccine will be distributed quickly and we will begin to be social beings again. Many people have lost loved ones during the year due to different health issues with the COVID 19 leading the way.

This néw year of 2021 will certainly be a tough year for the families. Remembering and praying for the dead and their loved ones is one way to to help them. Reaching out to the spouses and/or the children is another way to let them know they are not forgotten. Sending a card gives the recipient something to save, to hold onto, & read again. It lets them know they have a friend who is thinking of them. Reach out in faith, hope and charity to share these virtues with others.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith shows the reality of what we hope for, it is the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Black-eyed Susan follows the Son across the sky.

John Michael Talbot, We Remember

What kind of a Mother?The moment you realize your child is not there, it feels like a heart attack. It’s hard to breathe and you begin to feel sweat on your forehead, under your arms, your chest hurts and she’s still not there!I had looked away for a second when the clerk handed me my change. Kendrah had a habit of putting her hand in my back pocket rather than holding my hand when we were shopping or at a ball game. Where is she! I asked other people in the shoe store if they had seen her. They were disinterested, bored even, when I asked for help. Swiftly, I exited the store into the wide hallway of the mall. She was not in sight. I ran down the hallway labeled, “mall offices”. They were closed. Thoughts we don’t ever want to have are screaming in my head. The main mall was full of people this Friday evening; there was a hobby and craft show going on: it was so crowded! Again, I asked people if they had seen my little 4 year old with blond hair and two braids wearing a pink shirt and jean shorts with pink tennis shoes. “What” They said, “No, No.” Help was not offered as they brushed me off. I decided I needed to find my husband and Kendrah’s father. I knew which store he had gone to and took off running/walking as fast as I could. He was in the check-out; he saw me and waved. I yelled to him that “I can’t find Kendrah!” He came to me looking around for her, when I told him I’d lost her farther back at the shoe store: he suddenly grinned, laughed out loud and said, “There she is!” It was Kendrah carrying a red balloon. She skipped over to us and hugged her Dad and then me. She had no idea that she was lost! All that time I was looking for her was probably 15 or 20 minutes. It seemed like hours to me! What kind of a Mother was I that I could lose track of my child?I have often wondered how Mary and Joseph reacted to discovering 12 yr old Jesus was missing from there caravan returning to Nazareth after Passover that year. Luke tells us in chapter 2:43-51, that they discovered he was missing and each of them thought he had been with the other one. They searched among their family and acquaintances but couldn’t find him, so they returned to Jerusalem. I imagine their conversation on the way back would be interesting to us. “My goodness, this is God’s son who has been entrusted to us,” Mary might have said. And, Joseph, “I don’t recall having a dream about this, Mary, so I think he is safe.” Did they berate themselves, too? Did Mary wonder what kind of a Mother she was? Joseph and Mary were obedient and trusted God as they have shown us in previous passages. They listened to Angels who appeared to them asking them to do the most amazing things that were counter cultural to them and yet they did as they were asked or told to do. What else did they talk about? Did they go to the Temple right away? Or, did they search with any family they had in Jerusalem? Perhaps Lazarus, Mary and Martha had been at the Passover with their family. It is a mystery and not really important to what happens when they find Jesus.Jesus was found by his earthly parents in the Temple talking with the teachers, listening to them, and asking them questions. Joseph and Mary did not understand Jesus’ explanation to them but he returned home with them where we are told, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (V 51-52 ). Jesus calls God his father in this scripture, therefore, his obedience to his Father took precedence over his family ties.Where do we stand on our obedience to God? He is our Father. Does His Will take precedence over our own will, or over the will of others who want us, urge us, beg us to do their will? Do we trust in God?

The Parables of Jesus Christ

The Parable of the Sower: Matt 13: 1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15

The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-34

The Parable of the Leaven: Matt 13:33;

The Parable-of the Lost Sheep: Matt 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7

The Parable of the Lamp: Matt 5:14-16; Mark 4:21-25

The Parable of The Speck and The Log: Matt 7:1-5

The Parable of the New Cloth on Old Garment: Matt 9:16-17: Mark: 2:21-22

The Parable of the Divided Kingdom: Matt 12:24-30; Mark 3:23-27

The Parable of The Weeds And the Wheat: Matt 13:24-30

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: Matt 13:44

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Matt 13:45-46

The Parable of The Net: Matt 13:47-50

The Parable of The Heart of Man: Matt 15:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: 18:23-35

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard: Matt 20:1-16

The Parable of the Man with Two Sons: Matt 21:28-32

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of The Tenant Farmers: Matt 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12

The Parable of the Marriage Feast: Matt: 1-14

The Parable of The Invited Guests: Luke 14:7-14

The Parable of The Budding Fig Tree: Matt 24:32-25; Mark 13:28-33

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree: Luke 13:6-9

The Parable of The Ten Virgins: Matt 24: 1-13

The Parable of The Ten Talents: Matt 25:14-30

The Parable of The Growing Seed: Mark 4:26-29

The Parable of the Faithful Servant vs. The Wicked Servant: Matt 24:45-51; Mark 13:34-37

The Parable of The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:29-37

The parable of The Friend at Midnight: Luke 11:5-13

The Parable of The Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19-31

The Parable of the Lost Coin: Luke 15:8-10

The Parable of The Persistent Widow: Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of The Pharisee and The Tax Collector: Luke 18:9-14

Holy Orders: New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never liked to write New Year’s resolutions! They don’t usually last very long for me. This year, however, I’m thinking of a different type of resolution. My main goal is to grow in holiness each day. Jesus left us many instructions we can find in the Bible, and we can see examples of holiness in the lives of the saints, as well as, in the lives of people we observe around us. Let us consider what we might do to grow in holiness this year, day by day. Here are some ways to help ourselves grow in holiness during the next year, 2021.

Reading Scripture daily is one way to be sure you are focusing on God each day. Start with a 10 minute time frame, if this is a new activity for you. If you have been doing this regularly, increase your time frame as you move through the year. Start anywhere! Are you interested in the parables? Start reading a parable a day from the New Testament. Reflect on the story each day. What stands out to you in the story? Do you understand all the words that are used? If not, take a moment to look them up on your cell phone or iPad. RE-read the parable, or even just a few lines that really stand out. Why are you drawn to these lines? Pray silently for understanding of what Jesus wants you to know. you may choose to read the scripture of the day as used in Mass. in this way with daily Mass and Sunday Mass, you will cover the entire Bible in 2-3 years.

Reminding ourselves as we move through our day, that we are trying to grow closer to God and to be holy. Look around at your world and the people you love. Are you grateful for the people, the places, and the things in your life. Make a list of 5 things you are grateful for today. Do this every day! You can use sticky notes and place them in your bathroom or the inside of your closet door so you will see them every day. The list will grow x 30 days a month for 150 things you are grateful for! Try it! Don’t repeat any of the list! End your day with a prayer. A “goodnight, Lord,” may grow into a long discussion. Give it a try. Praying the Rosary is another way to end the day.

A weekly activity would also be a good addition to your routine. There are opportunities for daily Mass in most parishes which also gives you the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. Check your parish bulletin for days and times of weekday Masses. They are often available in the early morning, lunch time and around 5 pm. If once a week is too often, begin with every other week or once a month. Many parishes also have a day set aside for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This, too, could be a weekly, or monthly, practice.

There are other things you can do to grow in holiness that are not limited by someone’s schedule: Consider fasting once a week from something, such as a special program you like, or dessert, Pray with your spouse and your children before meals, in the car, or before bedtime. Be courteous, kind, loving and forgiving when you really don’t feel like it.

Examples of Christian living are all around us. It is possible that we can all be saints. Saints are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives loving God and their fellow human beings. If you have been confirmed in the Catholic Church, research the saint whose name you chose for confirmation. Or, if that saint doesn’t seem quite right for where you are in life now, choose another one. Read about that person. What exactly did he/she do that was saintly. There are many saints who were born in more recent times such as the 18th-20th Centuries. Find out something about several of them. What virtue does the person seem to have? Ask the saint to pray for you.

Whatever we choose to do, we may find ourselves not following through. This is disappointing and discouraging, but don’t give up. Think about how Jesus must have felt as he chose his ordinary 12 men to follow him and how they didn’t always follow through. He kept them close to him and instructed them again. And, he loved them. Love is the key. “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:36-40

What are Catholics to do?

Day after day, people are on social media expressing that voting one way or another in this presidential election year is a sin. Often they call it a mortal sin! This is very troubling.

Mortal sin is sin that turns us away from God. It is something that a person knowingly does realizing it is a very serious offense against God. And chooses to do it anyway; and, then, follows through to actually do the offense. This is basic catechism! If you don’t know it is a mortal sin, it isn’t a mortal sin. We have a responsibility during our whole life to continue to learn, be faithful and to avoid sin. Reading spiritual books, the lives of the saints and attending Mass regularly are a few ways to do this.

Listening to homilies at Mass is an important part of learning more about avoiding sin. This type of “learning” is part of “forming our conscience.” It also includes prayer for discernment of what is the right thing to do in a given situation. Discussing the homilies with family and friends helps us to think through the message the priest was giving. Do not hesitate to ask your priest about a homily. First, they’ll be happy that you heard it & remembered it! Then, the priest will want to help you have a clearer understanding of what he said. This helps all of us because our priests will have a better understanding of how their homilies are being received.

Reading spiritual books, especially the lives of the saints, help us to see how others lived their lives and their thought processes on many things in daily life. I’ve never found these books or short stories to be boring! The stories share the struggles of the saints and many of the saints wrote about their lives as instructed to do so by a priest or religious. They don’t leave things out because they fear what people will say. There are many books to read or listen to that can improve our understanding of our calling to be a Christian. The United State Council of Catholic Bishops publishes the US Catholic Catechism for Adults. It explains clearly what the Catholic Church is teaching and includes a short summary of a life of a saint at the beginning of each chapter. The end of each chapter summarizes the chapter, provides discussion or thought questions and key points are listed. The Bishops’ website has a plethora of information, usccb.org. This is a very important site that many people are missing.

Daily Bible reading will improve our comprehension of scripture. This isn’t necessarily a Bible Study per se that we normally think of. It is actually prayer and discernment about what God wants to speak to you. Ten minutes a day is a good place to start. Start anywhere! Take a couple of minutes to pray asking God to help you. Then, read a a few lines or even one line. close your eyes and think about what you have read. What comes to mind? Nothing? Just rest in the quiet moment and then thank God for the day. Some days you may think of a 100 hundred things. Persevere in this practice to know God.

Actively participating in Mass increases our love for God and the Eucharist. Many people feel self-conscience at Mass when they respond to the prayers, sing the songs or kneel in prayer during the Eucharistic prayer. One thing that can help is to sit closer to the front. Move forward a pew or two every month until you feel you are not worried about others who are having their own struggle. Pray for them and give your attention to God. Use the liturgy guide or missalette to read the prayers and sing the songs. Listen to the priest, the readings and the prayers as much as you are able to at each Mass. Invite God unto your heart. I know as a mother of 4 that this may sound crazy to you if you are taking children of any age to Mass. Do the best you can. That’s all God asks of us. Hold and comfort your babies; try to keep the toddlers and preschoolers satisfied; encourage the school kids to use their missalettes, a personal prayer book would be good; and, the teens, the struggle is real. Talk to them through the week about the scripture readings and ask them what they think. Take them to Mass and offer the missalette and pray for them.

Through these activities, you can form your own conscience by your faith, your reason, and your intelligence. Faith does not conflict with reason. Use the gifts God gave us in the Holy Mass, Scripture, the Saints and our priests and Bishops teachings. Use the resources available to improve your understanding, growth in faith and trust in God! Let us pray for each other.