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Bethany Hang Out

Come on over :)

Juan the Stranger

 

white clouds and blue sky
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The unbroken unity of love: praying with and for the dead

 

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Peace, love and cemeteries

 

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Prayers and reflections for the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

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Friendship with Mary: pray the rosary like a Carmelite

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The rosary has been a part of my spiritual life since I learned it from my first husband, Blaze, during our courtship, years before I was ever Catholic (or Christian at all.) It became a natural part of daily Catholic devotion for me over the years and the way I experience praying it has grown and changed with my prayer life.

 

Luke Interviews Mary: The Annunciation

Happy St. Luke day. Here is a story. 🙂

Bethany Hang Out

After the breaking of the Bread and the Prayers in the house of John the Apostle, when all the others had left, Mary sat me down, bringing me water and a plate of olives. She walked quickly through the house, putting things away, straightening mats, stirring a stew she was making for John and me for dinner. Finally, after much motherly bustle, she sat down, smiling at me expectantly.

I marveled at the way her gently lined face still looked like the face of a little girl, and wished I could see all that her kind and peaceful eyes had seen.

“So, you understand why I came, and what I am working on?” I asked her.

“Yes, how wonderful!”

I took my writing materials out of my bag.

I was nervous but felt calmed by the comfortable, child like enthusiasm on her face.

She wanted to know everything about my…

View original post 1,170 more words

An Interview with St. Teresa of Avila

 

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I’m a tiny bit late. She has already ordered her usual black coffee and has obviously charmed the pants off the waiter. He continues to smile and wave at her from behind the counter from time to time throughout our stay. I’m happy to see she brought her tambourine like I asked, even though she hadn’t wanted to on the phone. I love that thing.

It’s funny that in her rough brown Carmelite habit, her rope sandals and dark veil, she is not the weirdest looking person in the coffee shop. But people do notice her as they walk by, and she gives each an inviting smile they can’t help but return.

Once we both have our coffees, and she’s hugged me, we settle down at our favorite table. I turn on my recorder.

I am always in awe of her. But she is as cozy and comfortable as my own mother would be. She is certainly “Doctor of the Deep,” a woman challenging and inspiring, but she is ever practical and balanced. Sometimes she is pretty funny, too.

“Holy Mother, Happy Feast Day! “ She smiles broadly, and we toast with our coffees. She knows I like to do that and she humors me.

“ You come from a time when people thought contemplative prayer was dangerous and were afraid to practice it. In our day, they seem to think it’s some esoteric thing they could never do and they don’t see why they would want to or why it is any use to anyone.”

She looks thoughtfully at her coffee and then out the window at the people going by. Prayer to her is like breathing. Why would anybody not want to breath? She knows, though… she knows how we can’t be silent or still these days. It’s harder than ever to live a quiet life, to believe, and to pray, really pray.

“Perhaps if they feel that way, they don’t know what prayer is, what it can be, what it can do. The soul finds her true peace in it. It is a very real work in and for the Church.”

“So when you talk about prayer what do you mean? A lot of people think of it as saying set prayers or asking God for something, that sort of thing.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” she says, sitting bolt upright for emphasis. “ Say your prayers. But when you do, think carefully of Who you are talking to and what you are saying. If you are talking to your friend, for example, but all you are doing is saying words, not giving him eye contact or listening so he can talk, what kind of conversation, what kind of relationship is that? Christ is your Friend. You are already starting to do what I called ‘mental prayer’ when you give Him at least the contact and attention you would give any dear friend.”

The waiter brings her a plate of cookies for no reason, and she smiles warmly at him. I can’t take her anywhere that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

“People so often rattle off their prayers without thinking or opening their hearts. If they call that prayer…well…words fail me.” *

An eyebrow comes up as she sips her coffee. Her expression says nothing could be more ridiculous than “praying” like that.

We sit silently for some minutes drinking our coffee. She hasn’t touched the cookies so I’m certainly not going to.

“Why would anybody need anything more than living a good Catholic life?” I ask, as I am sure many do.

“Jesus is here within us,” she says passionately, putting her hand over her heart. “And we shouldn’t leave Him there all alone. * This is very important. You need to remember that His throne is your heart. You yourself are His castle. Be with Him there.”

I love how she says that.

“And all the life of prayer,” she says as she smiles at a child who runs by, “is to lead us to good works, good works, my daughter!” ***

“Good works?”

“We become His hands, His feet, His Heart for the world and the Church through the transforming love we find in prayer. A soul completely given to Him becomes a window for the out-streaming of God’s grace into the world for everyone and for the good of the Church. This is our fulfillment and our work in this life, our gift to give and our destiny in eternity!”

“Do you have any advice for those who might be interested in praying the Teresian way?”

I was hoping she would say something cool and mystical but…
As she often does, she wants to go over the pre-requisites of a life of prayer.

“My idea is that we not just give some time to prayer each day,” she says. “We craft a life that is prayer!”

“Live a simple life inside and out. Keep a good conscience. Be faithful to the Church. Train yourself to make room for the Lord. Then He will come at His own perfect time in His own way and do the rest. You will find peace and the Lord will find a place to rest His head! That place will be your own soul. Let nothing steal your treasure: * His company, His indwelling, His peace. Mental prayer… is nothing more than falling in love with Christ and conversing often in secret with our Friend who we know loves us.” ***

I beam at her. Wow. Just wow.

I glance down at my notes.

“Another thing that might discourage modern people from exploring your ideas is that you talk about detachment a lot. That usually sounds harsh to people of today. When you say to practice detachment from things and people, but you urge us to love one another what do you mean?”

“ I mean to love those around us, through and for God. This is to see through God’s eyes, to love with God’s Heart. That’s detachment. It isn’t a cold, distant ideal, it’s letting the Lord be the center of all your love and desires.”

I am suddenly aware once more of the cookies between us.

There is something I am dying to know, though, Reader, before I turn off the recorder. I bet you want to know too!

“Can you tell us much about your life with God as it is now?” She looks almost demure but she is radiant as she tells me, “The Lord of Love is mine and I am truly His at last.”

I can’t get anything else out of her about it except that our life on Earth is like “a couple of hours,” or a “night at a bad inn.” * Any trouble we take for God is nothing compared to being with Him in Heaven forever.

I notice the cookies are gone but there are a lot of people walking around with cookies…. How did she do that?

Giving my head a quick shake, I ask her, “Holy Mother, is there anything you would like to leave our readers with?”

She leans forward. “Don’t let anything scare you in this world,” she says tenderly, ****“everything passes but God will never change. Be patient, endure, and things will happen for you. If you have God you have everything.”

She is enchanting when her eyes glow like that.

When we get up to leave, I say, “Oh hey, you forgot your halo!” I pick up the tambourine, waving it, and put it behind her head.  She pinches my arm. She says that clearly I seem to have forgotten my halo today. I am laughing and she pretends to be annoyed but I know she’s not. We go out and have some fun with that tambourine of hers. I’ve always thought she looked cool with that thing. And she can really dance.

Happy Feast Day, St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church, Foundress of the Discalced Carmelites, great Teacher of Prayer. Thank you for all the wisdom and inspiration you have given us. Pray for us that we may become good friends of Christ that He might form us for the work of His Kingdom.

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Author’s Note:

I am not a Teresian scholar, only one of Teresa’s daughters. Some of this piece is paraphrased teaching of hers, and some of it reflects who St. Teresa is to me, and what she teaches me. Hopefully this describes some of her ideas in a fun way, without the time barrier. When I did quote her verbatim I put her words in italics.

By the way she really did dance around with a tambourine sometimes. And I bet she looked cool.

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* The Way of Perfection
** The Interior Castle
*** Life, her autobiography

***“…Mental prayer is nothing more than falling in love with Christ…” is translated this particular way by Fr. Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. in his book, The Teresian Gospel.

**** “everything passes” known as “St. Teresa’s Bookmark”

I have written more specifically on Teresian Prayer in my article  Five Minute Mysticwhich you can find here: http://www.austincnm.com/index.php/2013/07/five-minute-mystic/#.Ulw_kY41ZSU

How I learned that the rosary connects us, and that love is stronger than death

rosaries and the rosary of the sign by Shawn Chapman

It was almost my wedding anniversary and my husband, Bob, had just died a couple of weeks before, of Brain Cancer.  I dreaded that “birthday of our marriage” even more because I remember how terrible it felt last time that  first wedding anniversary after the death of my first husband, Blaze. I knew that it was best to do something special to honor the day and that would help me a lot. I also remembered the days leading up to the anniversary are worse because of the dread of it, than the actual day itself sometimes.

I had a lot of wonder and gratitude about walking with Bob through that transformative, critical time in his life, our life, as we dealt with cancer, and about the beauty, holiness, love and unity we experienced through our fight and also at his death. I had a deep gratitude for Bob’s love for me, which was complete, passionate, tender, self sacrificing, life giving, and powerful; all I could ever dream of. I knew what I had when I had him. I loved every minute of it even though it was a terrifying and painful journey once Bob had the seizure that started it all. I would walk that journey with him again, even knowing what I know now. He was worth it. It was a joy to love like that and to know such intimacy even in the face of the unknown; the possibility of death and loss we had to deal with every day.

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I decided for our first (“better- half, post-humous”) wedding anniversary, I would pray a rosary novena of love and gratitude for our marriage. I asked Bob, in spirit, to join me in praying it. I knew he would. We had often prayed together, even before he became Catholic, with my rosary wrapped around our joined hands. The first gift he ever gave me was a rosary. That particular rosary was also the sign I had asked for from God about whether I should be open to a relationship with Bob or not after a lot of agonizing and not knowing how I felt or what I should do. (That’s a whole other story.)

When Bob proposed to me (I will have to write you a story about that too sometime,) I happened to have a rosary in my hand and when I finally said, “yes” (I was crying a lot,) I wrapped it around our wrists.

The rosary had always been a part of us. So a rosary novena leading up to the big day seemed perfect.

I normally pray the rosary while walking. In this rosary novena of love and thanksgiving, I would walk the same route with my rosary that I had done every night of the two and a half years of Bob’s illness, praying for him. It’s a perfect route because I am almost home right when I get to the “Hail Holy Queen.”

I decided, though,  to do my rosary walk during the day this time so I would be less likely to think of those nights I walked and prayed for him carrying such hope and pain. I wanted it to feel a little different at least. Of course now I was in a lot of pain with my grief, too, to the point I felt like I could die from it. It was hard to find comfort anywhere and praying the rosary felt strange and foreign like everything else I did at that time. But I did it anyway of course.

One day toward the end of the novena I was walking along my accustomed path, praying the rosary, feeling particularly broken and lost. My heart asked Bob the wrenching questions that agonized me in my times of acute desolation. “Do you still love me? Are you still mine? Are you joining me in this rosary novena really? Do you miss me? I don’t want you to suffer but I wish I knew if you missed me. I wish you could miss me a little. Can you even miss anyone when you are in Heaven?”

I finished my rosary walk. When I got home I went through some old e-mails of Bob’s to me from years ago. I forwarded some of them to his mother. I had paused, as a wave of grief went through me… then realized  that I had been staring unseeing at a picture Bob had attached to an e-mail he had sent me a few years ago. Suddenly I saw what I was looking at. It was a picture of his dirty hand taken at work (he was a press room foreman & mechanic at the local newspaper so his hands were always filthy and inky). In this beautiful, calloused, dirty hand of his was a delicate forest green rosary. His caption said, “missing you.”

I couldn’t believe it. I cried.

To me this said yes, he is still mine, we are connected by heart, he still loves me, he is joining me in praying the rosary, and…. he misses me. It was overwhelming. I actually felt happy all day after that.

Here is the picture.

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“Missing You” by Bob Chapman

 

This is what it means to me:

• Love is stronger than death.

• The rosary is a glorious prayer that even connects the Communion of Saints, (I knew that of course but now I KNOW it!)

• It seems people in Heaven can miss us after a fashion, as well as answer and comfort us sometimes in our painful moments of deep grief.

That is how I saw that photograph; as a loving gesture from Bob and from the Lord. I have no idea why he would have titled it, “missing you,” at the time when he took that picture years ago. But thank you, God, that he did.

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Our family traditions for St. Therese Day

Here is how my daughters and I celebrated the feast of St. Therese, (October 1) when they were growing up, and we still do!

After dinner on the evening of St. Therese day, we read the book God’s Little Flower, the story of St. Therese. Even after the girls were “too old” for this book, we still read it. I still have it, and whoever is home, we read it after dinner. It’s a very good book, and is a good introduction to the life and spiritual discoveries of St. Therese for adults as well. In fact, we have used it for that purpose to good effect in the past.

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Rosie and Maire ready to deliver!

After that, having bought earlier in the day, as many roses as we could possibly afford, my girls and I, and whoever else wants to participate (friends, boyfriends, whoever) go out and randomly hand out roses to people.

We feel that no explanation is necessary with people when you give them a rose.

We don’t preach or give anybody anything to read. The roses are just free, like the love of God!

If people ask, and sometimes they do, why we are handing out roses, we tell them about St.Therese and that we honor her promise to “let fall a shower of roses from Heaven,” and to “spend [her] Heaven doing good on earth.” But otherwise we just hand them to people, or ask them, “Would you like a rose?”

You should try this! People who get roses always will feel great and you, the giver, will too. It is truly amazing how uplifting and fun a project “random roses from St. Therese,” can be.

I promise if you do this, especially if you do it again and again over many years, you will have some great stories you will tell again and again. We sure do!

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Often, I will make a St. Therese Rose Petal Pound Cake. Here’s the recipe.

You will need:

1 lb sweet butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons rose water (yes, it’s edible and at your grocery store)
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 cups flour

a little powdered sugar for dusting
Baker’s sweet chocolate (about half a 4 oz. box)
organic rose petals (Please don’t use store bought roses for this as they might be sprayed with insecticides… another choice would be to use them but take them off before you eat!)

Preheat oven to 350.
Cream together butter and sugar
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift together dry ingredients.
Mix together milk and rose water
Add dry and wet to butter mixture alternately.
Mix gently by hand after each.

Pour into buttered and floured tube or bundt pan (or two loaf pans). Bake 1 hour, or till toothpick or fork into center comes out dry.
After the cake cools ten minutes, turn out onto a plate.
Cool completely.
Drizzle with melted chocolate
Dust with powdered sugar
Sprinkle with rose petals

We usually had a brief family prayer service in honor of St. Therese, based on Evening Prayer for her feast day, but adjusted for the age of the audience. 🙂 For the Littles this might be a few short prayers and a song. Older kids can pray the Liturgy of the Hours with parents… especially with cake at the end.

We enjoy showering one another with rose petals, and also throwing them to the crucifix.

Enjoy, and spread the love!

Be blessed, St. Therese, and pray for us!

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