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Bethany Hang Out

Come on over :)

Author

Shawn Rain Chapman

Shawn Chapman is the twice widowed mother of two young adult daughters,a fiancee, granny, Carmelite (O.C.D.S.,) care giver, writer. (Catholic Columnist for Bryan-College Station Eagle Newspaper, blogger ATX Catholic, and occasionally, OK twice, Aleteia.) Laughs at own jokes. Loves roses. Member: Pontifical Biblical Institute of the Holy Hippie Sisterhood. Really likes to go barefoot. Kind of religious. Carmelite name: Shawn of the Child Mary and of her Immaculate Heart. Bit of a Hippie.

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!

Holy Name of Mary: a story

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For [Jewish parents,] choosing a name is a big deal. A person’s name is not a mere label; it expresses the essence of its bearer. The letters that make up your name, its sound and its meaning are descriptions of your soul. Only a prophet has the vision and foresight to know which name fits the soul of your child.

You are that prophet. ~ chabad.org

I didn’t want to tell anyone, but quiet miracles happened throughout my pregnancy that we marveled at.

I had become pregnant in the winter. I didn’t know what to tell the neighbors about why the flowers around our house kept blooming and continued to bloom out of season. “Like me,” I would chuckle to my husband.

I didn’t tell them flowers were also all over the house every morning. “Like hidden manna,” he said.

One morning he even found his walking staff blooming with lilies.

“Who would believe it?”

“It’s budding like the staff of Aaron that was laid in the Arc of the Covenant,” I said.

Kindly family and friends came to help me with my chores and were surprised to find everything done. How could I tell them I had no idea how it happened? The Lord had mercy on me. Perhaps it was the angels sent to help a pregnant old woman! Or perhaps it was Mother Sarah herself, who had a son in her old age.

“I’ve never seen anything like this!” I often thought.

The pregnancy itself was a miracle. I never expected to be able to conceive at my age, years past my time, when we had given up long before. We talked about this with wonder every day as my body changed in all the ways I had seen happen with other women, but never to me. Every day, I woke up thinking, “It’s true!”

We worried about my health, worried whether I would be able to nurse the baby. But I had prayed for this baby, and the Lord gave her to me, even announcing her coming to me with a holy vision. Surely He would provide milk from me to nurse her.

As I grew, we prayed more about her name. We knew she should be named for a relative, and that we should give her a name of one of the Mothers of Israel. At first I was thinking of Mother Sarah. Or maybe Deborah, Judith or Queen Esther, women who saved the Jewish people by their courage and trust in God.

But the name that kept coming up for both of us was Miriam. *  So many girls were named Miriam. There were several relatives to choose from with that name. It was an ancient name that reminded us of our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It meant so many things. It could mean “bitter.” It could mean, “myrrh” which we used for a healing balm or as an incense. It could mean, “love.”

We knew Miriam was the right name when we talked about it. The Prophetess Miriam. What was God telling us about our child? “Hannah,” ** my husband would say, “we must be living at a very special time, truly.”

I had the song of Moses and Miriam committed to heart, as did my husband, Joachim. Really, we couldn’t get it out of our heads. Holding hands we sang it in the darkness before we drifted off to sleep, the song of our deliverance through the Red Sea. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord compelled us.

The naming of a Jewish daughter is a most profound spiritual moment. The naming ceremony is linked to the public reading of the Torah. During the Torah reading, a special “Mi Sheberach” blessing is said. The blessing begins with a prayer for the mother’s health. It continues with the giving of the baby’s name — and a prayer that this new Jewish daughter should grow to be a wise and understanding Jewish woman of goodness and greatness.~ Rabbi Shraga Simmons

On her naming day, two weeks after her birth, I woke to find rose petals all over our sleeping mat, all over our baby daughter. I had only seen roses a few times, at the homes of the more well to do. I always thought they were beautiful, but I never knew they could smell that wonderful! The whole house was filled with their perfume. I had to sweep them up before company came for the party later.“I am the rose of Sharon,” I thought, “And the Lily of the Valley.”  I hid the petals in the one chest we had in the house. I could not hide the deep, sweet scent of the colorful rose petals. Like an oil poured out, the smell hung richly in every part of our home. People asked, “What is that?” but I couldn’t say.

I stared at Miriam for such a long time that morning on the day of the ceremony. She lay asleep in the crook of her father’s arm. I caressed her smooth and lovely skin the color of tea with milk in it, and brushed back her dark curls so sweet against a tiny, perfect face… was she really mine? I could scarcely believe it.

“You have captured my heart, my sister, my bride,” whispered itself in my soul. Was that God’s voice? Was He speaking to her?

What would this girl be? Joachim and I wondered that every day.

 

After a child is born, the father is given the honor of an aliyah (an opportunity to bless the reading of the Torah) in synagogue at the next opportunity. At that time, a blessing is recited for the health of the mother and the child. If the child is a girl, she is named at that time. ~jewfaq.org

I held little Miriam in my arms in the Temple with the other women. When her father stood up to read, his baby daughter’s soft eyes opened wide as if she heard and understood every word.

I trembled, not knowing why.

I knew what Joachim would read, and he did not surprise me.

 “Miriam the prophetess …
took the tambourine in her hand;
and all the women followed her
with tambourines and dances.

And Miriam called to them:

Sing to God…”

(Exodus 15:20-21)

We smiled at each other over the people’s heads.

I looked down into those deep, wise eyes of my daughter, and my child looked back at me with such depth and understanding, I felt our souls had touched.

She was telling me something I could only understand by faith.

I touched her flushed baby cheek. I knew one day she would save our people. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know when. But she would save our people. God would save our people, and she would have a hand in it. She was telling me who she was. But she was still a mystery to me.

For years people would talk about the white doves that flew through the Temple at the moment of her naming. We all knew it was a sign from God. But we didn’t know what the sign could mean.

I just held her close to me.

I held her close to me.

 

 

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Dawn of salvation: Nativity of Mary

Bethany Hang Out

“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor haughty my eyes… truly I have set my soul in peace, as a child has rest in its mother’s arms, even so my soul.”  see Psalm 131

The Birth of Mary (September 8) 

The dawn of our salvation has come, the first hint of blue in the dark of night, signaling the sunrise and the end of Satan’s reign over humanity. The girl who would open the door to a supernova of grace into this world, has quietly come into it without fanfare. It is a birth like any other.

The birth of a daughter was normally not considered as important as that of a son. So Mary’s birth would have been even more of a quietly celebrated event, most likely. Even though this baby girl was our future queen, in the world she was born into, she was just a girl…

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Stay calm, access peace; for your good and the good of all

With constant developments in the news about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and constantly breaking political news, these are extremely stressful times. How do we keep some equilibrium so we can be any use to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in these dark, difficult and divisive days? Every day it seems like there are more bomb shells. How do we sustain them?

I messaged a friend the other day, “How ARE we going to keep calm these crazy days?” She wrote back:

“I’m going to be drinking! You don’t drink, so you shall have to pray, I suppose. :P”

I do plan to pray a lot, in whatever way I can, but most of all, I plan to pray in ways that simply keep me connected to God.

As a Carmelite, I have a strong belief that cultivating a constant, loving awareness of the presence of God within is a service to the world, and that it has a gracious effect on everything, and everybody.

I believe that when I am recollected, and in conscious contact with God, I have opened the fountain of living water in my soul. By doing so, I become a channel of grace for the world.

Unsealing the living fountain of the Holy Spirit in my own soul mysteriously helps others do the same, and somehow they are helping me as well. To me, this is part of the Communion of Saints.

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“Let us draw from the springs of salvation

for our selves, and for the entire parched world.”

~ St. Edith Stein

Also, staying connected to God helps me to keep closer to His perspective when things get a little crazy.

It also reminds me that whether there is the earthly appearance of what I think is justice or not, God is going to win in the end, win in His kind of way, and that His win lasts forever. My sister in Carmel, Pat Thompson says that God’s will is always love. Whatever happens, I can trust that will of love is still at work.

So, in these days of fear, anger and chaos, grief, division and anxiety, I hope to remain connected and recollected.

I know I will have to be focussed about this commitment to myself, to God, and to the world. Sometimes I might become overwhelmed with what’s going on. However, I hope to make a consistent effort to draw myself back to the center every time; that center of my soul, and the center of the whole of existence, where God is. Here are some tips about staying on track for inner peace during your day.

Make a plan for your day that cultivates peace.

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  • Plan, whether you are at work, or at home today, and the days ahead, to cultivate serenity. It’s not going to help anything or anybody for you to freak out, right?
  • It may be a good idea to limit your engagement with what’s going on during the day, and to limit your media consumption, to the minimum.
  • Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Even popping in for a few seconds helps. If you can’t get there, here is adoration live. 
  • Plan some stopping points at certain times to settle down and re-center, and make a simple plan for what you will do. Sometimes you just need a few minutes with some calm music, a view of nature, something nice to drink.
  • Go to mass if your schedule permits.
  • Plan to pray The Liturgy of the Hours; however many of the set hours you can pray. (Morning, Mid Morning, Midday, Mid- afternoon, Evening and Night Prayer.) Universalis is a good site to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for free. You may also like The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on-line, a Marian version, so to speak, of the Liturgy of the Hours. Also free. Check in with the Liturgy of the Hours any time, and pray with others all over the world.
  • Plan to do acts of kindness and/or sneaky good deeds. You will feel great. Leave someone a flower. Pay it forward at a drive through. Give something to a homeless person or engage him or her in conversation. Do a chore for someone else in your household or at work, to lighten their load. Here is a list of acts of kindness if you can’t think of anything.
  • Make time in your day to interact with your pet. Even a quiet moment spent petting or brushing your dog or cat can raise your spirits and calm your heart.
  • Look at art that uplifts you. Plan ahead to do this, or check out I Require Art on Face Book. I love looking at that page. It is also on Twitter.
  • Have coffee with a friend and catch up. This does wonders.

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Just for a Day

Pick one of these to do now and then. You can do something for a 24 hours period that would be overwhelming to do for a lifetime. But it is great training!

  • Hug people today, whenever possible. Seriously. This helps them and you.
  • Just for today, no fighting with anyone. Fight tomorrow. Not today. You can do it just for your waking hours in this next 24. Have a day like that now and then.
  • Have peaceful things to read that are helpful to you, comforting, or don’t get you emotionally stirred up. Don’t read anything else, just for today.
  • Plan to be extra caring with the people around you today. Remind yourself often that this is your intention today: to be kind. All day.
  • If you have a baby or a little kid in your family, read with him, cuddle with her. Spending time talking with a little kid can be healing. Plan on it. Make it part of your day today.
  • Eat comforting foods. It’s one day. Don’t worry about it. Plan comfort food meals for your family. Try to limit dinner talk to peaceful topics. Just for today.
  •      Make peace your highest priority just for one day.  
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“Let nothing steal your treasure.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

 

If you become overwhelmed, here are some quick ways to calm down:

  • Push your palms together for a moment.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Shake out your limbs.
  • Breath in through your nose slowly (count five) and then out through your mouth (count five.) Keep going with this for a while if it helps you.
  • Stop what you are doing- especially stop interacting with whatever or whoever is upsetting you. Turn off the T.V. Get away from that person. Get off social media. Whatever it is, stop it.
  • Tune in to the moment: Feel the floor (of whatever you are standing on,) hear the sounds far away, the sounds near you, the feel of whatever you are touching. Be conscious of your breathing. Look out of the window, at the sun, at the sky, at the trees or whatever is around you. Notice what’s going on in this present moment.
  • Go for a brisk walk. Pray the rosary or inwardly repeat the Holy Name of Jesus, or the sweet name of Mary as you walk. Let your inner, prayerful repetition fall into rhythm with your steps and your breathing. Pray with your whole body, mind and eventually, heart.
    • If you can’t pray the rosary, just hold it.  Think of it as holding Our Lady’s hand.
    • Slow down your responses to anything agitating that people say. Think before you respond back. A good thing to remember before you speak is, “Is [what I am about to say] true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
    • Intentionally tense different muscle groups, and then release them. It’s very calming.
    • Make a list of five things you are grateful for, of five people you love, and even what you love about them.
    • Do a simple task you do all the time, but do it mindfully. Sweep the floor patiently. Wipe the table. Brush your hair. Water plants.
    • Wash your face, or sprinkle cold water on your wrists and dab it behind your ears.
    • Call a sympathetic, or light hearted friend. Say you don’t want to talk about current events. You want to talk about turtles or something.
    • Watch something funny (as long as it is not snarky, sarcastic or mean spirited.)
    • Litanies are awesome. My mom swore by these. She kept a notebook of them. “When you’re crazy, walk the floor if you need to, and pray a litany. Litanies are great when you’re crazy.”
    • Listen to a guided prayerful meditation, like one of mine, or the Daily Disconnect podcast from the Carmelite Friars of Illinois.
    • Here is a body centered, calming recording, an app that helps me sometimes. calm.com
    • Have a cup of calming tea, like chamomile.
    • Have a cup of coffee. Just don’t drink too much coffee.
    • Try a calming essential oil, like lavender, chamomile, or any citrus essential oil. That can be really good. Rub it on your feet, or on the back of your neck. Put it in a diffuser. Splash it around.

In general

Stay safe, stay mentally cool, drive carefully, (and as little as possible if you are overwrought,) stay connected to God all through the day. It helps everybody.

As Fr. Adrian van Kaam said, “Lord, make me a smooth channel for the outflow of your divine will into this world.”

 

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Photo by Tatiana on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Kiss the sky; a blessing

A priest and I have met in a cool, bustling lobby on a hot summer day. We smile at one another. We don’t know one another really except by sight and a few short conversations. But we have a warm, positive regard for one another and I feel safe and encouraged as soon as he comes in. I am so grateful that he is here.

We are about to head up to bless the place where my brother committed suicide. I know this is not a light task to ask someone to come along and join in.

I came here twice before to make sure I could handle it. The first time I sat in stunned silence for an hour and a half without even realizing the time that had gone by. The second time I was pretty sad but I thought I was ready. I am ready.

I am impressed that this priest who barely knows me responded to my request so readily and agreed to come here for this.  He seems to understand the need for healing, both emotional and spiritual for all concerned.

Our plan is also to commend my brother’s soul to God, and to pray in that place for my family’s healing.

Father walks with me toward the elevators, which we take to a high floor. We walk down a hallway, then through a stair exit, and out onto a tiny bare balcony overlooking a pool area.

“Just be however you need to be,” he says reassuringly.

This is the spot where my brother, Mark, sitting on the railing here, shot himself and fell down to the concrete below even as friends and family repeatedly called his cell phone and frantically texted him begging him not to do it while the police looked for him not knowing where to begin. I have thought of those moments over and over, tried to understand, tried to feel the way he must have felt, wondered why it had to be this way, watched my family and our friends do the same.

What is there to say in a place like this?

After a time of respectful silence, Father talks to me earnestly about how the Cross conquers everything. “I believe that,” I say.

He has such a kind face, I think to myself. It’s an easy, open, playful face, too. He is the kind of person who puts others at ease.

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photo Renee Bork

I get out my phone and show Father one of my favorite pictures of my brother. I briefly tell him about Mark, about my symbiotic relationship with him, and what happened to him as best I am able to understand it now.

Mark Timothy Manning

This gentle priest takes all this in thoughtfully.

He tells me what he would like to do, how he would like to proceed now.

I show him what I have brought: a grocery bag full of rose petals, some bubbles; a small bottle for each of us.

He smiles. He says the bubbles are a great symbol for what we are doing with the commendation. He blesses them.

He puts a thin priestly stole over his shoulders and smiles at me.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We begin with the Sign of the Cross together. He prays the prayers for the blessing of a place, telling me we are also reclaiming this place for God. In our prayers we invite the angels to come and drive every trace of evil from here. We bless and bring healing to this place where there was so much pain, where there was such a tragic, senseless death.

Seriously and with purpose, he begins to fling holy water all around us; over the rail, down the stairs, all over the balcony, the walls of the building, and splashes it down to the concrete below. He blesses this place in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

I tell this dear priest how hard it is not understanding what happened, and how I agonize still about how my brother could do this. Didn’t he know we loved him? Didn’t he know that any of us who loved him would have forgiven anything, given anything, done anything for him? How could he do this to us?

Tears are running down my cheeks.

Father listens closely, nodding.

I tell him how I have come to understand that somehow, that for some reason I will never know, my brother wasn’t able to let our love and support change what he did. Maybe to him we seemed so far away, he just didn’t know his way back.

I have to cry a little bit.

“You’re being really strong right now.”

“Thank you.”

He reminds me that as Catholics we believe every soul is given a moment of choice at the time of death, an encounter with God’s merciful love and truth, so each of us has a chance to choose the embrace of mercy.

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“Jesus” By Bob Chapman

He mentions that our Lord is here on this balcony with us, and that our Holy Mother Mary is here with us, too, to pray with us.

I am moved to talk to her. I tell her I had never thought I would be OK again but now I see I can have a new life and that Jesus wants me to have life. I spontaneously renew my consecration to her offering my life to her and committing to follow her Son better than I ever have before.

I can hear Father quietly praising Jesus as I speak these words of my new hope to Mary.

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I close my eyes and smile. I say, “I love you, God.”

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Photo by Elia Clerici on Pexels.com

 

In his gentle voice, the priest reads a reading from one of the Gospels, and we pray for my family’s healing. We pray the Our Father together. I pray for the deep inner healing of the Holy Spirit for each person in my family. We say Amen.

We talk. We pray more. I tell him about the evolution of my understanding of my brother’s death through the tenderness of God in my prayer life right through all the horror of this death, this overwhelming loss, and fear I had of finding out something that would make this even worse. I explained that I still needed to understand all the same, and how I feel God helped me in His ingenious ways.

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I feel so much less alone as the priest listens quietly and with compassion to all I am saying. I don’t think even I knew how much this day would mean to me. I am grateful for his courage and kindness in coming here.

He said he would like to pray the Prayer of Commendation now, that we use for funerals. He says it is our prayer to send the soul to God, commending the person to God’s mercy and love. It serves as some release to us too, allowing us to send the person forth with love, to God.

So he prays the beautiful Prayer of Commendation.

Together we pray a Litany of the Saints.

We blow bubbles and watch them glide out shimmering, into the sun, cascading down the side of the building, drifting out over the pool. We send streams of them up into the blue and watch them float gently. We can’t help but smile.

I open the bag of rose petals and toss some out over the rail. I sprinkle some over Father. ‘Yay! Thank you so much!”

We grab more and more handfuls of petals and throw them out, everywhere, like confetti at a party. Some of the petals drop quietly onto the water below, some waft out on the breeze, some scatter themselves on the patio.

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“Did you SEE that?!”  he exclaims, as, amazingly, some of the petals suddenly spiral upward into the sky and away. Laughing we throw more and more of them everywhere, as if we are showering the world with roses.

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He takes some holy water and blesses me with the sign of the cross on my forehead.

With trembling hands, I drape a rosary over the end post of the rail and fasten two white silk roses to it.

Something I need to say to my brother:

“You’re not that.” 
You are not the way you died.

You’re just… my beautiful brother.”

Smiling, Father and I take pictures of each other, of the balcony, of the draped rosary, and the scattered petals, so my daughters can see what this looked like today.

 

We hug, and peacefully we leave the rose petal strewn balcony.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O God.
~ And let perpetual light shine upon him.

 

The clergy sexual abuse crisis

I want you to know that I have addressed this issue on ATX Catholic and here is the link if you would like to read it.

God be with you,

Shawn

the church is true but we are a very sick family right nowc23bd7b542ccfbb13e603fa125795af7--valentines-day-hearts-vintage-valentines

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