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Stations of the Cross, with love from Mary

 

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After Christ’s Ascension, Mary, the mother of Jesus, would go out and walk the way of the Cross again, the way of our salvation and hers. She could be seen sometimes in the early morning, walking slowly, pausing.”He fell here. And again here. He spoke to the women here.”

Her prayers of Good Friday returned to mind, “My Son, my Son, my Lord, how far will this go? How much of this will You allow? If it be Your will, let me  suffer all with You, die with you! My Son, God’s Son. I will go with you as far as I can.”

She remembered, “This is where our eyes met. This is when I knew. Here is the place where Simon of Cyrene took up the Cross. Here is where Jesus was crucified and- unthinkably, died. Oh what those people said to Him, what they did to Him! Father, forgive them! May His mercy capture their hearts forever! Let me lead our children, Father. Allow me to lead them by heart and prayer, to our Son.”

And then she would walk back to her home with John, grinding grain and making cakes for his breakfast, kneading bread for the visitors who would come, spending her day in prayer and service, humbly telling the story of her Son to all who wanted to be set free.

So much of the Gospel depended on her witness. And her sons, the Apostles, needed her prayer and presence. She would stay as long as she was needed, until God took her home to her Son. As Spouse of the Holy Spirit, she prayed for, companioned, and mothered the early Church, living also as a daughter of the Church as long as God willed her to stay on earth.

People started to follow her when she walked the way of the cross. At first a small group of the women disciples walked with her. Soon many people went out early and walked with her in the quiet morning, recounting and reflecting on the Lord’s Passion and death, reflecting on what had been done for them, and that His spirit within them was so real it would raise their bodies, too, from the dead. In awe of the living proof and witness of His divinity and humanity that she was, they, too, paused in silence, and in that silence the Scriptures were opened for them, and their hearts burned within them as the Spirit, too, accompanied them and taught them all they needed to know as they walked with His Bride, the little and simple, humble and human Mary, mother of Jesus.

As persecution grew, barricades were set up by the authorities to keep the Christians from walking the Via Dolorosa, and the Apostle John took Mary with him to Ephesus for her protection.

There, she carried stones she had brought from Jerusalem to the back of the house and set them along a path she marked out in and around the garden. She would pause at each one of the markers she had made, pause and remember: Here He fell, and again here. He spoke to the women here. Our eyes met here. Simon took up the cross here.

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In the end there were fourteen stations where she could stop to pray. The Ephesians from John’s church would visit her and walk this way of the Cross with her, and with her remember and reflect on all that had happened.

The Gospel had not yet been written. But it was recorded and treasured in the heart and in the footsteps of this mother who, lowly and barefoot, walked and pondered, in remembrance of her Son’s suffering and death. This walking reflection of hers became the Stations of the Cross represented in every Catholic Church, on which we meditate each Friday of Lent to this day, and especially on Good Friday, the day of our Redemption.

This is only a legend about the evolution of the Stations of the Cross, filled out by my prayerful imagination, but it makes deep sense to me. In a way it is true whether it’s factual or not. Mary is the one who treasured the truth about Our Lord for us in her heart. She was the one person who truly knew where He came from. There are parts of the Gospel that could have only come from her, including some of her inmost thoughts… and the fact that she treasured and reflected on all these things in her heart. Even if she never walked the Stations of the Cross in such ritual fashion while on earth, though it is easy to imagine she did, we know she carried it in her heart. We remember her, and she remembers us when we pray it now, and she joins us, her Son’s Church, in prayer, as she always did.

I attended the Stations of the Cross the evening of this writing. This time I walked it in my soul with Mary, from the original events of Good Friday to after the Ascension, to her last days in Ephesus, joining her on the Way of the Cross, consciously drawing on her memories.

Learning from Mary is so easy. She is full of grace. It’s what she has to share.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you–because by your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

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Lent: luminous darkness, hidden seeds

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I love Lent.

I am always happy to hear that I am dust, and that to dust I shall return.

When I close my eyes to pray, I can really tell I am dust. In here where I live, it’s quiet and dark. Simple. Nothing to it.  Who am I?

Dust.

Clay.

Nothing.

Everything.

Inwardly quiet and dark,

yet full of exploding light in the cave of my heart,

just like you.

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As St. John of the Cross points out, sometimes what seems like darkness is the over-whelming brilliance of God’s light.

Maybe that is why we close our eyes when we pray. Outside what we can see with our senses is wonderful, but only a reflection of the invisible God. When we close our eyes, we are alone in God’s luminous dark within us. We know there is light in us by faith. We know our being is created in the image of Him who is light.  Even though we rightly experience ourselves as dust, our hearts are secretly bright because of Who lives there.

At this time of year, roots, bulbs, and seeds under the soil that have “fallen to the ground and died,”  all winter have been nourished by the Lord of mystery and love, though we the farmers are unaware.

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How did Jesus rise from the dead? We don’t know. We know it happened, and Scripture says we also will rise, “through the power of his spirit dwelling in us.” And this is so real it is a physical truth as well as a spiritual one.

In the dark secret of the tomb Jesus physically and spiritually, in divine mystery, rose again.

I want to follow Jesus into the desert and recommit my life to the Father. I want to share the Passover with Him and the family of the Church, I want to accompany the Lord on the Way of the Cross. I want to wait quietly in the dark simplicity and trust of the grave.

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I am dust returning to dust, but my Christian soul is empowered by Him to do and be all these Christly mysteries.

So let us return to be fearlessly this dust in desert wind, this Way of the Cross, this dark quiet of faith, this soil seeded with mystery.

At the same time as we traditionally renew our commitment to Jesus and his mission, to His Church, to the poor and marginalized, to fasting, penance, and to prayer as we know it, let us also re-consecrate ourselves in silence, and holy solitude, resting in the starry night of expectation.

As children of God we know that darkness also brings forth love, unfurls light, and floods our souls with renewed grace during this sacred time we are given that is Lent.

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We surrender to this Lord of mysterious rising. We consecrate our souls to His purposes in ourselves and what He wants us to bloom into for Him, for this world, for the sake of His Kingdom.

We step into this night of Lent consciously.

We can remember this intention in our moments of stillness and waiting. We can take a little time each day also to purposely  rest in quiet love and allow ourselves to be prepared for Spring in secret.

Let us make Lent a secret retreat into our hearts. It only takes faith, hope, and love and God will pour over us the brightness of his invisible light.

Let this Lent be a time for seeds, for dark, shining mysteries at work in we who believe… until the morning star rises in our hearts.

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  • Warning: God is a creative genius and anything can happen when we surrender to Him completely. We might emerge from Lent new creatures in the power of His Resurrection. Let’s expect it!
  • Inspiration here: https://youtu.be/eDA8rmUP5ZM

Don’t Freak Out

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photo Maire Manning-Pauc

Putting up with things that irritate us builds character. I think that is because when we are in a situation we can’t change, the only option is changing ourselves. “This is a good life skill,” I tell my kids. It is also a good skill for developing the spiritual life because it’s good training for the mind, for self control and endurance. Besides it’s no fun to freak out all the time. What does it get us…. but a lot of freak-out? And there’s nothing you can’t make worse by more of THAT!

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Art by Bob Chapman

Here are some things I have tried to help me not freak out.

Paying bills can be stressful. You know how when you are paying bills your shoulders get really tense and sometimes your back too, and if anybody says anything to you, you say, “Leave me alone I’m paying BILLS!” I decided that attitude needed work.  I tried a change of venue. I picked a place that it seems silly to pay bills. Then I could be amused. I try to amuse myself as often as possible. It helps a lot with life. So I paid bills in the tree house. I kept smiling because it was a goofy thing to do.

I wrote,  ” thank you so much,” on each bill. Thank you for the electricity. Thank you for the car. Thank you, veterinarian,  for helping when my dog was sick.
Thank you, God, that I can pay these bills. Thank you. Gratitude is an even better tool than self -amusement.

I enjoyed puting rose petals in the envelopes of each payment. I imagined the various possible reactions to this. “Made my day? Is it anthrax? Who’s does that?” This also amused me.

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Loud neighbors can be annoying. I had neighbors last year who screamed at each other and honked car horns several times a day. One time when the screaming and car horns started, I thought. “I HATE THIS!” This is a red light for me mentally. I usually don’t allow my mind to think, “I hate this,” about anything since that thought never leads to anything good. I took a deep breath, and I remembered St. Therese the Little Flower and all she did to train her mind in the face of annoyance to leave it free and peaceful for God. What could I do?

I told my family that from now on that screaming and honking was code for, “Smile, Jesus loves you!” It worked. From then on whenever the yelling started, one of us would say, “Smile, Jesus loves you!” and we would start laughing. I’m glad we learned how to let that frustration go. When my husband was sick, those very people came over and helped me when I needed it. If I had stayed mad at them all the time and just thought of them as “the screamy neighbors,” I would never have gotten to know them. They had some wonderful qualities.

The young people who live next door now play very loud music at times. I was enjoying a quiet fall day on my front porch one time when they started that noise. First I amused my self with the thought that I can out blast them any time. I have some enormous speakers. What got me laughing and letting go was the funny thought of getting a recording of a nice, quiet fall day and blasting that. Suddenly the young people would be overcome with an unaccustomed sense of inner peace, and they would be stunned! That made me laugh. They turned it off after a while. I diffused my inner volatility with a series of funny images and thoughts. I win!

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Waiting in line or being stuck somewhere can be maddening.  One wild grocery store day, stuck in line, I tried looking at the covers of magazines by the register to entertain myself. These seemed not good for anyone to look at ; you know- magazine covers about who looked bad in her bathing suit this week, or with titles like “Potato Juice Keeps You Young and Sexy.”  My other choices seemed to be  lighters, candy and soda. I asked Jesus silently, “What would You look at if You were here?” The thought came to me that Jesus would look at the people. “Look at the people and love them.” So I started working on that. I looked at each person around me and noticed how they seemed to be doing. I mentally blessed each one or prayed for each one. I felt very peaceful and entertained.

During long, boring trips to Lowe’s with my husband, Bob, I always had a rosary in my pocket. I thought I may as well try and be useful to the world while I suffered. Another thing I tried was to ride in the cart and have him push me around. That helps too. He wanted to bring me, after all. It made us both laugh for me to do this. He enjoyed throwing his items into the cart on me too.

Being overstimulated makes it difficult to think.

If there is too much going on and I need to concentrate, I go within myself as I would for prayer. I close my eyes, and I go to that dark interior center of myself where God is. Staying there even for a second can restore me to sanity and renew my perspective. I might imagine resting my face on Jesus’ chest for a minute. I may go someplace calm in my mind momentarily. It helps.

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photo Shawn Chapman

We Catholics have a great array of “mantras” of our own; prayer words, short prayers, and litanies that are useful when we feel overwhelmed. I have a little note up that says, “Keep calm and say a Hail Mary.” Or I repeat the Jesus prayer or the Holy Name, or one of those one-liners like “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised adored and loved.” Saying over some memorized Scripture is helpful too in times when I feel a sense of overload, frustration or impatience.

When somebody pulls out in front of me in traffic, my daughters know I will growl, “RAWR!” Then right away I will say, “God bless you have a nice day and I hope  there is a happy surprise for you when you get home, maybe cake, maybe puppies….,” and I’ll go on with this stupid list of things until either I’m laughing or my girls are.

Being interrupted is irritating. When I am interrupted, it helps if I interpret the interruption as the Holy Spirit’s action in my day. Sometimes I plan one kind of day but it works out totally differently. It can be jarring to be interrupted  when I am busy or to have my day go “out of control.” It helps if I let go and let God order my day. I ask Him to show me what He wants. I try to forget what I wanted to do and just be with who ever I am with, pay complete attention to what’s happening in the moment I am in. Often when I get to the end of a day that could have been exasperating, I will see the grace in the interruptions. It is usually the demands of love and relationship that interrupt us. At the end of the day that’s what matters most anyway… the love and the relationships.

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My daughter Maire, my grandbaby boy, Blaze, and my son-in-law, Jon

Philippians 4:8 tells us to fill our minds with beauty and we will know God’s peace. Jesus said peacemakers are children of God. Sometimes temple tables actually need to be over turned or some Pharisees stood up to. However most of the time, I think I should tend towards a more peaceful, elastic, accepting mind that God can work with. My brain believes what I tell it. Usually I tell it stuff is funny and that everything is in Divine Order. Sometimes I say to myself, “This will make a great story some day.” And it does.

By the way, as I wrote this article, I was interrupted twice by each of my kids and also had to listen to some music I didn’t really like and the kitten would not stop mewing. But I didn’t freak out. 😉

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photo Shawn Chapman

 

 

 

What are you waiting for this Advent?

What are you waiting for this Advent?

Since my conversion* I have seen Advent as a time of waiting for Christmas, or as commemorating the waiting of humanity, the waiting of Israel, the waiting of Mary and Joseph for the Messiah to come.

I have thought of it as an entrance into the mystery of that expectation both a memory of humanity and something that makes  it present.  Also, as the Church teaches, I know Advent as our renewed expectation of the Parousia, the return of the Lord.

Something else is happening with me this year. I find myself sensing that God is about to act in my life in a mighty way, a way I will be conscious of. I feel it like a rising tide, steady and slow, but sure.

God is coming. And He will set things right. Even if setting things right means I become free to accept and walk away from some painful and deep running, long term injustices I have been coming to terms with. Even if that is what is happening, I am happy.

“Lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28)

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However, I have a feeling that change is coming. Clarity is coming. An unravelling of seemingly impossible knots is already starting to happen. Justice is rising gently, truly.

I believe it.

Something about it is not just personal to me, but also universal.

Advent, in a very real way, is a special time of grace.

I hope this is happening for you, too.

I hope it is happening for our country, and for the world.

Let us prepare the way of the Lord. (Isaiah 40:3) 

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His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. (see Isaiah 58: 8-9) 

Of course that is so.

But this year, as we wait for the Lord, and we make way in our lives,

let’s really expect Him…

In our houses, for real…

In our lives.

God entered into time in a mighty way by the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord.

Let it happen now to us.

Let there be a star.

See it.

Because it’s all true.

I don’t know about you,

But I think I will celebrate Christmas this year with my front door open.

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* I was baptized a Catholic October 23, 1990, at the age of 22. 🙂

 

 

 

Novena to the child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the Temple, day nine

To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

 

Reflection:

I wonder…. what did Little Mary see at the top of the Temple steps that made her ascend them so quickly, dancing with happiness? I think she saw what is promised to the pure of heart, not in the same way she later would in glory, but as she could on earth as the littlest and most clear-eyed of God’s children. Eve could see and talk to God originally. Mary reasonably could have too. Jesus offers this sight to us, when we believe and have hope that what we see dimly now we will see face to face as perhaps Mary did in that moment she looked up the Temple steps.

Maybe we can remember our Little Mother and try to “grow down, instead of up” as Shel Silverstein put it. Maybe we should carry this picture of Our Lady’s childhood close to our hearts that we may remember who we are and where we are going, that we might enter the Kingdom of God in the same way she ran up those steps. If the Kingdom is within us, why not start now? Ready, set… GO!

Last one up is a rotten egg!

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Suggestion: Make an act of consecration to Mary today, or renew the one you have made. Do something or say something kind to a little girl in your life, and/ or donate to an organization that educates or benefits girls.

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A consecration to the Child Mary: 

My Little Mother, Sister, and Queen,

I give myself entirely to you;

and to show my devotion to you,

I consecrate to you this day my eyes,

my ears, my mouth, my heart,

my whole being without reserve.

Wherefore, Little Mother,

as I am your own,

keep me, guard me,

as your property and possession,

Make my heart like yours,

and let me live in the sweet companionship

of your brave and joyful spirit,

in constant awareness

of the tender

presence of the God.

Amen.

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Nina Maria

 

 

 

 

Novena to the Child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the Temple Day Eight

To begin, make the sign of the cross and pray the Sh’ma, a prayer the little Mary would have grown up reciting every day with her Jewish family and community:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

Reflection:

“Do you want to see her?” Jesus asked St. Julian of Norwich.
“Can you see in her how you yourself are loved? It was for love of you that I made her so high, so noble, and so good. And this brings me great joy – and I want it to bring you joy, too.”
St. Julian reflects: “… in all this I was taught… to want to understand the virtues of her soul – her truth, her wisdom, and her love. Through understanding this I can learn to know myself and reverently praise God.” ~ From St. Julian’s book, Showings

When you think of Little Mary, what do you see about who you are and how God loves you? See yourself in God and God in yourself. Spend some time with this, and let yourself enjoy this love.

🙂

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Cause of our joy.

 

Novena to the child Mary for the Feast of her Presentation in the Temple Day Six

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

Reflection:

St. Anne, Mother of Mary: As my pregnancy progressed, 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. *(Hebrew for Mary)  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,” **  (“Anne” in Hebrew) 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.

“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)

 

Even little Mary’s name was a promise from God.

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness, and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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Novena to the Child Mary for the feast of her Presentation in the temple Day Two

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Holy Child Mary, gentle and humble of heart, you are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the joy of Israel, you are the fairest honor of our people!” (see Judith 15:9)

Reflection:

The little Mary also models beautifully the Kingdom virtues we should cultivate, strive and pray for in the present: love, purity of heart, poverty of spirit, authenticity, and the Christian ideal of spiritual childhood; the wisdom given to the little ones that confounds that of the world. These are some of the things we see as we look into the eyes if this child and she looks into ours.

Mary was a child of God par excellence, aware of her littleness, and that all her shining gifts were God’s incomparable graces poured into her. I like to think of Luke 1:48 like this: “He has looked upon me, His handmaid in her littleness; all ages to come shall call me blessed.” She didn’t deny her gifts. As John Paul II said of her, when speaking of the Visitation, “She is amazed at her own glory,” even as she knows well her nothingness, littleness, and complete dependence on God. “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”

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Little Mary, gentle, joyful, and humble of heart, make our hearts like your own, that we may reflect the love and life and joy that comes from the freedom of the children of God. 

Imagine Mary as a little girl; innocent, kind and wise. Take her hand and ask her to pray for you.  Think about your life, and what you need the most. Place your concerns in her hands to take to the Father. Know that her heart is love, and that it is filled with tenderness, and open to the Spirit. She does not judge you, but sees you in humility, purity, and simplicity of heart. She sees who you are in God. That is what she sees. Open your heart to her.

Then pray, “Hail Mary…”

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