Bethany Hang Out

Catholic contemplative life and devotion



The Ascension

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To us who celebrate it every year the Ascension of Jesus  seems to naturally follow the initial celebration of his Resurrection. 

However I imagine it was an earth shattering surprise to his followers that he would be leaving them yet again. 

When I reflect on this event as part of the rosary the virtue I link to the Ascension is detachment as I see him beautifully disappear before the eyes of his followers as “a  cloud removed him from their sight.” 

The family of believers had to let go of their expectations that Jesus as they knew him would permanently remain to walk and talk with them. Again they had to face that Jesus was not about to get rid of the Roman occupiers either. There would be no restoration of the Davidic Kingdom  in the literal way they had thought of it. And the One they loved was going to withdraw from them yet again. They must have felt as if they were back from the defining experience of their lives with nothing to show for it, as if they were just a rag tag group of people standing on a mountainside for no particular reason. They were shocked and bereft. They didn’t understand what Jesus meant about him having to leave that the Holy Spirit could come to them. How could they? 

When the angel said that Jesus would be back they must have shaken their heads. Jesus had said for them to go and baptize, to take his message to the world. This must have seemed like too much for them, an overwhelming task, especially on their own. 

They had to greatly expand their understanding of God even past the miraculous three years they had left everything for and deeply identified with now. 

They had to let go so they could be filled and receive Jesus in a whole new way, by his presence in their hearts, and to come to know the Holy Spirit who was new to them. 

How can we receive the Spirit without detachment, self emptying, without freedom of heart? 

“Love- the way God wants to be loved, and leave off your own way of acting,” said St. John of the Cross. 

Or, as Jesus said to St. Angela of Foligno, “Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent.” 

Jesus said that if his friends loved him they would be happy he was going to the Father. (Jon.14:28) Is there something more to that than being happy for him? Yes, because he says, “for the Father is greater than I.” Maybe it also means that we have to let our current perhaps more comfortable understanding go to make room for the immensity he has for us. We can be happy he is going to the Father because then, in letting him go as we thought we had him, he then is truly closer than our breath, more accessible than ever. Detachment is hard. We feel that we are losing our Treasure.   

 St. Faustina said of Mary’s experience of the Ascension that she deeply grieved as any mother would  that her Son was leaving but that, “her heart could not want what God did not want.” 

In seeking a pure heart for God and a Marian detachment; a detachment with great love, a detachment even from the way we thought Jesus would be present to us, we open ourselves to what is even greater, beyond what we could ever have thought of ourselves.  But first we let go. 

“Bend  my heart according to your will, O God.” (Ps. 119:36) 


“I shall run in your paths for You will enlarge my heart.” (Psalm 119:32)

In this is peace that comes from open-ness to God and freedom of heart.

These verses are a perfect prayer to cultivate holy detachment as the disciples struggled to do this, standing there on the Mount of Olives, not knowing what to do with themselves. 

Fortunately we don’t have to rely on our own strength in this and neither did they.

Jesus had said to wait in Jerusalem and to pray. They did. They trusted in simplicity. And prayer continually purified theirattachments and intentions as disciples, transforming their dismay into receptivity.   

They still longed for Jesus; his voice, his hug, the sound of his footsteps, “like a deer that longs for running streams in a dry weary land without water,” (Ps. 42:2)  However they soon found that once emptied, their muddled and broken hearts were then open to the new gift of God’s presence; the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, filling them past overflowing, their thirst for God more than quenched.  “Your torrents and all your waves swept over me.”  (Ps. 42: 8)

Come, Holy Spirit, come. 

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Red had an easy laugh; open and free 

He laughed at himself because he was funny, 

And at the world because it was his playground and he loved when it surprised him.

At The Eagle Newspaper pressroom

Red was irreplaceable 


An out of the box thinker who loved to save the day. 

He liked telling pressman history and showed me how to fold the paper hats they used to wear in the old days to protect their hair from ink. 

He was proud of his work. 

Red had endurance

Working long hours until the job was done. 

I hardly ever saw him not covered with grease and ink. 

He was often seen eating refied beans out of the front pocket of his uniform. 

Red was a hard worker but a rebel 

Full of mischief although he understood honor 

A little crazy though he had his own wisdom. 

He would have made a good pirate. 

Great in an emergency Red had the presence of mind to laugh and take a sweeping bow when his hat caught on fire. 

He was a gentleman who smiled at the ladies, opened doors for us, always ready with a compliment “You smell good!” 

Red was kind, believing in love. 

Red was a wild man.

Red could fix anything 

Blow up anything

Get into anything 

Race anything. 

He had a theatrical sense of humor; coming to work dressed in a sarape and sombrero, maracas in hand.

It was a national immigrant walk out day but those in the mail room were not allowed to participate under threat being fired. Red and Bob harassed the manager all day yelling “No worky Monday” on their behalf. Loudly they sang in fake Spanish their made up Tejano music making said employees screech with laughter and take pictures.

And who could forget Bob and Red’s mock strip tease routine in their tool belts when they popped out of a cardboard cake for that mail room crumudgen on his birthday? 

Red was accident prone.

Once accidentally peeling off the top of an Eagle truck under a bridge. We had a picture of him shrugging dramatically at the scene, smile intact.

Red was the most believable Gun Smoke cowboy and on alternate years, tie dye hippie, at The Eagle Halloween parties, always in character with memorable lines off the cuff

Red always had something inappropriate to say to make us shake our heads and laugh.

Red believed in peace but he didn’t mind stirring up a little trouble now and then.

Red was a dare devil we were sure would go out in a blaze of glory one day.

Red loved his six Yorkies with all his heart maybe especially Chester the rattlesnake fighter. 

He loved his kids and spoke of them often. 

He married in his teens and stayed with his wife until her death, often writing on face book afterward, that he would love her forever.  

Red tattle tailed on my daughter but also defended her to me, reminding me she was a good girl. 

Red made everything he touched and every place he inhabited into art. Things that dangled, things that drove, things you weren’t sure about. He was an unusual yet somehow traditional decorator. Odd keepsakes and knick knacks you couldn’t mistake for anyone else’s’ filled every available space of his house. 

Red had a quick mind and a ready wit.

Once he fixed a dirt bike in the woods with a rock.

At The Eagle Red is legend, someone we’re proud we knew. 

Red repaired my rosaries with love though he made cracks about it the whole time. 

Red loved the press crew as his brothers. 

He was there for my husband when he was dying, racing him around in his wheelchair for “one last ride.” 

He said he and the press crew wanted to heal my broken heart. 

Well they did. 

You helped a lot Red.

Red was a good friend to all of us. 

Red was reckless, adventurous, a lover of danger but he could be a sage at times, cautioning me against resentment. 

If he left us with a message maybe it would be a kindly but funny warning like the one he spray painted on a barrel of toxic waste the guys were stacking on the dock to be taken away; bad shit do not eat.” 

Red would tell us to forgive, to let things go and not to ever let hate settle in our hearts to embitter us. 

He would tell us to live, love and be free.

Don’t eat  bad shit that will damage your well being and the priceless gift of joy. 

I don’t think Red  will just “rest in peace.”

Too much to do.

God will have to start breaking stuff to keep Red occupied. 

We love you Red. 

In the great beyond

You do you. 

In silence and trust

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Oh silence you are so safe and all is contained in you. As much as music fills my soul so do you nourish me as you gather yourself to me and come into my heart. God’s embrace is silent, his kisses on the soul even more so. God creates a silence, a unique solitude, a stillness with his presence, a stillness we all know and recognize as his.

Holy Saturday is about the silence of the earth, silence of the soul of the world.

Silence in the depths of Mary’s soul even in grief.

Wherever you are today take some time to enter into her silence. And trust.

“Your strength will be in silence and trust.” Isaiah 30:15b

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Mary at the foot of the Cross; a reading from my book Come to Mary’s House; spending time with Our Blessed Mother

Bethany Hang Out

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Mary’s Preparations for the Passover

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Where was Mary during the day Holy Thursday?

I think Mary would have been helping to prepare her Son’s last Passover today with the other women, feeling the tip of the sword in her heart as she chopped vegetables, listened to the chatter in the kitchen as her heart began to bleed. But I imagine at the same time she would have carried a shining joy because of her love for him.

She would have wanted to make this night beautiful for him and for the others too. At intense times like the last hours we will have with someone we love terribly, we are drawn deeply into the moment. We stay in the now letting love define it.

Her simple actions she had performed many times would have taken on an almost liturgical rhythm, a stillness in her heart, a sense of the sacramental as she cooked and stirred and set the table for him and his followers. Maybe she knew what he had planned for the evening. Maybe she would be as surprised as anyone. But she had to know his hour had come.

Remembering this and that she placed wildflowers at each place around the table, working her way around blessing silently each one who would sit there.

I think she would have snuck off to pray for this night, for all Jesus needed to say and do, her mother’s heart clutched with the frantic desire that this cup would pass him by, loving him and us enough to know if it couldn’t she must accept that it had to happen this way.
Back among the others maybe she let her eyes linger on every face with prayerful love, knowing they were about to be horribly tried by whatever happened next, but praying her So ‘s words would have their full sway with them tonight.

She tried to prepare herself too.

“Bend my heart according to your will O God.” (Psalm 119:36)

Maybe God said to her that he always heard her prayers and would always do as she asked.

Maybe she told him she would always do as he asked too. “

Maybe she repeated to herself and to God her “Let it be done,” as she had at the Annunciation.

” At some point perhaps as she carried in water, or brought something needed to the table, her eyes would have caught Jesus’s for a second and they silently strengthened one another.

Oh Mary help us prepare our hearts for this commemoration, our participation in this Holy Night.

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The Annunciation

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Imprinted fondly in my memory is the picture for “The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation” in the little paper book that taught me how to pray the rosary, The image showed a stately Mary, tall and dignified even on her knees. Her tiny perfect and improbably small hands are held out before the golden haired Archangel Gabriel. Neither of their faces show any emotion. They look  like brightly painted statues. 

 As I tried to learn the rosary the Annunciation story from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel was brand new to me. Reading it I was intrigued that God seemed to be asking Mary to be the Mother of Jesus. The Lord is not telling her or just making it happen. She understands this is a request and says yes. I was impressed with the spunk she showed in asking the Archangel for clarification before she responded. 

I wondered what she felt. What did Gabriel think? Was he surprised at God’s choice of this young girl? Was he a bit worried? Or did he see as God sees, captivated by Mary’s beautiful soul?

The picture didn’t say much to me about either Mary or Gabriel’s thoughts.

It alienated  me a bit that the serene statuesque and otherworldly Mary gave no hint that she was a real person. I think we can easily make the same mistake unconsciously. That keeps too much distance between us and Mary. If we think of Mary as a wispy apparition of untouchable holiness how can we be close to her? I wanted very much to be close to her. 

My little rosary book suggested I think of “Mary’s obedience and submission” when she gave her consent to become the Mother of God as I reflected and prayed. I know she had these virtues. 

However to me her courage and love are what amaze me. She accepted this commission for the love of God and for our sakes. I  think she was filled with joy and excitement once she got over the holy terror of the angel’s presence and the unimaginable message he brought and his strange greeting  calling her “full of grace.” 

She would, as someone whose life was woven through with Scripture, have known how Gideon was greeted by an angel in Judges 6:12

The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, ·mighty warrior!” (What? Me?) 

It’s true of Mary though. If you read Genesis 3:15 she is in battle with the Evil One. She is a mighty warrior. The word we see translated as “enmity” (EBAH) here in Hebrew connotes the  total hatred of  sworn enemies continually  at war with one another. She and Jesus are at war against Satan. 

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,

    and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

    and you will strike his heel.”

For us she is the new Eve, the woman who is Mother of the Messiah to come whom this verse predicts will crush the Serpent. 

I wonder if she thought of that verse too? She surely would have known it. 

She definitely would have wondered what “full of grace” could possibly mean. She wouldn’t have been able to place it because the only other person to be called “full of grace” in the Bible would be her Son who was yet to come. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14)

There would have been a lot of surprises for Mary that day. 

What?! God has a Son? This is new. 

“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Dt. 6:4) would have been recited by her family daily, and at Synagogue on the Sabbath. 

What?! The Messiah is coming? Now? Through me? 

She bravely asks how this is going to work since she is a virgin, a state she intends to remain in apparently since the Angel had not said when this conception would occur and she was legally engaged to be married. It could have come about in the usual way. She trusts but she does ask for understanding. (Luke 1:34) 

Once she understands she is all in! 

Our Lady declaring herself as the handmaid of the Lord is her saying she sees herself as the God’s low ranking servant. At  the same time a handmaid has a very intimate place with the one she waits on. She is at his side handing him things, at his side as a helper, quietly present  for everything.  Maybe in this moment  she suddenly realizes who she is and voices this. Maybe she always felt different but didn’t know why. Now in her humility she is filled with awe. After all humility is simply the truth about one’s self and inspires gratitude. 

“The Lord has done great things for me and holy is his Name.” (Luke 1:49)

Rather than merely a gracious answer of  obedience and submission  I think Mary’s “yes” may  have been more like Alan Shepherd saying “Let’s light this candle!” when he was about to blast off to the moon, more like the impetuous embrace of a joyful daughter of Israel. 

It seems to me she would have wept with astonishment and the deepest joy. Maybe Gabriel did too. 

Thinking of the Annunciation with Mary as very human and scared and amazed and surprised and real helps me feel close to her in that moment everything changed and God was among us. 

I can almost feel her catch her breath –  the wind of the Spirit rustling her hair. 

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St. Joseph Novena Day 4

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St. Joseph Novena Day 4

“Now, not with lust,

but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.
Send down your mercy on me and on her,
and grant that we may grow old together.”
Tobit 8:7

St. Joseph you were able to love Mary the way she needed to be loved. You didn’t have to be an old man or an emotionally detached holy figure or an Angel to do this. You and Mary were destined for each other, a couple brought together by God. You had problems and I bet you even disagreed at times but there was love and a universe only you two shared. I like to think of you holding her close, sheltering her and Jesus. She could tell you anything. You were her safe place and she was yours. I bet you couldn’t wait to get your work done so you could be with her and she looked forward to your evenings together. I bet she smiled when she was cooking something she knew you would like and you made a big deal out of your meal to make her even more happy. Help us to be as free of heart as you were in your love for Mary and Jesus. Free to love, free to give, free to smile at little things people do that are sweet because we always notice them. God is so good and I am so glad he gave us you to love us in your own unique way, St. Joseph.

St. Joseph Novena Day 3

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The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
(Psalm 19)

St. Joseph your level of trust is astonishing. Your humility and simplicity of heart kept you always open to God’s voice in your life. You were continually seeking it no matter the strange and frightening turns life took for you at times, and even when God’s law appeared to be taking you from the person you loved most. You stayed open and you prayed and discerned and paid attention, maybe asking for clarification. Once you understood the plans of God you did not seem to hesitate further but acted with confidence no matter what anyone else may have thought about your decision to change course and take Mary as your wife. Your one aim was God.
Let us say with you, “God is it.”

And May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to him who makes our way clear before us.

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St. Joseph Novena Day One

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1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (From Psalm 1)

St. Joseph you would have heard and read and studied this Scripture. How beautifully you embodied it as you went about your daily work, took part in your community, served and loved Mary and Jesus. And to this day you are a beautiful tree planted by streams of water, shading and protecting us, giving us the fruit of your meditations and your labors and your love.
Do us the honor of walking with us during this novena, giving us your blessing, teaching us your way.
Pray with us the prayer you prayed daily all of your life.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Dt. 6)

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