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.
I’ve been following Leticia Ochoa Adams, one of my favorite Catholic writers, for years on social media and I’ve loved reading her blog posts. She has always said what I wished someone would say even though I didn’t know I wished that until she made me laugh out loud or feel totally seen by a Catholic writer in a way I had not felt before. I admire her fearless and thorough self assessments, her frank story telling. There is a freedom that inspires in the way she manages to be rigorously honest about herself without sounding self absorbed or over dramatic. Reading her writing feels like sitting at The Kettle late at night with a comfortable friend who still surprises with her stories and insights.
So when I saw she had a book coming out I couldn’t wait to read it. It’s called Our Lady of Hot Messes from Ave Maria Press. It is the author’s spiritual memoir; the story of her life, a record of her conversion, an experience of her spirituality, the lessons she has learned, her observations about the world, her commentary on the times we are living through.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is not shy. Thank goodness because the world needs her voice, the voice of a Tejano daughter of a single mother who has endured more than her share of trauma and tragedy. Most recently she has survived the suicide of her son, Anthony. She is able to talk about this and the abuse she experienced as a child without being either lurid or glib. She makes it easy to learn from what she has been through and in sharing these things she lights the way for others.
She writes about the ways she, and we, numb ourselves, attaching ourselves to activities and material things that keep us from being with God as fully as we could be like “doom scrolling,” on social media and even more innocent things we become inordinately attached to. She examines the mixed motivations she and we often have with a disarming simplicity and clarity.
She reminds us we should just be ourselves. The most important thing to her is being real. I think she has accomplished that with a strength and self possession that might make you raise your eyebrows a little as you read.
One of her chapters is called “Cussing is Normal” in which she challenges us to consider if it’s really enough to use words like “dumb bunny” instead of cuss words when we have the same amount of malice in our hearts when we say them to someone.
I enjoyed her passages about finding God among people. She saw how Christ-like bar flies can be when they care for one another having witnessed the lives and friendships of the men who hung out in the dive bar where she was once a bartender. She learned the Ten Commandments and honorable conduct as part of a community from the “G Code” at the majority black high school she attended long before she learned these things in church. God had been teaching her all along through the events and people in her life. Jesus had been there.
Jesus is real and immediate to her. He’s watching TV with her on the couch. He’s funny, he makes her laugh sometimes and he loves her. She tells him everything. I appreciate the way she shares how that relationship has grown throughout her life, through grief and love and her search for truth.
She wants us to know she doesn’t have it all together, that we are at home in the Church whether we feel we have the perfect Catholic life or not.
It’s funny that she asked such hostile questions at the first RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class she went to, she got kicked out. She only went to get her boyfriend to marry her, she says. She had been taught at a different church growing up that Catholics were idol worshipers and that the rosary was witchcraft. She was ready to be hostile again on her second try at the class but she was so blown away by the explanation of John chapter 6 she forgot to be mad when they got to the Virgin Mary and the rosary because she was still thinking about the Eucharist.
“The thing I love most about being Catholic is that I have found a place that hasn’t gotten tired of my questions. I can ask them without fear of being kicked out. Having a relationship with God and his mother does not mean that I know everything. It does not mean that I do not question why things are the way they are. But it does mean that I get to show up as me, even if that means I fall asleep when I try to pray my rosary at bed time.”
Her chapter on the rosary is my favorite one. “Praying the Rosary Like a Loser.”
“I also consider that Hail Marys are what make up the Rosary and each one is a rose laid at her feet. So when I don’t have time to pray the Rosary I just try to lay spiritual roses at her feet like not cussing out a coworker or not flipping off someone in traffic or paying for someone’s lunch. Those are all just as valid as roses to her. And that, my friends, is how to pray the Rosary like a loser when you do not have your life together. You just try not to be a jerk to others, and you think about those moments as roses laid at the feet of Our Lady. And you know that you are loved.”
This novena is intended for the nine days leading up to the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the temple, celebrated November 21. Of course you can pray this any time you like or leading to any of the feasts of Mary’s girlhood.
We don’t usually think of Mary as a little girl in our country though devotion to little Mary is more common in Mexico, Italy and Spain.
To me she represents the way of spiritual childhood, or as St. Therese coined it, The Little Way. We can also consider this Little Way of St. Therese as simply the way Mary lived, with a pure and open heart free for God, a boldness of trust and childlike faith, a spirit of offering and the practice of the presence of God, all rooted in the most free and generous love ever known before that of her Son. Following the Little Way in Mary’s footsteps could be called the Marian Little Way.
So let us spend these nine days with little Mary and let us pray.
Day One: Mary in the Mind of God
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you.” Jeremiah 1:5a
Before God made Adam, he held Eve hidden in his heart where she lay curled in hidden beauty until the time came for her to be part of life, the mother of life on his beautiful garden planet newly created. After the fall of Adam and Eve God already knew he would bring us the New Eve and Mother of Life. She would be the dawn of our salvation. Until that future sunrise she remained in the depths of the Divine Consciousness like a hidden jewel.
Let us spend some time in her quiet radiance there.
Little Mary, deep in God’s Heart, invite us into those silent depths of Divine Love where we can rest with you.
Pray with Mary a slow, reflective Our Father imagining yourself with her in God.
Day Two: Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Immaculate Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
A fond memory of mine is of teaching my children to meditate. They sat quietly on the floor, little legs crossed, eyes closed. Closing my own eyes I told them to imagine their hearts opening to God’s love like a flower opening to the sun petal by petal. They were silent for a surprising amount of time. I opened my eyes and they were sitting very still in prayer concentrating with peaceful faces. My two little girls were also holding their shirts up. It was hilarious!
As we ponder the child Mary’s profound innocence of heart we can remember too, the simplicity of childhood, it’s freedom and clarity. A pure heart is a simple heart. A simple heart is clear enough for God to shine right into. A heart full of the sunshine of God’s face is also open to God’s light everywhere and in everyone. Mary’s pure and open, simple heart really sees us and she sees us with joy.
Take a moment now and join little Mary in opening your heart petal by petal to let the sunshine of God’s love in to light up every part of it. Then take some time to look at the child Mary and let her look at you.
Little Mary, pure and simple of heart, help us to see the smile of God in all things.
Say to her, “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Day Three Birth of Mary
“Who is she who comes forth like the dawn; radiant as the sun, as awe inspiring as an army in battle array?- Song of Songs 6:10
She will crush your head alleluia – Little Office of the Blessed Virgin
A baby girl is born just before sunrise. She comes at the thinnest edge of dawn when stars retain their glitter for a few brief moments and the moon begins its transition to translucence. She is washed by the women of the family helping at the birth, rubbed with salt to protect her from infection, and wrapped snugly. She is handed to her mother and breast fed in flickering lamp light. The women neighbors take up bedding to be cleaned and straighten the house. Every room is full of the love and wonder that attends the birth of a new life. Everyone goes home. The father of the baby meets his child he never thought he would be able to have. He crawls onto the sleeping mat next to his wife and the family sleeps. But God can’t stop smiling about his secret surprise for the world and every soul he created, past present and future a surprise unfurling in and through the baby now lying between her parents, rooting sleepily for her mother’s breast. Heaven holds it breath. Rose petals drop gently down over the family even as the new father begins to snore.
And God said, “It is good, “ as a ribbon of brightness graced the horizon and the sun began to rise for everyone.
Take a moment now to love and be grateful for the gift of Mary in your life and to everyone everywhere. Feel her baby breath on your face. Smile with Heaven.
Little Mary, you are our life, our sweetness and our hope. I hold you close in my heart.
Day Four: Holy Name of Mary
Your name is ointment poured forth Song of Songs 1:3
I’ve read that in Jewish culture the name of a person is the key to their souls. The naming of a child is prophetic and represents their destiny. We know the Name of Jesus means “Yahweh saves,” which makes perfect sense. We know saying his Name or doing something in His Name has the effect of making him more present. We pray in the Name of Jesus. His is the only Name by which we may be saved. (Acts 4:12)
As Mary is not divine but 100% human, her name is given gracious power is relation to her Son’s. There are several interpretations of Mary’s holy name. “Bitter” is most common which makes sense because of her bitter suffering during the torture and death of Jesus, and her three days of desolate sorrow. “Star of the Sea” is a popular interpretation. It seems to be based on the Latin word for sea which is “mar. ” Mary spoke Aramaic so she would have been called Maryam. This name in Egyptian of the time meant “love,” which is how I have experienced Mary the most so that one is my favorite. What meaning of the name of Mary do you like best?
A spiritual practice of mine that is profoundly helpful to me is repetition of the Names of Jesus and Mary. I do believe saying Mary’s name brings her closer to me and keeps me connected to her. I mentally repeat it during the day, when I wake up and as I am going to sleep; any time I think of it. When I am upset it has a great effect on my state of mind. It helps me come into deeper prayer when I am distracted.
Your name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of Divine grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls. [St. Ambrose +397]
Mary would have been named quietly at home and most likely without ceremony although I’m sure with love. She was most likely named after a relative as was customary. I like to think though that she was named after the prophetess Miriam, sister of Moses. This would have made sense since names are prophetic and Jewish parents are seen as cooperating with God in bestowing names on their children. Jesus was the new Moses, leading and freeing his people, and Mary was a new Miriam at his side as his support, raising her voice in praise of God after their deliverance from Egypt much as Mary did in her Magnificat, her song of praise in Luke 1:46-45.
Little Mary, we honor your holy name. Inspire us to pray it many times today with love, staying close to you. May your name be a precious ointment poured into the hidden recesses of our souls. Ave Ave Ave little Maria.
Day Five: As a child has rest
Truly I have set my soul in silence and in peace as a child has rest in [her] mother's arms, even so my soul. - Psalm 131:2
You have been invited to dinner at Joachim and Anne’s house. When you come in, you see their little girl playing in the courtyard where her mother says she has been all afternoon with the other kids. She runs into the house with a gaggle of them screaming and laughing and you can’t help but smile. Mary is filthy and her dress is frayed. Mother Anne dismisses the other children, washes her little girl’s face, hands and feet carefully and has her help to serve dinner.
All of you smile at Mary’s childish patter and even more as she grows sleepy, speaking more and more hapharzardly and slowly until she crawls into her mother’s lap, almost asleep.
As Joachim recites a Psalm, Little Mary gazes at you contentedly from her mother’s arms. Maybe you were worried about something or burdened with some sorrow. Somehow you can’t remember what it was and are happy just to sit peacefully and look back at Mary.
Let’s settle in and listen to Joachim’s voice as we smile at his little girl.
O Lord, my heart is not proud,
Nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
Nor marvels beyond me.
Truly I have set my soul
In silence and in peace,
As a child has rest in [her] mother’s arms,
Even so my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord forever.
In the prayerful silence that follows, Mary’s eyes gently close. You feel her little hand in yours and close your eyes too, to pray.
Day 6 Learning to Pray with Little Mary
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6
She wants you to hold her and when you do, she messes up your hair. “You need to pray,” she says. She waits. “Go ahead. Pray.” Maybe you ask her, “What do you want me to pray?” To this she asks to be put down. “Stand like this by me.” When you do, she pulls your head down to her level, making you crouch. She becomes very solemn and and you can’t help but smile. Mary puts your hands over your eyes, telling you, “Don’t look on the outside, look on the inside.”
She says, in her sweet child’s voice, “Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad.” She gives you a shove. “You’re not looking in!”
So now try, really try to turn within yourself where the Lord truly lives and try again.
Say with her,
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
She goes over the rest with you, nudging you any time you start to open your eyes. She tells you she prays this daily with her family, that everyone does. “But you have to be quiet in your heart and look inside.” Once she knows you have paid close attention to the words you are saying and to Whom you are saying them, she throws her arms around you, kissing your face.
Day 7: Being Little
Let the children come to me for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14
We forget to be little before God. Remembering brings a joyful peace because it really is that simple. We complicate things and create obstacles for ourselves that aren’t true. Spending time with the child Mary and adopting her approach to life and the love of God gives us a clarity we lacked before. When the archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary she needed only to understand what was being asked of her to embrace it. God was everything to her and all she wanted. She trusted completely, bold and brave and sweet before God as the Holy Spirit ruffled her hair and Jesus stole her heart. She was glad to be small and humble; seeing herself as God’s littlest. She didn’t change at the Annunciation. She had always been this way from childhood.
Let’s remember that we are God’s littlest children so we can find the clearest sweetest peace by living in his heart letting ourselves be loved.
Child Mary help me to understand myself as little and dear that I may love God with bold trust and complete freedom.
Day 8 The Way of Spiritual Childhood with Mary
Day 9 Consecration
At this writing today we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of the Child Mary in the Temple. This was Mary’s consecration.
Let’s consecrate ourselves to God through and with her.
Find some quiet time you can spend with the child Mary. Let her throw her arms around you. Say to her, “O Mary I give you my heart, my hands, all of me, my whole life is yours. Do with me and build with me what you will, that I may run up the steps of the Temple with you into the arms of God.
I went to see Fr. Cassian Sibley to discuss Prayer of the Heart in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The sign on the house read, Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring Russian Orthodox Church. That has to be the coolest church name I have ever heard in my life. I told Fr. Cassian so when he opened the door. He is a cheerful man with a kind face and a big bushy beard. He offered me coffee and showed me an assortment of beautiful prayer ropes, or “chotki” used for the meditative repetition of the “Jesus Prayer,” (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) which is at the core of Prayer of theHeart. Some of the chotkis were made with beads, some with knots in the shape of crosses. Some were quite long, and some were tiny, designed to fit on a baby’s wrist.
He explains that the simple repetition of the Jesus Prayer is the most common use for lay people, in order to pray without ceasing as they go about their busy lives. I am familiar with this because of one of my favorite spiritual books, The Way of the Pilgrim/The Pilgrim Continues His Way. The pilgrim wanders across Russia praying the Jesus Prayer until his heart prays it continually without effort. The book charts his travel, conversations and spiritual growth in the prayer.
Fr. Cassian points out that by replacing the “me” in the prayer with the name of someone else, one can use the prayer as an intercessory prayer – while warning that one does not use the phrase “a sinner” while doing so, since a Christian has no authority or right to judge another.
I had brought a rose for Mother Mary which he put in the chapel. Then I followed him into a pleasant sitting room filled with morning light, and comfortable furniture, lined with books. A parrotlet sang from a nearby cage. I got out my notebook but the conversation was so interesting and lively that I hardly took any notes. I couldn’t have been more content. I was sitting in a cozy chair conversing with an extremely intelligent and deeply spiritual person in a relaxed and friendly way, neither of us hurried. Priests are busy people so I was aware of what a gift his time was.
Fr. Cassian grew up Southern Baptist but was, as an early teen drawn to the Anglican Church and was preparing to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. As he studied theology though, he became more and more sympathetic to the Orthodox Church, and as a teen, he had read the J.D. Salinger novella, Franny and Zooey, and been introduced to the Jesus Prayer and The Way of the Pilgrim. Eventually he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and ultimately was ordained as an Orthodox priest.
I told him my story of being tricked by Mother Mary into falling for Jesus and the Catholic Church after having grown up without religion. He chuckled knowingly and we talked about Mary in both our traditions. I really like the Orthodox title for her, “The Theotokos,” meaning “God-bearer.”
Our discussion turned to the life of prayer as experienced and expressed in each of our faiths’ contemplative traditions. We have so much in common. There are some interesting differences in our mystical theology, and in our ideas about the experience of Heaven. The Orthodox regard heaven as a continuous free growth of divinization -as an “ever moving rest” – which the Orthodox feel is in contradiction to the experience of what the Western Church calls the Beatific Vision. I said that St. Therese is busy “spending [her] Heaven doing good on earth,” so maybe we’re not so different there after all.
We discussed Confession, local events and world news, Church history, the degrees of union with God, the differences between praying with the chotki and the rosary, (for instance we use imaginative prayer and the Orthodox strongly caution against it).
We talked about the importance of being willing to know Jesus as he is, being ready to shed our own ideas and misconceptions and our lamentable tendency to only accept the aspects of the Lord that we are comfortable with.
I learned some Greek words and heard a few Russian ones I would be unable to reproduce.
Eventually we came to the point of my visit, the practice of Hesychasm (the path of deep prayer and living the life of prayer in the Orthodox tradition) and the practice of Prayer of the Heart.
Before Fr. Cassian gives me practical instructions, he cautions that if one desires to enter into this practice, a spiritual guide, teacher or spiritual director is extremely helpful – which is why the more mystical and non-verbal use of the Jesus prayer is more common, in Orthodoxy, amongst monastics and those with a monastic spiritual father or mother.
He goes on to say that today in Western Society we think of ourselves as centered in the brain, the mind, and that we tend to pray from there. Biblically, however, the heart is seen as the center of the person where both thoughts and spiritual movements occur. In Orthodox prayer, the pray-er seeks to redirect his or her awareness from the head down into the heart. Fr. Cassian touches his heart often as he speaks, seemingly unconsciously, closing his eyes when he does so. It seems to me that when he does this, a switch is flipped somewhere, a “peace switch” that visibly changes his entire demeanor. Maybe it is a breaker switch because I feel it too!
Practical Instructions for Prayer of the Heart
Stand or sit comfortably with your back relatively straight, in silence, solitude and stillness.
Breathe in, and allow one’s conscious awareness to follow that breath as one prays, silently, “Lord Jesus Christ”
Exhale slowly, maintaining, if possible, one’s conscious awareness in the heart, as one prays silently, “Son of God,”
Inhale, as before, while silently praying “have mercy on me”
Breathe out slowly and prayerfully acknowledge that one is “a sinner.”
Slowly repeat this cycle again and again.
Continually bring your awareness into your heart, bringing Jesus’ Name, his presence into it. Eventually it will be the heart that keeps time, so to speak, and the heart that speaks. After that, everything is up to God, and God alone.
The true Prayer of the Heart as he describes it sounds like what a Carmelite would call the grace of infused contemplation, where it is God who acts within us, and we are drawn into union with him.
We talk about the traditional understanding of the progress of the soul through the Purgative Way (purification), the Illuminative Way (the growing knowledge of God and his ways) and finally the Unitive Way (one-ness with God).
Before I leave, Fr. gives me a copy of his wife’s new book of poetry, Zoom and the Neanderthal Girl by Olympia Sibley, (I highly recommend it!) and I give him a copy of my book, Come to Mary’s House; Spending Time with Our Blessed Mother. (Release date September 26)
He invites me to come again, perhaps for dinner with his wife and him. I say that would be great.
I had set out today to write about the Prayer of the Heart but I can’t help but feel that perhaps Fr. Cassian and I have begun to do our part in healing the Great Schism one conversation, one prayer, one friendship at a time.
*My thanks to Fr. Cassian Sibley for his assistance with this piece.
An aspect of the rosary I love is that praying the mysteries, the stories of the lives of Jesus and Mary helps us remember that the Virgin Mary was and is a real human being. Her life, entwined with her Son’s was an actual earthly life just as ours is. That seems like an obvious thing to say about her but do we really think of her as a real person? Sometimes, though our stylized and symbolic depictions of her are pretty, I wish at least sometimes her Immaculate Heart would be drawn or painted more anatomically, like a Frieda Kahlo heart perhaps. I think this type of image would bring us closer to the everyday very real Mary who had a beating human heart in her chest.
Or maybe we could see her represented working hard with sweat under her arms for once!
Don’t you feel closer to her if you imagine her feet in the dirt of her garden or the weave of the rough fibers of her homespun dress, or when you imagine her laughing? I do. I always do.
I want her to be a sister and a friend to me as well as my teacher of prayer, mystical queen and holy mother.
I love the way Our Lady is presented in all of those gorgeous poetic prayers. But I need a hug. I want to put my face on her shoulder and smell that Mary smell.
I want to love Jesus as completely as she does. I want to see everything and everyone through God’s heart as she sees all of us.
I want to pray simply as clear morning light, pondering Jesus in my heart and the law of love continually in all I do, in all Mary and I do together. I want her always with me and I want myself always with her.
I want to practice Marian mindfulness, being always aware of the presence of the Lord and his beauty.
I want to be ready for anything God gives or calls me to, and to “arise with haste” and joy to go and act on it, share it with people and all of life as Mary did and still does from Heaven. I want to help her with her work for the kingdom, wherever she wants to take me. She is always reminding me to listen and to do whatever Jesus tells me.
I want to come home to Mary and cook dinner with her. I want to listen to her concerns for her children and I want to be able to comfort her. I want to walk with her, hear her stories and share her happiness.
I hope to plant more roses in her garden. I’d like to pick some too, and sprinkle the petals over her head and watch her laugh.
It’s so easy to make her smile.
When you think of Mary, when you pray the rosary and let her guide you through the mysteries of Jesus, let her be real to you. It will make all the difference. It will make you smile too.
I know I’ve been quiet this Summer. It’s been a busy, hot and stressful summer so far. I feel like I’ve either been busy or tired. I’m certainly not one of those writers that sits down at a desk and writes all day the way I have read that some do. I tend to write obsessively for a while and then not write for a while. I am always writing in my head though. So maybe I should be one of those writers who writes all the time. I will have to work on that. Whenever I have an “all the time” to do that in. 🙂
We took in a cat who is a great cat (Annie) but she turned out to be pregnant. She had six lovely kittens April 30. We live in a little apartment so when they began running around and then reached that really obnoxious age where they seem totally crazy and become destructive little gymnasts, it was a bit much even for us. However we had no trouble finding wonderful homes for all but one, the most hapless one who we decided may as well stay on. We love her. My granddaughter named her Princess Buttercup.
I’ve been helping to found a new non profit in my community. That’s been exciting. I will write more about it when we are closer to getting all the way off the ground. It will have to do with helping those in need, helping connect the dots for them and staying with them through the process of finding help until they have actually gotten the help they need. It will be a community center, a food pantry, and a hub for local available services (with comprehensive case management for people in crisis.) We already have an office too! We will have a community garden and oh my goodness we are doing so much stuff! So that’s the gist of it. We have lots of ideas and I am so delighted that more than we even expected is happening, really happening.
I’ve been watching grandchildren on the days I am not working. Those are some stellar little kids. They kill me! My granddaughter I live with is getting ready to begin school again. (First grade!) This is a relief to her and to us as she has been so bored and driving us nuts!
My youngest daughter (who lives with me) started performing in public again. She is a singer/song writer/guitarist. It’s been years since she has done so and we are so proud of her for getting back out there. She heads back to college in a couple days.
My eldest has been into archery and modeling and painting cow skulls she sells at a store called “Cowboy Up.” Also she works as a secretary at an appliance installation place. Both girls are raising their children admirably though, there sure have been a lot of struggles in their lives this summer. Good thing they are both so tough.
I spend most of my work day outside and it’s been a crazy hot summer here in Texas! I can hardly keep my plants alive either!
My friend Molly flew me up to Duluth to see her for a few days. What a beautiful town and a wonderful escape from our weather! We had a blast. She is one of those friends that you end up having four hour conversations with. We talked and laughed our heads off!
So that’s my “What I did this summer” run down.
Most of all, however, I checked on my book today and was utterly astonished to see that it’s already available on Amazon Kindle. I can’t believe it! I wanted to let you know about this crazy surprise, reader!
The print version can be pre-ordered and will be released September 26th. But if you want to you can already read it! WHAT?!
Fifteen or more years ago I had a dream that is still vivid to me now. I was in a small, dimly lit church where the early arrivals were just sitting down before mass. Near the altar there was a large terra cotta colored relief of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was standing in the aisle gazing at this rendering of Our Lady and it started to become beautifully colorful. A man in the pews to my right started complaining about the image and saying there were too many (*racial slur*) around here already and the image should be removed. He continued to complain about dark skinned people being in the church and “taking over.” I was extremely upset of course and started begging him not to say things like that especially in the church. As I continued to try to persuade him, the corner of Mary’s dress began to darken as if it were burning and smoke started rising. I was alarmed as I saw the disfiguring burn spread across the image.
I was in El Paso staying in a migrant shelter, attending what is called “The Border Awareness Experience,” to learn about Immigration issues. Everyone had been in Juarez that morning, we had met at a section of the iron border fence with Border Patrol and now we were getting out of the van at the Walmart in El Paso to visit the memorial for the victims of the shooting that had happened eight weeks before on August 3, 2019.
It was a very hot October afternoon. The sunlight was golden and slanting in beams when we got out of the van.
We had all seen makeshift memorials that spring up after tragic events on the news. I knew this would be a sad experience.
I was not prepared. The emotional impact of being on the spot was immense.
The memorial stretched into probably about three city blocks. There was an army of religious candles stretching as far as I could make out. There were stuffed animals, pictures of the dead, messages to the dead, messages of encouragement to the community, poems, letters, prayers. There were flags from other countries, a big poster of a fused Mexican and American flag that said, “Together against all odds.” There was a letter to the president pleading for understanding, mercy toward immigrants, and change. It was in Spanish so I asked Maria from our group to translate for me.
A big red poster near the middle said,
“PAIN…. but I will not let it turn to hate.”
There was a large picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, banners with Bible verses, a message of solidarity from the city of San Antonio, more messages, more prayers, toys of the little child who was killed. I remember a most the toy train draped in rosaries. A massive number of flowers and rosaries populated the entire area. There were numerous statues and pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I thought about my dream.
A young white supremacist drove 11 hours from Dallas to El Paso to “kill Mexicans.” I can only guess he chose El Paso because of the spirit of friendship and community between the sister cities. Maybe he hated what El Paso represents. Maybe he wanted to do this at the border where people from both sides shop together. I don’t know. His manifesto had talked about “an invasion” referring to migrants and refugees and Hispanics in general I suppose. I had not read it. No need. I had been seeing the results of its ideology for days.
Actually I wasn’t thinking about any of these things at the time. I was overwhelmed with the emotional impact of the place. We all were. It was riveting. It was devastating. I think we were all in shock.
Eventually I sat down near a bank of flowers to pray. In my dream of Our Lady the loud racist man perhaps couldn’t see the destruction of her image he was causing. People get so upset about sacrilege of religious images. I understand that. But what about the people at the Border who are images of God, treated without dignity or compassion, let alone the scores of them who have died because of our indifference? Isn’t that a much more serious desecration? I had seen only some of what our country has done to migrants. I had only been at Casa Vides a couple days and I felt inundated with the suffering and injustice so many people back home justified and even applauded.
In the presence of this great outcry of shock and pain that was this memorial, I could only sit with God and hold my rosary. No words of prayer came to me. It could only be a prayer of presence and solidarity.
A woman I thought seemed like recently bereaved family thanked us for coming. I recognized the deep pain in her eyes and that aura of grief around her shoulders like a heavy black shawl that weighed her down.
When we got back into the van some of our group were crying. Nobody wanted to talk.
Chris, our leader during the Border Awareness Experience, a volunteer at the shelter, said he knew we were feeling upset but we were running a little late for our last meeting of the day at Hope Border Institute so we just had a few minutes while we drove to get ourselves regathered. So we tried.
I think seeing this place would have hurt deeply no matter what. But after what we had been learning about Border issues, having met the migrants Casa Vides was serving and having heard their stories, the experience hit us particularly hard. As we pulled away I thought of Jesus saying that when we hate our brothers and sisters, we have already committed murder in our hearts. That scene of physical mass murder was the result of collectively harbored hate, fear and resentment and anti-immigrant sentiment in our country. Something like that shooting was bound to happen. And if we don’t change, it will keep happening.
We pulled up at Hope Border Institute with the Diocese of El Paso. Their work centers around applying Catholic Social teaching to Immigration Issues.
Toward the end of various presentations, one man on staff named Dylan gave us an extemporaneous discourse on what Our Lady of Guadalupe means to migrants. Her image is ubiquitous in El Paso, in every place you go, there she is. I remember him saying that she came for and represented the Spanish and the Indigenous of Mexico, not either/or, herself a bridge between two cultures, similar to the migrants who have had to leave their home countries but don’t yet belong to their new one.
She appeared to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous Catholic convert. She was brown skinned as he was, (probably close to what she looked like during her historical life) and dressed like an Aztec maiden. Specifically, she looked Mestiza, a combination of Spanish and Native. She gave the gift of miraculous Castilian roses for the Spanish Bishop, the roses he missed from home, miraculously growing in the snow when she spoke to St. Juan. She said, “I am the perfect and ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God.” the name Guadalupe itself would have mean something to the Native people and the Spanish. “She who treads on the snake” to the Aztecs and a reference to another image of her in Spain. She wanted to comfort her children and hear their cries in the new church she asked for. Her image appeared instantaneously on the cloak of St. Juan Diego in the Bishop’s presence. Hundreds of years later it is still fresh, new and relevant. A microscope shows that in the pupils of her eyes, a reflection of the people in the room at the time her image appeared. We are all in her sight, she is here with us and she loves us.
Dylan pointed out that in the impression, her knee is out to show she is dancing. She is pregnant. She is praying.
She is about presence, compassion, hope and new life, about the coming together of two peoples as one in Christ.
Have you ever wanted to witness a living miracle? The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in Mexico City and is one of the most-visited holy sites in the world. This is an opportunity to visit with others from the Diocese of Austin and led by clergy that knows the story and culture… [Read More]
JOIN US FOR A 9-DAY PILGRIMAGE (SEPT. 12-20,2021) TO THE SHRINES OF MEXICO! The pilgrimage will be led by Fr Juan Carlos López and Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez Lady of Guadalupe also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City…. [Read More]
Excerpts on St. Michael the Archangel, Conductor of Souls were taken from the messages from a Soul in Purgatory [Sister M.G.] to Sister M. de L. C. who was under the care of a spiritual director (priest) when receiving the messages. The messages were published in a book called: AN UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT ON PURGATORY The… [Read More]
One of my favorite sections in the book “CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH, THE WONDERS OF OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER” by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 21 – St. Joseph Most Faithful, Pray for Us. This section and meditation show St. Joseph’s faithfulness in rescuing Jesus and Mary in different life and death circumstances (Mat. 2:13 &… [Read More]
One of my favorite parts in the book Consecration to St. Joseph, The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Fr. Donald Calloway is Day 29 – St. Joseph, Hope of the Sick, Pray for Us. This is and was a powerful part of the book during the consecration because it covers the miraculous physical healings… [Read More]