Saturday, October 14, 2017

Get your butts in gear...

don't look at me...the priest said it. ;0p Daily Mass on Friday, October 13th was the nice filling in our incredible faith sandwich over the last few days. Let's start at the beginning...

We were blessed to be invited to the Chimbote, Peru dinner this year by a dear woman at our parish. It was funny because she only asked that a family come and we were the "the first people who popped into" the head of the person tasked to find said family. What a wonderful gift!

We spent some of our school day on Thursday finding out about the Pittsburgh Mission in Chimbote. Three amazing priests from the Diocese of Pittsburgh traveled as missionaries in the mid-60's to begin the bridge between Pittsburgh and Peru! Since then, the face of God has shown on the local people through home visits and a healthcare center. We were amazed to hear the stories of the two nuns from Grand Rapids who have spent a combined 105 years (!) caring for the Chimbote people.

The local Catholic schools fund raise for the mission and some of them had displays before the dinner that showed what they've done to raise money. Very informative and creative. Very moving to see so many people reaching out to help the poorest of the poor. Faith in action!
They clean up nice, non?

I'm pleased to say no one had a major spill

and they all stayed awake! Success!
It was a long night so I was grateful that Friday was different around here. Normally we're scrambling to finish all the week-end tests before heading out to St. Vincent for our Friday afternoon classes. All of that still happened. It just happened without us.

If you missed it, Friday, October 13th, was the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal. The final apparition of Our Lady to the three children after six monthly visits. You already know the 13th (and especially Friday the 13th) is a big day around here (3 birthdays, two of them on Friday) but, wow, can you imagine a better thing than celebrating the century anniversary of Our Lady's visit?

We watched along with the children's holy hour in Washington, D.C. before heading out to Mass at noon. It was a wonderful break in the day, one of our friends was lector, and Father pointed out that the readings really didn't need to be changed to accommodate the celebration.
The first reading from Joel:
Gird yourselves and weep, O priests!
wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
The house of your God is deprived
of offering and libation.
Proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the elders,
all who dwell in the land,
Into the house of the LORD, your God,
and cry to the LORD!

The responsorial psalm: "The Lord will judge the world with justice" 

The general Message of Fatima is not complicated. Its requests are for prayer, reparation, repentance, and sacrifice, and the abandonment of sin. Before Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children, Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta, the Angel of Peace visited them. The Angel prepared the children to receive the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his instructions are an important aspect of the Message that is often overlooked.
The Angel demonstrated to the children the fervent, attentive, and composed manner in which we should all pray, and the reverence we should show toward God in prayer. He also explained to them the great importance of praying and making sacrifices in reparation for the offenses committed against God. He told them: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication, for the conversion of sinners.”
Are you sensing the "get your butts in gear" message might be the perfect, if coarse, for this exact occasion...from Joel to the Angel to Our Lady...the time has come for us to pray and be reverent, repent and sacrifice. We can wait no longer.

We went home and prayed another rosary. This one was a side benefit of the "cancel everything" day we were having.
#1 is part of the Spiritual Life Group through one of her online class providers. Every Friday they pray the rosary and those involved take turns leading the decades. She was not running to class this week so she got to lead two decades...much to the chagrin of her sibs who had to "hide" every time she went on camera. Lol.
When they were not hiding ;0)
Friday evening was a much anticipated event. Our dear bishop would consecrate the entire diocese to Our Lady and we would all process by candlelight while reciting one last rosary. It was an amazing night, full of friends and faith and Our Lady. How blessed we were to participate.

The sunset was magnificent!
Our seminarian was MC! And #2 got to carry Skiff !
The two ladies on the right?? The nuns who have worked for 50+ years at the Chimbote misson!

#1 and I were blessed to be part of the walking rosary. She was one of the tallest so she got the Crucifix. #4 carried one of the candles that lit the way for the rosary but, didn't see which bead she was lighting.  It was dark but we were all praying the rosary ;0( I did find her right after!
The estimate was 700 people! It was amazing!!!

At the end of the night, they had the little ones release 100 balloons up to the sky. What a beautiful our prayers rising to Heaven.

We're tired now but the weekend gave us a wonderful reminder of what is important. Will we cancel all tests and far-away classes? No, we won't. If such occasions again come before us, however, we will not hesitate to make them top priority. We don't succeed every hour of every day but I do believe we are moving toward our goal of always having God at the center of our lives. It's difficult. There are sports and activities and lots and lots of opportunities. Family meals and time together, family prayer, learning about our faith, and just being sorry for our failings and always remembering...we are blessed.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Our Lady, Conceived Without Sin, Pray for Us!

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It's one of those special days around here. Three years ago, our family attended Mass together, I remembered #1 served, then after Mass I knelt before the Tabernacle while our pastor conferred to me the investiture of the Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Investiture with the Blue Scapular

Celebrant: Lord Jesus, You chose to share our human nature. We humbly ask You to bless this scapular made in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Grant that those who are clothed in it lend themselves to moral renewal among people. And may this, Your servant, invested with the scapular, through the intersession of the Virgin Mary Immaculately Conceived also deserve to be clothed in You, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

The celebrant sprinkles the scapular with holy water and places it over the shoulders of the recipient, saying: Sister, receive the Blue Scapular, from now on a sign of your belonging in the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, that by her help you may divest yourself of “the old man.” May God grant that you may wear it cleansed of every sin and free of all stain, and thus pass into eternal life. Amen.
My protector...not sure if she comes out when I exercise so that she may shield me or to extend blessings to all those who pass by. Probably both :0)

It seems, as is proper, that the Holy Spirit is around for all the little and big things in guide me as I walk, often losing my way. As a woman, wife and mother, though, Our Lady has a special place in my life. She points the way always to her Son and she helps me to hear when the Spirit is only a whisper. How blessed we are to have such a loving Mother in heaven!

This morning I attended Mass alone but was surrounded by others who had come for many different reasons, I'm sure. How blessed we all were to participate, as is custom here on Saturday, in the novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

She's not done! Is Mary ever done being kind and helpful to us? This coming week ends with the 100th (!!!) anniversary of the Miracle at Fatima. Three young shepherds who were visited by the Blessed Mother as she entrusted to them messages from heaven. One of the simplest and most powerful is to pray the rosary daily for peace. Let's all pledge to pray at least one rosary every day between now and Friday, to show our love for this most gracious of all mothers. She who leads us always, happily, to her Son.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Great Lakes Tour, Day 8

I've spent a few nights in convents and monasteries in my life. I can't really describe it other than to say there is a greater feeling of peace there - God is nearer somehow. The sleep is sometimes short but it is always more restful than at home. Knowing that, I was grateful for the peaceful sleep, despite its limited duration, when my eyes popped open at 4:30 AM and refused to close again. Giving my morning thanks for our reunited family, I contemplated what to do next...then I remembered the book in the living room that listed the monks' prayer times. From their website:
A Day in the Life
Many people ask us, “What is an average day in the monastery like?” Here is a brief description of an average day.
The day here begins at 3:10 a.m. with the wake-up bell.  After a small cup of coffee, the brothers quietly make their way to the chapel for Vigils, the longest office of the day.  Over the course of an hour, we chant fourteen Psalms and listen to two long readings, one from the Scriptures and a second from the Church Fathers.  We join the angels, who never sleep, in watching for the coming of Jesus Christ in glory to save those who eagerly are waiting for Him.
This communal prayer is followed by a period of private prayer called lectio divina, .  This is a traditional prayerful meditation on God’s Word, particular the Holy Scriptures.  At 6:00 a.m., we return to the chapel for the office of ‘Lauds’, our morning praise of God.  This is followed directly by the celebration of Holy Mass, with traditional Gregorian chant.  We sing most of the offices in English and most of the Mass in Latin.
After Mass, there is a short period for personal matters and breakfast.  We also prepare breakfast for our B&B guests at this time.  At 8:15 a.m., we gather in a room called the Chapter Room, where the Prior reads a ‘chapter’ from the Rule of Saint Benedict and gives a short commentary applying its sixth-century text to our contemporary situation.  We then have a few moments to discuss together our work for the day.
I suppose God may have planned for me to be there for Vigils but, choosing to wake up slowly (I wouldn't make a good monk...or angel), I showered and had plenty of time to settle in for Lauds instead.
I took this on my way out, after the sun had risen. Heading into the church at 5:45 AM, the city still dark, it was a beautiful, welcoming sight...doors open to all passing by...come in and share some time giving glory to God!

The sung Liturgy of the Hours is beautiful to begin your day. I usually kneel or sit and just close my eyes (sometimes because I can't find my way through the breviary but usually because it's so peaceful to just be and listen to the voices). Mass was immediately after and, as much as I would have liked to be a monk for the day, motherhood called. Back to the apartment to cook up the eggs, bacon, hash browns, juice and other yummies that our good hosts had supplied and enjoy our first family breakfast in a week!

Fueled up physically and spiritually...I needed the second for the drive through Northern Chicago!...we headed to our next destination - Marytown!

Marytown is the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe and it's located, not in Marytown (confusing, I know) but in Libertyville, about an hour north of Chicago. We arrived with lots of time to explore, adore and settle in before Mass. It was an extra blessing to finally have DH along for the experience!

As we explored, we spoke to the staff and realized, not only was it the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (always an extra grace to attend Mass on a Marian feast!) but also the 69th Anniversary of the founding of Marytown!
This is from the bulletin...not sure why it's sideways.
Just before Mass, #1 also leaned over and said, "you know who Our Lady of Sorrows is patroness of, right?" Of course! Slovakia!!! I love when God yells really loudly, "IT IS GOOD THAT YOU ARE HERE!!!" Ahh, we are blessed.

The grounds were beautiful, as was the day, so we took a long walk through the rosary garden.
In their defense, the sun was blinding!

The outside of the chapel

The inside of the complex was equally informative and beautiful. Of course we had to hit the gift shop first, and were greeted by the Saint himself!

Heading back up the hall, the secretary pointed us downstairs to the Holocaust display. Parts of it were off limits to the littlest but there were things for everyone to see and experience.
In the entry were huge cases filled with nun dolls

I can't imagine there was any order missed!

I can't imagine there were this many orders!
The exhibit was full of good information but, truly, the pictures and art were so moving.

The exhibit was a very good preparation for getting our minds in the right place to head upstairs and Adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as we took our turns for confession. What a great blessing to have your soul cleansed before Mass! I am so grateful when that happens. The Adoration went well too but then, it was pretty cool...the monstrance is FIVE feet tall!
Related image

Mass was also a new experience. The chapel is built so the ambo and the presider's chair are at the middle break of the chapel (in the picture above, the break is right around where the photographer was standing). After the Liturgy of the Word, the priest and servers process the rest of the way up the aisle to the altar. The separation yet connection was a wonderful visual. 

Mass over, we headed out to our final destination...Wisconsin, our friends and their beautiful family :0)

You're tired of reading and I'm tired of writing so I'll just close this out with some pictures from our visit. Every visit is so short yet so full of goodness. I always come away grateful to God for this family. They anchor us, even from far away, in a way only others who share our journey can. How blessed we are to know them! How blessed we are to have returned from an amazing trip full of new experiences and sights. We are truly blessed.
Sunrise in the back yard of our rental house

The kids love Wisconsin for many land being a big one!

I have no idea what he's doing or why she needs such a big stick

He should be a preschool teacher. Seriously.

Godpapa and Godson (after he crawled out from hiding behind the desk. Ahhh 3-year-olds. So. Cute.)

I also love this family because dh (and me too!) can get his baby fix :0)

We went to dinner after Mass at a lovely little place nearby - we got our own room ;0) The boys were thrilled to have the "boy table"

So they could play rock,paper,scissors and do other boy things. Lol.

This little dude loves his brother and has the best expressions


The girls also had a wonderful time, as did the big people. Can't wait for next time!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Great Lakes Tour, Day 7

After #1s science course and breakfast, we said "goodbye" to Green Bay (and its horrid jug handles!)
Image result for green bay roundabouts
Would a traffic light be so bad?
and headed due south along Lake Michigan to our 4th and final Great Lake of the trip! Before we reached our Chicago nest, dear daughter had her first meeting of "Baltimore Catechism 3" (also online) so we had to make a stop.
If you're a Mr. Men fan, you may know this episode. Our kids have more than a passing attraction to the show (on their mother's side) so it became the running gag of the day...substituting the word "backgammon" with the word "Sheboygan". It is a fabulous word. It was repeated many, many times.

You see, the travel agent (moi) had decided the WiFi spots were too unpredictable and decided to choose a nice, solid library in which we would plead transience and need. The people of Sheboygan were warm and beyond welcoming. The Mead Public Library was a fantastic find!

They set up #1 and her laptop in a nice little study room where she could interact with her class and not bother anyone else.
We headed one floor up

to a really amazing children's section...lots of fun things to do and see
They even had the complete collection of the Berenstain Bears! (although this was before we found them)
When we had played for almost an hour, we headed down to the magazine section, just outside the private study area, to hang out and read while we waited for class to finish. #3 even found "Model Railroader" magazine :0)
Finished with class, we continued south until, finally we reached the "city of big shoulders," "city that works," or, as most people know it, "the windy city" (although maybe they don't really know why it has that name). It was a most exciting time because we were stopping first to see our home for the night (we had stayed with the monks prior but this was a new apartment) and then it was off to meet daddy. 

The Monastery of the Holy Cross in South Chicago is staffed by the Benedictines and, to our delight, they run a bed and breakfast. Fr. Edward greeted us warmly and took us on a wonderful tour of what would serve to be our lodging for the evening. He noted that this is the only US b&b that is in a monastery and, actually, it's the only b&b he knows of that is actually in a church!
Through the gate is the door up to our apartment which are the tiny windows in the middle. The big windows on the bottom are the sacristy and the big windows on top are part of the church dome.
Up one flight and you choose your door...ours was to the left.
Our hosts live on the right.
This greets you on the way up to the apartment :0)
The stairs from above

The hall that leads to the living room and bedrooms
Living room know my love of quotes on the wall ;0)
Three bedrooms in all...lots of space

Close-up of the hallway again with Our Beautiful Lady and bolts...they were there to secure the baldacchino above the altar! Is that the coolest thing? On the opposite side of that wall, that very one, is this

The dark wooden canopy over the altar is the baldacchino! That is our shared wall!
The cutest thing of all was when our two little altar servers went from the bedrooms to the bathroom, they bowed every time they got to Our Lady, knowing the altar was just on the other side.

It was a marvelous place and we couldn't wait to show it to DH but first we had to go find him! We headed out to the University of Illinois-Chicago, home of a dear friend who is a professor there. He attends the conference with DH and, since he doesn't make the trips to Pittsburgh any more, it's a blessing that we get to see him as we're passing through. As usual he made us feel so welcome and took us on our yearly tour of the President's level in his building. The day was beautiful - perfect to city-view.

I never get over the flatness of the Midwest
That would be as close as we got to #4 but Lake Michigan is in sight!

Back at the office, an impromptu lesson comparing money from different countries, including a 100,000,000 bill (or more, I forget...I also forget what country. Oops, I was enjoying being back in the same room with DH after a week!)
The nearly happy group. There's always one. Lol. Until next time, Dr. Gib.
We delightedly took DH back to our faith-filled apartment and we caught up over Chinese and just enjoyed being a whole family again. We went to bed a bit later than we should have...especially since my inner-Benedictine began calling around 4:30 the next morning. Oh well, there are worse things.

We are blessed.