Archive for the ‘Virgin Mary’ Category

In honor of the Virgin Mary and her Assumption into Heaven

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Today on this feast of the Assumption, a simple post: letting pictures and songs tell the story of Mary. We can gaze upon the beautiful faces of Jesus and Mary and thank  God for all the blessings we have received in our lives. We can lay down our burdens at the feet of Mary and ask her to take them to her Son for He will refuse her nothing.

Gaze upon the tender love shared between the two, knowing that we too are included in this intimate circle.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Readings for the Day:
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab, Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16, 1 Cor 15:20-27, Luke 1:39-56

 

 

 

Prayer in the midst of distraction

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

In my reading of Thomas Dubay’s book, Fire Within, I have come upon the chapter describing St. Teresa of Avila’s seven mansions. As a preliminary to the discussion of the mansions, Fr. Dubay described her teachings regarding vocal prayer.

Letting go of old habits

As a pure beginner in contemplative prayer, I have felt confused of late as to whether I should be using my imagination to conjure up images during prayer, or think of concepts. From my reading I have gathered that my imagination falls very short of what is possible just by letting go of everything human and allowing myself to be drawn into God’s presence.

Being a creative sort, and a visual learner, putting aside my imagination has been hard to say the least. I have found some wonderful consolation in prayer doing such things, and have also pondered many wonderful ideas. These things aren’t wrong, but they just scratch the surface. God is inviting me to go much deeper and to do that, I must put aside these primitive ways of praying.

Concrete suggestions

Bless St. Teresa and her innate understanding of human nature. She offers concrete ways to enter into this prayer, and I tried one this morning amidst an array of distractions.

She suggested focusing on a favorite image of Jesus and I have an icon I treasure that hangs on wall across from the rocking chair in our bedroom where I will pray and write. It’s pictured to the left.

I began to pray my rosary and focused on the picture. Now mind you, there was an unusual amount of noise and chaos going on around me – the roofers had arrived promptly at 7:30 am and were tearing our roof apart! Shingles were falling like rain!

Peace in the midst of chaos

In the middle of the rosary, one of the workman knocked on the door, needing to get into our basement to access the chimney. I calmly let him in and resumed my prayer.

My son then came in and we discussed plans for the day. I continued to remain calm and returned to prayer as if nothing happened.

This has never happened before!

Interruption to prayer always entailed frustration, aggravation, irritation. Yet this time I managed to stay in the presence of Jesus and remained calm. My peace was not disrupted.

Gazing upon the face of Jesus

The only thing I can think of that I did differently was to keep my focus on Jesus and just gaze upon Him.

My spiritual mother daily sits in her rocking chair and just contemplates the face of Jesus. I was in awe of that and envied her.

Now I have a taste of what she experiences.

Possibilities

It’s possible for me, and it’s possible for you too. Fr. Dubay reminds anyone who will listen that we are all called to deeper communion. St. Paul reminds us to “pray always.” It can be done.

And the more you taste it, the more the desire will grow.

Images of Mary from around the world

Friday, June 17th, 2011

At the request of a reader, I thought I would post slides of the posters I used at the Beautiful Godly Women half day retreat showing images of Mary from around the world. What I love about these images is what Keith Fournier said in his book, The Prayer of Mary: that Mary’s beauty is transcendent of culture and physicality. In other words, it’s all about what’s inside – her total love for and surrender to the God she so dearly loves.

Being with beautiful Godly women in Henniker, NH – half day retreat highlights

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Ann and I had the wonderful privilege of leading a half day retreat for some 65-70 women at St. Theresa’s Parish in Henniker, NH on Saturday, June 11. The theme was Becoming a Beautiful Catholic Women, organized by the Women’s Ministry of St. Theresa’s (and especially Eileen Murray), the day started with a beautiful mass celebrated by a brand new priest (he’s the tall one in the picture)!

We were then entertained by a humorous skit depicting women preparing for the day by making themselves beautiful. The first half showed 2 women frantically getting prepared, putting on make-up, getting dressed, etc. The second half showed 2 women who took time to be with the Lord before getting dressed. You can see some great pictures of the skit, along with other pictures from the retreat, on the slide show at the end of this post.

I then gave the keynote address, using Mary as the model to follow for becoming a beautiful Catholic woman. You can hear the address here, plus some music I played:

 

You can also read my blog posts about this topic.

Ann then led a beautiful scripture-filled prayer service highlighting faith-filled women of the Bible. We all prayed a response after hearing each reading which was read by women attending the retreat. There’s a picture of Ann with the readers in the slide show.

She concluded the morning with a terrific craft project where women made bracelets with beads depicting different pious women of the Bible. It was a wonderful keepsake for each participant to take home, to remember the retreat. In the picture you can see what the bracelet looks like and some of the readings that accompanied it.

Here’s a slide show showing highlights from the retreat, accompanied by “How Beautiful,” sung by Annie Karto and Donna Cori Gibson, from Annie’s “Perfect Sacrifice” CD.

 

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Throughout this series I have shared with you ideas that I had about becoming beautiful as God means for us to be. This has been a deeply personal journey as I have literally lived with this topic for the last 3 months, reading a little bit each day, outlining the chapters in  The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier and The Authentic Catholic Woman by Genevieve Kineke. As we know from gardening, a downpour is not going to be particularly beneficial to the flowers – it might beat them down and surely the bulk of the water will run off. It’s those gentle rains, even drizzle, that persist from day to day that bring the real benefit to the garden. This reading, bit by bit, day by day, has acted as a gentle rain on the garden of my soul. Where total surrender to God was once a lofty thought is now something I have embraced, and my journey has just begun in living it.

I find that I am more at peace with my life and can take the longer view down the road while still remaining in the present. Recently my husband, who is a contract worker, was between jobs and was becoming concerned that he would not find a new assignment soon enough to continue with the contracting company which gives him a salary and our health plan. He knew I was praying daily for the unemployed and asked me to remember him which I gladly did. As I prayed, I thought to myself that no matter what happened, even if he lost his job and we lost our health benefits, that everything in the long run would work out for our best. My trust in God was deeper because of this journey of surrender which I had embarked upon.

My love for Mary, our Mother, has truly grown. She truly is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known, and will ever know. She lays out a simple path to follow (simple to understand but not necessarily easy to follow), speaking it plainly at the Wedding at Cana when she instructs the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knew from the many deep experiences of her life that following the Lord wherever He led was the only way to lead an authentic life. She came to understand in the course of her life that this way was not free of pain or suffering; in fact it probably was more intense because she chose a more radical way of living. Her “yes”, however, transformed all of history, helping to open the road to Heaven to every human being going back to Adam and Eve, and going forward to the end of time. She held God incarnate in her arms – caressing and kissing, listening to and consoling Him, and laughing with Him. She witnessed Him risen, saw Him ascend to Heaven, and experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon her at Pentecost. Every moment of her life was a “yes” and every “yes” opened the door wider to God’s grace and mercy.

No wonder she was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known!

I earnestly pray, beg, that God’s light, His image, like those of the beautiful icons, will glow within me and will not be blocked by any shadow. I pray, I beg, that God will help me continue to remove the wall that blocks Him from me, stone by stone and eventually, boulder by boulder as I become stronger in Him.

I deeply desire to become a beautiful Godly woman that will be evident for all to see. I desire that people will look at me and see not me, but the Lord. I want to be that bold, that transparent. I want to be like those women I admire so much in my own life who to me epitomize holiness – my Noni, the master teacher of hospitality, the realtor in my office who positively glows with God’s light, and my dear spiritual mother whose mastery of sacrificial love in spite of her illness inspires me daily.

Dear Lord, make me like those women! Make me beautiful like Your Mother. Mary, mother to us all and my mother, pray for me.

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Thank you for following this series on becoming a beautiful Godly woman. Here are links to the other 10 posts in case you missed any:

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Here are links to 2 other companion posts:

Praying in new places, in new ways – an example of a creative routine for daily prayer and scripture reading

Why does love chase away fear? – Total surrender to God chased away fear, allowing us to face anything in our lives

 

Praying in new places, in new ways

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog lately but it certainly isn’t because of a lack of anything to say! I just can’t figure out how to put it into words. All I can say is that I feel like I am being transformed inside, bit by bit. I have had wonderful prayer experiences with the Lord and am learning much through my reading, but right now I’m having trouble pulling it all together.

All I can say is that my prayer time has been vibrant of late and I wanted to share with you how and where I pray. These prayer experiences are not typical but are precisely a result of the transformation going on which is helping me to find the Lord in every place imaginable.

Technology definitely plays a role in my prayer time and so does my workout routine. Just to give you some teasers. :-)

Morning Prayer

My morning prayer routine begins at 7:45 every morning with the beeper going off on my iTouch, reminding me to pray for my ministry. Usually I am getting ready for work at this point so I take a moment to pray the Jesus prayer 3 times: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Sometimes I think of specific intentions such as the upcoming retreat presentation I am to give with my partner Ann on June 11 in NH; oftentimes I don’t think of any specific intention, just that the Lord Jesus have mercy on me as I struggle to serve Him.

Each day I set up my iTouch for the long ride in to work (which, by the way, I find to be a real blessing). After downloading the daily readings from the USCCB podcast, I choose music that will first, quiet my mind and heart – songs that I can pray, and then secondly, music that will inspire me to study the Word.

Songs that I use to pray include

The beauty of these songs is that they stay with you throughout the day, effectively facilitating non-stop prayer. These are songs I definitely want playing forever on the radio in my head!

Songs that I use to prepare me to hear the Word of God include

  • “Lectio Divina,” also off of John Michael Talbot‘s Worship and Bow Down album . What’s cool about this song is that it actually teaches you how to pray the scriptures using the technique of Lectio Divina (which is basically reading, praying, meditating and then contemplating the Word of God, usually by focusing on a single verse and speaking it out loud several times)
  • “Breathe,” in this case, sung by Annie Karto from her Perfect Sacrifice album
  • And a new one I tried today, “Come True Light” from Sarah Hart‘s Saint Song album.

These songs prepare my heart and mind to hear the Word and meditate upon it.


After hearing the USCCB podcast, I will then listen to chant to help me focus on the verses from scripture that struck me. The Norbertine Fathers provide wonderful chant music.

Finally I listen to music that will inspire praise. Lately I’ve been listening to Steve Angrisano‘s Live: Songs from the Road album (great to sing along with).

By the time I get into work, my head and heart are full of the Lord. :-)

Prayer Throughout the Day

I use my iTouch plus Google Calendar to help me remember to pray throughout the day. As I have it with me most of the time, it acts like the bells in the monastery, summoning me to prayer. At the moment I have 4 times set up:

  • 7:45 am, to pray for my ministry
  • 10:30 am, to pray for those who are unemployed
  • 12 noon, the Angelus, asking for Mary’s intercession for prayer intentions I keep in a prayer journal
    (on my iTouch, of course!)
  • 3:00 pm, a portion of the Divine Mercy prayer, again remembering prayer intentions

Each time is short as I am at work, but it really helps me to stay focused on the Lord

Night Prayer

This is admittedly the weakest part of my prayer routine. Strangely enough, I find it most difficult to pray at this time, probably because all I want to do is sleep! Sometimes I listen to daily mass on the CatholicTV app (I could listen on TV but the light from the TV keeps me awake!) or I will listen to the Divine Office night prayers on their podcast. A lot of times though I will give in and watch House Hunters on HGTV (that show is very addicting :-) ).

Night prayer is a discipline I will have to work on.

Next time I’ll talk about praying while I work out. Some of the most intense prayer I’ve ever experienced has been on the treadmill

What are your prayer routines?

 

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Friday, April 15th, 2011

In the previous post I talked about why Mary was beautiful and how it was because she gave herself totally over to Christ with her consistent, lifelong “yes” to Him. I would like you to consider for a moment Mary’s role as a mother, raising the child Jesus during the hidden part of His life. How do you suppose Mary handled her day-to-day duties caring for Jesus, Joseph, other extended family members and her home?

Undoubtedly Mary, because of her knowledge that her child was the Son of God, went about her daily duties with a deepened sense of importance. I imagine that each task, no matter how mundane, took on a profound spiritual significance.

We don’t have the advantage of caring for Jesus incarnate, but Jesus IS present in all of us. If we remind ourselves of that, performing mundane tasks to care for others can take on a sacramental dimension, adding great worth.

In The Authentic Catholic Woman Genevieve Kineke suggests that Holy Mother Church is the best template for realizing our potential as authentic Catholic women (page 8, The Authentic Catholic Woman). It’s an image that applies to all women providing tangible means (the Sacraments) to help us. Born from the cross of Christ and containing over 2000 years of wisdom, the Church offers a unique opportunity to discern and use our God-given gifts.

In theory, I believe what Kineke is saying. The ideal model of the Church is a great model but the reality of the Church in our world is not so pretty. We are, after all, corrupted by our sinfulness and this corruption seeps into the Church as evidenced by the constant barrage of news stories. While some of what is reported could be regarded as slanted, some of it is sadly true. Ultimately, all of it contributes to one’s perception, and perception is what often wins out in the end.

We therefore need to divorce ourselves from those perceptions and remember the Ideal Church to understand why Kineke believes this is the best image for women to model themselves after.

The Church is called the bride of Christ since it brings Christ into the world, just as a mother bears a child. Again Mary is the perfect example. She received Christ through the Holy Spirit (becoming His bride), bore Him (becoming His mother), took care of Him and nurtured Him into manhood where He could then go out and complete His mission.

We are fortunate in having the Church as a model because of the concrete examples  it provides for our  lives – the Sacraments.

In my next post I will get into specifics on how mirroring the Sacraments can give us the life that Mary experienced as she cared for Jesus.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

In the last post I talked about holiness and how it creates an inner light. Mary was holy and she had that inner light. She must have been so beautiful to behold. That inner light, that holiness, made it possible for her to accept God’s will without question. Yet there must have been some preparation in her life for that moment. A farmer doesn’t just drop seed on the ground – it wouldn’t grow. The ground has to be prepared, tilled, aerated, watered . . . so that the seed can germinate and grow. How did Mary prepare? How can we prepare?

Tradition has it that Mary was raised in the temple. Certainly in the temple she was trained in prayer and scripture. She likely had a thorough knowledge of the prophesies regarding the Messiah and was obviously grounded in prayer. Notice that the angel Gabriel did not need to explain much to her for her to understand the implications:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary only asked one question – how would it happen? She understood the rest. The lifelong cultivation of her spiritual life through consistent prayer and study of scripture had prepared her to hear the words of Gabriel and accept them. Her eyes didn’t need to be opened by any explanation – they were already open.

Keith Fournier in his book, The Prayer of Mary, (chapter 2, The Way of Beauty, pages 9-14) maintains that Mary was beautiful because she grounded herself in this lifestyle. The angel declared that she was “full of grace” and Fournier says that makes Mary “beautiful.” She radiated a deeper, spiritual beauty flowing from her relationship with God (remember my example of our new real estate in the last post?). This inner glow was her beauty.

Fournier gives the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman who was not physically beautiful by any means but who radiated joy and love in such a way that she became known internationally for her spiritual beauty. Grace does not change our physical appearance as much as it changes us from the inside out.

Fournier then goes on to explain specific ways that Mary was beautiful:

  • Her ears, because they were open and attentive, allowing her to hear a message so profound that it would change the world.
  • Her heart, because she emptied herself and allowed it to fill up with God’s grace. She also allowed it to be broken so that God’s ultimate will of saving of us all could come to pass (consider Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta statue)
  • Her feet, because she brought the glad tidings of her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth immediately after she heard (see Isaiah 52:7).
  • Her arms and hands, because they caressed the Christ. Imagine for a moment holding the dear baby in your arms, knowing that you are holding the Son of God . . .
  • Her face, because she saw God face to face.  Remember how Moses, after his encounter with God, had to wear a veil because the glow was so intense. 2 Corinthians 4:6 states the the Glory of God was revealed in the face of Christ, a face that Mary saw daily for 33 years! Imagine how her face must have reflected that glory.

If you see paintings and icons of Mary from different cultures, you will see that she is depicted in many races and many forms. Why is this? Because Mary’s beauty transcends every cultural definition – her beauty is reflecting God who transcends all.

How do you suppose Mary’s beauty played out in daily life? In my next post, I will consider portions of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, where she gives numerous examples. Here’s a tease – it involves leading a sacramental life . . .

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

 

Part Two: the beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

In continuing my series of what makes a beautiful Godly woman, I begin with Keith Fournier’s book, The Prayer of Mary (see previous post) and read that Christ’s work began in utero, in Mary’s womb, taking up residence there, making it a tabernacle of the flesh (Preface, The Prayer of Mary, page X).

Recently I’ve begun an exploration of contemplative prayer, using an app from the Daughters of Saint Paul called Beginning Contemplative Prayer based on a book by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP. Sister Kathryn speaks of going deeper into a place that is still, quiet and receptive to the presence of Jesus. The safest place I could think of was the womb – it’s quiet and warm, enclosed and nourished by someone who loves me and wants to take care of me. I retreat here now when I want to be closer to Jesus. I had already decided to do that when I read Fournier’s premise of Christ’s work beginning in utero. For me, it continues there.

“God incarnate made His first home in the womb of a woman who said yes to the invitation of grace.” (Ibid page XI). Mary was receptive to new life and to love, as pointed out in Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman (preface). She had to be completely open, completely vulnerable, in order for God’s grace, His own self, to make a home within her. Christ incarnate has made every part of human life holy. By allowing Himself to be born from the Virgin Mary, He lifted up every aspect of the life of a woman to holiness. Therefore, everything that Mary did, from suckling Jesus, to cleaning Him, providing clothing, guiding Him, consoling Him . . . everything, was raised to holiness. Christ elevated woman and made her beautiful through this most intimate act of love.

And what defines that beauty? Fournier lists several things (Ibid, pages XII-XIII):

  • living a life of surrendered love
  • encountering God relationally, personally, intimately
  • about receiving and giving: becoming a person for others by entering more fully in to the way of Christ and offering ourselves in Him, for others

In other words, offering our humble “yes” to God at all times. Mary’s “yes” ended up changing human history. How beautiful is that?

I will continue to explore this theme in my next post. Stay tuned . . .

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Sung Rosary named as #1 Rosary Product

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I am pleased and excited to announce that the Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide & Sung Rosary has been named the #1 Rosary Product by Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books, posted on Catholic.net, the Catholic Exchange and Integrated Catholic Life. It is also being posted the Catholic News Agency.

Here is a direct link to the article:

http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=6121&grupo=InfoResources&canal=BookClub

Thanks be to God for this extra exposure!