The Museum of the Bible is huge; the Museum cost over $500 Million to build it and many people donated a lot of financial gifts to have this multi-sensory museum built. The museum is six, entrancing stories of architectural beauty. My husband and I took our 7 year old and our 4 year old for a family outing.
We went to Saturday Vigil Mass so that we could have our Sunday morning free to tour the Museum. I’m glad that it worked out- having obtained our timed-entry tickets online the week before, we arrived before the crowd. The Museum of the Bible does not charge an entry fee; instead, they ask for donations. We arrived at 10:30am. After going through the high-tech security, we found the coat check. Traveling with young children, one must always know where the restrooms are! We found the restrooms by the coat check and near all of the elevators. Speaking of which, the elevators alone deserve a shout-out; each elevator is equipped with three screens that change landscape views of various locations in Egypt, Israel, etc. If this much detail was put into the elevators, then imagine the detail for the rest of the Museum!
We spent 4 hours in the Museum and only viewed floors 3, 4 and the Manna Restaurant. One thing that initially struck me is the peace as we entered the building. Unlike most museums in DC, the Museum of the Bible is so new that the public isn’t an “expert” on it, yet. I looked at the faces of my children and the other patrons to find expressions of awe and wonder. My daughter was especially entranced with the ceiling of the main entrance.
There is a “Children’s Experience” section of the Museum on the first floor. It boasts of a large handful of biblical-themed games, best for ages 10 and younger. There is also a climbing zone and slide that allow children to run and play. In the center of the “Children’s Experience” is a large sculpture of the Bible. My children played here for 15 minutes before we went to tour other places in the Museum. My husband and I used this time to look at the map and figure out a “game plan” for the highlights that we wanted to focus on. We made a bargain with our kids- if they were on their best behavior while we toured the museum, then they would be rewarded with more time in the “Children’s Experience” at the end of our tour.
After playing in the “Children’s Experience,” we went on to tour the items on loan from the Vatican Library and then onto “The World of Jesus of Nazareth” and the stories of the Old and New Testament on the 3rd floor. In Sacred Scripture , the Old Testament and the New Testament are related because the Old Testament prophecies about events that will happen in the New Testament and the New Testament answers the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Part of the third floor was made to resemble Nazareth in its entirety. It was definitely the high-point of our visit. There were a couple of period-dressed actors who represented occupations in Nazareth such as a person working in a synagogue and a young lady who cooked for her family. We experienced a model of the tree of Nazareth- that is still alive today, and a “room” that had a film about the parables. We saw a vineyard and an olive press, and a well (think, “woman at the well”). My son had fun “building” with the stone builders in Galilee.
The rest of the third floor was divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. My family visited to New Testament. The waiting room for this film was clean and modern while displaying posters of major biblical figures from the New Testament, such as Paul, Jesus and Mary. The film that we viewed was a 12 minute film of the making of the New Testament from the perspective of the Apostle John. It started with the birth of Jesus and went straight to the Resurrection and Pentecost. It had no mention of the life of or the teachings of Jesus, the man who is the nucleus of the New Testament. There was a lot of focus on Saul of Tarsus, also known as St. Paul. I appreciated this emphasis on St. Paul; after all, he did write most of the New Testament. That being said, the lack of mentioning Jesus left me more than a little disappointed. I realize that this is a 12 minute, animated film about how the New Testament was assimilated, but how can you not emphasize Jesus’ name? The film was enjoyable and my children were entertained by it. I was left a little baffled.
From there, we went to grab lunch at the Manna Restaurant by Chef Todd Gray. The price for lunch is competitive with the other museums in the DC area. I forgot to bring water bottles and we paid $2.50 each for 3 boxes of water (yes, water that comes in a box.) Next time, I will remember to pack water bottles that we can refill at the many water fountains. The food at Manna Restaurant was fresh and flavorful, but expensive.
After lunch, we ventured to the 4th floor where we watched yet another film on the drive-thru history of the making of the Bible. One of the greatest parts of this floor was the Illuminations showcase of the multitude of translations of the Bible. There was a Rabbi who was copying Hebrew scrolls. He allowed my daughter to come under the roped off section so that she could obtain a better, closeup view of the Hebrew letters that he was writing. This section of the museum required more time to tour, but our children were starting to get tired from all of the walking. As such, we took them back to the “Children’s Experience” as their reward and wrapped up our tour of the museum. In order to exit the museum, you must walk through the gift shop. *smart* I had a pack of gummy bears in my purse and told my children that if they could walk through the gift shop without asking for anything, then I would give them gummy bears when they got to the car. It was hard for them, but they did it!
There is SO MUCH to see at this museum! I’ve heard that if you stopped to read everything there, that it would take over 2 days to do so. It’s an easy place to take the kids, but the fact that my husband and I want to return on a “date night” to view the museum from an intellectual point of view, speaks to the museums versatility. I’m glad that we took the time today to tour a part of the Museum of the Bible and look forward to making many more visits there!
One thing to keep in mind is that this is NOT a museum of Christianity. If one walks in expecting to see a prevalence of Christianity, then they will be disappointed. That being said, mere elements of Christianity can be noticed throughout the museum. This IS a museum about a book- the greatest book ever written!! Keep that perspective in mind and I can ensure you that you will enjoy visiting the Museum of the Bible.
“We answer to God because we fight for the grace of God.” This is one of the opening lines of the History Channel’s “Knightfall,” a series about the Knights Templar. I really liked this line for many reasons; most of all, the reality of the Spiritual Battle that we are all a part of. In previous blogs, I have addressed the spiritual weapons that we Catholics have at our side. The foremost weapon being that of prayer.
It is a Catholic tradition to choose a patron saint for your family. The family will pray for the intercession of the chosen saint and will usually have a statue of that saint in a prominent place in their home throughout the year. 2017 closed out our year with the Guardian Angels. In 2018, we welcome St. Paul as my families patron saint.
One of my favorite radio hosts, Jennifer Fulwiler, created a random saints name generator if you get stuck on choosing a patron saint for your family. http://saintsnamegenerator.com/ I have my own random saint generator at home; my 7 year old son, Alexander. This is his big year. He will be receiving the sacrament of First Reconciliation in February and his First Holy Communion in May. Because he will be receiving this sacraments in 2018, we let him pick our families patron saint for the year. His usual favorite saints are St. Alexander of Jerusalem and St. Michael. I was pleasantly surprised when he chose St. Paul as our families patron saint- and he did so with certainty and without hesitation. In fact, my child looked at me with an expression and a tone of voice that suggested the thoughts going through his mind were, “Duh, Mom! St. Paul, of course!” Now, this particular child of mine, would never actually say, “Duh, Mom.” His little sister, however, I’m not so sure....
Saints come into our lives for many different reasons. So many of those reasons we may never understand. St. Paul wrote most of the New Testament and travelled to many countries spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ. St. Paul is the patron saint of writers, theologians, missionaries, evangelists and authors. I have many reasons why St. Paul would be a good patron saint for me and for my husband. For my children, however, the reasons are less obvious. It may be that St. Paul is good patron saint for my children because they lack any fear when telling people about how they love Jesus more than anything. Just as St. Paul did.
Another tradition for the new year is to choose a word for the year. I used Jennifer Fulwiler’s Word for the Year Generator and got “Jump” as my word for the year. http://www.wordoftheyear.me/ This word resonates with me. I have a great, big project on the back burner that has been lost in the business of life. A book that is waiting to be written about God’s grace through suffering and the power and beauty of suffering. Perhaps, I can find the time and prioritize this endeavor and “jump” in with the same certainty that my son displayed when choosing our patron saint for 2018.
It is with the same conviction, certainty and fortitude that we step forward onto the spiritual battlefield. We fight for the grace of God as we work to maintain holiness in our simple works, in our prayers and in following God’s holy will at every turn.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” -Col. 3:23 (NASB)
Who is your patron saint for this new year? What is your word for 2018?
Stay awake, stay vigilant, be prepared, don’t be caught sleeping! Get ready!
Elf on the Shelf. The Elf spies on you during the day and travels back to the North Pole at night to report to Santa about your behavior. Let’s look at that from a theological viewpoint. God created these awesome heavenly beings called angels.
Understand that God is omnipotent. That means that He knows everything. However, the angels are His heavenly messengers that He has sent to guard you, guide you and watch over you. These heavenly beings will help you to be at your best at all times. In a way, the Elf on the Shelf who spies on us in the weeks before Christmas reminds me of how we should always be on our best behavior, relying on our angels to watch over us.
It’s so easy to get lost in the commercialism of Christmas in the secular world. But I challenge you to see through all of the chaos and business to prepare your heart to see God. Advent is a time of preparation in our Liturgical Calendar. As you prepare your homes for Christmas celebrations and hosting guests, reflect on who the main guest is in your heart.
As you dust off cobwebs on your Christmas decorations, what about the cobwebs in your own soul? Dust off those cobwebs with the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Frequently take part in the Eucharistic banquet to nourish you, body and soul, so that you can maintain and increase your stamina in order to get make it through this preparation season of Advent!
Preparation is always exciting; especially when you know that there is going to be a big event at the end of the preparation. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth, at the heart of this celebration we are reminded of Jesus’ second coming. We never know when He will come again, so we don’t want to be caught sleeping- literally or figuratively. Don’t fall asleep in your faith. Stay awake in your faith! Stay alert in your faith! Keep up the stamina through everything that life throws at you so that you are always equipped to make the best decisions and to respond to everyone in love. In other words, get caught doing good!
The Elf on the Shelf is looking for you to do good things. But more importantly, Jesus is expecting you to do the best things. Get caught being your best at all times! Get caught praying on your knees to your Heavenly Father in thanksgiving for all that He has done for you! Get caught loving others more than yourself. Get caught serving the poor! But don’t do it for pride!
Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Avoid it at all costs. Luke 14:14 says “you will be repaid with the kingdom of righteousness.” In other words, don’t boast or brag about yourself and your good deeds. God alone knows the good deeds that you do and the prayers that you say. It is enough to be satisfied knowing that our Living God knows all that you do. Let Him catch you! Get caught doing good!
What if you died today? Are you ready? Was every choice that you made firmly rooted in Christ? Have you prayed enough? Have you given of yourself more than you have ever received? Have you loved others more than things? Have you persevered in the Faith and fought the Spiritual Battle in our Lord’s Army? Have you participated in the Sacraments?
Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:1-13 about the 10 virgins is a warning to us to be prepared. Yes, “Be Prepared” may be a Boy Scout motto, but it should be everybody’s motto. In this parable, the bridegroom was delayed and the virgins fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. 5 of the virgins in this parable did not bring enough oil for their lamps when they knew that the bridegroom was coming. These were the foolish virgins. The other 5 wise virgins did, in fact, bring enough oil for their lamps and were prepared to enter the wedding banquet once the bridegroom arrived.
The bridegroom is Jesus. The virgins are the faithful on Earth. The oil for the lamps that illuminate the darkness are our prayers and good works. The moral of the story is this: we never know when Jesus is coming; we never know when we will die. We must always be prepared by prayers, works of mercy, and offering all sufferings for others. When I was very sick a few years ago, I offered all of my excruciating suffering for the forgiveness of sins and the conversion of sinners.
We do not have to offer the worst of our sufferings. Any small inconvenience can be offered for the souls in Purgatory and/or for the souls on Earth. When we offer up our sufferings, God transforms them to help others through His grace. In my case, it gave my sufferings a purpose; it gave me a mission. My sufferings became a prayer.
We can never pray enough. Instead, you must pray always. “Pray without ceasing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17. But how do we do this? We pray with everything that we do. I suggest to my children and my students to pray a Hail Mary every time they go up and downstairs. My mom taught this to me and now I am passing it on. Prayer, and faith, crosses the generations. Prayer has upheld each generation. As we enter into a post-Christian society, we will need to rely even more on prayers, works of mercy, and supporting each other through Christ’s Greatest Commandment, love of God and love of neighbor. When we pray without ceasing, we are praying with every ounce of our being through every decision and every action. When we do this, the decisions that we make in life will remain firmly rooted in Christ.
There has been a spiritual battle since the time of Adam and Eve. It is always God vs. Satan. The faithful on Earth are called the Church Militant when being referred to as a part of the Communion of Saints. As the Church Militant, we are the “boots on the ground.” Our strongest spiritual weapons that will truly take down Satan are our prayers and works of mercy. Or spiritual weapons that will always offer a serious blow to the Evil One are the Sacraments, the Holy Rosary, reading Sacred Scripture, Holy Water and discerning God’s directions. All of these aforementioned spiritual weapons unite us in Christ and strengthen us so that we are the Church on Earth.
It is a challenge to persevere in the Faith, most especially in today’s post-Christian era. But we must never give up. We must not be like the foolish virgins who fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom and found themselves unprepared. We must not fall asleep in the faith; instead we must remain awake and alert. Let us choose to be like the wise virgins who had more than enough oil for their lamps and who were welcomed into the wedding banquet. For the wedding banquet is a soul being welcomed into Heaven and it is a purely joyous occasion. So, are you ready? Do you have enough oil for your lamps?
We woke up this morning to no water in our house. We couldn't use the sinks, toilets or hose. We checked the sump pump and the breakers. (I was very glad this morning that I had prepped the coffee maker the night before.) Finally, it occurred to us that we should call the water company. It turns out that there was a water main break on the next road over. As such, I rushed to the store to buy many gallons of water so that we could at least brush our teeth and flush the toilets. Did you know that it takes 1 gallon of water to flush the toilet only once? That's a lot of water!
We got ourselves as ready as we could for the day and took the kids to dance class, Tae Kwon Do and a soccer game. We grabbed lunch while we were out and were gone for 4 hours. After sitting in 80+ degree heat at the soccer field, we were hoping for the best when we returned home. We really needed showers, to do the laundry, to clean the house, to clean the fish tank and water the plants. As we turned down the road toward our house, we saw water bubbling up from the street. Our hearts sank. However, we when we came home and turned on the kitchen faucet, we were pleasantly surprised to see that we finally had our water restored after 12 hours without water! I immediately yelled, "Quick! Everyone take a shower, wash the dishes and start the laundry in case we lose the water again!" Without a doubt, we realized how much we relied on water as a natural resource.
Of course, this lack of water situation got me thinking. What about the spiritual water from our baptism? What about the blood and water that spilled forth from the side of Christ so that His mercy could flow out into the world?
Every Sacrament must have a form and a matter. The form for the Sacrament of Baptism is "I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The matter of the Sacrament of Baptism is the immersion or sprinkling of water. The baptismal promises that we make out that we reject Satan and all his promises. We also vow to follow Christ by invoking the Holy Spirit.
Let's look at the baptism of Jesus. We see that when John baptized Jesus it was the beginning of Christ's public ministry. During the Jesus' baptism, St. John was declaring to all that this man that he was baptizing was Son of the One True God; that he was the one, the Messiah, that the Israelites had been waiting for. Of course, we remember that the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and announced, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17) These announcements by St. John and the Holy Spirit are important because they "set the stage" before Jesus begins his most important public ministry.
Let's fast forward a few years to when Jesus is on the Cross and his side is pierced by a Roman soldier (centurion) by the name of Longinus. Longinus was nearly blind but was ordered to thrust a spear into the side of Christ to ensure that our Lord was truly dead. The blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ instantly healed Longinus' blindness. At once, Longinus declared, "Indeed, this was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39) Longinus, immediately converted, left the army, took instructions from the Apostles and became a Monk. Longinus was later arrested, tortured and beheaded. He was a martyr and was canonized to become St. Longinus.
In the 21st century, it is a first world problem to take advantage of the natural resource of water. We don't realize how much we need and rely on it until it's gone. But do we realize how much we need and rely on our baptismal promises? Do we reflect on if we are keeping our promises? Are we truly rejecting Satan and all of his empty promises? Or are we slaves to money and material needs that never satisfy our hunger and thirst for true life-giving joy?
The following prayer is part of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy that St. Faustia communicated in her diary as a result of her conversation with Christ. This prayer is known as the 3 o'clock prayer as 3 o'clock is the time that we acknowledge that Christ died on the Cross. As Christ died on the Cross for our sins, may we die to this world and live in the holiness of Christ!
O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you! Amen.
It's back-to-school time! As an incoming new teacher of 7th and 8th grade Religion, I have been spending considerable time cleaning and organizing my new classroom. I want my classroom to be neat and orderly. But most importantly, I want the classroom theme and environment to be tools in which the Gospel permeates to bring joy and warmth to my students.
As a mother of an incoming 2nd grader and an incoming Pre-K'r, I am ordering school uniforms, finding good deals on school supplies, making sure the shoes are within the uniform guidelines and making sure that we are practicing a good morning routine.
And then there's the solar eclipse. There are many people who are running out to snatch up the latest solar eclipse eyewear and social media is buzzing with eclipse shadow boxes. It has been 100 years since America's last coast-to-coast eclipse. It has also been 100 years since Our Lady's visit to the shepherd children in Fatima. Coincidence? I think not. The world will most likely not end on August 21 with the Solar Eclipse. But all of this preparation begs a question.
If everyone prepared for the second coming of Christ like they are preparing for back-to-school and the eclipse, wouldn't the world be a much better place?
Let's shift our attention on the recent tragedies in Charlottesville and Barcelona. The great Russian novelist, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made an astute observation when he said that "the battle of good and evil crosses every human heart." The battle that he is referring to is the spiritual battle. Mr. Solzhenitsyn spent 50 years studying the Russian Revolution. The conclusion that he came to was that "Men have forgotten God." Is that still happening? In 1917, a year before Mr. Solzhenitsyn was born, Our Lady of Fatima made her appearance to the shepherd children, in part asking for the consecration of Russia, the home country of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Both Our Lady and Mr. Solzhenitsyn had taken notice that Russia had forgotten God. Now, it appears, the rest of the world is following suit. From the eugenics of Down Syndrome babies in Iceland (aborting babies who would have otherwise been born with Down Syndrome) to the hate crimes in Barcelona and Charlottesville, VA. Yes, the battle of good and evil does, in fact, cross every human heart.
In John 17:16, Jesus says, "They are not of this world even as I am not of the world." So again, I will ask the question. If everyone prepared for the second coming of Christ like they are preparing for back-to-school and the eclipse, wouldn't the world be a much better place?
If we know that the battle of good and evil crosses every human heart, then we must prepare ourselves with spiritual weapons. As you dust off the cobwebs in your classroom or your backpack, think about the cobwebs in your soul. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful spiritual weapon. You can not only remove the cobwebs from your soul, but you can also arm yourself with the ability to choose good vs. evil. You will die to sin and walk the narrow path that leads to eternal salvation.
The Holy Eucharist is another spiritual weapon. Your body was created as a temple in which Christ resides. When we consume Him in the Holy Eucharist, we are nourishing our body and soul that will, again, aide us in choosing good vs. evil.
Eucharistic Adoration is a spiritual weapon that allows peace and calmness to permeate your soul and body. When you kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and focus on Christ's love and sacrifice, you will feel His love and peace wash over you. There's no script for Adoration. Just sit in the silence. Listen to God. We don't always need to have a list of demands to bring before our Risen Lord. Adoration is just that - Adoration. Let God know that you love Him and are thankful for Him. Listening to Our Risen Lord is far more important than talking at Him. When we thank God, our hearts and our eyes are opened more widely to His great mercy.
Yet another spiritual weapon is the Holy Rosary. St. Padre Pio called the Holy Rosary, "a glorious weapon against Satan." The Holy Rosary is a spiritual compendium of Jesus' life in the New Testament. When you cling to the Holy Rosary, you cling to Christ as you meditate on His life and resurrection. When you cling to Christ, you will turn away from evil.
As we examine the current events and prepare our schools and homes for back-to-school and as we prepare to view the extraordinary eclipse, let's not forget to prepare our souls. Dust off the cobwebs. As you take care of your home, family and loved ones, don't neglect yourself. Most especially, don't neglect your spiritual welfare.
So, if everyone prepared for the second coming of Christ like they are preparing for back-to-school and the eclipse, wouldn't the world be a much better place?
The eclipse will last only a few minutes; the school years will come and go; but your soul will live on forever.
No, not THAT "F" word! Did you really think that I'd use that naughty word?!
How about these "F Words" instead? Faith, Family, Friends, Fellowship, Fun and Freedom.
I've been absent from my blog for the past couple of months. This is due to my very overflowing plate of working full-time, completing 2 graduate level classes, raising my children, hosting house guests and making sure to spend quality time with my husband. I having been living on very little sleep. My husband has some of the best work ethic that I've ever seen in an individual. He is known for saying, "We were made to work. We're supposed to be tired. If we're not tired, then we're doing something wrong." Amen to that! With that being said, let's examine those "F Words."
Let's start with my favorite topic- Faith! Without Faith and Hope in God, we cannot effectively accomplish everything that God has called us to do. When we feel overburdened, we know that we can always turn to God for His comfort, strength and protection. God loves each and every one of us and He has created us for specific and unique purposes that we must fulfill in order to bring about the Glory of God. For my part, I have been called to be a wife, mother, caregiver and evangelizer. My sole purpose in life is to help bring many souls to God. This can be accomplished by prayer, spiritual sacrifices, Christian actions of service and hospitality, and telling others of the Word. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Francis of Assisi. "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." No matter how busy life gets, we must always remember to follow St. Francis' advice. There is always an opportunity to preach.
Summer is upon us. It is a time to join in fellowship and fun with family and friends. Merriam-Webster defines fellowship as "meaningful communication for building trust." Examples of fellowship range from community events at Church or in your own backyard. There is a daily fellowship in my front yard where more than 6 children can be found on most summer afternoons playing basketball, riding bikes and scooters and blowing bubbles. This youthful fellowship allows for a bonding between the neighborhood kids which leads to a bonding of their parents. Children are some of the best examples of preaching the Gospel through actions when they run into the house to grab popsicles for everyone, when they watch out for each other as cars pull into the cul-de-sac or when they show concern over scrapes and bruises. May we all be like these little children. "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14. May we follow the children's example when we see our neighbors in and around our community.
Leviticus 19:18 says"...you shall love your neighbor as yourself..." Summer is known in many states as "road work season." Do you see those crewmen/women sweating in the heat of the day? Keep a cooler of cold water in your car. If you see a safe place to pull over, hand out the cold bottles of water with a smile and a "God bless you." I assure you that they will be grateful for your kind action. Put yourself in their shoes, wouldn't you be grateful for a strangers smile, greeting and cold water as you toil in the heat of the day? Don't forget about Mother Teresa, her friendly smile and her loving actions. Don't forget about the woman at the well. The loving actions and the service to others are always opportunities to evangelize. You never know what doors God will open for you to evangelize to others. Seize those opportunities. We are in a constant spiritual warfare. Fight to bring love to others. Jesus did this and we must follow in His example. It is essential that we work to bring souls to God and leave Satan in a losing position. Love always wins.
When we are with God, we maintain our freedom. Freedom is mentioned at least 5 times in Sacred Scripture.
1.) Isaiah 61:1
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners"
2.) John 8:32
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
3.) 2 Cor. 3:18
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."
4.) Galatians 5:1
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery."
5.) Galatians 5:13. (This is one of my favorite Bible verses!)
"For you, brothers, were called to freedom; but do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather, serve one another in love."
Let's examine the common underlining theme of these verses- use your freedom for love and service to others. When you use your freedom in this manner, you will have the wisdom, strength and protection of the Holy Spirit. Do not be slaves to this world. You will always have freedom in Christ. And what a beautiful freedom it is!
May we all embody the attitude of service and love to others. As my pastor said in his homily last weekend, do not take a vacation from your vocation. Go ahead and enjoy vacations with family and friends! But always observe your surroundings. I assure you that you can always find people to evangelize to with your loving actions.
Yesterday our school celebrated the May Crowning of Mary. May is known as the "Marian Month." It is the month when we celebrate all mothers, especially our Blessed Mother. At our school, we have a May Court with an 8th grader as the Queen of Court and her attendants from 8th grade and kindergarten. Our school has over 600 students. Year after year, they have pulled off the same feat of honoring Mary.
All students dress in their school dress uniform, except for the second graders who dress in their First Holy Communion outfits. All students exit the school building in a silent and reverent manner, with rosaries in hand. We lined up by grade on the blacktop as we assembled to march in the May procession. Each grade prayed the Rosary as we walked the 6 blocks from the school to the Church. We processed behind our school banner, priests, the May Court, and flower attendants. As we walked, we prayed the Rosary. I couldn't hear the traffic. I couldn't hear the construction. All I could hear was hundreds of children raising their voices in prayer. They prayed the Rosary over and over again as they walked to church.
Jesus said, "let the little children come to me." They came. Oh boy, did they come, with rosaries in hand and angelic voices in song we began our Crowning Ceremony. The school sang the song, "Gentle Woman" which includes the Hail Mary prayer. We prayed the Litany of Mary and the Queen of Court climbed a ladder to place the crown on Mary's head before accepting dozens of flower bouquets from classroom representatives that were laid at the foot of the altar.
Not only did we celebrate Mother's Day this year, but we also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady's apparition in Fatima. Pope Francis traveled to Fatima, Portugal where he canonized 2 of the children, Jacinta and Francisco. In Our Lady's apparition, she strongly encouraged the children to pray for the forgiveness of sins and the conversion of sinners. There were 3 "Fatima Secrets" revealed during her apparitions. One was a prophetic vision about a man dressed in white who would be shot but saved. This man was St. Pope John Paul II. A bullet nearly missed every major organ and artery during an attempted assassination.
I highly recommend the book, "Fatima for Today" by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R. (Ignatius Press) This book gives in-depth and riveting detail about the lives of the three young shepherd children Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco. They were shepherd children no older than 9 years old. The children were scrutinized, threatened and questioned about their visions.
The book gives a thorough account of the Fatima miracle, known as the "Miracle of the Sun." In 1917, fifty-five thousand people were gathered at the Cova da Iria in Portugal where the apparitions were occurring. One eyewitness said, "the sun started spinning and shooting streams of light, which changed it to all colors of the rainbow... at the same time, it started getting bigger and bigger as if it were starting to fall on the Earth. Everyone threw themselves on their knees and started screaming the Act of Contrition." The book, "Fatima for Today" not only reviews the history of Fatima, but it also explains many Marian Fatima devotions such as the 5 First Saturday's devotion.
The "Miracle of the Sun" was provided by God so that the thousands of people in Portugal could believe what the dear children were telling them. Faith, however, is believing without seeing. Our Blessed Mother, Mary, is the epitome of faith. She believed what the angel Gabriel said when he told her that she would bear a son. She didn't need any further proof or sign from God. She believed and she consented. When Mary said "yes" she changed the world. "May it be done to me according to your word. I am the Lord's handmaiden." (Luke 1:38)
God loves us so much that He gave us the choice of free will. Mary chose to be obedient to God's request, despite the difficulties that she would have to endure. She was only around 13 years old when she became the mother of the Son of Man. Imagine how frightened she must've been. She could have been killed for having been pregnant outside of marriage if it weren't for her betrothed, Jospeh, saving her from harm, disgrace and humiliation. We will discuss Joseph next month.
We see Mary and her example of obedience again at the Wedding of Cana. Here, the wedding feast ran out of wine. She told the servants "do whatever he [Jesus] tells you." As we know, they filled the empty jugs with water that Jesus then turned into wine. The significance of this miracle was that it was Jesus' first public miracle and the beginning of his public ministry. The words that Mary spoke are an example of obedience as we can hear her telling us today to "do whatever He tells you." May we embody the obedience and servant-like attitude of Mary out of love for Christ.
2014 was a tough, hard year for my family. It was so difficult, that my husband and I decided to write it off. We knew that no matter how hard our year was, that our life could only get better. As my husband says, "you can't fall out of a basement."
A few mere days before our daughters 1st birthday, my father-in-law succumbed to the trials of ALS. May eternal rest be granted onto him. Only a couple of hours after Jim passed from this life into the next, I underwent my second sinus surgery. The trials for my husband on that day were great. He lost his father and watched his wife get wheeled back to the operating room. I married a strong man.
A few months after that fateful day, my young children and I flew to Colorado for what was supposed to be a fun family vacation with grandparents and extended family while my husband worked hard on a campaign in Montana. It was supposed to be our Rocky Mountain adventure. Instead, it was an adventure of fighting for my life.
I fell ill with such bad stomach pain that I could not stand up and was repeatedly blacking out. I was in the Emergency Room a few times before they finally admitted me. They discovered that my gallbladder had failed, so they removed it. But this wasn't the only problem. After many days in the hospital and many tests, they diagnosed me with acute gastritis and Gastroparesis. Literally translated, Gastroparesis means that my stomach is paralyzed. I spent the summer of 2014 in and out of hospitals and was even admitted to the Mayo Clinic hospital. Throughout everything, I wanted God to use my sufferings and offered them for the forgiveness of sins and the conversion of sinners. I selfishly offered these prayers because I wanted the pain and suffering to have a purpose. I remember the doctors standing over my hospital bed using the word, "deadly" over and over again because they were trying to keep my stomach from becoming perforated from my illness. My strong, amazing uncle unexpectedly died from a similar situation almost a year after my diagnosis in 2014.
Writing about my suffering is a challenge for me. I don't like to admit my weaknesses. However, I share my story with you only so that you can see the redemption that came from our horrific 2014. Today is Good Friday. My family's suffering and the pain that I have endured (and still endure) is minuscule compared to the scourging at the pillar that my Lord suffered through for my sake. When I behold the wounds and the stigmata of Christ, none of my suffering can ever compare to what our beloved Lord suffered.
While my body was fighting to survive, I discovered that my inner self was only just beginning a new adventure. During my time of recovery, I noticed that when I was sick, that I had a closer relationship with Christ. As I got better, I missed the closeness that I felt to Christ during my moments of brokenness and weakness. When we are empty and broken, we find our God. When we are removed from distractions of the world, we find our time with Christ as more fulfilling than anything that our worldly efforts can give us. This is redemption.
My redemption was that I became more devout. Through the grace of God, I have found other ways to remain close to God as opposed to excruciating pain. These ways include frequent visits to the confessional, daily Rosary prayers, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and instructing young children about the love of Christ. I would not be where I am today, nor would I be as peaceful and happy if I had not suffered first. That is redemption.
As for my family, we found that 2014 made us stronger. We can endure anything so long as we have each other and so long as we unite our sufferings with Christ's sufferings. As we bring this Lenten season to a close and await our risen Savior, may we never forget the sufferings that Christ offered out of love for us in order to open the gates of Heaven. There is no greater love than this.
"Fear nothing. On the contrary, consider yourself very fortunate to have been made worthy to participate in the sufferings of the Man-God." -St. Padre Pio
Suffering is one of the hardest subjects for me to write about. Yet, it is one of the most powerful topics. It is, in fact, so powerful that I will divide the the topic of suffering into two parts.
Last night, we had our monthly Teams of Our Lady meeting. Earlier in the week, we had learned that one of our sector Teams members very unexpectedly lost their 2 year old son to a massive brain hemorrhage. The little boy leaves behind his parents and 4 siblings, one of which is still in his mothers womb. There were many tears shed at our meeting for this lovely family. Even as I tell you this story, I am wiping away tears. No parent can imagine the horrific tragedy of burying their child. No sibling can imagine the pain of never seeing their brother or sister again. It begs the question, if God is all good, then why does He allow suffering?
God never promised to take away suffering. Instead He invites us into suffering. Why? Because suffering is redemptive. Suffering will transform us. When we offer our sufferings to Christ, He will use those sufferings to make us stronger. He will give us clear vision of His saving grace. God will transform suffering. God makes our suffering have meaning.
St. Paul frequently wrote about suffering with Christ, and the redemptive privilege that suffering could bring. "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ, our comfort flows. If we are distressed, it is for Your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for Your comfort, which produces in You patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for You is firm, because we know that just as You share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." (2 Cor. 1:5-7) Let's digest this.
Christ suffered. He suffered in the ultimate way. He suffered so that we may be comforted in the knowledge of His promise of Heaven. Mary suffered. Her own heart was pierced by a sword. Mary knows the pain of seeing her son suffer and die. Christ and Mary's suffering was redemptive. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines redemption as "the action of saving from sin." Christ's redemptive suffering allowed His love to be poured out on all mankind by offering Himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins by which to open the gates of Heaven. Mary's suffering was redemptive in that through the death of her only Son, she became the Queen of Heaven.
When we unite our distress with Christ, we comfort Him because we place our full trust in Him. When we go through the sufferings of life, we become broken. We become empty. We become silent amidst the distractions of life. It is when we are in this broken, empty silence that we can truly be transformed by God. He will take our distress and transform us into something beautiful for His glory. When we unite our distress with Christ, we unite with His distress on the Cross. Life is full of distress, or slivers of the Cross. Don't carry your Cross with resignation. Carry it firmly on your shoulders. God has chosen to give you a minute particle of His Cross so that you can transform the world.
We hope in Christ. All of the great saints had crosses that they carried. They all maintained their steadfast hope in Christ and thereby allowed themselves to be transformed. When you unite your sufferings to the Cross, you will find great strength to endure. Jesus will never let you fall. Jesus loves you and He will comfort you. Jesus will never forsake you. He wants you joined to Him. St. Paul was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, cursed and spat upon. He still maintained his positive hope in Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Hope is a theological virtue. Its immediate object is God. Hope is given to each soul, along with Charity and Faith, by the Almighty God. Hope contains goodness and love. As such, our Creator is the direct object of goodness and love. When we hope in Christ, we look for goodness and love. When we hope in Christ amidst our sufferings, we know that we can receive the Almighty's love and goodness. God will never let us suffer for nothing. When we unite our suffering with Christ, we allow ourselves to be open to the blessings of goodness and love by our Heavenly Father. We will allow ourselves to be taken into the arms of Mary and receive her loving, comforting embrace. God is a merciful, tender and loving God. He will always comfort us, no matter the depths of our sufferings. Life, love, goodness, hope, faith and charity will always prevail.
"Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." -St. John Paul II
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