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In God We Trust

We are but a few days away from another Independence Day holiday. I dare say this one will be different than the previous sixty I have been alive to celebrate. This year has been something of a disaster and an opportunity for all of us worldwide. We have had restrictions thrust upon us that continue to one degree or another in severity, due to whomever wields the most power where we reside.

I never thought I would wear a mask into a bank, with nary a thought or intention of robbing it.

I never imagined that I would hear my five-year-old granddaughter talk about “the virus” being a reason she cannot go and play with her friends or at the neighborhood park.

I never assumed Mass would ever stop or I’d be masking up once we returned.

I never believed that the world could come to a near halt for weeks, that sports would ever be interrupted/canceled, or that such fear would grip so many.

I never guessed that in the name of justice, so many Americans would destroy, loot, kill and attack their own homeland and fellow citizens.

What is happening America?

This is the greatest country in the world. I say this from having lived aboard for years in both Asia and Europe and traveling extensively. We have lived through the Cold War, visited countries under Communist rule, and felt the oppression of a Socialist government. There is no place like our country, and we are allowing our own citizens to attack their fellow citizens while those in authority turn a blind eye and are suddenly dumbstruck.

What opportunity do these crisis’s offer us? They allow us to see what we are made of, and the depth of our faith and trust in God. They show us the character, (or lack thereof), of those we elected on every level, as well as, those appointed in authority over Holy Mother Church.

I hope we are paying attention to how our “leaders” are responding or not; tearing down, manipulating, or destroying those things that represent the history of humanity doesn’t change anything. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana) They teach us how far we have come, (or not), and how much further we need to go.

A few years ago, I was doing a study of the Old Testament. What emerged for me was the fact that the Israelites constantly repeated the same mistakes through the centuries. I wondered to myself, how could they not understand that those kinds of behaviors didn’t work out in the long run and usually incurred the wrath of God? Sadly, we are no different today. We humans seem to be stubborn and hardheaded at times. I would love to think we have evolved so much more than they, yet here we are: same behaviors, different names, and varied situations.

Another opportunity presents itself personally; How will I be a faithful, practicing Catholic Christian in these desperate times? How will I speak the truth in love and be willing to be persecuted for Christ? How do we stand up as American Catholics to preserve our nation and the right we have to practice religious freedom without worrying about an angry mob, over-reaching governments, or fear getting in the way?

In these crazy, uncertain times what are we going to do to ensure that we do not lose the hard-won rights we take for granted and many lost their lives to preserve? How do we protect all our citizens, respect legitimate authority, and bring order and unity again?

It starts with each one of us, one person at a time, living out our faith in Jesus Christ. It means loving the rejected, calling others out of their sinful actions, and being willing to enter the darkness to bring Christ’s healing light. It means living out the sacramental life, where we receive supernatural strength to know when and how to speak and act.

This is where it matters. We do not need any more passive bobbleheads, sign hangers, or ribbon wearers. It may have been easy to be Catholic and fly under the radar for years, letting our Catholicism peek out when it was safe and convenient. “…where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom 5:20) It is going to get tougher. This is where we begin the ascent up the narrow road and where saints are forged.

What will we let get in the way of living our faith, practicing our freedom, and being Christ to one another?

If it is God we trust, we need to prove it. He has a little something for each one of us to do in this moment in history. We were made for greatness; we were made for heaven and that might mean fighting the fury of hell itself all the way there.

All that we know, and love depends on each one of us taking up our mission, doing our part, and trusting in the God who knows the outcome, even when we do not. God bless America.

See you in the pews.

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Where Are You?

These infamous words uttered by God in the Garden of Eden are as relevant today as then.  It was not as if God did not know where the newlyweds were hiding after their encounter with the serpent. Nor, that the temptation to eat from the forbidden fruit was too good for them to pass up. The question was for each of them. “Where are you,” in relationship with Me? Where are you in the choices you have made? What beguiled you, so as to cut yourselves off from Me, and from paradise?

So, where are you?

I have thought about this a lot. Where am I in my own life and God relationship? Have I faithfully lived my Catholic faith or picked what I liked of her teachings, and disregarded the tough stuff? Do I love my neighbor as myself, pray for those who hurt me, or those I do not agree with?

I have practiced my faith my whole life and missed mass only a few rare times. There were many years when I was ignorant of what the Catholic Church taught, (and did not bother to find out), so I could live with the sinful choices I was making at the time. Ignorance is bliss, right?

God calls His children to a higher standard.

I sadly admit I have failed to love others as I should. I attempt to do so intermittently, but when it gets really uncomfortable and messy, it becomes harder to separate the sin from the sinner. It is easier to love those just like me. Jesus however calls me to love everyone, especially those not like me.

This is hard. It is where the rub begins to chafe and burn and become difficult to execute. So they walk away.

What gives me courage and motivation is the reality Christ spoke of; we are ONE Body in Him. No human is better than another, simply different. Diverse backgrounds, life experiences, wounds, and brokenness. As a single body entity, when we do good, love and help one another; the whole-body benefits. When we chose to break the commandments-no matter the reason, it hurts us all. Sin is communal. It is like shooting ourselves in the foot, the head, and the heart, repeatedly. A body can only take so much abuse before it rebels against itself. If not for the purity of the Head, Christ Jesus, it would rot, and die.

An autoimmune disease involves the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacking itself. The immune system normally safeguards our body against bacterial and viral germs. With autoimmune diseases, it instead turns on that which it is called to protect.

The Body of Christ is currently suffering from an autoimmune disease. Each of us is called to love and provide for one another. God calls us not to do what is easy, but what is holy. He gave us just “Ten Commandments” and Jesus simplified them down to just two. Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the medicine the Body needs, and it is never too late to apply this healing salve.

Where are you? I am asking you to consider pondering that profound question personally and honestly.

What difference will it make you ask? All the difference in the world.

Think of each of us as a cell in the Body. We can be a cell that attacks and disables, or a cell that heals and strengthens. A cell that chooses to love rather than hate. Each of us though one in the Body of Christ, is uniquely, particularly God’s. It is easy to see what divides us, it takes virtue to see what unites us. Love just loves. Our human body cannot heal without each cell doing its part, and this is true of the Body of Christ. Our small efforts will impact the whole of humanity.

I had the chance to dress up this week and play the part of St. Teresa of Calcutta for a little video Fr. Teilo was filming for his kiddos. Fr. Edward was on camera duty. It is pretty daunting to put on a replica of the habit of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, and not feel humbled. I spent weeks in deeper reflection on her life and in prayer. I did not want to misrepresent her in any way, even in a three-minute video. What I learned was that she had plenty of naysayers. “What difference can you possibly make, there are so many?” She would humbly reply, that she could make a difference for that one today. She said, “Good works are links that form a chain of love.” Each one of us is called to be a link in that chain. She went on to say, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”

We each individually have a role to play in loving and helping one another. Each part of the body down to the cellular level, has a specific part to play in the health and wholeness of each of its members.

It is time to stop pointing fingers, hiding, and hoping, somebody else will step up. Our hope and trust is not in political solutions. This is our time. It is up to us to make a difference individually and communally. God raises up the greatest saints in the most difficult times.

This four-foot something nun, didn’t wait for anyone to get elected, legislation or permits. She knew what God had called her to do-and she did it.

We are called to nothing less.

God will equip us, protect us, and give us the words we need and the grace to accomplish the work. It is we who must first step out in faith and trust Him alone.

If we do nothing, the Body of Christ will only suffer further and that will be fatal to us all.

Fear not, I am with you always- Jesus Christ

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Co-Vid Claustrophobia

Mark and I had the chance to go out to dinner now that the restaurants are starting to open inside. My sweet husband asked our waiter if it “felt good to be back?” To which he responded, “I just needed to get away from the kids.” In one sense, we got it. This has been a particularly strenuous time with everyone in lock down mode. Kids ended school right after Spring Break, and parents were instantly expected to be teachers, coupled with some, having to work from home. “Yes. Daddy is working in there. Leave him alone.” Little options were left to burn excessive childhood energy. And worst of all, no break for parents except when they went to bed, if they went to bed. There has not been this much “togetherness,” since the kiddos were in the womb.

Our seniors, who were identified as potential unintended targets, kept friends and family at a safe distance. Our young people who are used to being socially active with groups of friends also felt the pinch of solitary confinement; keeping the rules, meant keeping others safe. No one was left unaffected. Our Priests too, Fathers Robert, Teilo, and Edward, stepped into unknown territory as they creatively tried to keep the Church open and Sacraments available. For this we are grateful beyond measure.

In another sense, the waiter’s comment was sad. He could have responded any other way, but he chose to express his desire to “get away” from his children. Now he may have poured himself out in love and attention to them these last couple months and the reality of mounting bills weighed heavily on his mind. I don’t know. I dare say we have all thought the same thing at one time or another about our precious little gifts from God. I can remember thinking during my crazy motherhood years when Mark was gone a lot for work, that if he really wanted to give me a great Mother’s Day, he would take the kids and leave for the day.

I know this forced closeness has also strained the best of marriages, and further crippled those in distress. Weddings were moved, and funerals especially saddened by the inability to have family and friends share the loss by their presence. Pilgrimages to both the Holy Land and ours, with Bishop Olmsted, to Poland, were cancelled. Anxiety and worry are unwelcome guests in our heads, taking up more space than they ought.

As restrictions are lifted slightly, St. Andrew’s offers the opportunity again to attend Mass in person. Parishioners can choose to come Saturday at 5 pm, or Sunday at 7 or 10 am. Always offered, is the live stream 10 am Mass and availability to receive communion after. Of course, there are protocols to follow in this new normal.

I am reminded of the old cult classic Mel Brooks movie, “Young Frankenstein,” back in the seventies. Gene Wilder plays the notorious Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s grandson. He has changed the way his last name is pronounced to distance himself from this association. He has come to his deceased grandfather’s lab to debunk his work. As expected, he too has an assistant named Igor. In one of the funniest scenes of the movie, and there are plenty, Igor has been asked to steal a specific brain from the coroner’s office, of a deceased brilliant man. After finding his grandfather’s secret notes, Frankenstein concludes that, “It might just work.” So, he too experiments on reanimating dead tissue. The procedure is a success and he anxiously awaits his creature, the monster, to wake up. Instead of the expected results using the correct brain of a magnificent scholar, the monster is uncontrollable and dangerous. In a particularly funny and memorable scene, as the monster is choking Dr. Frankenstein, He implores Igor about who’s brain he actually got. “Abby somebody.” He says incredibly pleased with himself. “Abby-normal.”

While we are all entering  our new “abby-normal,” we need to remember that God is in control of everything. God can even use this invisible virus to bring good out of devastation and fear. When we want to cling to the past, or control what little we have control over, it will further exhaust us and increase our stress and anxiety. Its like grabbing a handful of sand and squeezing it tightly so as not to lose a single grain. But the converse happens, the more we squeeze the more we lose.

The answer is to open-up our hands.

So too with our fears and worries about what if and what was. Open up those concerns before God and lay them in the hands of the Almighty. Sounds quippy, too easy, and simplistic. God does not make it complicated to love and trust Him. We do. So, trust me when I tell you what I have found to be true my whole life through so many unexplained, unexpected, and unwanted curve balls of my own.

Let go!

Every time we do, every time we let God be the Lord of our lives, things become more manageable and profitable to our salvation. God is, God the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who loves us beyond compare or limit. Do you trust Him? Because now is as good a time as any.

This “abby-normal” reality is going to be around for a while. I believe with all my heart that our life is a preparation for life eternal. Situations that are out of our control, are not out of God’s control. We need only begin to entrust ourselves and our well being to the One who is trustworthy in anticipation of the future glory and union with Him in heaven.

Now that’s a reality I can wrap my heart around.

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Not According to Plan

There are the plans we make; and then there are God’s plans. Sometimes, they line up. Take for instance last week. I thought I had it all figured out. Easy trip to the airport with one small caveat, the necessary requirement of bringing the old family dog into the friendly skies. Never having done this before, I believed I had taken care of all the necessary requirements based on information I was given. Standing there at the critical moment I was informed otherwise, and it all fell apart from there. As a result I missed both my intended flight and the following one. After spending some time seeking alternate solutions, I was left with what felt like the only recourse; crying in exasperated frustration in the parked car while the elusive solution evaded me. I prayed. I cried. I said some things I wished I hadn’t.

I haven’t been that flustered and infuriated all at once in a long, long time.

After an expenditure of way too much energy and finally finding a temporary solution, I began to put things into perspective. A good friend of mine was currently having her chest breeched for repair surgery and would spend Christmas break, in painful recovery. Longtime dear friends of ours had shared in their Christmas letter the day prior, that each of them has cancer and are undergoing chemo together. They stated how grateful they were for whatever time remaining they could have as a married couple. There are those who are hungry, lonely, terminal, broken and suffering.

 I was just “merely inconvenienced” said my son, who was on the receiving end of my phone fury. Out of the mouths of babes…

In a moment of clarity, I decided that rather than continue my whining and plotting my retort to the person who gave me the incorrect information, I would instead attempt to offer up my little cross for those with much bigger ones than I.

Part of my morning prayer for years now, goes something like this, “I give you praise and thanks for the many gifts you will send me including the gift of my small sharing in the Cross.” I guess God wanted to take me seriously and send a little Christmas something my way that day. 

In the whole scheme of things I should never, ever, ever, utter a solitary complaint to heaven. I am blessed beyond all telling.  Anything the Lord brings my way is for my benefit to grow in holiness and virtue, or my opportunity to place others in their need, before me.

I grossly failed that day to be as patient as I could have been in the situation presented.

Funny how after over fifty years of practice I am still a neophyte when it comes to that virtue in particular. So my loving Father continues to give me lots of chances to keep working on this; and I am grateful.

I have the best intentions when I read that Morning Prayer. I really want to embrace the crosses that come my way. The problem is I really just don’t seem to recognize them when they are right between my eyes. No, I don’t see them for what they were until the opportunity had passed. That is the sad part; all the missed opportunities to grow, to love, to become the tiniest bit more holy.

So as we move towards another new beginning of another year, I hope to once again redouble my efforts and get my cross examination in order. I guess what I am praying for is that the Lord makes the crosses He sends really obvious, so that I may quickly see them, embrace them, and lift them up. May 2014 come to a close with a deeper appreciation of the many blessings I have been given and all the disguises that they may come in, especially the cross-shaped ones. May 2015* find us all welcoming whatever the Lord has in store for us as He seeks

*Note: This article was written and published in December of 2014. As I reread it in 2020, I am struck with the realization that after having asked the “Lord to make the crosses He sends really obvious…” little could I have known that just three months later I would get a cross I could not miss. The car never saw me until I hit the windshield. I guess I need to be more careful what I ask for because the crosses since then have been, big, obvious, and painful. Not just “inconvenient.

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The Ministry Relic

I sometimes feel like shag carpeting with lots of life left and great stories to tell- but not as vibrant and exciting as the new Berbers. Yet, I believe with all my heart, that God called me to ministry at St. Andrew the Apostle.

God’s timing is perfect. Never in my life would I have imagined myself working first as a Youth Minister, and then in Marriage Ministry. Yet, as I look back at all that I experienced in life, I can see God’s hand laying the groundwork in preparation for this work for which I am called.  God was moving me on the path that landed me right where He wanted me to be, doing the work He equipped me to do.

This can be said of all our amazing staff and clergy. Not one of us feels that we are worthy for the work we have been called to, but we said yes and left the rest to God. If ministry isn’t challenging enough on its own, fighting the devil and all- life tosses in the current pandemic. Church closures, work from home, and lots of ever-changing restrictions. Who would have ever thought we would be wearing a mask to buy groceries, not alone to Mass? We texted a photo of Mark and I to our kids the first time we ventured into Safeway with our hats, sunglasses, and masks on. “Mom, dad,” our kids told us, “you guys look like bank robbers.”

There is talk of opening-up America again, and of course that includes our churches. What will this look like? How many will stay home and play it safe for a while longer? How many will not come back at all?

It cannot be “business as usual” once again. Things will never be exactly the same as before, and it is unrealistic to think they would be. Some things, however, will never change. Like the necessity to keep the faith alive in our homes, hearts, and lapsed loved ones.

Our response during this crisis, or any crisis of this magnitude, is very revealing to those who are on the fence about the whole God thing. I was reminded of my own frequent lamentation years ago, “God, I help others come to know you, what’s going on with my own kids?” 

When they were small, we might have been a three-ring circus at Mass, but we were there, and they were totally into loving Jesus. Their teen years were a different story altogether.  They pushed back and found excuses not to go. It felt like they took turns having their crisis of faith, as they tried to figure out their place in the world, where God fit in, and the significance of their Catholic beliefs.  As a mother and a Youth Minister at the time, it was absolutely overwhelming trying to figure out when to push, how hard to push, and when to simply give them over to God.

It is awesome to know that as your children grow, your teens mature, and your young adults strike out on the path towards adulthood; that it does not solely depend on you. In God’s amazing plan, He knows exactly what and who it takes, to bring your kid around, sort of speak. The Church in her marvelous wisdom, invites people back through various times in their lives, to rediscover Catholicism, and the God who dreamed them into existence. I see it all the time in marriage ministry. They have been away for years, usually starting in college, but love, true love, causes them to desire more for their lives and their future marriage and family. The values they fought so hard against in their youth are the very values they want to pass on to their children. Those snarky Lishko teens, turned into incredible adults who love the Lord, practice their Catholic faith regularly, and pass that faith on to their own children. God is so good.

Back in the day, as a youth minister, some of the teens used to tell my kids what a “great Youth Minister” they thought I was, “I just love your mom.” My kids would roll their eyes and make some indistinguishable snorting noise. The difference being, those kids did not have to live in the same household with crazy Barb as their mom, and my kids knew it.  I often wondered at the time, how I could play such a pivotal role in some other kids’ faith life, and at the same time repel my own.  But here is the beauty in God’s plan, He places others in their path who will make a difference for them, speaking to their hearts in their own unique way.

We have a wonderful catechetical team at St Andrew’s that you can be assured love your children, teens, young adults, and even you.

We each have our own path to take towards God. We must never give up praying. One of my frequent prayers used to be, “Lord, place someone in their path that will bring them home to you.”

Together, we make up the One Body of Christ. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. I have heard it said that some of the greatest sinners, made the greatest saints. St Augustine comes to mind.  This fact should encourage us all. It reminds us to never loose hope, never stop praying, and always trust completely in God’s plan for our lives and those we love. 

In the thickest part of the battle it is hardest to see the victory, but victory is eminent because we do not fight alone, no matter how scary and dark the trials we face.

Let us bravely walk into the unknown, confidently trusting God with joyful hearts. This faithful witness has the power to compel others to return home to the Catholic Church.

 Heaven is the goal, and it is going to take all of us, to pray the rest of us home.

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Mothering the Masses

Being a mom for thirty-six years has had an effect in every aspect of my life.  I feel a real need at times, to mother the rest of humanity.  Everywhere I look, I see ways to mother people.  I cannot seem to help myself. The words just bubble up and I act without even processing at times. This could be a problem for a spouse, co-worker, or friend.

The relationship between our five kids and I started getting wobbly when they were teens.  They would one by one, weird-out usually starting around their sophomore year. The next few years would be spent doing what teens do best, mentally torturing their parents. My tendency to mother other people’s teens is something that mortified my youngest during her teen years. “Barbara,” she would say to me, “just mind your own business they can figure it out.” She would call me by my first name when she was frustrated with the youth minister/mother to the world side of me.

None of our other children ever called me by my first name except on rare occasions when they did not think I was listening.  She is different; she was the one who had to deal with me the longest as “Barb the Youth Minister,” at St. Andrew’s during her tumultuous teen years.

Believe me, no teen wants to have their mother as their Youth Minister. So, I get it. I am sure it was frustrating for her when there is so much angst as one begins to pull away towards independence and autonomy.

St. Andrew the Apostle has always had an amazingly vibrant ministry to teens and youth and that tradition continues with the great work Robert and his core team have been doing for years. Fr. Teilo and his dedicated team are also doing really beautiful ministry to the “kiddos” in religious education. We are very blessed at St Andrew with these two men taking the helm and steering the youth towards a straight, God-centered future.

Fathers, however, are not mothers, and that is a beautiful thing.

We mothers do not draw the lines at only our own children.  All kids are fair game when it comes to needing a mother’s influence. It really does take will power and a real presence of mind on my part, to know when to act and when to walk by. If I daydream for long, I shift into my auto-mother piloting system and go off on a mission to save society from malnourished teens and snotty-nosed kids.

I am the oldest of five kids. I guess it started a long time ago when I think about it.  Maybe it stems from some deep-seated need to boss something around that started about the time my brother was born.  Nonetheless, I don’t think it is a habit I’ll ever outgrow.  At times it is a heavy burden, I can’t even go about my daily tasks without seeing some situation that clearly needs a mother’s input.  I feel like there is a huge radar screen in my head always scanning subconsciously for something to pop up. Red Alert! Red Alert! Target acquired, untied shoe at four o’clock. Danger! Danger! Launch Kleenex dead ahead. Why just the other day I had to stop myself from asking a bunch of teens outside a local eatery to clean up after themselves. I mean really… I can’t be the only mom on patrol

Our youngest daughter seemed to anticipate an impending attack and would try to move to intercept as quickly as she could. “No, mom!” She would strategically station herself right in my path, “Barbara! Are you listening to me?” Sometimes she was successful, but mostly I was a missile poised on a target and she was no match. “Geez, I can’t believe you just did that. How embarrassing!” she would sigh.

These days, I am trying to use more will power and stay focused on simply mothering my own brood but, they are grown up now, and have moved away. With the current virus situation, I don’t get to see them or the grand-kids as much.  So, I happen to have a surplus of all this “untapped mothering” that is searching for targets. Beware.

I often ponder about our dear sweet Mother Mary and her life on earth. Having been preserved from Original Sin would have given her a real insight into the hearts of humanity.  Raising the Son of God would have given her all the experience she needed to assume “Mothership” as Jesus handed us over to her care, while he hung dying on the cross. 

As a mother myself, I can only imagine the pain, sorrow, and grief she must bear observing her earthly children. It is my hope however, that we also offer her a chuckle from time to time and mostly, that we cause her heart to sing with joy as we make our way on the right path towards her Son.  Knowing that she intercedes for us is a constant source of strength for me personally.

To all the mothers who love to mother, and all our spiritual and extended moms who have given us guidance and wisdom as we walked this path; I wish you the most joyful blessings this Mother’s Day. The world needs mothers to do what we do best, with great quantities of love and patience, and when we do, we make the world a better place indeed. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Given to Give

We all eagerly await the time when we can return to Mass and receive the Eucharist. It has been a long Springtime away from the “Bread of Life.” The closer we get to something that we want, the harder it is to contain our excitement.

So, it is with the Co-Vid 19 virus. The big decision on how to proceed is new territory for everyone on the planet, and that is no exaggeration. Do we push go or pause a little longer?

St. Andrew’s is on top of any new developments because we know you trust us to keep you as safe as possible once the decision is made. We want to begin to open the Church for Mass as soon as we have the green light.

We have all been home longer than intended and the novelty is wearing off. The junk drawers, closets, and lost buttons have been attended to. Perhaps we have organized, categorized, and gotten to those things we always intended to. Well mostly. So, what is next?

Several parishioners have wondered as much and inquired on how they could help since they had extra time on their hands. It is a beautiful thing to behold, God’s children sharing their talents at their Father’s House. As His children we want to take pride and ownership in the maintenance and upkeep of God’s House.

Through our Baptism, we are one big family. Just like at home, there are always chores to be done, ideas to be hatched, plans to unfold. Did you know that in God’s amazing Providence He has provided each parish with what they need to accomplish His Will?

God provides. God gifts. God equips. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (1Cor 12:7)

Every individual parish has people God has gifted to do specific work that parish needs in building the Kingdom of God. In this Divine Economy, God thinks of everything. The Universal Church is part of the One Body of Christ. As the human body functions down to the cellular level, so too the Body of Christ. Each of us has a purpose. There is a plan for our life. We are necessary. When we share our God-given talent, the whole Church, the whole Body of Christ benefits. “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. (1Cor 12:27)

What are you good at? What brings you joy, passion, energy?

As the Churches begin to open across the nation and the world, we are going to need to rely on the gifts and talents of our parish family. We want you. We need you.

You might say, “Barb, I tried to call and volunteer years ago. Nobody ever got back with me.” For this, I can only apologize and ask forgiveness. But it is not a reason to give up. Rather, be persistent as you know God wants you to share those gifts. It also highlights a void and the necessity for gifted individuals to step up. Is organization your thing? Do you have people skills, or communicate effectively? Are you good at matching talents to needs so God’s gifts can bear fruit?  Perhaps you possess crazy good data entry skills, or love to plant flowers, but feel you do not have time in your busy life. There is always a way to make it work. Do not be afraid to reach out, you may find yourself genuinely surprised at the joy you receive in sharing these talents.

Almost twenty years ago I sat in the pew at Corpus Christi, as they announced the need for RE teachers. Surrounding me were, five pre-teens, Mark, and my parents. We had moved home after being in Illinois for nine years. My mother leaned over and whispered, “Don’t.” She knew my plate was full. I knew my plate was full. But by the fourth Sunday in a row, and they had resorted to begging; I had to cave in. One of our boys was that age and would need a teacher anyway. After two short exciting years, I was hired to work full time as the Jr. High Coordinator. I was not looking for a job. I did not have credentials to work for God. Yet, I could not imagine anything else that would give me such joy and fulfillment outside of my family life. Three years later I was recruited to St. Andrew’s in nothing less than a move orchestrated by God.

It was St Andrew’s where our little family would now attend Mass. St. Andrew is where my ministry flourished under God’s watchful eye. It was St. Andrew’s where I continued to say “Yes” to what God had begun in me, despite the fact, that I thought I had little to offer.

God equips those He calls. I am proof positive of that.

I have had the honor of collaborating and volunteering with some of the most wonderful, generous, inspirational people whom I have come to call friends. Together, God was building up something amazing and life-changing for those He was calling to work in His vineyard. Nine years ago, I felt a strong calling to move into marriage ministry. I would have never thought I could have loved something more than youth ministry, but God did.

You see, when we say “Yes” to God, He will take us to exactly the place He has equipped us for, and we will find more fulfillment there than we ever thought possible. Ask anyone who is in ministry. When we share what was freely given to us for the building of the Kingdom, it is a win for everyone, but most of all for one’s self.

It has been my incredible privilege to work beside you. Worship and pray with you. Teach, and especially encourage you in your challenges and trials. I am nobody special. God took my “yes” and has given me all that I needed and so much more. If I had said no, I would have never met you nor had any of you in my life.  That is a sad thought indeed.

I invite you to say “yes” too.

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Seeking Peace

Sitting here in the glory of this spring morning, a quiet breeze touches my cheek and tickles the leaves as it passes by. It’s intoxicating fragrance dances in my nostrils. Amazingly I am at peace, sucking in every possible ounce of this moment. I am usually running at breakneck speeds as I untangle, connect, and attack my seemingly endless mounting workload. Today however I am away from all that and in my own little corner of paradise which makes this time all the more sweet.

I believe with all my heart and it is confirmed in Scripture and many of the writings of those much closer to God than myself, that God wishes to pour his peace on us. It couldn’t have been more evident than when we read the account after the resurrection when Christ first appeared to his disciples in the locked upper room, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t reprimand the disciples for abandoning him or denying him. He just breathed on them and wished them his peace. Wow! That is so unlike any human response I might give in the same situation. Jesus goes on further to say, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminds us again, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

Is there a reoccurring message there we might need to hear?

It seems to me that while it can look like we are amid chaos, uncertainty, and unrest, it is very possible to have an inner peace where it is still, and calm. This is the peace Christ wishes to extend to us. Fr. Jacques Philippe gives us this example, “In order to understand this we can use an image that can be illuminating. Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of a lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly it will be reflected. If on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun can not be reflected in it. It is like this with our soul in relationship to God. The more our soul is peaceful and tranquil, the more God is reflected in it…the more his grace acts through us.” That imagery I found helpful in my desire to strive more readily for peace.

God’s Word is meant to be for us a source of strength, encouragement, recollection, hope, inspiration, education, and empowerment…need I go on? Do we “feed” on the Word of God to mine all the treasures God has planted there for us to discover and rediscover? For me, in all honesty, I find so much wealth in God’s Word but even more so at times, in the reflections of saints, mystics, and even modern day writers. I receive so much from the reflections of others who also walked the earth, strained in the everyday and cried out to God for answers to each unique situation. It compels me to reflect deeper in terms of my own spirituality. I find the “Magnificat” subscription to be for me a priceless treasure because it has done much of the heavy lifting by collecting and presenting compilations from others. Through their own work of unpacking and chewing on the Word of God their insight fuels my own thoughts, writings and what I share with others. Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel writes, “…we do not know the great heights at which our holiness lies… we shouldn’t try and hold back this sort of free-fall of the Word into our depths.”

Free-fall? That evokes both sheer terror and sheer exhilaration at the same time.

That however, is what we need to do. We need to jump, let go, and freely unreservedly give ourselves over to God who desires to do amazing things with our lives. What are we afraid of? Why won’t we let go? These are questions we must ponder and ask ourselves? Do we believe and trust God? Do we live in the fear of what if?

God’s open palms are right there to catch us. Do we believe that?

We must submerse ourselves in the Word that will transform our fear into willingness to trust. We must pray and believe, asking God to increase in us his holy presence through our attention and participation in the sacraments. Because when we let the Word transform us, then it will also transform everything we do no matter how sublime.

Will we consent to be the saint God imagined in us? Are we willing to persevere in the difficult but immensely gratifying work of the Kingdom? Glory, honor, great joy and peace beyond all telling is there waiting for our yes.

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The Elusive “Y” Cord

I would like to think that it all started with a “Y- cord.” Years ago, at one of my very first marriage prep classes, I got sucked into using more technology at St. Andrew’s when teaching. It has been a love/hate relationship ever since. Sometimes no matter how prepared I am, how much I pretest the equipment, when it is “go time” the gremlins come out.

We have all had to learn a whole new language, haven’t we? “Live feed, Smart phone, HDMI, Pro Presenter, and so much more. Our reliance on those “savvy techy types” who know amazingly more than me, is unnerving. When I am vexed by my presentations lack of cooperation, despite previously testing it, and sixty faces impatiently look at me like I am the last dinosaur of its kind,  I anxiously vacillate between calling and not calling Robert on his day off. It is like my one lifeline that will either result in freedom or a lynching.

This Covid-19 situation has forced us to think outside the box in offering the Mass and virtual classes. Specifically, for me, that means marriage preparation classes. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that God puts people all around me to make good things happen in the area of technological innovation.

We have been streaming our Mass for over a month now and for the most part, we have clear, unpixelated, audible streams. This past Sunday was not the case, despite, all the necessary sound checks, proper cord placement, and functioning equipment. If you could see all the wonderful work that happens behind the screens you would be amazed. I know I am every time. I am just the dork in the pew with a laptop, trying not to mess anything up. We observed on the feed that the picture was fuzzy and kept cutting out. It was nerve racking to watch, and frustrating for those trying to figure out the problem. Monitoring the comments, I read, “picture fuzzy”, “keeps cutting out,” “sound too low” and similar remarks. I can only imagine how exasperating this must have been as you tried to pray the Mass. Behind the screen, where you cannot see, there is commotion in motion remedying the elusive invisible glitch that came out of nowhere.

This is new territory for all of us. Well mostly me, but I would like to thank all those who are doing their best, those whom you do not see, whose efforts unite our community, even if only remotely for Sunday Mass.

So how are the marriage preparation classes being affected you ask? Good question. We have gone virtual as well. I notice that our happy little couples however, like to turn off the video feed, which hides their faces. That, coupled with the necessity to mute their mics, is frankly, like teaching in a bathroom with the door closed. There are no encouraging smiles, or frowns to turn upside down. No nods of the head, or colossal yawns. Just a blank screen with my own face staring back at me.

My mind wonders back in time, to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Unavailable until thousands of years later, were presentation tools, or sound systems. Jesus did not have the Apostles set-up the “mount” with big screens, projecting special effects to dazzle the crowd in the pre-sermon show. Lacking were the huge jumbo-trons with giant images of Christ while he spoke.

No. He just spoke.

The Apostles had a hard-enough time figuring out where to get food for everyone. Imagine if they were asked to find a Y-cord.

This all leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Jesus, I am not. Nor can I command a crowd as He did.

Imagine the kind of hold Jesus had on His listeners. They hung on His every word, let it sink in, roll around in their minds and produce a response. Sometimes it was positive, and trans-formative. Other times, negative and they picked up stones. That means He got their attention because, they were listening.

So, what will we do if this method of reaching out must continue a little longer?

I think personally, I will try and minimize the effects and maximize the message. It means I need to know my material and more importantly, be one with its Divine Source. I will need to trust that the Holy Spirit can work in these fickle modern times and give me the words as promised?

Jesus is after all, the Word.

That Word, His Word, has the power to cut to the bone and into the marrow; to pierce hard hearts, to plant seeds on fertile ground, and to set souls on fire.

It will take prayer and surrender to the Holy Spirit to lead us. It requires courage to entrust our audience over to God and simply be His conduit in bringing His electrifying message home to their hearts.

While the task sounds daunting and scares the crud out of me; it is also a grand relief. It is not all up to me or wowing anyone with spectacular presentations. God’s ability to convert souls is not limited to functioning technology. I am tired of placing my trust in man-made materials. It is time to plug into the Divine.

So, despite our best efforts, there will be times when technology will fail us. But that is okay. And for goodness sake, if the picture is blurry from time to time, or the sound fades a bit momentarily, be patient, and please whisper a prayer. You can bet that we are scrambling and working hard to offer something beautiful.

It will always be second best to actually being present there. You know it and so do we. For now, it will just have to suffice until we are united in the pews, in song, and receiving Jesus together.

I anxiously await that day.

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Feeling A little Like Job

A couple of months ago I was having lunch with some friends. Remember what that felt like? Most of us have been quarantined for weeks now due to the COVID 19 breakout and global pandemic. Just two months ago, no one could have guessed that something invisible to the naked eye, would cause so much havoc so quickly. Our world as we knew it, is grinding to a veritable halt.

So back to my lunch story. The greeting I receive most frequently is, “so how are you feeling? I’ve been praying for you.” I’m getting used to it after years of being stricken with weird and crazy illnesses. After a brief update, the friend says, “yah, my husband refers to you as Job.” Hmm, I think to myself. Never thought of myself as Job before, but from his vantage point, he could make a good case for that. (Pun intended; he is an attorney)

Not having read the “Book of Job” in years, I thought it helpful to meditate on in Lent. You know how the story goes, Job was very blessed with health, herds, wealth and family. While we personally don’t own, “seven thousand sheep, …camels, oxen, or she-donkeys,” or “have a very large household…” (Job 1:3) We do have five children, their spouses, and seven grandchildren which I know, can look like a herd, to others. It was no coincidence, that I often referred to our little insane brood when we went out in public, as a “freak show.” Our second oldest has since quipped, “yah, and every freak show needs ringleader.” Yep, that’s me.

In the first five versus, we get a peek at Job’s prosperous and happy life, and then everything changes. Why? A few passages later, we listen in on a conversation between “God and Satan.” Satan is convinced that Job only loves God and remains faithful because he has been so blessed. The Lord says to Satan, “He is in your power; only spare his life.” (Job 2:6)

Ok, whoa. Wait a minute. This is quite frankly a scary thought. God allows Satan to have at it with Job. Satan doesn’t pull any punches and goes after all that Job has and loves. He is finally left alone, with boils festering all over his body, sweltering outside in the sun. His so-called “friends” show up and challenge him emotionally and spiritually during this crisis of his existence. While I am honored to be thought of as Job, I have not been dealt that severe a blow. However, there are moments when, like Job, I have felt the full weight of it all and wonder if there was another conversation between God and Satan involving my name.

Being a parishioner at St. Andrew the Apostle has been the most amazing gift through it all. Countless people have been praying on my behalf for years now. Thank you one and all! God knew I would need all that prayer and support to sustain me on this journey. This is what we do for one another as Catholic Christians. And my family and “friends” unlike Jobs, are willing to even to step up and clean my bathroom for me. Now that’s love.

I know we’ve all been there, when it feels like evil is pouring forth its vile hatred upon us, and God seems nowhere to be found. Wave after wave crashes in on us, we can hardly come up for air when another wave almost drowns us. It can lead to despair and hopelessness and a crisis of faith or even, affect our trust in God. Afterall, why would a “loving God” allow cruel things to happen to His children that He claims to love?

Notice I said, “it can.”

Mother Angelica writes in her book, “Suffering and Burn Out,” that, “True love is built on sacrifice. It grows in time of trial. It is purified by detachment and intensified by suffering.”

This vital information is key to understanding God’s ways, and should in times of trial, propel us onward. Offering up our suffering, anxiety, and fear with Christ’s suffering on the Cross becomes redemptive and a gift God can use to aid humanity. Pope St. John Paul II when asked why there is suffering, stated that, it “releases love.” When we think about it, that is exactly what happens. We come out of ourselves, we try to lift the burdens of others, we pray more, we love more.

That alone, helps me make sense out of what can seem senseless, or cruel. A Father who loves me, will do whatever it takes, to get me ready for heaven. Because we are inclined towards sinful behaviors, the work that needs to be done is often painful spiritually, physically, or emotionally. Of course, we don’t like to suffer, or see those we love suffering or ultimately dying. In those times we can either surrender and trust that God is doing something beautiful that we may never see or understand, or, we can become bitter and resentful.

We are made for heaven. Life is only the journey, not the destination.

During these times when we do not know what new restrictions are coming, or personal cost this pandemic will have on us; we must, like Job, remain faithful. Our love of God is being tested and purified as He prepares us for life eternal.

We can do this. We are not alone. Eyes on Jesus. Together as a family of faith, we must pray and encourage one another. Let us know how we can help you, even if it is just listening and praying with, and for, your concerns.

In this holiest of weeks, we have our example par excellence in Christ Jesus. He showed us the way. He has gone before us and prepares a place for us in eternal bliss.

This virus too, will pass. Let us pray that it will leave us stronger, more trusting, and grounded in our conviction as Catholic Christians to continue bringing Christ’s light into this time and place.

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Why Think of My Life As a Gift…

The easy answer to that question is because it is, but so is yours. We each are so beautifully, uniquely one of a kind. A precious and irreplaceable jewel.

As an exquisite priceless jewel there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease your value. You are gorgeous just being you and shimmering in the light of the noonday sun. We are however so much more than an inanimate sparkly object glistening in the sun. As humans made in the Image and Likeness of God, we have innate dignity, value, and worth. There is a purpose for me and for you, exactly where we are.

As humans we can think, imagine, wonder, care, act…we were brilliantly, perfectly crafted and called to make a difference in this place and time in history. We recognize beauty, truth, and goodness when we see it and hear it.

  • How will those in our sphere of influence be better having known us?
  • How can I, in an act of unselfish love, chose to make someone’s load a little lighter, or day a little brighter; just by being the me I was intentionally created to be?

When we chose to look outside of ourselves and our own situations, and seek to make a small difference in the world of those around us, we are being gift to them.

If we all begin to do this, the world is incredibly impacted and filled with love. It becomes the world we want to live and work in. The world we want to raise our families in. But it must start somewhere, it must start with you and I.

I have been pretending to be a writer for years and have gathered a collection of my stories on various topics; some profound, some spiritual, some humorous, some just my goofy view of life. I hope you will enjoy them and see your experience in there somewhere too.

Be blessed. Be who you were created to be. Be a gift.

Barb

 

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The Imperfectly Perfect Tapestry

Each day in our life is a new thread, and a tiny piece of the great tapestry of human history. On some level we understand this theoretically. We know we can begin anew each day. God allows start-overs and U-turns. Oftentimes however we get caught up in what feels like a sticky web from which there seems no escape. The past reminds us of our failures, the present does not always work out as we planned, and the future is a whole lot of what if worries.

Venerable Madeleine Delbrel wrote this to help us understand God’s Providence. “…we receive each morning and each day in its entirety from the hands of God. God gives us a day which has been prepared for us by Him. There are no “too muches” or “not enough” in it. No part of it is neutral, no part of it useless.”

What is the goal? Heaven. We need to foster an eternal outlook as we live life.

It is so easy to get caught up in the temporal now, because this is the reality, we currently live in. There are bills to be paid, broken relationships to be mended, jobs that stink and jobs that fulfill. How can we consider the reality and necessity of life, and ponder what Delbrel is suggesting? What we will discover is that each day is planned by God to be a source of our sanctification. Our Father will do everything to help us grow into the saints He created us to be. Yes, the pain, frustrations, messy relationships, joys and sorrows of any given day will uniquely afford us an opportunity for grace or for sin, as Fr. Teilo loves to remind us.

The choice however is ours.

We can reject the notion of a good and loving God who is intimately, personally involved with our life and desires our happiness and well-being. Or, we can embrace our birthright by nature of our Baptism, and live as sons and daughters of the Most High.

There have been times in my various sufferings when I have said to the Lord in my nightly monologue, (do you see the problem already?), that this is “too much.” “I can’t take it anymore.” Yet, as I look back on those moments, God knew that I could, and did, with His help. In those quiet dark nights as the tears flowed, I begged to be freed from the physical or emotional pain I was in. It was exactly in those moments as I ponder them, that I realized my littleness and total dependence on God. Those times drew me closer to the Heart of Love itself. I have realized when everything is going my way that I begin to push God out little by little towards the peripheries. There is nothing like loss and raw pain to bring clarity and priority.

God does not love one more than another. He knows what it takes and what each of us needs to draw closer to Him, to learn from Him, and to grow in holiness. He loves us that much. Remember, love is sacrificial. It hurts. It hurts a lot sometimes. Look at the Crucifix-that is what unconditional, selfless, authentic love is all about. God asks so much less of us than He did of His own Son.

She goes on to write, “We are charged with an energy which is way out of proportion to the measure of our world: the faith that moves mountains, the hope that refuses to accept that something is impossible, the love which sets the world on fire.”

God’s abundant generosity provides all that we need to battle anything spiritual or otherwise that comes our way. We need not fear a little virus, an army of demons, or death itself. Whatever God calls us to, He also provides all that we need in abundance to overcome it. What my problem was is that I would try and rely on my own strength and it wasn’t until it was exhausted that I reached out to God. Trust and entrust yourself, your family, your challenges, fears, problems and suffering to the ONE who can do something and equip you with what you need to overcome it.

I have heard people say that they do not want to burden God with their little worries. Think about that. Would you want your children or close family members to go it alone and not “burden” you? No. That’s not what love does. We need each other, but more importantly we need God. And don’t worry about God running out of grace and mercy either.

“The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!” (Lam 3:22-23)

Let us especially in this uncertain time, begin to live out our faith boldly. To trust God implicitly even when we don’t like what we see or experience. There is a bigger plan. A better plan. Our life can look like the backside of a tapestry at times, gnarly, nasty, and one huge hot mess. The Master Weaver however, knows what He is doing and when the tapestry is finished and turned around, we will see that the darkest, hardest moments in our lives added depth and incredible beauty to the whole piece.

See you in the pews! Let’s go set the world on fire!

Playtime

My children were convinced that I did not have a sense of fun or humor when they were growing up. I must admit that I took my job of mother a little too seriously. This is not to say that I anxiously hovered about them fraught with worry. No. It was more like I did not know how to relax, nor enjoy the goofy and precious moments of childhood silliness.

In reflecting on this more, it seemed I always had the next thing on my mind, rather than living in the present moment. It is said that God can be best found in the present moments of our day. That is why they call it, “the present.”

I know I did not scar them too badly, because they all have a wicked sense of humor. Thank goodness God put their father into their lives. Now that man knows how to laugh.

My perspective of grandmother, includes the view of life experience, a deeper understanding of priority, and the ability to see more clearly the little missed moments that are so hard to notice when you are knee deep in laundry, diapers, and dishes. As a young wife and mom, I always felt like a juggler with twenty balls in the air. If I were not seriously focused, the whole thing could come crashing down.

I have great news; however. The balls are rubber and they bounce. That is so important to keep at the fore.

If we strive to do our best each day, the unexpected curve balls won’t completely overwhelm us. Learning when to swing or step out of the way, is the key. Our little humans are under construction. This whole life thing is new to them. Parenting each child is almost like starting over with each unique personality. We need to give our self, and them, a little slack now and then. Sit down and play tea party, do a puzzle, or build Legos. Believe me the dust bunnies will always be there, and I’m pretty sure the dirty clothes reproduce in the laundry basket.

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”  St. Gianna Molla

Some my fondest memories caused me strife at the time. Andrew covering himself and Rebecca with toothpaste and coming out with a broom between their legs, announcing, “we’re witches,” is a priceless memory that makes me smile.

Write down some of the sweet child-like things they do. Take photos, that will be worth a lifetime of smiles. Learn to take a breath, step back, and see the world through their simple, curious view. The wonder of a child is short lived, and cynicism quickly steps in. Enjoy these years while you can. Learn to see the world through their innocent eyes, and surprise them by doing goofy things now and then. It keeps things fun.

Incomparable

Previously, in my One Mom to Another post I shared a few thoughts on motherhood. I’d like to expand more on this notion of not comparing ourselves to anyone.

No woman compares to another. You are the only one of you. There will never ever be another you. Yet, we can spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other women. This is counterproductive. Matthew Kelly says, “the most powerful words are the ones we say to ourselves.” As women we can be pretty hard on ourselves. I am guilty of this too. I can remember when the long-awaited daughter was born after three sons. I had so much fun doing her hair and dressing her up, until at three years old, after getting her hair braided she gazed at herself in the mirror, and promptly said she “looked like —-. “(another word for poop). Yes, I know where she had heard that from sadly. We know we should not be so critical of ourselves. It needs to stop for own well-being, and that of our daughters. I imagine it hurts God’s heart each time we do, after all, He is the Great Artist who created us.

The unique and unrepeatable you is a gift to your spouse, your children, and to all those who know you. You are here in this moment in time for a reason precisely because of who you are, warts and all. When we truly accept the gift that we are, we can better give ourselves away as gift. There is a freedom in that. This is who I am. This is what I am capable of and I choose to share this gift of me with you, no expectations.

I think this means we can let ourselves off the hook in trying to control the outcome. When the kids were young, going to Mass, as you well know, was exasperating. Our attempt to herd the wild beasts into mass worthy clothes, be fed, and not completely look like we didn’t own a comb, took tons of energy. I wish I could say the short ride to Church was without threats. I worried what others would think if we didn’t have it all together, and the kids didn’t act like angels. I burned a lot of energy on that for most of their young life.  I fondly, (and sometimes not so fondly) referred to us as the Freak Show wherever we went.

One of the boys commented years later, that “every freak show needs a ringleader.” That would be me. I needed to stop worrying what people thought of my mothering skills and just enjoy mothering. It is a tiny moment in the ocean of life. When we don’t let the gift of who we are shine through, or the gift of  our spouse, or children, the world is a darker place.

My little Freak Show turned out really amazing. I love their personalities, who they have become, and their lived faith. In the end, by the grace of God, I did surprisingly good, and you will too.

So relax, and just be a gift.