Friday, July 24, 2015

A Soul That Shouts. By: Margaret Felice

Today's guest is Margaraet Felice. I met Margaret through social media and am pleased that she was happy to share this post today. Her blog is a place where she genuinely shares the beauty of her heart. More on Margaret and where to find her below,

One occupational hazard for a church musician is that we rarely come across traditional hymns that are new to us: we’ve literally heard it all before. But just a few years ago I got the gift of a new Advent/Christmas hymn when I heard Gabriel’s Message for the first time. I like the tune (when it’s not done too slowly!), the refrain is catchy, and the poetry is above-average.

Like many singers, I have the capacity – either enviable or regrettable – to sing on auto-pilot while thinking about any number of things (for instance, I once discovered I could sing the entire Halleluiah Chorus from memory while deciding what to have for dinner). Not long ago, during Advent, I found myself analyzing the text to Gabriel’s Message while I sang. “Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head/to me be as it pleaseth God, she said.” At the word “meek” I groaned, thankfully silently, since I was singing into a microphone.

“Mary was that mother mild.” “A Virgin pure both meek and mild/In Bethlehem brought forth her Child” “gentle Mary laid her child”… Many of our hymns and images present Mary in a submissive light. Though the reality is that she submitted to God’s will, there are plenty of problems with the relentless stereotyping of Mary as uniformly docile and tame. Do we really believe a shrinking violet would have had the nerve to do what she did?

The text that always leads me back to Mary is the Magnificat, an unapologetically bold declaration of praise. This is a saint I can get behind. She boldly proclaims God’s greatness, she states her theology clearly and without apology, and it’s a pretty safe bet that she shared that same theology with her son.

The ideal woman being meek and submissive may seem like an anachronism, but we’ve kept her alive in our religious iconography, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m sick of it. Give me a role model who questions an angel, bravely says yes, deals with a life lived in the rumor mill, does some bossy maneuvering at a wedding to restock the bar, and proclaims God’s praise and promises. When my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord it doesn’t do so timidly – my soul shouts, and there’s a possibility that Mary’s did too.

Margaret Felice is a religious educator and professional singer living in Boston. A version of this post originally appeared on Facebook: MargaretAFelice. Twitter: margaretfelice

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Fiat. By: Christie Young

I can not boast of having met today's guest blogger. I came to know Christie through her appearance on The Sisterhood where she further discerned her vocation. I was drawn to her honest seeking of the Lord and her Love of Jesus.Thanks to social media she has agreed to write this beautiful piece about her YES to the Lord. Christie also has a beautiful gift of song and I am excited to link you to her music here. More on Christie and where to find her below.

Copyright LifetimeTV

John 14: 5-6 (NASB)

“Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
This is sort of how I feel about life right now. I have no clue where I’m going, haha! There are times this fact plagues me and I worry that I’m wasting time, “I need to figure out what God wants me to do so I can start doing it!” Then there are the multitude of times when I’ve looked at all the things lining up in my life and thought, “Ahh, I see now God…this is what you’re doing in my life” and I proceed forward thinking I’ve got at least the main thing figured out. Some time down the road, sometimes sooner than later, I watch as that life falls apart and God begins to direct me somewhere else. The funny thing is I don’t feel that I have wasted time; I just worry that I will waste time. There’s a lesson in that.
God is walking with us. He is showing us all the little things along the way that prepare us for the next step. We have to bump into a log here and there, get caught by a low hanging branch, and trip over a rock or two. In the midst of all that, we get to see the splendor of the tree with it’s leaves dancing carelessly in the breeze, watch as the water trickles down the rock – smoothing it’s edges. We learn to balance and open our eyes to notice things around us. While it might seem it’s taking a while to get to the destination, I can honestly say I don’t regret a single moment of my walk, because the reality is, the walk is the destination.
The goal in life can’t be marriage, or the convent, or a particular job; the goal is Jesus. We don’t have to know exactly where we’re going. That’s what Jesus was telling Thomas. In the end, we hope to go to heaven and the only way to get there is walking with Jesus and He is gonna take us down all kinds of back-roads and forest trails and alleyways that we may or may not think we want to go down. We have to remember that He is our Father who loves us and will protect us and never give us more than we can bear.
Right now I am walking through the convent with Jesus. He is teaching me things and preparing me for whatever lies ahead in my journey. My “yes” was not just to trying religious life; my “yes” was to Jesus. It was to walking with Him each day, to committing to love Him, to try each day to do better and be open to the movement of the Spirit. I say yes to His love and His plan for me. I may not know exactly what to expect, but I know the way. The way is Jesus, and with Him, there is no time wasted.

Currently a postulant with the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in Chicago, IL, Christie is passionate about her faith and music. She also likes dark chocolate, laughter, and sleeping in on Sundays. Twitter Facebook Instagram YouTube

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Laudato Si and Me. By: Lisa Hendey

Today's guest blogger is Lisa Hendey. I spoke at an event hosted by Dorothy Pilarski in Toronto (Calling All Girls Event, 2014) and Lisa was one of the main featured speakers. I was intrigued by her heartfelt and joyful sharing of God's abundant grace. Today she has graced me with her 'YES' to share a post that first appeared at Patheos . There is more about Lisa Hendey and where to find her below. 
Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey
Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey
As I type this, I have the extreme pleasure of gazing over my own little corner of God’s creation. I’m home for a few weeks and soaking up the beauty of the Valley while I play “beat the clock” against a book deadline. I’ve found that it’s easy and pleasurable to take my laptop and sit on our backyard swing. From this vantage point, the hum of my neighbors air conditioning unit doing battle with the 100+ degree temperatures melds with the birds’ songs to beautiful effect. Focus comes more easily out here, and being here feels less like “work” and more like creating.
My focus for the last several weeks has been on the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare as I share their stories in Chime Travelers Books 3 and 4 (due to my publisher on July 3rd). So today’s official launch of the papal encyclical Laudato Si “On Care for Our Common Home” came as a greatly welcomed gift but also as a temptation away from the task at hand. What I would love to do is print the document, grab a yellow highlighter and my journal, and lock myself in my treehouse for three days reading and studying it. I want to stop following the hashtag on Twitter, turn down the pundits on television, and simply read the document for myself.
But as is usual, three days in the treehouse is not going to happen anytime soon. I already did one brief media interview this morning on some of the portions of the document (see paragraphs 102-114) and felt called to share something here too with initial reactions to the document. Several portions of that particular section truly spoke to my heart, including:
Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.
Admittedly not having read it yet in full, Laudato Si is for me a fatherly reminder that I have a place in creation, that my choices matter and impact others, and that stewardship of God’s gifts is part of my duty as a Catholic Christian. The message comes as a perfect compliment to my child-like studies of and writings on the lives of Francis and Clare.
In the document, Pope Francis teaches us:
At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.
In advance of reading the encyclical in its entirety, I intend to pray the prayer at its conclusion as a part of my Morning Prayer. We may not have time for a few weeks to fully digest the teachings of the document, but I believe that praying this prayer offered by the Holy Father in conjunction with his intentions in the teaching will lead me closer to what God intends my role to be as a steward of our world and all of God’s creatures. I invite you to do pray with me.
A prayer for our earth
(from Laudato Si, p. 246)
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
hat we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Lisa M. Hendey is founder of and author of The Grace of Yes and the brand new Chime Travelers fiction series for children. She employs television, radio, social media and her writing to share her passion for the New Evangelization. Lisa speaks internationally on faith, family and technology and resides in the Diocese of Fresno with her husband Greg.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mary, My Mother. By: Jen

I am blessed to have spent some time with today`s guest blogger Jen (co-founder of Not Alone Series) While she was in Boston for an interview with CatholicTV . You`ll find More about our adventure together here...also more on Jen and where to find her below. 
I always thought that to be a "good" Catholic, you had to have a really good relationship with the Blessed Mother.

Don't get me wrong... I love Mama Mary. She is amazing. She is beautiful. I look up to her.
Yet, I am not sure I would ever say I was particularly close to her. At my young adult group a while ago, we were talking about the different Marian apparitions. So many people were sharing story after story about what Mary has done in their lives. How praying the Rosary changed them. How much closer they are with Jesus because of Mary.
I was just sitting there all.... silent. And in awe.
I don't have some profound and amazing story about how Mary radically changed my life.
And you know what? It's ok.
Want to know what I realized? do have a relationship with her.
When someone asks for an urgent prayer, who do I turn to? Mary
If someone is in need of any prayer, who do I turn to? Mary
When I am worried, scared, frustrated, upset, etc, who do I turn to? Mary
When I have a long car trip, who do I turn to? Mary, in the Rosary.
Where have I had some profound spiritual experiences? Visiting Lourdes, France (Marian apparition seen by St. Bernadette); the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC)
What do I love collecting the most?! Rosaries. From around the world.
How do I wrap up my prayer time? With a Hail Mary. Always.
And who do I look up to when I am feeling a little restless in what God is calling me to? Mary. Her fiat is a beautiful example to all of us. Just as Mary said YES (even though she was unsure) to the Angel Gabriel, her life was changed radically. We are all called to say YES to God in the same way.
Our YES is to live a life according to Him.
Our YES is serving all those we know and meet in love.
Our YES is to love Him with all our strength and all our mind and all our heart.
Mary has taught us that. Mary has taught me that.
If you are like me and don't have some totally amazing AWESOME story to tell about Mary, don't worry. You still have one. It's your story, and it's perfect. That's what's beautiful about Mary, she loves us and prays for us and leads us closer to Jesus in such unique and beautiful ways. In the quiet moments. In the crazy. In the surreal.
Just like any wonderful, loving, joyful Mama would do.
Holy Mother, pray for us!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!
Jen is a nurse, sometimes blogger, sometimes runner, lover of blue skies and the color orange, who seeks the Lord's will in all she does. Coffee is the way to her heart. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Motherhood & Prayer: 'Ora et Labora' by: C.C.

Today's post was shared first via Stephanie. K at Blue Bird Songs

  The Rule of St. Benedict focuses largely on the disciplined practice of work and prayer. St. Benedict proposed that work and prayer not only complement one another but can be so closely fused to create a harmonious balance in the spiritual life. It takes great discipline to unite the outward workings of our physical lives with the silent contemplative practice of prayer. 

Through witnessing the observance of this rule I have come to see how “ora et labora” is something that can also aid in living the vocation of motherhood. This understanding can ease much of the tension that may arise in trying to maintain a balanced prayer life as a mother. 

I once read that a monastery is a “school of charity”. It is a place where one must die to self daily, sacrificing ceaselessly in order to persevere. Motherhood demands the same. It is through humble recognition of this selfless vocation that one can begin to surrender to the ‘labora’ of motherhood with great peace and cultivate the fruits of God’s abundant grace. There is the obvious difficulty that arises when faced with the reality of one’s own limitations. From sleep deprivation, feeding, and the essential emotional outpouring of self; a mother can feel defeated. 

Many women (myself included) have battled with the practice of consistent prayer while being busy tending to their children. I took this matter into prayer (ironically) in order to gain some much needed clarity. I recognized that ‘consistent prayer’ stems from a committed and unwavering devotion to God. In each state of life one is given the graces they need to persevere and to accomplish what is demanded of them. The prayer language of a mother is spoken through the act of service to her children. A mother's prayer life is defined by daily cultivating a child's life in cooperation with God. It is a balance of “ora et labora”; it is truly work rooted in prayer itself. If this is not so then there will be a perpetual tension and exhausting search for peace. 

It is important to find the sacredness in the simplicity of service to one’s family. St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:34) provides some clarity in helping to understand the challenge that many women may experience in their spiritual lives as they become wives and mothers. 

St. Paul speaks about the dividedness of tending to God when married. I have interpreted this scripture by recognizing it in a way that does not discredit the vocation of married life and motherhood, but rather imbues it with deeper meaning and sanctity when paralleled with the life of an unmarried man and virgin. Though one is ‘divided’ in their attentiveness to the Lord while busy with serving family, perhaps it can be suggested that by viewing one’s family as divinely given and recognizing the living out of service to them as service and sacrifice for love of God, a mother maintains an undivided devotion to God. 

Life as a married woman and mother does not reduce devotedness to God but does present challenges if the woman desires for the same routines and practices of prayer that she was once accustomed to. Motherhood invites a woman to allow her prayer life to evolve by accepting a new way of prayer. It is not by clinging to a prayer routine alone that allows our spiritual life to flourish, it is by clinging to God alone and welcoming the moments of prayer in the day to day “labora” of life.