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SO, earlier this week, I was venturing into different thrift stores looking for costume pieces for our next Teen Take video. I decided to stop into an adorable little store called "Special Hands Shoppe" which donates its proceeds to the Metzenbaum Center for people with special needs. Sure, donating proceeds is great, but it gets even cooler. Many of the objects sold are created by those that attend Metzenbaum. These great people also work at the store and under loving supervision do an incredible job keeping up the shoppe's very enticing displays and unique ambiance.
I had visited the shoppe before, but this day I was the met with a joyful, "Hello, can I help you find anything today?" from a young man I had never met before. Looking around, I realized that he was actually running the store by himself. I was impressed with his lively display of salesmanship, and my mouth widened into a grin despite myself as I explained that I was "just looking."
The young man got up from behind the sales counter, showed me around the store and explained the great work that was being done at the Shoppe. It became quickly clear that his disabilities did not include his mental status; he was extremely witty and charming. And, despite his slight struggle with speech and right hand and arm, he appeared more than capable of fulfilling the requirements of his position.
He conversed easily, and I found my fondness and delight growing at this handsome young man who was choosing a life full of productivity and contribution rather than one of wallowing in limitation.
"Come! Look at this table," he said with a sense of excited urgency. It was obvious that this particular table of bookmarks, bracelets, and other created knick-knacks was extra special. "I am 28 years old and am married to a beautiful wife. We have been working hard to start our own business and hope to someday make it on our own."
If my heart hadn't already been won over, it certainly was then. He went on to share beautiful stories of his wife's hard work at making bookmarks, beaded bracelets, and other products. He also expressed his intense patriotism brought on by the service of his two brothers who had been in the military, one of which is now 'retired' from duty due to a run-in with a bomb in Afghanistan.
As I listened intently, I found myself swept away with feelings of awe and gratitude that God had ordained this moment in my life. As our younger generations are being raised with the "entitlement" mentality, made even more obvious by the last political convention this past week, my heart glowed with hope at the words of this young man.
Our "entitlement process" - a blessing to those truly in need - was created for those such as he and his wife, and yet he has no desire to let it define and control him. Instead, he plans to work hard to be set free from such a system. In other words, he is truly pursuing the "American Dream" - to earn his independence by hard work and perseverance. All this mixed together with an incredible joy of living life, to boot!
To say he impressed me would be an gross understatement. In reality, this brief meeting in time has affected my outlook on life, liberty, and our country's future. In fact, had I been carrying more in my wallet, I would have come home with a table-full of trinkets to hand out as gifts! Posted in the image above is an example of one of the bookmarks.
God bless that incredible young young man with so much to give, and God bless our country that it might adopt a mindset such as his!
Image attribution: JANEK SKARZYNSKI VIA GETTY IMAGES
World Youth Day...going on right now. In a word? Awesome - literally.
The decision of St. John Paul II to create this incredible celebration of Catholic youth all over the world was a brilliant combination of deep love, out-of-this-world wisdom, and a prophetic eye. In each country that holds this conference of celebration and encouragement, an excitement builds like no other as youth prepare for their journey to meet the Pope and have him all to themselves. The city of Krakow, for instance, was filled with such a fervor of anticipation when it was announced that World Youth Day would be held there this year that they fitted a special clock to the front of the city's cathedral to count the days, hours, minutes and seconds until its arrival.
The countdown continued elsewhere for the 200,000 pilgrims from 187 countries that prepared to travel to reach Krakow. Their journey now realized, they are enjoying beautiful ceremonies, shows, music, reconciliation, catechetical sessions, pilgrimage walks, and, of course, copious time with a Pope who loves them deeply and has waited to spend this time with them.
In light of the atrocities occurring world-wide and the reality that Christianity is under such increasing attack, this WYD holds an even deeper significance this year.
Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz spoke during the opening Mass and said some very inspiring things. This line, however, really stood out as a true reflection of our times and the necessary response of Christians to our troubled world.
"You bring with you many experiences. You bring many desires. You speak numerous languages. But starting today, we are going to communicate with each other in the language of the Gospel -- a language of love, brotherhood, solidarity and peace." Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz
Focusing on mercy and love this week, this year's World Youth Day is sure to be a huge success, and, God willing, will continue to equip and empower our youth to stand up to the evil that is attempting to spread its errors throughout the world.
Praise You, Lord, for the incredible gift of World Youth Day!
Ever have a sneaking suspicion that your cat might be Catholic? Well, check out this quick video produced by the Teen Take Team! In it they provide tips for determining where your cat stands on its faith journey! :)
This is a very fun video that reminds us how St. Francis' devotion to animals calls us to remember God's great love for all of His creatures!
(Please know that we took great care to make sure that no desecration took place using objects of our faith!)
Image attribution: George Hodan, http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=172509&picture=fyr-i-ett-stormigt-hav, Common Domain
I LOVE the First Reading at Mass this weekend. It actually is one of my favorites. This might sound strange to some, but for me it is a story that oozes with mercy and compassion!
In this famed story from history, Abraham begs for mercy on the city of Sodom. Relying on the deep relationship he had already established with God, he steps out in faith 5 times, beseeching God to spare first 50 people, then 45, 30, 20, and finally 10. The Almighty God responds each time that if even just each amount mentioned was found innocent He would spare the city. In the end, of course, not even 10 people could be found, resulting in complete destruction.
Over the years, I have found myself turning to this story as I have observed the morality in our country spiraling downward at lightning speed.
"Lord, if we can find just 50 innocent people, will you please spare our country?" I can't help but ask over and over again. It's my prayer of hope.
I've heard people say, "There is no hope in the whole world that can get us out of this mess!"
Well, perhaps they are right - in a way.
BUT, by persevering in prayer, I can stand on the mountaintop singing of a hope that is NOT of the world - a hope that invades and overcomes all doubts that the devil can dish out.
Because...NO ONE can top God when it comes to mercy and compassion. And I know that He is pouring it onto our country every day. Do you know how I know?
I see it daily in the incredible gifts of time, talent and treasure that so many Americans pour out to others.
I know because of the incredible witnesses of truly holy people that I have been privileged to meet, some of whom I can safely say very likely have one foot in heaven already.
I know because I am watching an election unfold in which MANY candidates for president actually proudly claim their support of the unborn instead of deny it, a reality I wasn't sure I would ever see in my lifetime, especially as the understanding of marriage and family has declined.
I know because vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life are actually increasing in our country, and, in some cases, at an astounding rate.
How can I look past these and the countless other signs that His mercy and compassion are entering our world by the microsecond and not have hope?
So, in reality, I don't just love this weekend's First Reading.
I need it.
It stands as a beacon of light in a world that so often seems bound in the shadows. It is my beacon. It is yours.
Thank you, Abraham, for giving us an example of a relationship with the Lord that perseveres in prayer, believes with an expectant faith, and accepts His great plan.
Shower us with your mercy and compassion, Lord. We stand here waiting with open arms!!
Yay! It's finally here! Our newest "How Not To..." video from the Teen Take Team and Kid Korner!!
We've all seen "not so great" behavior occurring while waiting in line for Confession. See how many of these "Confession Line Don'ts" you have actually witnessed yourself!
Great to show kids (and some adults!) that need reminding of why we are actually there.
If you like it, please pass it on...the Team worked hard to create it - from start to finish!
What a saint! Such a shining example of self-discipline, sacrifice, and deep devotion to our faith. If we all had even one quarter of her virtues, our world would be in a much better place!
As we celebrate this awesome feast day of this beautiful American saint, let's take a minute and put ourselves into her story.
Would we have the strength to convert to a beckoning new faith, refusing the normal customs of old in an effort to be baptized?
Would we accept slavery as a consequence of becoming Christian?
Would we steal away at night and walk for 200 miles to find a priest and Christian community?
St. Kateri is the perfect saint for those in today's world who exhibit this type of heroic virtue in anti-Christian climates who refuse to give up their faith.
May their strength and courage inspire us to live daily for the great faith with which we have been so wondrously granted!
Image Attribution: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-standing-person-27141/ unsplash.com, Common Domain
My daughter is beginning her senior year of high school and the hustle and bustle of choosing college and career choices has gone into full swing. Because she is our oldest, we are all new at this, and honestly, most of it is quite daunting!
It's funny, but as we approach this new chapter in our lives I have spent some time reminiscing and reflecting on the past as I have watched her grow. Many of the mistakes I have made come back clearly, and I have to fight the twinges of guilt. However, I am surprised by some memories that keep resurfacing. These memories center around real challenges that my daughter has faced in which we as parents have had to put our moral foot down.
Now don't get me wrong, my daughter is truly such a blessing, such an incredible young lady who loves God with all of her heart. But, as with all teens, the culture has grabbed at and infiltrated her life on many occasions, and we have felt compelled to speak God's truth to her and stand up against the world on her behalf, and it has not been easy on any of us. But, I can see so clearly now that some of the greatest fruits for all of us have come from taking a stand for her and her soul.
I came face to face with one of these fruits through a difficult conversation that I had with her recently. She revealed to me how her life has been affected by a certain adult that we have trusted her to spend time with. In one way, she explained the things I already knew: their talks have provided great insight and given her some tools to use as she looks forward to her future. But then her conversation changed gears and she revealed some of the things that this adult was telling her to do, encouraging her to make decisions in complete defiance of her faith that could lead to the destruction of her soul. For her sake I won't reveal these things in this entry, but they were enough to make my skin tingle in despair and anger.
How could I have missed this? What had I done? It had been my idea for her to spend time with this person, and I could hardly believe I could have made such an error in judgement.
Unsure how to handle it all, I stared at her, trying to collect my thoughts.
Suddenly, my daughter smiled. "It's been good, Mom, really."
"What?" I responded, completely confused.
"Yeah! It's really affirmed my own faith. She said that she couldn't wait for me to be able to go to college so that I could get away from my parents and make my own decisions. I told her that I WAS making my own decisions. These are MY choices. And I know now that I really do believe it and am strong enough to stick to my beliefs!"
With a tear in my eye of pride, gratitude and deep love, I realized that my daughter had passed the test - under God's watchful eye and without any intervention from us.
It seems so hard to know if the tools we give our children on their journey toward heaven will truly have the lasting effect we long for. Today, I can exhale in relief as the reality sets in: what we do DOES matter. The sacrifices ARE worth it. There is a tough world waiting out there, but with God's strength, guidance and grace, and their knowledge that we have their backs, I know that they will be ready.
Ok, so life is crazy. Perhaps REALLY crazy. And yet we know deep down that we have to give our all to God. If you are like me, it can be such a struggle!
God deserves my best, my VERY best. If I know that, then why don't I work harder to make sure He gets it?
A recent encounter with my seven-year-old prompted me to get up close and personal with this question.
Like other moms, I'm not sure I could count how many times I have observed him freezing in mid-chew, mouth full as he tries to speak with a voice full of concern, "Mom? Is this a snack or a meal? Do I need to pray?"
"Actually, this is just a snack. It's OK," I assure him.
But wait...What am I thinking? Of course he should take a second to thank God! And in the time it takes for my son to ask me that question, his prayer of thanksgiving could have already been made.
Since God often needs to utilize lightening revelations to get my attention, He used one of these encounters recently to show me that I have been leading my children in the wrong direction when it comes to choosing time with God. My reaction to his question gave several incorrect impressions.
For one, my words easily lead him to view a snack as a lesser blessing than a meal, a blessing so minor that it requires no thanks.
What blessing from God could ever be so minor that we could pass such a judgement? None that I can think of.
Also, I talk all of the time about infusing God into our day, trying to make sure that we pray "Always in All Ways." Why, then, would I pass up a perfectly golden opportunity to instill this line of thought? I'm not altogether sure, but I certainly regret it.
I hope I can make it up to him and his siblings by rerouting this way of thinking - for them and for me! Praise God, time can help me with this.
With God's grace, I pray that He continues to show us all of the little ways throughout the day that we can keep Him in our day. After all, St. Therese' Little Way produced some not-so-little results. I know that with His help, my own little way has the potential to do the same.
My parents, grandfather and cousins fought for our freedom. So did my hubby's Dad and extended family members. Every time I hear horrific stories about our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries losing their lives daily for their faith, I am reminded of our own country's turbulent past that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
And, even though I can hardly believe the call to fight that we presently must face in our country to preserve our God-given rights, I am still well aware that it could be even worse.
I love the USA. God blessed us with a nation with incredible potential to bring about His glory. Satan has NOT been happy with this reality at all and his clear attempts to disarm this potential abound.
BUT, because we do live in America and belong to a most powerful, loving, and merciful God, HOPE LIVES, no matter how many "bombs" of immorality and restrictions of our rights as Christians and children of God are thrown at us. As more and more people stand up and join the ranks in fighting for the liberty and freedom that God has gifted us, we rejoice in this hope!!
Thank you, Lord, for the hope that with You at the helm we will fight the good fight and run the race, knowing full well that as long as we do this with our hearts set on You we will find no failure - but a sure and joyful triumph!!
Today a delightful sister belonging to the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen emailed me with a link to her order's blog. After taking a look, I just couldn't help but extend the invitation to anyone interested in learning more about vocations in the religious life. The blog addresses both basic and more detailed questions regarding life as a religious sister. There is even a "Submit a Question" option.
I highly recommend this beautiful, unassuming site to all!
Our Franciscan Fiat
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Prepare Ye the Way
Here are some beautiful songs just for Advent!
If a song's title includes (family recording), please refer to the blog entry on 3/8/16 for info...
Hi! I'm a Catholic mom who loves to encourage and support others in their journey to live the beauty of our Catholic faith in a modern world. It can be a struggle, no doubt, but God has given us the tools we need! Join my family (both immediate and extended!) and me as we take on this incredible journey of our path to holiness.
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