Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year! 2017--On Being Resilient and Living with Hope

I just wrote a quote from Michael Jordan, the great basketball player that I found in a book on keeping a positive outlook in life, on the blog I write that is filled with just quotes. The more I read the quote the more I like it.....the more I want to share it.

So it goes.......

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot...and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."   Michael Jordan-born in Brooklyn-achieved greatness in the NBA.

In the Bible, perseverance and being hopeful is rewarded by God. As Christians hope is essential to our Christians we live in the glow of Christ victorious and that glow should emanate from us. Life is full of distractions, difficulties, and even trials, at times. But knowing Christ walks with us and Christ is near, is so important.  It's important to be resilient and to never give up hope.  St. Teresa of Avila, the great mystic, Spanish saint and Doctor of the Church would tell her nuns, "So many problems arise from imagining Jesus as far away, when He is really near." That is the truth, Teresa would know, she is a Doctor, we can trust her advice.

Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true! Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bishop Barres Arrival on Long Island

The announcement during Advent that Long Island, NY-which for Catholics is the Diocese of Rockville Centre would be getting a new Bishop was met with surprise at St. Agnes Cathedral on the morning of December 9th. Many Church insiders knew it would be announced soon, since Bishop Murphy had turned 75 and had submitted his retirement papers, as mandated by canon law. But there was the new Bishop concelebrating morning Mass, with Bishop Murphy, along with the Rector, just like that. I usually watch daily Mass at midnight (it is televised from the Cathedral), as it is re-televised on Telecare at night and its a good way for me to end the day. Yes I do stay up that late, sometimes later. And I did watch Bishop Barres being introduced to the daily Mass goers by Bishop Murphy that day, as he humbly concelebrated. The Cathedral has been totally renovated and so Bishop Barres walked into a beautiful, newly renovated Cathedral. That was good.
Bishop Barres, age 56,  will need his Ivy League education, plus all the experience he gained as Bishop of Allentown, PA, plus his relatively young age, and his deep prayer life, because there is a lot going on, on Long Island. There's lots of diversity, natural beauty, faith-filled people, great Catholic schools and parishes which is a good thing, but there's lots of challenges here as well.
Long Island has a fair share of unchurched, under evangelized, nominal Catholics, who don't go to Church on Sunday. But that's everywhere, not just on Long Island.
Another challenge is the youth, how can they be evangelized, so they see the value in attending Mass and praying regularly. Of course some do, but not enough. How can the Bishop or anyone for that matter, get them away from their cell phones for one hour, so they can attend Mass and experience the peace and comfort that comes from prayer and worship of God? 
There is so much wealth on Long Island, especially in the Hamptons, but there is also poverty. That's another challenge......There's the very rich, the somewhat rich, the struggling middle-class (many are just picking up and leaving and heading South where its cheaper to live) and the poor, who need help and mercy.
Bishop Barres can gain comfort from knowing Catholic Long Islanders (among others) are praying for his success and blessings on his episcopacy. May God give him the wisdom and guidance he needs to face the challenges. Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Marian Symposium at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY

I have been an active friend of the "Friends of the Seminary" for many years. I was also a Vice President and President of the volunteer organization that helps fund- raise and plan events for the "friends." We help the Seminary and we help the seminarians who now study at Dunwoodie in Yonkers at St. Joseph's Seminary. Yesterday on Dec. 4th, the Spirituality Committee planned a great day of prayer, theology, art and music, with the rector's permission and advice. Msgr. Richard Henning is a great rector and he has been an asset to the Seminary. He is making improvements and is very involved in making sure the Seminary remains vital to the surrounding areas of Long Island and the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the Diocese of Brooklyn. Since St. Ignatius Retreat House on the North Shore of LI in North Hills sadly closed and was demolished (the magnificent property will be used to build luxury houses), the Seminary in Huntington has become more important as a place for retreats, education and days of prayer.
The day began with Mass in the Main Chapel and Bishop Massa presided and the Rector, the Associate Rector and Fr. Hugh Gillespie concelebrated.  
At the Marian Symposium the Keynote Address was given by Bishop James Massa (Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and Moderator of the Curia). His lecture was well thought out and fascinating. He spoke about "The Nursing Virgin Mary (Madonna Lactans) in Christian art, devotion and "its theological purpose to honor the sacred humanity" of Jesus. He also spoke about Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos) and many other fascinating aspects of Marian theology. He highly suggested the book, "The Splendor of the Church" by Henri de Lubac which I am going to try to read this winter. We were all impressed.
His talk was followed by another extraordinary presentation by Fr. Hugh Gillespie, SMM, who is a well known presenter on Marian devotion. He managed to mix deep theological (and challenging) thoughts with an entertaining presentation. It was very good.
That was followed by a powerpoint presentation by Angela-DeLessio-Morrisson who is a local artist and she discussed icons and in particular Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon. Angela is a graduate of the Master's Degree Program at the Seminary. She gave a wonderful presentation. And if that wasn't all enough, we did manage to fit in lunch and a musical interlude by the Cathedral Seminary Schola by the Pre-Theologians studying at Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, Queens. That was heavenly.
The day ended with Solemn Vespers and though I very much wanted to stay, I don't like driving on the North Shore of LI roads in the dark and so I had to leave before darkness fell.
What a great spiritual day, filled with knowledge of God and Mary. All so good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Guided By the Holy Spirit, Open To The Spirit, During the Holiday Season

For all those who celebrate the great holiday of Thanksgiving, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! I'm getting ready to host my family and some of my sons' friends. One of our guests will be coming from England so it will be special! She is  coming for a long weekend to visit my sons' fiance, and we've invited her, of course.

In addition to that I am preparing for a talk I will give during Advent. This is a special talk for me because I have never spoken about this topic before or even thought too much about it. So why would I chose this topic especially during the holiday season with so much to do?.....I could of expanded on a topic I've done many times in Advent but this year would be different. I didn't know that when I agreed to give a talk during Advent, (which I am doing for a second year in a row), that my talk would be entirely different. The reason is, this year I was given the title of the talk and the topic by the Holy Spirit. Sounds a little strange....I would imagine you think it's strange. You see, God's word as we believe, as Christians is living and active, it should be transformative as well. As Christians, we should be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, so if the Spirit does move in our lives, we should be thankful for that and not hesitate or be too surprised.......Well, at first I have to be honest I wasn't thankful because it was a lot of work to prepare for this talk and actually I'm going to finish it today because I want it completed before Thanksgiving. And at first, I was perplexed because it was very obvious that God's word "spoke" to me and this was the topic. So now that you're curious and wondering what the topic is, I'll tell you. The topic of my talk is about the Reign of God. The Scripture verse that "jumped" out at me at a Bible Study talk was, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." I knew in that instant I would speak about the Reign of God but still wasn't sure where to go with it....that kept me up one night as I tried to discern that. But it's all OK now, because the talk is mostly written, I got through it, today I will put the finishing touches on it and present it next week.
That's my story. Once again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President-Elect Trump Make Good on Your Promise To Rebuild Inner Cities

One promise that I heard President-elect Donald Trump make in the early morning hours, after winning a stunning and close election was to say he was going to rebuild American inner cities. I was sleepy, like most Americans who stood up to see the election results but I didn't miss that.  He has the know-how to do that. Poor people who live in inner cities deserve better, they deserve decent housing, playgrounds, good places to shop and good schools. The children and teens in our inner cities have suffered too long with a a lack of good opportunities, part-time and summer jobs, and decent community centers where they can have access to after school programs, sports programs, tutoring,  life coaches and mentors as well as positive role models who can inspire them (and keep them away from temptations and vices  that can ruin their lives).
I hope President-elect Trump can do that for our inner cities, for the young people who deserve good opportunities so they can realize the American dream and believe in themselves.
Let's see if he makes good on that promise and lifts all Americans, so that all people have a chance to climb the ladder of success and realize the American dream.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Finishing Up The Year of Mercy-A Talk By Msgr.P. Vaccari

I have been privileged to be a part of my parish Year of Mercy Committee. Under the direction of Fr. Jude Dioka, Parochial Vicar of our parish, we have planned many events, which helped our parishioners as well as others. I previously blogged about our visit to the St. Pius X Residence for elderly priests on Long Island, where we brought dinner and had prayer and  fellowship with them. That was a great evening.
Last evening we invited a speaker, Msgr. Peter Vaccari, the Rector of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, NY to give a talk and take part in Eucharistic Adoration with us. As usual, Msgr. Peter gave an excellent talk, he is a gifted speaker and a great intellect. Besides all that he is a genuinely good priest, and a great rector.
He gave us many good insights into the Queen of Mercy, Mary our Mother. He spoke of her as the new "Ark of the Covenant." He spoke about the tenderness of Mary and Jesus and how Mary can accompany us on our faith journey at each moment. We should be open to the maternal embrace and tenderness of Mary. Through Mary and with Mary's help we can find our joy, our life and our peace in Christ.
He spoke about Pope Francis and how he says we need to be cheerful, knowing we are gifted and blessed and  vessels of mercy, like Mary. Like Mary we need to be filled with peace, joy and enthusiasm. We must turn our gaze to Mary, she intercedes for us. Through Mary and with Mary's help we can find the peace of Christ in our lives.
Msgr. Vaccari spoke about the importance of Eucharistic Adoration, which occurs at the Seminary in Yonkers on Thursday evenings from 7:00-10:00 PM and on other nights as well. He also spoke about the power of the Rosary. How important it is to say it regularly as it's such a powerful prayer as St. John Paul II often wrote and said. The Rosary marks the rhythm of life.
Though it was raining outside, it was a good evening. Msgr. Vaccari is such an inspiring speaker. I told him it's time they made him a Bishop!! He laughed. He's very gifted intellectually and spiritually (and remains down-to-earth) and that's what the Church needs now, (in my humble opinion).

Friday, October 7, 2016

Young People Leaving Organized Religion-The Perfect Modern Storm

Sadly, according to a new study, a quarter of Americans do not belong to any religion and many of them are young people. The Public Religion Research Institute published a study recently entitled, "Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion-And Why They're Unlikely To Come Back."
The study shows that Americans are increasingly identifying as being "nones." Nearly 40 percent of those are between the ages of 18-29. More disturbing is that fact that the Catholic Church has the most that are leaving.
I've been suspicious for awhile that part of the problem is modern technology. Of course there is a lot that is good about modern technology and I certainly use it everyday and find it helpful and necessary. But I keep it in perspective and use it as a tool for study and learning as well as a way to communicate. But I suspect that because young people are constantly checking their Facebook page, their e-mails, text messages, Instagram, Twitter accounts etc., it is very time consuming.
In a NY Times article today titled, "Intimacy For the Avoidant," it quotes a British study which reported people check their phones on an average of 221 times a day-about every 4.3 minutes. I assume that's true though its hard to believe and I'm sure that number is higher for young people. How can there be time for reflection on life's big questions? How can there be time for God? Or time for prayer? Is the need for  God being replaced by cell phones, gadgets and computers. I'd hate to know the real answer to those questions. It's a bit scary.
As David Brooks wrote in the article, "A decade ago almost no one had a smartphone. Now the average American spends five and a half hours a day with digital media and the young spend far more time. A study of female students at Baylor University found that they spent 10 hours a day on their phones."
At a recent prayer group meeting, someone asked, "If people don't have a prayer life, what can they hold onto to? I replied, "Their iphones." We all laughed but there is some sad truth to it.

UPDATED on Saturday morning..... I realized the above entry is too might be true to some extent but....Christians must always have a positive view.... we must have Christian hope....... and know in the words of Julian of Norwich that "All will be well." We should pray for young people that they will come to know the importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ and how it enriches one's life!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Beautiful Nuptial Mass at St. Peter's in Great Barrington, MA

My son was married last Saturday at St. Peter's Church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He married a wonderful girl whose family is active in the Catholic Church where they live in Westchester County. The married couple wanted to get married in the country which is why the wedding took place in Great Barrington. Having wedding receptions in barns is a big craze. And so it was, a reception in a large country barn that has been converted to a restaurant and wedding venue. It was lovely, it was a beautiful day. There was love in the air.....
Fr. William Murphy of St. Peter's and St. Teresa's officiated at the Mass. He gave a fantastic homily. He is a very nice priest, who just happens to have the same name as other prominent priests (Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Center). He told me he had his picture taken with Bishop Murphy as well as another priest named William Murphy. Fr. Murphy of Great Barrington is the pastor of two parishes and he is taking care of his elderly mother as well. A very good man!
All is well. One married son and one to go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mary's Birthday and the Great St. Teresa's

I consider it a great blessing that I was born on the same day that the Church celebrates the birth of Mary. I never knew it as a child, just never came up and when I did realize it as a teenager I was most appreciative to have such a wonderful day to celebrate my birthday. As I get older, birthdays are not quite as exciting as they once were, but time goes on......
September 8th was a special day in the life of Mary and also I would find out as an adult, that it was a very special day in the life of a saint I greatly love and admire- St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower). She would profess her vows on September 8th and wed her "divine spouse." St. Therese took her vows so seriously that she sent out wedding invitations. Jesus was very real to Therese. She loved him deeply, the way we should all love God.
Another great Teresa was canonized on Sunday in St. Peter's Square. St. Teresa of Calcutta was a saint that lived in our lifetime, a modern saint who knew how to put "flesh and blood" on the gospel message. With the determination of a saint, she answered the "call within the call" as she called it, and went out into the slums of Calcutta and never looked back. She had such courage and single minded focus on her love for Christ and the poor.  The "dark night of the soul" she experienced did not stop her, nothing could stop her as she followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
May we all hear and follow the Spirit as Mary did, as St. Therese of Lisieux did and as the newest saint of the Church, St. Teresa of Calcutta did.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pope Francis Prays for the Earthquake Victims in Central Italy-He Turns to the Rosary.......

I assume Pope Francis must have felt the earth shake as the terrible earthquake that hit central Italy in the middle of the night, was felt in Rome as well as other cities. Central Italian towns felt it the worst and have suffered devastation. It was a shallow earthquake, the worst kind. The hardest hit towns were the small towns of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto, about 62 miles (or further) northeast of Rome. The center of the small town of Amatrice was destroyed, and the people walked around in shock. So sad that the people there have suffered, some have died, others are grieving, others are confused and afraid. 
I've heard this before from priests, when there are no words, when one doesn't know what to do in the face of tragedy, the Rosary is a prayer that helps. That is probably why Pope Francis skipped his usual catechism for his Wednesday general audience and instead asked the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to recite the Rosary. I remember years ago, a priest told a story that when the rectory where he was residing was faced with a tragic sudden loss, a rectory worker was killed in an accident, the Rosary consoled those who knew her, there were no other words that could help at that time. I remembered that story when I read that Pope Francis went to the Rosary to help heal and comfort and to pray for those who've lost loved ones and for the deceased.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"Ben-Hur"-the 2016 Modern Version of the Classic

When I was a young girl my Aunt Mary who lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn picked me up in Old Mill Basin, Brooklyn where I lived and brought me to see the movie, "Ben-Hur." I don't recall exactly what it was about that movie but it changed my life. It was a very good movie as it won 11 Academy Awards, but something else struck me as a child.  Along with the children's Bible she bought me for a special occasion, it was the Bible and the movie that influenced me and started me on a lifelong love of Christianity and most importantly a deep relationship with God.
I always tell my aunt that she gave me two important gifts, bringing me to see that movie and buying me that Bible. My mother would read me a Bible story each night before I went to bed, or I would read it later on to myself.  I still have that Bible. It is a treasured piece of my faith history.
Tonight I watched a segment of "The World Over" on EWTN. Raymond Arroyo, the host of the show interviewed Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the married power couple, who have produced the Emmy-nominated series, "The Bible" as well as "The Dovekeepers" and the movie, "Son of God."
On August 19th MGM and Paramount will bring the latest movie for them to work on to theaters- a modern remake of "Ben-Hur."
I hope and pray the modern version of "Ben-Hur" will have a positive impact on audiences as the first movie had on me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Reading For the Soul-"God's Mercy Revealed".........

I've just finished leading and participating in a Summer Book Club in my parish. All the participants gained a lot from the two books we read this summer, as part of our summer reading.  The first book I've mentioned in another blog entry - a biography of St. Catherine of Siena. The next book we read was also worth reading, "God's Mercy Revealed-Healing for a Broken World" by Msgr. Peter Magee. Though it was difficult to get the book, ( I imagine a lot of parish groups must be reading it), we finally managed to get some copies at Barnes and Nobles Marketplace online, at a reduced rate, which was good.
There was so much good information about Jesus, forgiveness and mercy and ideas to discuss in the book that it would be hard to summarize it but this will give you an idea of why you should consider reading this book, at some point....
"All living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is the only answer to the question of death, to the fear of death, to the culture of death. Faith is the only exit from the prospect of eternal nothingness, from idolatry in all its forms, from the enslaving demands of artificial self-sufficiency." (p.148)
The last line of the book is a quote from the Psalms.
"In Him mercy and truth have kissed."  (Psalm 85:10)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Immersed in St. Catherine of Siena in the Summertime

For some "light" summer reading, my parish Summer Book Club read the highly regarded and reviewed biography titled, "St. Catherine of Siena," by Sigrid Undset. Sigrid Undset was an expert on the Middle Ages as well as a Third Order Dominican.  The author is considered one of the "greatest novelists of the twentieth century." She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928 for her epic work, "Kristin Lavransdatter."
So during the month of June, a group of us, read, studied and discussed St. Catherine of Siena as portrayed by Undset. I had studied St. Catherine before but that was many years ago and I wanted to revisit the fascinating life and writings of this extraordinary saint and Doctor of the Church.
Catherine as you may know was instrumental in convincing the French Pope- Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon, France where he was living. She implored him through letters and eventually visited him to convince him the papacy belonged in Rome. It seems he feared he would go to hell (she was very convincing!) if he didn't listen to this bold Dominican, who was revered in her own day for her saintliness and inspired judgment. 
The book was excellent but this was one of my favorite paragraphs in the book,
"On September 13, a day or two after Catherine had started on her journey to Italy, Gregory left Avignon--forever. He had taken Catherine's advice and left suddenly, taking all the Cardinals, except six. The French Cardinals in his retinue wept and his relations who remained behind wailed and lamented. The Pope's old father, knelt at the city gates, in despair at the departure of his son. Pope Gregory passed him without a word......." (page 212).
Pope Gregory must of believed that it was much better to head back to Rome and try to heal that city and the Church,  then to spend eternity in Hell as Catherine had hinted to.
Catherine was an amazing woman saint, for any age, and I highly suggest this book.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Year of Mercy Committee Visits St. Pius X Residence on Long Island

The pastor of my parish asked Fr. Jude Dioka to form a Year of Mercy Committee to help all parishioners better understand, "unpack" and act upon ways to show mercy, in the Great Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis.  The late Msgr. John McCann, who I greatly respected, suggested that I be one of those members.
On Saturday evening June 4th a group of us visited, prayed with and had dinner with the elderly, retired priests of St. Pius X Residence, located on the grounds of Dominican Village, in Amityville, Long Island. We met the retired priests in their chapel and Fr. Jude led us in reciting the Rosary. Fr.Jude prayed on his knees (on the floor of the chapel) for the entire Rosary which impressed me.Afterwards we went into the dining room to have dinner with the priests. We had catered the dinner of delicious food, but I thought since it was the Year of Mercy I would do something special,  so I made 40 rice balls which is my Italian specialty dish and brought them along. They enjoyed them and all the other food, as well as the delicious ice cream cake that Catherine (the chairperson of the committee) picked up at Carvel and brought to the residence. It's their favorite.
Msgr. Thomas Costa was very grateful for our visit, he said we had lifted up the spirits of the priests, including himself. He told me a little about his "call" to work with the elderly priests, he is a registered nurse.  It was a great story of God leading him where he was most needed.  It was a wonderful evening and a concrete way we were able to share and show mercy and kindness to the elderly priests who reside at St. Pius X Residence. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Celebrities Love Pope Francis And His Educational Foundation!

The latest A-list movie star to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican was George Clooney. He brought along his wife Amal, who is a human rights lawyer. They both shook hands with the Pope and exchanged warm greetings. George Clooney received an award as well for work he is doing for the Pope's educational foundation. It seems like visiting the Pope is the latest celebrity "must-have meeting." Leo DiCaprio visited the Pope with his father some months ago and then won an Oscar afterwards. Seems like the Pope brought him good luck and blessings.
George is involved with "Scholas Occurrentes" an arts organization founded by Pope Francis. The educational organization brings together children from different areas, hoping to bring about cooperation and understanding.
George was given an award on Sunday and Richard Gere and Salma Hayek were also honored and met the Pope as well.
DiCaprio, George Clooney, Salma Hayek and Richard Gere join other A-listers who have met the Pope such as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Hudson and Mark Wahlberg. I'm sure there have been others.
So it seems A-list movie stars like Pope Francis and want to get close to him. But they also want to help which is a good thing.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Women Deacons Would Invigorate the Church!

 I have long thought that ordaining women as deacons would invigorate the Catholic Church, make women feel more appreciated and give them an opportunity to share their many gifts for the good of the Church and the faithful.
It's a no- brainer as far as I'm concerned. According to news reports, Pope Francis has agreed to set up a Vatican commission to study the possibility of ordaining women to the diaconate.
Some pessimists think that not much will come of the commission as there are bishops and cardinals opposed to the idea, but I think that would be a missed opportunity.
It's no secret that young people are straying away from the Church. This is one area that upsets them for sure. They don't like the fact that the Church is not more inclusive.
The diaconate would have to be seperated from the priesthood since it is tied to the diaconate but I'm sure that could be worked out. I know that because years ago I wrote to an archbishop asking why women couldn't be ordained deacons, as was the case in the early Church. He wrote back to me that because the diaconate is tied to priesthood that presented a problem but that he was in favor of women deacons (that was over 20 years ago).
The Church has to move forward in the modern world. This would be a good step in the right direction. Young adults need to take a second look at the Church and if the Church started ordaining women as deacons, I'm confident that many young people would see that as a positive development.
The Church should not debate this for 10 years....the new evangelization calls us to think outside the box, to preach the message of Christ to the modern world, which desperately needs to hear it.
I pray the movement of the Holy Spirit, causes this Vatican Commission to be open to God's will, to do what is necessary to open the doors to Christ and Christ's teaching, through utilizing the many gifts of talented and holy women.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Feast of Divine Mercy--What Is God's Will For Your Life? Pray to Find Out.

Blessed Mother Teresa found her calling, the call within the call as she described it. Her calling was to the poorest of the poor and she had to change direction in her life, from being a teaching nun to going out onto the streets of Calcutta.  Many of the saints have said that the most important thing in life is uniting your will to the will of God. Sometimes we might be doing great things for the Lord, but it might not be what God's will is for your life. It's tricky finding out the will of God and then acting on it. Mother Teresa was successful, her beautiful and noble work for the poor continues after her death. What a great tribute to sanctity and fulfilling the will of God that her work continues in so many places in the world.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, I spent the day in prayer and sharing knowledge.  I spent part of the day in prayer during Eucharistic Adoration, in reciting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and I gave a talk on St. Faustina and divine mercy. I led participants in prayer and others did as well. I knew it would be a powerful day because it was the Feast day of Divine Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I mentioned that in my talk that it was a special day which wouldn't happen again in our lifetimes, the Feast Day landing in the Year of Mercy.  The 3:00 PM hour was especially grace-filled.  It took me some time to realize the affect it had on me, but what I think happened that day, for me, in my own spiritual journey is that God made it clear to me that something I've been working on has to be completed. That's God will. I feel it strongly. I procrastinate, sometimes, which of course is not good. I wonder if anyone will read the book I have to finish but that's not important ...what's important is that I get it done.

So that was the "fruit" of Divine Mercy Sunday, the grace of the day for me. I wonder what the others were given because I'm sure graces were given freely and abundantly that day. I was given direction. Now I have to act.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poverty and the Zika Virus and Pope Francis' Call To Help the Poor

As Pope Francis so often reminds us, we can't forget about our poor and marginalized brothers and sisters in the world. Those who are trapped in poverty cannot overcome their situation without help. We can all do more.
I sponsor a little girl from a third world country and through my monthly giving, I help her to have basic necessities that her family could not otherwise afford. I give to other charities as well.
But we can all do more.
I recently read an article in the New York Times written by a medical doctor,  Dr. Peter Hotez, who is warning that the Zika virus spread by a certain type of mosquito and which is believed to be responsible for babies being born with a devastating brain birth defect (microcephaly), will soon spread in areas of poverty in the southern United States.  As he wrote in the article ("Zika is Coming"), "In crowded places, mosquitoes have lots of access to lots of people. Poor people often live in proximity to garbage, including old tires, plastic containers and drainage ditches filled with stagnant water, where this species of mosquito lives and breeds. And they often have homes with torn screens on their windows. The combination creates ideal conditions for the Zika virus to spread."
He also wrote that "the extremely poor cities of Brazil's northeastern states make up the epicenter of the epidemic."
I've seen pictures of Brazilian mothers holding and comforting their babies who have been born with small heads and brain damage. It is heartbreaking to see these poor mothers who have so few resources to begin with, now having to care for these babies. They need help from charitable organizations and from government agencies.
So Pope Francis' message of compassion for the poor and more equality and better paying jobs and opportunities for the poor, wherever they exist in the world, is needed now more than ever.  When will we listen and act upon his wisdom?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Immersed in Divine Mercy and St Faustina-2016

Happy Easter to All! Blessed Easter Season! This week I will be immersed in the Diary of St. Faustina, the message of Divine Mercy and the reading of a book I just ordered, "7 Secrets of Divine Mercy" by Vinny Flynn. I received a call recently and asked if this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, I could give a talk on Divine Mercy. I agreed. A few days later, a woman sitting in the pew in Church, in front of me, had the book by her side, "7 Secrets....." so I just knew I had to read that book for my talk, seemed providential to me. As it turned out that woman was giving a talk on Divine Mercy a week later which I attended. People of faith always amaze me when they show the benefits of their faith and how it has positively affected their lives. It's a fact that people of faith can weather life's "storms" and trials better. During the talk that she gave on Divine Mercy, she shared that her husband of 40 years asked her for a divorce a couple of years before. He had met someone else (younger naturally). It came as a complete shock to her. He recently re-married and though she looked disturbed as she shared the story, she still had it together, she still had her deep faith, she was brave and focused on the good and positive in her life. People of faith can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and move on. Belief in the Resurrection, nourishment from the Eucharist and the healing power of Jesus can do that. I've seen it over and over again. I've experienced it in my own life, going through the death of loved ones.

So as I prepare for my talk on Sunday and as I spend the next few days reading about St. Faustina's message and the benefits of trusting in God (no matter what!), I look forward to study and growing in both my trust in God and my knowledge of what's really important in life.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; for God's mercy endures forever."  (Psalm 117:1

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Church Dispensing God's Mercy On The Urging of Pope Francis

I was fortunate to have spent a week visiting near a very vibrant parish in the Diocese of Venice, Florida which observed "24 Hours of Mercy," while I was there.  Bishop Frank Dewane, in consultation with his priests designated March 4th and 5th to be the time in which the people of that Diocese would observe the "24 hours of Mercy."
I attended the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and I watched as the pastor and an associate pastor stayed in Church and ministered God's mercy. Many tearful and fallen away Catholics came. Observing from a distance and sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I could not know what people were sharing, of course. Some were going to Confession, others were seeking spiritual guidance. Many needed tissues to wipe their tears. Yes, this was the "field hospital" that Pope Francis has spoken about, set up in a parish church, in Southwest Florida. And though I stayed about an hour and a half in Church, I was greatly moved by what I saw. This went on from 1:00 PM until 11:00 PM. on Friday. The next day on Saturday it continued in the morning until Mass which was at 11:30 AM after Benediction. I attended the Mass, but the Mass had to start a half hour late, because people were on line and they were given the opportunity to confess or share and then the Mass began.
At Mass last Sunday the pastor said that over 100 fallen away Catholics had come to the Church seeking Confession or spiritual guidance. Many had been encouraged by their friends to come.
The whole "24 Hours of Mercy" was not only fruitful but awe-inspiring. The best of the Catholic Church in view. God's mercy being administered by caring priests of God. It's as good as Catholicism gets and I saw it there in that Church, the healing and blessing of God's mercy being administered by good and generous priests.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar Acceptance Speech Brings Awareness To a Cause Close To His Heart and That of Pope Francis

Leonardo DiCaprio recently met with Pope Francis in a private audience at the Vatican (I wrote about it in a previous blog entry). He was very grateful for the private audience with the Pope and he brought his father along. He gave Pope Francis gifts, among them a check for the Pope's favorite charities. Very generous. Though it doesn't seem like they would have anything in common, they do. They share a common interest in helping the environment and protecting the Earth. It seems Leonardo's meeting with the Pope brought him some blessings and good luck and on Sunday night he won an Oscar for acting in the role of frontiersman Hugh Glass in the movie, "The Revenant."
The Revenant has an interesting title and the word means, "A person who has returned supposedly from the dead."
The writer of the book on which the story is based has an interesting background. The writer, Michael Punke is a deputy U.S. trade representative. He wrote the historical novel in his spare time, waking up early in the morning to write. That impresses me.
But back to Leonardo. In his acceptance speech, he said, "Climate change is real and its happening now......It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. "
Leonardo also urged support for political leaders who speak for humanity. I wished he had mentioned Pope Francis but he didn't.
DiCaprio has been called out by members of the media, questioning the huge carbon footprint he contributes to as he travels  often in jets, around the world, not just for his career but for pleasure.
No one is perfect and DiCaprio may be a polluter to some degree (aren't most of us to some small degree?)but he does give to charities that support the environment and endangered animals. He is trying to bring awareness to the issue of climate change and global warming. He used the Academy Awards as a platform to try to bring awareness to an issue dear to his heart, with millions watching. Who knows the good that he did?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pope St. John Paul II's Friendship With American Philosopher Comes to Light

It is no secret that Pope Saint John Paul II had many good friendships, with Christians as well as people from other religions.  Friendships are good for human beings. St. Augustine wrote about the blessings a good, holy friendship can bring into one's life.

 I was however surprised to read in an article that Pope St. John Paul had a special relationship with a woman philosopher that spanned many decades. I had never heard of it before and that's why I found it so surprising.  But recently letters that he wrote to the American philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka have been made public and they show that they had a deep, intellectual friendship that they both found rewarding and special. He called her "a gift from God." How endearing.
Pope Francis spoke about the relationship to reporters on his recent trip back to the Vatican from Mexico. He remarked that he was aware of the special relationship between St. John Paul II and the American philosopher Anna-Teresa but that he felt it was fine for even popes to have good, healthy, holy friendships with women. I would agree.

As Pope Francis pointed out,  many saints have had special friendships such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi and the Carmelite saints,  St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Also St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac were friends and co-founded the Daughters of Charity. So friendships between saints is nothing new or between a saint and a layperson.
Unfortunately,  when some people have tried to have good, intellectual, platonic friendships because of gossip and lies, lives have been ruined. There's nothing wrong with friendships but sometimes in the Church, people like to gossip and spread misinformation and that's a cause for concern because a good friendship based on intellectual respect can become suspect. That's unjust.

As far as Pope St. John Paul II having a special friendship with a woman, I think it makes him more human, at least in my eyes. He had the need for friendship with another intellectual and given the pressures he had in life and all he accomplished in his blessed life, it seems it was a good thing for him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who Will Help Care for and Support Poor Babies Born With Microcephaly from Zika

The first day of the penitential season of Lent is as good a time as any to think about those poor babies born with microcephaly, a condition linked to the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus. The World Health Organization has called the Zika virus and the birth defects it apparently causes an international health emergency.
These babies are being born into poor families in Brazil and other Latin and South American countries as well as the Caribbean.  Families already living in poverty are now being challenged with having a baby with special needs. One mother was quoted as saying, "How can we do this, how can we support this child?" That remark has haunted me. Doctors are haunted by mothers who ask them if their babies will improve, if their small heads will grow larger.
I hope that Catholic Relief Services will begin a program to support these families. I intend to write them, but I'm sure they've already thought of it.
There are many people who would be willing to help these families and international organizations who try to set up programs for these children as they grow.
In this Year of Mercy, these children must be shown mercy, compassion and love and their families supported, so that their burden is lessened.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pope Francis Receives Visit From Actor Leonardo DiCaprio

Pope Francis granted the famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio a private audience recently at the Vatican. Leonardo wanted to discuss their common interest in helping the environment (God's creation). Leonardo has his own Foundation to support environmental initiatives. Leonardo was quoted as thanking the Pope for granting him a private audience (he brought his father along) and he gave the Pope a book of works by the 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch which contained a reproduction of a work that hung over Leonardo's crib as a child and greatly affected him. He also gave Pope Francis a check to be used for the Pope's charities.
Who would have ever believed that Pope Francis and Leonardo DiCaprio would have something in common but they do. They both believe that something must be done to stop the degradation of the environment, the polluting that is hurting not only the environment but threatens humankind on many levels.
Di Caprio who has been nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie, "The Revenant," needs some blessings and perhaps being near to holy Pope Francis will give him the edge he needs to win an Oscar. I saw the movie, it was very violent, too violent for me, but the story was amazing and DiCaprio did an incredible job acting.
Pope Francis gave DiCaprio a leather bound copy of "Laudato Si" and "The Joy of the Gospel. " I hope Leonardo reads them both.
He would be a great evangelizer for the message the Pope is trying to get across to modern society. We must preserve and protect this beautiful creation that God gave us, or we will all pay the consequences of not doing so.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Those Great Nuns of Upper Nyack, New York

I was very happy to read the article in the NY Times titled, "Nuns' Property Along Hudson to Become Parkland" which tells the wonderful story of the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine (also known as the Marydell sisters), a religious order of nuns from Upper Nyack, NY who did the right thing. Instead of selling their valuable property overlooking the Hudson River to developers, they instead decided to sell 30 acres of their property to the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit conservation group, which will turn it into parkland for the public to enjoy.  This was important because it adjoins both Nyack Beach State Park and Rockland Lake State Park. The views are apparently amazing and are some of the views that inspired the Hudson River School painters.
The sisters who have sold the property to help with the aging sisters and to make repairs on the property they will continue to own (they are keeping 10 acres), could have sold it for a much higher price. But the sisters believe the land is sacred and should be preserved for future generations.
Sister Veronica Mendez, the order's president said that, It's beautiful......It really is a priceless piece of property, no matter how much money anyone offered us. This just seemed right."
Preserving a small piece of God's beautiful creation is a heavenly thing for sure.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The New Year Off To An Uncertain Start-Money Evaporates in the Stock Market

There is so much uncertainty in the world, not sure how people without faith live. I couldn't do it. Faith gives me hope, inner strength, confidence and the certainty that no matter how things are, "with God all things are possible." And in the words of Julian of Norwich, "All will be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing will be well." Faith and belief endure, because God is real and God's truths will prevail.
In the New Year, so far,  the stock market has lost a lot of value. People have lost a lot of money over the last four days. There is real panic because people just don't know what will happen next. It's been the worst beginning of a new year for the stock market ever. I watch business news because my husband watches CNBC and so I watch it too sometimes. The smartest minds in business and finance don't know where it's all going. China's policies affect the whole world. So our economy is tied to global worries and China's economic policies.  Some people think we are headed for another recession but no one really knows.
Recessions and financial troubles come and go. The market goes up and down and there is great volatility.
People should be prudent with their money in these uncertain times. My friend who goes to a Catholic charismatic gathering near Boston every year, told me a few months ago that many people were inspired by the Holy Spirit and spoke of trying times that were coming. I said to her, at that time, "Well what do you think people should do with their money to keep it safe?" Her reply was, "put it under your mattress!"
Those of us who rely on prayer and God's truth stay close to God and weather the storms.