In gratitude

As I write this, we are just coming to the close of the Octave of the Christmas season. We are still basking in the gift of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who came to us again in a humble manger to enter our hearts anew.

With hearts full of praise and thanksgiving, we seek to acknowledge the great gift of our salvation; and yet, because God cannot be outdone in generosity, our gratitude itself becomes a conduit through which He dispenses an abundance of ongoing grace.

Expressing this very reality, St. Therese of Lisieux said:

It is the spirit of gratitude which draws down upon us the overflow of God’s grace…for no sooner have we thanked Him for one blessing than He hastens to send us ten additional favors in return. Then, when we show our gratitude for these new gifts, He multiplies His benedictions to such a degree that there seems to be a constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way…This has been my own personal experience; try it for yourself and see.

How was it that St. Therese could be grateful to God for all things – even the most painful and difficult? Perhaps it came from a sure and certain knowledge that God is about every good thing in our lives (Eph. 1:3), and that He is always giving us spiritual blessings because it is of His nature to do so. He is perfect love, and perfect love gives all. Therefore, we can be certain that every bit of every day is infused with precisely the graces we need to meet every joy and every challenge.

This knowledge led St. Therese, as it has all of the great saints, to acquire a supernatural outlook, a way of seeing all things from God’s perspective. Supernatural outlook helps us discover the blessings in the midst of sorrows, the joys in the midst of contradictions, the consolations in the midst of desolations. And in so doing, we discover the rich treasure that God indeed “works all things to the good for those who have been called according to His purposes” (Rom. 8:28). With the scales removed from our eyes, we can see the blessings and beatitudes God is giving us, and this leads to an ever-deepening realization of His beneficence — grace upon grace tumbling down upon us wrapped in the packaging of our life’s events.

Gratitude, praise, thanksgiving open the heart to the reality of God’s love for us and His interaction with us. As we enter this New Year and decade, let us take St. Therese’s advice to “try it” for ourselves that we might “see.” Let us ask her to intercede for us, that we might act with faith and trust and supernatural outlook. Let us ask her to help us see the blessings God is bestowing, even when they are shrouded in the garment of suffering. Let us ask her to help us praise God for these blessings so that our eyes can open to all of the grace He is giving us. In this way, we will enter that “constant stream of divine grace ever coming our way” and experience a greater depth of the abundant life that Our Savior comes to bring us (John 10:10).

Please pray for our mission as we enter this New Year together. I look forward to keeping you updated on our projects and plans as the year unfolds. May the abundant life of Jesus Christ be yours and may God bless you!

With gratitude and love in the Two Hearts,

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Putting the “Giving” In Thanksgiving

If you’re like most Americans, you are already busily preparing for the Thanksgiving feast.  The grocery list is finalized, the coupons are clipped, the recipes have been selected and the house has been cleaned from top to bottom.  You’ve already dug out your favorite holiday movies and games and are putting the final touches on the table setting.Cooking is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, especially when making my special mashed potatoes. Now this year I get to use my early Christmas present my cousin gave me, a new hand held blender that’ll make mashing my potatoes much easier and faster. I tried using it already but I accidentally broke it after a few tries, but she doesn’t need to know that. She won’t notice anyways since I already got it fixed along with another few kitchen appliances I needed ready to start cooking. Make sure you get all of your broken down utensils fixed so you can be ready for a long day of cooking, if you don’t know how to repair them then you can visit www.americasappliancerepair.com/dallas-appliance-repair/ for help.

As we celebrate our bountiful blessings, we as Catholic Christians are called to be mindful of those who suffer from want this Thanksgiving.  Growing numbers of Americans are jobless or homeless this year.  Some who do work are struggling with the rising prices of food and other commodities.  Our local charities are already running short of the necessary supplies to provide meals for those in need.  Many are lonely or struggling with illness or hardship.  The holidays are especially difficult for these individuals because the joy of others can magnify what they lack.  It is through our gifts of love and generosity that they receive the peace of Christ and experience joy in the midst of suffering.

Here are a few ways to help those in need this Thanksgiving:

  1. Volunteer at your local food pantry or kitchen.  One of our favorite local charities is the Trinity Cafe.  Guests are served a hot meal prepared by a professional chef and served by volunteer waiters on covered tables with china and silverware.  Their mission is to restore a sense of dignity to our hungry and homeless neighbors by serving a nutritious meal while nourishing souls through acts of acceptance, compassion, love and respect.
  2. Support a soldier.  There are many ways you can provide support to a soldier – send a care package, visit your local VA hospital, send a letter or card.  A unique way to show support is through the Ranger Rosary Ministry.  They recruit individuals to make combat rosaries which are donated to military chaplains for distribution to soldiers in combat zones.  This is a great family project, especially for those with children 10 years and older.
  3. Donate clothing to your local St. Vincent De Paul.  Now is the ideal time for the entire family to go through their closets and clear out clothing that is no longer useful, wearable, ill-fitting, etc.  My rule of thumb, if I haven’t touched it in the last year, donate it!  My other rule is not to put anything new in the closet until I donate something that I no longer wear.
  4. Visit a sick or elderly relative or friend.  Those who are stuggling with illness or old age are often left feeling very alone during the holidays.  Make a point of going to visit someone you know in a nursing home or hospital.  If you don’t know someone, visit a stranger.  Many of our elderly have no living relatives and they receive few visitors.  Consider bringing your teenager with you.  This is a wonderful opportunity to teach them the value of life at every stage or condition.
  5. Invite a lonely friend or family member over for dinner or take them with you to Holy Mass on Thankgiving day.  Everyone has a family member or friend who is lonely or extra challenging to be around.  They may be the person that no one wants around because they seem to inspire tension.  Or perhaps someone you know is a recent widow or widower.  This may be just the person the Lord is calling you to welcome to your family table or bring with you to the Thanksgiving mass.

By reaching out to others and living the corporal works of mercy, we bring them the hope, help and inspiration to experience greater joy during the holiday season.  We in turn meet Jesus Christ in the least of our brothers and sisters and have a deeper gratitude for His many, many blessings.

The “Monica” Method: How to Evangelize Your Loved One

The next two days mark the feasts of two great saints of the Church, a mother and a son, whose lives give testimony to a sure-fire method of evangelizing those we love.

St. Monica (August 27) is the mother of St. Augustine (August 28), though Augustine was no saint when Monica began her earnest intercession. At that time he was a pagan and a member of the heretical Manichean sect. He was known to be a carouser who lived with a woman to whom he had fathered a child. A brilliant mind, he was “devoted” to his views and his lifestyle, and had no intention of converting to the Catholic faith.

St. Monica was distraught about her son’s dissolute ways and decided to do something about it. She prayed. And in the end, her prayers won the soul of her son.

What was it that made St. Monica’s prayers so effective? I think five strategies are primarily responsible. Perhaps you can implement them as you seek to evangelize those you love.

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Ordinary vs. Kairos Moments

Can you believe it’s already August? 2019 seems to be flying by and before you know it, it will be Christmas! Sometimes I feel like George Jetson, “Jane, get me off this crazy thing!!!”

The saints were very aware of the shortness of life and how quickly it passes by. As we get older, time seems to pass even more quickly. That is why striving to live in the present moment is so important. It allows us to focus on the opportunity at hand. Whether it is a time of work or play, a time with friends or co-workers, taking advantage of the present moment is a key to living the fullness of the gift of our lives.

Mixed into the ordinary daily events of life are Kairos moments. These are the instances of great opportunity, when God’s grace and chronological time intersect. Often, the hustle and bustle of our modern culture, obscures our ability to recognize them. If we don’t take time to examine our lives, we can completely miss them. As the Greek philosopher Socrates stated, “The life that is unexamined is not worth living.” But, how do we recollect and ponder?

Our Lady provides us the way through her own example. St Luke tells us that she spent daily moments of recollection by pondering the events of her day, especially those regarding her Son, in the confines of her heart. This is a most fruitful practice. It is the perfect opportunity to hear with the ears of our heart and to see with the eyes of our soul. Following is an abbreviated version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced. It is one good method to use:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
(https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/)

If you don’t already do something like this, I highly recommend you try incorporating it into your nightly routine. Give it a whirl and see what an impact it can have in your life.
And, may I share with you my gratitude for the impact you are having in the lives of others? Your support to our mission enables us to share with God’s daughters the gift of their feminine genius, as well as to help them recognize the Kairos moments in their lives. As a result, they are empowered to bring God’s love and healing into their marriages, families, homes, parishes, schools and communities – Kairos moments in action, you might say.

And, speaking of Kairos moments in action, we often witness this very reality at our Women of Grace events. Here are just a couple of such moments from this summer’s Women of Grace events. They include the installation ceremony of our newest Regional Coordinator, Alicia McDermott, and the presentation of completion certificates to Benedicta Institute graduates, Deanna Williston and Lauren Ghasten.

Given the challenges of this our day and time and considering the recent carnage we have experienced, the light of God’s love and His presence in the life of man is more critical than ever. The genius of authentic femininity can do much to aid humanity in not falling. Please continue to make a difference in the world today through the work of Women of Grace. We are truly grateful for your partnership!

Keep recollecting! Keep pondering. Keep praying!

May the abundant life of Jesus Christ be yours and may God bless you

With gratitude and blessings,

 

Founder and President

Woman of Grace: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

 

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein, 1891 – 1942)

She was a brilliant scholar, a contemplative mystic, and a “liberated” feminist. At various times she was also a devout Jew, an atheist, a philosopher, a Catholic, and a Carmelite nun. Hers was a heart that hungered for truth, with a passion that burned with such purity and clarity that Pope John Paul II, whose own Mulieris Dignitatem and “Letter to Women” bear the unmistakable imprint of her spirit, canonized her less than fifty years after her death at Auschwitz. Read the rest…

Notre Dame

Jack and I landed in Paris in the early morning today from Lourdes and drove into the city with our tour through 206 Tours. We visited Sacre Coeur and it was a graced experience. This Friday, Good Friday, we were to have visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

I have never been to Notre Dame and like fellow Catholics from all over the world, I could not wait to experience her glory. Our visit will be tragically different now, like so many others who came here to see this magnificent witness to our Catholic Faith. But I know it will be no less poignant. To experience Notre Dame on Good Friday — battered and bruised as she is — will easily remind us of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Our Savior, and the salvation He offers to each of us if we choose to accept Him.

Just as the Crown of Thorns was spared from the inferno, so too does the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ spare us from the furnace of flames known as Hell.

In the end, Notre Dame is just a structure, albeit a stunning structure and sign in our fractured and broken world. And most likely she will be rebuilt. But, she is limited and can only reside in one city and in one country.

However, Our Lord’s promise of eternal life, breathed from the altar of Notre Dame for hundreds of years, is omnipresent, and can live in each one of us. And though the sorrowful reality of this loss cuts deeply, the miracle of Easter is alive in this earthly devastation, reminding us that all is made new in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Easter Sunday message , as well as the message of Notre Dame’s horrible fire, is this: “Look forward and have hope! ”

St. John Paul II — “Christmas is the Feast Day of Man”

When I came back to the Faith in 1981, one Scripture passage became the rudder of my spiritual life. It is Ephesians 1: 3-4. Through the years, this passage has spoken to me in many ways and has sustained me through many trials.

Verse 4 , however, is particularly relevant for this time of the year, and was echoed by St. John Paul II in a Christmas reflection. It states this, “God chose us in him before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love.” Those first five words tell us something about ourselves that is amazing and astounding — each one of us was distinctively and individually chosen by God to have life. Read the rest…

The Life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Seton

 

Born Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York City, Mother Seton is a saint of firsts: first American-born saint, leader of the first Catholic girls’ school (and the first free Catholic school of any kind) in the United States, and foundress of the first American order of religious sisters — the Sisters of Charity.

Elizabeth was born into a prominent Anglican family and was married in the Anglican Church.  With her sister-in-law, Rebecca, she tended to the poor around New York, earning a reputation for her compassion and mercy.  In 1803, she traveled to Italy with her ailing husband in the hope that the climate would aid his recovery.

William Seton died in Italy later that year, but in her grief Elizabeth discovered a new love: the Catholic Church.  She scandalized her Protestant family and friends by being received into the Church in New York City on Ash Wednesday, 1805.

Finding NSt. Elizabeth ann Seton2ew York no longer hospitable to her Catholic zeal, Elizabeth suffered through some trying years before finding a haven in Baltimore.  I twas there that she channeled her passion for service into girls’ education.  She also pursued her dream of religious life, fashioning a rudimentary habit in the style of nuns she had seen in Italy.  Other women were drawn to her, and in 1809 the Sisters of Charity was born, based on the example of St. Vincent de Paul.

Mother Seton died in 1821 in Emmitsburgh, Maryland, where her school still sands.  In her refusal to let the social pressures of her station restrain her witness to the Catholic Faith — in word and deed — she is a wonderful example for us in a secularizing world.

This is an excerpt from Graceful Living. To purchase your copy, click here.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

What wisdom Holy Mother Church has in dedicating the first day of the year to Mary, Mother of God!

Mary is the Mother of God and she is our mother, too. Her fiat is the genesis of every fiat given to God. And every fiat given to God is enriched by hers. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council state it simply, succinctly, and profoundly: she is our Mother in the order of grace.

This poem, written by Giovanni Domini (1356-142), expresses the maternal beatitude we find so dear. May it elevate our hearts in gratitude to God for the gift of the Blessed Virgin. And may it elevate our hearts to the reality of our salvation which comes through the gift of her Son, Jesus Christ Savior of the World. Read the rest…