Woman of Grace: St. Scholastica

Woman of Grace: St. Scholastica (480 – 543)

St. Gregory the Great recounts this story from the life of St. Benedict’s beloved twin sister, St. Scholastica, which shows how expressing our petitions to God with childlike faith and confidence sometimes yields immediate and amazing results.

After Benedict founded a monastery for men, Scholastica remained very close to her brother, founding a convent for women some miles away. Every year Scholastica went to visit Benedict at a little place just outside the monastery gate. Read the rest…

Fear is useless

“This is the way to become a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old way of being will pass away and we will be made new in Him.”
-2 Cor. 5:17-18

March 2020

Here at Women of Grace we are busy preparing for our upcoming events, additional webinars on insightful and inspiring topics, and a host of other outreaches to help us live our call as Catholics in the world today, none of which would be possible without your prayers and financial support. Please visit our website (womenofgrace.com) to find out all about our upcoming events, including our annual Women of Grace Retreat at Malvern Retreat House in July.

It’s hard to believe we are already closing in on the halfway mark of Lent. How would you evaluate your Lent thus far? It’s a good question to ask at the mid-way point. It’s never too late to adjust, begin again, or even start over should you need to.

Life being what it is, I have often found it beneficial to come up with a plan and a strategy to help me enter more deeply into the Lenten season. In years past, I have planned and strategized how to “give up” certain foods or treats (don’t buy them), activities and recreations (don’t go to them), habits and behaviors (don’t do them). One year I even gave up going to the mall (don’t drive by it). That was my longest Lent ever!

Along with the exclusions, I have often added a few inclusions: more time in prayer and study, going to adoration more frequently and performing additional acts of charity.

This year, I have devised a new plan centered around behaviors that start with “C,” as in Cross. Together, they are acting as a compass leading me through this holy season. The goal has been to implement some and eliminate others. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which!

Here are a few:

» Complain

» Collaborate

» Console

» Control

» Complete

» Carp

» Conciliate

» Carry On

In the end, the purpose is to advance in becoming what the cross is all about – LOVE. Recall that it was because of His love for us that God gave us His Son, and it was out of the Son’s love for us that the Son chose the Cross. Two passages from Scripture tell us as much: For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life John 3:16), and There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

As Christians, we are called to live Christ, to be His presence in the world, to be His love among men in all of the diverse circumstances, situations, and nuances of our daily lives. Jesus tells us:

This is my commandment: love one another love as I have loved you (John 15:12). And this, It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure… The command I give is this, that you love one another (John 15:16,17).

Both remind me of yet another passage. Given to us through St. Paul, this one shows us the way to love: Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices in the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure … Love never fails … There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13: 4-7, 8, 13). This is the way to become a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old way of being will pass away and we will be made new in Him (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

Lent is 40 days long. Researchers tell us it takes about six weeks to engage a new behavior. My hope is that implementation of my “C” words will help me overcome vices, grow in virtue, and better become Christ’s love in the world today.

It’s been a lofty goal to be sure, but why not think big for the Lord? We can never arrive at our destination if we never set off.

Let’s sojourn together through this holy time no matter or plan or strategy. Together we can do great things through the Lord!

As always, I faithfully remain…

Johnnette's Signature

 

 

 

 

 

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,

Read the rest…

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.

Women of Grace: St. Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582)

St. Teresa of Avila shows us it is never too late to get serious about our prayer life. Born Dona Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada, Teresa was an active child with a big imagination and great sensitivity of heart. Little Teresa and her brother Roderigo were intrigued by the lives of the saints and the martyrs, and often sought to imitate their holy example. Read the rest…

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.

Read the rest…

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! ”