Saturday, July 4, 2009


Am I dreaming??? Look at me.. I am Goldilocks savoring tastes at the Three Bears’ family table, sipping from each of their sacred bowls, sitting crosslegged on their empty chairs.. …It's so quiet here, …somehow I sense that I am not alone, but at home with real family….shalooooooooooooooooommmmm.. 

  That first day, all I did was listen Brother Lawrence on my iphone. Every word was bread and wine to my happy soul.. I attended Mass at little country parish on Monday morning. My closest friend who lived nearby joined me in the afternoon. Together, we listened to his words and delighted in what the Holy Spirit was doing in both of our hearts and minds.

As she left for home, I thought it seemed like I should go home too, yet I felt a tug to stay, that the Spirit had some more to say.. I decided at the last moment stay another night. Here is why.. Later that afternoon after a massage, I was given special instructions about changing my daily schedule, and how to change my habit of anxious thinking. I needed to write down a wrap up of what I had learned from my time alone with God. I had four pages of notes. 

 The next morning, I arose early and met my prayer partner at the Carmelite Chapel on the way to Big Sur. The Mass spoke to both of us again about abiding in the Presence, as if the Holy Spirit was speaking in one voice, through Brother Lawrence and now through the priest at Mass. Obviously,He was sticking to His theme, exhorting us to practice moment by moment living with this unbroken sense of His Living Presence. 

 On returning to my room, we had a late breakfast on the small garden patio, setting the table with napkins and a red rose. In this session, we talked about the “directions” I had been given, reviewing in detail what notes I had written. We pledged that I would stick with this new path and that my friend would hold me to it. I felt supported. 

 Then we shared about the mysteries of the Rosary from the book, The Rosary and Inner Healing. It was obvious Mary was calling us to her side with this book. The mysteries became alive in a rich and relevant way. We had an appetite for the Rosary and could not wait to start a contemplative prayer time with the mysteries. 

This was what the Holy Spirt and Mary had on my agenda, thus nudging me to stay this extra day. Now I knew it was time to go. I was ready and felt peaceful and strong. I packed my bags for soon I would be home,..unpacking.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Rest, ..and Be Holy! I am back in ordinary time. Today I cannot even remember quite how it felt. All those stellar thoughts I could not wait to write about..are just not here anymore. Were they inspired by the Holy Spirt or a shot too many of caffeine, some cyclothymic high, relief from family issues or was it just plain sunshine, good wine and friendship that fueled me on my solo Mothers day retreat? Or could this be is just what happens when anxious mothers take a break from mothering

Mother's day loomed ahead. But this time I did not have the energy to be fixing family, and fancy food for others who felt obliged to honor this all-American Hallmark feast. How sacriligeous to not care to be the perfect mother on Mother's Day! Yet, I would not gear up for it somehow. I could not because I was exhausted from wrestling with depression and anxiety, stubborn demons that may only leave with prayer..and fasting. I needed such time for prayer, and certainly a kind of fasting, fasting from my full plate of worries and responsibilities. I needed to get away and allow Someone to feed me a pure and simple diet. The better portion! I needed cleansing.

Suddenly, I saw an opportunity . Yes! I would go away for Mothers’ Day.. a retreat, by myself. I could not believe I would allow myself to do exactly what I needed and wanted. I felt a lift of spirit which I hadn't for a while. In secret, the Retreat Master had planned this getaway for me and had already prepared a place and all the details to make it happen. All I had to do was say yes,.. and make some calls. His plan for me was to take stuff for an overnight including just three things, my Bible, my Rosary, and Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence. I packed very lightly and went ahead, with the blessing of my husband and children. I booked a massage, a room at a nearby lodge, and a visit with my closest friend and spiritual director. Eat, drink, rest, and be holy, the secret inscription on my soul read, for you are invited to taste, and see that I am …wholly delicious .

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blood, Sweat, and Fears?

I was curious about the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, after the apostles fell asleep. Jesus was there all alone..and extremely troubled and anxious about coming events. He wondered how He could bear it..alone. So much so that he sweat drops of blood. Now, is that a literal description or just there to underline how badly he suffered mentally and emotionally the night before His betrayal and death? Do people sweat blood? I had never heard of this in my 63 years. I am suddenly stuck on finding an answer. There was only one thing to do when faced with my own stubborn curiosity, and when my family and friends have become disinterested in my many queries, unavailable, or just plain sleepy. I went straight to wake the faithful ..Google. Google assured me through her medical journals that, yes, people have been known to sweat blood. There have been at least about six cases of criminals sweating droplets of blood while awaiting execution! The journal went on to explain that sweat glands pushed on blood vessels(?), until sweat broke blood, so to speak. I suffer from anxiety disorder and panic attacks which can cause mental and emotional agony, yet have never sweat blood under any circumstances. I consider my angst a weakness for which i seek therapy and thank God for it.. the therapy. My anxiety, like crazy relentless red ants, can overrun and do real damage to myself and others. Thus, I did not think Jesus felt anxious, but the proof is in the blood dripped from His sweating body, awaiting execution. No one knows for sure if He agonized over the looming events because of fear, because of the piercing pain of human sin, or because He was struggling to the end with His Yes to the Father. Can the agony of our anxiety, be redemptive somehow? We are told not to worry, not to be untrusting, but even Jesus who was fully human felt abandoned by friends and Father as he hung on the Cross. God took Him, His own son to the limit of human mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual suffering. I trust that God rescues us as He did Jesus in ways we may not be able to see in this life, as Jesus according to his final words, did not see, "Father, why have you forsaken me?" From my own unpacking of what went on in the Agony in the Garden, with the help of Google, I have gained more grist for the mill of comtemplative prayer. One piece is that, although we have no way yet of understanding because our intellects have not been fully opened, Jesus was really completely human, vulnerable to all our painful human weakness of body and mind. That He was fully Divine as God's Son, does not lessen that fact that He suffered in everyway as we do..blindly at times. He had to carry on as if He could see when He did not, as we are challenged to do. Next, I learned that in facing mental and emotional pain, through circumstances that we cannot change but may embrace, ours can be joined with His suffering and redeemed in prayer for grace offered for those without times. Of course, I will continue to use my meds and cognitive therapies and do my best to live as healthy and calmly as possible, but when I can't, I know I can count on Him to know how I feel, what I need, and how to help me.. through the things I cannot change, and to give me the wisdom to know the difference.

Curious Bursts that Make Us Wonder

We humans are born to wonder. But have we religious humans become bored and lagging because we think we have found the answers… and have we lost that curious burst that makes us wonder? Are we afraid to think, to wander into the great unknown because that would be in some strange way, a betrayal of Jesus, whom we know as the Answer. Now this kind of thinking seems quite absurd, but I admit that at times, I have felt intellectually restless, bored, false, and stifled, especially in Church, and at times, even in personal prayer. Some Christian teaching seems to imply that curiosity is over when we accept Christ as all in all, and that the wanderings of the mind can lead to an false and dangerous place. Don’t go there, just have faith! This kind of narrow-mindedness implies that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. My experience is that this kind of non-thinking causes my imagination to flatline and so limits my curiosity about God.
Aren't curiosity and imagination wonderful, productive kinds of God-given gifts of the human mind, the part of us that makes us more like God than like animals. Because of curiosity, we have science; because of imagination, we have the arts. Because of God, we have curiosity, and because of God, we have imagination. The Scriptures are poetry,essay, and novel, and Jesus, the true story-teller; the disciples, full of healthy curiosity-all questions at times. Is God not the original Scientist, the ultimate Artist? Have you ever been underwater with a snorkel? Was it not the most ridiculously sublime and lavishly colorful world hidden down there? Did it not inspire some curious thoughts about the mind of a Creator who dreamt this? Why not really enjoy pondering His Grandeur, His Creative Spirit, His Loving Personality, with our whole minds as well as our hearts? If saints were happy to give up everything to stay in His company, they must have been awed by a Goodness so incomparable that all else lost its luster. I, too, want to see and taste that He is good, as we are all invited to do. But not in a junk food kind of way, like how only chocolate or fries will do, after I have stuffed myself with too many rich foods and forgotten the plain deliciousness of an apple. Good in a way of lasting satisfaction and true nourishment, good, in a way of pure, whole food for my soul. In Philippians we are told in no uncertain terms what we are to put our minds on ~ whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent, we are to think on these things.
Why not spend a few minutes sometime today to think on these things ?
Much more coming about curious bursts that make us wonder...stay tuned, and please some curious questions and imaginative comments, or just comments. I need you out there to banter back so I don't feel I am talking to myself..again. It is easy, just click comment box below. I would love some more followers too.
P.S. About the visual, I am an artist but not good enough to make myself look like this beautiful young Italian sidewalk artist who worked on this daily in the Florentine plaza right outside of the Uffizi Gallery. Not even a lipo artist could have made this a picture of me. The only things she and I have in common is that I paint with chalk also, and that I,too, do faces.

Two words for the marriage bed

Upon reading today's readings in High Callling, I saw something wonderful in the Ten Commandments, which to the Jews were known as the Ten Words. Although it does read like a list of do's and don't, the spirit of the Ten is so much more than that. Given a choice, most of us today choose Jesus' words, the New Testament's Two Commandments, about loving God with our whole minds, hearts, soul, and strength, and then, our neighbors as ourselves. The New Testament commands just seem, less complicated and well, more..loving? I reread both the Ten and the Two word versions. I saw that both are centered on love, both are invitations to an intimate life of love. One seems warmer, more romantic, like a marriage proposal, while the the other, businesslike, dogmatic, like a premarital contract. However, the purpose of both are the same, to keep the relationship exclusive and vital. This relationship is likened to the love of a marriage bed, which is well described in The Song of Soloman, of the Old Testament. This song has at least three interpretations. The one I refer to here describes the intimacy between the soul and God's Spirit, as two lovers of the one marriage bed. The bed where the Spirit intercourses with the soul, is the world we live in, life as we know it. This is where He meets us. Real love yearns for union and desires the highest good for the other. Each is lover and each, beloved. Clearly, the Creator who makes the first move, finds His beloved and woos her relentlessly. So the courting begins. When she gets to know Him, He asks her for full commitment. He longs for her to say yes, with her whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Such commitment is like a vow of marriage, the setting of boundaries. Boundaries are set to protect the precious love so that it may grow upwards, just like the little garden fence I bought from the nursery may keep my wandering lilies straight and rising high. I did this because they bring me joy, and I intend for them to thrive and show off their beauty. So He does with us, His lilies of this valley. He intends us to thrive under His life-giving commandments. Our Husband is jealous of our straying into lesser gardens and the possibility of our losing the way to Paradise. Rather than a deadening list of do's and don'ts, those Ten Commandments are, in fact, Ten Signs of love, clearly condensed by the two requests of Christ, as He reminds His bride of the exclusiveness required of the marriage bed, to which we are invited to give all of ourselves, first , to Him and second, to others. As the Great Lover of Life, He presses us, body and soul, close to His Spirit, loving us through the night into another bright day.
Wanted to share a wonderful site with you, This is where I get my daily devotional through email. It is a strong Christian site that highlights how to live our faith in the workplace, whatever that workplace may be for you. Mine is around the neighborhood as an unpaid unprofessional wannabe writer, designer, artist, and a real life nonni, wife, mother, friend,daughter-caregiver, prayer partner, ex-educator, and occasionally some other roles I cannot remember right now.
Enjoy the many facets of this contemporary relevant website. .

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sanity or Sanctity: what's the difference, just two letters?

Is it insanity to believe as the saints did, that God is everthing and that nothing else in life can be compared to knowing and loving Him, living moment by moment in His Presence. And is it sanity to believe as most of us do, that God is there mostly for emergencies and often a moral guide and that each of us must live our lives according to the good as we see it in this life? Take the crazy life of some of the saints, especially the mystics. St. Therese of Liseaux considered personal conflicts and physical suffering a privileged stepping stone into God’s Heart, of which she desired to be possessed. She wanted this more than anything life had to offer. Rambunctious and needy as a child, she wrestled with a holy perfectionism, bullying peers, anxiety, deep grief and abandonment. When her mother died of breast cancer, she, the youngest of several sisters, was home schooled by her sisters in academics and sanctity. She chose at an extremely delicate age to leave home for the cloister of Carmelite convent. As a persistent thirteen -year- old,she talked her father into a visit with the Pope so that she could personally beg for early admittance. Out of conventional wisdom and good sense, he refused her. When she finally entered the convent, she was all but tortured, at least mentally, by a jealous superior, who took advantage of her tender age and desire for holiness. She was given the most difficult chores and the least comforts. Yet she showed her utmost reverence and prayed for her daily, happy to do whatever she asked with a true smile from deep inside. She, although still a teen, modeled sanctity to this rather twisted older woman, who had full authority over her. She suffered tuberculosis at the negligent hand of this superior when she delayed getting Therese the medical attention needed. She suffered for a time while yearning ecstatically to be with Jesus. Therese died at 23. She, although as a child frustrated by her lessons at school, and having no formal philosophical training, is one of the short list of Doctors of the Church, along with such greats, as St Thomas Aquinas. Homeschooled by Christ,the only books she relied on for her theology was Imitation of Christ and Scripture, which she comtemplated diligently in heart ..and mind. Next of the most well loved of saints is, or course, St Francis of Assisi, who gave up reputaiton, possession, family responsibilties, friends, the luxury of home, and his father’s favor to follow a starving path of crumbs. He followed the Love and gave up an easy path from a world he knew well for a difficult one to a heaven he had never seen. How sane was that? At the time, he townsfolks thought he was literally insane. And was he? What would we say in our town today? The path to sanctity? Is some degree of insanity prerequisite to real holiness? Does God really requiire sanctification, for all to be saints? Can we make the grade without losing our minds…as we know it? Sane or sainted. Are they mutually exclusive? Hide notes