Monthly Archives: October 2014

When St. Francis and St. Anthony Show Up At Your House

It started a couple of years ago with a medal showing up on my bedroom floor. It had two saints on it. One side was St. Francis. The other side was St. Anthony. I asked my husband and children if it belonged to any of them. They all said, “No.” I asked my friends and relatives who had visited anytime lately if it belonged to them. They all said, “No.” I asked my neighbors, who all said, “No.” Where did this medal come from? I had no idea, but I knew that St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua were going to be with me for a while.

My daughter’s Confirmation was coming up soon. I headed to look for the perfect gift for her. I noticed an entire wall full of Crucifixes. There were probably 100 at least. Suddenly, this one jumped out and said, “Pick me!” I held it in my hands and realized that I really should give her something else as she already had a crucifix. Plus her older brother’s Confirmation gift was quite different from this. I saw exactly what she needed and added that to my basket. I then looked at the price on the Crucifix and thought, “Why am I buying this?” But I bought it anyway.

I immediately hung this Crucifix in our front hall. My husband noticed it and asked me about it. How do you explain this to your very logical, reasonable husband? I just said, “I was supposed to buy it.” He was fine with that but asked who the people were? The Crucifix had Jesus on the Cross along with four people, one on each end of the cross. I told him, “I have no idea.” He said, “Maybe we should find out.” Good idea! So I got online and googled this Crucifix. I discovered it was called the Misericordia Crucifix. Misericordia means “mercy” in Latin, I believe. Anyway, this crucifix was a 14th-century processional cross. It features St. Francis at the top; the Blessed Virgin on the left; St. John the Beloved on the right; and St. Anthony of Padua at the bottom. So here they were, St. Francis and St. Anthony, showing up at my home again.

Then there was the conclave of March 2013. My beloved friend Pope Benedict XVI was resigning and a new pope would be elected. My children and I watched as they announced the white smoke. Such excitement! Who could understand the language of the announcement. I believe it was made in Latin, but our Latin wasn’t up to translating this! Then I said, “Did they just say Francis?” Sure enough. Our new pope chose the name “Francis” after St. Francis of Assisi.

Twenty three years before this, I visited the town of Assisi, Italy. I fell in love with the quaint streets and festival of flowers. Tiny flower petals were placed on the sidewalks, creating entire scenes. One I remember best was DaVinci’s Last Supper replicated with flower petals! When I saw it, all I could think was, “Please, God, don’t let the wind blow!”

The one church I wanted to visit was the Basilica where St. Francis was buried. When I arrived, a notice was posted that an earthquake had made the church unsafe and we would not be allowed to go inside. Such disappointment! I was very saddened because I also had not been able to see the Sistine Chapel because of a major restoration project. It felt like every time I tried to visit a holy place, the doors were closed!

However, St. Francis will not be outdone in mercy. Decades later, he and his buddy St. Anthony showed up at my house and have continued to shower many gifts upon me and my family. During the past two years, so many amazing things have occurred tied to this dear saint that if I listed them all, you would most likely not believe me. Suffice it to say that St. Francis was an instrument of peace, and he brings blessings to all those who are open to God’s grace and mercy. Perhaps that is why his order is 30,000 strong not counting all the orders who share his charism and the lay people who are Third Order Franciscans!

To honor this dear soul, lover of peace and of Jesus Christ, won’t you pray his prayer with me?

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us.

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Running and winning my first and only 5K race

My children do not believe this story. They look at their “pleasantly plump” mother and cannot believe she ever played soccer in college. They don’t understand what multiple child births, along with a decade of caring for an elderly parent, does to one’s ability to exercise regularly! So, although it is true, I can understand why they have a hard time believing it. With this background, here goes.

My dear friend wanted to run a 5K race. She asked if I would be her accountability partner and train with her. I had no plans to run any race, but I liked my friend and figured it would be good exercise. We ran outside for most of the fall. However, when the weather was rainy or snowy, we headed to the campus indoor track. A friend of my older sister’s happened to run the student gym, so we would say hi and chat a bit while I was there. Training was fun for me because it kept me in good soccer shape and I got to chat with my friend while we ran.

Fast forward. My friend found a flyer on campus about an upcoming run put on by the Law School. The entrance fee was reasonable and the course was right around campus. She asked if I would enter with her. Of course, I said yes. We agreed right then that if during the race either one of us just couldn’t continue due to cramping or exhaustion, that the other one should keep running and we would just meet back at the finish line.

I don’t remember much about the morning of the race. I think I ate breakfast. We both showed up ready to run. When the race started, it was a huge pack of people. I remember thinking, “How in the world will this work? There are way too many racers to even fit on the street?” The two of us ran side by side and just kept moving with the pack. The pack was running fast, so we didn’t have the breath or energy to talk much. I am not sure how far we were into the race when my friend told me she needed to stop and would meet me at the finish line. After I made sure she was okay, I caught back up with the pack.

Just a little background to help you understand the humor in this story. I never ran track in high school. The thought of just running bored me to death. I played soccer because I liked being with all the people. The sport part of the game was fun, too. I didn’t mind running if I was actually thinking about scoring or having fun with friends. But running by itself was never something I would consider. I didn’t have the internal fortitude to stick with something as serious as running.

Back to the race. Okay, so as I am keeping up with this pack, I start to realize that I never even looked at that race brochure. I had no idea what the course was like. I had relied on my friend to know this, and she had to stop running. This meant two things: 1) I must keep with this pack or I will get lost; 2) I had no clue how far I had already run or how much of the race was left. These are two desperate things to be running through your head during a 5K race! So, in my usual fashion, I decided to just run with the pack and forget the rest. I didn’t pay attention to who was in the pack, I just ran. That’s funny because the pack was mostly men, however, I was behind a handful of women so that’s all I saw.

As the course winded back towards campus, I felt some relief because I at least knew I couldn’t get lost now. As we turned a corner, we faced a giant hill. I don’t know if it was really “giant” but at that moment it felt giant. I saw my friend sitting on the lawn next to the hill waving at me. I also saw about half of the campus standing on either side of the street watching the race. Suddenly, I am ashamed to admit, my vanity took hold. I thought to myself, “I’m dying here. I am exhausted. I want to stop and sit on the lawn with my friend. But I cannot do that. All these people are watching me. Okay. Fine. I will just beat that lady in front of me up this hill. I will kick it into high gear and ignore that it is a hill because I am so embarrassed at this moment.”

And that’s what I did. I ran my heart out up that hill and passed that lady and kept on running. Suddenly, I hear people saying, “Good race! Way to go!” followed by “Stop. Stop. The race is over. Come back!” Huh? So I stop running and am walking to catch my breath. The lady I passed comes over and shakes my hand with a disgusted look on her face. She says, “Congratulations,” but her body language says, “I hate you.” I am confused. Now, there’s laughter. One of the volunteers working to put on the race tells me, “Do you know that you won the race?” I think she is kidding because all these guys were in front of me. I must have looked confused. She says, “You are the winner of the women.” I think I said something like, “Oh, okay,” and started to walk and find my friend. The volunteer grabbed my arm and said, “You need to collect your prizes.” I think I was in shock. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I received a gift certificate for a Dinner for Two to a very nice restaurant. Sometime, I will have to tell you how I asked my husband out on our first date with the gift certificate!

P.S. I have never run a 5K race again. Even though I won, I definitely did not enjoy running that race. I have no idea how many women entered the race, and honestly don’t care.

A Toy Maker, a Drug Addict and my Guardian Angel

It was rush hour and I was headed to interview a toy maker for a Christmas story I was writing. His shop was located in an area of town stricken by poverty and the things that often come along with it: crime and drug dealers. I knew this wasn’t a safe area, but I had enough street smarts to know what to watch for and how to stay safe.

As I approached a major intersection the light turned red. I was the fourth car back in the line waiting for a green light. When the light turned green, I started forward. As is usual, we spread out a bit as we moved forward. I was driving a fine green Buick LeSabre circa 1971 nicknamed “the Beast” because of its size and looks. As I entered the intersection, I felt what I can only call a “tap on the shoulder” and against all reason, logic, human thought process, I slammed on my brakes as hard as possible in the middle of the intersection. This is when life entered what I call “soup mode.”

As I am slamming on my brakes without even taking or having time to look behind me to see if someone is going to now rear end my car, I see a tricked out Lincoln about to hit my car. I will never forget the eyes of the man driving that car. They were vacant. The eyes of a soul whose addiction was so deep and whose face looked like someone running from the devil. By all physical reality, he should have slammed into my passenger door. His speed was at least 60 miles per hour. Against all reality, our cars did a complicated dance in the middle of a major intersection at rush hour. This moment was so slow-moving, it was like swimming in soup. His car missed my car by centimeters, and almost as if our cars bended around each other. He drove right on through the intersection. I ended up in the middle of it, untouched, still in soup mode. As I gazed at the drivers of the vehicles all around me, I saw the exact same expression: wide open eyes, jaws dropped, total unbelief! All I can say is that at the very moment I needed it, I had the grace of Holy Obedience to the promptings of my Guardian Angel.

On this most holy day of the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, I thank mine for giving me my life. I think my children would also thank my Guardian Angel, as they would never have been born, but for me making it through this unreal moment in life.

Angel of God, my Guardian Dear,

to whom God’s love commits me here.

Ever this day, be at my side

to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.

Finding The Little Flower

l owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to a little soul. I have never met her, but she has deeply impacted my life. When my husband and I were in need of tenderness and gentleness, she not only welcomed us with warm kindness, but brought us home with her. She made sure that we were not only well cared for, but that our children were embraced, too. She knew how hard life could be, so she sat with me and told me many stories that would prepare me for the years to come. She had a way of telling stories that made you feel as if you were there. I just knew whatever story she shared from her life, it was going to be important in my life. We became very close friends. At one point, when I least expected it, she introduced me to her best friend. It was just like her to sneak up on me and spring this friend upon me. I loved her so dearly already, how in the world could I not love her friend!? And he was amazing. The more time I spent with him, the more I wanted to spend time with him.

As the years went by, I discovered that I was going to be moving away. She had been a very important part of our lives. I really didn’t know how to tell her, but I think she already knew. I introduced her to many of my friends, hoping that they, too, would get to know and love her. I also wanted them to meet her best friend. Some of my friends were very thrilled to meet him, too. About a year ago, I had a chance to go back and visit her. She was just the same, but this time it wasn’t so hard to part ways because we had become so close that she was always with me in my heart. A few months later, a good friend surprised me with a special gift from her. It was a rose petal from her writing desk. Wasn’t that just like her to send her love in the form of a rose petal? It sits on my bedside table and reminds me that I have a dear friend who loves me.

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!