Tag Archives: faith

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.

Advertisements

No room in this inn

Good Saint Joseph has been on my mind this morning. As I reflected on the Joyful Mysteries, I paused at the Nativity. I thought about what it must have felt like to be St. Joseph. Here he was given the tremendous responsibility of caring and providing for the Holy Family, yet one of his first tasks is a complete and total failure by human standards. His very pregnant wife, the Blessed Virgin Mary, must have felt horribly for him as he knocked at each inn door in Bethlehem. I’m sure he worked hard to find them a safe place to spend the night. But in the end, there was no room in the inn.

Many Christians and non-Christians seem to be following the idea: if you believe, you will succeed. If this was truth, then surely St. Joseph would have easily found a room for him and his expectant wife. However, neither Mary’s prayers or St. Joseph’s prayers were answered. Perhaps, God had a greater plan than either of them could humanly see or conceive.

How often have I fallen into the trap of the wrong belief I mention above. I would add my own twist which is: if you believe and work hard, you will succeed. God has allowed me to experience plenty failures when I pursue things that really don’t matter. He can see inside my heart and knows when I need a good dose of humility. My self-reliance and pride can kick into high gear very easily, and only He knows how to temper that for me. When I am full of myself, there is no room in the inn for God or the Holy Spirit. It’s when I let go of my grand plans and acknowledge that my entire existence rests in His hands that wonderful things begin to happen. Sometimes, I have had to knock on many doors before I realize I am knocking on the wrong doors. He just patiently waits for me or sometimes knocks me over to get my attention!

Let’s pray for the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker when we find ourselves struggling with pride or self-reliance.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us.
Jesus, I trust in you!

50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

Running from Job

God has been telling me lately to read the Book of Job. I have read the Book of Job many times, and the last time I read it, I really liked it. I liked that he had tremendous faith. I liked that he had the fortitude to even respond to his “friends” who were not being very understanding of his situation. I liked that although he had some pretty frank discussions with God, he ultimately revered and trusted in Him.

Last year, my sister told me she was supposed to read the Book of Job, and she really didn’t enjoy that book of the Bible. I told her all these encouraging words about how great Job was and how amazing his faith was. I told her that this was a story of triumph. Yes, it was a difficult story, but it had a really good ending.

Today, I am about halfway through Job. I should have already read it by now. I just cannot seem to want to read it. Here I was, encouraging my sister when heavy things were coming into her life. And now that I am heading there, I’m running away. I have had to force myself to read Job. How hypocritical am I? This is embarrassing to admit, but I have let my feelings get in the way of listening to God. Because I am not feeling good about reading Job, I’ve dragged my feet. I’ve even taken to reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations! My son told me it was a good book, and even though I have read it before, I thought now would be a good time to dive into this massive piece of fiction! Ha, Ha. Oh the lengths we go to so that we can avoid facing what we need to face.

Tonight, I plan to read another chapter of Job. I plan to listen to what God has to say to me. Then, I will fall asleep finding out what’s in store for Pip. I have a feeling that his “great expectations” may not end up so great after all.

Hard Work Brings Its Own Rewards

What happened to good ol’ hard work? I mean really? What happened? When physical work went away, we lost the lessons that came with that hard work and I don’t think we realized it. As an example, my children have no idea what “hanging laundry” means, but I can close my eyes and hear Grandma singing and smell the flowers she diligently planted and tended in her yard by the laundry lines. I can smell those crisp white sheets that she ironed and put on the guest bed for me. Yes, it was hard work, but both the results and process were amazing!

How about homegrown vegetables–remember those? Both sets of my grandparents had giant gardens that produced more than they could ever use. They canned what they might need in the winter, but then they shared with neighbors and whoever was in need. The closest my children can come to understand this is having a commercial canned food drive for the food pantry at church. I would like to say I learned to garden from my grandparents, but I grew up in the city where my parents had moved which was far from the family farm and small town where my grandparents lived.

My paternal grandparents were farmers, although both had college educations which was rare for those times. My maternal grandparents were a barber and housewife who took in washing and ironing. Both sets of grandparents knew what hard work meant. My parents were wise enough to send me and my siblings for long visits during the summer. It was during these trips that I learned to hand wash dishes, hang laundry, make beds, weed gardens, fish for dinner, herd cattle out of the corn, drive a vehicle, walk to daily Mass, and build wood bridges over creeks.

Telling you all about my grandparents makes me miss them terribly since they have all passed on. They loved me in a very special way. My own husband never really knew any of his grandparents because they had all died by the time he was five years old. He did get to know three of my four grandparents which was a blessing for him.

I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents and their hard work ethic. I think the real secret to their ability to work hard was their ability to rest. They had a mid-afternoon rest time where we would all gather in their living room and pick our nap spot. They had the most comfortable pillows in the world. I can still see them and feel them in my mind’s eye. And somehow that room was cool, even though they didn’t have air conditioning. We would rest for an hour and it was wonderful. We were ready to go with another round of work once we had rested.

Even better yet, as hard as they all worked, they loved God even more. So on Sundays, after Mass, we enjoyed time together over a large meal. We did nothing on Sundays except be with Christ and be together. It was slice of heaven on earth. All my grandparents had faith and lived it the best way they knew how. I may not have learned how to garden from them or how to run a farm, nor do I have the rewards of the type of hard physical work they knew, but I have something even better — their faith.