The Love of a Father

The Love of a Father

Today, we see for the first time since the middle ages, our Pope “step down.” Some have struggled with such a decision. Why now, when this hasn’t happened for over 600 years? Why not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor who showed us all the dignity with which one can age, carrying his cross publicly before us even to the end? I don’t have the answers, but I know this…Pope Benedict XVI is a man in love with the Lord and his bride the Church (you and I). I trust that even this decision is the decision of a father wanting only the best for his children. And so, may we as the faithful flock of the One Lord Jesus Christ and therefore of the successor of Peter, the Rock, spend this day, not in speculation, discord, or anxiety, but in prayerful gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI, such a loving leader of our Church, and peaceful trust in the Lord’s promise that “not even the gates of hell shall prevail against her.”

Forty Days: Oh the Possibilities

And so it is that we find ourselves here at the start of a new Lenten Season. Receiving our ashes today, we are reminded that it is into a time of prayer and fasting that we go. Today as we receive, what once was alive and now is ash, we are reminded also that the Lord, in his goodness, created us and holds us in existence. So great was his love for us that, before bringing us into being, he created and prepared with great detail and care this earth in all its wonders to feed and sustain us, but also to evoke awe and wonder in our hearts, to lift our souls toward the eternal home for which they were created. In great wisdom does the Church remind us of this love, leading up to Lent, with plentiful daily Mass readings from Genesis recounting the creation story.

It is with this great love in mind that we follow, in full trust, the one who loves us into the desert for these 40 days. Lent is a season in which we are called to prayer, fasting and alms giving. In other words, it is a season in which we are called to grow in likeness to our Divine Savior by setting aside more time to speak with him, forming good and holy habits and giving to those in need with our time and/or money.

Whether we’ve already decided what forms these three calls will take during our Lenten season or not, perhaps today we can spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to show us what form of prayer, fasting and alms giving will most lead us to him this Lent. Giving up chocolate is great…but only if through that sacrifice we are brought to Christ. May we pray over the areas in our lives where we seem to forget the Lord and weed out those distractions. For example, if you find you don’t have enough time in the day to have some silent prayer time with the Lord, maybe consider giving up music in your car for Lent and use that time instead to speak with your Creator or to ponder his love for you. Whatever you choose, 40 days from now when we mourn the unimaginable sacrifice of Christ for our sake and then celebrate the gift and the glory of our salvation, may we be a people changed by the love of God.

Caught up in Blessings

This morning at Mass, the Gospel reading was Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

As the priest mulled over the passage with the congregation, he took the stance of the 9 lepers who did not return to give thanks to Jesus, pondering what might cause such ingratitude. Insightfully, however, he shared that in fact, it is likely that it was not that the other 9 lepers were ungrateful for the gift of healing, but rather that they were “so caught up in the blessing that they forgot the one who gave it.” He challenged himself and each of us sitting in the pews before him to look into our own lives and examine how aware we are of the Giver, from whom every good gift comes. How often do we forget to thank God for the moments, seemingly small or momentous, that bring us joy? How often are we so caught up in the blessing itself that we forget to thank the one who gave it?

Today…and Everyday…may we be People of Gratitude.

Here are just a few things I’ve been thankful for lately:

Time away with family…

Time away with my Godson and Friends…

Time away with the Lord…

May We See This as an Opportunity

The Lord alone is the one we seek…we are not running this race for a perishable crown but for an eternal one. I think as we digest the results of this election, whether we are rejoicing over them or disappointed, one thing remains…we are to seek the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama were announced as President today, our role remains the same…to be a presence of Truth and Love in this country that souls may be united to God their maker. May we see the President’s re-election as an opportunity to fine tune, with logic and prayer, the truths we stand for and why. May we see it as an opportunity to grow in awareness of how we can be actively involved with our government. May we see it as an opportunity to live lives “awake” instead of half asleep. Our time on this earth is short. We have such a small window of opportunity to leave a mark of love, peace and joy. May we leave this world a little more beautiful than we found it.

Lastly, I ask you to join me as I join the Catholic Bishops of the United States of America in praying for our re-elected President and for his next term in office.

Dear President Obama,

In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.

In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant. We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.

May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Two Become One

I have been incredibly blessed to be a part of two beautiful weddings over the last month. One of a dear friend and one of my one and only brother! There is something about weddings that puts life in perspective. Two people vowing to lay down their lives for the sake of the other. It forces us to check ourselves…What do we live for? Or rather…who do we live for? …Ourselves or others? Whether it be for a spouse, if we’re married, a friend, or a stranger, do we seek to lay down our lives for the sake of the other? Do we pause long enough to get outside of our own thoughts and distractions to see those in need around us? …In need of a listening ear, in need of someone to care just enough to smile and say hello, when so many others pass them by…

Today, may we live more abundantly, by expanding our vision to those around us.

And now for a few more photos from the wedding

Strength will Rise as we Wait upon the Lord

So often in life we find ourselves waiting: Waiting on a new job, waiting for our next trip, waiting to get pregnant, waiting to meet the right person, waiting on heaven, waiting, waiting, waiting. This week, I was reminded of the grace and the choice that awaits us in these moments. The Gospel, at Mass on Thursday, was from Matthew 24:42-51 in which Jesus spoke the parable of the two servants awaiting their Master’s return.

“Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay Awake! For you do not know
on which day your Lord will come…
Who then is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master
has put in charge of his household to distribute to them
their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his
master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put
him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to
himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow
servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master
will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and
will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

The priest giving the homily, spoke so eloquently of the application of this parable in our daily lives. No matter what we find ourselves waiting on, as faithful Christians, it is the Lord for whom we seek to wait. In the grand picture, we await His second coming, or the end of our lives when we hope to hear the words “Well done good and faithful servant.” However, as is the case with many heavenly things, this longing, is mirrored in our earthly experiences. Whether it is for heaven, or the fruition of our Vocation, or a new job…in times of waiting, are we the first servant or the second? Do we wait patiently on the Lord, for His coming in response to our circumstances, or do we get tired of waiting, abandon the duties the Lord has given us in THIS moment, and take control of our own life decisions?

In the end, the watchful and waiting servant will always obtain greater happiness. For while, in the short-term, the inpatient servant who has set out on their own may enjoy greater “freedoms” and worldly pleasures, these will fade away as they always do, and in the mean time, the servant will miss the many gifts the Master would have lavished upon them had they faithfully awaited his return. Thus, causing marriages based solely on external beauty, or financial gain, or jobs ill-suited to ones talents. These rarely stand the test of time.

Whereas, imagine the greatness of the gifts bestowed upon the obedient servant, who was seemingly “chained” by their duties in the Master’s absence. Think of those women or men, in your life, whom you know, that have waited patiently, remaining faithful to the Lord’s call in their lives…how are they repaid? With marriages based on an eternal foundation of faith, with jobs best suited for their gifts, and hopefully, in the end, an imperishable crown.

And so, for whatever we await, let us “Stay Awake!,” keeping our lives ever about the Lord’s business. That upon the Master’s return we may be blessed by the most perfect gifts from the One who knows us better than we could ever know ourselves…for He alone created us out of nothingness.

Here’s to living lives filled with abundant Truth and Joy,
To waiting on the Lord’s perfect coming in response to our heart’s desires and needs,
Here’s to the eternal Heights of Heaven!

Faith on Earth

Living 2000 years after the Gospel stories took place, we can often find ourselves a bit removed from them as we read them. Struggling to relate to the context in which they were written we may find them difficult to delve into. Just recently I had the privilege of being introduced to Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Series. These three fictional novels take place in the years following the death of Christ. Brilliantly written, they made scripture come to life as with the turn of each page I was introduced into the lives of those living post Christ’s death and resurrection: their trials, their temptations, their courage, and their conversions. With her attention to detail and historical accuracy, I found myself enlightened with a greater understanding of the context in which the scriptures were written and first revered, as well as deeply and utterly hungry for the Word of God. I strongly recommend them…

I am currently working my way through the Gospel of Luke. At the moment, Jesus has turned back towards Jerusalem, back towards imminent death. Yet, our Lord journeys determined and steadied by his divine understanding of who he is and all he has come to do. Throughout the three days it takes him to reach the holy city, he speaks endless parables to his disciples. Final words of wisdom, rebukes, pleas for repentance. Following several such parables and teachings regarding the return of the Son of Man, or the end of times, Jesus poses a halting question:

“Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Lk 18:8)”

Heaven help us. I sure hope so! But, will he? How many of us truly take the Gospels to heart any more? How many of us truly believe anymore in the words Jesus spoke. Of a true Heaven, an eternal life, a merciful God, a day of just judgement, our tendency towards sin, our capacity for charity, Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, good versus evil, life versus death: “I call heaven, and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse…Therefore CHOOSE life…” Deuteronomy 30:19

It is indeed a choice and the choice is ours. Pope Benedict XVI has called for a Year of Faith in the Church. A year to delve into the depths of what we believe and emerge from those depths with not only a greater understanding of God and our faith, but also an insatiable hunger for that faith to burst into action in our lives. To not only believe the Gospel, but to LIVE it.

That when Christ comes again to separate the wheat from the chaff, the goats from the sheep, the good from the evil, that we will be ready and the Son of Man will indeed “find faith on earth.”

Sister Death

Death is a funny thing. This morning when I woke up, I groggily wandered into my living room, sat down with a cup of tea, made a few phone calls, made my list of errands for the day, and then found myself face to face with sister death. That most unwelcome guest, the one who bends to no one’s schedules, concerns, or desires.  (Written the morning of September 7, 2011)

Almost immediately following the initial shock, I found myself aboard a flight destined for home. As I flew, I listened intermittently to the music streaming through the headphones of my ipod, when suddenly a particular song’s lyrics called for my attention. As I rewound and replayed the music, the following is what I heard:

“Come with me. Where chains will never bind you. All your grief at last, at last behind you. Lord, in Heaven, look down on her in mercy. Forgive her all her trespasses and take her to your glory. Take her hand and lead her to salvation. Take her love for love is everlasting. And remember the truth that once was spoken: ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’” -Les Miserables

I believe that Shelli not only saw the face of God in each of those she loved so dearly, but I believe that she knew this truth so well, that she humbly allowed us to love her, in her health as well as her illness, allowing each of us to discover the face of God in her. She has given us a greater gift than she may ever know. Dear Shelli, we will miss you dearly, especially those blessed to know you well. May you rest now eternally in the peace and joy of God’s presence. Every tear wiped away, no more pain or sorrow (Rev 21:4). We love you.

(Pictured Above: Shelli in all her glory basking in the sun!)

Please find below the beautiful obituary my mom wrote for her dearest friend:

Shelli (Burchfield) DeSimone
walked into the arms for our Heavenly Father as her family surrounded her with their overwhelming love on Sept. 7, 2011. Shelli is survived by the light of her life, her son, Drew, along with her beloved parents, Ed and Barbara (Hepner) Burchfield. Ed and Barb brought Shelli’s special light into this world on Feb. 16, 1964. Shelli is also survived by her sister, Missy (Walton) and her brother, Shaun (Misty). Shelli truly adored her family and they have provided her insurmountable love and devoted care throughout her battle. Shelli’s life was blessed by her Grandma Hepner, her loving aunts, uncles and cousins, and her special nieces and nephews, Kaci, Kali and Kade Walton and Taylor, Teal and Trey Burchfield. Shelli is also survived by her father-in-law, Tom, and the DeSimone family.

Shelli’s vast love extended beyond her family to her Florida and Key Bank co-workers and her numerous faithful and loving friends. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jerry; her grandparents, Frank Hepner and Gene and Gladys Burchfield; and her uncle, Tom Hepner. She has also joined her very dear aunt, Sandy (Fawcett) in eternity with Jesus. The enduring support of her family and friends provided Shelli the strength to fight the demon, cancer, with dignity and grace. And, although her time on earth was far too brief, we are truly grateful that Shelli has found her peace. We will, indeed, see her beautiful warm smile, feel her gentle touch, and enjoy her infectious laugh once again in God’s Kingdom.

Family and friends are invited to share their love and support to Drew, Ed, Barb and her loving family on Friday, Sept. 9 from 5-8 p.m. at Sweeney-Dodds Funeral Home. Shelli truly had a passion for living. We will celebrate her life on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011 at 11 a.m. at Sweeney-Dodds Funeral Home. If you are able, please pay tribute to her courageous battle against breast cancer and wear some form of pink. Following the Celebration, Shelli will be interred alongside her husband at Westview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Crossroads Hospice, 3743 Boettler Oaks Dr., Green, OH 44685.

Amazing is it not, the way death calls into focus the truths that were so near to us while one was alive; and yet, impossible to see until they were gone. Life is such a fragile gift. May we spend everyday loving passionately and completely those we are blessed to know (family, friend, and stranger alike) and in gratitude to the one who has blessed us with such wondrous gifts.

Desert Days

“It’s not about the great things that we do; but rather, about what we do before we do great things.”

I have had the beautiful privilege of spending this weekend in Boston with a dear friend.  She and her husband are members of St. Clements Eucharistic Shrine, a gorgeous Church near down town Boston that has brought back Perpetual Adoration to the city after a forty-year absence. The priest, a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, centered his homily yesterday on the first line of this post: “It is not about the great things that we do; but rather, about what we do before we do great things.” (Speaking in relation to the Gospel of Jesus’s forty days in the desert before any miracles were performed, any revelations revealed, any suffering, death or resurrection.)

I was struck by the relevance and truth of his words. If we allow, there are always periods in our lives that call for us to take time to be prepared for what’s to come: every year in the Church during the Lenten season we are given the opportunity to take forty days to fast and pray as Jesus did in preparation for our Lord’s death and resurrection, an expectant mother has nine months awaiting her child that she may prepare a home and her heart for the welcoming of new life into their family.

Sometimes, like the examples above, we go into the desert knowing for what it is that we are to prepare. Other times, and perhaps more often, we enter the desert having no idea for what we prepare. But, does it matter? The priest who gave the homily which provoked these thoughts to begin with would say no…all that matters is that we prepare. That we pray, surrendering all to God and allowing him to strengthen us for what, perhaps only He knows is to come.

I pray that we may all use this lent as a season to allow God to prepare us…for what is to come in our lives, for a deeper understanding of the Truth of Easter Sunday, and for an over all greater awareness of Him present, at all times, in our lives.

(To mix Gospels…)We may go on to do great things, but they will not matter if we do not use this time to prepare for them by building firmly on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and there is only one way to do so…pray.

Let Go and Let God

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“Let go and let God.” Such a cliche saying that we hear all the time, but how does it actually play out? Since there is also the infamous, “Work as if it all depends on you and pray as if it all depends on God.” So, when do we “work” and when do we “let go?” This summer was one such lesson for me. Upon returning from two years on mission in New Zealand, my question of course was where to go now? As you will read from my last post, my initial intention was to walk the Camino in September (2010)…however as I watched the remainder of my missionary “income” deplete as the summer rolled on, I quickly realized that this was most certainly not where the Lord was immediately calling me. So I began to pray, but not enough, and search for jobs and places to move to, a bit too much. Suddenly just before I was about to move to Boston, MA (with no job yet mind you), I realized that I was trying to force something to happen. That somewhere along the line, what started out as walking through the doors God opened, turned into throwing open doors myself in hopes of finding the right one.

So, I stopped everything…and started praying more fiercely than ever that I would remember the childlike faith and trust I once had in the Lord (trusting him even to send me half way around the world to New Zealand). Surely, I knew that he could handle a simple task like getting me a job, if that was indeed his will. I had two years of his faithfulness in New Zealand to prove it after all. (Not that God ever needed to prove himself…but, he had and still I doubted!) No more I decided. From the moment of my realization that I was (subconsciously) not trusting God to care for me, it was not 12 hours later that I was contacted by a woman who wanted me to nanny for her two children (ages 1 and 4 1/2) in Washington, DC. As every other door flew closed, I could see that God was leading me to the one and only open door. So, I walked through.

I am now a full time nanny (though not living with the family) in Washington, DC. It was a hard adjustment at first, going from serving the Lord in such a distinctly ministerial way to serving him in the simple every day tasks of life and in caring for two little children, but I see the Lord’s hand at work and that is all that matters. To remember that we are nothing and that God is everything has been my first assignment upon returning to the USA from NZ. It reminds me that my one simple task is to be obedient to the loving God who created me and knows me better than I know my self. Only in this will I find happiness. My time in DC is a gift God has given me to digest the wonder of my two years in NZ, to prepare for what is next, and a whole countless list of other lessons and reasons which have yet to unfold and perhaps will not be revealed to me until Heaven.

So, to answer the question: “When do we ‘work’ and when is it time to ‘let go?’ I don’t have the all encompassing God-approved answer. All I know is that we must strive to pursue every opportunity, seek the desires of our heart, and in the midst of all this striving and seeking…stay anchored in prayer which is our means of hearing the Lord tell us whether or not the things we are seeking are our ultimate good. And if they are not, we must be detached enough to let them go.

May we strive to do all things AMDG (Ad Madjorum Dei Glorium…All for the Glory of God).

PS. I do hope to walk the Camino sometime this year should it be God’s will! But whether I walk it or not, I rest in Him wherever He sends me.