All You Holy Men and Women

It’s a busy weekend and week for honoring the Saints. We all celebrated St. Patrick on Friday, his persistence in faith and bringing the Gospel message and Christianity to Ireland. Today we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. The Solemnity in the Church is actually tomorrow due to March 19 2023 being the Fourth Sunday of Lent. As a member of Holy Family Church and an Italian, some of us are celebrating his feast day for two days. I look forward to a St. Joseph’s Table meal tonight at neighboring St. Joseph parish, part of the Peru Catholic Parishes. As part of my Lent Retreat, A Different Kind of Fast, we did a reflection of Joseph as sleeping Joseph in art. I posted that I found an increase in devotion to this representation of Joseph, sleeping and as the Dreamer, after Pope Francis shared in 2015, his devotion and a statue that he keeps to remind him that even while sleeping Joseph cares for the Church. As our commentator for that day’s reflection, Amanda Dillon, so wisely said, perhaps this art reflects “a call to put down our tools, rest, to allow God to hover over us and refresh us to new insights about out lives.” Profound!

Some saints, like St. Benedict, have two feast days, we celebrate his actual feast day on July 11 but on Tuesday, March 21, he, like St. Francis, also have a memorial day of their “transitus”, the day he entered Eternal Life. So it was appropriate this weekend to have our monthly Oblate gathering, as Oblates of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, as well as a study of St. Benedict as part of the The Mystical Heart Retreat Series with Abbey of the Arts.

Later this week, on Saturday, we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord, the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary and her “yes”, or fiat, to be Christ-bearer to the world. We celebrate Mary under several titles throughout the year or in our prayer; Christ-Bearer, Mystical Rose, Greenest Branch, Untier of Knots, Star of the Sea, Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Good Counsel, Queen of Heaven, and of course the more popular, Our Lady of Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe. There are so many titles for Mary that we can reflect upon to give us guidance in our lives.

I have an endless list of favorite saints, some for specific reasons like St. Nicholas, for charity and generosity, or St. Fiacre, patron of gardeners, and I often turn to St. Anthony, patron of lost items, to help me find something I put in a safe place! St. Hildegard in all things; she is a paragon of all the virtues I treasure and admire, mystic, writer and teacher, artist, musician, herbalist, Benedictine Abbess, and so much more. My mother loved her patron saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, for her “little way” while I love the passion, depth of spirituality and desire for reform of St. Teresa of Avila. Both, along with St. Hildegard, were mystics and are female Doctors of the Church.

I have been turning to both St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena during Lent for assistance with my contemplation of the immense love and mercy of Jesus for us. I recalled during another Lent virtual retreat of the contemplation of Jesus’ love for us and desire for our love, as consolation to Jesus, as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reflected on a Lenten letter written by St. Pope John Paul II. She wrote, “the closer you come to Jesus, the better you will know His thirst…Whenever we come close to Him – we become partners of Our Lady, St John, Magdalen. Hear Him. Hear your own name.” (excerpt from 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley). The interesting thing is that reviewing that excerpt, and another book by Fr. Gaitley, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, I was reminded of the role of Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius that began for me in the 1990’s, and again with these books in 2016, and now that I am a part-time team member of Ignatian Ministries. St. Ignatius and others have guided my vocation through the years.

In today’s second reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, reminds us that we now live in the light of Christ. He appeals to us “Live as children of light, now light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” One of my favorite tasks as administrator of the Facebook page for our parish is to share stories of saints on their feast days. We can learn so much from how they lived their lives. We can turn to them for their intercession and assistance in our own lives. We look to them as models and guides. They offer a treasury of examples of ways to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Spend some time reflecting on your own favorite saints and spend some time with their writings or prayers as part of your Lenten journey.

Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints. (final line of the Divine Praises)

All you Holy Men and Women, Saints of God, pray for us. (Included in The Litany of Saints)

Peace, Deena

Image: Two Saints by 20th century Russian artist, Mikhail Nesterov, on The Sacred Art Page on Facebook


Dealing with change

I suspect I am in the same boat as many of you this morning trying to adjust to our Spring Forward time change. The cats are confused, we are trying to figure out our routine this morning. Sometimes change is as mundane as moving the hands of a clock forward. Sometimes it is more monumental like loss and heartbreak.

This morning I got a text from a friend who is struggling with the realization that her sweet dog might be in her final days. I have suffered through that specific change three times in my life. It is so hard! My heart breaks for her today. I have another friend preparing to go out of state for a funeral for the death of her friend’s son, who died in an accident while out of country on a vacation. Two other friends face different struggles each day with their mothers in nursing homes. Another dealing with family addiction issues. Last night when I got home from a fun evening with friends I learned that the Chicago firefighter lost the last two children after his family was trapped in their home in a fire. While working, he arrived on the scene and had to try to resuscitate one of his own children. His entire family, wife and children, gone. All of those situations are tragic, how do we make sense of it? Can we make sense of it?

I just turned toward the window to contemplate the answer to that question – the snow is lightly falling again and a squirrel is happily bouncing around looking for things he buried, probably confiscated from my garden. A saying, part of a famous Zen koan, came to mind, “Chop wood, carry water”. We live life each and every day, the best we can, with as much love as we can give to each other. I can’t offer answers but I can and do offer my prayers.

I don’t mean that as a casual response of acceptance and resignation to the ups and downs of life. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and go on. I think we passionately embrace those moments of sorrow and grief, just as we do the wondrous occasions. As friends, we offer care and love to the other who is experiencing those tumultuous feelings. We understand that we will all go through those trying times and we must love the other as they travel through theirs. This week I read a blog post by Diane Butler Bass, an author and speaker, sharing the Lenten joy of her new puppy and a link to the blog post during the final Advent days of her previous beloved dog. I am sure at the writing of her Advent post she could not imagine the joy that her new puppy would bring. We can’t see it in the moment, we can only experience where we are.

I would recommend listening to Bishop Robert Barron’s homily for the Third Sunday of Lent this week. As Bishop Barron reflects on the Exodus scripture of the Israelites grumbling at Moses on their journey through the desert and the poetic gospel of John recounting the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well, he reminds us that a central paradox of the spiritual life is that grace is a gift, we can’t grasp at it. He summarizes that we grasp at so many things in life to try to be happy and satisfy our longings. A true way to find happiness is to share the graces we have received with one another.

As I again, try to contemplate meaning to each of those situations I shared at the start, I conclude that we can’t grasp at freedom from the difficult moments. Well, we can but it will be futile. They will be part of each of our journeys through life. But, just like our Lenten journey, aware that even the desert blooms in bright flowers after the rain, we look forward to Easter joy.

Peace, Deena

Image by Zack Dowdy on Unsplash


Embracing the Unexpected

On Friday my brother texted to see if I would be free on Saturday night for a visit. He and my sister-in-law would drive from the Quad Cities (4 cities that border the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa) for Mass and dinner. It was a lovely and unexpected surprise.

We had a delightful conversation with our parish priest after Mass. Then my other brother joined us and we celebrated family time together with bottles of wine at a local winery tasting room and then dinner. By the time we got home I reminded myself that I usually write this blog on Saturday evenings. Instead of shifting gears and putting pressure on myself to sit down and write, I embraced the theme of my Abbey of the Arts retreat, A Different Kind of Fasting. Our theme was fasting from multi-tasking and in-attention and embracing full presence to the moment. I opted to write this in the morning, this Sunday morning. When you are used to making sure every deadline and commitment is met, that no one is disappointed, or that I don’t disappoint myself by not following through on a plan, that my friends, was a big step for me!

In another mini-retreat I participated in this week, 5 days of reflection on Life as a Sacred Pilgrimage with Grateful Living, we were introduced to a poem by Maya Stein “in praise of I don’t know“. All week this verse has danced and repeated in my mind and soul “What if we could let ourselves rest for a little while in this halo of I don’t know, feel its soft touch against our urgent skin.” Perhaps that was the invitation I needed to allow change and flexibility in my routine. To be present to the unexpected adventure in my journey through the weekend. We begin journeys with a map but the memorable ones are those when we veer from the path to explore something new.

I woke up early this a.m. to very heavy fog. Everything was still and quiet. I read a morning prayer from the book of Kings, where after walking forty days and forty nights, Elijah encounters God not in the strong wind, earthquake or fire but the “light silent sound”. I let gratefulness for my family, for a lovely evening, for my faith and our parish overflow into a blessing of the day. Then I thought about today’s Gospel reading of The Transfiguration. I am so much like Peter! Jesus, knowing what lies ahead and the despair the apostles are going to experience during his arrest, crucifixion and death, gives three of the apostles a glimpse of heaven and his Divine Presence. Peter immediately wants to organize and put up tents. God’s voice interrupts the planning and reminds them, be here right now, listen.

What would happen in our daily lives if we just paused and listened more? Maybe it’s a poem that you read or a foggy morning that provides some insight for a situation in your life or decision you have to make. Perhaps it will be an unexpected invitation to break from the endless list of “have to’s” and accept the proposition to embrace something more life-giving. It is in those moments that we have to opportunity to listen to Spirit, to embrace activities that will nourish and sustain us.

I think John O’Donohue’s “For The Traveler” conveys this perfectly:

When you travel,
A new silence 
Goes with you
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

Listen a bit more closely this week.

Peace, Deena

Image: A pillar on the Camino heading towards Santiago de Compostela.

I have had a longing to walk the Camino before and after my visit to Spain and seeing pilgrims end their journeys at the Cathedral. So, last year I walked a virtual Camino and this was one of the lovely images shared on the app as we walked towards Santiago de Compostela.


The slow drip of Lent

Here we are, the First Sunday of Lent. I hope it has been a fruitful time for you so far. Between all the Lenten studies, books, devotionals and the retreat I am taking, I have enough content to reflect on for the entire season, without reading anything new. I have been so inspired by all the things I have been reading and reflecting on. My hope is that my sharing my experience of some of them will be helpful to you as well.

This past week I saw a print by a favorite artist, Kreg Yingst (WorkingArts on Etsy) of Abba Poemen, 4th Century Desert Father. The desert fathers and mothers (Abbas and Ammas) were Christians who walked away from their lives in order to intentionally listen to the call of God in a more radical way. Many people went to the desert to seek out these wise teachers for guidance in their own spiritual lives. The print is based on a quote by Abba Poemen where he states that water is soft and stones are hard but allowing water to drip on a stone, slowly it will wear it away. So it is with the word on God on our hearts. Kreg Yingst’s print says “dripping water pierces rock, God’s repeated word penetrates the heart.” This is my theme for this week, perhaps all of Lent, to let the slow drip of my Lenten fasting and prayer practices to wear away the many layers of resistance and avoidance within.

On Wednesday one of the meditations, part of my Abbey of the Arts Retreat, A Different Type of Fast, was with Abba Arsenius, another of the Desert Fathers. We sat in a cave and called upon Abba Arsenius to share his wisdom with us for our Lenten journey. He told me to sit, don’t act (or reach) so quickly. Slowly the desire I am trying to fill will leave and peace will fill the space. As I sat with Abba Arsenius and the wisdom he shared with me an image quickly came to me. It was a boat with holes in the bottom and water rushing in the holes. I saw all the habits I seek to be free of this Lent as my frantic attempts to prevent the water from rushing in, to prevent the feelings from rushing in. Rather than filling the holes it occurred to me to create an open space, with no resistance, and see what happens.

Another source of inspiration for Lent has been Ignatian Solidarity Network’s daily reflection of the theme Finding God in the Chaos. On Ash Wednesday, Sr. Norma Pimentel asked us to reflect on how we might be more attentive to God’s presence in the chaos of our world. The series is focused on finding hope and God’s presence in the chaos of our global landscape. As we do we are challenged to find ways to be part of a solution. That can feel difficult most days, but can I resist the temptation to say that the problems in our world are too big and that I can’t even make a dent in solving the problems? It might be as simple as using fewer paper towels or disposable items in the kitchen or saving money that would be spent on a drive-through coffee and over the course of Lent save those dollars to make a donation to a favorite cause. I believe that as we find more internal peace, calm, compassion and understanding we are more capable of bringing those qualities into the world. That alone can make a huge difference in our families, our work environments and our communities.

During Lent the Hallow app is doing a study of the classic The Imitation of Christ, believed to be written by Thomas a Kempis. If any of the things you are reading or hearing from others feel overwhelming or too hard, I offer the words from The Imitation of Christ, “do not be deterred, nor quickly cast down when you hear about the way of the perfect. Rather be inspired to reach great heights or at least aspire to attain them.” All of our internal efforts will, like water dripping on a stone, result in greater charity and concern for others. We can be assured that there will be outward signs of our inward journey of renewal.

Peace, Deena

Photo from PicMonkey


Is 40 days long enough for change?

Friday morning I had to drag myself out of bed. It wasn’t one of those mornings that I was just tired and moving slow. It was a feeling of dread, sadness, and lack of purpose. I felt I had no reason to want to get up. Finally the persistence of the cats, who were perturbed that I wasn’t following my normal routine, roused me and forced me to move. I need to be honest and admit that I have been fighting this feeling for quite some time. Some days aren’t so bad and I blame it on the weather or nothing special on my schedule to look forward to. Other days I wonder if I should seek some assistance. I have reflected on a thousand reasons for the feeling. A description for the malaise that I find fitting is spiritual desolation.

Later in the morning I saw a post by a former colleague and friend who was recently remarried. She moved away from the Chicago suburbs to be close to family and after moving connected with a past love. She looked so beautiful and radiated such joy, I was thrilled for her! After that I returned to the task of looking for a daily post for Instagram. I found one that seemed to reflect what I felt seeing her joyful pictures and a message I needed for myself – “One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” The quote is by Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist.

If I am honest about my life, it has been one of constant and endless searching. At one point, many years ago, a spiritual director told me that I might just be someone who will always be restless, searching for more, and trying to find meaning. He suggested I might just have to face the discontent and embrace it. As you can imagine, that didn’t feel very hopeful. So I continued searching in spiritual books and poetry, retreats, and study programs to either provide an answer or new insight regarding my purpose in doing God’s will in my life.

I don’t know if it was the pictures or the quote, but suddenly I decided I wanted to cease the search to find an answer. I just wanted “to be” as I heard Brother Paul Quenon of Gethsemani Abbey comment in a short PBS documentary and interview conducted by my friend, author, Judith Valente (link below). Brother Paul said that we don’t need a purpose, that the “purpose of life is life”, “you are to be, just to be.”

I decided I wanted to live more fully in the present moment – to plan for things like my trip to Italy in October versus worrying about my purpose in life. I want to clean and organize the garage this Spring and Summer (along with countless other places in the house) versus organizing an endless list of things to do that will help me feel like I am accomplishing something meaningful. Just being should hold enough meaning. I want to get my hands in the dirt and work with my plants in the garden and then appreciate the slow growth and unfolding.

Lent starts this week. I savor the deep reflection and extra times of prayer during this liturgical season in the Church. I don’t look forward to but choose a food fast of some sort. It is a practice each year that helps me explore and conquer some of the lack of self discipline I feel in my life. It’s a time to turn away from the instant gratification of some desired item and clear a space to look within.

So on Friday I also signed up for a retreat with one of my favorite teachers and her team, Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts. The theme of the retreat is to explore a different type of Lenten fast. Fasts in the way we think and approach life. For me, the thing I desire to fast from is that constant search I mentioned, from needing and wanting more in an attempt to satisfy the need to fill the empty space of who I am and what I have. I want to fast from activities that don’t serve me and fill up my schedule, and attention, and instead embrace more pausing and resting, as I have talked about the past couple of weeks. I want to fast from acting like I have it all figured out. I want to fast from knowing and certainty and embrace “mystery and waiting”.

As I think about Lent, I ask myself if 40 days is enough time for me to let go of the burdens I have placed on myself and have been carrying. As Vinita Hampton Wright says in the video that I have pasted below (and played with rearranging some of her words for my blog post title), yes, 40 days is enough. I hope, and believe, that it is enough time to begin and then continue each day afterwards, so that after Lent there will be a renewal of hope and joy, a resurrection within me.

As you read this, does anything stir within? What would you like to fast from this Lent? Some of you said that the posts on pausing resonated with you. If so, where can you add more moments of pause during these next 40 days, to choose to fast from unnecessary activity to stay busy? What thoughts and activities can you take a conscious fast from? I would love to hear from you, either by commenting or sending me a message.

Let’s take this journey together.

Peace, Deena

More Resources:

Vinita Hampton Wright’s YouTube Video, Lent is the Season for Truth-Telling. This was one of, if not the first video I listened to Vinita. It’s a favorite!

Judith Valente’s PBS interview with Brother Paul in 2011: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2011/05/06/may-6-2011-brother-paul/8764/ The interview and the correspondence that followed led to a deep friendship and also a partnership on a book released in 2021, How to Be: A Monk and a Journalist Reflect on Living & Dying, Purpose & Prayer, Forgiveness & Friendship.

Abbey of the Arts is a virtual monastery and global community that offers programs and resources that nourish the contemplative practice and creative expression. I discovered Abbey of the Arts at the beginning of the pandemic, taking many of the online retreats and programs offered in the course of the 2 years and have continued since. These programs and the virtual community nourished my spirit and filled my heart and mind during the desert time of being at home. Christine became an Amma, or desert mother, who helped me transform the seclusion of being at home into a time of growing awareness of the cave of the heart. It’s time to return there.

Image is a paper craft design I created.


When a message is repeated – listen

When a message is repeated over and over – listen! What do I mean by a message? You read about a topic, it comes up in conversations, you see a social media post that resonates with how you are feeling, etc. I am sure this has happened to each of you and you know what I mean.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about rest, taking time when prompted, to listen to the voice within that begs us to just sit down a minute and be still. I started writing about the topic again last week, but then the blog went another direction because of the amazing sunset I saw and the desire to reflect on the sacredness of threshold places, in which we might experience a different level of awareness and closeness to God. To experience those moments, you have to slow down and pause.

Last Saturday’s daily gospel was the scripture from Mark 6:30-34 that I quoted in my initial blog regarding rest. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The Twelve had been watching and learning from Jesus as he cast out demons, healed and restored life. He sent them out with a similar message to teach and heal. As they returned, they were probably excited, overwhelmed, tired, surprised and anxious to share with Jesus what they had accomplished in his name. Jesus acknowledged what they had done and then encouraged them to rest.

This week the daily gospel readings in Mark continued with Jesus performing miracle after miracle. The crowds grew and people continued to seek Jesus, to learn from him and to bring people to him for healing. Saturday’s gospel, this weekend, was one of the gospel accounts of Jesus feeding thousands by the multiplication of fish and loaves. His heart was “moved with pity” for them. He fed them and then sent them home. Jesus then, along with the apostles got in a boat and left.

This year our Oblate group is studying the Benedictine virtue of hospitality. St. Benedict clearly directs us in The Rule that all should be welcomed as Christ (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53). This month’s study surprised (and delighted) me, we looked at Hospitality to Self. We studied the chapters of The Rule, and commentaries, on The Reception of Guests (chapter 53), The Reception of Visiting Monastics (chapter 61) and The Porter of the Monastery (chapter 66. Yes, St. Benedict even provided guidelines for the type of person who should answer the door and how it should be answered.) We also read from chapter or “Week 2 – Welcoming Ourselves” from Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp and “The Humility of Self-Compassion”, an article by oblate Becky Van Ness published in Oblate News, Saint Benedict’s Monastery (Fall 2015).

Joyce Rupp points out that there are numerous accounts in the Gospels that show that Jesus took time to step away from his teaching and healing to pray or rest. He also leaves places that reject him or seek to harm him. By his example we learn that self compassion is not self absorption, and focus on the self, despite the needs of others. Jesus attended to their needs. But, he also knew when it was time to step back. It requires, Joyce suggests, more than just stopping the inner critical voices that keep telling us we need to give more, be more, care more. We “ask for the grace to change our relationship with that inner critic” states Becky Van Ness. Both authors offer for our consideration, each in their own way, that as we take time to love and care for ourselves, we will have more love to offer out to the world.

This week let’s take a look at moments that we might benefit from a bit of self compassion. Instead of blaming ourselves for the hundreds of times we don’t get it right (according to our inner critic), can we pause a moment, as we might with a friend, to offer a word of encouragement? Perhaps we can greet ourselves as needed during the day, borrowing from The Rule and the guidelines for the porter of the monastery, and offer a warm and welcoming verbal embrace saying “Thanks be to God” or “your blessing please”.

Wishing you peace this week, Deena

Resource Info:

What is a Benedictine Oblate? I’ve attached a link to the Sisters of St. Benedict, St. Mary Monastery, in Rock Island, IL. This is the monastery that I am an Oblate of. You can visit most Benedictine monastery websites and learn about their Oblate affiliate programs.

Oblates of St. Benedict Monastery, St. Joseph, Minnesota

You might be interested to learn that the multiplication of fish and loaves is found six times in the four synoptic gospels, that is, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is the only miracle that is consistently reported in all four of the gospels. Hospitality – Welcoming the Stranger by Catherine Upchurch


When we can’t see but we know.

I had something else started and almost complete for my blog post today but then I encountered the most incredible sunset Saturday evening. It was very similar to the sunset picture I added to this blog but I was driving so I didn’t stop to capture it and to be honest, I didn’t want to spoil the moment. I wanted to keep watching it glow and change in all the regal colors of pink, purple and blue. I felt immense gratitude for a beautiful day, warmer temps (after frigid cold on Friday), morning coffee with a friend and a lovely Saturday Vigil Mass.

As I drove I looked to the left where the evening before I saw 20 or so deer grazing in a field. They weren’t there, I wondered where they had ventured for their evening meal. I turned at an intersection on the edge of town to head toward my house and looked up at the sky to see the beginning of the almost full moon (full today on February 5) shrouded in secrecy due to the clouds.

All of these images reminded me of a drive home many years ago at a time that the corporation I worked for had an office building about 20 miles from my home. I would take a scenic route along the backwaters of the Illinois River, drive through what we, in the Illinois Valley area, affectionately call “The Curves” that wind through Starved Rock State Park and then along fields until I arrived home. Fall, Winter, and Spring, during dusk and night times, you have to be especially watchful for deer on the side of the road, hoping they won’t dart out in front of the car.

One very dark evening, with no moonlight, on my drive home I was being careful to watch each side of the road. I said to myself “just because you can’t see the deer, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, so be careful!” Instantly I pondered that as a reflection on God as well. There are moments that God feels right next to me, nudging and pointing the way, and other times that I have to stop and look hard, wondering where God might be. But my faith tells me, God is in fact there regardless of the circumstances of the moment.

This past week we celebrated the memorial of Irish Saint, St Brigid of Kildare. Her feast also marks the cross-quarter day of the Celtic celebration of Imbolc, which means in the belly of the Mother. It is the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox, a time when all within begins to rumble and stir to life. The Celts believe that these special days are threshold days or days when the veil between the sacred, spiritual world and the physical world is thinner and the spiritual realm more accessible. Like lighting a votive candle in a church, lighting a candle and placing a scarf out for St. Brigid to touch as she passes by, symbolize a belief in the great communion of saints standing by to intercede on our behalf. Most of us don’t see or hear them with actual vision or sound. But not seeing doesn’t diminish my belief in their heavenly aid.

Last year I purchased Braving the Thin Places by Julianne Stanz. It’s a fantastic book that presents numerous ideas for cultivating moments of grace with God by embracing Celtic Christian wisdom. In one of my favorite sections of the book, Julianne reminds us that silence can speak volumes. She writes that children are especially good at seeing beyond what is spoken given their growing vocabularies, being able to imagine and hold on to a sense of wonder, and to celebrate simple moments like walking barefoot in the grass or dirt.

I recall going to my father’s gravesite with my nephew just after his burial. The plot was still dirt covered. My nephew, six years old, stuck his finger deep down in the dirt and said he wanted to touch grandpa one more time. He believed it and in that moment, so did I. For that brief moment, we were in a threshold space, a thin space of touching the sacred world beyond the physical.

I hope this week brings you moments of sensing the sacred in daily moments, moments that you feel the presence of the Divine even when you can’t see it.

Peace, Deena

Resource Info:

Matthew Klein has a great drone video of “The Curves” on his Facebook page. Visit his website for more information about his photography and films, as well as links to his Facebook and Instagram pages.

Starved Rock State Park is a lovely park to visit if you are in the Illinois Valley area. For more info visit their website.


All our choices matter

This past week I listened to a seminar by Tony Robbins. Two steps of a 5-step plan for successful living that he outlined were to choose good role models, and create clear goals, for the type of life you want to live. He also said that proximity is power, the more you spend time with those people, the more likely you are to take on those characteristics and begin to live a similar life. We can’t always be in physical proximity with the people we want to learn from and emulate but there are certainly virtual ways to listen to or even study them. You’ve probably heard the saying that you become like the five people that you spend the most amount of your time with. I think it is true. So, we have to choose those five people carefully!

Saturday, January 28, was the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas. One of the quotes attributed to St. Thomas is “the things that we love tell us what we are“. I invite us to take a moment this weekend and think about those things. To ask the question where we might be focusing our time and attention. Also, to consider who we are allowing to have such a dramatic impact on the outcome of our lives. I understand that we can’t eliminate some people from our life because of jobs or family situations. But we can control how we let those people impact us. We can also make sure that we are finding ways to be with the people that lift us up, to balance out the situations that we can’t walk away from. We have to live the right story. It can be painful to change our existing story if it isn’t creating the life we want. Here is the interesting part, we will hang on to that pain until we value something else more. Of course it is easier to stay the same, but is that the life we want?

The Gospel for this Fourth Week in Ordinary Time is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those mourning, and those who are persecuted, etc. What in this world makes me want those qualities over the opposite of each of those “blessings”? Nothing. That’s right, nothing in this world. It isn’t easy to choose these qualities over the ones that the world constantly presents to us as desirable. We each have to search our hearts to see if we make choices that will enhance the opportunity of eternal life over temporal satisfaction now.

In saying that, I don’t think that the choice means that we can’t or won’t enjoy the blessings of this life while we are living it, graces like joy, happiness, peace or security. It just means that we don’t cling to those things. We don’t seek them as an answer to the question of finding meaning in life. It means keeping a watch on the importance we attach to them.

Let’s circle back to role models and the 5 people we spend most of our time with. Perhaps the choice is to spend time with people that have a proper balance and attitude about the things that matter. We watch them, and we choose, to make choices that feed our mind, body and spirit over things that feel good for a moment. This week let’s take a loving and non-judgmental glance at the people and choices we spend our time with. Let’s reflect on them in light of St. Thomas Aquinas’ quote – the things we love tell us what we are.

Peace, Deena

Image by Chang Duong on Unsplash


Have you ever had a God moment?

Have you ever had a “God moment”? One of those moments that you felt that the Divine reached down and said “I just want you to know I see you, I hear you, I am with you?”

As part of a weekly prayer group, after attending a Light of the World Retreat (a kerygmatic parish renewal retreat), four friends and I have met each week for the past four years (it will be five this Lent!) to pray, study and grow together in our faith lives. We have followed the same format each week, which begins with a prayer of thanksgiving. We then share a “God moment”, move to our reading or study for the week and then conclude with prayers of petition. Some weeks the God moments are bigger and more obvious, other weeks it might be something less dramatic but that touched us in a personal way and reminded us of God’s presence in our lives. It is a gift to hear those moments in each other’s lives each week. It reminds us that God is with us, in big and small ways every day.

This week my God moments caught my attention immediately. They were reminders that I am not on this journey alone, trying to figure it out without some guidance and inspiration. I seem to forget that, a lot! I am grateful that God will use daily moments to remind me to take it easy, pause and ask when I need the help.

Monday, after talking about the value of Rest in my last blog, promising myself I would take time to be still and listen, I was frazzled again. I was worrying about something and was also not giving myself enough time to do what I wanted to get done in the house, get gas in the car and get to my cousin’s veterinary clinic for Butters check up (one of my two cats was recently diagnosed as diabetic and needs insulin twice a day). I got to the gas station and a new clerk was learning the cash register. She made an error which meant my purchase had to be cancelled and re-entered to correct it. I felt myself trying to be patient but looking at the clock I knew I had not given myself enough time. The two attendants had to call the manager for assistance, something wasn’t working right for them on the cancel process. The manager said she had to go outside and pump gas to fix it. Another delay. Finally, “come on guys” just blurted out of my mouth and I knew I failed the patience test. The issue was corrected, I got gas in the car, got on the highway and I called to indicate I would be late. Of course it was fine but I was upset with myself for not getting it all done perfectly and on time.

The appointment for Butters was fine and I had a delightful visit with my cousins. On the drive home I saw my phone light up. I glanced down thinking it was a response to a text I sent after the appointment and noticed it was the Hallow app playing.

I don’t usually play music in my car or listen to the radio. I did a couple of days prior, listening to classical music on the car radio to relax on a drive, but I did not have the Hallow app on. I also did not have the particular “course” that started playing on. I had been listening to Night Prayer at home the day before.

What lit up on my phone? This is the God moment – the phone started playing Stress Management by Reform Wellness, a short 8-session program on Hallow.

I laughed out loud, put it on the car audio to play and said “Thanks God, I appreciate it and am glad you have a sense of humor!” The recording was actually very good, just what I needed to hear. I plan to listen to it again, especially when I feel myself getting upset about something insignificant!

So was it a coincidence? Does God reach down and select the app to play on my phone? Seriously, I don’t know or care. What I do know is that in that moment I needed to take a deep breath, hand it over to God, and trust that everything is ok. In that moment, and through the stress management hints the program shared with me, I felt the Divine saying “relax, breathe, let me handle it”. That is a “God moment”.

On Tuesday I was checking Facebook after work and noticed a post by the Franciscan Sisters of Joliet.

The post was: “Come away by yourself and rest awhile…” Mark 6:31

I loved seeing this on Facebook that afternoon after sharing my blog post on Rest last weekend. It was an affirmation of what I wrote about and a reminder to listen myself. The Joliet Franciscan Sisters are a special community to me. My aunt was a Franciscan sister and my cousin who is still living in Joliet, founder of The Upper Room Crisis Line, has been a faithful member of the Congregation for 72+ years! It was another God moment; a reminder to rest, listen to my own wisdom, trust God a little bit more and through the post, was also a special family connection.

As you move through your week, look for those moments. When you look you will find them. Some days they are big blatant reminders, like lightening strikes, to pay attention and know that we are not alone in the world. Other days they are like a soft breeze, gentle whispers, as if to say “I just wanted to catch your attention”.

The Spirit is always with us, some days we are sleeping and miss it. Other days we are alert and notice. It certainly is more comforting and reassuring to be aware and feel Divine Presence throughout each day. Be on the lookout this week. I’d love to hear what you notice.

Peace, Deena

Photo posted on Joliet Franciscan Sisters Facebook page on January 14, 2023 (@ Sisters of St Francis)


When you are weary – rest

Saturday morning I attended a workshop by my friend and essential oil teacher/mentor, Kate Brown, and several of her colleagues from the aromatherapy school that she teaches for. It was a wonderful event, “Regroup – Reboot – Re-Emerge”, during which Kate and the other presenters shared techniques, and essential oils, for centering, grounding, setting intention, etc. But after it was over I realized I needed more one R – Rest!

I don’t mean sit with a book, the “chill and relax” sort of rest, or sit and mindlessly watch YouTube videos or scroll social media. I can decompress and relax by doing those things if I don’t want to focus on anything specific. I can unwind by looking out the window at the birds or going for a drive. I have apps and a variety of podcasts or programs to listen to that help clear a racing mind, especially if I am intensely focusing and giving energy to something I would prefer not to.

I tend to get involved in a lot of activities or sign up for programs and workshops so that I can learn more. I usually love all of that activity. But I realized I was just exhausted and overwhelmed by a multitude of daily events and responsibilities. I thought about watching my favorite YouTube artists and crafters or getting my daily “Catechism in a Year” video and notes with Fr Mike Schmitz done. But I knew that wasn’t the answer. It was Rest that I needed.

I laid down on the bed. Butters, my ginger cat, jumped up alongside me and we just rested. Not napped, just rested. It was the kind of rest that was like the Contemplatio step in prayer practice, Lectio Divina, the final phase of just resting in the presence of God.

After awhile I asked why I overextend? Why I don’t put more rest time in my day, or even my week? I am not sure who I was asking – myself, God? I don’t really think I needed an answer beyond knowing that I need to take more time to sit quietly, to listen and not talk, to just be.

In Sacred Scripture we hear that Jesus, when the apostles returned after being sent out on their own to teach and heal, told them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6: 30-32)

Why would I even assume that with a busy week of ministry work, parish involvement, caring for my pets, keeping up with friends and family, studying and learning more about my faith and other interests, that I wouldn’t need time to rest and listen for guidance? To pause on the doing of more activities and just rest in the presence of God.

Every night, as part of Night Prayer/Liturgy of the Hours, I recite (or listen to, if using an app) this verse:

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

I think that prayer will have a different meaning for me each night from now on. Instead of just to rest in God’s peace while sleeping, I want more hours in each day where I feel I am just resting in the gentle embrace of God. I want to feel the peace of knowing if I stop talking and start listening during prayer, maybe a bit more of that peace will wash over each day.

If you feel busy all the time, or overwhelmed, I wish the same for you!

Peace, Deena


To learn more about Kate Brown, her essential oil programs and practice, visit Kate Brown Healing Essentials.

Catechism in a Year – study the Catechism of the Catholic Church with Fr Mike and Ascension Press on YouTube or download the study guide and read on your own. It’s still early in the year and the sections reviewed each day have been short, you could easily join in and catch up.

Image: My cat, Butters, resting in the sun earlier in the week. They are masters of rest.


An Epiphany – Thoughts for the new year

Today January 8 the Church celebrates the Feast of the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The traditional date in the Church is January 6, but like so many other Feast Days it has been moved to Sunday. It’s a beautiful text in scripture; the Magi or Wise Men, are called by King Herod to find the child that has been prophesied as a new king, a ruler of the nations. They follow a star, using their scientific knowledge to navigate their course to Jesus in Bethlehem. They bring the gifts of homage; gold, frankincense and myrrh.

We all know the story, the wise noble men, seeking someone wiser than themselves. We have heard various reflections on the meanings of the gifts they bring. We have been asked to consider the symbolism of offering our own gifts to God as we come to learn what they are and grow in our capacity and confidence to offer them in the world.

As I was thinking about what I might write for today’s blog, a multitude of things came to mind. I wondered about the trust that the wise men had to have, in themselves, to follow their knowledge and insights in seeking this unknown place and child king they were searching for. I wondered whether I would have turned around and headed back home when the star didn’t shine as bright or as clear, when the journey was difficult.

I also thought about each day we wake up and try to offer our best in the world. As I sat at my desk I glanced at a journal I didn’t mention last week. I frankly forgot about it when I was writing and sharing some of the journals I use or how I use them. It’s a 5 year Memory Book by Natural Life. Each day there is a space to jot down activities or thoughts for the day. Now that I have started my second year, it’s interesting to reflect on that date, in 2022, and what happened. The title, or thought, on the cover is “Each Day is a Gift”.

On Monday, I listened to a YouTube video by Monique Jacobs, a spiritual director/vlogger I subscribe to. In her video Monique talks about the value of an annual Examen, a practice of looking at our day, or year in Monique’s example, in review. Monique offers the idea of looking at each month of the past year, identifying a peek experience, and remembering myself in each of those experiences, what happened and how I responded. Then she asked that I look at myself as God sees me, to see myself with the loving gaze of God.

As I saw the title of my memory book and reflected on Monique’s video in light of the feast of Epiphany, I wondered, what it would be like if I looked at each day in this year of 2023 as a gift that I then turn and offer back to God?

There is a common prayer practice called the Morning Offering. It’s a prayer said at the beginning of each day in which I offer my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of the day to God. It’s a lovely prayer. I try to say it each day and have even tweaked it a bit to include prayers for peace between Ukraine and Russia, and to include the intentions of my family and friends. I also like to do an evening Examen, to look for the graces of the day and to be thankful. It’s also a chance to view the day for those moments of opportunity to improve and grow closer to God. But what would it feel like, at the end of each day, as I review or conduct an Examen of the day, to offer it back to God as a gift?

As I kneel before Jesus, as King and Lord of my life, I can’t imagine feeling content with the gifts I offer, with the tattered gifts of impatience, anger, self-centeredness or self-indulgence. I can’t imagine…unless I see the loving gaze of God looking upon me, as Monique suggested in her video. Nothing that I can do or present is worthy, when viewed in my eyes. But God’s gaze of unconditional love and compassion is different than my gaze.

All of these stories in scripture remain stories or narratives of a time 2000+ years ago, unless we hear them with the desire that God has for us to be in relationship. The Saints of the Church knew this, the desire to offer what they were to God was stronger than the urge to withdraw because their gifts felt inadequate. Catherine of Siena, 14th century Dominican mystic and woman Doctor of the Church, said in her Dialogue (60) “Love transforms one into what one loves.

May our prayer and desire each day, as we offer the gift of the day back to God, be that we are transformed by that gaze of Love.

Peace, Deena

Image from a visit to Our Lady of Angels Chapel


Planning a New Year – Happy 2023!

Let me begin today’s blog by wishing you a happy, healthy and inspired new year!

I have to admit I love New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I don’t go out and celebrate, and most years I rarely make it to the strike of midnight awake. The revelry of the neighborhood, and the return of the local cement mill whistle, usually wake me. I quickly and quietly greet in the new year. It is actually all the preparation, goal setting and planning, as well as the beginning of the fresh start in the new year, that are so exciting to me!

I am a self-professed planner addict. I have started planning in two and am waiting for 3 others to arrive. Each have their own purpose. The two I have started so far are for work. The ones I hoped would have arrived already are for journaling ideas and notes (separate than my daily journal books), planning goals, and tracking progress. I have also ordered a 2023 liturgical planner that I use for work planning and personal reflection on daily scripture. I’ll add some notes at the bottom of the blog in case you are interested in some that I use. They have varied over the years depending on the planning I am doing and things I hope to accomplish.

In all that planning, I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. That feels different to me – I will lose weight, I will walk every day, I will… I don’t set them because I would have to be honest and admit that I would be in the majority of the population that set the resolution and then forego it by the end of January, or mid February if I am lucky. If anything, I resolve to try to be more authentically myself and a live a life I can be pleased with when I reflect back at the end of the year. I like the process of setting intentions – things I want to be more aware of in life, or qualities to bring more of into my life like patience or gratitude, and to reflect on ways I can grow deeper in my faith life.

There is something about the writing of those intentions and reflections as the year progresses, jotting down new insights I have, or writing about a poem or a scripture reflection that moved me, that help me move through the year with more awareness regarding the intentions that I set at the beginning of a year.

Each year I read (it’s small and a quick read) Notes from a Friend by Anthony Robbins. I bought it when I had my business in 1996 and barely had the $7.95 for the book. (New cover and new price on Amazon.) The point is to be clear about what you want, see the details and write it down with no limits on possibility.

One of my favorite, more recent, rituals is to attend a retreat by my friend and author, Judith Valente, Writing the Prologue to Your New Year. This will be my third year. I was pleasantly surprised to open and read in 2022 what I wrote in 2021. Next Sunday I will open what I wrote in January 2022 when reflecting on the course that the year might take. Writing it and putting it away is a different than the Tony Robbins approach of reviewing it every day. Both clearly set the intention.

Some of my reflection for new year 2023 has been focused on the things that have become priorities, perhaps undesirable priorities, in my life. Early in Advent, his First Week of Advent YouTube homily, Bishop Robert Barron asked us to contemplate the mountains we worship, mountains such as status, money, acquisitions, etc. Things that have highest value in our lives, things we order our lives around and worship more than God. I have been chewing on it ever since I listened to it in early December and listen to it over and over. The other day I saw a Facebook post that really touched me, from Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri, contemplating the presentation of infant Jesus in the temple to Simeon and his prayer of joy having seen the fulfillment of the coming of the Messiah. Fr Petsche asked us if we can name the person we long for on a daily basis. I wondered if in addition to who, I might add what do I long for each and every day?

As I contemplate the answers to those questions, and set a course for what I would like those to be in this new year 2023, I have to reflect honestly on what is most important to me, what is at the center of everything I do? I know what I would like the answer to be, but can I honestly report that most days I live it? Of course I have financial goals and personal growth goals. I want new furniture like the next person and I fretted day after day until I found the right car last month. It’s ok, and normal, to want all those things. But if I had an importance meter when making decisions or expending energy before making the decision, how important are they?

A favorite scripture passage is in this year’s Gospel for today, January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, found in the second chapter of Luke. “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Reflecting on daily life, on the things that inspire or challenge us, is good for us. Things don’t always make sense in the moment but writing as we move through the year, reflecting on the things we want, then looking back on how life has unfolded can help us put things in perspective. It can help reveal God’s hand, and gentle nudges, in life.

One of the responsibilities that I have as part of my job with Ignatian Ministries is to post the weekly blog. As a result I have had the chance to read and begin contemplating the blog written by Vinita Hampton Wright. Our first series will be on the topic of Setting Up our Year in Christ. Vinita kicks us off remarkably! It’s actually because of Vinita and her posts for Loyola Press and the dotMagis blog on IgnatianSpirituality.com that I read and started following Becky Eldredge books and retreats, then ultimately starting working for Ignatian Ministries last year (but that’s a wonderful story for another day!). You won’t see Vinita’s post until Sunday night but it is worth checking out, it’s so good! Visit and bookmark Into The Deep on BeckyEldredge/Ignatian Ministries.

Another process for looking at the new year with eyes of faith that I would recommend is by the founder of our ministry and her husband, Becky and Chris. They have created a 4-week program, Living with Christ: An Ignatian Discernment Process for Intentional Living. For 20 years Becky and Chris have used this annual process in their lives and then in 2021 began offering it to others. They have been reviewing and working on the information and will offer four Zoom sessions on Thursdays, 12 – 1:30 CST, from January 26 – February 16.

Regardless of what your process is, short and quick or more complicated, spend a few minutes as we begin 2023 thinking about the qualities you would like to see more of in your life. Decide whether your faith life could use some sprucing up this year and what you would like to do about it. If you make resolutions and keep them, awesome and congratulations on beginning a new one. If not, what would you like to resolve to be more of this year, BE not DO. I’d love to hear from you and what that might be.

As we begin our journey through 2023 together, I wish you much happiness and joy!

Peace, Deena

Journal Suggestions:

Manifest Your Best Every Day by Kat Gottlieb

Monthly Planner by Cultivate What Matters. Not the Planner Sheets. I have used those in the past but didn’t really use them as designed)

Word and Worship Desk Calendar – Liturgical Planner by Paulist Press

Erin Condren Softbound Notebooks – favorites for journaling. I used the LifePlanner Collection for a few years but decided my other options work better for me. But they are pretty and well-designed.

My daily/weekly favorite format for work and appointments – the last couple of years has been Blue Sky

Image created in PicMonkey


Christmas 2022

On Christmas Eve we heard the Gospel of Luke in which Zechariah is able to speak again after proclaiming his son’s name as John. He recites a prayer, blessing God for sending the Messiah and states that his own son will be a prophet to the Most High. This prayer, the Benedictus, is recited daily in the Church as part of morning prayer. The verse at the end is my favorite and gives me hope every day.

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1: 67-79

Christmas Day the dawn breaks upon us. The Light comes to us.

All of the Christmas Masses from Vigil on Christmas Eve, Christmas Mass During the Night, Mass at Dawn tell us the story of Jesus’ genealogy, his birth, the visiting shepherds, the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and peace to those on earth on whom his favor rests” and then culminates with Mass During the Day with John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This gospel reminds us that those who came before testified to the Light, the true Light, which enlightens everyone, the Light that came into the world for us. To be with us, to show us the way.

This Light does shine for us. Perhaps some days we see it more clearly than others. But it can guide our life to be one of peace, an inner peace that helps us deal with the chaos in the world around us.

My hope and prayer for each of us on this Christmas Day is that the Light shines bright in our hearts and in our lives so that we can bring that peace and hope to those we encounter. May it shine bright not just on Christmas Day but each and every day until we become one with the Light.

I extend wishes for a happy and holy Christmas Day and Christmas Season.

Peace, Deena

Image from a Nativity Scene at my church, Holy Family Church in Oglesby, a few years ago.


Advent – December 18, 2022

The Fourth Week of Advent. Here we are. Typically I arrive at this point wishing I had taken more time to slow down, more time to pray or read spiritual writing, and taken more time to savor the coming of Christmas. I absolutely see missed opportunities in the past three weeks but this year feels a little different. My weekly prayer group, assisting on an Advent prayer guide at work and facilitating two Advent small groups has helped. Perhaps the more we immerse ourselves in something that we desire, the easier it is to attain the desired goal.

This weekend I was reminded of something that a parish priest, Fr. Tony, said to me when we were meeting to discuss my involvement in activities at the parish over 25 years ago. The priest assigned and then reassigned after one year, right before Fr. Tony, was the first one to reach out and ask me to get involved. He not only asked me to get involved, he gave me the task of writing a weekly prayer guide for Advent, with a prayer and reflection for each day. I had never written anything like that before! They turned out pretty good and I found the task of writing each week to be quite enjoyable. I wrote one for Lent as well. Then he was reassigned and Fr. Tony came to Holy Family. I shared some of my experiences of living in Michigan (parish life, women’s groups, studying at an ashram…), interests and ideas I had for Holy Family. He either thought I was from another planet but was desperate for the assistance or he saw potential. I chose to believe the latter.

The conversation I was reminded of this weekend was “I’m open to trying different things here at Holy Family…but before that I would like you to go to the deep, dark incense-filled corners of the church and experience the beauty of the rituals and traditions of the church.” That began a journey that has led me to a deepening of my faith life, an ever-growing appetite for learning about the Church and our spiritual mothers and fathers, and some of most amazing spiritual experiences. Not too long after that I considered religious life, but discerned I wasn’t cut out for community life. I compared and visited different communities to learn about their “associate” programs ultimately leading me to the Sisters of St. Benedict at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island, IL (initially Nauvoo IL). After three years of formation and study, I became an Oblate. Again, the more we immerse ourselves in something, the more likely we will achieve the desired goal.

One of the rich traditions of the Church begins each year on the evening of December 17 with the recitation of the first of the O Antiphons, “Come O Wisdom”. The seven days of reciting the O Antiphons are absolutely my favorite week of Advent. Each of the seven antiphons (Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, King of the Nations and Emmanuel, God with us) have been sung (or recited) as part of evening prayer, with the Magnificat, since as early as the eighth century. The antiphons use images from the Bible that remind us of Old Testament prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ.

My mother was hospitalized in early December many years ago after a fall that required spinal surgery. I visited the large chapel at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria every evening to pray before leaving her and beginning the hour or so drive home. The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the hospital sisters, came to the chapel during Advent and prayed each evening. Seeing me there a few evenings, they invited me to pray with them. Hearing them sing the O Antiphons each night, the final week before Christmas, was a profound experience. I will treasure it and the time with the sisters forever.

I saw a delightful version of O Wisdom, shared by the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies on Facebook written by St. Hildegard. St Hildegard, a favorite saint, was a Benedictine Abbess in the twelfth century. She studied herbs and oils and wrote about medicine, composed chants and sacred music, created amazing art, wrote poetry and was a mystic. She wrote “O Wisdom…hip, hip, hooray! From earthen clay have all God’s splendid wonders sprung, that the new Sun might come forth, the new Light shine, the new Song sound in us!” (oi, oi! De limo Terre in Latin)

There is still a full fourth week of Advent available to us this year. Next year it will only be one day long. Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday of Advent but also Christmas Eve, so we will lose a week of Advent. Treasure the full week this year. And what an amazing week it is! We began on Saturday hearing the genealogy of Jesus, then for the Fourth Sunday of Advent reflect on Joseph’s dream and decision to trust the message and protect his little family. On Monday we listen to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Zechariah’s visit by Angel Gabriel and his disbelief when Gabriel tells him aging Elizabeth will bear a son, John. We hear the Annunciation and Visitation stories, my favorites, scripture passages of Mary and Elizabeth. We experience the prayers, first declared by Zechariah and Mary, that are now prayed each and every day, the Benedictus and the Magnificat, in the Liturgy of the Hours, at Morning and Evening Prayer respectively.

How might some of these remaining days of Advent help you prepare for Christmas? How can we experience the joy that would leave us singing a “new Song sound in us”? With last minute baking, shopping or cleaning left to do, can you create time to enter into the rich tradition of our Church lived through scripture or the praying of the O Antiphons? What do you desire in these final days of Advent so that you feel ready to welcome Emmanuel, God With Us?

Peace be with you, Deena

Photo from Shutterstock on PicMonkey

Visit the monks at St John’s Abbey and scroll down to find the nightly singing of the O Antiphons


Advent – December 11, 2022

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. Isaiah 35

Isaiah continues in Chapter 35 by describing a world that will see the splendor of God, where hands are strong and knees are firm (ok, that part of the prophecy hits home), the frightened are now fearless and unafraid, eyes and ears seeing and hearing and the lame able to leap and move about. The prophet continues to talk about a new world order, as I shared last week. It’s a beautiful vision to hold and rejoice in during this Third Week of Advent.

Today after a parish cookie sale, I dropped off our excess cookies at the homeless shelter. The person that greeted me said that the cookies would be appreciated because there are so many children staying at the shelter at the moment. It broke my heart. You don’t have to look far to see similar stories of hardship, just watch the news. I know families grieving the loss of a loved one as we prepare for Christmas, and in two specific cases, one in my area and another in Baton Rouge, two families trying to navigate life after the suicide of 13 year sons. Weather catastrophes, homelessness, violence – how do we rejoice? Where do we see glimpses of the world to come? We have faith that when Jesus comes again, we’ll see the glory of the Lord. But what about now?

I am in a weekly prayer group that began about 4 years ago after attending a weekend parish retreat. We select different books or programs to study and discuss. We are currently reading the Advent and Christmas Reflection book by Word on Fire, The Word Became Flesh. One of the homilies included for reflection in the book was written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was a Benedictine Abbott and major leader in the reformation of the Benedictine order. He was canonized a short time after his death and named a Doctor of the Church in 1830. I was awestruck! St. Bernard writes in dramatic fashion of the brief moment that the Angel Gabriel is waiting for Mary to respond yes, her fiat. He writes that God needs Mary to respond yes, to give her consent to the angel, for the fulfillment of salvation to take place, and that the rest of humanity waits in anticipation. It is one of the most moving pieces I have read. (The homily can be found in the Office of Readings, for the Fourth Week of Advent, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the “Divine Office” or Breviary.)

I have been thinking about that homily all week. I don’t mean these next ponderings on the same level of importance as Mary’s fiat, but I wonder if God waits for our consent, the decisions we make and actions toward others, to be part of the plan of bringing love and hope in the world. Does God wait for us to help provide hope to those we encounter?

Perhaps God places desires in our heart as way to serve. Perhaps God waits with a similar anticipation for us to stand in our “yes” to those desires, our call.

One of my favorite prayers is by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman regarding our mission in life. It was shared in class when I was in the Lay Ministry program in our Diocese. I have never forgotten it and when I wonder about my purpose or have a decision to make, I often return to this prayer.

This is the beginning of the prayer:

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.

As we try to identify and live that mission, we can live in an Advent spirit of Gaudete, Rejoice. We help our world move a step closer to that vision that Isaiah shares of the ransomed returned and where sorrow and mourning are ceased. If not ceased, maybe paused for just a moment. We enter singing, crowned with an everlasting joy that cannot be filled by the passing moments of this world. We anticipate and look to that day, as we do this Advent for Christmas, with hearts full of rejoicing and joyful song.

Peace be with you, Deena

Image by Shutterstock on PicMonkey


Advent – December 4, 2022

On this Second Sunday of Advent we hear about a new world order. It certainly doesn’t sound like the world we live in today. The world feels more chaotic, like we should be listening to the voice of the prophet John the Baptist, calling us all to reform and repent. Yet, Isaiah tells us of a world that will be filled with justice, harmony, animals that usually attack each other lying down peacefully together, and the ultimate prize, peace for ever.

While we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and again, at the end of time, we seek that peace in our hearts and in our families. Our daily prayers help us to vision the world that Isaiah foretells. They help us to slow down, to listen, to be still in the midst of our holiday shopping, baking and preparations. To see the world differently, to be a bit kinder.

But in the scripture readings for the Second Sunday of Advent, I was most struck by St Paul’s letter to the Romans. St. Paul tells us that the God of endurance and encouragement will help us to think in harmony with one another and that with one voice we will glorify God. He asks us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us. Harmony? One voice? This can seem like a remote fantasy too.

If you have ever visited a Benedictine Monastery, you have experienced that kind of being welcomed that St. Paul speaks of. The community makes sure that your needs are taken care of and that you have someone to guide you to chapel, that you feel included and part of communal prayer. In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, The Reception of Guests, Benedict writes that “all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”

Can you imagine if we spent our days trying to see Christ in others? The person that races up behind you in the car or cuts you off? The grouchy clerk that tosses your items down to the end of the checkout counter like a frisbee? The colleague that says they are listening but is distracted the entire time? The politicians we don’t agree with? The governments around the world abusing our natural resources? I am sure we can all come up with a list of people we are challenged to see as the body of Christ standing before us.

One of the daily prayer guides I use for reflection and daily Mass is Give Us This Day. I read editor, Mary Stommes’ reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent on Welcome. She talks about Advent as a time that exists right now but also not yet. She says “The thing is, the more clearly we see Christ, the more Advent will cut to our core. The more we will realize that hope and hurt are close companions. The more we will recognize our own sinfulness, the ‘harm and ruin’ we inflict within and without.” (December issue, Second Sunday of Advent Reflection.).

I am challenged to look at how I encounter others when I am distracted or in a bad mood. Do I set aside my own concerns and look for the face of Christ in the person standing right in front of me? Can I say a silent prayer for the person that I see as treating me unfairly? Where am I inflicting “harm and ruin” by being angry at or judging others? Are you willing to join me on this challenge this week?

My prayer is that we find opportunities to be kinder, more welcoming and hospitable to those we encounter each day this week. If we can, then I think we close the gap a bit between the way the world is today and the way we long for it to be. We help prepare the way and help make straight the path. We help water the roots so a bud of peace will blossom.

Peace be with you, Deena

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Give Us This Day if you don’t already.

Image by Laura Nyhuis on Unsplash