Why we do what we do

This morning, reading Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, I reflected on the question she and her team were asked by a facilitator brought in to conduct an offsite session to assess where they are and where they want to be, as writers for the Sunday Paper. They were asked “Why do you do this?” “To what end?”. Great questions for all of us. Why do we do what we do?

Many of you have shared in response to my posts from Maria that you started following her after I have shared her articles or that you admire her too. We post sunsets and flowers and graduation pictures. I have friends on “vacations”- one on a long trip to Israel visiting many of the holy sites I long to visit, others now returning from an incentive cruise to Norway as a result of great success with their stamp & paper crafting businesses and recently a group that traveled to Italy with my friend and author, Judith Valente, visiting lesser known Benedictine spiritual sites. I have enjoyed each and every picture they have shared from their journeys. I think we share those moments with each other to make a connection, to have companions for those special moments or to impart some information that we found helpful.

We recommend recipes and great restaurants because we want others to have the wonderful experience we had. We share the ordinary moments that make us smile, like my cats in their new cardboard box, which they won’t let me breakdown yet, or a friend who takes his dogs to establishments in Florida for lunch or refreshment and afternoon music. Are these things going to change the world? No, but they bring moments of happiness as we share them and as our friends participate, albeit virtually, in those moments with us. My morning posts of a coffee cup or an inspirational quote are not going to change your life, that’s for sure, but I hope it gives each of us a minute to pause and think about something pleasant in the world.

I share my love for essential oils, or a new system I have found to reduce pain and promote healing and restoration, because I want others to experience the same benefits I have found. Whether it’s health and well-being, kitchen items or jewelry, I believe that my friends are sharing these items because it brings them some delight or comfort. Maybe that’s what small communities used to be like. People set up their small businesses because they knew it was a trade they were good at and wanted to help others.

I am looking forward to reading a new book I found out about this week from author Kate Bowler, written by her former Yale professor Miroslav Volf, Life Worth Living; A Guide to What Matters Most. To be a complete fan girl of Maria Shriver today, she wrote opening comments to the book regarding her new venture, Open Field, and she said “We are all seeking the same things. We’re all seeking dignity. We’re all seeking joy….seeking to be seen, to be safe….We can all give each other these (spiritual) gifts if we share what we know-what has lifted us up and moved us forward.” Her new venture, Open Field, with Penguin Books is the publisher of this book. My initial sense of the book so far is that it asks all the Questions – questions that challenge us, inspire us to define what’s really important, face the limiting beliefs that prevent us from pursuing it and then start making the changes to get there.

Hopefully we do the work we do, paid or volunteer, because it brings us joy and fulfillment. At some point we must have reflected that it would be work we would enjoy or it is a gift or talent that we have. If it no longer does that, perhaps it’s a good time to ask why not and how we could change that activity to become more meaningful again. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to consider doing something new. It may be a stretch to think about a new venture. My transition from corporate life to ministry work has invited me to use a prayerful, discerning heart and mind over a rational, pragmatic one. It isn’t always easy to change but it may make a difference in each and every day of your life and potentially to the lives of those you impact on a daily basis.

Today is the Solemnity of Pentecost. We celebrate the birth of the Church with Mary and the Apostles but that continues to come alive each day in us. Ronald Rolheiser’s reflection in Give Us This Day for today, May 28, was poignant. He said “We are always dying in some ways, though never dead. We are always alive with new life. But we need to grieve what’s dead, adjust to the new, and let the old ascend. If we do this, Pentecost will happen in our lives. We will receive a new spirit for the life that we are, in fact, living.” Then he made a statement that perhaps is the answer I have been seeking for many years. He said that the Holy Spirit brings about the “dissatisfaction and restlessness” that we feel until our lives, and the spirit by which we are living them, is integrated and aligned. To that I say, Come Holy Spirit! Let us continue to pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear or Respect of the Lord.

Peace be with you, Deena

Image created with PicMonkey


I am with you always

Today is Ascension Sunday in most dioceses. I can only imagine the feelings of the apostles as Jesus reminds them He will be with them always, that He will send the Holy Spirit but then leaves them again. They watched Him suffer and die, He appeared to them after rising from the dead. He taught them and then He was gone again.

I read a reflection this morning, from Conception Abbey, for Ascension Sunday, in which Fr. Martinez shares a connection between the Ascension and the anniversary of his mother’s passing. He shares that he and his siblings came to understand that their mother was always with them if they lived as she had raised them. I think we probably have all had that kind of experience after losing someone we loved.

I will always remember the first time I was going to start planting a garden, the Spring after my dad’s passing. I said “Ok Dad, let’s do this”. I got all my holes dug, tomato plants lined up and knelt down to begin the task of putting them in. I heard, as clearly as if he was standing behind me, “You forgot the MiracleGro!”. I laughed out loud, got up and headed to the garage and proceeded to plant them “correctly” as I watched him do for so many years!

Fr. Martinez concludes that the apostles, and us, as children of faith, do the same if we listen to and follow the ways of Jesus. I am sure the apostles heard Jesus’ voice in their hearts and minds at times after the Ascension, just as clearly as I heard my Dad’s voice in the garden. It is the spirit of our loved ones that lives with us and keeps them alive, always with us, in our hearts. It was with the coming of the Holy Spirit that the disciples were able to go on and be witnesses to Him throughout the world, to be the new body of Christ. The same is true for us.

During the Mass of the Ascension of our Lord, the Easter candle is extinguished. Jesus has ascended to the Father and the Easter season has concluded. The sanctuary light, by the tabernacle in every Catholic Church, reminds us that Jesus remains with us, in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I have seen people walk in a church and genuflect toward the windows, the altar, and a variety of other directions. In newer church designs, it may be that they don’t know where the tabernacle is, so they are just kneeling toward the front which has the altar used for Mass. In other cases, it perhaps reflects that they don’t understand that we are kneeling, in reverence, to our Lord, present to us at all times in the Blessed Sacrament.

If you walk in a church and don’t know where the tabernacle, with Jesus is, just look for the red sanctuary candle. It burns at all times, until after The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday when Jesus is removed during the holy days of Triduum, until Easter Vigil. My aunt, a Franciscan sister, used to make the sign of the cross as my Mom would drive by a church between my house and my other aunts home, during her visits with us. I thought she was doing so because it was a church. It wasn’t until I understood my faith more and learned that she was doing so because Jesus was present in that church, as He is in all Catholic Churches, in the Blessed Sacrament, in the tabernacle.

My essential oil classmate, Pat Brockman Iannone, shared this beautiful photo from her trip to Jerusalem, that I am using today with her permission, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. She wasn’t sure if there was a tabernacle by the hanging candle, but I did research to learn that there is an Orthodox tabernacle in the Church at the altar of Golgotha. Her photo reminds me of the older beautiful hanging sanctuary lights that were used in churches in Europe or older, more traditional design churches. Regardless of the style, the sanctuary lights remind us that Jesus said “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

I still have a preference for Ascension on Thursday, old-fashioned I guess. It provides an opportunity to savor the 10 days of waiting for Pentecost. My team at work decided to take this time for a “mini-retreat” and pray a novena between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost with prayers to the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds as we continue discernment and work toward the official launch of Ignatian Ministries as a non-profit and our new website. This week, how might you reflect on the ways that Jesus is always with you and prepare for a deeper union with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.

Peace, Deena

Photo by Patricia Brockman Iannone. Pat is also an essential oil educator and practitioner. Her website is gingkotreehealing.com. GingkoTree Healing is also on Facebook.

Concluding Prayer of the Divine Praises: May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.


Just a few, but significant lines

First of all, Happy Mother’s Day today to those of you who are mothers, grandmothers and godmothers!

Yesterday after Mass, Barb, a family friend walked up to me to say hello and wanted to acknowledge that she knew Mother’s Day might be hard without my Mom. Their family lost their mom, Anne, not too long after my Mom died. It will be ten years this September, so nine Mother’s Days without her. It is kind of a melancholy day but I will buy a fern for her this week to hang by the porch as I have every year since we moved in the duplex. She had them growing up outside her family home and it was something she enjoyed here. Barb’s comment was thoughtful and I realized later how much I was moved by her kindness.

I spent a few moments looking at the scripture readings for this week and immediately found two passages to reflect on. The first one is one of my favorites in the entire Acts of the Apostles. I actually enjoy Acts, some find it tedious or boring, but it’s the life of the early Church so I find it helpful to reflect on all the apostles and early disciples were doing after Jesus ascended and left them with the Spirit to guide and inspire them. The first one is the first reading for the Mass tomorrow, for Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter. It is Acts 16: 11-15 and is a brief, 4-verse, story of Lydia, a dealer of purple cloth. She is a model and a guide to me as a woman in the church.

I can’t recall when that story first impacted me so deeply but it has been several years. We don’t know much about Lydia, except that she was called the dealer or business woman in the cloth trades, an expensive purple-dyed cloth. Was she a widow? Her husband isn’t mentioned by St. Luke, so she is the head of the household. She was the influential woman in her community and her state in life. After listening to Paul and being baptized, Lydia invited Paul and his missionary group to stay at her home. That’s it, that’s all we know. I can’t recall if the story first touched me, in a new way, when I was in the Lay Ministry Program in our Diocese, or later serving on a Bishop’s Commission for Women, But as a single woman, an Oblate and at the time, a well-paid professional I looked to Lydia as a exemplar of my role in the church, to be bold in my faith and to use my means to support the work of the Church. I also try to be a helpful and encouraging voice to the priests that I have become friends with. They have a daunting task, as do all who are serving the Church as religious. I have shared Lydia’s story with others since she became one of my patron Saints and they have acknowledged that those four verses have not stood out to them as they have heard Acts proclaimed over the years.

My other scripture example is regarding Saint Matthias, whose Feast Day is today, but since it is a Sunday, isn’t acknowledged in Mass prayer. St. Matthias is, like Lydia, only mentioned in a few brief lines in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:15-26). St. Matthias was the choice of the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. He is actually only mentioned in verses 23 and 26, the rest of the scripture is about the process and the prayer of the apostles as they choose a replacement. Matthias became one of the Twelve, one of the early bishops of a fledgling Church – two verses and is not mentioned again.

The influence of another on our lives can be long-lasting, regardless of the length of time they are present in our life, in person, story or example. Some of us have our mothers for a shorter amount of time than we would prefer, others are graced with the gift of many years. Either way to the outside world it may just seem like a few short lines in the large book of our life, but to us, the impact is immeasurable. Let us spend a few minutes today being thankful for the gift of our mother, grandmother, or women who acted like a mother to us. I will remember several in prayer today. If you are lucky enough to be able to be with them in person, then enjoy every moment of it!

Peace, Deena

The image for today is a picture of a statue of St. Luke that I have in my garden, along with a rogue Columbine flower that ventured away from the main plant. Besides being one of the synoptic Gospel writers, it is believed that St. Luke wrote Acts of the Apostles. St. Luke also tells more stories about women than the other Gospel writers and depicts women as women of faith, women who have been healed and forgiven, and women who are part of the community of faith, the new Church.

To learn a bit more about St. Lydia, click here.


For our searching hearts

Yesterday I posted an image on Facebook that said “Do You”. We are all special, each with our own unique gifts and talents. It’s easy to forget in this world of constant social media updates. Of course it is wonderful to see something you want and seek to strive for it! I set new goals all the time as a result of a trait or accomplishment I see in others. But it’s important to remember who we are, as we are. My house might not look like the home of someone I admire, but it’s comfortable for me. My gardens aren’t huge, or even as big as I want them, but every minute of the past two days that I spent cleaning up the flower beds and planting new flowers in pots filled my soul.

I can’t sing, but I love poetry and scripture and perhaps find solace where others do not. I will stop crafting because I see the mixed media art or cards of someone else and compare my art to theirs. But I smile when I think of the words of a crafter I follow, Tim Holtz, when people ask him questions about the way he did something – “You do you!” We all have our unique way of seeing and creating with the craft we enjoy.

But there is one way to which we can all look and find meaning and direction.

Last night we had a visiting priest for Vigil Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. Fr. Do, a retired priest from neighboring LaSalle parishes, said something that kept repeating in my head all evening and this morning. “Without the Way there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing.” I shared it with my nephew as one of those phrases or insights that we can carry with us as a guiding light. But before writing about it, I thought, I am certain that Fr. Do added his own insight and perspective to his homily but was the quote originally stated by someone else? What a gift Google can be (ok, maybe I am a bit freaked about all the AI discussions but still I use it almost daily!). I searched the phrase and found that it is a 1960’s song by Reba Rambo, from an album The Folk Side of the Gospel. No wonder it resonated so strongly with me!

Reba’s verses of the song: “Men are seeking for answers, to life’s questions that never cease. In their lives there is something missing. They are looking for release And the way to peace. He is the way, without him there is no going. He is the truth, without him there is no knowing. He is life now and eternally. He satisfied the searching heart.”

Fr Do said: “From life experience we know, without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living. Following Jesus, the Way, we can be sure we are on the right way, on the path leading us to true happiness. With Jesus, the Truth, we have the correct understanding of human existence and our own destiny.”

What a beautiful example of being inspired by words of Truth and then finding our own way to express it. Be inspired to share the words of Truth and Life with those around you. As Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” As we focus on our lives with God, we can stay clear of the confusion of comparing ourselves to others and it will help us to focus on the things that truly matter.

Peace, Deena

Image from a virtual Camino to Santiago de Compostela


Grateful Praise

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, Praise and exalt Him above all forever. (Daniel 3:57)

The day began with sun shining and birds chirping. It is truly a day to give praise for the beauty of Spring. Even though the clouds are moving in, we need the rain, so we can give praise for that as well. The image I selected for today was taken yesterday during a visit to Hornabaker Gardens, for the New Plant Workshop, with my dear friend, Kathy. The morning started with rain but as the workshop went on, I saw the sun shining and the clouds departing behind Dave and Molly as they spoke to us in the hoop building we were in. It was a lovely morning; new plants, the beautiful gardens and a kindred spirit filled my soul with such joy!

Once I began to pray and become more familiar with the Psalms I pondered writing a book comprised of prayers and psalms of daily praise and thanksgiving. I tend to gravitate to Psalms of praise so I think it would be great to have them consolidated, along with other prayers from great spiritual teachers, in one place. My cousin is working on final edits of her first book in her nineties, so maybe there is still hope for my book.

I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the 1990’s as a result of the encouragement of our parish priest at the time. It took me awhile to figure out and get in a rhythm of moving the ribbons, using the weekly and daily prayers, while moving around the book (I use the Shorter Christian Prayer version rather than the full set of books with complete Office of Readings, etc). Once the lightbulb went on it, using the Liturgy of the Hours has been a blessing to me. I wish I was more consistent, I waver at times and often use condensed versions in prayer books like Give Us This Day, which I have previously mentioned in this blog. The Liturgy of the Hours is also called the Breviary, or the Divine Office, and is prayed by religious and monastics in the Catholic Church daily. It was one of the things that drew me to Benedictine spirituality and monastic life, to realize that someone, somewhere in the world, at this moment is praying for all of us and the Church. I wanted to do that same thing for others.

Quickly Sunday Morning Prayer, especially the Canticle of Daniel, became the favorite part of my prayer time using the Liturgy of the Hours. Various parts of the Canticle are used on each of the 4 Sundays of the Psalter but verses 57-88, used on Week 1 and III, are verses I return to many times, often on days other than Sunday morning. There are probably only a handful of items I would want as part of my funeral liturgy and this Canticle is one of them! Like Canticle of the Sun attributed to St. Francis, these Canticles perfectly praise all aspects of creation and the Creator. They fill me with such joy and thanksgiving.

This week I discovered a new prayer method of thanksgiving, the Rosary of Gratitude. I have used a gratitude journal many times in my life, listing 5-10 things each day for which I am grateful. But I have a few other ways of journaling at the moment, so one more journal to write in wasn’t feeling like a way to be grateful! Our prayer group has selected a new book and study program by Ascension Press for our reading and reflection. There is a video as part of each section of the book. In the video, Fr. Josh Johnson encouraged praying the Rosary of Gratitude. I googled it to learn more about the format and realized it was something I had done before but didn’t realize it was a “real” prayer method. I have prayed the Rosary, the Franciscan Rosary, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy but when I used the beads for things I was grateful for I thought I was not honoring the true intent of the Rosary. What a delight to learn that there are ways to use my beads for gratitude.

I fell in love with it as I prayed. I soon realized that as I entered deeper in prayer there weren’t enough beads to cover all the things I was grateful for. I started with more broad items like being grateful for my family, for my friends, for my home, our parish and our area priests. Within a decade or two very specific things came to mind; Jeff’s successful surgery, Becky’s test results, the assistance I received on a work project, dinner with friends, and as I prayed it this a.m., after reading Judith’s blog about her airport experience, for the goodwill of people that help and that she obtained her phone before boarding her flight to Italy. It’s only been a week but I hope to incorporate this as part of daily prayer and can only imagine the blessings that will come from reflecting on the good things that I experience each day, things that I am grateful for instead of the things that aren’t going as well as I hoped.

This week consider ways you might spend a few moments each day in gratitude for the blessings in your life. Whether it is formal prayer, a gratitude journal, or a few moments basking in sunshine and saying “Thank you”, let’s watch and see what a difference it might make.

Peace, Deena


Hold on to hope

Easter is our season of hope. But it is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by all the news. I know better than to think that if I just ignore the news, stay away from things that are negative or that bring me down, that I will be better off. We cannot allow ourselves to get to the point that we are numb to the news or ignore it. But what is the answer? I thought I have to focus on hope, the answer lies in the hope that things can change.

I contemplated all the news that crossed my path this week. I watched news reports of young individuals getting shot going to the wrong house or trying to get in the wrong car in a parking lot. I watched David Muir’s daily segments this week on ABC Evening News about the issues with climate change and the resulting rains and historic flooding in South Sudan. It has caused a food shortage for the Sudanese, fields and huts are covered and mothers were neck deep in water picking lily leaves for food. That was before the political unrest that broke out in Khartoum. I read the latest issue of National Geographic that the Florida panther, whose numbers were on the brink of extinction, is showing signs of coming back in Florida but there is still reason for concern. As an example, two young kittens were removed to safety when the mother was struck by a car and brought to a facility for healing. When the family was returned to the wild, in a Conservation Center, the kittens were both hit by cars and killed. Is there hope after reading all of that?

Yes, there is. People responded to David Muir’s segment and sent over $2 million dollars to support The World Food Programme. People around the country continue to stand up and demand more restrictions on gun purchases, especially to individuals with mental health or previous issues with the law. Many of us try to make better decisions regarding our carbon footprint and move away from being a throw-away society.

As I sat at my desk doing some banking paperwork, I glanced up and noticed the “little bag of hope” that my cousin gave me last week when we got together to catch up on life. It is a sweet little reminder to look for moments in every day that can lift and encourage. It has a star to wish upon, a candle to remind me that there is light to be found in every darkness, an angel to protect and guide, a flower to remind me of beautiful things in the world, a key to unlock my inner strength and a heart to remind me that I am always loved. It pretty much covers all the aspects of life that nurture and strength hope.

I thought about the visit to an area church on Friday evening to see the relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis and St. Manuel Gonzalez Garcia. I stood in line as people moved forward to venerate the relics and say their personal prayers for intercession, inviting God to help us grow in faith.

We pray because we have hope, hope for God’s hand to reach out and heal us of physical, emotional or spiritual ills. We listen to God’s word, as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus, the Gospel Reading for this Third Sunday of Easter, unaware that it was the Resurrected Jesus speaking to them and interpreting scripture to them. We listen to and reflect on God’s Word, open to receive the direction we seek, solutions to problems.

But still the issues are big, how do we suppose we can make a difference? Then I encountered the words of John O’Donohue, one of my favorite authors and poets, on his Facebook page which his family maintains. I was reminded, in the excerpt from his book, Eternal Echoes, that we can make a difference by staying true to who we are, what we believe in and the hope we hold in our hearts. If we can “find a creative harmony between your soul and your life, you will have found something infinitely precious.” John continues as he writes “You may not be able to do much about the great problems of the world or change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, you will bring light wherever you go.” That my friends, brings me great hope!

So let us look for the little signs every day, those God moments, that encourage us to keep believing in the good in the world. Even though the weather has not completely switched to Spring yet, my plants are resilient and keep growing. The geese show up by the water by my favorite grocery store every year and then soon the little goslings follow their parent geese back and forth across the street from their little home (wherever it is) to the water and back again. The City of Peru added a Geese Crossing sign as a warning to drivers to slow down and keep the family safe. A small light in the world. Together we can make the darkness a little less enveloping, we can bring some light, our light, to the places and people we encounter. Let’s keep that hope alive!

Peace, Deena

Photo: from my photo album, a “little bag of hope”


Peace be with you

Maybe my mood is a bit more somber today because of the rain and gloom compared to the radiant sunshine of the past three days. So, I reflect, Thank you, God, for Divine Mercy Sunday! I don’t know about you but I can be Thomas on many days – I won’t believe unless… I can fill in the blanks with a variety of concerns or issues and then the desired outcome. Even though I have seen countless appearances of God acting in my life and the lives of others, I easily forget and let “dark clouds creep in and cover up the sun” and get discouraged. “We wonder if the sun is still up there. And perhaps we begin to get discouraged as our faith and trust start to waver and change to doubt and distrust.”

This quote is from the book, 33 Days to Merciful Love, by Father Michael Gaitley. I have used this book three different times over the course of seven years and found myself picking it up last night after attending Vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. I prayed the Divine Mercy Novena this week, beginning on Good Friday, and hope to attend a Divine Mercy Sunday celebration this afternoon in LaSalle at St. Hyacinth’s Church. I have had a few challenges over the past couple of weeks, so I found myself opening to the section, Week Four, Into the Darkness.

The book is a 33-day personal retreat (but often studied together in groups, as I did the first time) in preparation to consecrate our lives to Merciful Love. Through our prayer, study and offering we offer ourselves to Jesus and let his consoling love transform us into saints. The book is focused on the life and spiritual teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux and incorporates some of the teachings of St. Maria Faustina Kowlaska, best known for her writing on Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image. I have never been the biggest fan of St. Therese and her “little way”, but somehow her teachings shows up when I need them. My mother had a great devotion to her, so I wonder if Mom is tugging her sleeve at those times that I need a reminder of St. Therese’ trust even in dark and difficult times. Early on in the study we consider that sin (I replace with doubt and lack of trust) comes from a lack of faith in God, God’s Word in scripture and God’s goodness. Fr. Gaitley offers the premise that this is the deep root of the darkness in the world, people act as if God does not exist.

Yesterday, in my monthly Benedictine lay Oblate gathering, we studied Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. A few lines have been on my mind since re-reading the assigned sections for our discussion. In #92, Pope Francis says “We have only one heart…” and any act that would mistreat an animal or another creature, creation in general, is “contrary to human dignity.” The darkness in the world feels that we do not live with that one heart of love and compassion for all we have in this world and for each other. So we offer our plea for mercy as we pray and repeat, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

Perhaps we need to embrace those days that we are more like Thomas and ask for a sign of God’s presence but then wait in hopeful anticipation for consolation versus living in doubt. We pray and place ourselves in the presence of the fountain of Mercy, over and over again, clinging to the love Jesus offers us, as St. Therese did. As Fr. Gaitley points out in a summary section, it isn’t about getting rid of the difficult and dry times in our faith lives, it’s about finding peace, joy and happiness in the midst of all the challenges and gifts of each and every day.

This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, is such an important reminder for us to reach out to the extended hand of our Lord as he says to us, “Peace be with you.”

Peace, Deena

Image: Resurrected Jesus, Side Altar Holy Family Church

My Photo Album


To Live in Love and with Love

Happy Easter! I pray that you are blessed on this day with the joy of knowing our Risen Lord!

I am not sure why but it felt like Lent flew by this year. I certainly made attempts to sacrifice, pray more and change during the penitential season of Lent, so it wasn’t that it was easier than other years. Last week, on Holy Thursday evening, as I visited Altars of Repose at Illinois Valley Catholic Churches, I wondered now what? Will the changes I made be long lasting? Will life, me and my life, return to the way it was before Lent? I know the answer now as a result of two things that greatly impacted me during the holy days of Triduum.

First, on Holy Thursday evening, I brought along my Give Us This Day daily prayer book to use during my quiet prayer time as I visited each church. I opened to the reflection, “Love Like This”, for Holy Thursday by Debie Thomas, an Episcopal Minister. Ms. Thomas shares her thoughts on Jesus’ last acts before his arrest, trial and death. She reflects on Jesus washing the feet of the apostles and that he models to “Love one another like this. Hands-on and no-holds-barred. Love until you surprise people. Love until the powerful of this world feel the threat of your love. Love until the broken of the world are healed, and the starving of the world are fed. Love until love becomes your signature, your trademark, your calling card, your identity. Love until you understand what I have done to you. Love until the world understands who I am.” I re-read that quote at every stop as I contemplated the immensity of God’s love, a love I will never be able to fully comprehend. Reading that, how could I ever end Lent with the thought of letting go of the changes I attempted to make and return to the person I was before beginning my Lenten journey?

Last night I attended Easter Vigil at my parish, Holy Family Church. Twenty years or so ago, Easter Vigil has become my favorite liturgy of the year. I love all the ritual and symbolism, moving from the darkness into the light by lighting the Easter Candle and all of our small candles from the one light, the Light of Christ. The many readings remind us of our faith journey leading to Jesus and salvation. I rejoice with Mary Magdalene and the apostles, as their grief and pain turns to wonder and immense joy in the Risen Lord.

Fr. Paul Carlson shared deeply insightful reflections, as he always does, but the first of his points accentuated the reflection on love that I have been holding since Thursday evening. He said “Our Easter hope and our Easter faith rests on the mystery of love… If we want to see what is true and real, the heart and the mind must be aligned in love. If we notice that at times our faith is weak, we will so often notice that our love is weak.” Fr. Carlson went on to reflect on why it might be that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were given the first privilege of seeing the empty tomb and the Risen Lord. He pondered that perhaps they were given this honor, among all the others that followed Jesus, including his apostles, because of their great love, they loved the most and the most simply. “Our faith rests first upon love.” “We need to love and we need to remain in his presence.” We can’t say that we love God, our Beloved, and then not spend time with him in prayer.

So today, on this beautiful Easter Sunday, I wish you joy and the love that we find in knowing Jesus as our friend, our teacher but most importantly, as Lord of our lives. May we grow deeper in the love that comes from growing closer to him, each and every day of these 40 days of Easter and beyond.

Peace, Deena

Photo – the gift of love, as Easter lily from my brother and sister-in-law, Gene and Stacie.


Making the space

Some of my favorite pages on Facebook are ones that remind me to keep it simple and focus on what’s important. Pages like Simplify Days, Imperfectly Simple or Simplicity Habit remind me that I don’t need to buy the things I used to years ago for the house or to decorate. First of all, I would like to get rid of things before I buy more and if I store the items downstairs, it’s a bigger project to bring them up and down. I seem to have less energy for the decorating changes that I used to do. Lately, it takes me longer to decorate for each new season and I am happier leaving items up all year instead of swapping them for a seasonal adornment.

Saturday morning I read another beautiful reflection from Franciscan Media’s Pause and Pray, the prayer email and blog I mentioned last week, reminding us to not be “possessed by our possessions” and to take things off our calendars so we have more time for rest, prayer and reflection. As we declutter things, from our calendar and our life, we make room for what’s important. It was a lovely consideration, and prayer, regarding many of the things I have talked about in this blog. But still, it was a welcome reminder for me this weekend, after a very busy week, and an inappropriate level of worry because the Easter bunnies haven’t made their way up the stairs yet and a multitude of other projects on my to do list.

So here we are on the threshold of Holy Week, today celebrating Palm Sunday and about to enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical year, as we look ahead to the Triduum; Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter. I am amazed at how quickly we journeyed through Lent this year!

During Lent we reflected on making space for prayer, or to rest, and to simply be with ourselves and our thoughts. Perhaps you, like me, selected things to “give up” this Lent. Maybe you chose to add things that you desired to make time for, like a special retreat, volunteer work or devoting more time in prayer. Whichever way you opted to observe Lent the point of our choice is sacrifice, yes, but also to focus our attention on God instead of the desires that consume us. When we want to reach for a favorite treat or indulgence, but choose not to as our Lenten observance of fasting, we turn our attention to those who have less than we have, or to God, with a request to fill that space with something more meaningful.

As I reflect back on the past week I consider the number of times I let personal or national news impact my sense of well-being and focus. I can be easily derailed by a comment someone makes or the events in a given moment. My Lenten Rice Bowl is filled with dollar bills as a result of giving in to frustration and using language I prefer to eliminate. However, I am finding that, as a result of my attention to prayer and spiritual study, those moments are more short-lived than they used to be. I can get back on track quicker than I have in the past.

If you started Lent with an intention and gave up mid-stream as a result of a momentary lapse, or perhaps never really started a Lenten practice, there is still time to enter into this grace-filled season of the year with a renewed attention on what is important. Our new practices don’t have to be limited to the 40 days of Lent, Easter is a time of renewal and resurrection! We can choose activities and attitudes that bring us more joy.

I loved a statement made by Abbot John Klassen, St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, as part of his reflection in Give Us This Day for Saturday, April 1, “On the Cusp of Holy Week”. Abbot Klassen said “The profound events of this holy time give us space to reflect on where we are spiritually and emotionally – to reflect on how we might open ourselves to the liberating, transformative message of the dying and rising of Jesus.”

Let us journey through this Holy Week, with prayerful attention, immersed in the solemn beauty and ritual of these holy days, with eyes on Easter and the life, with God, we are meant to live.

Peace, may you experience many graces this Holy Week! Deena

p.s. If you desire to enter more deeply into a contemplative prayer practice but are searching for new ideas or methods, you may want to consider a new course that is being offered by Ignatian Ministries and our founder, Becky Eldredge. If you are not familiar with Ignatian spirituality and prayer methods I believe you will find it an interesting and refreshing addition to your prayer practice. It is called Going Past the Shallows and begins this Weds, April 5, meeting once a month for 6 months. There is more information on the link. If you have questions, just let me know.

Photo from my photo library – Holy Family Church, Oglesby IL


A Golden Ribbon of Compassion

I had planned to write about grief, faith and the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the death of Lazarus and Jesus weeping for his friends. We have been looking at grief and letting go of strength, instead replacing holding on with tenderness and vulnerability in my Lenten Retreat – A Different Kind of Fast. It’s been a hard week for that study so I had been contemplating what to write about. But compassion took hold of me in a different way this weekend. I receive a daily email from Franciscan Media called Pause and Pray. Saturday’s prayer inspired me to take a different direction for this weekend. I will share the prayer at the end of this blog post.

It seems like it has been at least a few years that we have heard of an increasing number of natural disasters and changes in our weather. This week we have continued to see California bombarded with snow, rain, flooding and then a tornado! Just this weekend there were devastating, and fatal, storms in Texas and Mississippi. We can disagree what we call it or the reasons for it, but our weather is changing.

I attended a celebration of life the summer after my cousin died in 2019, and spoke with her husband, a retired geologist, and asked him what he thought of the changes we were all experiencing and if we had time to turn “it” around. He advised that climate change was real, talked about ways he experienced it in his studies and that while there was time, it was more urgent than people supposed. I was already a student of Laudato Si’, the first papal encyclical, written by Pope Francis, to focus on care for creation as a moral obligation. So that conversation renewed my personal passion to stay informed and attempt to make a difference.

This week, on March 22, we celebrated World Water Day to promote awareness about the water crisis in the world. There are approximately 2 billion people (numbers vary by source) living on our planet without access to safe, clean drinking water. The concept of World Water Day was proposed in 1992 by the United Nations and in 1993, the first World Water Day was promoted. It may seem like this is only a problem that impacts countries like Africa or areas impacted by disasters like Turkey during the recent earthquakes, but recent issues with the Flint, Michigan municipal drinking water crisis have shown us that issues can occur even in the U.S. Eight years later they are still dealing with the situation! Eight years in the United States; how can we not have the expertise to resolve this, which occurred as a result of switching the water source from a Detroit source to the Flint River? Unconscionable! I switch out and provide clean drinking water to my cats more than people in this world are able to obtain clean water. Sometimes we have to put things in perspective of our use of the resource to realize how fragile it is.

I know it seems overwhelming. It’s hard to make changes when is easier to do one thing instead of another. Then to rationalize it, we pause and ask how a little change in our daily use of resources, like water, can make a difference. It does and it can!

The environment is a common good according to Pope Francis’ teaching. He says there is an interdependence in our relationships with God, our neighbor and our planet. We have a moral responsibility to have concern for our neighbor and the planet we are passing along to future generations. Picking up a six-pack ring (and cutting them open if we discard them) so that it doesn’t end up as a hazard to fish and seagulls in the ocean can make a difference. Every year countless wildlife die due to water pollution. Reducing single-use plastics and disposable products that will end up in landfills and water sources can make a difference. Reducing our water use at home can make a difference. I was astounded to read that an average shower uses 17 gallons of water and a single toilet flush uses 7 gallons. It’s staggering. Maybe we can’t change all the ways we use water each day but perhaps our awareness can prompt us to make small changes. I paused as I grabbed for a small water bottle at a recent meeting, chastising myself for not being better prepared and bringing water in one of my stainless water bottles. I could have passed from taking the bottle, replacing consumption with sacrifice, as Laudato Si’ calls us to do. Seriously, one little bottle Deena? Yes, one little bottle is one less being used. Lent is certainly a great time to ask ourselves to consider how we consume things.

I am going to challenge myself to be more aware, reignite my involvement in Care for Creation and remind us, occasionally, of our impact on the planet. There is a Lenten action calendar on the Laudato Si’ Lent website and there are great suggestions, and an abundance of information, on the World Water Day link, please check them out and consider how you might make small changes in the use of the resources of our common home.

The prayer from Franciscan Media’s Pause and Pray on March 25:

In meditation,
imagine our threatened,
blue-green planet and its people,
with their hungers, wars, joys.
Then see this globe wrapped 
in the gold of compassion,
brought by you and millions of others like you.
From horizon to horizon, it shimmers.
Humanity heals. 

Peace, Deena

Image from Resources for World Water Day 2023