Summertime, let’s make the living easy

I read a quote posted on social media this morning from an author and “behavioral change” expert I follow, Karen Salmansohn that said “Sit. Breathe. There are 1440 minutes in a day. You can use 3 of them for self care.” I have been challenging myself to do it more – more pauses to breath, to sit on a patio for a few minutes with the cats to listen to the birds and enjoy my flowers, to make a cup of tea, or to read. Simply, more savoring the moment and giving myself permission to pause.

I recall from trips to Europe that there were times in the afternoon when the shops closed and people rested. A riposo (in Italy or siesta in Spain) is a time to break from the summer heat, have a meal, and spend time with family. The English have the lovely tradition of pausing for afternoon tea. In the past that might have been an energy drink or tea at my desk, which is getting up but not really pausing. I am being more intentional about taking a break after working in the morning and early afternoon, before starting my errands or tasks, to take a few moments of quiet rest or stillness. You might still be at work full-time so this sounds impossible, but perhaps it could be to step away from your desk to the break-room area or a picnic table outside. I wonder how the rest of the afternoon might go after a few relaxing minutes?

Over the past few years the invitation to make Sunday the “Lord’s Day” has hit home for me. It was harder to do when working full-time than it has been the past couple of years, but I have been pausing on Sunday to read, journal, pray and reflect or spend time with family. It is not a day for errands, washing clothes or cleaning. In the Chapter 48 of the Rule of St. Benedict, the guidance is to use Sunday for reading. In Jane Tomaine’s book, St. Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living, we are reminded that Benedict creates a balance of daily activities that are comprised of “work and prayer, study and recreation, rest and activity, time alone and time together”. Taking time for self-care, physical and spiritual, is an important aspect of this balance. Jane reminds us that even St. Benedict allowed a time of rest for the monks, on their beds, after lunch.

Yesterday, after watering the flowers and plants in the landscaping, I paused to rest from the heat but also to enjoy the beauty of the plants flourishing around me. For those of you with school children or grandchildren, the school year has concluded. Days and activities change, days at the pool or evening baseball games are now part of the schedule. How can you find a moment to enjoy the time outside allowing it to restore and nurture you, despite the busy schedule. Of course, don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun too!

If I have learned one thing living with cats it is to stretch and take long naps. Even though they are in the house with the air conditioning, they seem to slow down a bit in the summer, savoring the time to rest during the afternoon heat.

I was reminded of the song Summertime this morning when I sat down to write this. I thought you might enjoy a couple of different renditions of the song. Stop for a few minutes, pause and breathe as you listen to one or all of them.

Peace, Deena

Ella Fitzergerald: Summertime

Norah Jones: Summertime

George Gershwin’s Summertime by the All Virginia Orchestra 2014


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 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