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.


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