To the elderly in America,
Do you have white hair and wrinkles? Perfect! This letter is for you. Maybe this letter will never reach you because I have a small audience, and well, if you’re anything like my grandparents, you refuse to touch computers. I am a young, American mother and I want to tell you something. I am sorry if our country and the people in it have made you feel worthless, insignificant, and as though you have nothing to offer. We have made you feel as though you are a great burden to us. You are not a burden; you are a great blessing! You are filled with treasures, collected over many years. Though you cannot labor with your hands, you have much to offer. Your love, your life experience, your wisdom, your stories. Please share them with us. I want to learn about gardening, quilting, loving my husband, and raising children. Do you know about these things? Tell me what you know. Share with me. Teach me. Mentor me. I want to learn from you.
Sometimes, when I am out and about, and I see an elderly person walking with downcast eyes and a long face. Why do they look this way? Maybe their arthritis aches them as they walk. Maybe their sick spouse just breathed their last. Or maybe they don’t see the point in looking up because they are sure they will not see any compassion in anyone’s eyes. Perhaps you will not get kindness from everyone, but I am waiting to greet you with a smile and a kind word. Look up.
I often think of my three living grandparents, a state away, and I wonder what will become of them when they can no longer live in their house by themselves. My husband and I would gladly welcome them into our home to care for them and love them. I have a feeling, though, that they would not accept our offer. Is it because they are scared to be in a new place, far away from the one that was so familiar to them? Or is it because our society has told them they are a burden who would weigh us down and suck the enjoyment out of our young lives? It breaks my heart to think that it is probably the latter. You are not a burden; you are a great blessing. You have so much to offer with your loving presence and hard-earned wisdom. Please bless us with your presence. And by the way, a little extra work doesn’t scare me. If it did, I never would have chosen to become a mother.
You have great value in my eyes whether you raised babies or fought overseas, whether you were a postal clerk or homemaker, carpenter or businesswoman. You are priceless. You have something unique and valuable to offer this world until your very last breath. Wear your wrinkles and white hair with pride, like a medal of honor. They represent your wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Not all of us wish to cast you aside like yesterday’s garbage. Some of us want to love and be loved by you.
There is one widow I met at church who has made a great impression on me. She lost her husband and lives alone, but she is filled with joy and a sturdy knowledge of her precious value and worth. She has invited me to volunteer alongside her at a food pantry and to catch a bite to eat with her at McDonald’s to chat. When she has not heard from me in a while, she calls just to see how I am doing. I affectionately call her my “old lady friend”. I want to be like her when I grow up. I want to always have a smile for others, be able to identify what I can offer to others at each different stage in my life, and when I can give of myself no more, be able to graciously receive the gift of others’ love.
“Do not rebuke an older man, but appeal to him as a father…older women as mothers…” 1 Timothy 5:1-2
We are a family of three hoping to grow into a family of four. Our adoption home study has been approved and we are officially a “waiting family”! We are so excited and grateful that our family is growing! Recently, our two-year-old developed a health-related issue that requires medical oversight and treatment. We are trying to work our way out of a daunting stack of medical bills as well as adoption expenses. If you support our mission to expand our family through adoption, please take a look at these items we are selling to raise money for our adoption… Hearts Stitched Together. The proceeds from these sales will help us along our journey as we adopt our second baby. Thank you and God bless you!
The highest mountain in Wales is Snowdon. Nearby lies the village of Beddgelert. “Bedd” is the Welsh for “grave”, so “Beddgelert” means “the Grave of Gelert”. This is the story of how the village got its name. A chieftain called Llewellyn had a faithful dog called Gelert. At home the dog was gentle, but was fierce in the hunting pack. One evening, Llewellyn rode back towards his castle, having missed his dog during the day. He heard his barking, but could tell that something was wrong. The dog did not bound forward to greet him, but lay low on the ground, licking his lips. As Llewellyn got off his horse, he could see in the dim coat and face had blood on them. Llewellyn ran into the castle, and found a trail of blood and signs of a struggle. He rushed upstairs and saw more blood. Behind him came his dog, limping slowly. Llewellyn’s eyes were drawn to his baby’s cot where his son should have been lying. The sheets were torn and covered with blood and, now, at his side, stood his blood-covered dog, Gelert. Llewellyn could think of only one thing, and cursed his dog: “You have betrayed my trust and killed my child” – and he plunged his sword into the dog. No sooner had the dog died, than Llewellyn heard his baby son cry in the next room. He rushed in. There, next to his child, was the torn and mangled body of a huge wolf. His dog had, after all, been faithful and brave, and had been injured in defending his master’s child from the wolf. Happy as Llewellyn was that his child was alive, he knew that he had drawn the wrong conclusion from what he had seen. He had not relied on his past experience of his faithful dog. But nothing could be changed. He buried his dog with great sadness. There, beneath a mound of stones, Gelert’s grave can still be seen today in the village called “Gelert’s Grave” – Beddgelert in North Wales.
Let us pray:
God our Father,
the Bible reminds us
that your love for each of us is great
and that you are faithful for ever,
never letting us down.
to value friendship and loyalty,
and grow in faithfulness
to those who love and trust us.
This is an excerpt from the page of this date in ‘Praying Each Day of the Year’, a 3-volume book by Nicholas Hutchinson, FSC.
How many times have I looked around at the evidence before my eyes only to unfairly conclude that God is not looking out for my best interest, not protecting me, not being faithful to me, not loving me?
It was no coincidence that God allowed me to stumble upon this story and reflection this morning. Last week was a rough one. Really rough. As I faced yet another dreadful challenge, I begged God to spare me from this particular suffering. Not only did He not spare me, He allowed me to go undergo this particular suffering twice in the same evening. Every time I began to recover from one misfortune and catch my breath, I was given yet another. Rather than continuing to trust that God was doing this for my own good, I looked only at the ugly evidence before my eyes. I unfairly concluded that He was not looking out for my best interest, not protecting me, not being faithful to me, not loving me.
Lord, forgive me for thinking this way and jumping to nasty conclusions. Help me to trust in your will. Help me to know and believe that you are working out all things for good in my life. When all I see is ugliness around and my human mind is tempted to draw the wrong conclusions, elevate my thoughts to know you must be doing this for a reason, for my own good, and for your greater glory. In you, I want to live and move and have my being.
“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” Acts 17:28
I love you,
Disperser of tidy piles
Derailer of trains of thought
Stainer of clean clothes
Soiler of newly changed diapers
Scatterer of household items
Destroyer of breakables
Exhauster of my caffeine consumption
Disheveler of neat appearances
Gobbler of prepared food
Strainer of back muscles
Interrupter of conversations
Ignorer of my instructions
Undoer of all my hard work
I love you with all of my heart! I love the way you challenge me every day. You test my heart, mind, soul and body. You help me to reach new goals and push myself just a little further than I thought I was capable of going. You’ve made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. You’ve helped me become a better person. You’re helping me develop into the person I want to be… more selfless, thoughtful, creative, resourceful, empathetic, humble and disciplined. You undo all of my hard work each day so I that I have a chance to do it with more love tomorrow. Some may think my job to care for you is a boring, repetitive lifestyle. I think, however, that you are offering me a new chance every day to do it better than the day before. Each day this little person guides me closer to the woman God knows I am capable of becoming.
Each new day I hope for…
- more choosing joy, less crying over spilled milk;
- more gratitude for my many blessings, less worrying about the things I cannot change;
- more soaking up time with you, less guilt about the times I was not able to focus on you.
How can one embrace this condition of motherhood which sometimes feels so burdensome, exhausting and irritating? How can one love a “pebble in their shoe”? Because this is way Christ loves us. I am the un-doer of all of His hard work, the forgetter of His many good gifts, and the ignorer of His instructions. Yet He loves me, delights in me, and rejoices in me! He teaches me how to love unconditionally, even when the one we love works against us, even when we have to carry the heavy burdens of the ones in our care. He loves me, the pebble in His shoe. And I love my little pebble too. I’m so glad you’re mine to carry.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30
The hubs and I are approaching our 6th anniversary, June 16th. Thanks be to God! We were married on the weekend of the Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Here are a few quotes that have shaped our marriage thus far:
1. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”
OK, not really. We are all from the same planet, created in the image and likeness of God. But, let’s be real. There are days when it really feels like we’re from two different planets, maybe even two different solar systems. Sometimes, with the natural fluctuation in moods, hormones, amount of sleep, sources of stress, etc. in the midst of my less-than-perfect days, I begin to daydream about going back home to Venus and escaping this mess. (That is why, dear friends, we should never make life-altering decisions when we are at a low point). I have my bad moments (and days); we all do. But you know what? Most days, I see that God is doing beautiful things in my life and I am filled with joy. Escaping back to Venus is not the answer. The answer is embracing my life and allowing God to continue to mold me into the woman He knows I am capable of becoming. I want to continuously ask God to help me to be truly grateful for every good thing He has surrounded me with and to share that beauty, joy, and goodness with all whom I meet, especially my beloved spouse.
2. “Marriage Takes Three.”
Our dear friend, Laura (now Sr. Amata Filia) cross-stitched and framed these words for a wedding present to us. It hangs on our bedroom wall. “I once thought marriage took just two to make a go. But now I am convinced it takes the Lord also. And not one marriage fails where Christ is asked to enter. As lovers come together, with Jesus at the center. But marriage seldom thrives and homes are incomplete til He is welcomed there to help avoid defeat. In homes where Christ is first it’s obvious to see, those unions really work, for marriage still takes Three.”
3. “Totus Tuus”.
This was Pope John Paul II’s apostolic motto. It means “totally yours”. Following the example of a married couple whom we admired very much, we had these two words engraved on the inside of our wedding bands. Through these words, we hope to be reminded of three things: 1) we give ourselves completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; 2) we entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, knowing that her prayers and example will guide us ever closer to her Son, Jesus Christ; and 3) we give ourselves completely to each other, without reservation, wholly and entirely, until death separates us.
4. “Marriage is the halving of all our sorrows and the doubling of all of our joys.”
Let us be so unified in heart, mind, and soul, that we help carry the burden of each other’s suffering and that we share and multiply each other’s joy. We were made for community, for union. How much sweeter life is when I can share my joy with my beloved and how much less pain stings when there is someone to offer support and comfort.
5. “Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.”- Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II taught me that “To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.” Lord, give me a servant’s heart. Let me seek to serve rather than to be served.
6. If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will. –Abraham Lincoln
Every time I am tempted to focus on my spouse’s weaknesses, let me fight that impulse by making a mental or written list of all of their strengths. He has far more strengths than weaknesses. I am blessed to have a VERY GOOD husband. What good will come of focusing on the bad? If I dwell on his strengths, I may find myself growing in appreciation for those strengths and offering words of support and encouragement rather than contempt and disrespect.
Lord, thank you for my spouse. Thank you for inspiring us to fall in love. Thank you for our marriage. Please help us to always be faithful to the vows we made to each other in your presence on June 16, 2007. Help our marriage to be pleasing to you. Help us always to be of one heart, mind, and soul. Please be the center of our marriage and our family. Allow us to be a light in the darkness. Use us to accomplish your holy will. Totus tuus.
One month ago, when the doctors were first trying to determine what was wrong with our son, Dominic, initial assessments led us to believe he had a malignant tumor in his left femur that was aggressive and fast-growing. I couldn’t help but wonder how many days we had left to spend with our precious son. I couldn’t sleep that night, our first overnight stay in the hospital. I lie awake, barely able to breathe as I thought about all the things I would miss about him and wondering how I would be able to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and carry on with life. My mind flashed images of his smile, his mannerisms, and all of the wonderful memories we’ve made as a family. Suddenly, I remembered a similar time about two years ago when I thought I might have to let go of Dominic forever…
It was July 2011. Dominic was almost four months old. Without going into the legal details of our adoption, I will summarize by saying we had to wait until Dominic was four months old before we knew whether or not he would be able to stay in our family. It was a long, hard wait, but we loved him with all our hearts knowing that we may have to say good-bye. Ever since Dominic was born, I loved reading books to him because it’s something my mom always did for us and it is one of my favorite memories of my childhood. One day, when we were still in the waiting period of not knowing whether Dominic would be able to stay with us, I went to the bookshelf and randomly pulled off a childrens’ Bible story- Isaac and Rebekah. I began reading it to little Dominic with great love and joy, until I reached the words that brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes,
One day, Abraham again heard the voice of God. “Do you love me, Abraham?” God asked. “Of course, my Lord. I love you with all my heart,” Abraham answered. “Then you must prove it.” God said. “Give me the dearest thing that you have.”
By this point, the story stopped because I couldn’t go on. I imagined God having this same dialogue with me. “Do you love me, Christine?” God asked. “Of course, my Lord. I love you with all my heart,” I answered. “Then you must prove it.” God said. “Give me the dearest thing that you have.” I knew I had to be willing to offer my son back to the Lord. My son was a precious gift from the Lord, but I loved God’s will even more than anything and anyone on this earth. So, at that moment, I made an act of the will to offer Dominic completely to God. When Dominic was four months old, it was determined that he would be able to legally and permanently become our son. Thanks be to God!
One month ago, lying on the bed-couch in the hospital room wide awake, I thought back to two years ago to that story, that feeling, that act of the will. It was happening all over again. I might lose him forever. I might have to say good-bye. Again God said, Do you love me, Christine?” “Of course, my Lord. I love you with all my heart,” I answered. “Then you must prove it.” God said. “Give me the dearest thing that you have.” There, in that hospital room, I had to give him back to God again. The pain was sharper and deeper this time. We had made many more memories together and formed an everlasting bond. The thought of living without him made it hard to breathe. I offered him back to the Lord again, continuously asking God to give me the grace to embrace His will. I know and believe that God’s will is what is best for us and what will ultimately lead to our total happiness. Living in His will is the only way to live.
Over the next few days at the hospital we were given a brighter prognosis for Dominic’s future. Now we know that his disease is treatable and has a high chance of being cured. Thanks be to God! God has again granted us more time with our little boy. May we not take it for granted. May we cherish every moment together, even the difficult moments. What a beautiful life!
“We are yours, O Jesus, and all we have is yours.”
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
Before our son came into our life, the most gut-wrenching sorrow I’d ever experienced was imagining the rest of my life with no children. Now that we have been blessed with a child, I have encountered a new hurt- that of watching one’s child suffer. If I did not believe in the value of suffering, I might allow despair and anger to consume me. This is the story of how I have decided to “consider it all joy”…
Our son, now two years old, was recently diagnosed with a rare auotimmune disease called Langerhans Cell Hystiocytosis (LCH). He has endured so much these past few weeks. I wish I could take his pain upon myself, but I can’t. I would take every needle stick, finger prick, incision, ache, pain, fear & anxiety if I could. I can’t take away his pain or take it upon myself. What I can do is begin to teach him how to suffer in union with Christ for the good of God’s kingdom. Suffering is not worthless. It is quite the opposite, actually. Suffering is sanctifying and redemptive for ourselves and others. All of us must endure suffering on this earth. God is simply allowing my son to begin learning how to suffer well at a very young age. Blessed be God!
I invite you to picture a mother watching her adult son train to be an Olympian. Hours of grueling practice, competitions, sacrifices, and physical pain had to be endured in order to perfect his skills and be his best. The mother suffered too as she watched the son endure much suffering, but it was all so worthwhile when the pain was not in vain. She watched with pride and joy as the medal was placed around his neck and he was proclaimed an Olympic champion. Now consider that my little one is in training, not for the Olympics, but for heaven. The pain he endures is living with this disease in his body and fighting to overcome it. The reward sought is eternal happiness. Mothers hate to see their children suffer, but would the Olympian’s mother wish to put an end to her son’s training, dreams, and goals for the sake of preventing the pain and suffering he would have to endure? Or does she choose to console him and cheer him on through his pain for the sake of a greater goal?
My truest desire for my children is that after their earthly lives, they would be with Jesus Christ in heaven for all eternity. This particular path of suffering is God’s plan to make saints out of us. It is not a punishment, but an invitation to make our hearts like unto His. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for your careful consideration of what I (and my family members) need in order to grow in holiness. You do not allow me to suffer because of a lack of love for me, but rather out of your great love for me. Lord, do not let our suffering be in vain. Make us into saints! If to become a saint, I must go through this fire, then please give me the grace to walk through the fire with gratitude, trust, hope, and joy.
Many people pray for miraculous cures. There is nothing wrong with doing this, provided that we temper it with “not my will but yours be done”. I prefer to just cut straight to the chase and ask God to help me embrace His will. What if this particular cross is absolutely necessary to make saints out of myself, my husband, and my child(ren)? Then, I would be a fool to beg God to make it disappear. I prefer to pray that this suffering not be in vain, but be as effective as possible in making my heart reflect the heart of Christ and in making our little family of three a holy family.
Dear Lord, help our family to draw close to you. Make our hearts like unto thine. Help us to embrace your will by giving a hearty “yes!” to your plan for our future. We love you! We love your will! We are grateful for your tremendous love. We thank you for your beautiful and perfect plan for our family. Please help my husband and I to be more united in your will than ever. Help us to cooperate eagerly with your plan. Help us to “consider it all joy”. Amen!
Redemptoris Custos, or Guardian of the Redeemer, is an apostolic exhortation delivered by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1989. The exhortation has six main parts: I. The Gospel Portrait, II. The guardian of the mystery of God, III. A just man, a husband, IV. Work as an expression of love, V. The primacy of the interior life, and VI. Patron of the Church in our day.
I will highlight some main points from sections 2, 3 and 5, but I highly encourage you to read the full text here if you can: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos_en.html (Note: All words in italics are the written words of Blessed John Paul II from Redemptoris Custos. The non-italicized words are questions of reflection I have created based on the exhortation).
Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.”
- Do I support my spouse in his roles and encourage the use of his God-given gifts and talents?
- Do I know and believe that I have been placed by God on my spouse’s path?
- Do I seek to journey on the path of the pilgrimage of faith by his side or do I take frequent detours, get easily distracted, or seek to go my own way?
Analyzing the nature of marriage, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas always identify it with an “indivisible union of souls,” a “union of hearts,” with “consent.”(15) These elements are found in an exemplary manner in the marriage of Mary and Joseph. At the culmination of the history of salvation, when God reveals his love for humanity through the gift of the Word, it is precisely the marriage of Mary and Joseph that brings to realization in full “freedom” the “spousal gift of self” in receiving and expressing such a love.
- Do I seek to be one in heart, mind, and soul with my spouse?
- Do I consider my spouse’s love a gift and desire to give the gift of myself (heart, mind, body, soul) to my spouse?
- Do I try to love and give of myself without counting the cost?
“…the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.
- Do I view this as the mission of my family?
- How did the Holy Family carry out this mission on a daily basis at home?
- In what ways can I/ we do a better job of guarding, revealing, and communicating love to each other?
This bond of charity was the core of the Holy Family’s life, first in the poverty of Bethlehem, then in their exile in Egypt, and later in the house of Nazareth. The Church deeply venerates this Family, and proposes it as the model of all families.
- Is charity the core of my family’s life?
- Do we allow charity to bond us and strengthen us through financial hardships, loss, suffering, etc.?
Already at the beginning of human redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in St. Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands.
- Am I, like St. Joseph, ready to be obedient to God and faithfully carry out his commands? Do I ask God daily to help me follow his will?
“…the Church has implored the protection of St. Joseph on the basis of “that sacred bond of charity which united him to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God,” and the Church has commended to Joseph all of her cares, including those dangers which threaten the human family.”
- Are there any dangers which threaten my family that we can entrust to the intercession of St. Joseph (physical, emotional, spiritual)?
St. Joseph, universal patron of the Church, pray for us!