Thursday, May 5, 2016

day five ~ to reconcile...


You can start here friends...

Today I want to dig a little deeper into the whole idea of reconciliation. This is a topic Pope Francis has talked about a lot recently, especially during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. 

"Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests - Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession.”
Pope Francis, April 2016 

What does it mean to reconcile? The Merriam/Webster Dictionary states that to reconcile is to restore to friendship or harmony, to  settle or resolve differences. The church teaches that reconciliation restores right relationship with The Lord. 

If you think of your soul as a window, sin acts as kind of a blackout paint. Every time we sin, there is more black, therefore we can't see Our Lord as clearly. There is a disturbance in the Force as my son says. The more we sin, the darker the paint. Mortal sin actually takes the window out of the frame, the train off the tracks, the computer off-line. 

Confession is a gift given by the Church to help restore our relationship with Jesus. It allows us to get things back on track. It's a moment of tremendous grace and I have learned to love confession. I still get nervous and scared actually naming my sin. It's hard for this proud woman to admit my wrongs to anyone let alone the King of Kings. But man do I feel good when it's done. 

Don't allow the weight of your sin to keep you down. Let the Lord to release you from the shame and the hurt of messing up. Allow reconciliation my friends. It's how the Lord wishes to love us. To forgive and to forget all the wrong doing and enter back into right relationship with Him. 

It's time to clean those windows.

Let Our Lady lead you to her Son. Ask for her intercession on your behalf with Jesus, to remove any fear from your heart and help restore that most intimate relationship with Jesus. What boy says no to his Mama? Not this one I assure you. 

Pray with me won't you:

Dearest Mother Mary, 

I am scared. I messed up. I have broken my promises to your son time and time again. I need to make it right with your son, Jesus. Please be with me, pray with me, ask your son to smile upon me as I humbly come before him asking for forgiveness for all I have done wrong. Thank you Mother Mary for not leaving my side and for always encouraging me to come and lay my sins at the foot of the cross where your son paid the price for my shame. 

We ask this is the name of your son Jesus, 

Amen    

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

day four ~ it's in the name...


You can begin her friends...

We are in the midst of First Communion Season at my parish and it brings back very sweet and not so sweet memories of my own First Communion and First Reconciliation. After all, if you are going to receive Our Lord, you want to make sure the inside of your soul is as clean as it can be.

Confessing my sins has never been my favorite thing to do. Taking ownership for what I have done wrong, is still a challenge for me. Must be my Irish pride or my stubborn German heritage. I am genetically predisposed to not enjoy the process. After all, I am perfect aren't you?

My First reconciliation was a Wednesday morning in late April a few weeks before my First Communion. How do I remember that? Trauma sticks with you people. You never forget the trauma. 

I had carefully written down every sin I could think of on one of my Dad's 11x14 legal pads to prepare for my First Reconciliation. Three whole pages of what a horrible daughter I was and how I had taken my little brother's candy bar from his Easter basket a few weeks prior. 

Worst.sister.ever. 

Father Madigan had chuckled when when he heard me turn the page on the other side of that screen. "How many more do you have Mary Beth?" I was stunned into silence at hearing my name and whispered "Two more pages Father." He encouraged me to continue and patiently listened to every single thing I had written down. Then I cried and told him how very sorry I was and how I would never do these things again. 

Little did I know that in a matter of hours I could have filled up another page. Ah humanity...
 
As the tears fell and I waited for him to give me absolution, suddenly the door to the confessional opened and their stood Father Madigan with his arms open wide. I ran into his arms and he just shooshed me and patted my back. He told me something in that moment I have never forgotten.

"Whenever you feel like hitting your little brother or telling your Mother "no", just ask Jesus's mother Mary to help you be good. She will always be there for you. After all you share her name. How can she say no." He quietly gave me absolution and then took the next person in line. 

As I was coping with the fact that my classmates had seen me cry (humiliation thy name is Mary Beth), what Father had just said sunk in and I knew I was doomed. 

We share a name...

Holy Smokes. What did that mean? I am not the Blessed Mother. She is good. I hit my brother when he touched my stuff. I can't carry St Elizabeth's name. She gave birth to John the Baptist, I told my mother I wanted to send back my new baby brother because he was too loud. 

I decided that I needed a new name. Like now

After dinner that night I told my mother what Father had said. I asked her why she and my Dad had given me the name "Mary Elizabeth". I felt like I was set up to fail because I couldn't share a name with the Blessed Mother. She's the Blessed Mother and I was just Mary Beth Green who lived with, now, six stupid brothers who annoyed me. 

Why or why did they give me that name I cried out.  

Yes, I have always had a flair for drama...

My mother just laughed and answered quite matter-of-factly "You're father and I wanted to give you a strong name. A name that you could make your own. You could go by Mary or Liz. Meg, Beth or Mary Beth. You could be as unique as you wanted to be. If you changed your mind, which you do quite often about other things, you could choose something new. But whatever happened you would always carry the name of Our Blessed Mother and her cousin Elizabeth, two women who loved the Lord with all they had. Elizabeth is also your Grandmother Green's name and she has an incredibly strong devotion to Our Lady, as does your Daddy, because of that. You should be proud of your name. We certainly are.

Thus endeth the lesson. 

"Proud of my name..." no pressure for sure. Being seven was hard enough. All that addition and subtraction and carrying over numbers and spelling words and memorizing the Baltimore Catechism so I could receive my First Communion, and...and...and...and carrying the Blessed Mother's name...just too much

That night as I knelt in the living room with my brothers who were old enough to kneel, saying our bedtime prayers in front of the big crucifix, my Dad added a little something to make me feel better about carrying such a heavy burden. 

He prayed "Dear Lord, we ask that you help each of us to live up to the names we have been given. That I am able to be like Joseph who cared for the Christ Child as if he were his own, that Mommy might be like Mary and her mother Ann who loved and served with grateful hearts, that Christopher would help lead and always offer to carry the burden of his younger siblings, as St Christopher carried the Christ Child across the river, that Mary Beth might embrace the beauty and strength of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, that Joey would model his life after the men he is named for, that Timmy might be willing to give his life to God like the apostle Timothy did and that Richard may be a rock of faith like Simon Peter was for the church...

He went on for David and Andy but I was stuck at Richard because I had forgotten that his middle name was Simon, like Simon Peter, so I don't remember what else Dad said. 

Remember seven not seventeen. 

I think of that often. "Beauty and Strength". That's what Dad had said. Of course I thought of those things in physical terms as a child.Was I really that pretty? Was I strong? I didn't want muscles like the boys had. Those were ugly. I wanted to float like a ballerina. They were beautiful. 

Today I understand what a gift my name is. Yes, it is an awful lot to live up to but it's also very true what Father Madigan said. The Blessed Mother and I share a name. How awesome is that? Not only that but I also share a name with John the Baptist's mother, a women who never thought she would be a mother at all. But she persevered in prayer listening for that still small voice of the Lord to answer the plea of her heart and he did. 

Both of these women trusted the Lord with their entire lives. Both of these women went through great trails and remained steadfast in their faith. Both of these women changed the course for history by saying "yes" to the Lord and his plan for their life. 

At seven I didn't get it. All I saw was how different I was from both of these women. Today I thank God for revealing to me ever so slowly over the decades what it means to do as they did. To say "yes" and remain steadfast in faith no matter the circumstances. 

Pray with me won't you:

Dearest Mother Mary,

Thank you for the gift of our names given to us in love at Baptism. Thank you for remaining by our side no matter how far we wander from you or your son. Help us Dear Mother, to remain steadfast in faith, honoring the plan God has placed before us for our life. Help us to honor the saints and family members whom we are named for, so that we may always show beauty and strength in our deeds and in our words. 

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus, 

Amen 




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

day three ~ the tug of war in my heart...


You can begin here friends...

I remember well wanting to be good and do good. I wanted my Mom and Dad to tell me how much they loved me and how proud they were of me. I wanted my teachers to choose me as that weeks "most improved" student. I tried so hard to do everything the "right" way. 

Until I did it the wrong way. 

Then I would lie and hide, hoping and praying no one would notice, praying there would be no consequence for my actions. All that waiting it out until my wrong was discovered was exhausting and down right terrifying at times. Sin makes us do crazy things. 

As young children the pull to be good is strong but the pull to do it our way is just as strong.When I was younger I really struggled with telling the truth. I had a deep desire for approval and acceptance and would manipulate and lie to make that happen. What I didn't understand at the time was that once you lie, you have to maintain that lie, or come clean. 

I prayed a lot as a young girl, constantly some days, not to get caught. I don't think that's the kind of prayer life Our Lady or her Son wanted for me. In time I did figure out that the beauty of the truth combined with just being myself would garner more acceptance and more approval than I knew what to do with.  

Growing up was hard. I am sure you have your own stories to share about what you struggled with as a child. Isn't it awesome how Our Lord meets us where we are, in our youth and in our adulthood, and stretches our hearts and souls to truly "see" truth and beauty in being honest and kind and authentic with everyone in our life. 

So wherever you are right now in that tug of war taking place in your heart, to be good or to give in to the darker side, allow the Lord and his Mother Mary to be there with you. Even when we choose wrong, God can make it right. 
 
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  
Romans 8:28 

Y'all Mother Mary became my guide in helping me overcome my predilection for lying as a young kid. God worked through Our Lady in touching my heart and changing me from the inside out. My Dad used to say that if I was struggling with something, all we needed to do was ask Mother Mary for her help and she would always be there for me. Oh how right he was. She always made sure I was caught in my untruth and that I eventually learned to not give into that dark pull. I don't know where I would be today without her

Pray with me won't you:

Dear Mother Mary, 

Thank you for never leaving my side in my truth and untruth. Thank you for always guiding my heart to seek beauty and truth even when all I wanted to do was what I wanted and not what the Lord needed me to do. I ask this day that you be with anyone who is struggling as I did in my youth with telling the truth and being my authentic self. I ask that you be with them as they peel back the layers of darkness to reveal the light and love of your son. 

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus, 

Amen    
 

Monday, May 2, 2016

day two ~ a flower crown...


You can begin here friends...

My very first memory of the Blessed Mother is from the first grade. I went to a Catholic school with Bernadine Nuns. My teacher, Sr. Joseph Clare, made sure every single student in our class had an opportunity to crown Our Lady during the month of May.

Every morning one of my classmates would bring in a homemade flower crown and place it on the head of the little statue of Mary we had in the corner of our classroom. One of the perks was that we got to wear our Sunday best and not our uniform that day when we crowned Our Lady.

For this girly girl that was HUGE! Fancy clothes AND a crown? Sign me up.  

I had five brothers at the time. My sister would not arrive for another three years. I was the only girl with my own room. Mama Mary was a Queen. I was a Queen in my own mind. She loved crowns, because why else would we be doing it for an entire month. I loved crowns. Mary had flowers named for her. I just loved flowers. 

I remember pointing to each hot pink blossom and my Dad carefully clipping several branches from our azalea bush. He patiently wired the flowers in a circle using the measurements Sr. Joseph Clare had sent home. I remember holding that sweet little crown in my lap so carefully that my mother packed in a sandwich bag with wet paper towels. I would not allow any of my rowdy siblings to touch my precious gem. 

I was nervous and excited and I could not wait to get to school to crown Our Lady. I hated school. I truly did. I was dyslexic (un-diagnosed until high school). I was loud and rowdy when you were supposed to be still and quite. I hated Math. I still hate Math. But that day, I was breathless with excitement to get there.

I could not wait. I got to school and I almost cried as we sang "Bring Flowers of the Fairest". My hands shook as I placed that crown on the statue and then stood back in horror as it slipped down and became the loudest, boldest lei Our Lady had ever worn. 

Some of the boys laughed. Some of the girls snickered. Sr. Joseph Clare rushed over took the crown off and pinched it a bit then had me place it back on Our Lady's head. I did and it stayed in place. But the moment was over and I felt like a failure. 

It didn't matter that Our Lady looked beautiful. It didn't matter that you couldn't see the little adjustment Sr. Joseph Clare had made. It just didn't matter. All I could see was the imperfection. 

Expectation vs. Disappointment. 

It has followed me my whole life. Getting so excited about something, spending hours imagining the perfection of the moment and then CRASH! BAM! BOOM! It doesn't live up to my dreams. 

I have no doubt Our Blessed Mother had hopes and dreams. What girl doesn't. I imagine she was a happy little girl. She had no sin standing between her and Our Lord to cloud her heart and complicate that relationship.

Did she experience disappointment? I am sure she did but she probably didn't go running to her room, throw herself on the bed and declare to her Mother, St. Ann, that she was never going back to school due to the humiliation she survived that day because of a crimped flower crown.

Not that I did that...oh wait. 

I share this story because life is not about meeting our expectations but about meeting God's expectations. Our Blessed Mother is always on our side cheering us on in this endeavor. I have no doubt neither Jesus nor His Mother were disappointed in my efforts that day more than forty years ago. Pride stood in my way that day. I wanted to impress my teacher and my classmates. I wanted to have "the best" crown for Mary out of anyone else. I wanted to be better than they were. 

Oh pride...you slippery little stinker. Humiliation is your sure companion. 

Mother Mary did not need me to be better than others that day or this day. She just needs my best and in the doing, her Son is glorified and in that she is pleased and honored.  

I still tear up when "Flowers of the Fairest" is played at church. In an instant I am a six-year-old little girl in my best Sunday dress and patent leather shoes, happily holding an azeala flower crown waiting for the big moment. Time has eased that pain of humiliation, making the memory bittersweet. I now concentrate on the good parts, my fathers generous help, my mothers gentle smile and reassuring hug and the honor that crowning Our Lady really was. 

Time has a way of teaching us what really matters. 

Pray with me won't you:

Dearest Mother,

Thank you for loving us right where we are, in our moments of pride and humiliation as well as in our successes. We ask that you gently guide us to think of what is really important, of what it is that we need to learn to grow closer to your Son. Help us to see how He loves us through everything. Help us to lay down our expectations and want what God wants. He only asks us to do our best and trust in His plan. Sometimes we want to do more to be seen and be lauded above others. Help us to understand the true meaning of humility and love of others as you taught us with your fiat. Help us to say "yes" today and everyday, trusting in The Father's plan. 

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus, 

Amen

Sunday, May 1, 2016

my sunday best ~ vol.1...


My sweet friend Rosie Hill over at A Blog for My Mom has started a new link-up on Sundays following in the What I Wore Sunday tradition. It's called My Sunday Best. It's a same day post chronicling my Sunday best. 

Since I work at my Parish as the director of liturgy, my Sunday best must be on fleek.I spend most of the day interacting with parishioners, working behind the scenes making sure that each liturgy goes smoothly. 

There are are a few things I have to consider when choosing what to where on Sunday. It must be modest in neckline and length. I have to be able to bend down, genuflect as well as make a profound bow from the waist. I have gotten into the habit now of doing all of these things in the dressing room when trying an outfit on, that way I know it works. 


I have also invested in a few new pairs of flat shoes because platform heals and 12 hour days on your feet do not make for a very happy liturgy lady. 

Today I chose a dove gray polka dot "mock wrap" dress. I over the "mock" aspect. it gives me great confidence that it won't un-wrap at a most inopportune moment. I have no desire to be the center of scandal. It has a handkerchief hemline, a flutter sleeve and a lovely little tie at the waist. I got in on sale for 30% off at Dress Barn a few weeks ago. I paid less than $40 for it. I paired it with a long strand of pearls (one of my favorite pieces of costume jewelry) and earrings to match. I finished with a pair of grey quilted flats with a metal detail on the toe.  

It was a rainy cold day today and this dress just made me smile. I felt feminine and could move easily as needed. 

Happy Sunday Y'all, 
 



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