Guess Who?

My real name was Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius.  (That’s a real mouthful!)

I was born in 331 and baptized by a pope.

I was born into a wealthy, Christian family, but educated by pagans.

My “superior” education caused me to lose my love of the Lord for a time.

I spent many years living in a large cave near Jesus’ birthplace where I studied scripture and did penance for having gone astray.

My bluntness and sarcasm earned me many enemies.

I am “famous” for translating the bible into Latin – known as the “Vulgate.”

My feast day is September 30th.

I am St. Jerome!

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Here are a few quotes from me:

“A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept.”

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

“Haste is of the Devil.”

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”

 

 

 

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Facing a Fear

imagesThis past Saturday, my husband and I were working in the garage and were approached by three people.  We thought that they were from the Democratic Party, because we’ve been getting a lot of those lately due to the upcoming election.  These folks wanted to take a survey about religion, (one of my favorite subjects), so I agreed!  What they were really doing was trying to get people to visit/join their church.

It’s terrible, but many Catholics – myself included – are afraid of being confronted about our faith.  Most of us don’t know it well enough to defend it against people of other faiths who do know their faith really well.  I have managed to kindly avoid Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons who regularly blanket the neighborhood with pamphlets.  Anyway, yesterday, I was so proud of myself.  I had a wonderful faith conversation with these kind folks.  There was only one thing that I wish I had said – that came to me moments later – regarding “Faith Alone” vs “Faith + Works,”  namely from St. Paul, “Faith without works is dead.”  We agreed upon the importance of reading scripture, the importance of forming and ministering to our youth – the church of tomorrow, the fact that our redemption is through Jesus Christ, etc.  At the end, they left me with some literature that I will not be reading – no disrespect.

There is nothing that could draw me away from the Church that Christ Himself instituted.   I will not leave the only Church who can offer me Jesus’ body in the Eucharist.  There was a time in my young adult life that I did visit different churches.  I was searching.  My searching was not fruitless.  It led me to the Church to which I had already belonged since my baptism!

What I thought was wonderful though was being challenged about my faith and being able to comfortably defend it while being loving and respectful.  We really do have a lot in common with our brothers and sisters in the Protestant religions – we agree on many big, important points.

I am taking a course right now being offered at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Mandeville in Catholic apologetics with Judy Klein.  It’s excellent, informative and inspiring.  Apologetics does NOT mean apologizing for our faith.  It means being able to defend our faith (especially scripturally) to those who get their beliefs from scripture alone.  It is so important that all Catholics get educated about their faith.  Knowing more about where we get our beliefs from helps us to truly appreciate our beautiful Catholic Faith and to live it more fully!

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I’m a Survivor.

imagesI’m a survivor – not a victim.  For many years, I felt ashamed.  I felt like a victim.  I’ve come to the point in my life where I am no longer ashamed.  I did not do anything wrong.  I am strong.  I am courageous.  I am a survivor!

Pedophiles are very cunning, and very messed up.  They meticulously manipulate their victims and the victim’s families.  They have two sides – the one that looks angelic, sweet and “good with children,” and the other cold and calculating.  Pedophiles gain your trust, then strike when you are most vulnerable.  Then they threaten you and shame you into secrecy.

Sexual abuse profoundly affects a child’s self image, self esteem and trust.  Unfortunately, it is not a rare occurence.  Statistics say that as many as 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18 – and 1 in 7 boys.  The attackers are not usually strangers.  Pedophiles are most often a person that the child knows and trusts.

There are some very important things that you must tell your children in order to protect them.  There are signs that parents can look for in their children that will alert you to signs of abuse for early intervention.  If you have been abused yourself, there is hope.  Healing is not a fast fix, but something really worth the effort.

In my book, Hope for Healing from the Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse, I share what I have learned from my own experience.  I talk about what has helped me the most.  If you or someone you love has been sexually abused, please check it out.  If you want to better protect your children from predators, it can be very helpful.

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Reflection for the Readings for Sunday, September 28, 2014

Readings for Sunday, September 28th

This Sunday’s readings bring a few key concepts to mind for me:

Virtue

Integrity

Relativism

In the first reading, when the Lord says, “You say that my ways are unfair…” I thought of the rot that relativism has caused in our society.  Relativism says that there is no truth – that what is true for me can be different from what is true for you – that “it’s all good,” so long as everyone is happy.  This has caused the moral decay individuals, families and (in turn) our society in general.  The is such a thing as truth.  Truth has a name.  It is God.

Our world tells us that God’s ways are oppressive and rob us of our freedom as individuals.  In actuality, God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He created us out of Love.  His commandments were designed with our best interests at heart.  The truth is that when we follow God’s way, it is then that we are most FREE, most fulfilled – most happy!

Second topic – Virtue.  Virtue is the habit of doing good.  Vice is the habit of doing wrong.  The more we practice virtue, vice is crowded out of our lives.  St. Therese’ used virtue beads – a simple cord with 10 beads on it.  Each day she would try to do at least 10 good things for others.  When she would do an act of charity/kindness, she would move one of the beads from one side of the cord to another.  She did this secretly – sort of a self- competition.  We all know Therese’ as such a holy, loving person.  She faced a lot of adversity, however.  Her life in the convent was not easy at all.  Some of the other nuns were jealous of her good nature and were downright cruel to her.   Through the practice of virtue, however, she grew in humility and holiness with every passing day.  She was able to keep joy in her heart despite her circumstances.  Isn’t that what we all want?

Lastly, in the gospel, we are called to be people of our word – people of integrity.  We are also called to conversion.  Conversion for most people is not a defining moment like it was for St. Paul/ Saul.  The majority of us experience this process as a journey – two steps forward, one step back.  That’s o.k. as long as we keep at it!  What can we do to continue to have conversion of heart?  We should pray for it daily.  Receiving the sacraments  frequently is also beneficial.  We should befriend people with the same desire for spiritual growth and closeness to the Lord.   Reading scripture is essential because “Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome).  Other spiritual reading can also feed and encourage us.

May we all grow closer to the Lord with each and every breath that we take!

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Overcoming Anxiety

imagesOne of my most popular posts is about ANXIETY.  It is something that all of us have to deal with to a greater or lesser degree in the world in which we live today.  Our lives often seem out of control with the fast pace we are forced to tolerate. We often feel as though we are on a carousel strangely spinning  faster and faster.  All we want to do is stop it and get off.  You can get off.

Acknowledge that you are not in control at all.  Any control you feel you have, and are clinging desperately to is a farce.  The world may seem to be hurling itself into oblivion, but God is still (and always will be) in control.  Those who love Him can also trust that He has their best interests at heart.  Because He is not restricted by time or space, He can see the big picture.  He will only allow to happen to us what will benefit our eternal life.  We can take comfort in that knowledge, even when the journey is tumultuous and strewn with suffering.

Lay all anxiety at the foot of the cross.  Give it to Jesus.  Tell Him it is too big to carry alone.  Return to the cross in your mind as many times a day as needed to relinquish your fears and burdens.  Fear is not from God.  If it is not from God, it must be from the evil one.  Use your sacramentals (holy water, rosary, etc.) and the sacraments to avoid the temptation to despair.  Use them to obtain grace.

Actual grace is a wonderful thing – it is strength for the moment.  We cannot store up actual grace for what might happen in the future.  Therefore, we should not worry about what will happen tomorrow.  “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) We can rely upon the fact that God will provide us the grace needed to survive and even thrive in the current struggle – one moment at a time!

I am reminded of two of my favorite prayers for times of great anxiety -

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Infant Jesus 9 hour novena

O Jesus, Who has said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened,” through the intercession of Mary, Your Most Holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted. (Make your request)

O Jesus, Who has said, “All that you ask of the Father in My Name, He will grant you,” through the intercession of Mary Thy Most Holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask Thy Father in Thy name that my prayer will be granted. (Make your request)

O Jesus, Who has said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but My word shall not pass away,” through the intercession of Mary Thy Most Holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted. (Make your request)

When I am really stressed, I say the 9 hour novena.  I set a timer, and every hour on the hour, I pray it.  My problem may not be gone by the end of the day, but by the 5-6th hour, I experience an incredible peace.  I believe this is what Jesus was talking about when He said, ” I leave you peace.  My peace I give to you – not as the world gives do I give to you.”

My best prescription for anxiety (by experience) is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  I know that Jesus is really physically present because of the calming effect that adoration has on me.  Since I live a stressful life like most, I run to that adoration chapel multiple times a week (sometimes multiple times a day if necessary).  There Jesus gives me the peace to go about my day with true joy – and to literally stop and “smell the roses.”

All that being said, sometimes, through no fault of our own, we still battle anxiety.  It is not a shameful thing to ask for help.  It’s a good thing to recognize our limitations and to ask for assistance when needed.   Sometimes medical intervention is recommended for a time to get us over the hump.    Know that you are not alone!

May God Grant you His peace!

 

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“Take Me to Church”

imagesRecently, I was made aware of a (new) song, evidently popular with the young crowd.  Silly me, I thought, “Take me to Church!  Awesome!”  I Googled the lyrics and was very disappointed by what I read – Yet another example of women (and men) being objectified.

In Theology of the Body for Teens, one of the key concepts, so beautifully stated is ” Objects are to be used.  People are to be loved.”  Why is it o.k. in the minds of people, both male and female, to be entertained by such degrading music?  How can those words make anyone feel good?   Have we lost all value for the human person made in the image and likeness of God?

I do digress.  Let me get back to my original idea for this post – church attendance.  It’s so important for so many reasons.  Let me see if I can make a (“Letterman-like”) top ten list:

1.  It’s a commandment.  #3  Keep Holy the Sabbath.  The Sabbath for Christians is Sunday since it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  How do we keep holy the Sabbath?  We go to mass.

2.  It’s another commandment.  Part of #1  “You shall have no other gods before Me.”   When we choose another activity over attending mass on the Sabbath, we make that thing a god/idol whether that be sleeping in, jogging, reading the paper, vacationing, or playing a sport.

3.  Let’s look at the positive!  God is the provider of everything we have!  Every good thing comes from Him.  Don’t we owe Him praise and thanksgiving?  Mass is the ultimate prayer.  What better way to thank Him?

4. As parents, we have to model priority.  Do we believe that hearing God’s Word is important?  Do we believe that receiving Jesus is essential to our spiritual health?  Do we believe that God must come first?  If so, we have to show our children that by taking them to church (and might I add – fully participating!)  “Do as I say and not as I do” won’t cut it here or anywhere else!

5. Do you believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?  If we really believed that in our hearts and in our bones, there would be lines waiting outside of churches and adoration chapels of people waiting to get in – to get close to Jesus.  In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass , the priest bring us Jesus, in the flesh.  Can you get a better offer anywhere on the planet?

6.  Jesus tells us Himself that “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life within you.”  Don’t we want our children to be filled with Christ?  Don’t we want to be filled with Christ?  We should seek to receive Jesus as often as we possibly can.  Think of the graces we are passing up when we don’t attend mass.  Wouldn’t being more grace -filled make us better parents/people in general?  Hmmm.

7. Some may find Mass boring.  If we truly understood what was going on, we couldn’t possibly feel bored.  At mass, we literally time travel.  We are made present at the one, true, total sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We are at the foot of the cross with John and Mary. The veil between Heaven and earth is parted and we are invited to experience a foretaste of Heaven – that wonderful communion we will experience with God for all eternity.  If we truly get in touch with this reality, we would eagerly await our next communion with the Lord.

8.  Do you want to experience more intimacy with the Lord?  Can He get any closer than entering your body?  If you don’t feel anything special when you receive Holy Communion, ask yourself, what are you doing to prepare yourself to receive Him?  Do you pray?  Do you empty yourself by observing the 1 hour fast?  Do you confess your sins?  Are you angry with anyone, harboring ill feelings?  Have you prayed asking help to forgive?  After Holy Communion, do you close your eyes and talk to Jesus?  I find closing my eyes helps me to block out other distractions.  Do you linger for a few extra minutes of alone time with Jesus after the church empties out?

9.  God loves you as though You were His only child. (St. Augustine)  Because of this, if you don’t show up for mass, you are irreplaceable.  He will miss you because YOU are missing.  God loves you completely, unconditionally, with all of your good points and faults.  He longs to have that love returned.  He gives us free will.  He will not force us to return His love, BUT He wants you to.  Show Him your love – show up!

10.  You may think that a lot is wrong in the Church right now.  You may be waiting for everything is perfect or right to return on a regular basis.  Let’s get some things straight.  The Church is Holy because it was begun by Christ Himself.  He is the Head.  The Church is His Body here on earth.  The Church is Holy because it is guided by the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier.  The Church is not, however, perfect, because it is made up of human beings who are not perfect.  There will always be things that we might not like.  There may even be priests, deacons or parishioners who rub us the wrong way at times.  We MUST REMEMBER that we do not follow a priest, or a deacon, or a person.  We follow Christ!  He will not let us down  – ever!  Until Christ returns in glory to set things aright, the Church will continue to have its imperfections.  We cannot let that come between us and the Lord.

It’s also prudent to remember that each priest and deacon has received a calling from God, and have generously answered that call.  It is the priest who brings us Jesus through the sacraments.  We must pray for our priests unceasingly!

Did I forget anything?

 

 

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HOPE

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all -

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

by Emily Dickinson

Hope, what a blessing it is!  The one who possesses hope possesses everything.  In my mid- twenties and early thirties, I was really into poetry.  I made my poor students memorize countless poems and act them out in class.  Oh what wonderful memories!  (Sorry guys!)  I loved the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Edgar Allen Poe.  I think that during that time of discovery, I loved the eccentricities of the different poets and their wonderful play with words.  I love to play with words, myself!

During the time that I was recovering memories of the abuse I suffered as a child, I wrote a lot of poetry.  Much of it, in the beginning, was pretty angry and dark.  Pain seems to bring the creativity in me.  It just flowed right out and was very cathartic.

At the beginning of this healing journey, I felt pretty hopeless.  I knew that I had to step into the “darkness of the tunnel” and could not yet see the light at the other end.  I wanted to turn back to unknowing.  Even though it was not really living, it was familiar, and in a strange way comfortable.  It took tremendous courage to enter the darkness of the tunnel that was the healing journey.  I knew that the process would not be short or easy, and I was filled with dread.  I would be chartering waters unfamiliar, and felt as though I were traveling with blinders on.  However, hope miraculously came to me, held my hand and guided me through the scariness and darkness into the light of day one small step at a time.

Hope is not a “thing with feathers.”  For me, it is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  No matter what happens in this life that comes along and just plows the feet out from under us, we can cling confidently to the one whose feet were nailed to a cross.   He has conquered humiliation.  He has conquered poverty.  He has conquered hunger and thirst.  He has conquered torture.  He has conquered death.

Isn’t it the most beautiful Truth that Our God humbled Himself to share in our (sometimes) miserable humanity?  He so could have done things an easier way, but He chose to live our experience – both the good and the bad.  When we cry out for help and hope and healing to Christ, we are calling upon the Savior who has been there done that.

He is our rock, our strength, our answer, our Savior, our Lord, our friend, our HOPE… A song from an old Elvis record my momma used to play just came to me…”He is my reason for living.  He is the King of all Kings.  I long to be His possession.  He is my everything!”

Thinking tonight of my friends who are suffering – physically, mentally and spiritually. Grab onto HOPE, and don’t let go.  You are not alone!  Praying for you all!

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Sweet Sunday in Swamp Country

IMG_6949 IMG_6941 IMG_6960 IMG_6891 IMG_6995 IMG_6950 IMG_6926 IMG_6974 IMG_6920 IMG_6887 IMG_6966

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Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, September 14, 2014

Readings for Sunday, September 14, 2014

Often times, we get just plain tired of life.  My husband’s grandmother frequently quipped, “The first 100 years are the hardest-”  She would know.  She nearly made it to the ripe old age of 100.  Well, life is tough at times.  It can leave us absolutely frustrated and exhausted.  When we are feeling this way, we often do not display our best selves.  On our pity pot, we whine and complain, as if doing so will garner some pity or change the situation. Instead, we should unite our sufferings to the cross of Christ.

The Israelites in the desert were tired, hungry and frustrated.  They complained about God and Moses.  They scoffed at the food provided.  How often are we less than excited about the food on our plate?  How often are we ungrateful for (or take for granted)  the sustenance the Lord has supplied?  Do we believe that He is the supplier, and that we could do nothing without Him?    I find kids today – mine included at times – especially those living in areas of plenty, very ungrateful for food – turning their noses up at it, or wasting it.  We have so many choices – maybe too many for our own good!

The second reading is so incredibly beautiful.  I encourage you to read it slowly, line for line, pausing after each to REALLY reflect on the meaning…  He emptied Himself.  He humbled Himself.  He was obedient unto death.  He loved us so much that He took on our wretched humanity.  He died a grueling death on a cross.  He sanctified an instrument of torture by dying to redeem us.  He was exalted.  At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, every tongue confess…

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

How many time is the Holy Name of Jesus misused in today’s world?  What can we do to make reparation for this?  How can we better honor His holy name?  If we won’t stand up for our Lord, who will?

Finally, the gospel contains the most quoted verse in the bible:  John 3:16.  “For God SO LOVED the World that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have Eternal Life.”   This is our Jesus.  This is our hope.  He was triumphant over the cross, and with His help we will be triumphant over our crosses  – even death.  We must have single vision in order to do so – keeping our eyes focused pointedly and steadily on Him.Unknown

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Book Recommendation

UnknownOn Labor Day, I was stuck in the great parking lot that was the road between the Florida beaches and New Orleans –  thousands headed home after the three-day weekend – my family included!  I was beginning to get frustrated when I remembered that I had tucked a book under my seat.  A friend of mine had recommended it to me, so I ordered it specifically for the Labor Day weekend.  I thought I’d want to read on the beach, but it turned out that the wave action was so exciting that I thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband and kids ride the waves again and again.  (I even joined in a few times!)

Anyway, I began reading Miracle Man by Judy Landrieu Klein in the car when it was still daylight.  I was quickly drawn in by the story, and literally could not put it down.  When the sun set, I read with a flashlight!  When we arrived home, I unloaded our laundry from the suitcases into the washing machine, and climbed in bed to finish.  I knew that I couldn’t sleep until I had completed it.

It is the story of a very difficult time in Judy’s life – the illness and eventual death of her beloved husband, Bernie.  Don’t be fooled by the subject matter, however.  The book is not a downer.  I found Judy’s writing to be highly relatable and very inspiring.  She shares the many little miracles that happened throughout Bernie’s illness, and the important spiritual lessons she learned along the way.  The book is a must read!

Please visit Judy’s website:  memorareministries.com for more information.

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