Sunday, March 30, 2008

Way of Perfection

Belatedly, I thank my friend, Mara, for the last post--the wisdom of Merton quote. I have loved Thomas Merton for a long time--ever since reading Seven Storey Mountain twelve years or so ago. I have taken this little exerpt of wisdom to heart--as if it was directed to me personally--in a good way I hope. 'A reproof makes more impression on a person of understanding than a hundred strokes on a fool.' (Proverbs 17:10) I pray that I have a little understanding.

On Thursday, I meditated on the passage as a good one for the Easter season. I don't know about anyone else, but I always have a very difficult time with the Easter season. We are supposed to be Joyful and while I am, it seems to unfocus my spiritual life--especially after the discipline of Lent. Laugh at me, but I often find myself missing Lent when Easter comes. So I was grateful for the 'suggestion' because it seemed to fit me so perfectly and seemed to be a message from God. At Adoration on Thursday, Santa Teresa gave me these words as well which seemed further elaboration of Merton's words,

From Way of Perfection, Chapter 19: There are some souls, and some minds, as unruly as horses not yet broken in. No one can stop them: now they go this way, now that way; they are never still. Although a skilled rider mounted on such a horse may not always be in danger, he will be so sometimes; and, even if he is not concerned about his life, there will always be the risk of his stumbling, so that he has to ride with great care. Some people are either like this by nature or God permits them to become so. I am very sorry for them; they seem to me like people who are very thirsty and see water a long way off, yet, when they try to go to it, find someone who all the time is barring their path—at the beginning of their journey, in the middle and at the end. And when, after all their labour—and the labour is tremendous—they have conquered the first of their enemies, they allow themselves to be conquered by the second, and they prefer to die of thirst rather than drink water which is going to cost them so much trouble. Their strength has come to an end; their courage has failed them; and, though some of them are strong enough to conquer their second enemies as well as their first, when they meet the third group their strength comes to an end, though perhaps they are only a couple of steps from the fountain of living water, of which the Lord said to the Samaritan woman that 'whosoever drinks of it shall not thirst again'. (St. John iv, 13.) How right and how very true is that which comes from the lips of Truth Himself! In this life the soul will never thirst for anything more, although its thirst for things in the life to come will exceed any natural thirst that we can imagine here below. How the soul thirsts to experience this thirst! For it knows how very precious it is, and, grievous though it be and exhausting, it creates the very satisfaction by which this thirst is allayed. It is therefore a thirst which quenches nothing but desire for earthly things, and, when God slakes it, satisfies in such a way that one of the greatest favours He can bestow on the soul is to leave it with this longing, so that it has an even greater desire to drink of this water again.

Blessings on Divine Mercy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


To allow one's self to be carried away
by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many demands,
to commit one self to too many projects,
to want to help everyone
is to succumb to violence.
Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace.
It destroys the fruitfulness of our work,
because it kills the root of inner wisdom
which makes work fruitful.

by Thomas Merton

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sermon in a Sentence

A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life


Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon

My dear friend, Morning Star, got this book for me at the Oklahoma Catholic Women's Conference. I started reading Sermon the moment she gave it to me and haven't stopped reading from it since. It is the fourth in a series of books of collected sayings from Saints who also happen to be doctors of the Church. I’ve always loved quotes and as I’ve gotten older this love has only grown. Since I returned from pilgrimage last fall my love of the saints has grown deeper and stronger. I feel drawn to call on their superior strength and wisdom constantly.

Another very dear friend suggested adding inspirational quotes to the end of messages, as a means of encouragement to souls struggling to persevere. In my younger days I know I would have shied away from such blatant evangelizing. I was a lukewarm Christian in those days. Now I don’t hesitate to wear my faith on my sleeve. If someone else doesn’t like what I believe and Who I believe in, they have the problem, not me.

In any event, I have not heard that anyone doesn’t like my quotes. In fact, I’ve had several compliments about my quotes and – since I started using Sermon in a Sentence – more than one person wanting to know where all my good quotes come from. But truthfully, I don’t put them there for anyone but myself. It's my primary responsibility to get myself to Heaven…and from what I’ve seen so far, that’s going to be challenge enough!

God bless you dear Morning Star for this book, your prayers and your constant, supportive friendship and trust!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reconstructing Natalie

by Laura Jensen Walker

Started: 12 March 2008
Finished: 20 March 2008

You have to admit Reconstructing Natalie is an unusual title for a book. My sister, Julie, recommended this book and I knew in advance what it was about—breast cancer. I get a lot of good book recommendations from both of my sisters. They include spiritual books, mysteries, love stories, comedies and even books on books.

Since I knew what Reconstructing Natalie was about, I was a bit surprised when it started off in such a light humorous vein. Undoubtedly Laura Jensen Walker did that because the overall subject is so heavy, she knew the story needed leaven early on; it did!

Natalie is a twenty seven year old single woman who finds a breast lump one day. Unfortunately in her case, it is not benign. Thus begins her long days’ journey into night. And yet Walker still manages to tell Natalie’s walk through the valley of the shadow of death with great sensitivity and continued sprinklings of wry humor.

Throughout her ordeal Natalie is forced to make choices—about her body, her career, her outlook, her faith—which you may or may not agree with. I don’t happen to agree with all her choices, but then I didn’t have to endure what she did. Even the women in her support group make different choices. For one thing, there is the choice between mastectomy, lumpectomy and/or chemotherapy/radiation — well at least for some women. And even between single mastectomy and double. Following the removal of the cancerous tissue, there is the reconstruction of the new breast(s) or wearing a prosthesis. I never realized there were so many choices open to breast cancer sufferers today. The book is an education in itself.

But the technical aspects aside, I was struck by the devastating personal issues. Natalie and her two closest friends learn to make some hilarious breast jokes, which taken out of context, would seem crude and lewd—but put into perspective are poignant and bittersweet. She has no breasts anymore—if that doesn’t earn her the right to make jokes about them, nothing does. She loses all her hair as a result of the chemo; in moral support, a girl friend, male friend and his son shave their heads.

Through it all, Natalie comes to re-examine and question every facet of her life. Tragedies and turning points have that affect on us. Through reconstruction she regains her outward appearance and then some, but she has no feeling in her new breasts and will never experience the bond of nursing her own babies. Yet at least she survives to have children of her own—so many women with breast cancer aren’t even that blessed.

It is my fervent prayer that all women everywhere read this book and remember the Natalies of the world. So often I hear women talking about having and nursing babies as if every woman can do these things when in fact, so many women cannot. This thoughtless assumption can be so painful for women denied these beautiful and God-given opportunities.


dedicated to all the Natalies, Janes and their families and friends. May God watch over and support them in their fight against cancer!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from our house to yours!

Easter Cross Halleluia!

Jesus Christ has risen today ! Easter Basket

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

eXpelled (the movie)

WOW! I don’t often endorse movies…especially not during Holy Week, but here is one I have to SHOUT about!

You HAVE to go see this movie! The future of TRUTH in scientific research in our country is at stake! Darwinism or Intelligent Design?

Watch the movie trailer then you decide. Click on the link below.

The movie will be in the theaters Spring 2008.

And if I wasn't convinced before, I certainly am now--minutes after I posted this, I was hit with an infected comment. Evil is alive and well! Fortunately Good is stronger!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday Reflections -- 2008

A liturgical year ago I started this blog with Palm Sunday Reflections.

It doesn't seem possible that I've been blogging for an entire year. Some months I did a lot of reading and writing; other months I barely managed to post at all. I'm not very consistent. Booklady won't win any blogging awards that's for sure.

Well never mind. It isn't about awards anyway. I started this blog to learn and I've certainly done that.

And like Holy Week, which begins today, it's a journey. As I mentioned last year, Holy Week is my favorite week of the year. I look forward to this week now like I used to look forward to Christmas break as a child. Then what I was most interested in was playing with my friends, toys, and having fun. Now I still appreciate Joy and happiness but I don’t pursue ‘fun’ like I did in my younger years. And of course what brings me Joy now is much different than what was fun then. But Joy? Some might find my enjoyment of this week a bit, well, unusual . . . ?

My daughters, for one, do not share my love of this week. In fact, they bemoan having to go to church so much. I can honestly admit, “I’ve been there.” I know–or remember–thinking and feeling many of the same thoughts and emotions they now express. So I don’t try to debate them unduly or even get them to change their minds. It’s mostly a question of where they are in their spiritual development. Right now, they are still following the Faith of their Fathers. Someday, God Willing, it will be their own faith. They have been ‘raised up in the way they should go’ . . . please God, ‘when they are old they will not stray from it’. The proverbial seeds have been planted. The Holy Spirit — and lots of prayer — will take care of rest. I can’t force my faith on them. I can continue to practice my faith and love God (and them!) with all my heart. I do.

But truthfully the struggles they are going through don’t bother me nearly so much as the in-fighting among my fellow Christians. So long as young people are wrestling with issues of faith, they are on a quest for Truth which is the same thing as searching for God and He will lead them to Himself. We never find God anyway; He searches for and finds us. We don’t initiate anything–we simply allow The Good Shepherd to rescue us and lead us Home.

What I find myself most troubled about these days are the bitter disputes among believers over trivialities. I see, hear and read about this everywhere and I imagine our common enemy grinning his evil grin at the wickedness and discord he manages to stir up.

Christians, even within the same denomination, get bogged down with endless discussions about this or that technicality, rule or interpretation. Last night a dear friend and I were discussing that very subject. To me this is what Jesus was warning the Pharisees about. All the rules and regulations (the Law and the Prophets!) are supposed to bring us closer to God and our brother. If they aren’t doing that then something is very wrong. I’m no super-Christian nor particularly wise but I have figured out that you need to stay the middle course, stick to the narrow road. Going to either extreme is not only ill-advised, it leads away from our true destiny.

One of the Pharisees tested Jesus with a question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36 NIV). Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV).

This is what I really think of when I think of Holy Week–the greatest acts of love ever performed, the greatest gifts ever given, the culmination of the best love story ever told. So, from that perspective, every other week of the year, every other event in my life seem rather pale by contrast.

During this one week, all the most important moments of our faith are commemorated. We see Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem hailed by the people as the Messiah. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead; His reputation precedes Him. We join Him in celebrating the Last Supper with the original twelve apostles. He says those words which are so sweet to my ears, “This is My Body!” “This is My Blood!” For a brief period of time I can forget the horror which is to come. Like the Beloved Disciple, John, I want to lay my head on His shoulder. And even more importantly, I want to stay with Him throughout the upcoming ordeal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is still Palm Sunday; this is still a time of celebration. Holy Week will unfold as it always does, a week of solemn remembrance leading up to the joyful celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. The beauty of the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit will again draw me closer and strengthen me for the remainder of my earthly journey.

Sweet Jesus, I love You! Thank You for all that You did for me, especially when I didn’t even care. During this Holy Week I will offer all my prayers and inconveniences for those who do not know You–that they may come to know and love You as I have been graced to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fire Within

by Father Thomas Dubay

Started: 30 March 2007
Finished: 11 March 2008

No, of course it doesn’t take a year to read this book. Don’t be put off by my dates. Yes, I did begin this book almost a year ago—that much is true. But I could have easily read it in a fraction of the time. I deliberately stretched out my reading of Fire Within as one savors a fine wine or the most exquisite of chocolates.

I read books for all sorts of reasons: information, self-improvement, spiritual growth, meditation and even, yes, a few for simple relaxation. I always have a few books going in critical places which I can pick up at any time to read a few lines or even several pages if I’m stuck waiting for awhile. My critical places include: the car, the kitchen table, my bedside and my prayer corner. Fire Within has been my prayer corner book. I’ve been reading a little bit from it and other books which I keep in a basket there. I used to be better about limiting myself to one book at a time per location. It helped keep me better focused; I believe I need to return to that habit.

Fire Within is about prayer. In fact, it is subtitled, St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel—on Prayer. Father Thomas Dubay, who I had the supreme honor of meeting two months ago, has made it his life’s work to study the sixteenth century Spanish Carmelite contemplatives and doctors of the Church, Sts. Teresa and John. I was first introduced to his work via the video series, Contemplation: Union With God, where Father explores the reality of everyone’s call to a deeper prayer life with Our Lord. Yes, I thought, that’s fine for saints, priests and religious, but it’s not for the likes of ordinary people such as me. On the contrary! That is precisely who is called into that deepening relationship with Jesus; we are all called to Him and by Him.

After watching the video series, I was intrigued by this universal call (which sounded like some well-kept family secret!) and bought the book. When do we get this call? How do we hear it? Why have I never heard about this before? Surely ‘contemplation’ isn’t for everyone?! And yet time after time in his lectures, Father drew on Scriptural references for his arguments. There was nothing the two great saints said which couldn’t be supported from the New Testament. It was just that I had never heard prayer explained in quite this way before.

Growing up Catholic, prayer was vocal and formulaic. It had plenty of patterns and rules. I believed in prayer and knew it was the only way to a closer relationship with God—and yet, I never really seemed to be ‘getting anywhere’ with my prayer life. I felt like the blindfolded person in blindman’s bluff—arms outstretched, stumbling, reaching, going round in circles, trying to find God, or someone, but not sure which way to go.

Finding this book was truly a Godsend for me. Although it deals with very complex theological concepts (at times) it is written in a straightforward and easy-to-read manner. It is laid out logically and covers all the bases and relevant questions beginning with the topic of the book itself.

Are twenty-first century people hungry for God? We long for Him as much today as we did when St. Augustine wrote, “ Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”

My favorite chapters in this book are the ones dealing with Friendship and Spiritual Direction. They are also the ones which are the most severely marked up in my edition.

There are several tests for determining a really good booklady book. First, I feel elated and yet slightly sad upon completing it. Second, it inspires me to read other books. In this case, I have already lined up the complete works of the two Carmelites as well as their biographies, and I’m looking at several Bible studies. Thirdly, I find myself reluctant to put the finished book back on the shelf. It’s as if over the course of our journey together, it has become a friend—would you put your friend on a shelf? And last but not least, I want to recommend it to everyone. I do!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Homemade Pizza and "Hot" Chicks

When I was growing up, and you wanted to speak favorably about something or someone, you called it or him/her "cool". Nowadays, you refer to things/people as "hot" when you wish to give them the same social distinction.

Anyway, these "hot" chicks are my daughters and they are helping me make my first homemade pizza which we did last evening. It was a lot of fun. I hope we have many more evenings of family fun like that. That's Meg grating the cheese to top our Sicilian delight and Michelle displaying the gourmet wonder just before we put it in the oven.

Above you can see our first effort. The second--which we didn't photograph--had even more cheese and pepperoni on it if you can believe that!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

Happy Birthday Little Sister!!!

I can still remember when Mom and Dad brought you home from the hospital as a newborn. You were the best present I ever received....even if at the time I wanted a dog!

Hope your special day is filled with every good thing . . . family, food, friends, fun, smiles, love and . . . of course (!) good books!

love and hugs and prayers always,

your big sis