Thursday, January 16, 2014

Miscarriage, Mass and Music

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My Voice
I claim you as My Choice
Be still, and know I am near

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are Mine
A few years ago, I attended a Memorial Mass for my best friend's mother, just a few days after I had lost Baby Gabriel at 19 weeks.  Another friend of mine sang a special hymn 'You are Mine' by David Haas, accompanied by my Mom at this Memorial Mass. Tears streaming down my face, I actually hid in the public washroom after Communion until long after Mass, not ready to face any familiar faces or condolences...and not yet able to give my friend nearly enough support through the recent loss of her Mom.

That summer was the season of 'you are mine' at church!

Those eight weeks of Masses...were filled with the hymn 'You Are Mine'. I hadn't remembered hearing it before....and now all of a sudden, it was the Holy Communion hymn of matter where we attended Mass!  Tired and embarrassed about repeatedly crying at Mass at my familiar parish, we even did a little Catholic Church hopping, visiting neighborhood parishes of some of our favorite priests. Communion time would come and my eyes would begin to tear up with the first 3 notes of accompaniment...even before it registered that it was that song again! 

By the end of that summer, we attended a Catholic conference...and do you know what Hymn Mark Forrest sang beautifully, EACH DAY of the conference for the Communion hymn?
You guessed it....and yes, I continued to cry like a baby.

7 years later, I chase 2 more kids in my house (one who could not have been born if we hadn't lost Gabriel). I also lost another baby in this time....for a total of 5 kids in my house and 3 babies in Heaven.

Last April, we were at Mass at our Parish and I was surprised to hear 'You are Mine' begin. Bill squeezed my hand with a 'you okay?' to which I confidently shrugged that I was fine, clearly having healed after such a long time.  Maybe I was just a little smug...because I then looked across the Church to see a couple I recognized, sitting beside their First Communicant. It was then that I remembered that they had been expecting their first child when I was expecting Gabriel....and that this Sunday would very well have been Gabriel's First Holy Communion day. OK, so maybe I just needed one more little cry to 'You are Mine'. Pray for me, Gabriel!
I just read these comforting words in a Facebook group from Madeline to another Mom who has just suffered a miscarriage. Sometimes people don't know what to say to another experiencing loss, but I think this wonderful lady has just the right words.

I know you had dreams of holding him close, seeing his smile, holding his little hand as he took his first steps, sitting him on your lap and telling him all the wonderful things about God, but He had a different plan. I hope you find comfort, one day, in knowing that you have a beautiful, perfect little boy in heaven who is now taking care of your family until you are able to join him, and that God instead, has your little boy on His lap and is telling him the wonderful things about you.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

to Jesus through Mother Mary

Mary, Mother of the Eucharist by Tommy Canning
Mother of the Eucharist by Tommy Canning
We have a print of this in our living room and it is absolutely beautiful!
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I'm on an official quest to draw closer to Mother Mary. I realized that although I think I know about Our Lady and I have many friends and family with strong devotion to her, I don't naturally go to her to draw closer to her Son. I have thought of her as the ultimate model for motherhood which is true, but her perfect motherhood (you know, born without sin and all...and raising Jesus, the Son of God) ... intimidates me. I found myself wondering how she must see me in my little impatient Mom shoes, getting tired of the continuous demands of our precious little humans and being not so gracious about it.  If it weren't for her being so perfect, I would think she might be shaking her head, or at least sighing deeply...
But she's OUR MOTHER! I've heard how much she loves us (you and me!) and that she is our Mother ever since Jesus assigned her to us (alongside Apostle John). I've heard from others with deep devotion ...of her unfailing love for us, gentleness, compassion and her desire to draw us ever closer to her Son.
So I've been reading 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration (I'm on Day 28!) with a little Under the Mantle: Marians Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest on the side...and had some spiritual direction with my favorite priest. 
I'm going to keep trying to remember to pray for her help...and learn how to entrust myself completely to her so that she can bring me closer to Jesus.

Monday, November 11, 2013

a prayer

Jesus, I want to know Your Truth AND live it. Jesus, I'm so easily distracted, so easily jostled, startled, untethered. Jesus, I worry about so many things. 
Jesus, I want to pray. I want my words to be deliberate and heart-felt. I want to say what my heart feels and listen intently and hear Your Words to me in my heart, with no doubt, no second guessing. I want to be focused and consumed by You and undistracted.
I want to know You, bathe in Your Love, be directed by Your Priorities and I want to receive Your Love and Your intentions for me, correctly, fully, purely.
I want to brim over with the fire of your Love, uncontained, unfettered, unlimited, unconstrained so that I can only reflect Your Love, enthusiastically and untarnished by human limitations.
I want to see and think clearly, without muddying Your message to me, and to those around me.
I want to use the creative gifts You have given me to serve You and draw closer to You and to lead others to pursue You as You desire. I want to fulfil my vocation to the best of my abilities, recognizing but not giving in to my failings, offering up the little chores, the monotony and the little annoyances, frustrations and worries, surrendering my will and my lack of control, my pride for Your Greater Glory.
I want to pray. I want to express the yearning of my heart, to remain undistracted but focused on You. I want to connect with You, feeling Your unconditional Love, a love that is impossible for humans, only possible for God, loving me as if I was the only human, loving me incessantly despite my faults and failings, loving me without hesitation or requirements, expectations or conditions. Loving me because You have made me worthy through Your Suffering, for me, when no one except You could have even known I would exist.
Jesus, I don't want to get distracted by the meaningless details. I don't want to be preoccupied with menial concerns.
I want to pray, giving Glory to You, recognizing my weakness...and my only strength in You, through You, by You.
I want to cleanse the corners of my soul, I want to be open to Your Will ever trusting that You will only expect of me, ask of me, what I can truly handle. That You know what's best for me, You only want what is best for me and for my salvation.
I want to be a good wife, mother, daughter, friend. Jesus, I love You. I'm a afraid to be put to the test, because I know How weak I am. I know. I'm scared Jesus because I don't expect that I can measure up. I know I don't deserve Your Love. I'm as flaky as anyone. I'm selfish. I'm weak. I'm distracted and overwhelmed. I worry. I don't trust. I need You. I need constant reminders to pray, to focus, to offer up my will for Yours, to ask, to beg for Your pardon, Your Mercy and Your Help for every breath, every step, every worry. Jesus, I choose to trust in You but I need constant reminders to recommit. To trust. To serve, to surrender my pride, my attempt to control.  Jesus, I love You.
Let me feel Your Love.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Mother Mary

August is a special month for Mary, with the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th and the Queenship of Mary on August 22.

I want a deeper devotion to Our Lady. I know that Jesus gave her to us as our Heavenly Mother and given her role as Mother of the Son of God, she is the ultimate model for us Moms. Sometimes I assume that the house of the Holy Family must have been perfect; with Mary born without sin and Jesus, human in all things but sin and His Foster Father St Joseph, the epitome of humility, obedience and gentleness. I picture everyone gliding around the humble little house seamlessly, constantly serving each other with a smile, always anticipating the needs of the other. With just the necessities for food and clothing, the house was orderly and impeccably clean ( not my house!). No one raised a voice or argued with another. Everyone knew their responsibilities and carried them out diligently, with love.

Well, even if these three were practically perfect in every way, there was still emotion. We see emotion...and even a little attitude finding young Jesus in the Temple or at the Wedding at Cana when Jesus says to his Mom...."why should I help? it's not my time!" and Mary kind of ignores Him and tells the others "do as He tells you".

We also can't discount the world outside their home. They were driven out to Egypt for the first couple years of Jesus' life and that must have been quite the upheaval with a new baby!  How well do you remember the early days with your first child? I remember what a big deal every outing was, let alone traveling!

Even once they returned to Nazareth and their family and friends...there were no doubt those who didn't buy the 'conceived by the Holy Spirit' part and looked at Mary in a disapproving way. There would also be the everyday work that brought interaction with others: regular people with their less than virtuous thoughts, opinions, human motivations and personality quirks.

Mother Mary certainly sees our trials and challenges. She is the ultimate model motherhood with her prayerful, gentle way to cope with life's little adventures. Perhaps if we pray more incessantly for her guidance and her intercession, we can better follow her example bringing more peace and Faith into our homes.

Easier said than done!  Back to the Prompt Me to Pray prayer!

Sweet Mother Mary, pray for us!
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Prompt-Me-to-Pray Prayer

I have written about Br Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God before. I think it's a simple yet profound way to deepen our relationship with Jesus, do small things with great love like St Therese and to grow in virtue while we live out our Faith more consciously. I know I'd like to carry out my vocation as Mom...graciously, with more patience and love, but I inevitably become unravelled, and caught up in my often self-inflicted pressures of family life.
The tasks set out for me in my vocation as a Mom, if carried out with love, are supposed to catapult me to holiness!  This is the Mom's School of Holiness. I'm not sure where I have read this, but my friend Fr. Roger tells me this all the time.
I get flustered by the needs and demands of my family and the general chaos can be overwhelming.  I'd like to carry out all my tasks prayerfully...with grace and patience and gentleness, but I know...and I know my kids would agree....I just can't pull that off.  Even if I could get it all done....grace and patience and gentleness slip away pretty fast!

Cooking, cleaning, training, managing, driving, shopping and never-ending laundry can be tedious, thankless and frustrating.

I've had a problem with practicing the Presence of God, ever since I read my doggy-eared paperback discovered at a used book store...almost 20 years ago. And back then, I wasn't even a Mom yet!
I usually forget the most important part of practicing the Presence of God: prayer.
I do pray...but Brother Lawrence prayed continuously while he went about his simple duties.  He was in constant conversation with God!
Everything is better when I remember: I just can't do everything all on my own!
I know I need to ask for help from my husband AND my kids before I enter the realm of I'll-just-resentfully-do-it-myself...but the MOST important help I need to from Jesus and His Mother Mary. Mary knows how to get it all done...connected constantly to her Son.
The problem is that I get so overwhelmed... that I forget to ask. I forget to pray.
But here's my idea: what if I pray each day asking for Jesus and Mother Mary to help me to remember to rely on Him and ask for His Help when things start getting tense? I have on occasion asked Him for a reminder to get myself to weekday Mass or Confession....and I must say...He's very reliable! I will inevitably be prompted to prepare to go to Church, just in time, with minimal neglect of my Mom duties.
Isn't this a great idea? It's a big deal to truly unite our efforts with Jesus and call out to Him, relying on His Strength, not ours....but some of us need to take a step back and ask for help before it gets to the crunch.  We need to ask for reminders and prompts to remember to call on Him and I think Jesus (and Mary!) will be more than happy to help us out.
I have found asking for His reminder to pray and call out to Him....has helped me increase my prayer and carry out my vocation with a little bit more patience and calm. I think that this is a big deal...especially having everyone home for summer!

I find that I am remembering to pray more often.  A quick little prayer goes a long way to help focus and stay calm. I think as long as I remember to keep asking for His reminders....I could make practicing the Presence of God... a habit!

Imagine the possibilities...of being in constant conversation with God!

Jesus, I trust in You.  You want me to draw closer to You, praying more, engaging more, asking for help instead of struggling on my own.  Please remind me to call out to You and look to Mother Mary as my model.  Please prompt me, remind me and guide me.
Jesus, be my strength, I trust in You.

All I need to do is to remember to ask.

Friday, February 15, 2013

For Praying Out Loud

The TV Evangelists do it. Other denominations do, and child....and Charismatic Catholics do it. They pray earnestly from the heart, within range of anyone to hear, with all the confidence in the world.

I'm trying to do it to, mentored by my priest friend who opened my eyes to what an intimate relationship with Jesus is about: praying from the heart...and listening intently for His Answers in my heart…but it’s a work in progress.

Why do I find it so difficult to pray out loud? Because I'm not talking about a shopping list of prayer requests, peppered with a blurted out 'thank-you' or 'I'm sorry' within a routine of someone else's beautiful words of classic Catholic prayers. I'm talking about a vulnerable cry from the heart expressing a deepening yearning to feel closer and connected to the Lord; understood by Him, inspired by Him, in full service to Him and in tireless pursuit of Him.

Why out loud?  For the same reason that I often journal my prayers.  Perhaps not as permanent as the written word, the act of speaking the words out loud force them to be deliberate...and a little more vulnerable.  

I'm talking about speaking out loud, the quiet stirring from the Holy Spirit, in an uncomposed, unrehearsed string of words, struggling at times to properly express them and uninhibited enough to trust that the message won't get mangled, even if it's not all that eloquent. And as if it's not difficult enough to hear myself struggle through, I allow my spiritual director to witness my awkward attempt? Regularly?

Have you ever asked someone to pray for you, and to your surprise, they prayed over you...right at that moment? That's what my now-spiritual director did, the first time I asked him for a prayer. He prayed with me regularly as he became my spiritual director.
Although it was comforting to bask in the beautiful, flowing words of another, addressing my needs and asking for a shower of graces and blessings, I felt a nudge. An uncomfortable, insistent nudge prompted me to admit that maybe I was being called to real participation, deepening my relationship with my Lord and my God, directed maybe, but not dependent on the gifts of my spiritual director. After I blurted out this suspicion that I was being challenged to step out of my comfort zone, it was quickly addressed. Not letting me off the hook by postponing it to a face-to face meeting, I made my first attempt to pray from the heart out loud, in that same phone call. gulp.
Years later, having completed each talk with praying out loud... I feel anything but smooth, but I feel a certain disappointment if I ever dodge the challenge after spiritual direction.

I wish I could say that I pray from the heart with my kids. Although I do pray out loud with my husband and my kids, I usually rely on a familiar routine of memorized prayers, habitual phrases and a continuous floating list of prayer intentions for family and friends.
I desperately want to inspire them to deeper prayer, but I feel like such a newbie at it, learning as I go along, inspired by others who sound like they have been praying naturally, spontaneously and from the heart ...for a lifetime.

I am only a little more confident and a little less apprehensive with each act of trust, and I recognize the graces and strengthening of my prayer life, with each attempt. I think I might always avoid leading prayer in a group...just the suggestion to do a reading at Mass or lead a women's group...makes me want to head for the hills.

But if I am the one to inspire my kids Lord, I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me and guide me to continue to grow in my prayer life, draw closer to Him and to reflect His unconditional intimate Love for them. I pray that my kids will also feel the nudge to pray from the heart…and ultimately enjoy a closer, more personal relationship with our Lord.

Do you feel the nudge to pray out loud?
What is your favorite way to pray? Leave a comment below!

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