Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Think St. Therese Is Trying To Tell Me Something This May!

St. Therese had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. It was Our Lady who cured Therese of her terrible illness at age ten as the family prayed over Therese in her bed. Therese writes in her autobiography, Story of a Soul:

"All of a sudden the Blessed Virgin appeared beautiful to me, so beautiful that never had I seen anything so attractive, her face was suffused with an ineffable benevolence and tenderness, but what penetrated to the very depths of my soul was the ravishing smile of the Blessed Virgin."

Therese also wrote about asking God for things. "I asked this from the Blessed Virgin, I didn't ask God because I want Him to do as He pleases. Asking the Blessed Virgin for something is not the same as asking God. She really knows what is to be done about my little desires, whether or not she must speak about them to God. So it's up to Her to see that God is not forced to answer me, to allow Him to do everything He pleases."

A friend of mine, a Marian Catechist, asked me if I had said the rosary lately.

"It's been a while," I sheepishly admitted. "But I pray the St. Therese chaplet all of the time."

She cocked her head a little. "Therese was very close to Our Lady," she said. "You don't want to make Therese upset." Then she smiled, having properly admonished me. I laughed, but I got the point!

A friend recently visited the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit. It has a lovely gift and book store (they sell Olivia and the Little Way there!) and she stopped to browse the many religious items.

"I saw this and I just felt that I was supposed to buy it for you," she said.

I opened the red pouch and found a beautiful rose-scented rosary. Look closely. Can you see the pretty pink rose beads? I wish you could smell it! I told her what a sweet gesture it was.

"It wasn't my idea," she said, and I knew exactly what she meant.

Last week I had a rather trying day. Some days, nothing ever seems to go right. You burn the toast, the coffee doesn't come out right, you can't seem to concentrate on your work, you feel out of sorts. We all have those days. On this particular day, I went outside to get the mail and found an odd-looking package in my mailbox. I couldn't wait to open it. I wasn't expecting anything, so I was very curious.

It was yet another St. Therese rosary! The note tucked inside read simply, "I knew I had to give this to you!" It was from my husband's aunt and godmother, a religious sister.

St. Therese knew how to cheer me up on a down-in-the-dumps day! She sends her shower of roses in all sorts of ways. By sending me rosaries, I think she is trying to tell me something, don't you?

It's almost May, the month of Our Lady. We can all make an extra effort to honor her. And I have two beautiful new rosaries with which to do just that! The great saint, St. Teresa of Avila, said this: "The devotions we practice in honor of the glorious Virgin Mary, however trifling they may be, are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and He rewards them with eternal glory."

"Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle. When you see the storm coming, if you seek safety in that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down."—St. Josemaria Escriva

Mary, Queen of All Saints, pray for us!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bl. Zelie Martin: An Inspiration To Us All

Not long ago, a friend told me a true story:

Last week her mother was in her car, stopped at an intersection near the freeway in Detroit. Standing on the corner was a man holding a sign. It said, "I'm hungry."

In the next lane over, a well-dressed woman in a nice car waited for the light to turn green. She noticed the man holding the sign, rolled down her car window, and yelled nastily to him, "WHY DON'T YOU GET A JOB?"

The man said nothing in response. Her mother was horrified.

When I heard this story, my first response was revulsion at such an act. If this woman could only see herself from the outside: a well-to-do woman with beautiful jewelry and a fancy car, YELLING at this homeless man. Sheesh, isn't he down on his luck enough, without having to hear the nasty wrath of this woman, who doesn't even know him? Who yells at anyone without truly knowing his or her story, the circumstances of a stranger on the street? Can we really think we know someone just by looking at him or her? And is it necessary to hatefully yell your opinion to someone you've never met, risking hurting their feelings? If she was not in a giving mood, she should have simply kept quiet and driven away.

My second reaction was this: Whatever we have, whatever we think we own, is not really even ours. It all belongs to God. In His mercy, He has given us what we have and we should be grateful, never taking it for granted, never being so cocky as to think it will always be there, will always be ours. Every day is a gift, and everything we own is a gift, not to be taken lightly. And when we prepare to meet Him after we leave this earth, we can't carry a tote bag with our material goods along with us. We are all human, we are all God's children; yes, even if we haven't bathed and don't have homes.

I've been doing a lot of reading about the mother of the Little Flower, Zelie Martin. Beatified along with her husband Louis in 2008, she was a loving example on earth of Christ's love for humanity: an unselfish woman who practiced charity toward her neighbor, love for the Church, a life of hard work, and lived her short life with a spirit of faith.

She wasn't tremendously wealthy, but the money she did earn from her successful lacemaking business in Alencon was never taken for granted, and never shamefully wasted. Instead, Zelie helped out her poor neighbors all of the time, sending them money and homemade stew.

She also taught her daughters (Therese among them), not only charity to the suffering poor, but to show them respect.

The following paragraphs are taken from the book The Mother of the Little Flower, which is written by Therese's older sister Celine, and is now published by TAN books:

One day while traveling, she reproved another lady in the railway carriage who showed displeasure at the arrival of a poor woman with her two babies. When they reached Alencon, Mother helped the woman with her children and parcels to get her home. Father, who had been waiting at the station, also helped; and it was midnight before they reached their own home.

For Leonie's First Communion, Mother selected a poor girl in her class, had her dressed in white also for her First Communion, and invited her to the place of honour at the festive dinner for the occasion.

Zelie Martin, mother of Therese

I marvel at the difference between the woman in the car and Zelie Martin. One chose to spew hatred; the other chose to treat people with dignity and respect. It was never an inconvenience for Zelie to think of others' needs before her own, even when it was late and she was tired from traveling. Zelie never asked questions of the people, asking if they had jobs, were lazy, etc. She never yelled at them or put them down, trying to decide for herself if they were truly worthy of a hot meal. She put everything in God's hands, and did her part without complaint.

Blessed Zelie Martin is an inspiration to us all. She is integrity, character, goodness, and love. Ask for her intercession in your life, as well as in the life of the woman in the car, so her hardened heart may soften and she may learn what it is to be truly charitable.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

She Wanted It That Much

"Ste Therese. Therese devant le Pape Leon XIII (20 Novembre 1887)"
This is a French lantern slide (c. 3.25 x 4") depicting the life of St Therese of Lisieux. It is published by Maison de la Bonne Presse, Paris.

(From Wikipedia): In May 1887 Thérèse approached her 63-year old father Louis, recovering from a small stroke, while he sat in the garden one Sunday afternoon and told him that she wanted to celebrate the anniversary of "her conversion" by entering Carmel before Christmas. Louis and Thérèse both broke down and cried, but Louis got up, gently picked a little white flower, root intact, and gave it to her, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it until that day.

Therese later wrote, "While I listened I believed I was hearing my own story." To Therese, the flower seemed a symbol of herself, "destined to live in another soil." Thérèse then renewed her attempts to join the Carmel, but the priest-superior of the monastery would not allow it on account of her youth.
In November 1887 Louis took Céline and Thérèse on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome for the priestly jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. During a general audience with Leo XIII, she unexpectedly approached the pope, kneeled and asked him to allow her to enter at 15. The Pope said: "Well, my child, do what the superiors decide.... You will enter if it is God's Will" and he blessed Thérèse just as the guards arrived to take her back.

Soon after that, the Bishop of Bayeux authorized the prioress to receive Therese, and on April 9, 1888 she became a Carmelite postulant.

Thérèse at age 15
For her journey to Mgr Hugonin, Bishop of Bayeux, to seek permission to enter Carmel at Christmas 1887 Thérèse had put up her hair for the first time, a symbol for being "grown-up." A photograph of that period shows a fresh, firm, girlish face..The familiar flowing locks are combed sternly back and up, piled in a hard little chignon on the top of her head...her face, vigorous, tensed, concentrated around an invisible core almost tough in its astonishing poise, with a resolute, straight mouth, stubborn chin; but this impression of toughness is contradicted by eyes full of profound life, clear and filled with a secret humour (Görres, The Hidden Face) p.149

As I read the above, I couldn't help but marvel at Therese's tenacity. Also, in her faith in God. Because what at first seemed like an insurmountable task did not stop her from doing all she could to achieve her goal of becoming a postulant. I laughed when I read stories of her and her older sister Celine, plotting and planning in their hotel room in Rome. Can you just imagine them huddled together, whispering after their father was asleep, planning for good little Therese to disobey Vatican orders and actually speak to the Pope, when no one was allowed to? Not only did little Therese speak to him, she grabbed his legs and begged him!

Here she describes the scene in her own words:

"Before entering the pontifical apartment, I was really determined to speak, but I felt my courage weaken when I saw Father Révérony standing by the Holy Father's right side. Almost at the same instant, they told us on the Pope's behalf that it was forbidden to speak, as this would prolong the audience too much. I turned toward my dear Céline for advice: "Speak!"she said.

A moment later I was at the Holy Father's feet. I kissed his slipper and he presented his hand, but instead of kissing it I joined my own and lifting tear-filled eyes to his face, I cried out: "Most Holy Father, I have a great favor to ask you!"

The Sovereign Pontiff lowered his head towards me in such a way that my face almost touched his, and I saw his eyes, black and deep, fixed on me and they seemed to penetrate to the depths of my soul. "Holy Father, in honor of your Jubilee, permit me to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen!"

Emotion undoubtedly made my voice tremble. He turned to Father Révérony who was standing at me with surprise and displeasure and said: "I don't understand very well." Now if God had permitted it, it would have been easy for Father Révérony to obtain what I desired, but it was the cross and not consolation God willed to give me.

"Most Holy Father," answered the Vicar General, "this is a child who wants to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen, but the Superiors are considering the matter at the moment." "Well, my child," the Holy Father replied, looking at me kindly, "do what the Superiors tell you!" Resting my hands on his knees, I made a final effort, saying in a suppliant voice: "Oh! Holy Father, if you say yes, everybody will agree!" He gazed at me steadily, speaking these words and stressing each syllable: "Go . . . go . . . You will enter if God wills it!" (His accent had something about it so penetrating and so convincing, it seems to me I still hear it.)

I was encouraged by the Holy Father's kindness and wanted to speak again, but the two guards touched me politely to make me rise. As this was not enough they took me by the arms and Father Révérony helped them lift me, for I stayed there with joined hands resting on the knees of Leo XIII. It was with force they dragged me from his feet. At the moment I was thus lifted, the Holy Father placed his hand on my lips, then raised it to bless me. Then my eyes filled with tears and Father Révérony was able to contemplate at least as many diamonds as he had seen at Bayeux, the two guards literally carried me to the door and there a third one gave me a medal of Leo XIII.

Céline who followed was a witness to the scene which had just taken place; almost as moved as myself, she still had the courage to ask the Holy Father to bless the Carmel. Father Révérony answered in a displeased tone of voice: "The Carmel is already blessed."

The good Holy Father replied gently: "Oh! yes, it is already blessed."

She wanted it that much.

Excerpt from
Story of A Soul, translated by Father John Clarke, O.C.D., 1976, Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications, 2131 Lincoln Road NE, Washington, DC 20002 USA, pages 134-135

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another Honor For Olivia!

I am so excited to announce that Olivia and the Little Way has just been awarded the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writers Guild.  This is a great honor for me.

The Catholic Writers' Guild is a group of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allied dedicated to helping one another build a vibrant Catholic literary and artistic culture. We do this by encouraging each other to create, publish, perform, and share our work; by reflecting upon core Catholic values (i.e., those in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium) in art; and by networking among ourselves and with others within the faith and literary communities. We are loyal to the teaching authority of the Church. Our regular and alumni members are practicing Catholic writers, while institutional members are persons or company supportive of Catholic writing; institutional members need not to be Catholic, but sympathetic to Catholic practices and morals.

This honor, in addition to the award bestowed on Olivia and the Little Way in the 2009 Catholic Press Association Book Awards, makes me very grateful to be an author providing Catholic fiction for children.  Deo Gratias!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Alleluia! A Prayer For Easter Morning

As the world sings triumphant cries to heaven over death that You conquered, help us, Lord, tomorrow as well, when the dresses are put away and the candy is all eaten and on with life we go
let us not forget.

The celebration of Your Resurrection over death is a celebration of life that should continue well beyond the sunrise service and the music, rehearshed for days prior; it is beyond the sign of spring beyond the lilly beyond new lambs grazing in open fields.

Resurrection is a daily celebration over fear; man's greatest and most powerful enemy. Fear of tomorrow, fear of our yesterdays, fear of what shall become of our young our old our unborn. Resurrection is replacing fear with physical action.

This alone, the most touching and profound of Your signs that fear is dead and 
belief in You brings, not just hope but life.

What better living parable could You have brought? All fear death. All. Even in the garden, You took on our fear if for only moments, it was as real as our fears can be real and You knew then that this single enemy must be destroyed.

And, You sacrificed Your life, leaving those who had been comfort, and follower; You left them behind, to conquer fear.

I shall cling to this now, and the tomorrows given me.

Peace and Thanksgiving lifted unto You.


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