Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Feast Day of St. John Bosco!

Happy Feast Day of St. John Bosco, patron saint of youth who plays such a big role in The Gate and is a friend in Heaven to me and so many. 




On December 24, 1887, in Don Bosco's final days, he said, "There is only one thing I ask of the Lord: that I may save my poor soul. I urge you to encourage the Salesians to work with zeal and dedication. Work, work! Always and unceasingly strive to save souls." St. John Bosco, ora pro nobis.




Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Little Catholic Sunshine

Brrr....it's so cold out here in Michigan that venturing outside is a feat. Boots, my longest, warmest parka, hat, gloves, scarf. Just to go get the mail at the end of our driveway! Imagine my irritation when I finally get there and find out the mail hasn't come yet! Trudge back up the icy driveway (very carefully) to take it all off, one by one, in the laundry room, which is quickly becoming a mud room! Now I know where the name originated.

It can be pretty difficult to stay focused on the positives and count our blessings in these extreme, dangerous temperatures when we're all cooped up inside and dreaming of Florida (which I hear is pretty cold right about now) and spring. But thankful we must be. For warm clothes, central heat, and an oven with a piping-hot lasagna in it. A fat and soft kitty I can shove my cold feet under and he doesn't mind or hop off the couch. Cozy family movie nights while wrapped in warm blankets with popcorn. A coffee pot that delivers my morning java. And I am thankful to God for all of these blessings, believe me. One story in the local newspaper about a family who has no heat and is using a space heater to keep her and her children warm makes you shut your complaining mouth pretty quickly.

But then there are moments...You forget that you are one of millions going through the same thing. You slip and slide all over the road and you scowl at your filthy car, covered in dirty snow and salt. (Yes, I'm thankful for road salt)! My boots seem to be leaking. School is constantly cancelled, pipes are freezing. Our windows are drafty, and you can't even have your eyeballs exposed in these dangerous negative wind chills. This winter seems so looooooooong. IS IT OVER YET?

A whitening snow squall happened to pass through the Target parking lot yesterday morning as I was inside looking at hand lotion for my very dry skin and looking for someplace to escape the winter doldrums.

"Mom, look outside!" I heard a young lady say to her mother in awe. My head jerked up to see Old Man Winter blast its fury. I shook my head, sighed, and put a small bottle into my red cart. Just another day in Michigan.

A cashier named Barb scanned my lotion, shampoo and oatmeal.

"I heard it's pretty bad out there," she said.  I nodded.

"I think people are going to go crazy with this weather," she joked. "They're going to go running around in the streets saying, 'I can't take this anymore!'"

I laughed at the absurdity, then remembered the latest local newspaper headline that read Enough Already! Michiganders' sentiments exactly. Maybe Barb wasn't joking after all! We've all had ENOUGH!

It was then that I noticed she was wearing a beautiful gold medal. I leaned in for a closer look.

"Blessed Mother?" I asked her.

Her face lit up in surprise. "Yes!"

I pulled out my own chain I wear around my neck and showed her my Miraculous Medal and St. Therese medal. We smiled at each other, a little Catholic connection at the Target checkout. You don't get too many of those. It's not that there aren't enough Catholics out there beyond our parish doors. There's something like a billion Catholics worldwide. It's just that not too many people like to visibly wear it on their sleeves (or around their necks), I guess.  Barb told me she has a special devotion to St. Therese, another thing we have in common.

"Blessed Mother will never fail you," she said with a look of love on her face.

"That's for certain," I said as I put my wallet back into my purse. We chatted a bit more and I felt my mood lift.

"God bless you," Barb said, as she handed me my receipt.

I smiled back at her and said, "God bless you."

I perked up as I walked outside to the parking lot. The squall had passed as quickly as it had come. The Holy Spirit had sent me a warm moment with a complete stranger.  Barb had filled my soul with a little Catholic sunshine.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Blessed Zelie Martin: An Inspiration To All Of Us

A friend told me a true story:
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. My friend’s 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?
My second reaction was this: How have I been uncharitable, perhaps not in the same way as the lady above, but in my own selfish way?
It’s something to think about. We may pat ourselves on the backs, saying we’d never yell at a stranger like the rude lady in the car, but that doesn’t make some of our own selfish actions any more noble.
I’ve been reading a book about simplifying our lives and doing good for others by donating items we don’t need. Sounds simple enough, but what really got me thinking was when the author challenged me to think about how much is enough, and giving until it hurts.
Really, how much of our possessions IS enough? Sure, most of us donate clothes and food to the needy throughout the year. We put items in the bag that we’ve outgrown, that have gone out of style, that no longer fit us. That’s not really all that painless, though, is it?
For my part, I’ve been holding onto too many winter coats than I would ever need. Some women like shoes, some like purses. My downfall happens to be coats. But there are women out there who are cold, a cold I have never known, who could use some of the coats in my closet. Giving when it hurts is a true sacrifice, is true charity. After reading this book, it seems uncharitable now to hang onto them when others are in need.
Whatever we have, whatever we think we own, is not really even ours anyway. 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 or a leather trunk 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 my special friend in Heaven, the Little Flower. Her mother was 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 and sacrifice.
She wasn’t tremendously wealthy, but the money she did earn from her successful lace-making 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 (our dear St. Therese among them) charity for the suffering poor and also 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.
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. She was Christlike, sacrificing and giving even when it was not convenient or especially enjoyable. I know there must have been a few times when she was tired or ill and did not feel like giving. She did it anyway.
Blessed Zelie Martin is an inspiration to us all. She is integrity, character, goodness, and love. Ask for her intercession in your life during this new year, as well as in the life of the woman in the car, so that our hearts may soften and we all may learn what it is to be truly charitable in 2014.
For my part, I think I’ll go through my hall closet and look for some coats to give away. Is there anything in your closet that you could give away, even when it hurts?

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