Happy Holidays to the Church Militant

prayerJMJ

We celebrate many holidays during the month of November. Many people would say that Thanksgiving begins the “Holiday Season” which then goes through Christmas and New Year’s covering Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Catholics know that November 1st truly starts this season. The Feast of All Saints celebrates the Church Triumphant, all those souls who enjoy eternity in the presence of Our Lord in heaven. I always enjoy the singing of the Litany of Saints during this liturgy. With every, “Pray For Us,” we get to commune with the heroes of the church.

The following day we celebrate All Souls’ Day and thereby the Church Penitent. These are the souls who still need to be perfected in the fires of purgatory. They still need our prayers and the church frequently reminds us to do this throughout the month of November. Traditionally, many people visit the graves of their loved ones who have passed during this time or light candles in church in their memory. Remembering the dead should continue all year long through daily prayer and offering Masses when we can.

You probably already know a good deal about those Catholic holidays, but in addition I would like to offer a connection that I only made this year. Two American holidays, one of which occurs in November, and all of three parts of the church, especially the final part, the Church Militant can be linked in a significant way. Americans honor the lives of those who died in service of the United States on Memorial Day. Catholics honor the souls of those who served our Lord on November 1st and 2nd.

On November 11, Americans celebrate Veteran’s Day. We honor all those who served in the Armed Forces. Catholics can also honor themselves throughout November as we all serve in the Church Militant. We fight in the battle of good and evil in the army of Christ. We train through catechesis and the study of Sacred Scripture. We join the ranks through Baptism and advance in rank through Confirmation. We are nourished on the rations of the Eucharist and our wounds healed by Reconciliation. As soldiers, we know that any day could be our last and the eschatology of the readings during Mass at the end of the liturgical year remind us of that. In the “Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins”, Jesus reminds us to “Watch therefore, for you don’t know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:13) All soldiers know this reality.

Enjoy this month. At Thanksgiving, give thanks that our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ, has already won the victory for us. Not only that, but He left us the greatest training facility, field hospital, and fortress the world has ever known, the Catholic Church. Thanks be to God.

Copyright 2017 Mark Andrews

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

A retreat to remember

2017 CWG Retreat Top: Rebecca Willen, Pat Abood, Kathryn Mulderink, Jean Ewing, Cheryl Wills and Joe Cillo. Bottom: Tim Neboyskey, Rhonda Ortiz, Dena Hunt, Nancy Ward, Thora Wease, Sr. Teresa Cardinez and Theresa Alt, photographer. Missing are Lori Crock, Leslie Lynch, Margaret Rose Realy, Elizabeth Scalia and Patricia Sheahan-Hollyer

2017 CWG Retreat Top: Rebecca Willen, Pat Abood, Kathryn Mulderink, Jean Ewing, Cheryl Wills and Joe Cillo. Bottom: Tim Neboyskey, Rhonda Ortiz, Dena Hunt, Nancy Ward, Thora Wease, Sr. Teresa Cardinez and Theresa Alt, photographer. Missing are Lori Crock, Leslie Lynch, Margaret Rose Realy, Elizabeth Scalia and Patricia Sheahan-Hollyer

The camaraderie with other writers at the Catholic Writers Retreat was exciting and the speakers encouraging. The space and time to write was a breath of peace in my over busy life. We had plenty of time slots designated for writing and a critique group of ten writers in various genres.

I wrote a couple of short pieces and two book proposals. I loved journaling in the chapel. I got to know and love several new friends and a couple of writers I have networked with on projects for several years.

This would have been enough joy for any retreat. But wait, there’s more! For me, the highpoint of the retreat wasn’t on the schedule of activities, but on the map of the 98-acre site. A walk along the three Natural Cathedral Walkways. No need to look over my shoulder or anticipate what I needed to do next. Here on this long, leisurely walk, I felt the presence of the Lord beside me with the trees bending to pray over us. After a while, bright sunlight appeared and the path widened into a meadow surrounded by gardens. At that magic junction, I experienced a preview of my walk into heaven.

Perseverance and Psalm 23

Natural Cathedral Walkways, St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI (Photo by Nancy Ward)

Natural Cathedral Walkways, St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI (Photo by Nancy Ward)

The three speakers taught us a lot about Perseverance. Elizabeth Scalia advised us to use words that pierce like a needle to the crux. She said to cut the finished manuscript 10%, let it rest, and then cut 5% more. She reminded us that words are living things and that if we change our words, we change our life. Pray with delight of being with the Lord, and if we get stuck, we’ve gotten in our own way. Let the desire, the passions go. The solution to prayer and writing blocks is just to pray and write anyway. Keep going!

Fr. Doug Osborne used Psalm 23 to remind us how God created us and loves us and how God’s word is “The word who walks among us.” We are his presence in the world, walking among his people and speaking the word of God. Our presence reminds them that God loves his people and how he can work in our lives and their lives. Our words remind our readers of how God has brought them out of circumstances they could never handle alone.

“The world, the people around you need to see hope in you, a hint, a spark, a touch, a whisper of God’s glory in your life,” he said. “They need to see God in your words of goodness.”

Paper dolls and rosaries

Sheri Wohlfert gave us ways to pray constantly and see how God sees us. She kept us hopping with her fun videos and prayer exercises, and hints on handling distractions and procrastination. She gave us a paper doll to color and use to list our God-given attributes. We were challenged to discover any traits in us that distort his image so that he can chisel them off.

I completed the Mary Undoer of Knots Novena during one of the rosaries. A new CWG member, Lori Crock, lead us in SoulCore stretching exercises to music while meditating on the rosary. This rosary was an unexpected demo of the retreat theme of perseverance and gave us insight in integrating our spiritual life in taking care of our body as the temple of God.

Liturgies and marketing

I received incredible guidance from the Lord on my writing priorities during the talks and casual conversations as well as during the liturgies and Adoration. The liturgies were especially well done and inspiring. I went to Reconciliation with a precious elderly priest who shouted because he was hard of hearing. It gave me another perspective in how St. Damian had to confess to another priest who was in a boat a few yards from the island of Molokai, inhabited only by lepers.

The retreat wasn’t all about writing and I took the opportunity our loving and capable Margaret Rose Realy gave us to sell several books and DVDs to the retreatants. Several of us also placed our publications in the St. Francis Retreat Center Bookstore.

Food and fun

I enjoyed delicious meals prepared lovingly and accommodating my gluten-free diet. We lingered after meals for conversations and stayed in the dining room so long one night they had to kick us out so they could clean up!

We all had a blast drinking wine and enjoying the scrumptious snacks Margaret provided us as we gathered around the fireplace at night with lots of games, singing and laughter. My blessings overflow!

(© 2017 Nancy HC Ward)

Posted in CWG Member News, CWG Retreat, Encouragement for Writers, Inspirational, Networking | Leave a comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: November 12, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Wisdom 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


NOVEMBER INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
O God, of Whose mercies there is no number, and of Whose goodness the treasure is infinite; we render thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the gifts You have bestowed upon us, evermore beseeching Your clemency, that as You grant the petitions of them that ask You, You will never forsake them, but will prepare for the reward to come. Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

The Gift of Red

2008-11-16 021Advent and Christmas were always bright and happy times in my childhood home.  While focus was on preparing for the coming of Christ, mixed in with that anticipation was the fun of decorating.  Red was everywhere and in every room.  My mother made sure our home reflected the joy heralded by the angels of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, with the manger scene a focal point.  We had red plaid table cloths in the dining room and playful elves hanging from every conceivable perch. I came to love the significance of all these bright red and green decorating traditions.

Several years ago, a cardinal perched outside my window one morning. He was a magnificent contrast against the small oak tree in my backyard, and reminded me of my father who faithfully put out black sunflower seeds (the best kind) for the cardinals gracing our home. My mother has kept a stained-glass cardinal on her bedroom window along with a myriad of colored-glass crucifixes, chalices, and other professions of her enduring faith.  She believes that my dad, long gone, signals to her when the cardinals come and visit.

So, my mind wandered the trail of how much the color red permeates our world and how God created so many variations for our delight.  Do you know how many names there are for this color called red?  I didn’t, and so I looked it up and daydreamed about the marvelous range of reds in existence.  But it was the deep scarlet of the cardinal that led me on a path to remember our Savior, not at His birth but at His redemptive sacrifice – and through my father – His teachings from the Sermon on the Mount.  At the end of the trail, one thing was crystal clear to me, one realization that I needed at the time; Jesus loves me , all of us, beyond our imagining, beyond all else in this created world.  I marvel at God’s wisdom in creating a small bird with such power to move the human heart, to lift our spirits toward heaven, and to give me memories of my devout parents.

The following poem was born from the gift of red given to me through inspiring parents.  What memories bring  warmth and comfort to you?  Feel free to share special holiday memories or traditions.

Cardinal Red

More than poinsettias and red curly-ribboned Christmas gifts,
more than glossy lacquered lines of red candy apples in the window,
more than clumsy Crayola-red shapes on a toddler’s first piece of art,
more than sumptuous strawberry-red berries begging to be tasted,
more than the competent clarity of fire engine reds racing to rescue,
the deep scarlet cardinal captures me
in the fleeting seconds of his landing,
in the sound of his song,
in the almost imperceptible rising and falling of his splendid chest.
He breathes life and bleeds red,
as red as the drops of blood2008-11-16 022
falling from our Savior’s wounds
and causes me to remember my father
quoting Matthew 6:26 from his red Douay-Rheims
“ Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow,
nor do they reap, nor gather into barns;
and your heavenly Father feedeth them.
Are not you of much more value than they?”
In this cardinal red moment,
the two hundred and eighty four other shades
referenced in books
cannot compare.

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Catholic Theme, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Faith, Family Life, Holidays, Inspirational, non-fiction, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Within the Crowd I Watched in Awe as the Priest Stepped into the Sandals of Christ

What follows is about a priest in a crowd, a famous poem, and a moment in time. The moment was like seeing a tiny flower growing out of a crack in a concrete sidewalk. That tiny flower is another example of God’s creative beauty that surrounds us yet is barely noticed by anyone. The fate of that tiny flower is ominous. Even though no person anywhere at any time could ever create that fragile, work of living beauty, it more than likely will be ignored, stepped upon or sprayed with weed killer to get rid of it. Ah well, we “smarties” have no time for such trivialities and petty annoyances.

The poem I refer to is “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. Written in 1913, it has a timely message. There is a line in the poem that reads, “A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray”: the tiny flower in the concrete is a smaller version, is it not? So what about the priest in the crowd?

I was at a parish event the other evening which featured as speakers our bishop, an author, a radio station personality, and our pastor. The Knights of Columbus (which included me) were the ones who prepared and served the free dinner to over 300 guests. The parish center was packed, and when the final speaker had finished we began to serve the dessert. I sensed something special was going on nearby. I do not know if anyone else but me was paying attention but I was about to witness one of those special moments in time.

There were a number of local parish priests in attendance and one of them was the chaplain at the local VA hospital. I was working in the kitchen, getting the cake plates on trays and handing the trays to those serving the guests. Outside the kitchen was the drink table where coffee, tea, cold drinks etc were available. At any given time there were at least ten people standing in line. Five feet away from the drink table was the first row of dinner tables. Father was sitting at the end of the first table talking to a woman.

At this point, the chatter was quite loud and people were up and moving about visiting other tables saying “Hi” to other folks they knew. I noticed Father looking at the young lady very intently and purposefully. I knew this priest had put his Jesus’ sandals on.

I kept working and watching the two of them. They were at least twenty feet away from me and, with all the activity and noise and people milling about and all around them, they had managed to be alone. The priest listened and listened and listened some more. I watched as best I could because this was so awe-inspiring. I was witnessing Christ do His thing through His priest. This happens every time we attend Mass, but how many of us think about what actually IS happening? We hear of this happening in other places, but how often do we get to watch it happen? Hardly ever.

After a while, Father leaned his head to the right a bit and rested his chin on his upraised fist. He was not looking directly at the woman; he was now sort of looking downward. He inconspicuously blessed her and, I assume, she was being given absolution. I was not positive because I had heard nothing and never even saw her face. But it did not matter. Whatever was happening between them was spiritual and beautiful.

Like the tiny flower popping its little lavender petal through a crack in concrete or Kilmer’s magnificent tree looking at God all day lifting its “leafy arms to pray,” this moment was those moments. Few people notice the stunning oak tree standing majestically alongside a roadway or a blade of grass pushing its way through a hairline crack in a slab of cement. Sadly, more and more people are losing sight of Christ in our midst and the hand of the Creator smiling down on His creations. I was blessed. I caught a glimpse the other night.

Joyce Kilmer’s poem finishes up with the poignant words: “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

We need to remember that.

Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson

Posted in Beauty, Catholic Theme | Tagged , | 1 Comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: November 5, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13

We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


NOVEMBER INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
O God, of Whose mercies there is no number, and of Whose goodness the treasure is infinite; we render thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the gifts You have bestowed upon us, evermore beseeching Your clemency, that as You grant the petitions of them that ask You, You will never forsake them, but will prepare for the reward to come. Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

Halloween and the Legend of the Jack-O-Lantern (one version)

Long ago in Ireland, the land of shamrocks, leprechauns, soft winds and smiles, there lived a man named  Jack. Jack was quite lazy and did not like to work. But he had the gift of “blarney” and could talk the peat off the moss.

He would tell wondrous tales about his adventures as a world traveler and the people in his village would be held spellbound by his golden tongue. Alas, Jack outsmarted himself when he stole money from the townsfolk. He thought that they were not very smart and would never find out. But they did find out and began chasing him down the streets of the village.

As Jack ran down the road as fast as he could, he rounded a bend and ran smack into the devil. The devil smiled at Jack and told him it was time for him to die and that he was there to take his soul. Jack quickly convinced the devil that if he would let him go and promise to never take his soul he would give him all the souls of the folks who were chasing him. “And how do you plan to do that, Jack?” the devil asked.

“Well now, all ye have ta do is turn ye-self into a pot of gold coins. Then I will give the coins to the people and you will be in all of their pockets. They will be yours.”

Since many souls were better than only one, the devil readily agreed and turned himself into a pot of gold coins. Jack gave the coins to all the people and they went away smiling, never realizing that they had given themselves to the devil in return for money.

So Jack lived on, grew old and, like all mortal men, finally died. His life had been so sinful on earth that he could not get into heaven and since the devil could not take his soul, he could not get into hell. He had nowhere to go. He asked the devil how he was supposed to see because he was in complete darkness. The devil laughed and tossed Jack a burning ember from the fires of hell, an ember that would never burn out.

Jack, using the ember to guide his way, found a pumpkin patch (some say it was turnips) and carved out a pumpkin. He put the ember inside and began carrying it around so he could see where he was going. To this day he wanders the earth seeking a resting place. And that is why he is known as “Jack-O’-Lantern” or “Jack of the Lantern.”

By Man vyi - own photo, Public Domain, Link

By Man vyi – own photo, Public Domain, Link

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson

Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 29, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


OCTOBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Blessing of the Harvest

Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | Leave a comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: October 22, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that, he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


OCTOBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Blessing of the Harvest

Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


OCTOBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Blessing of the Harvest

Almighty Lord God, You keep on giving abundance to men in the dew of heaven and food out of the richness of the soil. We give thanks to Your most gracious majesty for the fruits of the field which we have gathered. We beg of You, in Your mercy, to bless our harvest, which we have received from Your generosity. Preserve it, and keep it from all harm. Grant, too, that all those whose desires You have filled with these good things may be happy in Your protection. May they praise Your mercies forever and make use of the good things that do not last in such a way that they may not lose those goods that are everlasting, through Christ our Lord.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | Leave a comment

The Measuring Stick

sewing-1229711__480[1] So, how’s it going?  Here we are again, Advent is close, Easter follows winter.  The cycle of life goes on and the Church is a mirror to that.  If you are a fairly new Catholic or one who has been part of the cycle for a very long time, what has been your role in that progression?  How are you doing, what are you doing, how do you tell? Are you one of those who obediently went through Catholic School and/or sacramental preparation and somehow got the message that when you graduated grammar school and were confirmed that also meant you were done with your participation in life as a believer.  Perhaps you got the message that there was no more work to be done as far as your spiritual wellness was concerned?  Maybe you were led to believe that religion is confined to Sunday behind closed doors.
If your answer is yes to any of those assumptions all I can do is extend my apologies to you.  You have been cheated on a grand scale.  You have been robbed of the opportunity to have a life full of the richness and the generosity of God.  The idea of a peaceful spirit and a tangible way to deal with grief and tragedy in a manner that makes you better not bitter has been taken from you.
Whether you know it or not your journey through the cycles of the Church as well as the cycle of life is never supposed to settle into the same boring routine. A great saint once taught that if you are comfortable in your faith life, you must be doing something wrong.  What do you actually do, though, when there is no more instructor and you’re not really sure what prayer is actually supposed to be?
First of all, I sincerely hope that somewhere along the way you have gotten the information that you are not of this world.  You are special, chosen by God!  Yes you, and me!  As a recipient of that amazing gift, God’s hope for you is that through your life you aim at being the best you can be.  That includes right now, with your life as a preparation for and participation in eternity, literally!
[W]e … with Christ are being transformed by a newness of mind.  We are not of this world and the world has no affection for us, and for good reason.                    Saint Jerome (†420), hermit.
Given these truths about who we are as believers, then, the question remains:  How can I know if I am doing this successfully or not?  That’s not as complicated a question as you might believe because Jesus has already given us the tools to do this.  They are in plain sight if you know where to look. You might recall the spectacular occurrences at Pentecost when the Church was born.  The Spirit swept in and gave the disciples all the tools they needed to bust a move, go out into the world and shed all their fears that they cowered with when in  the upper room.  He conferred to them: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, faith, healing, miracles, tongues, the interpretation of tongues. They took these tools and evangelized the world.  The bible teaches that not everyone gets all of the gifts but all believers get some of the gifts for the building of the kingdom.
If you are wondering, however, what the tools look or feel like and how you can tell which gift you have or are supposed to use, that’s not as hard as you might think.  Along with the Gifts of the Spirit, He also conferred the Fruits of the Spirit.
All the Fruits are accessible to all believers and because they are straight from God, the Fruits couldn’t be a more reliable measuring stick for the way your spiritual growth is going.  Here are the Fruits:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
As a reliable check for your progress in the spiritual life, take an honest look at the fruits. Are you more patient than you used to be, are you joyful?  Do you choose kindness rather than judgement? Do you have a kind word when it would be easier to complain?  More  than that, compare your behavior to a year or two ago.  When it comes to the fruits are your behaviors and attitudes different than they were?   Have you gained patience, has your critical nature changed?  The Fruits are the perfect measuring stick.  Identify what’s changed and what hasn’t!  Whoop there it is!  Right in front of your face.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | Comments Off on The Measuring Stick