Faith and Comfort

So, where is it you want to go? Where is it you expect your faith to take you in life?… .or maybe faith is an accouterment , something you coyly admit to when you’re at a party?  Truth is, you really hope that people, especially strangers are impressed by your admission! Seeking order and comfort, right?   Surely a deeply rooted faith provides a comfort in life that is unattainable any other way. Maybe.  I guess that depends on what your concept of comfort is.

If we study the scriptures closely we see that the idea of comfort for Jesus as well as his followers is way down on the list.  They walked everywhere. They rode uncomfortable beasts. They were subject to weather, and they never stayed in five-star accommodations.  Think nativity!  There were things that were simply of more importance in their ministry.  Jesus never taught that faith would bring comfort in the way we think about it as modern believers.  I have had the experience of some who actually equate the level of comfort in their lives as a demonstrated witness to their level of faith.  I bet you have had that experience too.  You know, those who teach things like: “This is going to be a changing day in your life.” ” Jesus tells me, you are the one to be healed, right now.”, and so on.

It’s not that all of scripture does not point to God’s desire for our personal prosperity.  It does.  God’s definition of prosperity, though, is focused on giving us the ability to live with him in perpetual bliss forever.  A physical prosperity might be part of that or it might not.  God wishes for us, rather, a prosperity of desire that drives everything we do.  Long before Jesus came to us God revealed His heart’s desire for the human race.  He has been doggedly working with us ever since to accomplish His goal.  Unfortunately, we have a great capacity to ignore or dismiss His hopes for us. In this stunning quote from the Old Testament we see that God’s hopes for the City of God preceded, by centuries, Aquinas’  discernment:

Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people; Leviticus 26:12

Comfort,  in the light of God’s faith in us, takes on a completely different dimension. It’s easy enough to be romanced

© 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / , via Wikimedia Commons

© 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / , via Wikimedia Commons

by the idea of a space of our own that is always abundant, always safe and always happy.  The truth is we do not have the ability to make that a reality in a world where sin exists.  We can aim at a nice home and good job and a happy family, but circumstances happen.  Our ability to hang on to or establish comfort in this world is really an illusion.  It has nothing to do with the results or fruit of our own personal faith.  Looking at the  truth of that can be a scary possibility but there’s also wisdom in facing that:

“When one has nothing more to lose, the heart is inaccessible to fear.” St. Theodore Guerin

Mother Guerin teaches us how to expand our faith to a place of invulnerability  The idea of comfort as a barometer of faith takes on a completely different dimension.  Like Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Damien of Molokai and all of the early martyrs,  we need to develop a more discerning eye when it comes to spotting faith  Maybe that Rolex, Coach Bag, custom tailored clothing and big house are not all they are cracked up to be? Hmmmmmm!

Copyright © 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Posted in Beauty, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Faith, Hope | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: July 16, 2017

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

Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it. 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


JULY INTENTION PRAYER (from Psalms 103)

Bless Yahweh, my soul, from the depths of my being, his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul, never forget all his acts of kindness.
He forgives all your offenses, cures all your diseases,
he redeems your life from the abyss, crowns you with faithful love and tenderness;
Yahweh is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
his indignation does not last for ever, nor his resentment remains for all time;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven above earth, so strong is his faithful love for those who fear him.

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

Facebook to Faithbook?

faithbookIn case you missed it, the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, made a couple of interesting statements last month. He claimed Facebook is “the new church” and the social network can take on the role that religion once did in giving people a sense of community. He also went on to say groups on Facebook could give people a sense they are part of “something bigger than ourselves” akin to a religious congregation. People on both sides of the fence immediately took to the blogosphere and vilified or congratulated the billionaire. I am not here to do either. I am here to examine his words to look at where we are as Christians and where we could be if we used Facebook to its full potential.

First, where are we as a church that Mr. Zuckerberg would feel confident enough to say that Facebook could be “the new church?” Has the old church passed away in the minds of the younger generation? Staying rational and trying not to take it personally, I thought about what my younger Zuckerberg-aged friends and co-workers do on Sunday mornings. Well, for the most part they are not at church. My wife and I got married at twenty-three. Marriage that early is very rare among twentysomethings, who also tend to have babies later. The latter occasion is usually a natural time for couples to return to the Church if they have taken a break after confirmation. Young people go from their high school community, to a college community, to a work community with probably little continuity besides a few close friends. It is certainly true that Facebook could span those time periods and give people comfort and a social connection. In my opinion, the church is not intentionally and convincingly creating a way for individuals to feel this communal presence during these transition periods. Sure, when you are established in a parish you begin to take ownership and feel like you are part of a community, but until then, church isn’t always a welcoming place.

Second, Zuckerberg says that Facebook groups can give people a chance to feel “they are part of something bigger than themselves.” This is readily apparent when you look at how easily people get hooked on the internet fads. Millions took part in the “Ice Bucket Challenge,”, the “Mannequin Challenge” or any of the dozens of others like them. People want to be part of something. They long for that feeling. One thing an old parish priest used to say was, “Thank you all for coming to Mass. The body of Christ is not the same without you.” To be honest, I didn’t need to hear those words to make sure I came back next week, but it sure was nice and probably was needed by some. There are large numbers of non-practicing Christians that have not heard that they are part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Mark Zuckerberg might not agree, but there is nothing bigger to be a part of. This mystery is not preached about enough, written about enough, or shared interpersonally enough. We are all lesser when one of our brothers or sisters is missing. Can I get an “Amen”?

I have tried to make it clear where I think we are. Where can we go? Last year, I went on a spree of unfollowing all of my friends on Facebook. I didn’t unfriend them, I just blocked their posts from showing up on my news feed. I still get their birthday notifications, but I don’t get to see what they drank at Starbucks or what their kids doodled. I then joined multiple Catholic Facebook groups. Some of my favorites are Catholic Writers Guild, of course, Forming Intentional Disciples Forum, and Catholic Geeks. I also follow Bishop Barron, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and Saint Josemaria Escriva. This keeps me immersed in Catholic thought all day. I really get a sense of being part of the universal Church. I truly feel like Facebook helps me be a better part of the Body of Christ. I know our parishes and diocese could make big gains in discipleship if we convinced people to harness the power of technology to intentionally improve their own discipleship.

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CWG Book Blast! Jeanie Egolf’s “Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper”

This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring Guildie Jeanie Egolf’s book, “Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper.” It is a CWG Seal of Approval winner! Follow the adventures of Jeanie Egolf’s little nun-wanna-be!

Mollie McBride and the Plaid Jumper

Summary:

Molly McBride is back and she is as stubborn as ever about her purple habit. She will wear nothing else! She’s managed to keep it on for her sister’s Big Day, but now the faith-filled five-year-old has a whole new wardrobe worry: kindergarten! Join the McBride family and the kindergarten class at Holy Trinity School as Molly and her loyal wolf-pet, Francis, discover that what we wear isn’t as important as what God sees inside of us.

Website: http://www.mollymcbrideandthepurplehabit.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MollyMcBrideandthePurpleHabit/
Twitter: @jeanie_egolf

Instagram: @jeanieegolf

Bio:

Jean Schoonover-Egolf is a retired physician-turned-homeschooling mom/author/artist. She resides in Central Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her handsome hubby, 2 darling daughters, and 1 very lovable rescued “Huskador.”

Buy Link:

http://amzn.to/2tffyT6

Tweet:

Follow Jeanie Egolf’s little nun-wanna-be! “Molly McBride and the Plaid Jumper.”
http://wp.me/P7mYzG-1  pic.twitter.com/CQkHrO4IwK

Posted in Catholic book blast, Catholic Fiction, Catholic Theme, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Faith, Family Life, Fiction, fiction, Hope, Humour, Inspirational, Juvenile fiction | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, by T.M. Gaouette

 The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch by [Gaouette, T. M.]

At age ten, Benedict carries massive chips on both shoulders. Having passed from bad foster homes to worse, he dreads the uncertainty of new surroundings and new rules. When he arrives at The Sunshine Ranch, he doubts the sincerity of his new foster parents, David and Martha Credence and withholds his affections lest he be ripped again from friends and security. Benedict sees the other foster children as rivals and doubts that his good fortune will last. Over the next four years, he remains aloof, not daring to trust that he has found a home and family.

When foreclosure threatens The Sunshine Ranch, Benedict’s doubts seem to be confirmed. Although David and Martha ask Benedict and their other foster kids to have faith that God will provide, Benedict refuses to believe. But Micah, Benedict’s roommate, and chief rival, keeps the faith. Eventually, Benedict realizes that The Sunshine Ranch gives him the only happiness that he has ever known, and that his constant worry and fear prevent him from enjoying it.

David and Martha Credence, and their many foster children embody generosity and unquestioning faith. Theirs is an impossible task — they welcome hard-case kids like Benedict and scrape together the resources to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Benedict, on the other hand, provides a counterpoint to everything the Credence family attempts to share. Too wounded by his early life experiences to accept the healing they offer, he’s likely to reject them and run away into the night. Micah, the optimist, has suffered as much as Benedict, but he always sees the bright side and attempts to wear down Benedict’s rough edges.

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch appealed to every emotion: there is joy and sadness, richness and loss. T.M. Gaouette delivers a powerful story with an emotional wallop, filling her pages with surprises and suspense, mystery and romance, pain and growth. Unquestionably, this novel is a page turner.

I would recommend this book for family reading. Biological progeny and foster children, biological and foster parents can see themselves somewhere in the pages of this book. It will especially benefit students preparing for careers in social services. I enjoyed reading this story because its characters deeply touched me. I pray that many couples will follow the example of David and Martha Credence and provide a loving home for foster children.

Posted in Adoption, Book Review, Catholic Fiction, Catholic Theme, Faith, Family Life, fiction, Hope, Mercy, mystery, Novel, Pro-life, romance, Spiritual Life, suspense, Young Adult Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond the Fear

heart-81207__480[1]But if we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong.” 1 John 1:9

Most of my life, I viewed confession as a burdensome part of being Catholic. I used to be afraid of going.  Mainly I felt dread. Facing the priest with the same sins over and over again, or giving voice to any sin at all felt awful. But a simple incident reminded me of a key life lesson–we fear what we don’t truly know or understand, and Jesus always removes that fear.

When one of my sons moved back home with his American Pit Bull Terrier, I was mildly fearful around her. Dallas had an imposing frame and thickly-muscled broad head.  One day as I came through the front door tired from a long work day, Dallas greeted me with bared teeth and heavy breathing back and forth through her menacing canines.  Unsure I stood near the door calling for my son. He laughed when he saw me standing, briefcase still in hand, with Dallas “smiling” and eager for me to greet her.  My son explained she was not baring her teeth to scare me; she was smiling because I was part of her pack and she was happy to see me.

With my son close by, I stooped down and grinned back at Dallas, pushing air back and forth through my teeth following her enthusiastic example.  Her tail gyrated at hurricane force. I never feared Dallas again and now that I understand her intent we “smiled” at each other on a regular basis. We are friends and family.

I do not tell the story of a menacing dog with bared teeth to mean it is the same as facing a priest in the confessional. Rather, I share this to illustrate a point. Once I understood what was really going on with Dallas, my fear of her left me.

Understanding confession made a difference in my life too. Growing up I knew confession was good for me, but I was fearful. I knew it provided sacramental grace by lifting the burden of guilt from my soul, yet the dread persisted. But through a parish presented retreat program, Hearts Afire, fear really left me. At last I understood confession and was aware of Jesus’ intent; his intense longing for friendship and union with us – his body, the branches of his vine.  Jesus is rooted and waiting at the threshold to embrace, forgive, love, console, and commune with us–with me!

Hence, declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may find healing.”   James 5:16

Its been a journey to embrace confession and appreciate Our Lord’s wisdom in this sacramental gift.

Early in the retreat materials Father Michael Gaitley so beautifully writes,

Wonder of wonders”  Jesus remains truly with us, not just in our minds through his Word, not just in our souls through faith and grace, but also bodily present with us in his Sacraments, where he continues to bless, forgive, cleanse, unite, heal, strengthen and make all things new. (The One Thing is Three “ How the Most Holy Trinity Explains Everything; Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC).

Just as understanding Dallas’ intense greeting allayed my fears, understanding Jesus’ intention for us through the miraculous sacrament of Confession changed me. While I don’t pretend to understand it all, I know in my heart that Jesus gave us confession as a means for us to grow closer to him, to keep getting up from the depths of the fall, and continue reaching upward toward his light.

Confession is still a bit uncomfortable for me. But I know Jesus’ ocean of mercy covers all. And for the repentant heart, then comes intimate communion through Jesus with God by the loving bond of the Holy Spirit.

Confession

~ Paula Veloso Babadi

In sunless depths, my wreckage

In darkness lies

In cold silence

In repressed screams

Scattered below the sandy floor.

.

Metal hull

Hides from sonar waves

Skeletal remnants,

Sins buried beneath

Photosynthesis reach.

 

I have evaded anchor’s curves

Trolling lines

Rescue from tumult

Light’s warmth

Long enough.

.

“Bless me father, for I have sinned,”

It seems an eternity since my last confession

“And these are my sins.”

His mercy is an ocean.

His light pierces darkness

His love reaches down,

Pulls me to his arms

Where I rest inside his heart

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee.”

.

His mercy is an ocean

Offering respite on glassy surfaces

Reflecting sky of balmy summer days

Beckoning upward a true and steady course

Back to the sun

Promising purity

Breathing spirit and life that

Once I knew.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: July 9, 2017

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

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


JULY INTENTION PRAYER (from Psalms 103)

Bless Yahweh, my soul, from the depths of my being, his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul, never forget all his acts of kindness.
He forgives all your offenses, cures all your diseases,
he redeems your life from the abyss, crowns you with faithful love and tenderness;
Yahweh is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love;
his indignation does not last for ever, nor his resentment remains for all time;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us as befits our offenses.
As the height of heaven above earth, so strong is his faithful love for those who fear him.

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

How to Benefit from a Critique Group

CWCL Non-Fiction Workshop 7-28-16 (photo by CWG Staff)

CWCL Non-Fiction Critique Workshop 7-28-16 (photo by CWG Staff)

I’m excited about presenting the Non-Fiction Critique Workshop at the Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference, July 18-21, for the fourth year. I draw from my experience as facilitator and co-facilitator of two different critique groups to demonstrate how a critique group works. Here are some guidelines on the whys and hows of critique groups.

Why a critique group?

No one can relate to our struggles like another writer. We all need the motivation to persevere. We take time from our writing because we need:

  • Deadlines and accountability. A commitment on the calendar to submit something of ours to other writers helps us become professional.
  • Feedback. This is the basic benefit of a writers group. On our own with no input from other writers, we have little direction and little confidence in our work. When we invest ourselves in others’ work we gain insight into our own.
  • Advice. Writers groups are the place to go for all kinds of resources. The Catholic Writers Guild exemplifies this. Be open to sharing what websites, seminars, articles and books help you with your craft and marketing. In both the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and the Catholic Writers Guild Non-Fiction Critique Group we have writers seeking traditional publishers and self-publishing opportunities. Suggestions range from structural changes to lack of clarity as well as format and design ideas. We use the Chicago Manual of Style as our standard.
  • Support and camaraderie. No one can relate to our struggle as a writer like another writer. Although writers groups are not designed as emotional support groups, the community of friendships we form by sharing our writing projects is invaluable both personally and professionally. It’s vital to keep the critique meeting focused on writing, but once it’s over, we can regroup and meet our writing friends for personal conversation and enjoy leisure time together. We encourage others because we care about their success.
  • Marketing connections. We naturally promote one another’s work on our blogs and social media. We help with book launches, attend book signings and write reviews. We introduce our writing group friends to anyone we know in publishing and marketing such as bookstore owners, radio commentators, newspaper and magazine editors and website columnists.

CWCLive Non-Fiction Critique Workshop 7-24-15 (Photo by Deanna Klingel)

CWCLive Non-Fiction Critique Workshop 7-24-15 (Photo by Deanna Klingel)

Giving and Receiving Critiques

Do you ever wonder just how to give a critique or how to receive one? I mean gracefully and honestly! On 6ftFerrets.com, I found critique tips excerpted from the book Don’t Forget to Write! A guide to building and maintaining a lasting writers’ group by D. M. Rosner. These tips are organized into two categories: giving critiques and receiving critiques, and help us focus on speaking and receiving the truth in love.

More tips like these are used in the workshop and incorporated in the guidelines for the CWG Non-Fiction Critique Group. The deadline for submitting your work for the critique at the conference workshop  is July 8. Come join us  on Thursday, July 20. Even if you have not submitted something to for us to critique, I invite you to listen in on the Non-Fiction Critique Workshop and see if you are ready to join a critique group. To join the CWG Non-Fiction Critique Group, contact me: editor@joyalive.net.

Building the critique community builds our craft and long-lasting relationships. I encouraged you as writers to join or form the critique groups you need. Attending the workshop will help you decide what you need to do to accomplish your writing goals.

The Catholic Writers Guild is all about networking, honing our craft and supporting other Catholic writers. The critique groups do all that – and more! They inspire us to be better writers and better Catholics.

Copyright 2017 Nancy HC Ward

Posted in Catholic Writers Conference Live, Catholic Writing and Publishing, non-fiction, The Writing Life, Writing Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Maybe I’m Amazed

By Janice Lane Palko

Do you collect anything? Aside from the occasional Christmas ornament I pick up whenever I travel to a new destination, I don’t collect anything material. However, I do have a collection of intangible treasures that I regard as priceless.

One gem is the first time I saw a shooting star. I was probably eleven years old, and we were at a picnic playing hide and seek. As the call of “Olly olly oxen free” went up, I emerged from my hiding place to run across a dark field to home base, when on the horizon before me, a shooting star streaked across the sky. I was so amazed by the sight that I stopped short and stood in the black field with my mouth gaping in awe.

Another gem I collected twelve years ago while on a cruise in the Caribbean with my family. It was that magical time of day when it’s still light but the sun is sinking and everything drips with melting gold. There were several other ships in port in St. Maarten with us, and as evening drew near, one-by-one the ships left for the open sea. The water was flat and the wind was nil. As my dad and I stood at the rail on the upper deck, we watched as each ship sailed into the setting sun. But what I will never forget is how each of their wakes left a golden filigree on the placid surface of the sea for miles.

I picked up another treasure several years ago while on another cruise–this time near Mexico. After spending the afternoon in port, we came back to our room to recuperate before getting ready for dinner. While my husband and son lounged in our cabin, I went out onto the small veranda off our room, sat in the lounge chair, and closed my eyes to relax. As I was dozing, I was awakened by the sound of several shipmates on the decks above and below me shouting, “Whale!” I glanced to my right, and there beside the ship was this enormous whale leaping out of the ocean. I couldn’t get to my feet fast enough to open the cabin door and yell, “Come quick. There’s a whale!” As my family watched this sleek whale put on a show, I looked above and below us. Hundreds of passengers had gathered on the verandas of the various decks. There were so many people lining the rails on this side of the ship, it was a wonder we didn’t tip.

Just last month, I added a new treasure to my collection. We had tickets to see U2 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. It was rather chilly for June. And cloudy, but that is not unusual for Pittsburgh. We had cheap seats, high in the upper deck, but as they gave a glorious view of Pittsburgh’s skyline, I didn’t mind sitting up that high. But what really impressed me was something that happened moments before U2 took the stage. Although it was not raining anywhere in sight, a red rainbow formed over the field and terminated above where the group would soon appear. Now, I’ve seen many rainbows, but this was unusual because there was no precipitation and because you could not see any other colors of the spectrum but red against the leaden sky.

Red Rainbow

It seemed that everyone saw the phenomenon at once as a gasp arose from the crowd and thousands of cell phones were held aloft to capture the beautiful sight. The red rainbow stayed for several minutes, and then before it faded, it cast its light on the surrounding clouds turning them a rosy pink. Sure, U2 was good, but I’ll never forget that red rainbow.

I can’t remember where I read this, but someone once observed that humans are continuously fascinated by God’s handiwork but easily become bored with things made by human hands. Case in point. If you grew up during the 1960s and 70s, you may remember the nation’s fascination with the space program. People clustered around their televisions to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, but with each successive trip into space, less and less people paid attention. Yet, people never get bored with watching something as simple as a sunset.

Why does that happen? Clearly, there is something embedded in the human soul that longs for the Divine. The summer provides us with more opportunities to be out in nature and to observe God at work in His creation. Keep your eyes open. It may be something as simple as a hummingbird buzzing your garden or as spectacular as bioluminescent ocean waves pounding a beach or the flash of the Northern Lights that give you a glimpse of His glory. You never know what treasure He may cast before you that will spark your sense of amazement and that will become a cherished addition to your treasure chest.

Posted in Beauty, Faith, Family Life, Inspirational | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Little Nellie of Holy God”–The Toddler Who Inspired a Pope*

Ellen Organ was born on August 24, 1903 in what was known as the “married quarters” of the Royal Infantry Barracks in Waterford, Ireland. Her dad, William, was a soldier in the British army. Shortly after Ellen’s birth she was baptized into the faith at the Church of the Trinity. No one knows why, but from that point on Ellen Organ was called “Nellie.”

By William Organ - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

By William OrganOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

By the age of two, Nellie displayed a pronounced spirituality rarely seen in a child, especially one so young. While walking to Mass holding her dad’s hand she would constantly talk about seeing “Holy God.” This was something she began saying without having heard such an expression. Even her dad admitted years later he had no idea why his daughter began saying “Holy God.” Nellie’s parents were both devout Catholics and her mom, Mary, had an especially deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. She would take walks with Nellie, always talking about Jesus and Mary. She and her husband also made it a family custom to pray the family Rosary every day. Nellie, doing as her mom showed her,  always kissed the Crucifix and the large beads between decades. The first words she learned were “Jesus” and “Mary.”

Nellie’s life and the lives of her brothers, Thomas, David and their sister, Mary, were about to change dramatically. Their mom became very ill with tuberculosis. Nellie, the youngest of her siblings, was by her side constantly and was actually hugging her mom when she died in January of 1907. Nellie was three years old.

The children’s dad could not provide proper care for them. Consequently, he turned to his parish priest for help. Thomas, who was the oldest at age nine,  was sent to the Christian Brothers and David to the Sisters of Mercy. Mary and Nellie were taken in by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Cork City. They arrived there on May 11, 1907. The sisters treated them kindly and were very good to the girls. Nellie was happy to call all of the sisters, “Mothers.”

Nellie was three years and nine months old when she arrived at the Good Shepherd Sisters home. A young girl named Mary Long slept next to Nellie. Nellie never complained but Mary heard her crying and coughing during he night. She told the sisters and Nellie was moved to the school infirmary.

Upon examination it was discovered that Nellie had a crooked spine (the result of a serious fall) that required special care.  Sitting up was very painful for the child and sitting still for any length of time caused her great pain. Her hip and her back were out of joint. She was only three and she tried to hide her pain. But she could not “fake” feeling well. All the sisters could do was make the child as comfortable as possible.

Nellie astonished the nuns with her insight and knowledge of the Catholic faith. The sisters and others that cared for Nellie Organ believed without reservation that the child was spiritually gifted. Nellie loved to visit the chapel which she called “the House of Holy God.” She referred to the tabernacle as “Holy God’s lockdown.”  And she embraced the Stations of the Cross. Upon being carried to each station she would burst into tears seeing how Holy God suffered for us. She also developed an acute perception of the Blessed Sacrament.

One day Nellie was given a box of beads and some string. Being a three-year-old she put some in her mouth and inadvertently swallowed them. People saw her gagging and choking and rushed her into the infirmary. The doctor present was able to remove the beads from Nellie’s throat.

They were all amazed how brave the little girl remained as the doctor probed  into her throat, removing the objects. She never made a sound. At this time it was discovered that, just like her mom,  she had advanced tuberculosis. The doctor told the sisters there was no hope for recovery and gave Nellie only a few months to live.

Nellie loved the Holy Eucharist deeply. She would ask the sisters to kiss her when they were coming back from Communion so she could share their Holy Communion. She desperately wanted to receive her First Communion. But the rule of the Church was a minimum age of 12. Nellie was only three.

Nellie told of visions she was having of “Holy God” as a child and the Blessed Mother standing nearby. Her faith was so pronounced that the Bishop agreed (since she was close to death) to confirm her. She received her Confirmation on October 8, 1907. Then, on December 6, 1907, after considering all the facts, the local bishop, in consult with the priests, allowed Nellie Organ to receive her First Holy Communion. Nellie Organ died on February 2, 1908.

Nellie Organ’s story spread throughout Europe and reached the Vatican. It was presented to Pope Pius X by his Secretary of State, Cardinal Merry del Val. It was providential because the Holy Father had been looking for a reason to lower the age of receiving First Communion to the age of seven but was not sure about doing it.

When Pius X read the documents about “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he immediately took this as a sign to lower the age. The Pope immediately issued a Papal Decree called Quam Singulari, changing the age of receiving First Holy Communion from 12 years old to age seven.

Pope Pius X, who would become St. Pius X, after issuing Quam Singulari, took up his pen and wrote, “May God enrich with every blessing — all those who recommend frequent Communion to little boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model. –Pope Pius X. June 4th, 1912.”

*edited version published in Aleteia on March 3, 2017

©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017 All Right Reserved

Posted in Blogging, Catholic Theme, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Inspirational | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments