Friday, April 25, 2008

Travel Notes

Here are a few notes from seasoned travelers to make your travel experience just so much more enjoyable (based on actual experience. Do not try some of these at home):
1. Make sure you have your flight info and license, but...
If you arrive at the airport and have a confirmation number, but no airline listed on your itinerary, don't worry. Simply type the number in at every kiosk you find. You'll eventually figure out which airline wants you.
If you lose your driver's license on Friday while on tour, do not panic when it is now Tuesday and your flight is the next morning. Pray to St Anthony, and be glad when your previous hostess searches the snowy parking lot at Applebee's and meets you at the airport an hour before your flight leaves with license in hand.
2. Make sure you arrive at the airport at least two hours early, but...
If you set your alarm's time, but do not hit 'enable,'thus missing your flight, sob hysterically to all airline representatives you meet until they rebook you at no extra fee.
If you are staying 1.5 hours from the airport, tarry over a long breakfast, enjoy long farewells to your host family, and drive slowly to the airport. Arriving 17 minutes before your flight leaves gives plenty of time to check four bags, go through security, and buy Cajun snack mix.
3. Bring as little on board the plane as you can, but...
If you are me, whatever size bag you bring on board will not be big enough or small enough. Which is more full: an overflowing book bag or an overflowing purse? And yet neither have what you want when you want it, and neither is small enough to be out of your way.
If you are Mary, your bag is always the same and always perfect.
4. Be prepared for any emergencies, but...
If you get a bad cold on tour, simply accept the entire contents of your host's medicine cabinet, from entire packages of sudafed, to homeopathic drops, to bottles of dimetapp, to stacks of tissues.
If your rental car is not provided with a scraper while on a Northern tour, use your tough Florida hands to do the trick. And do it with the car door open so that your seat gets covered with snow.
If you are in a hotel room without water, don't despair. Your tongue will sooner or later unstick from your throat.
5. Always know where you are going and who you are staying with, but...
If you are following your handy-dandy GPS,be aware that it does not discriminate between driveway A and driveway B. You may end up unloading your multitudinous bags into the wrong house, with the wrong people looking on.
If you are staying with Mr. XYZ and Family, be aware that there might not be a family. This could be indicated by the presence of a single milk carton and a bottle of mustard in the fridge and an absence of anything else.
If you forget where you are, just lay there in bed until your alarm goes off, at which point the hazy particulars of your life will return to a sharp focus.
If you cannot remember whether Charlotte is in North or South Carolina, don't bring up the subject of connecting flights.
If a show is cancelled and you are going home a day ahead of time, be aware that this may throw a kink into your boyfriend's proposal plans, who has flown in from Florida to surprise you in Illinois and is waiting for you in a chapel with flowers and candles. (Don't worry, it worked out!)
6.Try to follow a healthy eating and sleeping schedule, but...
If you have an evening show, you will be forced to have fast food for dinner and go to sleep with a fatty burger in your belly.
If you don't want to risk taking a risk at a local joint, you will start frequenting the same big name places all over the country and after a while Panera and Ruby Tuesdays aren't so cool.
If you start getting snobby over the taste of one place's ice water over another's, its time to let go.
If you get tired, you will need to take naps in strange places, such as in parking lots and on floors of parish halls, and in strange positions, (who knew your neck could bend like that, or that your legs could fold into such a small space?).

Ah, yes. Just some of the wisdom of travelers.

Why do you wonder at this, O Man?

How is it that Mary is still a virgin even though she had a baby?
Great question, one that requires a careful answer.
First off, its a mystery.
Our human minds cannot easily grasp the technical workings of how a baby was conceived inside a woman without a man being involved. Mary even asked the angel how it could be so: "How shall this be done, because I know not man?" The angel assured her: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
St Joseph didn't understand it either. He was betrothed to Mary and upon discovering her condition, decided to put her away quietly, as the Bible says. This means that he was going to break off the marriage with her in a quiet manner so as to spare her from the shame, public humiliation, and probably death that would result from her "adultery" being made known. It took an angel in a dream to convince Joseph that Mary was innocent of any wrongdoing, and to the contrary, was blessed beyond any other woman in the world: "The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost."
So the Bible makes it clear that Mary was "overshdowed" by the Holy Spirit, making Him the Father of Jesus and leaving Mary a virgin. This answer was not particularly helpful to the eight-grader who asked it of me. He was still thinking... "Yes, but... How?"
Unfortunately, I could not give him a biological explanation of the process of 'overshadowing' as a health class would be able to of the processes of human reproduction. I came upon a great meditation on this subject though, in Fr. Gabriel's Divine Intimacy, in his chapter, "Spouse of the Holy Spirit."
He says that the Holy Spirit, already in Mary's sinless soul from birth to an extent we can barely imagine, come upon her in such fullness that that He formed within her womb the Body of Jesus. She was so filled with God that she conceived God. She was such a tabernacle of the Lord in a spiritual sense that she bacame a tabernacle in a bodily sense. This we can see in our own lives to a ceratin degree. We talk about the bodily manifestations of interior thoughts and feelings all the time. When you are upset, your friends only need to look at your face. When you are filled with grace, people will be able to tell from the outide. We say that "her face shone" when she came out of confession, that after receiving Communion, he looked like he "had died and gone to heaven." The fruits of grace have an effect not only on our souls, but also on our bodies. So too was there a bodily result from the intense power and grace of God filling Mary, so much so, that a new body was created within her.
This is but a poor treatment of such a glorious subject, but I can only encourage you to meditate and pray about this mystery. The virginity of Mary is one of our most cherished beliefs as Catholics, one that sets us apart from other Christian groups.
I could say to that eight-grader that with God anything is possible. I could say that as lowly creatures, it is not up to us to demand an explanation from the Most High of how He chooses to work. I could say that the Church said so, and that's the end of it. But it boils down to the gift of Understanding that we all receive in the sacrament of Confirmation and that sadly only some of us work to develop. We pray to understand the mysteries of the faith, not so that we can start imagining how Mary's body reacted to the Holy Spirit, but so that we start to see how it could not have been any other way. We start to see the vast significances and beautiful intricacies of God's plan for Incarnation in the way that it happened, as compared to any other way. We start to see that God has a reason for everything, even if we do not follow His reasoning. We start to see the love and care God has for us, that all things work together for our own good if we want to accept His love.
Mary's virginity is a mystery of the faith. We know that it is so because the Church teaches it is, both from Tradition and from the Bible itself. This knowledge is a gift to us, and we must pray that the Holy Spirit fill us with His graces and gifts too, so that we may understand and love.
"It was not the visible sun, but its invisible Creator who consecrated this day for us, when the Virgin Mother, fertile of womb and integral in her virginity, brought him forth, made visible for us, by whom, when he was invisible, she too was created. A Virgin conceiving, a Virgin bearing, a Virgin pregnant, a Virgin bringing forth, a Virgin perpetual. Why do you wonder at this, O man?" (Augustine Sermons 186:1 [A.D. 411]).
Links to articles:
http://www.catholic-pages.com/dir/ever_virgin.asp
http://www.ewtn.com/faith/Teachings/maryc2.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I read in the Examination that...

I love kids. This last retreat underlined that for me.
We arrived in beautiful California in the afternoon, though for us, it was the evening. Our generous hostess drove us through the farmland just above the fertile San Joaquin valley along highway 49, which to all you history buffs makes reference to the events that put Sacramento on the map, literally: the gold rush of 1849. John Sutter's mill is not too far from here, but we have no time for sightseeing. We were promised a log house, but found ourselves at a log mansion situated at the top of a giant hill overlooking the valley below us and standing at the foot of mountains behind us. Goats, cattle, dogs and puppies alternately jump and sleep among the rocks and grassy fields and twisted trees on this thousand acre ranch.
Its amazing to me how L.A., Santa Barbara, Napa, San Fransisco and this place call all be in the same state... (which reminds me, does anyone realize that California has a Govenator? I bought a Schwarzenegger mug in the airport gift store labeled "The Govenator of California." Wow.)
Back to business: the retreat was at a beautiful location and we had minimal setting up to do before starting. The 26 kids present were a great group. They were lively and attentive, and really took advantage of the extra time we gave for Adoration, Confession, and the rosary. Many had not been to confession since receiving First Holy Communion, only one had ever said the rosary, and no one even knew what Adoration was. Yet their spirit was great. I knew they were paying attention when after settling in again to the retreat hall after confession, one kid raised his hand in response to my telling them to be proud of themselves that their souls were now clean and that they were able to do so much in one day. He said: "I read in the Examination of Conscience that its a sin to be proud of yourself." Well, he got me there, but only long enough for my brain to smile happily before answering him.
I love kids.

Whadda Do?

On our way to California we had a number of curious encounters. One of these became our theme for the weekend: Whadda do?
We left for the airport before 5 am for our 7 am flight. We flew Frontier (a whole different animal, for you carrier buffs) and for anyone who is interested, Fritz the mountain goat accompanied us to Denver, at which point Hector the otter took over for the trip to Sacramento.
We arrive in Denver and decide to have lunch during our three hour layover. We find a little place near our gate and sit down, slightly tired from our early rising and slightly on edge due to at least six screaming babies being on board our four hour flight, one of whom had decided it was a good idea to crawl beneath my seat and play with my ankles.
So there we are, sitting peacefully waiting for our food, when suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, a knife sails over and strikes Tricia on her hand, which was laying innocently in her lap. A loud surprised "OW" escapes from her lips, as she looks around for the thrower of the missile, which, though plastic, had some force behind it. A tall gangly waiter glances over unconcernedly, his long brown hair combed neatly over his eyes. An angel's halo glows above his brow, and the innocence of a newborn babe flows out of his voice as he says: "Whaddo do?" Yet this paradigm of guilelessness clutched a handful of telling evidence: several plastic knives in one hand, with the other hand remaining inside the silverware box at the servery. I feared for this young man's life in the first few tense moments, but Tricia only looked at him in silence and then stated calmly, "It didn't really hurt." I stole another glance at the offending party, but he only gave a brief "Oh" in response and returned to the perusal of his collection of cutlery.
So there you have it. The phrase "Whadda Do" carried us through the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Habemus Papam!

Here I am getting ready for our next trip! We head out to CA early tomorrow morning: 4:40 am to be exact. Even as I think of that hour, I groan. I just came down with a cold too, so perhaps my groan is more like a wheeze. Still, the point is the same: anything before 7:30 am is too early. And besides I could be going to see the Pope. Ah yes. The Pope! Pope Benedict is in America! That is a whole ocean closer than he has been to us since he become pope! We have the Pope!
The last time I heard that phrase, I was in St Peter's Square. In 2005, I stood in the piazza gaping at the white smoke rising and curling from the tiny smokestack above the Sistine Chapel, unable to grasp the fact that white smoke = new pope. That smoke signalled the election of the pope who was to replace the familiar John Paul II, the pope we all grew up with. I pushed and jostled my way to the front of the crowd as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was introduced to the crowd below as Benedict the sixteenth. The utter silence exploded into shouts and huzzahs of joy! Habemus Papam!
And yet I will not be there in NY this weekend. Instead I will be flying to beautiful California, landing at the Sacramento airport, on our way to Angel's Camp. There we will be doing much the same as the pope, though on a smaller scale. We will have 25 kids, while he will fill Yankee stadium (capacity 45,000, nevermind the seats being set up on the field) on Sunday. Yet we and the Pope share a common goal of being willing participants in the army of Christ. We all have that mission. Through our Confirmations we are made soldiers for Christ, with the responsibility of making His fight our own. We must learn more about Him whom we fight for. We must witness to the power of His words. We must be shining examples for all to see, even as Pope Benedict is surrounded by thousands of cheering faces. Pope Benedict comes to tell us of Christ our hoe. We must remember that. Christ is our hope in this dark spiritual battle. Even as we fight for Him, we know He is fighting for us, that He is dying for us every day in the mass as Calvary is reenacted.
Pope Benedict comes to America as the representative of Christ. He is the Head of the Church, our leader and general in the spiritual battle for souls. Christ told Simon "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Peter means "rock" and through the apostolic succession, we are assured that Christ has never left us alone. The Authority of the Church, given to Peter when Jesus gave him the keys to Heaven and earth, has been passed down in an unbroken line to this very Pope Benedict! Amazing! Keep an eye on this weekends activities... and read some of the speeches and talks he gives online if you cannot watch any of the events live. EWTN has had steady coverage on the visit and major news channels will also have some coverage of the major events. For the Pope's itinerary check out: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,350448,00.html?sPage=fnc/world/papalvisit
More later!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Greatest Weapon

If we as the Church Militant are fighting a spiritual battle, then what is our greatest weapon?
Well, while you probably could come up with lots of pretty powerful weapons the Church gives us, the title "greatest weapon" has already been claimed... by the Rosary.
The Rosary is a prayer dedicated to Our Lady, made up of One Apostle's Creed, six Our Fathers, 53 Hail Mary's, 6 Glory Be's and one Hail, Hail Queen. It has been a prayer of the universal church for centuries.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Rosary combines mental and vocal prayer. It combines intercessory prayer with prayers of praise and thanksgiving. You worship the Trinity, you profess your faith, you honor God's beloved mother, you put yourself on God's side and make some powerful friends up in Heaven. By saying one Rosary, you have pretty much covered your bases.
To start from the top, 'intercession' means to ask in the place of. So we ask Our Lady to go to God in our stead to present Him with our petitions. It’s like asking your cute little sister to go ask Dad to for an ice cream cone. Your dad just can’t say no to her. So it is with Our Lady, who was so beloved of God that He can’t say no to her. Anything we ask of God through Our Lady He will grant us. She is His mother, chosen from all the women throughout the history of the world to bear His son. She cared for Him, imitated Him, and suffered with Him. She stood at the foot of the cross when He and the truth He taught were at their ugliest. And so, before starting the rosary, we say our petitions. We list the things we want from God, thanking Him for what He has already done for us, and asking Him to make us saints, asking our Lady to remind Her Son of the promises He made to save us from sin and death. Then we pray the prayers. We start with the Apostle's Creed, which goes through what we believe as Catholics. If you ever need a quick way to answer anyone who asks you what you believe in, say the Apostles creed. The Our Father comes directly from the Bible, from the Sermon on the Mount when the apostles asked Jesus how to pray. He teaches them the Our Father. In it, we are taught to speak to God as a father. We praise His name, and we pray that His will is done on earth. Then we ask that He help us every day and give us what we need. We ask for forgiveness, and we promise to forgive. We ask for strength against the temptations of Satan. The Hail Mary comes from the words of the the angel when he came to ask Mary to be the mother of God and from the words of Mary’s cousin St Elizabeth. We repeat these words to give her and her Son honor. Then we ask her to care for us every day of our lives. We put ourselves into her care.
Each set of one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s, called a decade, is dedicated to a certain event in the lives of Jesus and Mary. We are supposed to think about that event while we pray the prayers with our mouths. When we announce the Crucifixion, we are supposed to think about how Jesus loved us so much that He died for our sins, and how much every sin we commit hurts Him. Prayers in our mind are called mental prayers or meditation, and prayers with our mouths are called vocal prayers. The rosary combines these two types of prayer. This is perfect for people just starting in the faith, for they can learn how to pray by saying the words. As you grow in your spiritual life, you can begin to picture each scene and begin to understand the mysteries of each decade. There are five decades in one mystery. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to say one mystery (a TV episode is longer!) and there are four different mysteries. They are called mysteries because they are hard to understand. The Joyful Mysteries cover the conception, birth and childhood of Jesus. The Luminous mysteries come next and go over the public ministry of Jesus and the preaching of the word. The Sorrowful mysteries cover His Passion and Death. The final mystery is called Glorious because the decades cover the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead and events in the church after He ascends.
You should pray all four mysteries every day, since the four mysteries together equal one rosary, but usually people just say the mystery that is assigned to the day. Saturday and Monday are Joyful mysteries, Tuesday and Friday are Sorrowful and Thursdays are Luminous. Sundays and Wednesdays are glorious.
If you need more reasons to actually say the rosary, here some of the 15 promises made by Our Lady to Blessed Alan de le Roche about the Rosary:

To all those who shall pray my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and great graces.

The Rosary will be a very powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, deliver from sin and dispel heresy.

The rosary will make virtue and good works flourish, and will obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies. It will draw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.

Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary will not perish.

Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.

Those who are faithful to recite my Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces and will share in the merits of the blessed.

I will deliver promptly from purgatory souls devoted to my Rosary.

True children of my Rosary will enjoy great glory in heaven.

What you shall ask through my Rosary you shall obtain.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Be Still and Know that I am God

Have you ever woken up in the morning and just felt sad? You look at your life and it hits you that you are fat, ugly,and wearing a mismatching outfit, that everything you say and do is wrong, that you have no future, and that nobody loves you. And even worse, you realize that this is a truer sight, that all your previous happiness was merely an illusion occasioned by a pair of rose-colored glasses. I know there is no reason for my sadness, and yet this intellectual knowledge does nothing to soothe my heart, which just cries and cries, weeping the sad tears of a lonely child.
What do you do? I usually have to take a shower, change my clothes, clean my room, and sit in the chapel. I have to restart the day, try again where the first one failed. Maybe I am just tired. Maybe it is something I ate, or didn't eat. Maybe I got an email from a friend that was worded oddly. Maybe I have to make a decision that I don't want to. Any number of little things can make me sadder on a sad day.
Yet even as I cry, I know that there is a reason for my tears, or, rather, that they have significance. I am not talking about the tears you cry when you are suffering in the strict sense, just about that sadness that comes over you at a moment's notice. You seem to be minding your own business, proceeding with the day, but all of a sudden some little thing sets you off and your whole life darkens.
I think that the sadnesses we experience are part of God's plan. Not that He sends sadness to us, but rather that we experience it because we long for something greater than our life here. As St. Augustine wrote, "Thou hast made us for thyself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." We cannot argue with him: our hearts feel sad even when our lives are fine. We send up our sighs in this vale of tears, longing for eternal happiness.
At times like these, at least for me, there is no arguing with myself. I can only think of the words of the Lord: "Be still and know that I am God." Take a deep breath. Calm your frenzied souls and minds. God is there, as a Father and Brother, extending His hand to you with the utmost sympathy. As a child of God, there is no need for fear. Don't just hope that He is there, know that He is God. Know that our lives are precious, that we are loved; know that this present sadness is not how things really are. Why is it that we see the darker vision as the truer one? What part of our wounded human nature seriously believes that these little pinpricks of life are truer than the joys of life? Why do the joys seem superficial? They aren't. Joy is lasting where sadness is passing, because joy comes from love. When we love and receive love, we are joyful. Life is meaningful and beautiful, because we have a purpose and goal, because we know God is God and we do not need to trouble ourselves.
That is why St Paul writes, "And now there remain faith, hope, and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love." When we are sad here on earth, we need hope and faith. But if we have sure knowledge of God and His goodness, we do not need faith (belief in things unseen) or hope (confident desire of obtaining a future good), only love that grows and grows infinitely in joy. This joy is the truest reality. For here we "see through a glass darkly," but with God all is revealed and brought to fulfilment.
Be still and know that I am God.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Feast of the Annunciation- Cyclical and Linear Time

Christmas is nine months away! Well, sort of. The feast of the Annunciation was moved this year from March 25, to today, March 31, since the solemn week of Easter takes precedence over other feasts. So you can go ahead and start the countdown! Less than nine months from now, Jesus will be born! It goes to show how as Catholics we live in cyclical time, not merely linear time. Cyclical time emphasizes the ebb and flow of the seasons, rebirth and death, the constant renewal of the the earth even as our souls and our spiritual lives are undergoing constant renewal. The death of sin and the our rebirth through grace of the sacraments and the continual opportunities the Lord gives us to repent and have the proverbial second chance that is really 77 times 7 chances (as seven is the biblical eternal number, 77 x 7 means no end to forgiveness.
Our Catholic time is not solely linear. It is not the inexorable march of time that leaves no room for backward glances and no room for the past to intrude into our future. Cyclical time emphasizes our history, our traditions, and our present existence. The pagan civilizations of the past lived in purely cyclical time, with attention paid carefully to the cycles of the sun and moon, of the flooding of the Nile, and seasonal changes. Linear time is the time of the progressive scientist. The past is not important, nor is the present. Right now, there is no perfection, only disease and suffering, and in the past there is only ignorance and superstition, but the future holds our salvation. One day, we will find the cure for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. In the future man will have happiness on earth, free from the blot of suffering. Man is perfectible... in the future. This thinking has lead to the genocidal tendencies of our modern world. Marx saw a Golden Age of utopic living, once the current class systems (and those people enforcing them) were done away with, including members of the middle class, anyone opposing the communists, and Christians. Hitler saw the great Aryan race rising to dominate the world and bring about the Third Age, once the Jews and Poles and Christians were annihilated and wiped off the face of the earth. Those who look for the perfectibility of man and a glorious future in linear time, love humanity but hate man.
Our Catholic faith teaches us to live both linearly and cyclically. The pagan religions valued tradition and ritual, but they also did not see the value of history. Their world was continual dying and being reborn, as the sun rose and set every day. Their world was not pointed towards an end, leading at times to a dullness and lack of initiative. The modernistic view is an eternal progression without a care for past and present. But the Church combines these. We live liturgically, renewing our souls by the repitition of feasts and celebrations, by living in the present and understanding our past. But we also know that the world will come to an end. We know that we are created for another world, and that time is moving closer to that end. Does this mean we live in spiral time? Perhaps.
Think about it.

Divine Mercy Sunday


Did you know:
That Divine Mercy Sunday has only been a feast celebrated by the Universal Church for seven years? Sr. Faustina was canonized by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium. On that day, the pope also instituted the Sunday following Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday, effective the following year. So, the first universal feast day of Divine Mercy was on April 22, 2001.
That Jesus said to Sr Faustina about this feast day: "On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity." (Diary of Saint Faustina, 699)
That in 2002, Pope John Paul consecrated the world to Divine Mercy.
That Jesus said: "I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart." (Diary 1588)
That Pope John Paul II died during the vigil of the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005. He said: "Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter's See in Rome, I considered this message (of Divine Mercy) my special task."
That public veneration of Divine Mercy began on April 28, 1935 and that in 1937, holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed for first time.
That the Divine Mercy devotions were banned for 19 years, starting in 1959, when the Holy Office reviewed faulty translations and declared them unworthy of public consumption.
That in 1965 the future Pope john Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, as Archbishop of Krakow, opens an investigation into Sr Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotions.
That on April 15, 1978 Prefect of Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declares the ban no longer binding.
That Sr. Faustina was born on August 25, 1905 as Helena Kowalska ; the third of ten children
That her first vision was in 1924 of the scourged Christ, and on Good Friday 1928, she was engulfed by the flame of Divine Love, and that in 1931, Jesus tells her to paint His image.
That in 1934 the now famous painting of Divine Mercy was completed, but Sr. Faustina didn’t like it.
Check out www.thedivinemercy.org

Hello!

Hello to all the people we met on our tours! I have been thinking of each of you, and little stories from the time we spent with you keep popping into my head and they make me laugh! I wish I could start getting in touch with y'all.
Life on tour can be tough. You spend hours in stuffy airports, cramped on planes, stiff in rental cars, groggy for early morning retreats and flights, exhausted for late night drives... feeling unhealthy for eating fast food late at night, longing for a home-cooked meal as you stop at the tenth Panera or Ruby Tuesdays. But then you arrive at your destination and the bright smile of your host greets you. You settle on some stranger's home, not feeling strange at all, but secure and wanted. They give you chocolates on your pillow, show you the shower that you have been aching for, give you cold medicine as you sniffle sadly, invite you to Dante reading groups and give you tea. You sit with them and learn about their bishop, their priests, their parish. Your eyes are opened to so many different ways of serving the Lord and answering His call for laborers in His vineyard.
Life on Tour can feel like a hit-and run. We arrive one day, stay for the night, give a retreat or perform that day, and then leave the next morning. We come in to a situation where you don't know us, and we don't know you. And yet everywhere we experience Christ's words in action: "Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless." Talking about clothe the naked, I really must tell one story. So we arrive in OH to 13 degree weather, an inch of ice, and one hundred feet of snow, from Florida, sunny and 85 (slight exaggeration on the snow, perhaps, but none on the FL description). And I realize that I am in no way prepared for such cold. I brought a sweatshirt, yes, but what are so few fibers against so much snow and wind? Solution? Our hostess goes to her closet, pulls out a brand new winter jacket and insists that I borrow it. Fearing the loss of a few digits to frostbite, I eagerly accept the sky-blue down jacket. I wear it for the next week, then, on our way to the airport from Steubenville, we pull over to a post office. I march in, remove the jacket and ask the clerks what the best way to mail it is. Quite a stir followed, and much laughter. Who walks into a PO and wants to mail the coat that they are wearing? Well, those-who-want-to-return-a-coat-because-they-were-so-foolish-as-not-to-bring-their-own do, that's who. There are so many stories like that from our tours. The generosity shown to us wherever we went taught me a good many lessons. So, are tours really hit-and-runs? Sure we spend little time with our hosts, and little time with the kids we perform for, but I have learned that we are all one in the Church. We are all present in front of the Tabernacle, unified by our common goal. We may never see anyone we perform for again, but we have formed a bond that will never be broken.
So, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of you! Thank you for your kindness to us, thank you for labouring in His vineyard, for staying in the place you are put to work with the souls we can only touch for a day and an evening! God reward you!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Solemnities Rule!

Does anyone realize that we are in the middle of 9 straight days of solemnities?
All of Easter week, starting with Sunday, of course, is a solemnity in the Church. Each day this week is a day of full splendour and glory, trumping even the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25, 9 months before Christmas). This major feast has been moved to Mon, March 31. And the Sunday following Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday (which you all should know since you are now saying the seventh day of the Divine Mercy novena which began on Good Friday, right?) So nine days of solemn feasting! Easter Sunday straight on through Divine Mercy Sunday and the Annunciation on Monday! Nine days of joy-filled partying to spring us off into Easter Season, during which the priest wears white, before we all settle down into the green of ordinary time.
Solemnity, feast, holy day, ordinary time... such terminology we all rattle off of our tongues with ease, but as I stop to think about them, I wonder what it all means. A feast day? Ordinary time? We don't eat lots of food and have a big party every time a major feast day like the Annunciation comes up, and really every day seems ordinary. Why celebrate ordinary time?
Well, such terms come from the tradition (trado= 'hand over' in Latin, so tradition literally means what is handed down to us through generations past) in the Church of living around a liturgical calender, a calender not based on secular days off from work or school breaks, but on major events and people in Church History, like the Resurrection of Our Lord, or the Assumption of Mary. On these major days, the Church celebrates the graces and gifts God has given the world through such events or people. We all remember what God has done for us and we are filled with joy and gratitude. We desire to show this joy and gratitude by sharing food with our brothers and sisters, going to mass, dancing and playing music. Its part of the great gift of life that we have all received and that we are glad to receive. In the Middle Ages, these special days were not just celebrated by individual feasts within each family, but by the whole town. All the people would flock to the town centers outside of the church and watch street performers, jugglers, and bands; they would attend a mass that was filled with more music and incense and candles than usual. Famous people like kings, queens, or learned men would be invited to preside over a banquet that everyone would attend. Think of St Patrick's day, a feast day that just passed a few weeks ago. Did your town have a parade, with everyone claiming to be Irish, feasting and frolicking all day wearing green? Perhaps many people forgot what they were really celebrating, the life of the great English missionary to pagan Ireland Saint Patrick, and thought they were celebrating being Irish, but you can still get the picture of a feast day. And solemnity is even great than a feast day! Not only has the Church declared these days so that we can remember to praise and thank God, but God also uses these special days to give extra graces and gifts to the world! During this whole week, the graces won for us by Our Lord during His life and Passion and Death are being distributed to all who ask for them! Have you asked God for a present this week? Because He is waiting for you to ask so that He may shower you with graces in abundance! Happy Solemnity this Easter Wednesday! Tell everyone!

Sequence for Easter Sunday

Come, Holy Ghost, send down those beams,
which sweetly flow in silent streams
from Thy bright throne above.

O come, Thou Father of the poor;
O come, Thou source of all our store,
come, fill our hearts with love.

O Thou, of comforters the best,
O Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
the pilgrim's sweet relief.

Rest art Thou in our toil, most sweet
refreshment in the noonday heat;
and solace in our grief.

O blessed Light of life Thou art;
fill with Thy light the inmost heart
of those who hope in Thee.

Without Thy Godhead nothing can,
have any price or worth in man,
nothing can harmless be.

Lord, wash our sinful stains away,
refresh from heaven our barren clay,
our wounds and bruises heal.

To Thy sweet yoke our stiff necks bow,
warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow,
our wandering feet recall.

Grant to Thy faithful, dearest Lord,
whose only hope is Thy sure word,
the sevenfold gifts of grace.

Grant us in life Thy grace that we,
in peace may die and ever be,
in joy before Thy face. Amen. Alleluia

Energeia

Do you ever wonder what energy is? A physicist defines it as the ability to do work ('work' being any sort of change, basically). A modern dictionary adds the words 'vigor' and 'power' to the stricter scientific definition. I think of energy as a force, one hard to describe, but one plainly present in some people and things. Constant movement, a sense of life, nay, a sense of joy and purpose in life, a desire to make the most of a situation, to raise the spark of love in the room, to see all things in God's light, is energy for me. There is no stagnation, but a vigor and power. I can recognize a distorted energy too, in the workaholics of our day, in an abused vigor twisted from the pursuit of happiness to a crazed and almost violent search for stuff. Energy is no longer joy in life but a certain satisfaction with efficiently completing duties. This energetic person has no time for reflection, only time for action; no time for grasping truth, only time for grasping.
Well, at this last retreat, I was wondering not only how energy is defined, but also how to get it, and what it looked like. I can tell you that as I surveyed the small group of 52 kids that Saturday morning, I was not going to have my curiosity sated. They were forced to be there, perhaps, or maybe they were better actors than I (which is saying a lot :P) and were just hiding the fact that they had energy, waiting to release it into the room at some secret sign agreed to amongst themselves. Or maybe they were just as unsure of us as I was starting to be of them. Maybe they were waiting for us to give the sign.
The sign.
The sign that the apostles waited for in that upper room. The sign Jesus promised: "And I will ask the Father: and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever: The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him. But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you and shall be in you." A Paraclete is a helper, a comforter, and Jesus promised His followers that this Spirit would come and dwell with them forever. As the Apostles waited, afraid and lonely, in that upper room, there was no energy. Then came the Spirit: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, as it were of fire: and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak." Then they went forth and preached so mightily that three thousand (3000!) people were baptized that day. The apostles were filled with energy, an energy so vigorous and powerful that from that point on, the apostles never rested from their mission of spreading the good news and fighting the forces of evil.
So this sign the kids wait for on this bright sunny hot winter morning (yes, hot, yes, winter), is the Spirit that so soon will be theirs! That is what is needed to transform their souls and my soul into a tongue of fire, flickering, more than flickering, burning! with energy!
O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
To Thee, the Gift of God Most High,
The Fount of life, the Fire of love,
The soul's Anointing from above.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Lady of Lourdes

+JMJ+

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

We were at Our Lady of Lourdes this past weekend for a Confirmation Retreat. About 25 8th graders accompanied us on an intense spiritual retreat and reflection of who we are and Who God Is. Talks on Confession, the Eucharist, making good decisions, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, saints, adoration, games... I think it was a good experience for all of us. I always learn a lot from these days - I who am supposed to be the one teaching. But, we fall back out of the spiritual battle only long enough to be healed, be restored, receive our nourishment and support and new orders, and we are back out again, in the midst of the battle. But we are fighting for God, living for God, dying for God, so it all makes sense, and it is all at once worth the fight. God is so good to us. He is so generous and faithful. All He asks is our love in return.

We've been allowed to travel and perform and meet so many people - so many souls that we otherwise could never have known. I really hope that one day, I might see all these souls again, as we fight and work and pray and love - all the way to Heaven. Future saints of America, I pray we meet again. God bless, Mary

Seton Catholic

+JMJ+

Nothing sounds quite so nice to a student as "Early Dismissal!" "Class cancelled!"

HOORRAAAYYY!!! Goodness, those kids were happy! We arrived at the High School about 7:30 so we could set up for two half-day retreats. We made it half way through the first one and in the middle of my talk to the guys, Father called out the news... looming ice storms were closing down everybody. So we finished quickly, spent some time with the younger kids then off to lunch and off to - home! This was one of the best high school shows we've had, I think. The audience was made up of really smart, sharp, good kids, and the teachers and Priest was great. There was a beautiful all-school Mass in the morning, and the whole gym lit up with the light of Christ in every person. God is so good, and always gives enough time! So, we made it through most of what we needed to cover, and we leave the rest to God. He has better more beautiful plans for each of us - than we could ever imagine! God is so good. Go Seton Catholic! Go Saints!

New York Youth Rally

+JMJ+

I didn't know airplanes could land in freezing windy scary snow storms. And I forgot that people actually drive in blizzards. And I was shocked when I realized there were going to be over 500 teenagers at the FX Youth Rally in Syracuse. It was awesome! So many young people, so many incredible leaders and talks! I loved it. I really did. It was so amazing to walk into this huge auditorium filled with young Catholics and learn along side them. To know that other youth share my same love for God and faith in His church. The faith is alive and well! Another thing is just how much we actually learned while we were there: mostly, that there is so much to learn. The faith is so deep, so full, so many treasures - there is so much to understand! So much more faith to be had! I loved it.

We performed Rachel at the workshops in the gym, then gave a talk to the ladies about what it means to be a woman, witnessing the power of Christ. We looked back on the examples of the Apostles and the examples of the first women who followed Christ: their faith, their strength, their love, their fidelity. Then we met the Bishop after the youth Mass for his blessing.

So many awesome people, so much beautiful faith! God, please reward their faith! Take us all to Heaven to be Your Saints! We want YOU!

God bless you, you future saint of America... Mary

South Dakota

+JMJ+

I really love South Dakota. I really love the people there - their spirituality, their generosity, their faithfulness to God, their love of where they are and what they do. We performed a pro-life show in Wagner for the youth groups of the area on by far the best stage we've ever performed on - sound and lights and tech man and everything. We had a follow-up of some really amazing thought provoking questions too. The Q&A lasted for about 30 minutes. They were great. These are the people who almost banned abortion from their entire state by a vote from the people. Last year the bill lost by only a few percentage points. Imagine if this state could do it? Imagine what a statement to the rest of us? Keep striving, South Dakota! Please! We need your leadership and strength! We need someone among us to step out and hold back this crashing wave. It was a really beautiful experience. The faith is alive and well, I tell you!

We also visited an Indian Reservation while we were there, and got to meet some nuns who's order was founded by St. Katherine Drexel. The average time spent at that convent by these nuns was over 50 years each. One of them was there was St. Katherine Drexel was visiting and made her rolls! It was awesome! These women were models of determination, perseverance, and faith that God will hear their cries and see their work and conversion and faith will be greater. Gosh. They sure had a positive influence on me - to not give up. To not get discouraged. To see God's hand in all things, especially the little things. And to love each other. To really love enough to know that life is worth living, and it is worth living well.

I learned a lot over those few days. And definitely had much to meditate on after I left. Thank you to our family in South Dakota - God is so good for letting us know you, and be inspired by you! God bless, Mary

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Idol or Mediatrix?

The Confirmation retreat this weekend went on without a hitch. We arrived with plenty of time to set up the space for both our drama and our talks, meet with small group leaders, and spend some time in the chapel. There were about 54 kids there, freshmen in high school. We were able to cover a great many topics throughout the course of the day. For many of them, it was their first time in adoration or their first time hearing what choosing a confirmation name means.
One question we received gave me pause: "In those idols, why is Mary always wearing a hood?"
At first I was shocked to hear Our Lady called an idol, since that is a charge Catholics have been answering to for centuries. Now even Catholics have lost their sense of who Our Lady is? And then my shock turned to puzzlement. A hood? When does Our Lady wear a hood? I can't quite picture Her hanging in the 'hood with bling and a hoodie on. Ahhh… the veil.
To answer the second point first, the veil Our Lady is always depicted with is culturally what women wore when she was alive. To show her with it is to be accurate to history. But, as with all things in the Church, this fact also has symbolical meaning. To cover one’s head as been throughout history an act of submission to God, a recognition of one’s place as a created being in the presence of the Creator. You can see this working out even when you get in trouble with your parents: you hang your head to show how sorry you are inside. Same idea with the veil. You are admitting that there is someone over you to whom you owe something. Both for Our Lady and for us, the veil is a visible sign of the invisible virtues of modesty and humility one’s heart. If you have ever wondered why you may see a woman wearing a veil in church, now you know what it symbolizes and that she is doing it in imitation of Our Lady’s modesty and humility.
The second part is even more important to our identity as Catholics: an appreciation for Our Lady, not as an idol, but as a Queen and Mother. She is God's gift to His Church. On the cross, when He made His will, He left His beloved Mother to John, and through him to us. He made Himself our brother and now He shares His mother with us. She is not just by chance the mother of God, but part of a specific plan formed from the beginning of time. In Genesis, after the Fall, God promised the coming of a Woman who would crush the head of Satan with her heel, a new woman to balance the wrong done by Eve. As Mother of God, Our Lady occupies a position that no other man or woman will ever be able to surpass. God created her without Original Sin and filled her with His grace so that the most perfect woman would be His mother. And she is not simply the counterpart to our earthly mothers who bore us and in that capacity deserving of honor like we honor our mother, but she is also deserving of our prayers as the Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. She is co-redeemer because God decided to make her an integral part of His plan to save the world. She is not equal to Jesus, but it is only through Her that He became Incarnate, truly man and truly God. She is the Mediatrix (a woman who is a mediator) of All Graces because in His redeeming plan, He chose to make Our Lady the channel through which grace enters the world. We cannot forget that God chose to honor her in this way and that He does not do anything without sufficient cause and or purpose. She is not the giver of grace because she is the originator of the grace, but because God decided to give her the role of the one who dispenses the graces won by Jesus to us her children. (See for more info and Church documents: http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/marya4.html)
We do not worship Our Lady as we do God. She is not an idol that we have set up as equal to God. But we do honor Her and pray to Her for assistance and intercession with her Divine Son, as He Himself desires. She is a most powerful queen to whom the King is pleased to listen to. She is the perfect imitator of Her Son, and through Her we learn to imitate Him too. She sits closes to God, and through Her we may make our petitions to God. Pray for us, O most holy Mother of God!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weston Confirmation Retreat

+JMJ+


Some really really great websites for Chastity and Purity...

www.pureloveclub.com

www.truth4youth.com

www.hcs.harvard.edu/tlr

www.theologyofthebody.net

www.lovematters.com

www.abstinence.net

www.catholic.com

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

3,319 miles and counting...

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

3,319 miles one way - across the United States to Seattle, Washington. Almost as far from home as we could get, mainland, USA!

The whole trip was fast, but good. We met a lot of really incredible people - very Catholic and very pro-life. Before the show we were able to tour around the big city, visit the Space Needle and walk along the Pier and visit the market... mountains, islands, bays... Washington is really a beautiful state. The whole trip was so fun! Everything was so unique and exciting, and very different from anywhere else we've been. We took the pro-life show to them on Sunday, and a big thank you to all who came - even though you missed the end of the Superbowl. May God bless all of you!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

March For Life... Media Coverage?

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Yeah, well... was there any? For a public demonstration which included somewhere around 100,000 people - possibly the largest demonstration Washington D.C. has ever seen? Or what about the Walk for Life is San Francisco? In its very few years, already tens of thousands of people take the time and effort to walk... no journalist, reporter, or story dared to make its way into the public eye. Ironic, isn't it? I did find a story online though, which concluded this way...

"What is sure is that a very large, dedicated and vocal group of people has been trying for 35 years to protect life and to reverse a Supreme Court decision that many Constitutional scholars say is wrong; a decision that has allowed the legal termination of millions of pregnancies. Whether the establishment media talks about the marches or not, it doesn’t seem like these passionate activists will be going away any time soon." - http://www.jbs.org/node/6955

Yeah. We don't need media or newspapers or news broadcasts. We know the tide is being turned. We know the truth. We have God.

Home to Florida!

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

The life of a traveling actress is exciting, adventurous, joyful, fulfilling and hopeful. I learn more than I teach, I think. God is so amazing, and is constantly opening our eyes and our minds to Him, more and more every day. We really do want to love God more and more every day, and to serve Him in whatever we do. We praise Him after a long and intense week of shows, and after the opportunity of bringing Him and His Love to so many others. Thank You, Sweet Jesus, for life, for this chance. May all that we do be done for the Honor and Glory of God! All for His Kingdom!

FUS

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

God's Mercy is so much greater than our sins...

Steubenville had one of the best crowds we've ever performed for. They were great. It was neat to finally be able to see the campus and meet some people from there. They were so awesome. Walking down the sidewalk, you hear people passing you saying the Rosary, kneeling before the chapel, and lots of people in Adoration. This was a time to focus on God's Mercy, because healing and forgiveness is such a necessary part of the pro-life position. Have you ever heard of St. Maria Faustina - a Polish Nun who lived in the 20th century who had apparitions and visions of Christ and His Holy Mother? She saw angels and demons and teh Baby Jesus. She actually talked to Christ many times, and He spoke to her about His Divine Mercy. It is a message for our times, for sure. One of my favorite quotes from her diary (and I've got many many favorites) is this: Christ told Sister (now Saint) Faustina, "My Mercy is so much greater than your sins." He is just waiting for us to turn to Him. He desires to give us His Mercy, but we must ask for it, and be willing to accept it! It says over and over how so many people turn away from God, because they don't accept His Mercy and Forgiveness. You've got to check it out. It is so amazing. There is so much to say and understand about this message! God is so good to us! Check out this website: http://thedivinemercy.org/

God loves us so much. All He asks is our love in return.


video

Madonna High School

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Marathon II: We performed "Sarah" for high schoolers - 4 shows. We had to shorten the production to fit it into one class period, but I really like performing this way. You are very close to the audience, and each one is no more than 40 people. That type of environment makes a more powerful impact, I think, for this kind of drama. And we had to hurry and pack up because from WV we had to go across the border into Stuebenville for a show that night...

Weirton, WV Rachel

+JMJ+

Come Holy Spirit!

First time to West Virginia! We met about 20 people including a really amazing Priest. Proof of this: he had enormous rosary beads painted all around his car! Tomorrow we have another show for them - but all day long at the school.

Fireplace Room

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Ok... so back to Ohio...

Tonight we performed for a pro-life fundraiser. There were many families, as well as a lot of kids. The most memorable event besides the show was that the fireplace in the room was not ventilating properly, and consequently all hundred of us were stuck inside the smokey room for hours. The costumes and props smelled like a bonfire for days!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ever heard of Lutz?

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Oops... how could we forget life before Ohio? We had a show in Lutz, Florida two nights before we left on tour. "Rachel" made her appearance before a live audience of about 150 people, parents, young ones, and visiting youth groups. We had a great question though, that made me start thinking: was Rachel alright after her fall? Does she really choose God again and turn away from her sin? Is she really sorry or only temporarily sorry? Well, I guess that's a question that we can't answer, except in our own lives. Rachel isn't dead yet, and she has her whole life to make that choice - however long that might be - just like the rest of us. Of course we want to know that everything is going to be alright, but it's not a one choice deal. It is a constant turning back to God and a life of constant conversion, saying yes to HIM at every moment, saying sorry and begging for forgiveness when we do fall. Rachel is very real in that sense. She is in some ways a model and in some ways meant to inspire but also to warn all those who meet her, that she's still a work in progress. And that means you still have to keep working...

SMCC-Marathon

Wow. Today was intense. We were up early, arrived at the high school by 715, and had our first show in the gym at 755. The school has 48 minute sessions, separated by 3 minute intervals. Translation: you have 51 minutes to perform an entire show, clear the stage, reset the stage, fix the dressing room and reorganize the props and costumes. In theory, not too bad. In practice, it meant saying the last word of the show, hearing the bell ring, changing, and then saying the first line of the next show. In the few moments backstage in between stage appearances, if you had your next costume on extra quickly, then you organize the dressing room. If you wanted to reset the bed, you had to do it during the show. We had a twenty minute lunch break and back to performances. We did seven in all. By the end, I started forgetting what scene came next. We just did that scene right, so that means it can't be happening again right now. Thankfully, I only started to put on the wrong costume once, and then remembered where we were. The good thing was that over 400 high school kids were able to see our show. The bad thing was that we weren't able to interact with them at all. It was a day to remember, a success overall, but very tiring!

St Gerald, pray for us!

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

The students of St. Gerald's Catholic Grade School were great kids - an attentive and responsive audience. These future saints of America are on their way! It's beautiful to find Catholic kids who know and love their faith - they're not that easy to find. We had an amazing response from these shows...

"A future saint of America can be anybody. Boy, girl, or anyone who belongs to any race. A saint of America is someone who puts others before themselves. Someone who cares for everything made by God. A future saint respects all life and thinks of it as a blessing of God not something that means nothing. A future sain of America does the little things everyday that people may not notice, but God does and by doing the little things we grow closer to God."

...From an 8th Grader...

Swanton

On the Anniversary of Roe v Wade, we arrived in Swanton, Ohio. The pastor Fr. Zak met us at the church and explained the schedule to us, one that included dinner. This dinner was no ordinary dinner. We had salad, tea, walleye (my first time!), and, what is truly amazing, three desserts with all calories removed. Father assured both of us that we would receive no harm from this spread of dulcet delights since he had specifically asked the place to remove all calories for us. Quite a special treat that!
But on to the show! It was preceded by a prolife prayer service, complete with a procession with the nationally touring Our Lady of Charity picture, hymns, intercessory prayers, bible readings and an amazing homily. Our show followed immediately. We received a standing ovation, our first of the year! It is always humbling to think that we are serving God and His mission to save souls. It is easy to become glib about what we do.... ok, another show... now move on to another church... But we cannot forget what our purpose is, and how God uses us to work out the salvation of His flock. The reactions to our show tonight really brought this home to me. Two little girls were so excited to talk with us, tell us stories about their friends, and how they helped make the brownies being served in the parish hall right then. They are the reason we are fighting, for the joy of life in their faces. Another woman had brought a group of teenagers with her. She said she was set on fire by the events of the night, both the show and the service. She wanted to take the prolife mission seriously now, actively and not passively. Then came a woman with tears in her eyes. "I am 'Sarah'," she said, "I am that woman with a secret. I had an abortion many years ago and what you were portraying is real. Not a day goes by when I don't regret the abortion. The memory of the abortion causes me more pain than the memory of the rape." This gave me pause. What we are doing is real. We are not playing on people's emotions with concocted dramas. We are trying to save the lives not only of thousands of babies but also thousands of mothers who are led by the prochoice argument to believe that they have no choice. Well, you do. You have the choice to give life to your baby. The choice to be loved unconditionally by your baby. The choice to love her with all your might. You can choose life by sparing yourself the trauma of an abortion and its aftermath.
Pray for all the woman who are alone and frightened and hurt by an unwanted pregnancy, that they may be given the love and support they need to free themselves from the bonds that seem to imprison them. Pray for the women who have had an abortion and who are suffering with the consequences of their action, who are tormented by the memory of what could have been, by the memory of what they have done. Pray that we all are filled with love for God, for others, and for ourselves.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More Pro-Life Websites...

+JMJ+

I just found these. Take a look...




http://www.prolife.com ...> A Collection of AMAZING stories, websites, information.

http://abort73.com ...> AMAZING stories, facts, videos.

http://www.prolife.com/life_begins.html ...>When does life really begin?

http://www.prolife.com/NATHAN.html ...>Conversion of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Ex-Abortionist.

http://www.virtuemedia.org/ ... > Watch the Commercials!

http://prolife.com/FETALDEV.html ...> Fetal Development Timeline

http://www.justthefacts.org/clar.asp ...> Fetal Development Pictures

http://www.lldf.org/pmdd-info.html ...> Legal, Law, Etc.

Keep researching! Learn the facts! This is too big of a world problem to ignore...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Getting Ready for the Walk For Life!

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

We recently saw the movie, The Great Debaters. It was a phenomenal movie. I loved it. It was moving, passionate, motivating, eye-opening, thought provoking - hmm. It was very good. There were many good lines and lots of great moments, but one in particular got me thinking. There was an argument between two of the student debaters. The younger one was losing hope - that the fight they were fighting and the life they were living would never get better, because they hadn't had the chance to speak and debate with anyone who opposed them. His line went something like "all we ever do is talk and argue with groups of people who think just like us..." In other words, there was really no room for changing hearts or minds, because they didn't really disagree with each other.

Well, that same thought has crossed my mind over and over as we travel across the US performing Catholic and pro-life themed shows for a bunch of Catholic and pro-life people. Sometimes we find those 'riding the fence' and by showing them the truth we leave a room of pro-lifers behind us. But, why don't we get out there and face pro-choice groups, call them out to talk, debate, or discuss, and try to convert them?

The truth is, if such believers would want a show or desire to engage in such a presentation, we would love it. We would be there in a heartbeat. But our focus right now is to CHALLENGE every single person out there who is pro-life to prove it. To act on their belief and do something about the fact that almost 50 million humans world-wide have lost their lives in the last 34 years. We did everything we could as a country to stop WWI and WWI. We helped out in Vietnam and Korea, and intercede all over the globe for the sake of justice. Why else would we be so involved currently in world matters - if not for the strong hope that the world may find fairer and more just ways of governing and living?

Ok. So WHY DON'T WE DO SOMETHING BIG to stop abortions? How can we just sit back and let this happen? If you believe that abortion is murder (which it is - I challenge anyone in the world to prove me wrong) then how can we sit at home doing nothing? I'm tired of the spilling of blood. I can't stand the fact that thousands upon thousands of mothers are silently grieving a 'legal' action - as if it has no consequences on their emotional or mental state. We do what we do - perform pro-life dramas for Catholic audiences - because we must DO SOMETHING. We challenge others to put their beliefs into action. "Be not afraid!" the words of John Paul II, and even of Christ Himself, echo and reecho to each of us. Be not afraid to go out into the streets, and bring Christ and His Love to the world.

Pray. Fast. Offer up sacrifices. Pray at the clinics. Counsel at the abortion mills. Speak about it in your home and classroom. Read everything you can get your hands on and find the facts. There are so many great websites and books - try a biology book. Write your own dramas and perform them. Give talks and speeches. Offer assistance to Crisis Pregnancy Centers or Single Mothers Homes. Support these women and men who are so afraid. Pray for them to make the right decisions. Talk to them about what those decisions are. Challenge the school systems and let them know you have a voice. Know who your schools have as speakers and presenters at your children's schools. Love. Forgive. Ask Questions. Demand Answers. Don't be silent. Silence is Acceptance. We have too much work to do.



Next week there is a Walk For Life in San Francisco, CA (January 19) and the March for Life in Washington, DC (January 22). Take a look at their websites: http://www.walkforlifewc.com/ and http://www.marchforlife.org/



... If you can't make it to either of those, check out what is happening in your area. I know almost every big city will have a demonstration, a rally, or a walk of some kind. If not, get your family and friends together and start one yourselves. Have a special Mass and prayer. Contact your diocese and see what is happening.

This past Wednesday we did two more shows in California - a Catholic school in the morning and a Catholic Parish that night. The pro-life voice is getting stronger. Pro-lifers are everywhere. Pray and work hard so these babies and their mothers and fathers may live!

"Mustangs" or "How You Know God is Good"

The disparate nature of the two titles of this post may give you some cause for legitimate befuddlement. But before you check with your doctor, check the rest of this post.
Here is the logic of the situation.
God is awesome.
Mustangs are awesome.
God is a Mustang.
No wait, that wasn't where I meant to go with that...
Mustangs are good.
God is good.
Mustangs are God.
No, no... (did anyone say heresy? Blasphemy, even? I hope not.)
Ok, so I maybe I didn't do so well in that logic course. Well, maybe I never took a logic course.
In any case, my point is that God loves us. He asks us to be faithful to Him and serve Him, but even more to love Him. And He delights in loving us too. He loves to please us, to give us gifts. His love is so great and overflowing that He cannot restrain Himself from giving to us. Thats why He created us in the beginning: He loved us before we even were, and so gave us Life and Light. The Bible stresses the Fatherhood and Brotherhood of God, and our role as little children. We are meant to trust Him, rely on Him for protection and surety. We pray for our daily bread in the prayer He taught us. But even more than what we have to do, more than our duty, is what we do out of love for Him and others. Thats why the greatest commandment is not "Serve God and Your Neighbor" but "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Mtt 22:37-40). If we truly love God and know His Love for us, what we do, our actions, will be full of love and so in accordance with all the Shalt nots of our faith without even trying to be. We don't need to worry about how we have to go to church on Sunday if we want to go there to be with the God we love and who loves us for who we are.
Just like a loving father, God wants to show us His love in major ways and in difficult situations, but also in little tiny ways, the little ways that brighten our day because they are so unexpected.
Case in point: this past week we went to the rental car company late at night. Turns out the place was closed. Would we be stuck at the airport? NO, there is a little rental place still open. The cheapest car they had? Well, there was a choice between a plain four-door blue car, a plain four-door black car, or a neon yellow brand-new snazzy Ford Mustang. Now, this is not intended to be a plug for the Ford company. I am not getting a commission fee or anything, but that car was so yellow it hurt my eyes to look at it. I had no idea whether or not the multitude of baggage alluded to many times before on this blog would fit into this car, but after much discussion, we decided it would have too. We spent the rest of the trip in an amazing car. God gave us a little gift right there. Like a child, I was so happy with this pretty plaything that my mind and heart were lifted to praise God.
God does have a sense of humor, and I hope He laughed to see my childish delight in that car.
Oh, we got to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and to Napa Valley in that car. It was pouring rain, very foggy, and windy, but our neon yellow car blazed right through it all no problem. We had a morning performance at Holy Trinity School in Napa. Originally, it was just for the highschoolers, but the headmaster decided to open it up to 5, 6, 7, and 8th graders as well. The kids helped us convert their chapel into a stage, and then back again afterwards. And carry our props out to the CAR.
God is good.

Ignatius Meeting

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Well, we finally made it to San Francisco! Everyone a little wet, but safe. ;-D We arrived at Ignatius Press in the early afternoon, and met the Ignatius Family for lunch. After a quick bite to eat, we turned a small section of the lunch room into a stage and Rachel and Sarah came to life. That's another favorite part of mine: taking a normal everyday space and turning it into a different world, giving it a new life by bringing characters and stories to life between its walls. It always amazes me how quickly a space can change. It's like reading a book - just by opening its pages your mind can travel anywhere and learn about people from all over the world, hear their conversations, see what they see, and learn life lessons. That's the beauty of a story, I guess. Even though it's told from your tiny living room.

It was awesome to finally meet our sponsors and the people who make our life as traveling actresses possible. They are the ones responsible for any good that comes of our work - in a sense, they are the ones who gave us our hands and our feet to carry Christ to the world. We thank God for them. Check them out whenever you have time. They are a top seller of Catholic books and videos... http://www.ignatius.com After an afternoon of shows, we took a tour of Ignatius Press (amazing!), visited the surrounding churches (beautiful!), and drove through San Francisco. There's something really incredible about the Golden Gate Bridge. I loved it all! Now we spend some time in San Francisco, braving the rain storms and small floods, with a few more shows later this week...

CRAZY weather and cancelled flights.

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Well, as we know very well by now, weather in the Midwest is crazy. We're not in Florida anymore! On our way to California, Elizabeth had a three hour layover in Georgia, and my flights were cancelled. Thankfully, I had enough time that I could still make the show by flying out the next morning. We got to San Francisco in between two of the worst storms the west coast has seen in years! Yeah... it was exciting. God always gives enough time. We made it to the shows fine.

CHRISTMAS BREAK!!!

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Alright! After three weeks of travel, 13 shows, ice and snow storms, many hotels, lots of people and much fun, it's BREAK TIME! We have been counting down the hours until Christmas, and we are very excited and making ourselves ready for the Baby Jesus to be born. God bless you and have a Blessed Christmas!

JPII Shows...

Interesting how our English language allows for such great freedom. Take the title of this post, in exemplum. JPII shows... well, what is the object of that Subject and verb? The former pope shows us what? Lots of things, notably his call for sanctity in the laity and in family life, the call that we as actresses in a Catholic drama company take to heart. It is up to each of us as members of the Mystical Body of Christ to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters, to take action in the world as participants in His mission to save souls, as representatives of His Church.
On the other hand, the JPII shows are our mainstage productions put on in conjunction with our St. Louis-based troupe at the John Paul II Auditorium. This beautiful little theater was to be our home for the three shows that would conclude our Midwestern Christmas tour. Since we do not usually perform with much of a stage, or any solid tech systems to speak of, the MSP were greatly impressed by the technologically and spatially advanced situation we now found ourselves in. We actually had a set. We really did have heavy red curtains and two levels of lights from every directions and an amazing sound system to play with.
And we had a whole other cast too! The St Louis cast does a funny opening act, and we were all rolling with laughter every rehearsal and show as the script slowly morphed with much ad libbing and side comments to the audience.
Speaking of the audience, we were able to meet and greet many different age groups after each show and chat on topics ranging from what we do, what they do, plays we have all acted in, down to where a good site to find online movies could be found. The old cliche "Its a Small World" (accompanied in my head by that outrageously repetitive Disney song) was proved again and again over those few nights. "Hey, you went to TMC? Founded by Peter Sampo? He taught me when I was in college years ago!" "Hey, I recognize you from ..."
We also were able to watch the airing of EWTN's "The Surprise," a Chesterton play in which our director played a main role, between shows. We have a contract with EWTN to begin filming in May for our own series, Theater of the Word, in which the MSP will have a segment. Look for it sometime over the next year!

Missionaries of Charity - St. Louis

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

The Missionaries of Charity. I love them. Some of the most beautiful and joyful women on this earth live in the MC convents. They love God so much and serve Him so well! We were able to spend the morning with them during their Christmas Party for the shut-ins. They have volunteers who help drive the sick and disabled people to their soup kitchen, as well as many lay people who cook the lunch and serve the food. When we arrived, we saw the dining room transformed into a Christmas wonderland: decorations, Christmas trees, colored pictures (from the little children), red and green tablecloths... everything was set up perfectly for their Christmas Party. And as I watched, each seat was filled as the celebration began. These were people who were so sick that if such a party like this didn't happen, they wouldn't leave their poor homes, hospital beds, or wherever they spent their time. The Sisters organize this party for them - to feed them, to love them, and to give them a very special Christmas - one that I know they will never forget. Elizabeth and I performed "Making Room" which was very well received - but that was hardly the highlight of the day! The audience soon became a congregation, as the Sisters prepared the room for Mass. They asked a Priest from the area to come and celebrate Holy Mass with them that day, which made the whole day so special! His homily was an inspirational and passionate plea to them - to give their lives to God, for "there is no secret what God can do." He repeated this chorus over and over, and it was echoed by his congregation. He told them how to forgive and how to cling to God, even in spite of terrible suffering. Physical suffering was the least of what he talked about: the emotional scars from family, relationships, spouses, children. He challenged these people to believe that God could change their lives, and that they could be happy again. There were shouts of "Amen! Alleluia!" from these seemingly sickly people, who began to realize and actually believe that "There is no secret what God can do!" The priest was on fire and he was passing that flame of love and hope on to people who had lost it. The Holy Spirit was moving! It was AMAZING!!! The people were responding, some were crying, others got their hope back. And me? I was so motivated and filled with joy!! He opened our eyes to the power and mercy of God. He told us we could be healed and we could be loved - because we were first loved by Him. He made us see that we could love again - that healing and forgiveness was ours, if we could accept it. It was beautiful. He reminded us that there is no secret what God can do... he brought a life to my heart that I didn't realize needed to be awakened to a much greater faith. It was incredible, and I was so thankful to be a part of that day.

After Mass and receiving the Eucharist and we all received the blessing from Father. The room then filled with Christmas Carols and lots of good food. Santa Claus came to town and each of the people there received a Christmas gift, as well as a plate of food to take home with them. We had so many amazing conversations with them, and talked much of God, and who He is, and who we are. I learned so much. It was beautiful.

This was a life changing event for me. I hope that in the future, my husband and babies will come with me to events like these with the MCs, and we will see God at work in our lives. It was incredible. I would tell everyone - Go! Serve in the soup kitchen! Talk to these people! Learn from the Sisters! Learn from the poor! Love them like Christ loves them! It was beautiful.

video

Rockin' in Rockford

Ok, so what if Rockfordians get that all the time, I think there was come rockin' going on there.
We returned to Rockford to make up the two shows weather had made impossible to put on the week previous. It was a grey gloomy day, mushy with melty slushy snow (say that five times fast, why dontcha?) when we arrived. The set up was simple and the first show, for the students of St. Edward's Catholic school, went per usual. We had a few hours break before the evening show, so we checked out TAN Books and crossed a few names off of our Christmas shopping list there. Then we went on a quest for an Arts and Crafts store. We were looking for a glass container of some sort, whether square, flat, boxed, or circle or spherical was incidental to our plans. Our handy dandy GPS took us down some very long dark roads that seemed to be leading nowhere, but later rather than sooner we showed up in the mall area of Rkrd. Once there, there is really very little to tell, except that we did find an Arts store and a vase-like glass structure, complete with a lid (that later failed us miserably by breaking most inconveniently in our car after being crushed by one of our enormous suitcases. Silly lid.) We rushed back to the church and started the next show. The audience this time was about 200 kids from the CCD program, coming in from a variety of backgrounds. Most seemed unphased and unaffected by our performance, until the concluding talks. Typically our conclusions run about 10-15 minutes. Mary talked for almost an hour, interacting with the kids and demanding responses from them. Soon everyone was having fun, shouting out answers to her questions and joking with her and each other. By the time the kids filed out, the air was charged with great energy. Hopefully, God will work with what few seeds we were able to sow and grow a beautiful oasis in this troubled world of ours. Rock(ford) on.

No Show in KY

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Ahh... the joys of winter... snow, ice, wet, slush, rain, bad weather, snow on top of ice, wet slush, makes really bad weather... I love the snow and winter time if I'm inside and warm, or on Christmas morning - a white Christmas seems to be the most memorable. But - trying to get people to come out from their safe and warm homes, even for a fun evening of Christmas shows is close to impossible. Consequently, show number three (this time in Kentucky) was taken from the books... It was a LONG drive to only get one show, but what can you do? Maybe visit some friends and get some Christmas shopping done. ;-D Stay warm!
God bless, Mary

A Story Written in Reverse Aesopian style

Moral of the story: you can't fool kids.
You may think it odd that I begin with the moral, rather than following the great Aesop's tradition of concluding with the point. But then I have learned a great lesson from the kindergartners, first and second graders of Holy Trinity School. Get to the point, fast!
So we arrive at the school at around 730 in the morning, having arisen at 5:55 am to make the drive. In this somewhat groggy state we size up the sitch: an enormous echoing gym with limited seating arrangements. Stage? One rotating chair. Lights? An amazing old-style can light that sends light blasting into your face from only one direction. Perfect.
We are quickly ready, and watch as the kids file in under the direction of their frazzled looking teachers. The show starts... and perhaps you're asking yourself when the point is coming... be patient... setting the scene is always the most important part of any story-telling attempt. Anyways, the show starts with me coming out as the inspector trying to find out who killed Christmas. For the kids, this was no joke. This was serious, and they really were going to help me find out whodunnit. Mary skitters out from the side, dressed in puritan garb with a black robe, white neck wrap, and a pointy black hat with a buckle. Very Pilgrim, right? Oh no, don't be so sure, my sharp-eyed gumshoes. The kids look on in horror, and then a single voice begins a cry that is quickly taken up by the rest of the shrill-voiced children, all 150 of them: "It's a Witch! She's a Witch!" It took a while to silence them, for what are two adult voices against the power of 150 young ones? After this day, I can answer without hesitation: absolutely nothing. The rest of the scene continued with just the usual comments from the intensely involved audience. The second scene brings Mary on again as a car salesman-type character. The kids instantly recognized her though, even with the costume change, and took it upon themselves to warn me: "Thats the Witch! She's the Witch!" The swell was even harder to calm this time. The final moment comes in the third and final scene, Mary as a police inspector from the future moves to arrest me for killing Christmas in my own life and heart. The kids came valiantly to my defense:"Don't take her! She didn't do it! You're the witch! You did it!" I tried in vain to admit my guilt, to persuade my supporters that I indeed was the guilty one, but to no avail. I do believe that the situation would have become ugly, had not Mary stepped up to the plate: "Listen, y'all kids," she said, "if you don't shut yer mouths, I'll write y'all tickets!" This threat slowly took affect and eventually all was quiet again. The script had pretty much gone out the window by this point, so we wrapped up in good ad lib style.
Have you forgotten the moral? It wasn't that we all kill the Spirit of Christmas by materialism, false tolerance, or by being killjoys. Rather, it was never to forget that you can't fool kids, no matter how clever your disguise.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

+JMJ+
Come Holy Spirit!

Well, after an ice storm cancelled the rest of our tour in Rockford, Elizabeth and I drove a few hours through CRAZY cold weather to beat the storm before it hit south of us. After much excitement, and God taking good care of us, we ended up at a grade school (with a really nice re-done stage/theater) on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There we were able to perform the pro-life drama, in honor of her! Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 in Mexico. She appeared as a young princess, great with child. Her message was one of love of God and love of people, and after the apparitions and miracles surrounding her coming, MILLIONS of people were converted to Christianity. She has been taken as the patroness of the Americas and the patroness of the unborn, and we ask her intercession for the ending of abortion. So, it was very special for us to perform on her feast day. God is so good to us! My favorite quote from her from these apparitions is this, "Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you." I love Our Lady of Guadalupe! She is my favorite... to quote St. Louis de Montfort, "To Jesus through Mary..."
God bless you, Mary