Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Day Devotion to the Holy Spirit

A few years ago I discovered a "10-Day Devotion to the Holy Spirit" in my favorite little prayer book. This devotion is a series of prayers starting on Friday after the feast of the Ascension (Friday, May 30th) and ending on Pentecost (Sunday, June 8th). I love that we can follow in the footsteps of the apostles, who were waiting in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I tend to direct most of my prayers to Jesus, but I know it's also important to pray to the Holy Spirit.

Each day of the devotion starts with a opening prayer, includes a reflection, and ends with a closing prayer. I will be starting the devotion on May 29th and have included the prayers and reflection topics (from my little prayer book and also online at Catholic News Agency) below. I will be praying for our future adoption and for my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment or message me with specific intentions.

Introductory Prayer:
Come, O Holy Spirit! Enlighten my understanding in order that I may know your commands; strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy; enkindle my will. I have heard your voice, and I do not want to harden my heart and resist, saying "Later... tomorrow." Nunc coepi! Right now! Lest there be no tomorrow for me!

O, Spirit of truth and wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, because you want it, as you want it, when you want it.

Day One - Pentecost: The day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Lord's disciples.
Day Two - The Holy Spirit: Present in the Church for all time.
Day Three - The Church: The Body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
Day Four - Our faith in the Holy Spirit: Necessarily complete.
Day Five - The Holy Spirit: Present among us.
Day Six - The action of the Holy Spirit: Teaching how to correspond to it.
Day Seven - The gift of wisdom: Making us know God and rejoice in His presence.
Day Eight - The Holy Spirit: Living according to Him.
Day Nine - Docility, life of prayer, and union with the cross: Fundamental points.
Day Ten - Beginning: And beginning again.

Concluding Prayer:
Holy and Divine Spirit! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Spouse, bring the fullness of Your gifts into our hearts. Comforted and strengthened by You, may we live according to Your Will and die praising Your infinite mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Envy and Dante

I'm not proud to admit it, but I sometimes struggle with envy and jealousy. Especially now that we've been experiencing infertility. However, this is something I've struggled with at other points in my life, and I know I need to fight against it.

Recently I shared this with a priest in confession. He mentioned that in Dante's Divine Comedy, the envious are inflicted with blindness, so they can't see what's going on around them (and in this priest's interpretation, therefore not be envious). The priest also encouraged me to look up the virtue that counteracts envy and jealously. This virtue is kindness (and generosity) for it's own sake.

This conversation led me to do some searching on the Divine Comedy. I found a recap in the article, "What Dante Can Teach us About Envy":

"Now the spiritual medicine for envy, as Dante presents it on the mountain, is ingenious. It is an enforced blindness. The once-envious souls cannot eye one another askance, because they cannot see at all. Their eyes are sutured shut with an iron wire
as hunters seel
the wild hawk’s eyes to train him to be tame
And rest unruffled. (71-72)
They must be tamed—Dante the pilgrim will pick up the metaphor later on—before they may climb the mountain. That suggests there is something savage in envy, something a social order must overcome. And that fact is underscored by all that these blind sinners say and do. Because they are blind, sitting near the edge of a precipice, they must rely upon one another—intimately, bodily, helplessly—to keep safe:
In humble horsehair they were covered all,
propped back to back to bear each other up,
while everyone was propped against the wall. (58-60)."
One thing I've learned the hard way is that envy and jealousy are isolating. Often I'm guilty of turning inward in self-pity, rather than outward in charity and generosity. From the perspective of the Divine Comedy it seems that blindness is the perfect antidote for envy: Upon being blinded the envious sinners are forced to reach outside of themselves for help and support.

I know that when I reach outside of myself to share in someone else's burdens, listen to a friend, or help another in need, my own load is also lightened, and in a way I feel less blind on my own path.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Little Happies - Mother's Day

The past few years (ie. since 2010) Mother's Day has been kind of tough. Three years ago I was practically in tears all day. Two years ago AF arrived on Mother's Day, on cycle day peak +17. It was especially rough since AF usually arrives on peak +14 like clockwork (I blame HCG injections for the peak +17 arrival). Last year Mike planned a fun date and made the day really special for the two of us. Thank you hubby!

First, I want to thank all mothers, including my mom and MIL, for all they do each and every day. Motherhood is one of the most important and demanding jobs. I know some pretty amazing moms, who sacrifice day after day for their families. I learn so much from your example.

I'm happy to report that Mother's day weekend this year passed smoothly. We went to visit our moms in northeast Wisconsin and spend the weekend with family. Here are some of the weekend's "Little Happies":

Sweet Friends
I am so thankful for friends and family who care. I got texts and messages from several friends who knew today might be a tough day. How did I get so blessed to have such sweet people in my life?!?! Thank you all.

Mass at Holy Resurrection Monastery

Mike makes an annual retreat at a Byzantine Catholic monastery in Wisconsin. Since it was Mother's Day weekend, and I was a little apprehensive about making it through Mass without crying, we decided to go to the monastery for Divine Liturgy (ie. what Byzantine's call Mass). The chapel only has one row of pews and is very small. There were about six monks and eight people. Divine Liturgy is mostly chanted and very soothing. Also the homily was exactly what I needed. Donuts in Wisconsin
Since moving to Illinois five years ago we were introduced (and became hooked) on Donuts coffee. Two years ago our Wisconsin hometown got it's first Donuts. Now we can get our fix while visiting family! When we stopped for coffee I saw this fun mug and couldn't resist. It combines two things that make me happy: coffee and my home state!

Surprise Presents

My super kind and thoughtful Mom got me a present today! She gave me a book on adoption, and three mushroom plant decorations. I stuck the blue mushroom in a plant we had and it cheers it right up. Thank you Mom!

Mother's Day Lunch and Our Goddaughter

I took my mom and SIL out for a Mother's Day lunch and our goddaughter C came too! My SIL is super crafty and made me the pretty art above as a present from C (C wasn't in a smiling mood, but she is super cute when she does...promise!). So thoughtful. Also, a plug for my SIL's business: she makes hairbows, tutus and baby-wearing wraps - you can visit her website at: Tutu Cute.

I'm so grateful that Mother's Day was a good day this year. For anyone aching to be a mom, and those who've suffered miscarriage, or loss of their mom, praying for you!

Also, I'm slowly recovering from my April "funk." For a bunch of random reasons I've been really feeling down for the last month or so. Hopefully this week my mood will continue to get better.

For more "Little Happies" visit Blessed to Be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Our New Ministry

Mike and I recently signed up to give communion at our local hospital. We have been wanting to volunteer together for awhile but couldn't quite agree on the right ministry. When an  opening came up to distribute communion one Sunday a month it seemed perfect!

Last Sunday was our first time. I was soooooooooo nervous. Mostly I was afraid I wouldn't know what to say, or end up saying the wrong thing. At our training we received guidance on how to approach patients and a little booklet of prayers to say. Mike took the lead. I was the sidekick because I was WAY too nervous to do anything else.

When we arrived at the hospital we were given a list of 15 patients who identified themselves as Catholics. Some patients indicated they wanted a visit and others did not. We were told to pop in to everyone on the list, but were also warned that some patients may not be interested in a visit, prayer, or communion.

As we traversed the hospital we visited three different floors, including the intensive care unit. Some patients were grateful for a visit, and we prayed with them and chatted a bit. One lady had the Magnificat prayer book and the book Rome Sweet Home in her room. A few patients didn't want communion or prayer. We told them we would pray for them and moved along.

A few things stood out to me from these visits:

One - There are A LOT of people going through A LOT of suffering. I should be grateful for my blessings and my cross (ie. it could be worse). 
This was one of those moments that put my suffering in perspective. While my cross feels heavy at times, others have very heavy crosses too. Probably even heavier than mine. The patients we visited were so frail and weak, and obviously in pain. I am a wimp when it comes to physical pain, and spending time in a hospital seems very lonely. Depending on the diagnosis, patients may be facing a very grim outlook. I have so many blessings in my health, husband, family, friends, and job. It was humbling to bring communion and pray. I felt silly to be so self-absorbed in my difficulties, when others are suffering so much.

Two - Jesus is here to walk with us, but only if we let Him. 
Some of the patients on our list didn't want communion, and declined our offer of prayer. That made me sad. I know everyone has a different background and is in a different place when it comes to God, but I also know that faith can bring so much hope and peace to a difficult situation. I can't imagine going through life's ups and downs without faith. No one  knows how much time they have on this earth, and it was tough to see these patients continue their journey without accepting our invitation for prayer (Of course, who knows what else was going on for them at that moment or that day. Maybe we just arrived at a bad time, or they had already had someone else visit).

Three - How many times have I rejected Jesus?  
This is what really hit me. When I was reflecting on #2 above, I realized that I have rejected Jesus time after time in my life, in my own cross, in my own difficulties.


I have avoided prayer and distracted myself with other things. Yet, I know Jesus is there with His arms wide open. I have held grudges, tried to "get through it myself", and hardened my heart. Yet, deep down I know God is yearning for me to come to Him. I felt so ashamed and convicted for the times I have rejected God and not persevered in faith.

I'm so glad we committed to this ministry. Not only do we get to pray with patients, but I have a feeling this is only the start of God using this experience to help me grow too.