Honor your Mother and Father

Ephesians 6-2-3This past week, two dear friends each lost a parent. One lost a father and the other a mother. God is rejoicing in heaven with their presence, but we are mourning the loss of their presence. All the memories shared with friends and family brings me back to the loss of my own father. The heartbreak of that loss has never soften or been filled with something else, even when it has been 11 years he has been gone. Nothing can ever replace the emptiness our family feels. I know too well what my dear friends are going through – the pain that resides amid the joy of celebrating their life and legacy.

Everyday you miss their smile, their laugh or their voice. You want to grab the phone when good news comes your way so that you can call them. With each new spring bulb you remember the garden you planted with them. On your daily walk, you talk with them. There is only one thing that can comforted me. It is the only true thing that can comfort anyone.

Resting in the Lord’s promise in a life everlasting.
Knowing we will see each other again in the presence of Jesus.

Our Lord Jesus honored His parents. He listened to his mother, Mary, when He was not ready to perform a miracle. Mary must have known, small miracles had to have occurred when Jesus was a child because she speaks confidently when she tells him they are out of wine at the wedding.  Jesus says “what do you want me to do” but the word doesn’t show a response to his question. Mary turns to the steward and says “do what he says”. Parents know their children. They know what we are capable of, they encourage, support and believe in us through anything. Mary knew Jesus’ gifts better than anyone else. If I use Mary as my model of parenting, which I have always tried to do, I know I will remain in His Love.

As Catholics, we honor Mary during the month of May. Society honors Mothers during the month of May also. And in June we honor Fathers. Honoring our parents, as Jesus modeled for us, is important to do while they are alive and after they are gone too.

Friends, who lost a parent when they were very young, talk about all they missed. The long talks, the advice, the prideful look on their wedding day or graduation. Moments when we want to be surrounded by those we love. Moments that were stolen from them, but I trust in the Lord to provide them with opportunities to receive the love of a parent in many different forms too.

Jesus learned love, compassion and generosity from his parents and the home they created for him. We too are also products of our parents. I see my father in my siblings, nieces and nephews. I even see my father in my husband. He met my Dad when we were in high school and even though he had a wonderful father already, he would say he learned from my Dad too. The hard work of his hands while he builds out of lower level, creating more family space, or the generous nature when he does anything for our children. He often says, “your father helps us when we were young, I want to help them”. And my dad did – he lifted a sagging ceiling with my husband on our first house and was always there to fish with, talk with and to bounce things off of. Parents forever hold our hearts.

As we gather to honor these two beautiful, amazing parents, whom I was blessed to know, I pray the stories shared show their families the love of their parents and honor their memories. Memories that honor them will also embrace you on the days that are hard to bear without your parents.

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3 

Embrace God’s grace through the memories of your parents who have entered eternal life and those parents who you are able to embrace with love.

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Being Fed

Last month I attended the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, CA. I know what you are thinking, “getting out of Chicago into the sunshine and relax” right…not for me. I absorbs as much from the conference as I possibly can. Workshop and events from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, evening concerts and guest speakers, dinner and crash. But it is exhilarating.

I wish I could be in 10 places at once – each workshop time offers over 25 topics and I want to attend so many of them. This year I was blessed to hear Sherry Weddell, Bill Huebsch, Fr. Daniel Horan, Doug Tooke, ValLimar Jansen, Becky Eldredge, Doug Leal, Tony Alonso, Jeanne Cotter, Bishop Bob Barron, Steve Angrasino and Maria Shriver!

The weekend is an inspiration to my personal spiritual growth and to my ministry for Christ. Each year my love for the Eucharist deeps. The amazing gifts of community, unity, nourishment and overflowing love from Jesus was feel by those I met, which represent a universal church. Almost 40,000 ministers of the church attend this conference.

I bring back ideas to spark a flame within the youth, young adults and adults with whom I am blessed to minister to. My heartfelt prayers are for them to see Christ through my words, actions and relationships with them.

The theme of the conference was Rise Up!

My Rise Up truths…
Rise Up to accompany another on their journey
Rise Up to share the gifts God has blessed me with
Rise Up to center on Christ’s presence throughout my day
Rise Up to inspire others to their call of mission
Rise Up to give of myself in service
Rise up to be present
Rise Up to lay down my life for another
Rise Up to reach out in generosity

I am fed by God’s word and His love. I am fed by others who are Christ in my life and I am fed by amazing opportunities such as this conference.

Rise Up! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, Upon you the Lord will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen. Isaiah 60:1-2

Grace embraced through the light of others shining on my life. Help me, Jesus, to shine my light to others.

1,826

Praise of Thanksgiving for every breath and every moment these past five years. 

1826 days.

Looking in the mirror every morning and evening, more than 3600 times, seeing what cancer took. Some days I have moments of normalcy where I forget what this earth handed me to deal with. Wearing a prosthetic allows others to not think about it since everything “looks” normal when they see me. Then a tightness or pain, in the breast that no longer exists, brings me back to reality. How can there be a phantom pain five years later. But there is. Pain as if being stabbed. Pain that gets your attention. It never leaves me. A reminder of my loss. My view in the mirror some days reminds me of the darkness that was cut out of me. Thankfully, most days, the scar reminds me of a God that moved mountains for me because of His great love. His love is more powerful than any darkness in our lives.

He brought me through my battle.
He gives me life to enjoy, even with battle scars and all my other flaws.
My missing breast doesn’t define me, it refined me in the grace Jesus provides me.

We all have challenges in life. It could be addiction, unemployment, loneliness, stress, or chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer recurrences or MS. Our attitude through our challenges defines us. We are never alone through these stages of life. We always have a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on. Just this week I led children in a prayerful meditation. Guiding them to spend time with Jesus in their mind’s eye. Seeing Jesus sitting under a tree, calling us to spend time with Him. Gently listening to our every need. Holding our hand and carrying our burdens right beside us.

Praise to God for giving me the blessing of reaching my 5 year mark! Looking forward to celebrating the 10 year, 15 year, 20 year and so many more.
God is Good! All the Time!
Celebrate today! Celebrate tomorrow! Celebrate Everyday!

Psalm 68:20-21 Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation. God is our saving God for us; the Lord, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.

Perfectly us, four increases to five!

Today my family expands! ZachKarmen
Our son, Zachary is marrying Karmen!
The joy and love we feel is real…strong…and true.

As parents we have so many hopes, dreams, and desires for our children, yet ultimately the most important one is; we want them to be truly happy and live faith-filled lives. Both our children, Jaclyn and Zachary, have found joy in life with their careers and friends. Now to watch Zach and Karmen grow individually and as a couple these past two years, has been a true blessing for our family.

Our family of four is a typical close, in your business (sometimes), Italian family. We love passionately, care deeply and have been known to have arguments occasionally (infrequently now, but those teen years…Yikes!). We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly us.

I wonder if we our family was a shock to kind, calm, and quiet Karmen, who’s family life and culture is different. Which is true for each one of us comes from a unique and special family. Each of us bring with us a lot of family “stuff”, it makes us who we are. Melding their new lives together, I trust the Lord to  guide Zach and Karmen, to create their own ‘perfectly theirs’ family.

I knew Zachary’s heart was taken the first time I met Karmen. We met Zachary and Karmen at the Museum of Science and Industry the day after Thanksgiving 2013. Watching Zach talk with her, hold her hand, and treat her like the incredible woman she is…was it.

I love Zachary with her. He was comfortable, confident and loving…he was completely himself. I love who Zach is with Karmen, true to himself.

Then in June of 2014 in Venice, Italy on our family vacation Zach talked non-stop about why he loved her and how he missed seeing her. He was head over heels in love, I was no longer the most important woman in my baby’s heart and I was so happy to share his heart for this reason. Seeing how happy he was made this transition much less painful, because you see, he is my baby…the one I held when he was sick or hurting. Yet, now I see the man that the Lord created and am so grateful He allowed me to be part of Zach’s life.

So…
As they begin their marriage, I have to reflect on a life of marriage and the graces received (and lessons learned) through my 32 years and 2 children with my husband, Kevin. This will not be and cannot be a comprehensive guide to marriage, just my reflections as thoughts come to me.

Begin each day with a prayer of praise for all that you have been blessed with.
Put each other before yourself in life, honor and cherish every breath together.
Never lose yourself, be individuals who respect each other.
Always hold hands and snuggle all the time, especially during movies.
Share dinner together, even if it happens to be leftovers or cereal.
Take time to spend alone together.
Make birthdays and your anniversary special each year.
Listen more than you talk.
Forgive easily, especially when it is not easy.
Cheer each other in good times and cling to each other in storms.
Look for rainbows and stop to watch sunsets.
Make financial decisions together and never hide purchases from each other.
The mountains are calling you, spend time breathing in the clean, pure air of God’s beauty.
Stay close to family, they are your biggest supporters and loyal confidants.
Remember you are joined and entwined together as three cords, keeping God in the center will keep you strong.
Pray each night for each other and with each other.
Love always.

All good heart-felt advice from me is solid, I still giggle at my sister Toni’s great marriage advice of “always fight naked and no one will ever run out of the house.”

And know that all our family looking down upon us are smiling and guiding you…and know deep in your hearts that Kevin and I pray for you both and your union.

Welcome to this crazy, passionate, loving family Karmen…we love you!

#KarmenandZach
#ZachandKarmen
#marriage #love #happiness

Grace embraced through the young, pure love and happiness of this day as we welcome Karmen to our family through the Sacrament of Matrimony.
Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails   1 Cor 13:7

The Priority of Faith

“It was revealed this week that, for the first time in its history, Harvard University, which had been founded for religious purposes … has admitted a freshman class in which atheists and agnostics outnumber professed Christians and Jews.”

Be Brace

Did that make you pause and read it again? Did it make you sad, mad or upset? I had all those emotions when I read it for the first time.

This statement has been heavily weighing on my heart since I read it on Thursday, September 18th in an article by Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary of Los Angeles. Incoming freshman, not graduating seniors from college. Incoming freshman, those sons and daughter that are leaving our homes for the first time to spread their wings as young adults. Incoming freshman, fresh from our homes where they should have received a foundation of faith.

I’m sure the rest of Bishop’s article was also informative and enlightening, but I still can’t get past the first sentence. Every day since September 18th, when I read those words, I ask myself, what can I do better. I have worked in Faith Formation for 14 years, these atheists and agnostics could have been in homes of families I ministered too. This is not a Catholic thing, it’s a faith thing…or a lack of faith thing.

I have to be part of the solution. I have to help parents provide the tools to foster faith. No matter how I plan and execute faith formation, the 30 hours a year I see the children is not enough to form their faith. As parents we have to model and mentor. We have to set rituals and traditions. We work hard to form our children’s social and moral characteristics. We, together, need to mold their souls. Those souls are yearning for God, where they belong!

Our days of forming our children pass quickly. They grow, it seems, over night. We blink and they are moving out and leaving us, which causes parents to think of what did we not pass on to them.

Faith…at least basic understanding of the Golden Rule, “do unto others they way you want them to do unto you” if practiced daily shows children the Golden Rule in action. We need to bring God into our homes and into our daily lives. No…let me correct that. God is already in our homes and daily lives. We need to open our hearts and recognize His work in our lives. He wants us to know Him and He wants to be in relationship with us.

How do we change that statistic?
How do we take responsibility for making the world a more peaceful place?
How do we instill in our children that God, Allah, I Am, Yahweh, whatever your tradition calls Him, freely give us LOVE?

First we can pray!
I have seen the power of prayer in my own life and in my work. Prayer makes a difference! Any type of prayer and any time for prayer works…just pray.

We can live as examples. Living our lives with our brothers and sisters in peace, compassion, and mercy shows our youth how they should live.

Have a missionary heart. As we encounter people on the streets, in restaurants, at work and in our own neighborhood, share the joy of faith with them. Reach out to those in need and give of your time, give of your talents, and give of your treasure, you will never regret a moment you spent helping others.

Love. Love is the foundation for everything. Share Love. Speak of Love. Show Love. Be Love. priority

I created ways to spread the Love of Christ and promote faith online. Check out my social avenues:
https://www.facebook.com/sjcyc
https://twitter.com/youthsjc

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

I see God’s grace and mission for me…to help others, especially the families I minister to, to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Chance encounter or Divine Intervention

When something happens do you chalk it up to chance? We say “What are the chances of that happening to me?” or “I’ve got a pretty good chance of that  happening today.”

Chance, according to Google, is “the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.”

Maybe it’s not our “obvious design” but every occurrence is an ultimate design.

I don’t believe in luck or chance. I believe in divine intervention. Through life’s experiences I have come to believe everything happens for a reason. Even terrible tragedies and loss happen so that we can learn and grow. We are all moving through this life to reach the next life with our Lord Jesus and each step we take is His divine plan.

I was once asked by a teen at a youth ministry meeting “how can it be God’s plan when we have free will”. I reflected for a moment and then attempted to explain it as if your parent was sitting on a roof top watching you drive up. That parent can see all the different paths you can choose to get home and they can see that some of them are not safe. They see the path you are on will be a collision with another car and although they are screaming at the top of their lung for you to turn at the next street you can’t hear or you are choosing not to hear. Then someone steps into the street to cross the road and you slow and avoid two accidents, hitting the walker and the collision that was ahead. God sees all the different paths in front of us, some of the paths lead to Him, some of them do not. As we choose a path, he shifts to other paths and again places paths that lead to Him and paths that don’t. He never tires of leading us on the right path. He is the father in the prodigal son story; waiting, watching and praying for our return through all the free will choices we make.

I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. I know He places obstacles in my path for His purpose. I have learned to trust in His movements through my life.

His presence was glaringly visible yesterday.

As I sat through a workshop at the beautiful campus of St Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein I sat with and meet six amazing women ministering in the life of the church. Each one had a story to tell of their journey listening to God’s voice in their life. The voice that led them to bible studies, RCIA, serving the poor, sheltering the homeless and the voice that led them into a new family at their parishes. They were enlightening stories of challenges and hope…and of JOY! I love sharing faith with such inspiring, strong women. The six of them sitting with me was God’s divine plan. But that is not the end of the story.

During our last break of the day, one of these women asked me a simple question about my water bottle.

You see, I carry every day a 24 oz Tervis water bottle with a pink ribbon design on it. I have two of them that were given as gifts to me during treatment so that I would always remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A habit I continue everyday. I’m a pretty routine person – each night I place the water bottle without the lid in the freezer half full. In the morning, I fill up the rest of the bottle with cold water…and it keeps cold until about 2:00 pm. (I prefer drinking cold water and ice cubes melt too quickly!) Yesterday was no different. I carried my water bottle into the workshop, little did I know it would spark a connection.

I have learned to not bring up the subject that I am thriving after breast cancer…I’ve seen too many people change their demeanor when they hear that, so I just allow it to come up organically if it is meant to. And yesterday it was meant to…God’s intervention.

This beautiful, kind, gentle woman asked ever so sweetly “pink ribbon…is that you?” I said yes and she said, I need to find one of those bottle for lymphoma, and I responded “you?” as she said “yes”.

My heart fluttered…I knew why I sat at that table, God needed us to meet…what a blessing it turned into.

After the workshop ended, we picked up our conversation. She had lymphoma years ago in her neck, arm pits, chest and abdomen (almost everywhere we have lymph nodes!)…and she bravely fought it into remission. Yet two months ago she explained that it had returned in her neck. She was beginning treatment on Monday. Monday is her mother’s birthday and she is an only child. Her eyes told of her fear of this vicious disease that lies within her. She asked if I would be back at a workshop in October and I said “no, but would see her in November”. Her eyes softened as she said “I’ll be in my month hospital stay in November.” Although the words did not come out of her mouth, I heard her crying for connection. I asked if I could stay in touch with her, which softened both of our faces…there was the connection she was searching for. Maybe it was a relief of someone who understands the fear of cancer or someone to cry with. I am blessed to do both or either.

She gave me her cell and email as we hugged goodbye. I don’t know what plans God has for this relationship, but I do know that He created a connection that I am called to nuture. My thoughts throughout today have been on prayers to releave her anxieties and put her complete trust in the Lord. I texted her today the words I remember a dear friend sent to me before my first treatment: “don’t tell your God how big your mountain is…tell you mountain how big your God is”

God’s Divine Intervention…watch for it…it presents itself in many places throughout your day…see them and embrace them

Divine Intervention

Thank you Lord the the grace of a new friendship during storms in her life. Help the sun and Son to break through her darkness. If I can be a small drop of grace in her life, I am honored to do so. Thank you for the grace of divine intervention in my life and the presence to see your hand within it.

Facing Challenges

Two years free of chemo and I still feel effects. I wonder if the aches pains, loss of strength, chemo brain will ever be gone. The shooting pains that feel as it I am being electrocuted from the inside out…in random places all over my body. Headaches that remain for days, when I never got headaches before. These are my reminders of a turbulent time, snapping my mind to never forget my struggles and achievements. As I reflect back on 18 months of illness, I am grateful for every moment…the hard and the easy, the good and the bad, the despair and the joy. Illness can damage so much of us, spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. It hits every part of our lives and each of our family members differently.

I grew so much in faith and learned many lessons. Our health is a blessing when it’s good or a curse when not. Our outlook plays a big part of our we attack any disease.I found support in my family, friends and faith. I pray that others are spared from the pain and anxieties that I experienced, however if you find yourself down this road I hope my lessons can help you. It may not be cancer, it may be multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, or a number of other ailments that surround us these days. You may be walking with a friend through these times or maybe a loved one. These are the things that matter most.

  • Prayer. Begin and end each day with prayer. Prayer helps center us and calms our fears. Knowing that the Lord hears us and lifts us can change your attitude instantly. Prayers we learned as child or just talking to God and laying our burdens at his feet.
  • Be Thankful. When facing a life-threatening illness you quickly become mortal. You see the end that you don’t want to even come close to. You realize no one should take life for granted. Be thankful for every breath, every moment and every memory you make. They are what you are living for. Even the moments of hardship will bring the joy of life to the forefront. Every leaf that blows past my feet as I walk is a gift of God’s great creativeness. Every call from my children is a moment of heavenly music. Visits with my mother playing Phase Ten and talking is grace of presence.
  • Relax. Take time to be still, to clear your mind and rest your body. Give yourself a break and stop all the busyness around you. Close your eyes, meditate and relax. Your body needs to rejuvenate, you need to pause….there is a power in pausing. The worries of the day will take care of themselves in due time.

I just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. A powerful story everyone should read. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: “in work (doing something significant) in love (caring for another person) and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.” Frankl found meaning even in the most horrific situation of a concentration camp. My struggles pale in comparison to his daily norm while imprisoned. But my struggles are my struggles, how I react is my choice. He also states the “forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

mansearchformeaning

The decisions we make each day are influenced by the faith we have. A life of prayer, thankfulness and time alone gives us the strength to face what lies ahead. Scripture tells us in Matthew 6:25-27, 33a, 34a

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Matthew 6-34

Grace embraced through lifes struggles produces great joy if you choose to respond in joy and love! May your journey be embraced by grace.