My Lord and My God

Happy Solemnity of Corpus Christi! And happy, happy day that our churches are beginning to open so that Catholics can once again receive our Bread of Life, the source of eternal life. I pray that the intense emptiness of not being able to receive our Eucharistic Lord these past months will be replaced with profound joy and consolation in all those who can receive Him.

On this special feast day, I like to recall the events of my first unforgettable encounter with the Holy Eucharist. It was this extraordinary grace that led me to the Church, 30+ years ago. It was the Eucharist that breathed life back into my soul after it existed far too long in a devastating state without Him.

When my conversion to Christianity first took place in the early 80s, I didn’t know one Christian religion from the other. All I knew was that I promised God my life after He freed me from a year of nightly torments of reoccurring nightmares, depression, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Although I was Jewish, I had no problem with Jesus being God, figuring that if He wanted to take on flesh and become man, He could do it. God could do anything. And so, my search to “follow Him” as a Christian had begun.

I’d go weekly on Sundays to different churches in my area to see where God wanted me and to learn more about each faith’s faith so to speak. I even went back to a Friday evening Shabbat service to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake in accepting Jesus. But week after week I felt that something was missing, so I continued to “church shop.”

It was the Sunday that I happened upon the Catholic Church “service” that everything changed. I didn’t realize that a Catholic Mass was so Jewish. They read from the books of the bible that I was familiar with in Judaism including one of my favorite books, Psalms. There were gestures and songs and even “handwashing”. I immediately felt comfortable and all seemed Kosher. Then something happened that changed my life forever.

While trying to figure out all the Catholic aerobics; stand up, sit down, kneel, bow, and strange arm movements, a bell sounded, drawing my attention to the altar. I saw the priest, holding high in his hands a white disc. Something deep inside my heart found its meaning and proclaimed in my soul – “My Lord and My God!” I began to weep. I was home. An intense desire to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist led me to RCIA classes, and my First Communion after my full reception into the Church at the 1983 Easter Vigil Mass.

I realize that the extraordinary occurrence that introduced me to our Lord in the Eucharist is probably not the “norm.” And I wish that I could say that every time I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, my heart shouts with the same proclamation and desire. I know that His Presence in the Holy Eucharist is a reality. The sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, although a tough one to swallow, leaves me without question of Our Lord’s true presence in the small white disc. But that original “feeling” isn’t always there and I have come to realize it doesn’t have to be. My “feelings” don’t make the Eucharist His body, blood, soul, and divinity – God does through His priests.

I know that the Eucharist is God because He told us it is. The Word of God is trustworthy, so even when I can’t trust myself, I can trust Him. What helps me focus on His true presence in the Eucharist when my mind wanders or doubts kick in, is The Servants of the Eucharist prayer. I’ve been praying this prayer every time I receive Communion, since 1988 when I first learned of this beautiful prayer. I found it when I was researching approved Marian Apparitions before our trip to Medjugorje. Apparently, Our Lady started appearing to Sister Agnes, a nun in Akita, Japan in 1973. Among other amazing happenings, Our Lady added a word to the Servants of the Eucharist prayer asking that it be recited from then on with this revision. The Servants of the Eucharist Prayer traditionally started, “Oh my Jesus, present in the Holy Eucharist.” Our Lady inserted the word “truly” and asked that it now be prayed, “Oh my Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.” Deep in my soul there was a whisper, “This is your prayer.”

With the addition of this one little word, when our eyes and hearts don’t recognize Him in the Eucharist, we can be assured by Our Heavenly Mother who always sees her Son’s presence. Through her eyes of faith, we can know that He IS TRULY our Bread from Heaven which gives eternal life. Jesus desires to rest in our hearts while we rest in Him. After receiving this Most Precious Gift of the Eucharist let us proclaim the Servant of the Eucharist prayer until our hearts proclaim Him – My Lord and My God.

The Servants of the Eucharist Prayer

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Truly present in the Eucharist

I consecrate my body and soul

To be entirely one with Your most Sacred Heart.

Offered up in perpetual sacrifices

On all the Altars of the world,

Giving praise to the Father

And imploring constantly for the coming of His kingdom.

Please accept and receive this humble offering of myself

And use me according to Your will,

For the Glory of the Father

And the salvation of souls. Amen

Summer Reading Suggestions

After Fr. Chris met Immaculee Ilibagiza she asked him to bless her.

When Fr. Chris was in 7th or 8th grade he started reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Although I was thrilled that he finally enjoyed reading and made it through all 3 mammoth volumes, I became concerned when that was all he’d read. For months it was the same thing, over and over, reading and rereading the same pages. Fearing that he was getting obsessive I finally asked Christopher, “Isn’t there something better out there that you could be reading?” His answer, “Mom, you just have to read it.” So, I did. And I give credit to my 8th grade son for introducing me to brilliant writing, an engaging journey, and renewed hope in the forms of simple hobbits, elves, dwarves, and yes, even broken men. I never again asked him, “Isn’t there something better that you could be reading.” I also remember my friend, Karen, describing Tolkien’s Middle Earth as being “not real, but true.” So true! So, for those who have not read the books (the movies don’t count), I share Chris’ words, “You just have to read it.” For those who’ve already read it, read it again.

 Another series perfect for summer reading is C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. Even if you aren’t a Science Fiction nerd like me, please put this on your must-read list. In all of Lewis’ fictitious works, truth is revealed in creative and enlightening storytelling. Confession time – The first time I read the 3rd book of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, I hated it. I only made it through the first couple of chapters and quit. Please don’t do what I did. Instead, read these books from cover to cover!!! Recently, when Fr. Chris and I were talking I mentioned that I never liked That Hideous Strength. His reply once again drove me back to neglected pages. “Mom, you do know that That Hideous Strength is Lewis’ fictional telling of Abolition of Man, right? Like how Lewis’ Till We Have Faces is the fictional work of his Four Loves. What?!!! How did I not know this?! So, I read The Four Loves and then reread Till We Have Faces, loving it this time. Then I read The Abolition of Man and proceeded to give That Hideous Strength another shot. Not only has it become one of my favorite books, but it also convinced me that C.S. Lewis was a 20th century profit. We are now living That Hideous Strength.

Because of our new normal, you might find that this summer provides an opportunity to catch-up on reading some book series once left aside due to lack of time.

The following is my recommended list of books, in a series:

J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit

C.S. LewisSpace Trilogy, and Narnia Series

Lois LowryThe Giver Series, which includes The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son (If you liked The Giver, you’ll love the rest of the series as well!)

Immaculee Ilibagiza, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, The Boy Who Met Jesus: Segatashya Emmanuel of Kibeho, The Rosary: The Prayer that Saved My Life, and Led          by Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide

Michael O’Brien, Fr. Elijah, Eclipse of the Sun, Plague Journal, and Strangers and Sojourners

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (Not a series but it’s time to read this one if you haven’t already.)

Managing Anxiety During an Epidemic

This is a talk that I was asked to present to those at the Gabriel Network. Although it was intended for the Gabriel Network Moms and their Angel Helpers, it speaks to all of us during this time of global anxiety. I hope this presentation provides some help in this difficult time.

You can access the recording by clicking here or I’ve provided the transcript below.

Are you feeling Anxious? Insecure? Fearful/Scared? Agitated, Impatient, or Moody? Do you feel Trapped? Depressed, Out of Control? Exhausted? But not able to Sleep? Are you having weird pains or discomfort? Headaches? Anger? Confusion? Or sometimes do you just feel Completely Overwhelmed?

            My guess is that you can relate to more than just one of these recently and you’re probably not sure whether they are normal or not, or are they caused by pregnancy OR COVID or what? Well, the short answer is – YES! And take comfort knowing you’re not alone.

            It seems like the entire world is dealing with an influx of confusing, up and down emotions, and the whole world isn’t even pregnant. So, cut yourself some slack, EVERYBODY is in a little tizzy right now!  We’re in a weird time and a weird situation. We are experiencing worldwide stress. Stress is when our nerves are on high alert, super-charged, and prone to over-react so we can be attentive to the challenges at hand. So, it makes sense that we are all anxious. Here, stress is the normal reaction to such an abnormal situation. So even though our reaction to a situation is the appropriate one, it doesn’t feel, right? It actually feels really wrong! That’s because stress, this state of being on high alert is supposed to move us to action – to either fight or flight-to stay and fight the stressor or to run from it. Here you can see then that stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s is harmful when it doesn’t move us forward – when we linger in it, and then it can become crippling. We also might feel that we haven’t chosen a response and that the stressor has actually over-powered us. But that feeling – like maybe we are feeling helpless, and that we aren’t doing any fighting or flying, but that’s not true. We are choosing an appropriate response by doing our best at social distancing and observing other “stay in place measures.” In this way, we are responding to the threat by choosing the flight option. And that’s a good choice. But others, who are prepared by their education or their gifts, or their situations – their response might appropriately be, stay and fight,  by caring for the sick or finding a cure. So, even though you might feel helpless in the face of this stressor (or virus) you ARE responding the best way possible. The problem is that we don’t recognize the value of our response, AND the response itself can cause us other stressors like feeling vulnerable, stuck, and anxious. Remember, this is an unusual situation, and an appropriate amount of stress, in some ways IS the correct response. So, give yourself permission to be somewhat stressed. You’re allowed.

            Also, you’re pregnant! Which means your body and mind are on high-alert, super-charged, and prone to overreact most of the time anyway. This is an appropriate response. When you’re pregnant, your body should be extremely sensitive to the plethora of amazing changes that are taking place within you. This, however, doesn’t feel good emotionally. You probably feel like you’re being taken over by HORMONES FROM HELL – crying one moment, and then getting a case of the giggles for no reason, the next. This too is normal. It’s ok. Be at peace! You’ll not only get through this, but you’ll actually find that you can thrive during this time. And I’m pretty sure that one day you’ll come to realize that right NOW, this time in your life, is what helped bring out your inner “Super Woman.” The Incredible Hulk has nothing on you, ladies! YOU are growing a human being inside of you and that’s REALLY Incredible!!!

            So, one thing we’ve seen here is that our feelings aren’t always the best indicators of what’s really going on. That’s why we can’t always just go with our feelings or as we’ve seen written on plaques and such “Follow your heart.” Noooooo! Be attentive to your heart – your feelings, yes. But our feeling can’t rule us. We can’t always count on our feelings. Like in our pandemic situation today or in pregnancy, we may feel awful, sad, and freaked out, and yet, we are actually making good choices – like doing what we can do to take flight from the virus. But the opposite can be true too. We can feel good about something when in reality, that something is not good for us.

            So how then, you might ask, can we know we are handling stress appropriately and not be slaves to our emotions when we can’t always trust our feelings? Great question. Let’s explore some thoughts on this…

            Whether it’s pregnancy or a pandemic, or family, or work or relationship issues, we need to be aware that there are always stressors in our lives. It’s just part of the human condition.  Recognize or be aware, acknowledge or understand and acceptance, take action if possible, of stress. This is our first line of defense in combatting its adverse effects on us. It’s also important to IDENTIFY what it is that your feeling. We can’t really identify or name the culprit and move on to appropriate actions until we accept that it’s there and that it’s affecting badly. And a lot of times we can’t do that by ourselves. We know that we might not be sleeping well and that we are having anxiety nightmares, but we don’t see why, or how restless nights affect our moods, behaviors, or our interactions with others. Something as simple as being tired can make us impatient. Feeling overwhelmed can cause us to retreat and shut down. Stress from being physically uncomfortable can make us lash out unintentionally at someone. We can’t always tell when our nerves are wound tight, so I beg you to be humble enough to accept that others might be able to recognize the signs of stress within us better than we can. And in our humility in accepting other’s help and constructive criticism, we can actually develop trusting relationships and life-long friendships. For example, a caring helper or friend can sometimes see that we are returning to bad habits or engaging in over-indulgences like in comfort foods or binge shopping well-before we ourselves are aware that there is even a problem. While these adverse coping behaviors might bring us a short-lived escape, they very well may have lasting damaging effects. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the antidote we seek to relieve our stress, be authentic serenity or peace, and not just an easy, ready-available manufactured counterfeit.  

            Finding peace counteracts anxiety and two very insightful men I’d like to quote talk about where we can find it. The first is Reinhold Niebuhr and he wrote the Serenity Prayer which you might be familiar with.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

According to Niebuhr, peace comes with knowing what I can do and then doing it. AND, he says, peace comes when I can accept the fact that there are some things outside of my power to control and change. And peace comes when we are ok with that. This acceptance leads to serenity. Peace, therefore, is the antidote to stress. Much of our anxiety, anger, and frustration comes because we can’t accept that there are things outside of our control. That’s especially difficult when those things we can’t control are injustices. Some things aren’t fair. And some things aren’t the way they should. So, you may ask, how can we possibly be at peace in such situations?

            The answer lies in a quote from an even more extraordinary man, who happens to also be God. In the Gospel of Matthew 6:34, we read that Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has worries of itself.” What Jesus meant when He said this almost 2000 years ago is ‘BE AT PEACE.’ You don’t need to stress, I’ve got this. Today is hard enough, let me help you through today and you’ll find that you’ll come out better than trying to do it alone. Don’t focus on tomorrow, focus on right now because if you start thinking about tomorrow, you’re just going to get stressed out again! Yes, plan what is yours to plan. Do what is yours to do. Be responsible. But don’t let your mind wander to tomorrow’s what-ifs. What-ifs are just that – perceived threats.  It’s kind of funny but Modern Psychologists get the credit today with realizing that a lot of stress, actually comes from, not our real problems or threats but perceived problems that might or might not happen – the what-ifs. It’s taken us two thousand years for psychological studies to realize that God was right all along, and we shouldn’t worry about what-ifs that may never come to pass.

            When I was a young mother, I was a worrier. I would let my mind wander to ridiculous what-ifs. I’d become afraid and depressed imagining crazy scenarios of what-ifs.  A friend of mine who had raised her 6 children to successful adulthood told me something to do to solve my problems of fear. She shared with me a different message from Jesus, the one from Mark’s gospel where Our Lord basically says, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.” My friend suggested that my fears came from not knowing what was going to happen to my kids in the future and that “not-knowing” was making me a nervous wreck.  My friend said that instead of me allowing my imagination to run amok with horrible fears I should focus on what the only One who knew the future had to say. And He says “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”

            My friend told me to write down those words and stick them on my refrigerator and whenever I’d become anxious, I should repeat them over and over again until I believe them. So, that’s what I did. “Fear is useless, what is needed it trust. Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” And I have to be honest with you, sometimes it did help. But sometimes it didn’t. UNTIL one day I heard another wise woman, Kimberly Hahn say something that stopped me in my tracks. She said, “I don’t know the future. BUT I know the One who knows the future. And I TRUST HIM! Whoa! That was the missing piece. Our fear, our anxiety is not so much us not knowing the future as it is an issue of trusting the One who does. Do I trust Him? Do I trust the One who created the world, who breathed life into me and my babies? The One who continues to hold me in existence out of His sheer love for me, who suffered the punishments of my sins so I can live with Him forever – He’s the only one who knows the future. CAN I trust Him even more than I can trust myself? Ah, Heck Yeah!!! Trusting God is the antidote to stress. He brings peace.

            And something that goes with this and can be the source of much anxiety and anger, are the feelings that come with ingratitude. Recent psychological studies have proven positive effects come from – being thankful. There is actually something called gratitude therapy and it’s very effective and something we can practice by ourselves when we thoughtfully reflect on the aspects of our lives that bring joy by appreciating and being grateful for what we have. So, thank God!

            Gratitude can only come about when we stop wanting what others have or what we think they have and find the positive and joy in what is already ours. Gratitude really does put a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts. Also, let yourself laugh. It’s hard to stay in an anxious dark place when you have a smile on your face. So, think of something that’ll make you smile, something that you are grateful for. It sounds crazy but there is something to be said about humor therapy and its role in emotional and physical resilience. So, smile! And laugh! And breathe!

Also, there’s something to be said about SELF-CARE which is a good thing for us physically, psychologically, and spiritually!!! Do something you enjoy. Do something creative – color, knit, journal, sing, play an instrument, or write. Studies show that creativity produces an immediate soothing effect on one’s mental status. If you’re not artsy, then read a book, take a walk, catch some rays and get your daily dose of Vitamin D, connect with others (socially distancing of course), work on a puzzle, plant a garden, exercise, cook or bake, clean or organize (I hear that some people actually find that kind of thing relaxing). And the best self-care you can do for yourself doesn’t cost a cent. You can always connect with God in prayer or just by resting in His presence, thinking about how much He does love you because He really does.

Concluding thoughts…

1. It’s not healthy to linger or wallow in negativity!

2. When stressed out, we might need to ask ourselves, “Is this something that God is asking from me right now, or am I letting my imagination get the best of me?”

3. Gratitude can be as simple as a change in how we see things.

4. Just remember BUT Be aware, Understand, Take Action if possible

ALSO, there may be times when we seriously need help from others. Even Jesus needed help in carrying His cross. So, if you need someone to help you with your anxiety, or sadness, or your fear, that’s ok. Seek help! We all need others in our lives to help us be the best we can be. The end-goal is that “We want Mama to be good because then everybody else is good, right?” We see this played out in our children and other family members around us, don’t we? If mama’s in a tizzy then the whole house is in a tizzy, especially the children. Kids are our emotional thermostats. They mirror our moods. So, we shouldn’t just try and hide our emotions from our children, as much as we need to manage our emotions in front of them. And it’s ok for children to see Mommy taking a little time-out to breathe and regroup. That’s something we all need to do and that would be a good thing for our kids to mirror. Never underestimate the value of a healthy long intentional breath – in from the nose, and slowly out from the mouth. This too has been proven to have positive physiological stress-relieving results on the body and the mind. So, breathe! And trust in God, and be at peace!

Jesu, Ufam Tobie

When I was first asked to contribute to a podcast on Divine Mercy, my first thought was, “How on earth would my experience fit today since my original encounter with Divine Mercy was over 26 years ago? But then keeping up with the news, I kept reading over and over again 2 words that we are feeling in these Corona-virus days: ANXIETY and INSECURITY! “People feel helpless!”  So, it turns out that my story and its message are particularly relevant today in this plague which we find ourselves and our entire world. For the most part, we are in a global state of constant FEAR! Fear of the unknown and even fear of the known. We know that people are suffering, and we know people are dying – up close and personal. And we don’t know if we will find ourselves or our loved ones listed as a statistic. Will we get it? Will we heal from it? When will this go away?!

I’ve been actually shocked about how much calm I feel during all this as I’m not really a calm person. But that this is the case is because this all-encompassing fear of the known, and unknown for me, is something I lived for the first time 25 years ago, when I was a young mother of 4 under the age of 7. That’s where my story and realization of God’s Divine Mercy began for me. It came unexpectedly, as I was engulfed personally in anxiety and insecurity, but even worse than the fear, was the excruciating pain that affected every part of my body – and for all practical purposes, like the Coronavirus, it came out of the clear blue. For nine months I was stuck on a couch.  I watched my life pass by without me even participating in it. I had to count on the goodness of others to take over my life and the responsibilities of being a mother and home-maker while I laid on the couch unable to move without searing pain. After 9 months I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos and told that there was no cure and no treatments. So we tried an assortment of medications, muscle relaxants, and braces which at least got me off the couch. The experts learned that the excruciating pain, blue limbs, and massive headaches were the result of multiple and constant dislocations and subluxations of my neck, spine, shoulders, knees, hips, and fingers. If a joint could flip out, it did. What I call my “full-body migraines” would sometimes end in hospitalizations with doctors freaking out that I had huge blockages in my arteries or veins, and then, like magic, these “life-threatening crises” would disappear once a body part would slide back into place.

 In the midst of all the fear and excruciating pain and uncertainty, my husband, friends, and family tried to make life bearable with their outpouring of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Friends would come over and help with the kids and also some would read to me because reading myself would set off those horrific full-body migraines. It was at this time that I got to know a little about God’s Divine Mercy through hearing Sister Faustina’s words read to me from her diary. I had become interested in this Polish nun because of her connection to John Paul II. It was his love for his fellow country woman that made me want to know her story. Friends had also recommended Sister Faustina’s Diary to me because they knew that her holiness and virtue were due to the graces she received through her own suffering.

 So here I was in constant pain. I was terrified of what tomorrow would bring. I had absolutely no control of my life and didn’t even know when and what I could plan for the future. Sound familiar? I’m sure that many of you are feeling this now. I’d repeat the words over and over again, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust!” but that didn’t help. No consolation at all. I was miserable!

 So, what did I do? I went straight to my favorite coping mechanisms, distraction and denial to save the day. I somehow convinced my husband that going on a 3day family retreat to Camp Maria would be the perfect solution to all our problems. Our family had been part of an annual family retreat group for years. Bob and I felt that even though I was still in such a bad way, physically, it still might be of some good for our family to go. 

It wasn’t easy. I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t be able to participate in the activities, but I wanted to be there with my family. On the first morning of the retreat, I couldn’t even rouse up enough strength to make it to the dining hall for breakfast. So, Bob took the kids, and I laid on the couch on the front porch of our cabin and cried. And I prayed. And I cried some more. I directed my prayers to Jesus who was in the tabernacle of the chapel across the field. I prayed through the intercession of this wonderful and holy woman who believed in God’s Divine Mercy. I said, “Sister Faustina, I don’t understand why or how or what is really going on with my body, and I’m scared. I have NO peace. I need peace to keep going! I just want to understand what’s going on. I have no idea why I prayed the next prayer but I said, “But if Jesus doesn’t want me to understand, if He just wants me to trust, then please ask Him to send me peace because right now, I’m not feeling very peaceful.”  Within a few seconds, I felt like a white cloud of peace dropped on me— It was so unbelievable and different than anything I’ve ever felt before. No words can explain what I experienced.

“Oh, so Jesus doesn’t want me to understand. He wants me to trust.” And then it hit me – those words at the bottom of the Divine Mercy image, the ones that I never understood why they were painted there. Who puts words at the bottom of a beautiful portrait?! I’ve never understood that! A picture speaks a thousand words, right? You don’t write words on a portrait. There aren’t words on the bottom of the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s self-portrait. Look in the Portrait gallery in downtown DC. No Words!!! But Jesus wanted them there! – JESUS, I TRUST in YOU! And now I know why!!!

Those words, when believed – become LIFE CHANGING!!! For me…  After my “encounter with Sister Faustina and Jesus at Camp Maria, any time I’d get anxious about my body falling apart, I’d repeat over and over – trust! Trust!! TRUST!!! Until I believed it. That day, not only did I learn to put my faith and trust in the Lord, I also learned how much the saints like to intercede for us. So we need to get to know them. Hit them up for prayers, especially in these days that WE have no idea what the future holds!!! And I’ll be honest, I still get anxious sometimes. Heck, I’m a mom, we all get anxious. But now I go to my new coping mechanisms -the saints and TRUST!!!

Kimberly Hahn once said, “I don’t know the future. But I know the One Who knows the future. And I Trust Him.” That’s everything!

So to tie this up…

How does Trust and Mercy fit together, so much so that Jesus told Sister Faustina to have those words painted on the bottom of His Divine Mercy image?  

Trusting in His Mercy makes all the difference! For example, we just saw it in Holy Week, the difference between Judas who betrayed Christ, and Peter, who denied Him – The difference was Trust in His Mercy. Judas took his own life because He couldn’t believe that Jesus would forgive him. Judas didn’t trust in God’s mercy to forgive his sin of betrayal. But Peter, who sinned by denying Christ did believe and trusted in God’s forgiveness, and he begged for mercy, and Peter received such an outpouring of Divine Mercy, God’s forgiveness, that it changed him, made him an even better man.

Trusting in God changed me. God’s Divine Mercy changed and allowed Patrick and his wife Magda to extend the gift of forgiveness to one it would seem impossible to forgive. But they did forgive. Trusting because God is faithful, we can take Him at His Word.

So my question to you, to all is: Do we trust God? Do we believe that He forgives? Do we believe He loves us no matter what?  Do we believe that He is merciful? Do we really TRUST HIM? And if not, pray for the grace to believe. Pray for the grace to Trust. The psalmist says something like “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes (Psalm 118). AND  ”Why are you cast down my soul? Why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise Him still, my Savior and my God” (Ps 43), Do we really hope? Do we really trust? Only in God can we trust! We see those words on our money all the time, but do we believe them. Let those words trigger what we know is the truth.

I don’t know the future, but I know the one who knows the future. And in Him, I trust! Let’s TRUST HIM!!! Jesus, I TRUST in YOU! in a new tab)

Click on for a link to the recorded Zoom event Tap Into Divine Mercy!  Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the recording of my talk didn’t make it to the recording but I would highly recommend that you listen to Patrick Petty’s powerful testimony! The last part of my talk follows Patrick’s.

The Domestic Church & An Invitation to Prayer

            In Lumen Gentium (11) we’re told: “The family, is so to speak, the domestic church” Today, in our new Coronavirus infected world, the reality that we are the Body of Christ, His Church, and the domestic couldn’t be more true. Although social distancing seems to be forcing us to worship within our homes, many alone, the fact is that we are NEVER ALONE, especially when we pray. Prayer is when we lift our hearts, mind, and body to God. But more importantly, prayer is when God lifts our hearts, minds, and bodies in prayer to be one in His. It’s in prayer that God whispers His love into our souls. Finding time and space in our homes to share in this intimate exchange can seem challenging, but no other challenge has such a return.

            Within the fortress of our abode, where we are the kings and queens of our castle, something might be missing. We’ve decorated as we like, parented as best as we can, and pray and rest within the limits of our busy lives. But now is a challenging time to rest with God, since the doors of our churches are for the most part shuttered. We’ve tragically, for now, lost the ability to sojourner from our own homes to worship with our church community in His home, where we receive His Body and Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. Our souls are starving without that daily/weekly life-giving meal where we become one with Him and each other. For many, even before the pandemic, making a Spiritual Communion has been the only source of their connection to the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. For almost everyone now, this too is our existence. Although grace-filled, it’s not ideal, and we must pray and do what we can to help Bishops institute creative ways to feed their starving sheep.

            So, what else can we do, within our power and within our homes to feed our souls with the Word of God? We can make our home a domestic church. We can make a sacred space in our homes where we habitually pray and rest with God and read and sit with the Word of God – daily. Freely relinquishing our world and our will to His is what we do when we go to Mass each week/day. Let’s relinquish our homes, or a certain part of our homes to Him as a place where we read, meditate and find quiet so we can hear Him.

            Is it possible to prepare a place fitting for the King to come and sit with us and we with Him? Sure it is. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It does have to be a place where we can pray quietly to the Lord by ourselves and at other times with others. We come together in the kitchen to share a family meal. We exercise our bodies in our garages and home gyms. We have family rooms and playrooms and some even have home theaters. So how about a prayer room, a prayer closet, a prayer fort, or even a prayer corner where we allow God to tend to our souls?

Mysteries of the Rosary stained glass windows in our home chapel

I’d like to share, from our family’s own experience, a few thoughts about creating a special place to sit with and honor Our Lord in our homes…

1- Make it a family project. Have input from your spouse, children, and/or from your special heavenly friends, the saints, and from God, Himself – start with prayer. Ask others in your house what they think would be pleasing to God so that He’d smile when He visits the special place you’ve prepared for Him. Invite each family member to add one thing to a prayer table or wall that will help them think about The Lord and His Kingdom.

2 – Make it comfortable, peaceful, and inviting, somewhere you want to spend time. It can be extravagant or simple. The purpose of this sacred space is that it induces quiet in your heart to hear God’s love for you, and for you to be able to offer fitting praise to Him. One of Deacon Bob’s favorite places to pray and meditate is in a corner of our bedroom. Nothing but Bob sitting on the floor in the dark praying to the Lord of Light. I guess it’s better than where he’d once go – to our children’s old fort, affectionately referred to as Deacon Bob’s Hermitage and Sweat Lodge.

Affectionately referred to as – Deacon Bob’s Hermitage and Sweat Lodge

3– Plan what can work for you. Because we are basically empty-nesters, we turned an unused bedroom into a chapel. There, we pray Morning and Evening Prayer, as well as our other daily prayers. When planning our prayer space, and because of my health limitations, we had to take into consideration our family’s needs, vocations, and the ministries in which we are involved. In our home chapel, we not only pray, but we’ve also been blessed to occasionally have Mass celebrated, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of the Sick administered, as well as ongoing Spiritual Mentoring, Unbound Prayer. Our chapel is what is right for us and what God gave us the means and inspiration to do. What inspiration and means will He give to you? (We’d love for you to email us pictures of your special sacred space so we can share them in a future post.)

The Altar Wall in our home chapel. We were gifted a first class relic of St. Catherine of Siena which sits on the altar.

            What we long for in communal prayer, worshiping with our brothers and sisters, and receiving Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, may not be made possible for a while. These times bring extraordinary spiritual, social, physical, psychological, and economic challenges to all. We need to implore God’s help through prayer. So pray, pray, pray!

To make this temporary new-normal less isolating and lonely, the Seiths invite you, your family, friends, and community to connect with us LIVE in spirit and prayer.

Weekdays at 8:30 am EST & Saturday, Sunday, & Holidays at 9:30am EST You are invited to pray Morning Prayer (LOTH) live with us, via ZOOM, from our home’s sacred space. (We’d love to broadcast from Sacred Heart Church directly but the internet connection there is not up to snuff.)

Every Tuesday evening – 7:00 pm EST we’ll continue our 25+ year tradition of praying the Rosary (Sorrowful Mysteries) and the Divine Mercy Chaplet for a world-wide conversion to the will of God, as well as for your prayer intentions. Send us your intentions or email us if you’d like your intentions to remain confidential.

Other opportunities for us to virtually unite as a community will be posted on our Live Prayer page and on Sacred Heart Church’s Flock Notes (Sign up at Also, leave your intentions in the comments box or by emailing us privately, so we can pray for you.

May God continue to bless you as you continue to love and serve Him.

We love you! We miss you!

~The Seith Family

Take Up Your Cross

This was Deacon Bob’s first homily after he was ordained. It is still relevant today…

I remember years ago listening to Fulton Sheen talk about the cross, and one of the points that he emphasized was the absolute necessity of the cross. He quotes from Luke a few chapters after this one we just read where Jesus says “whoever does not pick up his cross and follow me cannot, not will not, cannot be my disciple.” In fact, throughout the New Testament we see this message repeated over and over again. In Acts 14, St. Paul, tells the Christians at Antioch that we must pass through many tribulations in order to enter the kingdom of God. In Romans 8, he speaks about divine sonship; how through Christ we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and heirs with Christ, but, then he adds, “provided we suffer with him.”

Most of us, when we hear this message are not going to be thinking woo hoo! This is wonderful.

So, I’d like to talk about finding the joy behind our cross. After all, no one is going to be able to carry their cross unless they see the good news, the joy, that’s on the other side. Even Jesus, according to Hebrews 12, endured his cross for the sake of the joy that was set before him.

So, let’s start with the disciples. On the night of the last supper, the disciples are about to lose Jesus, who has become everything to them. This is a terrible loss for them. Yet, it’s amazing how often Jesus speaks of joy for them at the Last Supper. Listen to just a few of his words to them:

  • These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
  • You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
  • You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Joy, joy, joy; but, it’s on the other side of their cross. Their joy is that Jesus will be with them and in a sense will never be taken away from them again. What about us?

First of all, the cross is a good sign. If nothing else, our crosses tell us that God is working on us to bring us to heaven and that alone can be a cause for rejoicing. Thomas Aquinas once said that the worst punishment God can give to a sinner is to avoid giving that person suffering. So, if you have a cross, rejoice. You’re on the right path.

Sometimes we can find joy in offering up our crosses for the sake of those we love. About 20+ years ago, my wife, basically, fell apart. For those who don’t know, my wife, Joni, has a condition called Ehlers Danlos which means her connective tissue is very loose and she is constantly going out of joint. She’s in pain 24/7 and she is very limited in what she can do. Sometimes it’s not so bad, and other times she spends the whole day in bed because the pain is so bad. Yet, Joni is the most joyful person I know. She isn’t having fun, believe me, but when she is feeling reasonably well, she just lights right up. I remember a few years ago a couple women from the Parish visited Joni at our house and Joni was showing them something and she was so excited, the one woman turned to the other and said ‘Oh, don’t you want to just bottle her up and take her home with you.’ How is this possible? How can she still be joyful when other people are calling on Kervorkian to help them end it all? One thing is that she has come to know very deeply that Jesus loves her and that she is walking with him in her suffering and this is a great source of comfort to her. Then, there are times when she hears of someone who really needs prayers or she knows one of us in the family needs prayers and she is actually grateful that she is able to offer her suffering as a prayer for that person. She will be the first to tell you that she isn’t like the great saints who are always rejoicing in their sufferings; but, there are times when she gets a glimpse of that joy.

Some of you may be thinking, well, I love Jesus and all, but truthfully, I’m not sure I love him that much if it means carrying a cross. That’s normal to think that way; thanks to Adam and Eve. The reality is that we desire worldly pleasure more than God. The problem is not that we desire; but, that we desire too little. The problem is in our heart. We need new hearts. That’s where our crosses come in. Along with God’s grace our crosses are changing our hearts so that we will seek the things above rather than the things below.

When my wife first fell apart, I have to confess that I did not always respond so lovingly. I can remember well on Saturday mornings doing laundry and thinking – why do I have to be doing this laundry? But, gradually I began to realize that Joni’s cross was much harder for her than it was for me. I began to feel a little more compassion for Joni and was a little more willing to help her. God was working on me as well. I needed a new heart and he was changing me.

St. Teresa of Avila had developed a very deep relationship with God at a very young age. God gave her the beginnings of mystical prayer at about the age of 19. She lost it. She got caught up in the activities of her town and talking with people and fell away from prayer. She knew God loved her and yet she felt unable to love him back, and this was a torture for her. God was calling her to greatness and so she endured a heavy cross, until finally after about 20 years he gave her the grace of deep conversion and mystical prayer. She went on to become a great saint. She founded the discalced Carmelites and became the first woman doctor of the Church.

Sometimes we might think that this idea of God loving us by sending us crosses is just crazy; almost as if God is some kind of tyrant. St. Paul says that the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and an absurdity to the gentiles. It is an absurdity from a worldly perspective; but, it all goes back to the problem with the heart. Remember where we are headed. We are made for love, for a bond of loving communion with Jesus Christ our Lord and with each other. In order to get there we need new hearts. Jesus’ cross opened the gates of heaven; our crosses get us in to heaven.

All of you have crosses. It could be physical or mental suffering. You may have a parent or a spouse who needs special care, you may have a child who needs special attention, you may be struggling financially. Sometimes our cross makes us dependent on others. That can be really tough. You may be struggling in school. You may be lonely. You may be struggling with an addiction. The list goes on and on, but, they always have the same purpose – to give us a new heart – a heart like Jesus’s heart who was able to love sacrificially. And, as a priest friend of mine once said, our crosses are custom-made. God knows what we need.  

Carrying the cross can also be tremendously inspirational to others. Hopefully people will try to help us with our crosses; but, very often, there isn’t much they can do. Day in and day out, we have to carry our crosses. When people see you remaining faithful to your call and continuing to carry your cross, they are inspired and encouraged to continue carrying their crosses. You may have thought, if only I didn’t have to deal with “x”, there’s so many good things I could be doing. And that’s true, but it may very well be that you are doing far more good for others by the witness of your life.

You see how our crosses work. First, they form us into the image of Christ. They change us. Then, as we become more like Jesus, he allows us to unite our crosses to his so we can join him in His work of redemption. We can actually have a role in bringing our children, our brothers and sisters, our friends to heaven. There we see the joy on the other side of the cross; intimacy with Jesus which ultimately leads to heaven, inspiration and encouragement for others, and in a certain sense, partnership with Jesus Christ in bringing salvation to those we love.

I’d like to read this short little prayer or reflection that speaks of how our crosses form us. They don’t know the author, but whoever it was understood how crosses can form us.

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,

            I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey…

I asked God for health, that I might do great things,

            I was given infirmity, that I might do better things…

I asked God for riches, that I might be happy,

            I was given poverty, that I might be wise…

I asked God for power, that I might have the praise of men,

            I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God…

I asked God for all things, that I might enjoy life,

            I was given life, that I might enjoy all things…

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

            Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered!

I am among all men, most richly blessed.

Welcome to the Seith’s Family Blog

In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Give us joy to balance our affliction
for the years when we knew misfortune.

Show forth your work to your servants;
let your glory shine on their children.
Let the favor of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands.
(give success to the work of our hands).

Ps. 90:14-17