St. Blaise is Still Weird, Though…

I have become friendly with Chad at Grove’s Appliance Repair. He and some of his co-workers have made several visits to the house in the 7 years since we built the place. Probably, the KitchenAid people won’t want me for their ad campaign anytime soon. The good news is that few people have made such extensive use of a crockpot as yours truly. I own two, actually. I recommend use of the older models that use a knob to control the temperature over the new fangled digital versions where “warm” means “blazing hot” and “high” means the smoke alarms will be going off at any moment. When the Food Network comes up with a 6-hr slow cooker version of “Beat Bobby Flay”, I feel like I’m pretty much a shoe-in to take home the victory. No one can slake the massive, testosterone fueled appetites of young men with giant vats of mystery food quite like I can.

There hasn’t been a fully working kitchen here since Thanksgiving. That day, Tom made us just a glorious bird. That thing was magazine worthy, and it tasted even better. Let’s be honest though. I mean, anyone can cook delicious food with properly working equipment. What challenge is that? Ha?!

In the time that has passed thus far in our oven repair escapades, my oldest son has purchased his first vehicle, mom has torn her meniscus in two places, my parents both have gotten and recovered from covid-19, Christmas and New Year’s Day have come and gone, a new president has been sworn into office, a third vaccine has come onto the market, my middle son graduated from college, and my youngest son can now drive passengers– including a girl– with whom it seems he recently had his first official “date”. Honestly, these are just some highlights. The damn kitchen is hopeless.

When I got a series of frantic text messages this morning from a friend who was completely losing her mind this morning over her own household crisis, all I could do was look at my kitchen– Chad and his 1000 piece puzzle that used to be my oven– and laugh. Because do you know what entertains me? SO MUCH. The world is a silly, hysterical, amusing joy ride. It’s best not to take any of it too seriously.

Chad and the hopeless oven.

Here’s what we can do. We can lift up the next guy, or we can knock them down. I get to decide what I want to give the world today. What have I got that’s worth sharing? It’s my choice. CNN, Twitter, and the NY Times can do their thing, and I can do me.

Today is the feast of St. Blaise. When I was a kid, the priest at St. Lawrence would line us all up in church and then choke us with these long candles. They called it blessing of the throats. It creeped me out, if I’m honest. His feast, though, falls at a tough moment in the calendar year. There’s a lot of cold and gray. So, some time ago, I decided to turn the day from weird, gray and macabre to something better. I interiorly declared it “Random Act of Kindness Day”. It’s the third day of the month, so I’d do three small kindnesses for others. I rarely have to think too hard, the opportunities simply appear. It’s the Lord’s way, I believe, of reinforcing for me that our greatest calling is love and the chances to practice it are everywhere. Yes, it’s absolute truth that we are called to love, even in the middle of winter.

Chad has been here a long time. The oven still doesn’t work. But what I know now that I didn’t know before is that Chad’s in the middle of chemotherapy. He didn’t look amazing, and I asked if he was okay. He assured me that he was, but admitted he was fighting cancer. Yet there he is on my floor and on the phone trying to fix the great and mysteriously doomed Thieme oven. As he sheepishly got up again to use the restroom, all I could think was…how can I imitate Christ’s love and consideration to this sick man?

I don’t know that much about St. Blaise, except the throat thing and that he was a physician. However, since today is his feast and he was a healer of men by vocation, I have prayed for his intercession on behalf of Chad. Also, I invoked my friend St. Therese who taught me about the value of our little acts of love and sacrifice.

Some day, I’m going to be awesome. Maybe I won’t ever be like St. Blaise or St. Therese, but God’s got a great plan for me, and He’s got one for you too. I think I’ll just trust Him and roll with it, wherever the road leads. I’m trying hard to not get upset about eating potato soup out of a crockpot again because my friend Therese was not about convincing herself that life’s predicaments didn’t bother her or pretending to have feelings she didn’t have. Her temperament and nature was exactly what made her patience a sacrifice. She offered all these things to God. She did so for love of Jesus. Thanks for showing me the way, Trixie.

Let’s get real for a second. I am seriously annoyed by this oven thing as well as many things much larger going on around me at the moment. We can let life make us cranky and bitter if we choose. Or, we can ask Jesus to help us love deeply. Love is a choice and today I want you to think about something. What in the heck would this crazy place do without weirdos who choose kind– even when their souls feel full of brokenness, struggle, rejection, loneliness– and on top of that the damn oven doesn’t work!? I say we stand in it. Let our weary feet be the rich soil the Lord uses to bear fruit. What do you want to give the world today?

As for me? I’m going with a 4th act of kindness for the unsuccessful, very hard-working oven repair guy named Chad who is fighting a battle much bigger than the one with my KitchenAid oven.

Here’s a great prayer for you weary travelers, who like me, struggle sometimes wondering what the heck we are doing, but are trying to trust in the Lord, who is love itself, all the same. It’s a personal favorite.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thomas Merton)

PEACE OUT!

Pumpkin Pie

Radiating Christ 

Dear Jesus,

Help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.

Flood my soul with Your Spirit and Life.

Penetrate and possess my being so utterly

That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.

Shine through me, and be so in me

That every soul I come in contact with

May feel Your presence in my soul.

Let them look up, and see no longer me but only Jesus.

Stay with me.

And then I will begin to shine as You shine,

So to shine as to be a light for others.

The light, O Jesus, will be all from You.

None of it will be mine.

It will be You, shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise You

In the way in which You love best:

By shining on those around me.

Let me preach You without preaching,

Not by words but by example,

By the catching force,

The sympathetic influence of what I do,

The evident fullness of the love

My heart bears for You.  Amen

A few weeks before she died, Grandma Jane did something my son Drew remembers as one of his favorite things.  She made him his favorite thing– a pumpkin pie– for his birthday.  It wasn’t a years long tradition, but a one-time gesture of love delivered to our house on his 14th birthday.  As only seemed fitting, we covered it entirely with whipped cream and served it to D instead of cake.  He described it that night as “perfection!”

Twenty-four short days later, she would be gone.

It’s exactly a year later now.  My tall, lanky, middle kiddo is celebrating his 15th birthday.  After 9am mass this morning, his effervescent, joy filled cousin Katie whispered to me, “Don’t leave after mass, Aunt Shelly.  We have something for Drew.”

To my immense pleasure, Katie, who is 12, has taken to sitting with us at mass while her parents sing in the choir.  I suppose, as a mother of 3 smelly boys, I cannot resist the sparkly headbands and bright pink sweaters– even if for only an hour!  She’s a ray of sunshine in my week, holding my hand during the Our Father and giving me a bug hug during the sign of peace.  She is girly to her core.

This day, Katie did something else incredibly meaningful.  She brought Drew the PERFECT birthday present.

Any guesses?

Drew, left, with his little brother, Zach, holding the "goods"!

Drew, left, with his little brother, Zach, holding the “goods”!

Yep, homemade pumpkin pie!!  The happy Grandma Jane memory that sparkles for Drew is a tradition Katie decided to carry on.  I for one happen to think that act by my favorite 6th grader is a great big piece of LOVE!

My favorite saint is St. Therese, the Little Flower.  I have been praying for their help of late that I can always believe, as she did, in God’s great love for me, so that I might imitate her “little way” in my life– radiating Christ.  Small acts, big love.  That’s the idea.  We don’t have to be someone popular, or rich, or important to be Christ to someone else.

Thanks for reminding me, Kate, that it can be as simple as baking a pumpkin pie.

Nicely done, sweetheart…..and props to our Awesome God for using such gorgeous bundle of sparkly love to show us Your face today!

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Pray for us!

 






 (Radiating Christ, by the way, is a prayer which was written by John Henry Cardinal Newman, and was a favorite of another pretty awesome chick who knew just how to do small things with great love..........Mother Teresa.)

You are Very Welcome!

“I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.  Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.”  (Ps 131:2)

I wish.  That sure sounds good, though.

“Women’s Devotional” was the subject line of the email that contained this scripture passage, from my girlfriend, as I awoke to a gray day in Carmel, Indiana this morning.  Accompanying it there was a brief note that said, “Thanks for being my prayerful friend.”  It followed a lovely note from a second friend yesterday that struck me as ridiculously over the top in terms of gratefulness.  I quickly shot back, “Thanks are unnecessary.”  My instinctual response, interiorly, was one of rejection.  Oh, no, I haven’t done anything to warrant gratitude.  What’s wrong with these friends of mine?  I know they mean to be nice, but I just wish they wouldn’t.  There’s nothing special about me.”

Then, knowing the priests of the diocese are on retreat this week and that I wouldn’t be attending mass this morning as normal, I looked up the readings for today.  It’s the feast of the Guardian Angels.  How sweet and sentimental, I thought.

It wasn’t until I read the gospel that I woke up.  He called a child over, placed it in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly father.” (Mt. 18)

In the kingdom of God there exists complete, humble trust in the ways of the Lord.  That’s the path to holiness we are meant to notice this week.  First, there are the Archangels, then my beloved St. Therese of Lisieux with her “little way”, and then finally today the feast of the Guardian Angels.  They might seem all rather mild and sentimental, but I believe we are meant to realize that what they have to show us is at the heart of our faith tradition.

In the eyes of the world, and yes, sometimes in even our own eyes, we are nothing.  Our contributions feel negligible.  But I realize this afternoon that whatever enhances life, whatever affirms goodness, is the Holy Spirit working in our world.  We are God’s children, and our every small act of love is a step on our path to Him.  We may feel small, in fact, we are….but the feasts of our Church these last few days remind me of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”   We are not meant to deny the grace filled affirmation our friends bring to our lives any more than we are meant to loathe ourselves, denying His goodness and love in every small work done through us.  That line of thinking is arrogant, and lacks humility.  It’s false humility, and it is not of God.

Fr. Robert Barron, the soon to be installed rector at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, and creator of the amazing series “Catholicism” (which I recommend every Catholic see), has spoken periodically about the devil.  He eloquently explains that the devil tempts us, afflicts us, and wounds our world often indirectly.  He reminds us to check ourselves.  The Holy Spirit affirms someone in their personhood, says Fr. Barron, while the influence of the devil will wound us with untruth.

Who have you wounded with untruth, gossip or insinuation?  Are you listening to archangels or fallen ones?

The next time a friend says “Thanks, Shelly, you’re the bomb” I plan to change my response.  “Thanks aren’t necessary” will henceforth be amended to “You are so very welcome!”

When I do that, it’s a prayer of thanksgiving to my love and my savior, for choosing to use me for His purpose, and for the grace that caused my “Yes, Lord!”

This afternoon, I am praying gratefulness for the attitude adjustment and the peaceful spirit I seem to have acquired.   That’s weird.  Gratefulness to God brings me to calmer waters?  As my 8-yr old son would say, “WELL, DUH!”

Somewhere in heaven there is a beautiful, but exhausted guardian angel assigned to me who deserves a nap.

“I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.  Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.”  (Ps 131:2)

Now, I’m off to make some turkey soup– small thing, great love.  Yum.

Loving like St. Therese of Lisieux

Gratefulness overwhelms me today.  I wish I could say I thank God each morning like I did on this one.  It is my 18th wedding anniversary.   My husband, Tom, remains the love of my life and one of the most honest and authentic people I have ever known.  To say that we are blessed is a ridiculous understatement.  It also happens to be the feast day of my favorite saint, St. Therese of Lisieux.  It was a holy and very funny priest who introduced me to her just a few years ago.  I don’t happen to believe in coincidence.  Like any deeply Catholic person, I am a supernatural thinker.  God’s plan was that I celebrate my marriage on the feast day of the saint who loved her bridegroom with stunning devotion and with joyful self sacrifice.  I remember reading her autobiography, Story of a Soul, and being blown away by her pure heart and passionate love of Christ.  Today, as I find myself filled with gratitude for the beautiful life and challenging, but rewarding vocation He has called me to live, I uncovered this old editorial I wrote about loving Christ with abandon.  It ran with a photograph of St. Therese, the Little Flower, which I am including in this post too.  I hope you enjoy the message.  What better day than my anniversary to share what I’ve learned about love.  St. Therese, Pray for Us!

Is Jesus Going to Spit Me Out?

Reassurance from others can lead us to believe we are in decent shape as far as “godliness” is concerned.  When we compare ourselves to those around us, we might even convince ourselves we stack up nicely compared to our neighbors.  Our security lies in our church attendance, generosity with others, work ethic, service to our parish, family or community.
Here is the rub, though.  Jesus wants ALL of us.  He wants us to love him with abandon, like our very lives are at stake– because they are!  Lukewarm people love Jesus, believe in him, and desire to do what is good.  We are often even moved to tears by stories of radical faith.  Surely, compared to those who don’t make it to mass at all, or who don’t raise their hand to help, we with caring hearts who share from our abundance and love our Savior, though safely, are in fine shape as far as eternity is concerned.  What does Jesus say?
As challenging as it is, it’s pretty clear the Lord is nauseated by us.  Uncommitted faith is an abomination to our Lord.  The word of God is absolutely concise.  “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either cold or hot.  So, because you lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16)
Frankly, that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up to attention.  Jesus wants to spit out the half-hearted?  Yikes.
Two amazing saints are St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) and St. Augustine.  These two are clarifiers for me on the issue, because though they are very different from one another, their commonality is loving Jesus with relentlessness.  The former was a contemplative who lived what most would say was an outwardly unspectacular and truly pious life inside the walls of a convent.  She very simply offered her every tiny daily sacrifice out of genuine love of God.  Her God given gifts were quiet, and she lived only 24 years, but her soul cried out to Jesus as spectacularly as anyone about whom I have ever read.  As for Augustine, through the powerful intercession of his mother, St. Monica, he overcame a life filled with sinfulness.  His love for God shines in his words, “I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.”  None of this sounds like halfhearted commitment.
To give Jesus ALL doesn’t mean we must do it in quiet hours of prayer and reverence like the Little Flower, or with bold panache and fantastic conversion like Augustine, it simply means our Savior wants us to use the grace and gifts He has given us to let Him be known.  To do so, we must look to the saints and love God passionately. The purpose of our very life should be to point to Him.
Here’s a good litmus test.  If we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives— not tribulations stress or worries.  Worry and stress reek of arrogance.  How can we dare to be so absolutely unbelieving when God totally surrounds us?
Are all we hopelessly lukewarm then?  What can we do?  Here’s some sage advice to ponder:
Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk.
 –St. Therese of Lisieux