Sunday, November 27, 2016

4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Advent with Children

Here are four SIMPLE and yet fun ideas I found on pinterest that might be fun for you celebrate with your children this Advent season.  Follow me on pinterest if you are interested in more ideas.

1.  Make an Advent Coloring Book

This website has free coloring pages for each week of Advent!  Your children can color 1 page a week and by the end of Advent have a beautiful keepsake for future Advent seasons to come.  

Picture courtesy of:

2.  Handprint Stable

Crafty Morning has a super cute and very simple handprint stable activity for your children.  What a simple way to remind our children this season is about Jesus's birth!


3.  Toilet Paper Roll Advent Wreath

The Advent season we were moving and our lives were anything BUT structured, my oldest son and I made this portable, burn-free Advent wreath and it was so much fun for him to "light" it each night. Even though our real Advent wreath was packed up, we could still celebrate the season waiting in anticipation for the coming of Christ.  If you have a few pieces of construction paper and a few TP rolls lying around the house, then you can make one too! Who needs something fancy when you can make a kid friendly Advent wreath?  Am I right?  Learn more specifics here.  

P.S. I will say that since we didn't have any Popsicle sticks at the time, I just make the flames wider than the size of the opening of the TP roll, when cut a small vertical slit on each side so the flame could slide onto the top of the roll.  A very easy adaptation if you don't have Popsicle sticks.

Picture courtesy of:

4.  Manger Fingerprint Scene

Crafty Morning has another cute and very simple craft activity, a fingerprint manger scene complete with Baby Jesus.  Just think of the memories you'll have of those little fingerprints years from now when you put this out of your Advent decorations bin!  What a sweet, sweet memory.

So there you have it, a few simple but fun crafts to do with the kids this Advent season.  Have any family traditions you do for Advent season?  Please feel free to share!

Many blessings to you and yours,

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent 2016!

I'm very excited! It's my favorite time of year as tomorrow officially begins Advent 2016!

I still have to find a place for the Jesse Tree where a 2-year old who us continually in "destructo" mode cannot knock it over. With that said, most of the house is ready for our prayerful preparation over the next 5 weeks. Here are a few pictures.

Our fireplace mantle, is the focal point of our livining room. It turned out beautifully.

I purchased this Advent wreath this year from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. I'm looking forward to many many Advent seasons using this lovely wreath.

Here's our "good deeds" manger, in which my boys will be placing a piece of yarn each time they perform a good deed for another. The goal being that the boys perform enough kind acts that Baby Jesus will have a soft bed on Christmas morning to lie on. This is a family favorite.

A simple Nativity set in the foyer at the entrance to our home to remind us everytime we enter, what this season is really all about.

We cannot forget the Advent music can we?

This Advent calendar is also a big hit in our family. 

So that's it. Tomorrow I'll find a place for our Jesse Tree and we shall begin this wonderful Advent journey.

Do you decorate for Advent? I love hearing others's ideas so please share.

May you have a very Blessed Advent with your loved ones,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Soldiers for Christ

Any St. Paul fans out there?  I LOVE St. Paul!  He's so passionate and on fire for Christ!  He's also very, very flawed and he's the first to admit it.  He "does what he hates", he says, despite his conversion and the fact that Jesus chose him to come to and reveal these truths so he would no longer tear down Christ's church but build it up by evangelizing to the gentiles.  Have you ever felt like a St. Paul in that aspect?  Doing what you hate?  Committing that same sin over and over again?  I know I have.  I think that's why I love him so much.  He's so flawed like me and yet his heart burns with the love for our Lord.

Today's first reading was another spectacular St. Paul moment in his letter to the Ephesians (6:10-20) when he wrote the following in blue italics:

"Brothers and sisters: Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power."  Do we do this?  Do we look to God for our entire source of strength?  Or are we looking for strength, emotional support or even validation from others?  

St. Paul goes on to say:  "Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil." Isn't that FANTASTIC?!  The "armor of God"!  Do we put on our armor of God daily?  Do we pray?  Do we spend time in the presence of our Lord?  St. Padre Pio said the rosary is "a weapon".  Are we yielding our weapon daily?

"For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens." Our battle is NOT natural but supernatural.  Yes we may see other humans as our enemies but the truth is, they are doing the work of only one, the evil one!  This is why the Lord asks us to pray for our enemies, because they are lost sheep as well.  Are we doing this? Are we praying for our enemies, for our adversaries, for those who disagree with us, mock us, or even (gasp!) de-friend us on social media outlets over our beliefs?

"Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the Gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  What beautiful imagery St. Paul gives us!  Let us gear up daily!

To gird our loins, means to strengthen ourselves for what is to come and Truth is not a thing but a being: Truth is Christ.  So when St. Paul asks us to gird our loins in Truth after saying "draw strength from the Lord", he's asking us to do the daily work of learning about Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, the Life.  He's asking us to have a relationship with Truth, with Jesus.  He goes on to say we should wear a breastplate of righteousness, meaning in ALL things we do, we must act morally just.  This is how we don our breastplate of righteousness.

St. Paul requests he wear our shoes of the Gospel of peace, so when we do encounter another, we can evangelize with our actions and words; we can share the "Good News" of Christ to all people.  He tells us to carry our shield of faith so we do not get hit by the "flaming arrows" of deception and distortion of truth with which the evil one continually pelts us.  Our shield of faith must be polished daily, renewed in the Spirit through prayer and frequent participation in the sacraments Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.

Finally, St. Paul reminds us not to forget our helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.  Think about a helmet for a minute. What is it's job?  To keep our head from injury when we fall.  If we wear the helmet of salvation, we are keeping our head, more importantly our thoughts on Christ our Savior and blocking out the "stinking thinking", the muddles thoughts, the doubts, fears and anxieties the evil one tries to make us believe.  Thus, when we fall, there is no head injury, rather we can see clearly the mercy and love awaiting our return to Christ.  I like to think of this helmet of salvation as a mixture between the Holy Spirit's mental inspirations and my Guardian Angels pokes and prods to keep me on the straight and narrow.  I especially ask my Guardian Angel to help me daily to not fall prey to negative thoughts, discouragement, and the emotional lies of the evil one.  My Angel is there to help me AND to protect me.  With him, I can don my helmet of salvation each day.

The "sword of the Spirit" is such amazing imagery for the word of the Lord.  This means the Bible, the WHOLE Bible, not just the New Testament.  We cannot understand the new covenant, if we do not understand the old covenant.  We cannot trace the roots of certain traditions if we do not read from whence they came.  So let us think of our bibles as our swords of the Spirit, as the Spirit inspired the word of God to be written by men.

Here's a little side note which I think is pretty amazing.  Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme had a vision when praying for an end to Boko Haram in Nigeria.  Christ appeared and handed him a sword which immediately turned into a rosary.  Let's think about this for a moment.  The rosary, "the weapon for our time" St. Padre Pio lovingly referred to it, is the same weapon Christ gave to Bishop Doeme.  But why?  When we devoutly pray the rosary, what are we doing?  We are meditating on the Gospels, on the events in Jesus' life from conception through the Ascension and the beginning of Mother Church.  So going back to St. Paul's description of the "sword of the Spirit" being the word of God, it makes sense that the rosary can be such a weapon!  How fantastic is that?!  There are no coincidences with God.  

St. Paul concludes:  "With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.  To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must."

St. Paul tell us it's not enough to just pray, we should beg humbly at every opportunity and me must persevere.  Only through prayer and the Holy Spirit's gift of supernatural perseverance can we "stand fast" and "hold our ground".

How much do we love when St. Paul asks others to pray for him to have the courage to speak of Christ?  I think of the world today and how many, many people are being persecuted throughout the the world who have that very same courage to speak the name of our Lord, Jesus.  What beautiful witnesses!  Those who live St. Paul's words and wear their armor of God despite the very real dangers they encounter.  May we join them in this spiritual battle and become soldiers for Christ.

Many blessings to you and yours,

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Can I Really Become a Saint?

When I was growing up, I actually thought it was arrogant to say (even secretly to myself) "I want to be a saint!".  I thought it was hubris talking.  And we all know "pride cometh before the fall", so who would dare risk saying that out loud?

It wasn't until I was well past 30 years of age that I actually heard these words spoken by a feisty cloistered nun many of us lovingly still call, Mother, "We are all called to be great saints. Don't miss the opportunity!"  Did I just hear that correctly?  We are called to be saints?  No. Not just saints, GREAT saints!  For the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to say those words (first of course secretly in my head, then ever so slightly louder and louder over the years in prayer) "I want to be a saint!".

Fast forward a few more years and my husband and I were in the midst of completing 33 Days to Morning Glory, our total consecration to Jesus through Mary when I came across this short prayer that I try to remember to say daily:

"Mary, I want to be a saint.  I know that you want me to be a saint, and that it's your God given mission to form me into one.  So at this moment on this day I freely choose to give you my permission to do your work in me, through your spouse, the Holy Spirit."

Then just yesterday, I was reading through some of the exerts of St. Faustina's Diary on the Divine Mercy App and this is what Jesus said about our desire to be saints:

"This firm resolution to become a saint is extremely pleasing to Me.  I bless your efforts and will give you opportunities to sanctify yourself.  Be watchful that you lose no opportunity that My providence offers you for sanctification. If you do not succeed in taking advantage of an opportunity, do not loose your peace, but humble yourself profoundly before Me and, with great trust, immerse yourself completely in My mercy.  In this way, you gain more than you have lost, because more favor is granted to a humble soul than the soul itself asks for. "(paragraph # 1361)

Our Lord goes on to say:

"Let souls who are striving for perfection particularly adore My mercy, because the abundance of graces which I grant them flows from My mercy.  I desire that these souls distinguish themselves by boundless trust in My mercy.  I myself with attend to the sanctification of such souls.  I will provide them with everything they will need to attain sanctity.  The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is--trust.  The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.  Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them.  I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much.  On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts." (paragraphs # 1577-78)

So if you are anything like me and you have thought "I'm weak. I'm a sinner.  I could never become a saint.", please find hope in these words our Lord Jesus has revealed to us.  NEVER lose heart but always, ALWAYS trust in Jesus' Divine Mercy.  Together we can help each other become great saints!!!!

Many blessings to you and yours,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Terminal Illness and the Sorrowful Mysteries

Today, while meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries it hit me for the first time how similar these mysteries are to a person's walk with terminal illness.

The Agony in the Garden:

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Hearing one's diagnosis for the first time is just like the Agony in the Garden if we think about it.  The patient has an answer to their questions and concerns but the answer is cancer, or dementia, or any number of progressive terminal illnesses.  Immediately, they are thrown into the Garden of Gethsemane with Christ.  Together, they get on their knees (physically or metaphorically) and place themselves at the mercy of God the Father.  "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will", Jesus and His new companion in suffering, pray in unison.  Their loved ones stand aside, like the apostles Peter, James and John, wondering what to do, how they can help.  More fervently the prayers stream from them, pleas for those they love, whom they will leave behind.

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The Scourging at the Pillar:
The treatment period can be likened to the Scourging at the Pillar, especially for those receiving treatments that make them physically or mentally ill.  Chemo and radiation sessions, hair loss, IVs, or maybe memory loss, hostility and fear, moments of lucidity among the confusion, are all the moments when the Suffering are being scourged at their own pillars.  With each "blow", each treatment, each moment of debilitation, they feel themselves being ripped apart, no longer their whole selves, their old selves.  And their loved ones, who have to watch the sufferer drift farther and farther away from the person they knew and loved, take the place of the Blessed Virgin, knowing what has happening to her son, without any power to stop it.

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The Crowning of Thorns:
I see the crowning of thorns in every moment a decision needs to be made by the sufferer or the family members preceding their future passing.  How do we set up in-home care?  Ouch, a thorn.  Can we get extra help with the kids after school?  Ouch, thorn.  Am I leaving my family with, resources, memories of me? Thorn. Thorn. Thorn.  How will I say goodbye when the time comes? Thorn.  In each of these moments, in each of these decisions there is that terrible suffering.  And yet, if we unite it with Christ's suffering, can me make it sweet as well?  Several who have gone before us, have shown us we can.  Was not Jesus' suffering for us, so great and terrible as it was, a sweet balm for Him as well knowing His suffering will save the souls who choose Him, who love Him, who follow Him, and who trust in Him?

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The Carrying of the Cross:
Here is where it really gets difficult.  The time the sufferer knows the end is near.  The time they are taking their walk to the end of their earthly life.  Carrying, dragging, or barely able to hold on to their cross as they struggle down that dusty lonely road.  Like our Lord, they fall, they get up again.  They meet our Lady, the Blessed Mother.  They look the crying women, men and children of their family members and friends in the eye and bravely say as our Lord did, don't cry for me, don't be sad.  They know their time is drawing near and they are exhausted from the fight.  But there is something looming ahead.  Something that to many seem dreadful, yet to the believer, the lover of Christ, seems almost beautiful; certainly bitter sweet.

The Crucifixion:

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The sufferer, along with Christ, has come to their Calvary and they are ready.  They are ready to hang on their cross and take their last breaths.  They say their goodbyes to their loved ones either verbally or through their heart and they breathe their last.  Looking upon them at the foot of their cross are their loved ones in union with the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene.  This is the time of mourning for those left behind.  Great mourning.

BUT, if those of us left behind, remember what happens on that third day, if we recall the great excitement of the Resurrection, this moment of mourning can indeed be turned into dancing!  Death is not the end but a new beginning!

I know it's not a very uplifting post nor it is meant to be flippant.  It's simply what came to my mind today while meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries after hearing about someone's recent passing.

I guess, there is something to be said for those who experience their own Passion here on earth.  It is said that St. Peter felt he was not worthy to die as Christ did so he requested to be crucified upside down. There is something to be said for those who seem to be chosen, in a way, to suffer as our Lord did, to be united as one with our Savior.  Something very great indeed.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Crucifixion

Here is a meditation for the fifth Sorrowful mystery.  You can go here for a meditation on the first Sorrowful mysteryhere for a meditation on the second Sorrowful mystery, here for a meditation on the third Sorrowful mystery, and here for the fourth Sorrowful mystery.

NOTE:  This is my own personal interpretation of scripture.  If you'd like exact quotations or actions, feel free to read each gospel account of these mysteries.

TIP:  Sometimes I meditate on all portions of this scene and sometimes just on a few moments.  I allow God to guide my mind and if I get distracted (which can happen from time to time with kids in the room), I simply return to the last moment I can recall.

The Crucifixion

It's close to noon by the time Jesus stumbles up the hill to Calvary.  He is stripped unceremoniously of His garments, which the guards take and divide among them using the game of lots.  When they strip our Lord, He stands, barely but He stands.  And in this moment He decides to leave this world just as He came, with nothing but His love and compassion.

The guards roughly pull Jesus onto the cross.  And with ropes and great pulling, they pull His arms of their sockets so they can plow their nails ruthlessly into His hands.  They do the same to His feet.  The pain that radiates from His arms alone should kill Him, and yet He continues to suffer on.  How great are my sins Lord that You should still suffer?

The cross is lifted and dropped into a whole in the ground where Jesus hangs for the next three hours.  Struggling to breathe, He must lift Himself up off the cross by His pierced feet.  How painful each breath must be.

Jesus looks around from His perch and sees His mother again.  There she is STANDING.  He can no longer stand, so she does for Him.  Standing a pillar of strength for her Son and for us.  He sees His executioners.  Father forgive them, they know not what they do.  Then He sees the many many souls in the crowd He knows will never choose Him.  So many souls He cannot save because they refuse Him and He shouts I thirst!.  Oh how He thirsts for us, for our souls!  Will we quench His thirst?  Will I give myself to Him today, tomorrow and always?  Will I serve?  Will I deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him?  How can I not?  I know I will stumble and fall, just like He did on His way to Calvary, but this time, I will have Him to pick me up.  How can I not give You, Jesus, my all?

Finally, after hours of pain and suffering Jesus knows the end is near.  To Mary Woman behold thy son and to John Son behold by mother.  The last greatest act of mercy Jesus gave our world, was His mothers!  Then Jesus screams Into they hands I commend my spirit.  And it is done!  He bows His head and His spirit leaves His body.  The centurion pierces His side and is immediately converted by the blood and water that flow from Jesus and wash over Him.  His eyes are opened and for the first time, the Centurion sees.

Silence.  Complete silence.  Emptiness.  Nothingness.  Despair.  Then the earth quakes and a storm rolls in.  Our Blessed Mother, stands steadfastly in front of her son, awaiting the moment He will be lowered down into her arms.  She stands for us!  Mary accepts Jesus' lifeless body as it is lowered into her lap and with great tenderness she kisses His face.  She holds Him close to her bosom.

When Mary is finally ready, she opens her arms so Joseph of Arimathea can bury Jesus' body.  His burial place was used.  New, clean.  Jesus is placed in the tomb and the stone is rolled in it's place.  It is finished.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Carrying of the Cross

Here is a meditation for the fourth Sorrowful mystery.  You can go here for a meditation on the first Sorrowful mysteryhere for a meditation on the second Sorrowful mystery, and here for a meditation on the third Sorrowful mystery.

NOTE:  This is my own personal interpretation of scripture.  If you'd like exact quotations or actions, feel free to read each gospel account of these mysteries.

TIP:  Sometimes I meditate on all portions of this scene and sometimes just on a few moments.  I allow God to guide my mind and if I get distracted (which can happen from time to time with kids in the room), I simply return to the last moment I can recall.

For the fourth station, I tend to meditate on the various scenes from the Stations of the Cross. I'll briefly mention them below but won't go into detail.

The Carrying of the Cross

Pilate just sentenced Jesus to death and a large crowd lines the streets of Jerusalem, waiting to catch of glimpse of the defeated, so-called "King of the Jews".  They are curious but they are also thirsty for blood.  The gates open and the guards are rushed by a crowd of men, possessed with hatred for Jesus.  The guards push the men back.  Jesus looks around.  He sees the crowd of people.  His people that only 7 days ago, welcomed Him into these streets while waving palm leaves as He rode a donkey.  How can hearts be turned so quickly?  How can man be so fickle?  

Two guards drag Jesus' cross and place it on His back.  He wraps His arms around His cross, embracing it.  With eye closed He takes a deep breath and for one quick moment, He finds peace.  He knows this is what He was made for. So Jesus takes up His cross and stumbles down the street.

As He walks, the crowd begins to close in on Jesus more and more.  They are waiting for a moment of weakness. Just one.  And it's not long before they get it.  Jesus falls the first time.  The crowd rushes at Him, kicking and stomping on Him.  Cursing at Him.  Guards spend several minutes trying to break up the crowd.  At last, the beatings stop and Jesus has no time to recover.  He is whipped and a guard yells for Him to stand.  He takes up His cross again.

Jesus walks a short while when He sees His mother, there in front of Him.  She stands in the middle of the street.  They make eye contact and she imparts all of her strength to Him.  He knows now.  No I am not alone.  You are here, my mother.  We can do this together.  We can save this world.  Oh the pain in His mother's eyes is not for herself but for Him.  How she longs to take Him home with her, to clean Him up and nurse Him back to health as any mother would.  But something is communicated in the split seconds they have together.  No, mother.  This is the time.  I must complete this journey.  And Mary responds Than I will stay with you.  And that is enough for Jesus to keep going.

He stumbles and falls again, but this time the guards are ready for the encroaching crowd.  They ward them off with only a few blows to our Lord's body.  Yet, by now He has lost almost half of His blood.  By now He should collapse on the street unable to get up again.  However, He stands!  Once again our Lord Jesus stands!

Jesus meets Veronica who wipes His face. He comforts the crying women of Jerusalem.  He finds time and strength to give even more.  He falls the third and final time but as He looks up from the ground He can see, Golgotha, only a hundred yards away.  

Jesus gets up one final time, to complete His way of the cross.