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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Crowing of Thorns

Here is a meditation for the third Sorrowful mystery.  You can go here for a meditation on the first Sorrowful mystery and here for a meditation on the second 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 Crowning of Thorns

Jesus is lugged back to a holding cell after the terrible scourging.  He has lost so much blood, it would be impossible for any of us to go on.  Yet He does.  The blood is beginning to congeal and some of His lacerations are beginning to close.  But not for long.

When our Lord reaches His cell, a crowd of guards are awaiting His arrival.  They surround Him.  He once again is alone.  They throw a red cloak over Him and find a cap of thorns.  They push it down hard on His head, laughing and mocking Jesus saying All Hail, King of the Jews!.  Blood drips down His face from every puncture wound each thorn makes.  His head is throbbing in pain.  His vision is blurry.  He sees flashes of light and shooting pain comes from behind His eyes.  Again, the Lamb of God, is spat upon, kicked, hit, humiliated.  Again He is brought to His knees writhing in pain.  But He doesn't shout out.  He doesn't complain.  He doesn't smite these lost souls so full of hatred for Him.  

No.  Jesus, ever loving and compassionate, prays for them.  He prays for these executioners, these sadistic men who seem to be possessed with evil.  Our Lord calls out to God and prays for their souls' release, for their eyes to be open and for them to see the truth.  But it is not a prayer God the Father can answer right now.  Jesus knows He must complete His journey first.  He must take up His cross.  He must continue on.  He must show tremendous courage and fortitude.

Once the guards have had their fill, they rip off the red cloak and with it, all the skin and dried blood that had adhered itself to it. His wounds are now open and oozing again!  Oh, my Lord, Jesus when will it stop?!  When will we stop?! They walk away leaving Him shaky, sweaty, bleeding from head to toe with a cap of thorns fixed upon His head.  

Time goes by and Jesus is finally brought back to Pilate.  By this time, it's later in the morning and the crowds are getting riled up by the high priests.  They begin to shout and protest.  Pilate, afraid a fight will break out among the crowd and get carried away, tries to appease them.  He shows Jesus off, pointing out the stripes He received from His scourging, much like a zoo animal is shown off by a zookeeper.  Pilate offers the crowd a choice, between Jesus and Barabbas, but the crowd refuses to give in.  They take Barabbas, a known murderer over their Lord, their Savior for which they have waited thousands of years..  Yet, they do not stop there.  They will NOT take NO for an answer.  They will be happy only when the last drop of this Lamb's blood is shed.  And so Pilate acquiesces.  He sentences Jesus to death; death on the cross. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Scourging at the Pillar

Here is a meditation for the second Sorrowful mystery.  You can go here for a meditation on the first 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 Scourging at the Pillar

Jesus is pushed, pulled and dragged along the streets of Jerusalem, like an animal until He reaches Pontius Pilate.  Pilate is a small man, clinging to his office of Roman Prefect of Judea.  He doesn't want any incidents that may cause scandal.  So he tries to hand off Jesus to King Herod.

Again, Jesus is dragged through the streets like a common criminal.  When he arrives at Herod's gates, the Lord God, the Word Incarnate, is greeted with barbarian curiosity.  Jesus is viewed as a spectacle to behold, as if those in attendance were viewing a circus act. Once again, our Lord is mocked and spat upon.  He's dismissed from the "almighty Herod" and sent back to Pilate to await His fate.

Pilate, annoyed by this nuisance, our Lord is now becoming to him, decides to appease the crowd.  He knows Jesus has done nothing wrong, but he is a spineless man.  So he orders Jesus to be flogged.  

Jesus is tied to a pillar, His body bare.  And the whipping begins.  His skin is ripped open by sticks, whips and other weapons.  He is repeatedly hit over and over again.  Not 39 times as in Jewish law, but as many times as it took until the Roman guards were too exhausted to go on.  Was it 40 times?  50?  80?  100 times?  Over and over again He is whipped.  Over and over again, He gives His body up to God the Father for us, for our sins.  Through His wounds we can be healed.

Finally, the whipping stops.  But only for a short time, as Jesus our Lord is now turned over and facing forward now, looking straight ahead at the brutal faces staring back at Him with contempt, with pure hatred, the torture begins all over again.  Over and over again our Lord silently cries out to the Father.  Father forgive them.  Father forgive them.  No words are heard, but mercy is His plea.

The time has come where the guards are completely finished.  They have no energy left with which to beat our Lord.  With lacerations and blood covering His body, He is dragged and thrown into a holding cell, leaving a trail of blood, His most precious blood, behind Him.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rosary Meditation: The Agony in the Garden

The Rosary is such a beautiful devotion that includes both vocal prayer and mental prayer, in particular meditation on the scriptural life, passion, death and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Even though the Blessed Mother has specifically asked for us to pray the Rosary daily numerous times, including through her apparitions at Fatima, so many of us still struggle with it.  One of the common complaints I have heard others say over and over about the Rosary is that they have difficulty with the mental prayer portion of the devotion.  They find themselves praying the Our Fathers (i.e. the Lords prayer) and Hail Marys (i.e. Angelic Salutation), but they have real difficulty praying these prayers while visualizing each particular mystery. So I thought I'd share what types of things come to my mind when I'm meditating on the various mysteries of the Rosary.  Since we have entered into Holy Week 2016, the climax of our Lenten season, I have been focusing more on the Sorrowful Mysteries lately, I thought what better way to prepare for this week than to meditate on these five mysteries.  Let's begin with the first Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony of the Garden.

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 Agony in the Garden

I see the 12 lounging at the table around our Lord, just finishing up the Last Supper.  Full.  Satisfied.  Our Lord just consecrated the bread and wine, transforming it into His body and blood right in front of His apostles, yet they know not what He has done.  They understand not what this sacrifice truly means.  He dips the bread into the wine at the moment Judas does the same.  Their eyes meet and Judas knows he cannot hide his plan from Jesus.  Jesus speaks.  Go.  Do what you must.  And Judas walks out.  The remaining 11 look at each other having no idea what just transpired.  

Jesus sits, amidst His beloved 11, yet completely alone.  He rises and they head out to the Garden of Gethsemane, leaving His Mother and the other women who prepared the meal to finish their work.  The moment the door shuts, His Mother, Mary, stops what she is doing.  She feels His presence leave the house.  She knows.  It is time.  It has begun.  Mary closes her eyes and prays for Her Son. 

In the darkness of the night, He asks His 11 to stay and wait for Him, while He prays.  He takes Peter, James and John with Him and asks them to stay and wait with Him.  They say "Of course" but look at each other questioning what He means.  Kneeling on the rocky ground, moonlight and shadows dance across His face, He begins to pray.   Sweat and blood trickle from His forehead.  Take this cup away from me.  Not my will but yours be done.  He falls prostrate on the ground.  The three, Peter, James and John, hear the muffled pains of His prayer, look to one another and shrug, not knowing what awaits.  

Jesus returns to the group now sleeping.  Can you not stay awake with me for one hour?  Keep watch that you may not be put to the test.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  The feeling of isolation creeps in again.  Alone.  Again He leaves to pray a second time.  Kneeling, lying prostrate, face down on the ground.  Shaking.  Sweating.  Bleeding.  Where are You, Father?  Who will stay with me?  

Jesus returns to His apostles, His friends, and again he finds them sleeping.  Leaving a third time to pray, Jesus knows what lies ahead of Him.  He knows He will be doing this on His own.  His disciples will not stay with Him.  He sees that now.  

Jesus returns the third time and finds them asleep again.  Wake up.  The hour is at hand.  Looking up, Jesus sees Judas with a dozen Jewish soldiers arriving.  Judas walks up to Him, smiles and gives Him a kiss on the cheek.  Judas, do you betray your Lord with a kiss?  Soldiers try to handcuff Jesus and chaos breaks out.  Jesus' legs and hands are shackled and His neck is tethered.  Several disciples scatter.  Peter draws his sword and cuts the ear off of a roman soldier.  Peter!  Do you not know, those who live by the sword will die by the sword?  Peter looks with tears into Jesus' eyes, and he knows he cannot win this fight.  So Peter runs and hides in the forest watching from afar.  In His great mercy, Jesus heals the soldier and then He is pulled like cattle to the High-Priest's house.  Peter follows, far behind, not wanting to leave our Lord but remaining hidden among the brush.

The soldiers arrive taking Jesus to see Caiaphas, at a secret night meeting where only those high-priests who feared or hated Jesus are present.  Out in the courtyard Peter is confronted.  Aren't you one of them?  Aren't you with Jesus of Nazareth?  Didn't I see you with him?  Peter responds.  No.  You are mistaken.  It wasn't me!  Then the cock crows.  Peter fleas.  From the holding place where our Lord is shackled to the wall, He looks toward the courtyard, knowing Peter has denied Him a third time and He hangs His head.  Completely alone.

Jesus is questioned by the high priests but He refuses to answer to them, mere men.  They hit Him, spit upon Him, curse Him.  He stands.  He takes it all upon Himself.  They decide to send Him to Pontius Pilate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Walking The Path To My Calvary

I reach up, holding this plank with shaky hands, sweat pouring down my forehead.  With weak knees, I stumble over this barren earth losing my balance when stepping on the smallest of pebbles.  Down I crash, hitting the ground.  Hard.  This hefty timber comes tumbling down upon me and there I lay, barely breathing under it's great weight.  Silence.  Complete darkness.  I am all alone.  This is the time I question my own strength.  Can I go on?  Is it even worth it?  Why do I try?  And then, just as sunshine rises over the horizon and night is met with all the promise of a new day, the weight is lifted and the darkness fades.  In it's stead, staring back at me, I see the kindest, most compassionate eyes, filled with tears, filled with my pain.  He reaches out his hand to me and helps me up.  I reposition my substantial load, equally distributing it's weight across my back.  I check my balance before I begin to walk.  Walk again.  It's then that I look up for the first time to see whom I should thank for rescuing me.  Who was this hero?  And there He stands, bent forward, sweat and blood running down His face.  But He stands.  He does not waiver.  He does not stumble.  He stands.  He stands for me.  He embraces His tremendous cross, such a weight I cannot even fathom carrying.  I look at the small bundle of wood I am supposed to lug on my back and realize how small my cross has become.  That large plank, the great weight I was suffocating under, is no longer there.  It has been replaced by a much smaller version.  My little cross.  I look to my Lord and see His eyes pleading for me to pick it up and take my little cross.  So I do.  I fling it on my back and together we journey along this path.  I still feel it's weight on my body, trying to push me down.  I still feel the grief, despair and sadness that sits heavily upon me.  Yet, I know, this road that I travel is not one I travel alone.  I can carry on, I can continue, because He has taken on my burdens and relieved me of the impossible.  So with joy and tremendous effort, I take my next step.

I had such grand ideas of the Lenten journey I'd take this year.  How my heart would be transformed!  How close I would become to my Jesus!  Yet, the Father had other plans for me.  This entire season has been spent at doctors offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms.  Fighting colds and banishing fevers has been the plight of my poor children for most of the month of February.  But the boys finally kicked their cold and things began to look up.  Spring was coming and winter would be gone soon enough.  We could get through this, right?

Up until a week ago, I felt we were coming out of the haze sickness leaves over a household, when it was my turn for the ER visit.  Last week, my husband and I suffered our third miscarriage.  The third baby I will never get to hold against my skin, nurse, bathe, or smell that newborn baby smell.  The third child I'll never watch grow up.  The third adult I'll never send to college or see get married.  Therefore, my cross became too great, much too great for me or my husband to carry alone.  We were stumbling and falling beneath it's weight.  And if I'm being completely honest, there were moments when I didn't want to get back up again.  I didn't want to take on this cross, to carry this grief, this pain, this loss.  I didn't want to go through this AGAIN.  Yet, God the Father knew how difficult this would be for us and in His great goodness and generosity, He sent us beautiful mercies along the way.  The best part was that He made me aware of these mercies when they were happening and the consolation of knowing He was with us, helped us both to keep going and to get out of bed in each morning.

Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of times I felt alone, abandoned even.  If anyone has ever experienced a miscarriage at the ER, you know how matter-of-fact these things are taken and how little if any care or sympathy is expressed.  During my examinations, while alone with numerous emotionless medical personnel, I was wondering, just as my Jesus had on Calvary, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?".  Intellectually I knew God was there.  My Blessed Mother was there, holding me, stroking my hair.  I knew it, but I couldn't feel it.  The emptiness!  The great nothingness!  It's a darkness I do not wish upon my worst enemies.  This is the cross I had fallen beneath.  It's a cross I must carry every day and one I am trying desperately to carry well.

You know, it's funny, because life actually goes on.  The earth has the nerve to rotate around the sun and time has the gall to march on.  In spite of my heartache, the world continues to move.  How cruel and yet how satisfying to know some things never change.  To know this great tragedy of ours will not become the "be all and end all" and life will go on, is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time.  Am I still stumbling over the little pebbles of life?  You better believe it.  Do I fall sometimes thinking I can't or don't want to get up?  It's part of the process, a process I know all too well.  But do I know my Lord, Jesus, has taken the most burdensome parts of my cross upon His back?  Do I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this Lent, I walk this path to my Calvary in the greatest company?  Oh, praise God for this knowledge!  Praise God for this truth!  I do not walk this path alone.  It gives me joy, no matter how difficult it may be, to suffer alongside my Jesus and if I must suffer, let me, Lord, suffer well with You, for the greatest good of all souls!


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Peg Doll Swap Christmas 2015

As I told  you a few months ago, this year has been full of change and so many wonderfully answered prayers.  I desperately wanted to find a truly Catholic group of women who see Heaven as their main goal for educating their children.  And I really wanted to make some cute saint peg dolls so I actually prayed for that.  Can you believe it?  Such a small thing, but yet we must be careful what we pray for because, as I've shared in my post A Lesson on Prayer, I have learned that the Lord will say "yes" to all things that will bring us closer to Him.  It's a lesson I must learn over and over again.

Isn't this an awesome view?!

But back to the fun of peg doll swaps!  So yes, I was randomly asked by a fellow Catholic homeschooling mom if I wanted to join their group of mom's making peg dolls for their children for Christmas. Um...YES, please! :)

Infant Jesus

I chose to paint St. Padre Pio, my oldest's favorite saint, and St. Francis of Assisi because we love him as well!  It took a few nights of labor after the kids were in bed to sneak around painting these dolls for my little loves so I could surprise them on Christmas morning.

The rules for our swap:

Bl. Margaret of Castello
1)  paint 1 saint doll per set you want (I wanted two sets, so I painted two different saint dolls)
2)  paint a copy of each set of dolls for each participant (so there were 25 sets of dolls we needed, so I painted 25 of each saint)
3)  Meet up, display and oogle over dolls and go home with your goodies!

That's is!  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Check out some of the amazing dolls that were made!  I'm so impressed by the artistic abilities of my fellow moms.

Our Lady of Fatima
St. Agnes

Our Lady Undoer of Knots

St. Blaise

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Francis of Assisi (painted by yours truly)
St. Damien of Molokai
St. Florian

St. Gertrude

St. Hildegard of Bingen
St. Isidore

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

St. Margaret Clitherou of York

St. Maria Goretti

St. Martin de Porres

St. Mary Magdelan

St. Maxamilian Kolbe

St. Michael

St. Padre Pio (painted by yours truly)

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Louis Martin (St. Terese' of Lisiuex's father)

St. Zelie Martin (St. Terese' of Lisiuex's mother)

I can't tell you how much fun this swap was!  And my sons were very happy to find this gift from mom and dad waiting for them under the Christmas tree!  We get to spend this coming year learning all about the lives of these saints!

Have you participated in a saints peg doll swap?  Have any tips you can share?  Feel free to comment below!

Blessings to you and yours,