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Showing posts from April, 2016

Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII Canonization Highlights

 The Church celebrates the 2nd Anniversary of the Canonizations of Sts. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XIII - here are some of my reflections on that beautiful Mass. 4:00AM. I grimaced when the alarm went off. I'm an early riser, generally up and at my desk by 5:30AM, but 4:00AM on a Sunday is a bit extreme, even for me. However, as a JPII kid (he became Pope when I was 11 years old), I felt compelled to watch his canonization live, much in the same way that I rose in the middle of the night 9 years ago to watch his funeral Mass. That day was one of great sadness at the temporal loss of a man who I viewed as my spiritual Papa - the day of his canonization, however, is a day of great joy and victory as our beloved Papa, along with Pope John XXIII, is recognized by the church as one of her great saints! Here are some of the parts of the canonization Mass that touched me the most. Pope Francis Greeting Pope Benedict The warm greeting exchanged by Pope Francis and P

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 14: 7 Lessons Learned from the Heroic Minute

I would like to sincerely thank everyone who participated in the 14 Day "Heroic Minute" Challenge . Honestly, I really had no clue how things would go when the challenge began. I just knew that I personally needed to work on incorporating some self-discipline and order into my daily life. I have always loved St. Josemarie Escriva and his concept of the Heroic Minute and so the challenge was born. Here are 7 of the many lessons which I have learned from the challenge. -1- The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)  It is no surprise to me that Jesus said this to the Apostles who had fallen asleep while he was in agony praying in the garden. Overcoming my fleshly desire for 10 more minutes of sleep every morning is no small feat. At some points during the past 14 days I thought that climbing Mount Everest might be easier than forgoing my snooze button for one more day.  -2- We need to be realistic in our goals . It is no secret to my family and fr

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 13: One Small Act at a Time

Prior to reading St. Josemarie Escriva's description of the first moment of the day as the Heroic Minute, I never considered this seemingly insignificant act of getting up in the morning as a key battle in the war between virtue and vice; good and evil; light and darkness that goes on in the soul of every Christian. Spiritual warfare is heavy-duty stuff, I reasoned.  It consists of  temptations that lead one to commit serious sin, which need to be battled fiercely with prayer, fasting and the sacraments. Getting out of bed seems to me to be such a basic and minor part of my day that it can hardly be considered a "skirmish", as Escriva describes it. Or at least, that is how I used to think. In taking part in this challenge, I have begun to understand that virtue is built in doing the little things well, time and time again, day in and day out, beginning with this very small act of getting out of bed in the morning. I can attest to the fact that on the days when I hav

The Heroic Minute Challenge:Day 12: Purity of Motive

As we get to the last few days of  14 Day "Heroic Minute" Challenge , I got to thinking about what my motives are for taking this challenge.  Here's what I have come up with: I am hoping that by living out the "Heroic Minute" I will grow in the virtue of self-discipline. The early morning hours before my children and husband are awake is, on most days, the probably the only time I have to be alone and I really enjoy that first peaceful cup of coffee.  Rising before everyone else gives me a chance to pray and study.  I love getting a head start on some daily chores - can anyone else appreciate just how good it feels to have the first load of laundry washed and in the dryer before 7AM?  These are all good reasons. However, as I started reading a little more of St. Escriva's writings, I realize that my good motives are, quite frankly, not good enough. It seems that my hopes for completing this challenge are quite human and very much centered on what the

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 11: Mortification, the Heroic Minute and Love

The experience I remember the most  from the first time I ran the Heroic Minute Challenge two years ago was the following early morning encounter:   Around 5AM, I was awoken by a bright light streaking through the bedroom window, followed by a loud burst of thunder. Not three seconds later, my daughter arrived in our bedroom, accompanied by a pillow and two stuffed teddy bears. "I'm scared", she whispered and climbed into bed.  My little one was 10 at the time, and as she snuggled in besides me I contemplated how few of these childhood moments I have left. We both drifted off to sleep to the sound of the rain pounding against the window. When my alarm rang just a short while later I quickly shut it off, and immediately got out of bed. Proud of my stunning accomplishment of living out of the "Heroic Minute" on that rainy, gloomy morning, I began to tiptoe out of the bedroom - only to hear my daughter cry "Mommy, don't leave me!" UGH...I thought

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 10: Offer it Up

Day 10 of the 14 Day "Heroic Minute" Challenge.  Have you mastered the Heroic Minute?  I surely have not, but I am learning so much during this challenge about myself, about the Lord and also about the value of struggling. St. Josemarie Escriva offers us the following quote to highlight the approach we should take when faced with our own shortcomings and struggles: In other words, we should live by the good old Catholic maxim and "offer it up".  What does that mean? It's not all about us.   Taking up any sort of challenge, even Catholic ones - can result in excessive introspection and self-centeredness. Instead of helping us to grow, the challenge quickly slides into a running tally of our own successes (yay me!!!!) and failures (boo me...) .That entirely misses the point. By offering up our struggles (and our victories) for the intentions of others, we are able to focus our attention on the goal of helping others - a win-win situation, whether we ha

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 9: St. John Paul II's Heroic Minute

So far we have talked about Our Lord Jesus' Heroic Minute , and the Proverbs 31 woman's Heroic Minute.   Today, I'd like to turn our attention to one of favorite saint's Heroic Minute: Saint John Paul II. If anyone exemplified living out the Heroic Minute it was JPII. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as the Pope's personal secretary, devotes an entire chapter in his memoirs A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope  to the Holy Father's daily routine. He notes that: "John Paul II was a perfectionist, because he always wanted to get as much as he could out of the time available. So he would meticulously plan out the day's activities: prayer, work, meetings, meals (which gave him a chance to talk with guests), and rest."  He goes on to describe the Pope's morning routine: "Anyway, the Holy Father used to begin his day pretty early. He would get up at 5:30, wash up, and go to the chapel for morning

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 8: The Proverbs 31 Woman's Heroic Minute

So far during the 14 Day "Heroic Minute" Challenge, we have learned from the Scriptures about how Our Lord Jesus himself rose before dawn to begin his day in prayer.  Today, I'd like to propose a famous Old Testament woman's Heroic Minute - the Proverb's 31 woman. This woman is an absolute ROCK STAR of virtuous living. She does it all - from being the perfect wife, to owning a business, to making clothes, serving the poor and more. What is her secret? The most important attribute she has - the one that fuels all her other virtues is that she is a "woman who fears the Lord." (Pr. 31:30) Her relationship with the Lord is the motive and strength behind all her other undertakings. It is no surprise to read that she too lives out the Heroic Minute - "rising while it is still provide food for her household and tasks for her maidens." (Pr. 31:15) When I was a new Mom, my sleep-deprived brain could not comprehend how this Proverbs

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 7: St. Josemarie Escriva and Rest

I have to admit that today's Heroic Minute was challenging for me . After all, it is Sunday morning - probably my favorite time of the week. Even God himself rested on Sunday. Surely that doesn't mean that I can't sleep in, just a little..... The wise St. Escriva addresses the concept of rest in his book The Furrow saying: While St. Escriva didn't exactly say that we should forgo the Heroic Minute on Sundays, I think that his explanation of setting aside our regular daily tasks in order to return to them refreshed and renewed is wise advice.  I have always found that the Sundays which I use to catch up on laundry, house-cleaning, errands and other daily tasks leave me feeling frustrated and exhausted on Monday morning. Sundays should not be used as the dumping day for all the undesirable tasks that we procrastinate finishing during the week (you know those...for me it is scrubbing the toilets).  Instead it should be a day spent truly resting, praying and gath

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 6: The Joy Comes With the Morning

I often wonder what it must have been like for the Blessed Mother and the Apostles to wake up on Holy Saturday morning consumed with an overwhelming feeling of loss, hopelessness and fear. What were they thinking that day? How did they even get through it? The shock of all they had witnessed and experienced during that roller coaster of a week must have been impossible for them to even process. I imagine that their day was spent sitting in each other's company in an agonizing, painful silence.  My beloved Grandmother passed away three years ago while my family and I were on a cruise vacation. I can still remember the feeling I had waking up the day after I was told the news. I opened my eyes for a split second and all was right with the world and then - WHAMMO - I felt like I had been slammed by a giant wave of grief and sadness that I didn't see coming. Anyone who has experienced a death of a close friend or relative, or has been the recipient of a bad medical report, o

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 5 Preparing For the Heroic Minute the Night Before

I blew it this morning. My alarm was set for the "fixed time" of 6:00AM, and I woke up exhausted. Without even thinking, I immediately hit the snooze button. After the first snooze rang, I re-set the alarm for 6:30AM and rolled over for a few more minutes of restless sleep. Laying there attempting to sleep, I started thinking about what was going wrong. The conclusion I came to was that the Heroic Minute does not begin when the alarm rings, it actually begins the night before. Last night, I was blessed to give a teaching on Pope John Paul II and the Gift of Mercy (more on JPII's Heroic Minute to come) to a local women's group. Both tired and wired from the evening, the long drive, and the large Diet Coke, I lay in bed, poked around on Facebook for a while and finally dropped off to sleep, about three hours after my normal bedtime and with no night prayers of any kind said. Starting to see something wrong with this picture?  I sure am.... Nearly a week into this ch

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 4: Jesus Lives Out the Heroic Minute

Day 4: - So far during the Heroic Minute challenge we have focused on the words of St. Josemarie Escriva who coined the phrase "Heroic Minute". He did not, however, invent the concept.  In fact, when we examine the Scriptures and the lives of the saints throughout the ages, we find that we are in very good company in attempting to live out the Heroic Minute. Jesus did too! (Minus the snooze button, of course). St. Mark's Gospel provides us insight into Jesus' Heroic Minute: "Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed." (Mk 1:35) What do we learn when we examine the verses which surround this account of Jesus rising early and praying? We see that Jesus led a busy life . On the evening before (St. Mark makes a point in stressing " after sunset"  Mk 1:32), we read how Jesus cured many people of illnesses and set free those who were possessed by demons. It had been a long night for the Lord.  In

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 3: Optimism and Perseverance

As I mentioned yesterday, my Heroic Minute was rather un-heroic.  Actually, it was a total bust. As he day wore on I found myself more and more discouraged about it. Thoughts began to enter my head that sounded something like this: Why bother trying - what does it even matter whether or not you hit the snooze button? Who do you think you are even attempting this challenge? Just quit. I recognize the source of those thoughts as my own insecurities fueled by adversary who likes nothing better than to condemn and discourage. The truth is, we all have moments in our striving to be holy when we will stumble and fall.  Many moments. Many moments every single day to be more precise. The key to handling those moments is to pick oneself up, dust oneself off, ask the Lord for help and forgiveness and begin again.  Discouragement and defeat are not part of our vocabulary as Christians. God's word reassures us that he is the God of new beginnings - and each morning when our alar

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 2: Laying the Foundation For the Day

Day Two....Since I wasn't battling a Monday morning after a long and lazy Easter vacation, I decided to be a little daring and set my alarm for 6AM (as opposed to yesterday's 7AM alarm).  I prefer a 6AM start because it gives me time to myself before my family wakes up and the hustle and bustle of the day begins in full swing. Let's just say my Heroic Minute was not so heroic.....At least it is the Year of Mercy and tomorrow is another day! The mornings when I am able to rise before my family provide me with a precious quiet time that I so need for prayer and reflection.  One of my favorite things to do on those quiet early mornings is to head outside for a walk around my neighborhood, enjoying the birds chirping, the smell of the dew on the grass and the soft light of the dawn. I have found that some of my best prayer times occur during those pre-dawn walks and those moments of intimacy with the Lord provide the grace to face whatever the day throws at me. In the morn

The Heroic Minute Challenge: Day 1: The First Supernatural Reflection of the Day

Day One....YOWSA....that was not easy.  My alarm rang at 7:00AM; which is the time I chose for this first day of the challenge (the first day back to "normal life" after Easter break). My first instinct was to hit the snooze button (big shock there), but a vague memory of some crazy challenge entered my mind. I would love to say that I jumped out of bed with great joy, but I didn't.  In fact, I rose slowly, with one eye observing the gloomy day outside my window and my mind wondering why I hadn't gone to be earlier last night (and why I hadn't cleaned up the kitchen after celebrating my Dad's birthday with a house full of guests). Ugh. The first lesson of the 14 Day "Heroic Minute" Challenge for me is this: what you do the night before will have a direct impact on your ability to live out the Heroic Minute the next morning.   Let's look a little more at some of St. Escriva's writings on the Heroic Minute: The First Supernatural Ref