Take “A-TRIP” this Holiday Season!

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With the annual celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras (for us down here in the New Orleans area) comes the joy of family gatherings and lots of together time. Today, however, with many of our loved ones living in various parts of the world, we often find ourselves traveling or awaiting the arrival of our sons, daughters, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. So you could say, in some ways, that traveling has become a kind of staple of the holiday season, one as familiar as Grandma’s ham, turkey, dressing and pecan pie. I guess this should come as no surprise, given the far distance that the original pilgrims and Holy Family had to travel on the days ushering in our modern day Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Likewise, the Mardi Gras Season, a “Fat Tuesday” celebration proceeding Ash Wednesday, begins on the Feast Day of the Epiphany (King’s Day), a day commemorating the arduous journey of three wise men to the small town of Bethlehem.

Join me, as we further explore the Christian understanding of a trip, pilgrimage, or journey towards the ultimate gathering of the people of God, as we learn to incorporate this hopeful anticipation into our every day prayer experience.

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In Ignatian spirituality, one based on the teachings of the Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola, we learn about the importance of a daily examen (the spiritual reviewing of one’s day) as a means of discerning the movements of God in our life along with our corresponding response to His invitation. Do we cooperate with God’s will or block and/or intentionally reject this calling? Are we moving closer to or further away from God’s loving embrace. Do we feel joy or sorrow, peace or anxiety? Are we intimately aware of God’s presence and the gift of grace which often accompanies it? These kinds of questions warrant our daily prayerful consideration, as we review our day’s journey, desired destination, and overall sense of well-being.

To this end, I would like to propose an acronym which has helped me, my husband, and family better identify the hands of God in our lives, our subsequent response to His call, and our desired destination. This acronym, one which I learned from Jan and Loyd Tate at the New Orleans Spirituality Center, is “A-TRIP”.  My husband, Tom, and I first learned about this daily exercise when we attended a couple’s retreat about 8 months back. There, Jan and Loyd challenged each of us to take “A-TRIP” once a day as a couple.

How could we do this, we thought, especially given the craziness of our lives and the frequency of Tom’s business trips away from home? The answer was simple: keep our eyes focused on the gathering process and our desired destination – a peace filled home, here on earth and for all eternity with God. Once this answer became clear, our 5-10 minute shared prayer experience (A-TRIP) became a top priority, and often the highlight of our day. Not only did it draw us closer to God, but also closer to each other as a couple. Subsequently, we began incorporating this simple spiritual “trip” into our family prayer experience. The spiritual fruits of this exercise have proved abundant in both regards. It is intimately moving and, at times, inspirational to listen as a loved one shares his/her inner thoughts, desires, concerns, and/or vulnerabilities with God. Likewise, it is humbling to do the same.

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A-TRIP stands for:

A:  Adoration. Adoring the Lord is more than just loving Him. It is gazing into His face, being captivated with Who He is, and looking beyond what the Lord has or can do for us. When we meditate on how great God is, we become transformed into His likeness as we are face to face in adoration of Him. Adoration is a heart response and recognition that He is all we ever need. When we adore the Lord Our God, all life’s problems, seen from heaven’s perspectives, seem to dwarf in comparison.

“My God, I adore you for your bountiful majesty, your intimate love, and unending mercy.”

T: Thanksgiving. Feeling and expressing appreciation is good for us. Like any wise father, God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given to us. It is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him. Without gratefulness, we become arrogant and self-centered. We begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own. Thankfulness keeps our hearts in right relationship with God, the ultimate giver of all good gifts.

“Lord, I thank you for the many gifts you have given me, for my husband, Tom, son, Joseph, and for the transformative power of your love on display in our family circumstances over the last several years.”

R: Repentance. Repentance represents a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. It alleviates our guilt while simultaneously cultivating a deep sense of joy in our unburdened heart. In the face of God’s unwarranted mercy, we rejoice and often feel compelled to share the good news about God’s boundless love with others! As we continue to examen our lives and our ongoing pattern of sin, we often gain a humble acceptance of our total dependency on Christ, both as a Savior and a King. By learning to surrender our lives to Christ, while simultaneously opening ourselves up to the grace of His Holy Spirit, we begin to grow in Christian virtue and personal holiness.

“Lord, I repent of my impatience and the harsh use of words in moments of conflict.”

I: Intercession. Intercession is prayer on behalf of another. It naturally arises from the instincts of the human heart, a heart filled with love and deep compassion for others. Intercession, however, is not merely prompted by our individual affections or interests,  but by our recognition of God’s individual and societal love and concern for mankind. As members of Christ’s Body, we are called to intercede for others, just as Christ does for His disciples, crucifiers, and each of us.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make us a holy family founded on love. Fill our hearts with love and our home with joy. Transform our lives as a family and guide each of us towards the life vocation You deem most appropriate.”

P: Praise. Praise is the joyful recognition or remembering of all God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God our appreciation for the mighty works He has done on our behalf. God is all powerful and worthy of our praise.

“God, I praise you for your intimate love, the life giving and self-sacrificial love demonstrated by Christ on the Cross. God, in You, I find my home, for You have created me for Yourself. I praise You for your miraculous plan of goodness for my life and Your tireless pursuit of my love in return.”

As you contemplate the spiritual meaning and ultimate intention of “A-TRIP”, I ask you to remember that we, as Christians, are a pilgriming people living our day to day lives as we try to find our way back home to God. In closing, I wish you and yours happy travels, especially during this Advent Season, and in each and every day which follows. Amen

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Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times). Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

To learn more about or purchase my new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, please visit spiritualsafariguide.com.

Thank you and God Bless! Karen Schwaner Sheehy

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Be Filled with the Spirit of the Lord, a Spirit of Peace and Joy!

God desires our happiness and can rehabilitate all of our brokenness, past wounds and tragedies. He is there for us in the darkest of moments. This is the counter cultural teachings of the New Testament Beatitudes. God’s blessings and joy are available to us here and now, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

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One of two outdoor memorial pools at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

Two months ago, I visited the the 9/11 Memorial, commemorating the loss and slow recovery process following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Encompassing the Twin Tower footprints is two outdoor memorial pools, each 1-acre in size. Called Reflecting Absence, their disappearing waterfalls are meant to symbolize the physical, spiritual and emotional void left by these attacks. As I walked around the pool edges, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of names engraved on their bronze parapets. Included were the 2,977 September 11th victims and the 6 individuals killed during the 1993 bombing. As I stood in silence and watched the water disappear into the dark abyss, I could not help but sense the emptiness experienced by their families, friends, and our country. As a Christian, however, I soon began to wonder, “where are they now, the victims whose names were staring me in the face?” Immediately, I bowed my head and said a prayer for the eternal rest of their souls.

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Within the museum itself, visitors encounter personal testimonies, pictures and information about each of the victims. As I looked at the face of each victim, the names soon became real. Each one had a special story detailed by their loved ones in auditory, visual and pictorial display. Their bravery, friendships, heart ache, and unreasonable hope were intensely palpable. Men, women, children, people from various walks of life, nations and religious groups, all were represented in the faces of the fallen.

Yes, tragedy strikes all, but so does the unexplainable love, courage and hope of those filled with the spirit of the Lord. Dazed, I sat in silence, trying to process the onslaught of emotions I was experiencing. Heart ache and hope, pain and glory, life and death, each plays a pivotal part in the Christian journey home. This is the living mystery of Christ, His unwarranted and brutal death on the Cross, and His resulting Resurrection to new life. Sitting in contemplative silence, I once again bowed my head in prayer on behalf of each and every victim. Additionally, I begged for the spirit of the Lord to rest upon the hearts of those left behind.

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St. Paul’s Chapel with the 9/11 Memorial Tower visible to its left.

Located just steps away from Ground Zero is St. Paul’s Chapel, a small Episcopal church where George Washington once prayed. This popular, historical landmark has its own miraculous 9/11 story to tell, a story about a 100-year-old fallen sycamore tree and the undeniable power of God. This tree, uprooted by a huge falling steel beam, covered up and saved this small house of God, its beautiful stained glass windows, and surrounding grave sites. Many will recall the palpable hope and healing found within its hallowed walls, as it became a center and sacred refuge for multitudes of rescue workers, survivors, and loved ones in search of missing family members.

This little chapel has a miraculous history, indeed. Not only did it survive the Sept. 11th attacks but also the Great Fire of 1776. Today, St. Paul’s remains a beacon of light, love and compassion for individuals impacted by Sept. 11th. Is is home to an active worshipping community committed to leadership, social justice, and reconciliation as it carries its legacy into the future. It remains a shining bright spot in the darkness of that otherwise infamous September day. This represents the light and hope of Christ breaking through the darkness of despair.

Also surviving the 9/11 attack was a small pear tree planted in the vicinity of Church Street during the 1970s. Pulled out of the rubble in October of 2001, it was badly burned and not expected to live. After years of rehabilitation, it was returned to the site of the World Trade Center. Today, it too, has become a visible symbol of hope and rebirth. God desires our happiness and can rehabilitate all of our brokenness, our past wounds, and tragedies. He is there for us in the darkest of moments. This is the counter cultural teachings of the New Testament Beatitudes. God’s blessings and joy are available to us here and now, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. As we strive to make our spiritual journey homeward, let us likewise strive to be the hands, feet, heart and light of Christ to a world in desperate need of healing, love and unity. Come, Holy Spirit, make us a channel of your peace. Amen

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times). Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

To learn more about or purchase my new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, please visit spiritualsafariguide.com.

Thank you and God Bless! Karen Schwaner Sheehy

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The Three Year Difference!

Are you facing darkness, despair and unimaginable hardship? Three years ago, I felt this same way. Amidst this pain, however, I also sensed an unexplainable hope, a hope grounded on Jesus and the future optimism for those who place their trust in Him. From darkness to light, from heartbreak to triumph, this is the journey we face as Christians. Today, I stand as a living testimony to the powerful transformation and rebirth which overcomes the darkness. Today, I recognize the three year difference and promises fulfilled for those who trust in the Lord!

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Picture of me and Joseph, my son, taken at the 2018 Easter Vigil Mass at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville, LA.

 

In three weeks time, my husband, Tom, and I will welcome home our 18 year old son, Joseph, a troubled soul who found healing in the mountains of Wyoming. Three years earlier, he left our home a broken fifteen year old boy, and soon he will return a beautiful, spirit filled young man. I remember his difficult October departure, three years earlier, like it was yesterday. Out of options, my husband and I decided to send our only son to a highly structured functional cattle ranch and all boys Catholic boarding school in Cody, Wyoming. At that time, Joseph’s life had spiraled out of control, along with our family’s joy and sense of well-being. Although this prayerful decision was one of the most difficult I had to make as a mother, I knew this experience would provide him with a much-needed boost of confidence and spiritual illumination. Despite this maternal knowing, I still found myself surrounded by the darkness of despair. There too, however, hidden amidst this darkness, was hope, an unexplainable hope in my son’s promised resurrection.

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Chapter 29. Hope in the Face of Darkness. An excerpt from my newly released book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love.  Early the next morning, Joseph and Tom boarded a plane bound for Cody, Wyoming. Sitting at my kitchen table, I heard the deafening silence of our family home. My pain and sense of loss seemed unbearable. Overwhelmed with agony, I quietly bowed my head in prayer and pleaded for the patience to endure my son’s departure. I stared at the empty Easter lily stems in my backyard and felt their emptiness. Despite my profound sorrow, I somehow found hope, for in their promised spring beauty, I recognized the hidden glory of the Trinity of Love. In response, I said, “Beloved Jesus, I place my trust in You. Come, Holy Spirit, come, and make the sheer glory of your love and mercy known to my son, Joseph.  Heavenly Father, I beg you, heal the wounds of his broken heart and lead him towards the light of your love. Come, Holy Spirit, come and make us a holy family founded on love. Amen”

Today, three years after the painfully difficult moment detailed in my book excerpt above, I find myself experiencing the promised glory of those who place their trust in Jesus. Over the last several years, the Holy Spirit has indeed showed up and, as promised, He has transformed our lives in a powerful way. Together and individually, we stand as a living testimony to the unending love and mercy of the Triune God! God is so good, and although He often requires our trust and unexplainable hope in the face of darkness, He never disappoints. He is our healing, our hope and salvation. He remains constant and is always there directing, guiding and bringing us home.  He will never abandon us, for He is our Father, best Friend, eternal Spouse, and Spirit of love. He is relational and He is our home.

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The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love.  My new book and three year labor of love is both a personal testimony and demonstration of God’s healing love and mercy. It is an invitation to experience your own faith discovery process, to journey with my small family of three from heartbreak to God’s healing glory. Self-reflective questions, Scripture quotes, catechetical teachings, and sacred devotionals woven throughout will warm your heart and fill your soul with divine inspiration.

The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love is a compelling account of finding joy and healing through the love and grace of God. It is an evoking testimony of faith’s ability to overcome distress and heartache. I hope you enjoy my story and that you encounter the amazing love and mercy of the Triune God within its pages! Thank you, Karen Schwaner Sheehy

Upcoming Book Signings: 

  1. Saturday, August 18th from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm                                                                      The Catholic Book Store: 3003 Carrollton, New Orleans, LA 70118, (504) 861-7504
  2. Saturday, September 8th from Noon to 2 pm                                                                   Barnes and Noble Bookseller: 3414 Hwy. 190, Mandeville, LA 70471, (985) 626-8884

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The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love now available for purchase at amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles, local bookstores, or at my online web store: spiritualsafariguide.com. The accompanying personal reflective journal can only be purchased online at spiritulsafariguide.com.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen
Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

The Spiritual Journey of Life

All of life is merely a spiritual journey towards our ultimate home and eternity with the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in heaven. Along the way, we experience a variety of conditions, struggles and opportunities for personal growth, or what I like to call spiritual stretching. Do you find yourself at such a moment? Are you feeling stretched, challenged, exhausted and/or in need of rest? If so, please join me on a spiritual safari to the eastern region of Borneo and Sumatra as we search for sure footing, and the guidance and rest only God can provide.

Three weeks ago, as I packed for my much-needed three-week adventure in the far-off region of Borneo and Sumatra, I felt simultaneously excited and slightly apprehensive, given the spiritual exhilaration I had experienced that prior weekend. That Saturday in New Orleans, I was emcee at the second Louisiana WINE (Women In the New Evangelization) Catholic Women’s Conference, entitled, “An Anchor of Hope.” WINE is all about gathering, nurturing and sending forth women of faith. Like God, WINE recognizes the beauty, unity and diversity found within the One Body of Christ. Over three hundred strong, each offered their unique sorrows, joys, hopes and dreams, and found the Lord’s consolation and hope along the way. Our day was filled with powerful testimonies, praise and worship, Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions, and prayer. Fortified and united, we offered a single hymn of praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Additionally, the Conference marked the opening release of my newly published, three-year in the making book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love.

 

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Louisiana WINE (Women In the New Evangelization) Catholic Women’s Conference featuring Renee Bondi, VaLlimar Jansen and Lorraine Hess.

“Where do I go from here, God?” I thought, as I packed for my upcoming trip. After all, the last three years had been very spiritually productive, as I felt personally led by God to write, edit and publish my new book and spiritual testimony detailing His powerful, healing presence in my life. Now, however, with my divine directive less clear, I somehow felt unsure in His intentional vagueness. Puzzled, I somehow sensed that the Lord was not wanting a clear goal, but a simple act of surrender, as I learned to take one, faith filled step forward at a time. Unlike much of my spiritual journey to date, I would simply be a vehicle of faith, as the Holy Spirit did the driving. And so, I continued packing, taking along my personal articles, spiritual trust and openness.

 

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock” (Jeremiah 31:10).

 

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Me in the back seat, preparing to enter Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia. Picture taken by Tom Sheehy, June 30, 2018.

I left the states with high hopes of seeing an orangutan. I arrived in the isles of Asia and found so much more. Malaysia’s Northern Borneo is not only diverse in its natural beauty, but also in its cultural and religious practices. It is home to a vast array of wildlife, including the majestic orangutan. Two days into my trip, I stood motionless as I stared at a suspended, swinging bridge keeping me from my promised sighting. Pausing, I wondered if I could overcome my fear of heights, propensity towards motion sickness, and ultimately make the two-hundred-foot river crossing. Determined to see these beautiful creatures, I focused on the forest’s edge, gripped the side guide ropes, and took my first step forward. After that, I did the same again and again until I finally made my way across the bridge. Despite the unpredictable swaying, wobbly boards, and sound of rushing water below, I eventually made it to the natural beauty and awaiting orangs.

 

 

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Swinging bridge in the rain forest of Borneo, Malaysia. Picture taken by Karen Schwaner Sheehy, June 23, 2018.

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Mother and baby orangutan in the Bornean rain forest of Malaysia by Karen Schwaner Sheehy, June 23, 2018.

Orangutans: Did you know that these majestic animals contain over 96.3% of human genetics? Over the next two weeks, as I watched the eating habits, maternal instincts, and patient endurance of many orangs, I found this fact very believable. Despite our similarities, however, one sure thing sets us apart. Humans are made in the very image and likeness of God, made to give Him praise and to testify to the good news of our salvation through Christ. This, the Church has done, even on the far-off island of Borneo.

 

The northern part of Borneo, where my husband and I spent much of our time, is 80% Christian. It represents a spiritual oasis of sorts amidst Malaysia’s many faith traditions, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. One Saturday night, in the small Sumatran town of Metro City, we managed to find The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, and joyfully joined our brothers and sisters in Christ at Mass. It was a beautiful celebration, as our Spanish born priest united his diverse congregation into one united song of praise and thanksgiving. There, like the women gathered at the WINE Conference two weeks earlier, we found the transformative power of the Holy Spirit and Eucharistic presence of our Lord. Despite the language barrier and two-hour night drive over a long and bumpy road, the Spirit led Tom and I to our spiritual home away from home, to the diversely beautiful and unified Church or Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is quite the guide, no matter what life circumstance or location you find yourself in. Therefore, from now on, I plan to let Him do the driving as I sit back and enjoy the ride. Hope you can do the same. Come, Holy Spirit, come and make me a vessel of your love. Amen

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The Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Metro City, Sumatra taken by Tom Sheehy, June 30, 2018.

My new book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, is now available for purchase at amazon.com or at my online web store: spiritualsafariguide.com. The accompanying personal reflective journal can only be purchased online at spiritulsafariguide.com. Hope you enjoy my story and that you encounter the amazing love and mercy of the Triune God within its pages! Thank you, Karen Schwaner Sheehy

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Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen
Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

Come Holy Spirit, Come.

The Feast of Pentecost is coming! In chapter fifteen of the Gospel of John, we find Jesus preaching about the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples. “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Therefore, as May 20th approaches, it is good that we take some time to understand what the gift of the Holy Spirit looks like and entails.

Baptims-by-spiritGod is radically relational. He is a Triune God or Trinity of Love and He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. Pentecost is a beautiful time in the Liturgical Year to actively invite Him into our hearts. “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make me a vessel of Your love.”

As I look back over my own life long spiritual journey, and the twenty-five years since my re-conversion to the faith, I marvel at the goodness of the Triune God and His abundant gift of grace. This grace is none other than the very indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my soul.

What is your faith journey or testimony? The passage presented from the Gospel of John invites each of us to consider the miraculous events in our life so we too can testify in the spirit of truth. God is truth and goodness. He is the answer to all of our desires. My story or faith journey is one of life, love, pain, rejection and return. Out of this prodigal daughter story, however, I have been renewed and transformed not only into a daughter of God and spouse of Jesus, but also into a life-giving vessel of the Holy Spirit. Filled with His Spirit, I long to bring the light and love of Christ to the world.

My miraculous story is detailed in my soon to be released book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, due out this June. As Pentecost approaches, I would like to share an excerpt from the third of its three sections entitled, A Conduit of Love and Vessel of the Holy Spirit. I hope you find it enlightening.

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After three long years, my finished book is finally on its way. It should be available by the beginning of June. Praise God!

Book Excerpt: As the transformative light of Christ and indwelling of the Holy Spirit filled my heart, mind and soul, I felt compelled to share His love with others. Throughout this process, I heard Christ calling me to a life of discipleship, a life filled with self-sacrificial love and service for the sake of His Body, the Church. Accompanied by Mary, His mother, I continued to grow in faith. As I fell deeper and deeper in love with Jesus, I longed to know everything about my beloved, including His deep suffering and passion for the sake of others.

Soon, I began to view life’s many trials and hardships in a new and life-giving manner, for I desired to accompany and console my Lord. I longed to comfort the afflicted and offer up my sufferings for their sake. Slowly, I learned to pick up my Cross and follow Jesus down the path of self-sacrifice and redemptive love. Filled with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, I offered my own “fiat” or yes to God, and walked onward in confidence. With the gift of the Holy Spirit came an unexplainable hope, as I began to understand the joy of the Resurrection which always follows the Cross. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I became a more effective conduit of Christ’s love to others.

Soon, my prayer life took on a mystical quality, existing somewhere between this world and the next. This gift of spiritual union forever transformed my soul. Graced with eternal wisdom and understanding, I walked forward with divine certitude. I knew that my soul’s mission and ultimate purpose was eternal union with the Triune God, for as St. Augustine of Hippo says, “our hearts are restless until they find rest in You, O God.”

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As disciples, we are called to know and love Christ, to be vessels of His Holy Spirit, and display the gifts, or graces, of the Holy Spirit to the world. These gifts include both individual or sanctifying graces, known as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the supernatural or extra-ordinary “charismatic gifts” given to individual Christians for the good of others and/or the building up of Christ’s Body.

As members of Christ’s Body, we are all called to live a life of personal holiness. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit allow us to do just that. They lead to personal santification or salvation in Christ. Only by the grace (or indwelling of God), and not by our own merit, can we be holy. Personal holiness attracts, therefore, it remains at the center of all our evangelization efforts, as we strive to be more effective disciples and witnesses to the spirit of truth.

The seven spiritual gifts, otherwise known as the beatitudes or 4 Cardinal and 3 theological virtues, produce good fruit, fruits which are visible signs of God’s grace to the world. These gifts and their resulting fruit include:

  • Wisdom and Charity-the ability to see and choose the light of Christ. Its fruits are love, peace and gentleness.
  • Faith and Understanding-the ability to accept the gift of faith and mysteries of Christ in our hearts. It fruit is faithfulness.
  • Counsel and Prudence-supernatural intuition. The ability to discern the will of God. Its fruit is self-control.
  • Courage and Fortitude-courageous endurance to stand up for what is right in the sight of God. Its fruit is patience.
  • Knowledge-the ability to see things and others as God does. Its fruit is kindness.
  • Justice and Piety-humble recognition of one’s total dependency on God. Its fruit is justice.
  • Fear of the Lord and Hope-awe or wonder in God’s glory and majesty as the source of perfect happiness. Its fruit is joy.

The extra-ordinary gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit, given to individual believers for the good of others or for the building up of the Church, include:

  • the gifts of superabundant faith, healing, miracles, prophesy, discernment of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, words of wisdom and knowledge.
  • the gift of vocation: apostle, prophet, teacher, servant, leadership within the Church or government, giver, counselor and evangelist.

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Each of us are created with special charisms or gifts which the Holy Spirit has imparted for the building up of Christ’s Kingdom. Therefore, as we approach Pentecost, remember to say a little prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit, come,” as you offer your own personal invitation to the powerful love of God which transforms. Then go out and testify with boldness, all the while trusting in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, it is our job to testify or witness and its the Holy Spirit’s job to convert. Happy Easter!

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

Their Eyes were Opened! A Guest Blog Post by Christie Perrin

Their Eyes Were Opened! A Guest Blog Post by Christie Perrin.

Community

Jesus is available and with us daily! Be aware in life of the presence of Jesus around you!

In the weeks following Easter, we spend much time reading from the Acts of the Apostles. This is an intentional decision by the Church, as we welcome our newly baptized catechumens and simultaneously recall our own re-creation in Christ. Just like the early disciples, we long for the risen Lord and the coming of the promised Paraclete, His Holy Spirit. As we continue to enjoy the Easter Celebration and joyfully anticipate the coming of Pentecost, I invite you to read the prayerful words of my dear friend, Christi Perrin, as she ponders the marvelous mysteries of our resurrected Lord. Enjoy!

Their Eyes were Opened! by Christie Perrin

Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and the other apostles did not recognize Jesus when He first appeared to them after His Resurrection. Jesus will not appear to them in the same form as He did before his crucifixion. His presence on earth is now different, forever changed. We need to look for Him, be aware of His presence in the face of others like our spouses, children, or even strangers. He is with us in our daily lives and activities but we don’t always notice Him.

Jesus is the driver of the car just in front of me at the toll booth who surprisingly paid my toll one day when I was taking my daughter back and forth across the bridge to physical therapy following knee surgery. Jesus is in the voice of the neighbor who called just to compliment me on doing a good job raising my son and his accomplishments following a conversation they had earlier that day. Jesus is in the hearts of my daughters when they donated their own money to the mission of a visiting priest to our parish. Jesus is in the life of a friend who has taken her aging father into her home to care for him and brings him to daily Mass to receive the Eucharist despite his declining health.

Jesus is there with us; sometimes we just aren’t aware its Him or sometimes we just aren’t looking for Him. The disciples didn’t notice Jesus until He broke bread with them and started ministering to them again. When we struggle to find Jesus after the Resurrection, turn to prayer and the sacraments. He is with us in the presence of Bread and Wine! Jesus is available and with us daily! Be aware in life of the presence of Jesus around you! The more our lives involve and revolve around Jesus, the easier and more often we will notice Him with us! HE IS RISEN!

Christie Perrin is a Catholic wife and mother residing in Madisonville, LA. She has dedicated the past 23 years of her life to raising five children in the Catholic faith. She and her husband felt a strong desire to be an example of faith to their family which led them to volunteer in various areas of their parish church and school. Recently, Christie has felt called to share her knowledge and experience with other families, so they can live and pass on the faith to their children.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

Click on the link below to learn more about Karen’s non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about her upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

The Healing Eyes of Mercy – A Trinity of Love

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This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day, according to the words spoken by Jesus to St. Faustina, that all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened (Diary, 699). But what does this message of Jesus’s Divine Mercy mean to you, me and the entire world? This loving message, reintroduced by Jesus in the 1930s to St. Faustina Kowalska, is at the heart of the Gospel or good news. If we look at how God revealed himself in Scripture and Church Tradition, we discover afresh how mercy is essential to understanding Christ’s message of love and salvation. Mercy reveals the very identity of Jesus, the message that God loves us, all of us, no matter how great our sins. He desires nothing more than for us to call upon Him with trust, to receive His mercy and to let it flow through us to others, so that all may come to share in His joy.

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This Good news of God’s healing and redemptive mercy is one of pure love, a love revealed on the Cross and perfected in His Resurrection to new life. At once, it represents a gift, an invitation and doorway to the glory of the Easter Season. Jesus, I trust in You is the words inscribed at the bottom of the Divine Mercy Image given to St. Faustina by Our Lord. How much do we trust in God’s holy will, which according to the closing prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet represents “Love and Mercy Itself” (Diary, 950). This is the question I find myself asking over and over again, not only in the face of trial and difficulty, but also at the moments of profound glory. Could this possibly be true, did the Lord rise, did He just give myself and my family such a profound and miraculous gift? Can this gift be true, certain and dependable, or am I simply exhibiting wishful thinking? Join me today, six days after Easter and one day before Divine Mercy Sunday, as I share my own family’s journey from the pain of the cross, to the glory of the resurrection, and finally to the certitude of hope which can only be found within the Healing Eyes of God’s Mercy.

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Huge Divine Mercy Statue positioned on the grounds of the Marion Fathers of the Immaculate Conception Cana Pilgrimage Retreat House, overlooking the Shrine of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, in Kibeho, Rwanda.

Excepts taken from my soon to be released book: The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. When my now seventeen and a half year old adoptive son, Joseph, was 13, he and I boarded a plane destined for the small African country of Rwanda. Two months earlier, I had distinctly heard my spiritual mother, Mary, say, “Bring your child to my Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.” I knew that Joseph’s special needs, aggressive acting out, and difficulty with crowds, would prove challenging, however, I offered my loving obedience just the same. Although I placed my trust in Jesus, I did not recognize the profound blessings awaiting each of us in the rolling hills of Rwanda. There, within the joyful hearts and smiling faces of the Rwandan people, we would find the power of forgiveness, Mary’s unconditional love, and the resurrected hope and glory which always follows the cross.

About two years earlier, Joseph, diagnosed with bipolar mental disorder, had suddenly found the growing demands of middle school too difficult to manage. Aware of his apparent social and academic failings, he chose aggression as his preferred method of escape. Unfortunately, these acting out episodes, once saved for the safety of our home, began to occur during tutoring sessions and unstructured school time. It was then, amidst the chaos of my son’s growing sense of pain and isolation, that I cried out on my son’s behalf. “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Us? Please, Merciful Father, help me reach my son, Joseph! We are in desperate need of Your mercy.” That following weekend, Tom and I enrolled our son in a tranquil, tucked away Sacred Heart Brother’s boarding school for boys. Excited about the future possibilities, we looked forward with hopeful optimism for Joseph’s new start that fall.

It was July of 2012, two months before Joseph’s new start, that he and I boarded that plane to Kibeho, Rwanda. Three days later, we pulled into Kibeho’s Cana Pilgrimage Center, exhausted by the long and bumpy eight-hour drive from the country’s capital city known as Kigali. Bright and early the next morning, Joseph set out to discover all the marvelous things awaiting him on the pilgrimage center grounds. Two hours later, he returned to the room shoeless, and began describing the exciting start to his day. While praying beneath a thirty-foot tall Divine Mercy Statue of Jesus, Joseph met a bright Rwandan teenage boy named Jean Bosco. Jean Bosco spoke decent English and was able to discuss many important things with Joseph that morning, including his deep love for Mary, Our Lady of Kibeho, and his constant desire for knowledge. He explained to Joseph his dream of attending boarding school one day and his desire to help the people of Rwanda obtain a better life.

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Right to left: Joseph pictured with Jean Bosco, Jean Claude and Innocent.

Although I was overjoyed by this wonderful encounter, I looked down at my son’s bare feet and asked, “Joseph, where are your shoes?” He simply replied, “Jean Bosco needed them. His feet were all dirty because he didn’t have any of his own. I figured, since I have so many, I could give him the pair I was wearing.” In the face of such a kind gesture, I simply replied, “You’re right. I am proud of your generosity, Joseph.” Next, Joseph asked, “Mom, can we help Jean Bosco go to boarding school?” I replied, “Joseph, I think that is an excellent idea. Dad and I will make this happen, I promise.” Jean Bosco and Joseph became inseparable for the remainder of the trip. They played soccer, prayed at the Divine Mercy statue, walked the Stations of the Cross, and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Five years later, our son, Joseph, is one year away from High School graduation. He has been confirmed, has consecrated himself to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and is looking forward to a promising and faith filled start to Jr. College next year. Prior to our trip to Rwanda, Joseph was testing at 20% compared to his peers. This past Monday, his practice ACT test results placed him at 89%. Our family has indeed risen to resurrection glory, as family prayer and trust in Jesus took hold of our relationships. The willing acceptance of the crosses in our lives, our blind trust in Jesus amidst these most difficult of times, and the eternal hope of new life in Christ is indeed true. Jesus has risen! He desires nothing more than for us to come to Him and throw ourselves into His merciful and loving arms. We do not have to convince God to be merciful to us because He says, “I am Love and Mercy Itself” (Diary, 1074). He is always ready to pour His merciful love into our hearts if we are only willing to ask and receive Him. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20).

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Joseph and I at the Easter Vigil Mass last Saturday.

On April 30, 2000, St. Pope John Paul II declared that from then on, throughout the Church, the Second Sunday of Easter would be called Divine Mercy Sunday. He stated that the message coming to us from God about the “Easter message of Redemption” not only included the suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ, but also the sending of the Holy Spirit on this Feast of Divine Mercy, the Octave Day of Easter. At this same celebration, he canonized Sr. Maria Faustina, who was instructed by the Lord to share His urgent message of mercy with a troubled, modern world. We can recall this message by remembering the ABCs of Divine Mercy:

A: Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

B: Be Merciful to Others. God wants us to receive His Mercy and let it flow through us to others. Gaining a greater understanding of Divine Mercy leads to a deeper appreciation of many existing Church teachings such as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy include: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, comfort the imprisoned, visit the sick and bury the dead. The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy include: admonish the sinner, instruct the uninformed, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, be patient of those in error, forgive offenses, and pray for the living and the dead.

C: Completely Trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

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Recent picture of Jean Bosco and other students whom Tom and I have helped over the last four years. Since that time, I have formed a non-for-profit company, entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, dedicated to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Various outreach efforts include providing assistance for the people of Rwanda, Haiti and the Holy Land, along with active evangelization efforts as a member of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization). My new book, entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love, is due out this June. Please visit our website http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com or email me at karen@spiritualsafariguide.com to learn more about our charitable outreach and my soon to be released book. Thank You.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.comC

All Hail to the King: A Catholic Mardi Gras Celebration.

Join us today as we keep our eyes focused on Christ and discover the Catholic history behind the feast known as “Fat Tuesday.”

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Catholic school children and faculty celebrating Mardi Gras, a feast which anticipates the coming of Lent and Easter Triduum.

Mardi Gras, which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French, is associated with the Roman Catholic season of Lent. Although many see this celebration as an overindulgence prior to the rigors and personal sacrifice of Lent, this does not truly reflect the holiday’s original intent nor the focus of faithful Catholics around the world. Historically, Fat Tuesday marks the last day of ordinary time prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting and repentance. Today, Mardi Gras celebrations occur in Roman Catholic communities throughout the world, including Nice, France; Cologne, Germany; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to name just a few. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, perhaps the most famous Fat Tuesday celebration in the United States, started in the early 18th century. While its parties and wild debauchery often garner the most media attention, this stereotypical behavior greatly maligns the original Catholic intent of the celebration.

But what of Mardi Gras’s modern day similarities with the ancient pagan festival known as Lupercalia? A slight review of Church history is required when addressing their apparent similarities. Lupercalia, an ancient Roman fertility celebration, did, in fact, include the feasting, drinking and inappropriate carnal behavior often associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. To highlight the historical connections and disconnections between these two celebrations, one pagan and the other Christo-centric, we must revisit the early writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604 AD). In his epistle to St. Augustine of Canterbury, Gregory details his desired evangelization approach when converting the Anglo Saxons of England. His instructions: destroy only their idols, sprinkle their pagan temples with holy water, raise in them Altars and relics of saints, and replace their pagan celebrations with celebrations focused on holy God and His saints. According to Gregory, seeing that their sacred places where not destroyed would help them “remove error from their hearts” and instead know and glorify the true God in their accustomed sacred places and festivities.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we read, “for though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1Corinthians 9:19, 22-23). In the same way, the Catholic Church, throughout the ages, has incorporated many of the original teachings of Jesus into local customs, festivities and religious practices to help guide the faithful. Examples include the celebration of the Mass and Lord’s Resurrection on Sundays (the pagan day for worship of the Roman Sun God), the Catholic celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 (pagan celebration of the birth of the Roman Sun God) and Mardi Gras celebrated on the Roman pagan feast of Lupercalia. Each of these solemn events, although replacing a pagan feast day, find their origin in the many biblical accounts of Christ’s life, including his Resurrection, birth, 40 days of fasting in the desert and Easter Passion, Death and Resurrection. Unfortunately, both in historical and modern incidences, many have continued to embrace the very pagan practices needing the healing light of Christ.

In Romans 12:2, we read, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” So, what are some ways that we, as Catholics and Christians, can celebrate and participate in a Catholic Mardi Gras celebration? I would suggest the following:

  1. Eat a king cake as a reminder of the true King of kings, the Savior whose arrival we celebrate every December 25th,
  2. Give gifts to the King of kings, as the three wisemen did on the feast day of the Epiphany (January 6th). Remember their generosity each time you shout, “throw me something mister,” by recycling your beads and other Mardi Gras throws, and/or donating them to Habitat for Humanity or St. Michaels School for special needs children in New Orleans,
  3. Make a toast to the true King of kings, not the king of any particular Mardi Gras parade,
  4. Teach your children about the true meaning of the Mardi Gras celebration. Take them to receive ashes the following day. Help them select a generous Lenten offering and sacrifice in preparation for the Easter Triduum. Help them understand the connection between Christmas, Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter, so as to better appreciate God’s plan for our salvation,
  5. Celebrate our Catholic heritage, recognizing God’s deep love for each of us and the sacrificial offering of His Son for our salvation. Welcome others into the family of God (the Church), for there, we find the boundless grace, blessings and joy of true Christian celebration.
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Christmas celebrates the arrival of the promised King of kings and Savior of the world (December 25).

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King’s day celebrates the arrival of the three wisemen on the Feast Day of the Epiphany (January 6). Pictured above is a king cake and its surprise content, a replica of the baby Jesus.

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Mardi Gras marks the final day of ordinary time prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting and repentance.

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Ash Wednesday reminds each of us of our eventual death and the promise of eternal life made available through Christ’s death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

Palm Sunday at Sacred Heart Church in Boston's North End

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to His passion and death. Jesus is the paschal lamb, the promised sacrificial offering of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

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Easter Sunday celebrates Christ’s glorious Resurrection. The sacraments of the Catholic Church draw their meaning and grace from the Resurrected Lord and the transformative love of His Holy Spirit. Many catechumens are welcomed into the Church during the Easter celebration of the Mass. 

2017: A Lesson in Humility.

As I look back over my year, I see slamming doors, unexpected detours and hills left to climb, and yet, at the same time, I see a year forever marked by the transformative powers of the Holy Spirit. This has truly been a year of contrasts, one filled with personal failings and unfulfilled aspirations, along side unbounding love and divine transformation. “What do all of these things have in common?” you may ask. Each one represents a single baby step towards the virtue of humility.

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Humility is often defined as temperance which exhibits neither pride nor self-deprecation. In a religious context, it can mean a recognition and submission of oneself in relation to God. In both cases, humility is an outward expression of appropriate inward regard.

Humility is the most basic of all the Christian virtues. In order to love God and neighbor, we must forget ourselves and believe in someone greater. This someone is the Triune God (God, the Father, Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son and the love between them, which is the Holy Spirit). Although humility is the most basic of Christian virtues, it seems the most difficult to achieve. Ironically, the verbal recognition of its gain, may actually indicate its loss. Simultaneously, its stated longing may ultimately magnify the lack of it in one’s life. Despite these challenges, I find myself in awe of what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in a willing heart.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come. Make us a holy family founded on love.”

This simple prayer has been at the start of every one of my family rosaries, nightly prayers and silent meditations over the last year. Perhaps this simple prayer, or act of surrender, has been the source of this year’s profound transformation. My son, Joseph, who has struggled for years, has made miraculous progress, both as an individual and as a family member. Over the last year, I have watched in amazement as my husband, Tom, has become the spiritual shepherd and protector of our family. In both regards, I have tried for years to accomplish what the Holy Spirit accomplished in record time. “What was different about 2017, you may ask, besides our family prayer?” I would say, it was my own getting out-of-the-way and trusting in the Lord to make all things new again. Perhaps only through the recognition of my nothingness, in comparison to the omnipotence of God, was I finally able to surrender my all in loving trust.

This was not an easy feat, for it required self-awareness, determination, and desire. A simple letting go or getting out-of-the-way can sometimes be harder than the most valiant of personal efforts. Doing anything, for me, is much easier than doing nothing. Failing is much easier than never trying. However, over the last year, it was in the not trying that I actually found my greatest success, for this was a success not based on my own ability but on the ability and pure gift of the Holy Spirit. This was my greatest gift and lesson in 2017. A gift which came on the other side of many closed doors, failed attempts, and thwarted plans, for it seems it took my actual giving up to finally give it over to God.

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I have heard that the doorway to heaven has only one handle. Pulling as hard as we can to open this doors seems a worthy task. However, the irony remains, that it is a door only opened by Jesus Christ and at the end of it all, it may be our persistent pulling which ultimately blocks our final entry.

Our family’s miraculous success, achieved after the finality of my personal surrender, is perhaps as ironic a lesson to learn as is the virtue of humility itself. This kind of self-emptying and letting go seems a particularly hard lesson in today’s world of self-empowerment, self-promotion, and self-satisfaction. Surrounded by the material success and self-determination of today’s many heroes and world leaders, it proves challenging to embrace the almost “retro” message of humility. This is as much a counter-cultural message today as it was during the time of Jesus. Despite this fact, however, it is no less timely. Today’s self-reliance, self-determination, and material success seems to lead humanity further from happiness, for trapped within our very selves, how can we find love? It is love, the love of God, which ultimately leads to true happiness. It is often, from within the silent emptying of self, the emptying of our many thoughts and possessions, that we can finally hear the voice of God.

This emptying, or quiet simplicity, was probably best illustrated to me during my recent pilgrimage to Rome. There, I sat on the small, single bed of St. Teresa of Calcutta, perhaps the most humble person of the 21st century. St. Teresa is a woman who always surrendered herself to God. It was only through the emptying of herself out in love, that she was filled by the unbounding love of God. Filled with His love, she became a beacon of light and love to all those she encountered. This is my goal or resolution for 2018, to empty myself, so that I too, can be filled with the transformative power and love of the Holy Spirit. It is only in the emptying out that one can be filled up with something new.

May you have a wonderful New Year filled with the Spirit of Love. Amen.

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Mother Teresa’s room at the Missionaries of Charity House in Rome, Italy.

Closing 3:00 Prayer for Divine Mercy.
Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

 

My Jesus, My Home.

Home is Where the Heart Is. I am sure you have heard this saying many times, but have you ever taken the time to contemplate its Christian implications? As we approach December 25th, the celebration marking the birth of Jesus in a rustic home away from home, let us pause to reflect upon its deeper meaning.

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The Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene. The scene of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem has been pictured and used in church services since the first century. The nativity scene we think of today finds its origin in Greccio, Italy, where St. Francis of Assisi set up the first live Christmas Creche on Christmas Eve, 1223.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a home is one’s place of residence. To me this defines a house not a home. In regards to a home, I sense a deeper, more intimate meaning, one involving personal belongingness and happiness. The physical location of our house may change but the emotional constancy of our home usually travels with us. This emotional connotation, in my opinion, best reflects the nativity scene pictured above. There, in the small town of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and their new born Son, Jesus, found themselves far from their town of origin or house in Nazareth.

I can easily relate to the Holy Family’s experience as I recall my own son’s birth on Jan 6, 2001. It was two weeks before Christmas and my husband, Tom, and I had traveled to Daytona Beach, FL in anticipation of our son’s upcoming birth and adoption. Away from home, but not alone, we welcomed the birth of our only son, Joseph, three weeks later, on the Feast Day of the Epiphany. He was and is our greatest gift from God, more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That special day, our family of three found a temporary home away from home in a Holiday Inn Express located two miles from the Daytona Speedway. Despite the noise and multiple distractions, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude. We were right where we longed to be. We were home.

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The Grotto (or cave) of the birth of Our Lord, located in the lower level of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

About 8 years back, I had the privilege of going to the Holy Land and visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I walked in His footsteps, and those of His mother, Mary, I actually touched the very spots where Love was born; born in a stable in Bethlehem and perfected on the Cross in Jerusalem. Included in my pilgrimage was a visit to the ancient remains or foundation of Mary’s home in Nazareth, the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. In Nazareth, I not only saw the remains of Mary’s house but also the Grotto of the Annunciation. This cave, connected to the backside of Mary’s house, was where Mary gave her “fiat” or yes to God, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say,” (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s loving obedience, trust and joy, in the face of such confusion and fear, provides us with a deeper understanding of the meaning of home and an intimate peek into her Immaculate Heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a name used to refer to the interior life of Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, but most of all, her virginal love for God the Father, maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and compassionate love for each of us. Near the Grotto and remains of Mary’s family house, I once again found a home, for there, my heart was filled with the love of my spiritual mother, Mary. There, in Nazareth, I found my spiritual home safely tucked away within the chambers of her Immaculate Heart.

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The Grotto of the Annunciation, located within the lower level of The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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The foundations of Mary’s house in the ancient town of Nazareth.

This past November, I traveled to Italy with Teresa Tomeo, Kelly Wahlquist and the women of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization), as we walked in the footsteps of many Catholic female Saints, including St. Claire, St. Katherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Perhaps my favorite of all our destinations was the small town of Loreto, located in the mid-western Italian province of Ancona. In this small town, we found the walls of Mary’s Nazarene House, the home where Mary raised her Son, Jesus.

How, you may ask, did Mary’s house from Nazareth find it’s way to Loreto, Italy? According to Church tradition, it was in 1221, during the Crusade time period, that this ancient domicile was transported by angels to Loreto. I have no trouble believing this story, for just as the angels announced the coming of the small babe, Jesus, in Bethlehem, so too, could the angels have transported Christ’s original house to the home country of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. A second rendition of this miraculous story tells of a royal family named, the Angels, who meticulously transported the Holy House of Mary to Loreto for safekeeping. The House of Mary is pictured below.

 

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Pictured above: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy House of Loreto, otherwise known as Mary’s House.

Our group spent over two hours in the Holy House that morning. It proved an unforgettable experience for me. Quietly, I leaned up against the very walls where Mary raised her Son, Jesus. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “This is my home,” I thought. “This is the place that I long to be, where I want to spend my time.”  Amidst the ancient walls of Jesus’ childhood home, I found spiritual warmth and safety. As I pondered these feelings in my heart, I suddenly found myself, once again, within the confines of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. There too, was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for Mary always points me toward’s her Son, Jesus. My home is with Jesus, deep within the confines of His Most Sacred Heart. He goes where I go. Present too was His mother, Mary, and her Immaculate Heart, for the two Hearts are bound together in love, the love of the Holy Spirit.

 

Yes, home is where the heart is, however, the question remains: Where is your heart this Christmas Season? Is it with the Lord and His Mother Mary? This is an appropriate question to ponder this Christmas Season, for as St. Augustine of Hippo says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.”

“Home and Jesus! The two should be inseparable. Husband and wife need the clasp of that infinite love to keep their hearts true to each other. Parents need the guidance of that infinite wisdom and the power of that infinite strength to keep them patient and long-suffering and gentle and wise in the training of immortal souls,” (Albert Elliot Kittredge).

“It is to Jesus Christ we owe the truth, the tenderness, the purity, the warm affection, the holy aspiration, which go together in that endearing word – home; for it is He who has made obedience so beautiful, and affection so holy; it is He who has brought the Father’s home so near, and has taught us that love is of God.” (James Hamilton)

May the love of the Lord fill your home and your heart this Christmas Season. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com