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!

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

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

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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.