Take a Spiritual “TRIP” this Advent 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

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!