God’s surprise gift of love

My latest column in the Catholic Free Press and Catholicmom.

Last year my dear friend lost her dog and her cat after many years together. When I first met Jackie in 2010 she was able to go out with friends and do her food shopping although it took great effort. Diagnosed with Ménière’s, a disease of the inner ear that causes severe vertigo resulting in nausea and dizziness, it has been difficult for Jackie to walk and to tolerate riding in the car. Now eight years older, she is totally homebound. Losing her two animal friends was a blow.

Coping with decline

Jackie is a woman of great faith whose life is an inspiration to me. There is no one who has understood me better than she. We have shared our deepest, most precious thoughts and feeling with each other. Each week when we visit and I bring her Communion, I take note of how she copes with her slow decline. It is hard watching my best friend suffer.

A surprise

Yet, at the same time, I see the move of God in her life. There is no chance of physical healing, although she prayed for that (along with her family and friends). She has resigned herself to God’s will. But it has not made her bitter nor has it chipped away at her faith. Just last week we spoke of how God has a way of surprising us with His love when we least expect it. Just the night before the Lord provided for Jackie with the gift of a new dog. Although it was not in her plan, it was in His.

Love at first sight

Patches, a mixed-breed terrier, is nine years old. She came from a good family but her owners, an elderly husband and wife, had to enter a nursing home and thus she was given up. Jackie’s daughter found out about the dog online and was intrigued by the description of Patches as loving, craving affection, and enjoying being in the laps of her owners. She sounded like the perfect dog. Patches arrived just after Jackie’s 83rd birthday and proved to be everything she was described to be and more. One look into her eyes and we all fell hopelessly in love. Her friendliness, sweet disposition, and her way of cocking her head and dancing when she got excited captured our hearts in an instant. It was love at first sight, for Jackie, and for Patches.

Reminder of God’s love

Looking at the pleasure Patches has brought to Jackie, I feel wave after wave of happiness and gratitude. When she least expected it, God granted her one of her dearest wishes despite the fact that she thought she’d never own another dog. She did not want to burden her daughter and son-in-law with the care and feeding of a dog but they had other ideas. They too love Patches not only for herself, but for the joy she brings to Jackie.

And this is what led us last week to contemplate God’s surprising love for us. Meditating on a Scripture passage before receiving Communion, I read John 10 aloud. Verse 28 was the standout:  “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”

Meditating on that verse, we both spoke of the many ways God shows that love. He knew of Jackie’s inability to leave her home. He felt her loneliness since losing her dog and cat, and her resignation at the prospect of never again enjoying the company of a pet. He understood her many challenges and sent a concrete expression of His sweet, fragrant love to ease her suffering.  It came in the form of Patches.

Always beside us

I reflect often on the image of this little dog cuddling close to Jackie. I think of her daughter and son-in-law’s thoughtfulness in providing this new friend. It all makes me smile. Patches is a reminder to Jackie and all those who love her that God hears the deepest longings of our hearts, and provides. Even as we must carry our crosses we are given refreshment along the way to remind us He walking beside us. In the long and difficult journey home, God never leaves our side.

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Is My Day Your Day: Finding God in others–do we trust each other enough to find him?

Note: My spiritual journal still resides here but I will also be publishing each post on the blog as well.

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MARCH 30, 2016–Today’s readings put forth a common theme–that we need each other. I loved the line from the meditation found at The Word Among Us website:

“There’s something about opening ourselves to other people that makes us more open to the Lord’s presence and his comfort.”

The meditation cites the examples of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, pouring themselves out to Jesus even though they did not recognize him. What they did recognize was his openness to their plight. He was willing to listen.

It also discusses the reading from Acts where Peter and John “give what they have” to the lame beggar–the healing power of Christ.


The meditation concludes with the idea that we most often find God in one another.

Such discovery requires trust. I have to go out on a limb based upon my initial feelings about someone, and trust that they want to hear what I have to say.

It makes me think about the vibe I give out–does my face convey openness, or am I annoyed that you are bothering me? Am I sitting still and being attentive or am I fidgeting? Is my mind focused on you or pushing in the future, waiting for you to leave?

It’s not easy to trust. It’s a lot easier on my part to think that my problem is so “special” that no one will understand it and so I keep it to myself. That’s a form of pride. There is no problem that is unique to one individual. At least one other person in the world has been through my problems. If I go out on a limb and confide in another, will I find God waiting there to listen?

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Be a Light: Living Christmas through Advent by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

The Advent wreath, located on the right side of the sanctuary is a centuries-old Christian tradition.

Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons
Christine McIntosh Advent wreath completed, Flickr Creative Commons

The wreath itself is rich in symbolism: Evergreens signify undying life; life even amidst the barrenness of winter.

The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning and no end, symbolizes the eternity of God, and everlasting life found in Christ.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent.

Three candles are violet and one is rose. The violet candles represent the color of the sky before sunrise; a sign of hope and a new beginning.

The rose candle lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, signifies the joy that hope and a new beginning bring.

The progressive lighting of the candles expresses light overcoming darkness; the light of Christ conquering whatever is contrary to love, mercy and compassion.

Of course, the wreath is meant to signify what Christ calls us to do: Bring light to wherever there is darkness.

Darkness is not confined to San Bernadino, California or Paris, or to the hearts of those who would wish us or anyone harm.

All kinds of shadows and shades of darkness can be found around us:

  • In the home where a child is beaten by hands or by hurtful words;
  • In the office where injustices and dishonesty are overlooked in the name of profit;
  • In the loveless marriage where partners are deaf to the needs of the one they promised to love and cherish;
  • In the residence where the elderly waste away, abandoned by their families;
  • On the playing field sidelines where the push to win the game at all costs, crushes a child’s feelings;
  •  Among friends when an addiction is never addressed;
  •  In our mouths when we speak criticism without being willing to help in the solution;
  • In cyberspace when a 14 year feels as if her reputation has been destroyed;
  • In popular culture, when prayer is mocked and faith is labeled as a “weakness of the intellect.”
  • In that family, where the gay son has been disowned and told that he does not belong;
  • Or, in a parish, when numbers of people and the almighty dollar are more important than fidelity to what Christ taught.
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons
martinak15 83/365 Light in the Darkness, Flickr Creative Commons

None of us are strangers to shadows. We pass through them every day.

Advent beckons us to bring light to wherever there is darkness, whatever be the shade.

How are you being called to bring  “light” to someone, somewhere?

Pray for an increase of light. Pray for the nerve (and for the energy) to be that light.

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Broken dolls, injured kittens . . . Beth March, Cassidy the miracle kitten, and the message of Pope Francis

Last night as I watched Pope Francis speak with thousands at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia I was amazed at his energy. This 78-year-old man has been at break-neck speed all week, traveling first to Cuba, then to Washington, DC, onto New York and now Philadelphia. His schedule has been non-stop. He has given several long speeches in English which he has admitted, is a difficult language for him. Continue reading “Broken dolls, injured kittens . . . Beth March, Cassidy the miracle kitten, and the message of Pope Francis”

Fighting to live, daring to love: The odyssey of Cassidy, the kitten with two legs

When is it too much trouble to care for someone in need? For those in the habit of generous living, it is never too much. And their example lights a way that we can all follow.

Two hard luck kittens

Recently a woman named Shelly took in two nine-week old feral kittens. One of them was deformed. Cassidy had no back paws and one leg was shorter than the other. Yet somehow he managed to survive along with his brother Topper in the forest without any assistance. Their luck was about to change. Continue reading “Fighting to live, daring to love: The odyssey of Cassidy, the kitten with two legs”

Latest Catholic Free Press Column – Lessons learned from crazy cat people

This is my latest monthly column for The Catholic Free Press.
I have now admitted in print that I am a crazy cat lady! 🙂

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I am a crazy cat lady. There, I said it.

While I have two cats of my own, that’s only the beginning. I also follow live kitten cams online and chat regularly with the many viewers. My main reason for visiting Facebook is to follow the lives of foster kittens after they have been adopted. Continue reading “Latest Catholic Free Press Column – Lessons learned from crazy cat people”

True service is getting out of the way: wisdom from Prayers by the Lake

On occasion while driving I will listen to the Ancient Faith Radio app on my iPhone. My husband, an Eastern Catholic and deacon in the Melkite Church introduced me to this treasure. Tuning in I can listen to glorious Byzantine chant sprinkled with prayers and sayings.

One set of prayers frequently used is known as Prayers by the Lake by St. Nikolai Velimirovitch, a modern day Orthodox saint.

Today’s prayer ended this way:

O my illustrious King and my God, to You alone I bow down and pray. Flood into me, as a raging stream into thirsty sand. Just flood me with Yourself, life-giving Water; then grass will easily grow in the sand and white lambs will graze in the grass.
(Prayers by the Lake, XIX)

Continue reading “True service is getting out of the way: wisdom from Prayers by the Lake”

Acts of kindness are alive and well

This piece was posted on the Facebook page of my son Stephen who is 26. I asked him if I could share it with you.

The next time the world starts to get you down with all the darkness, selfishness and cruelty that seems endless, think of little stories like this and remember that decency, thoughtfulness and childlike purity are all alive and well.

After picking up my girlfriend Nic from her place, I noticed a Buzz Lightyear toy lying in the road while at a stoplight.

In a rush of pity and instinct I jumped out of the car to save it from oncoming traffic. As we were driving away, I noticed a Woody doll lying on the opposite end of the street staring forlornly at us as we drove off.

For the next ten minutes I lamented only being able to save one of them from a miserable fate until Nic finally suggested that maybe I should go back and retrieve him as well.

Feeling kind of silly and stupid, but determined nonetheless, I turned the car around at the Hess station in Watertown to go back. Sure enough, the Woody was still lying in the street.

As I pulled over to park, I noticed a tall biker gently reach down and pluck Woody off street and walk to a parked car nearby. Woody and Buzz Lightyear, sidekicks from the Toy Story series,  usually come in a set and figuring if he was rescuing one he’d want the set, I got out of the car and walked over to hand over Buzz Lightyear to him.

Friends forever: Woody and Buzz Lightyear

As it turned out, the Biker was handing the toy to its original owner, a small kid who had accidentally dropped both toys out of the car as he and his mother had driven down the street some time earlier.

“Woody!” he excitedly yelled as he was reunited with his lost toy.

The mother smiled as the Biker and his girlfriend joked that she should drive with the windows up from now on.

The boy’s eyes lit up even more as I handed over Buzz Lightyear and explained that I had found it earlier and felt bad splitting the two famous friends up.

“Buzz!” he exclaimed, and hugged the two toys to him.

There was a quiet moment between the four adults as we all chuckled a little and smiled at each other.

Thinking about it as I drove away, I realized that had I come at any other time, this moment would never have taken place.

I guess it just goes to show that it’s never the wrong time to try and do something nice, even if you’re not sure why you’re doing it in the first place.

Stephen Bailey

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