“Peaceable Kingdom” — a view of heaven from the book of Isaiah

louisa coverNOTE: I just found out my publisher, ACTA, is giving away 15 free copies of Louisa May Alcott Illuminated by The Message in honor of our favorite author’s birthday. Go here http://actapublications.com/louisa-may-alcott-illuminated-by-the-message/ and type in code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout.

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I could not resist posting this video of my song, “A Shoot from Jesse” from my album, Wait with Me: Advent of the Promised Son. It is today’s first reading from the lectionary, Isaiah 11.

I invite you to listen to the song and read the lyrics for a look at a truly Peaceable Kingdom, the one we all long for.

lyrics to “A Shoot from Jesse”

I also invite you to visit pray-as-you-go.org for a wonderful 12 minute reflection on this reading.

We surely need a Peaceable Kingdom in our world. Christmas heralds its coming in the birth of Jesus, in history and in our hearts.

Here’s a sampler video from Wait with Me to put you into the mood. Enjoy!

Happy Advent. Come Lord Jesus, come!

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Exploring the Eastern Catholic Church awakens a vocation to the priesthood

NOTE: This is my front page article in this week’s Catholic Free Press (November 11, 2016).

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St. Ann Melkite Church, Waterford, CT.

Dennis McCarthy drove by the same church each day on the way to work in Hartford, CT. The sign read “St. Ann’s Melkite Catholic Church” and it looked like no Catholic Church Mr. McCarthy had seen before.

“[I] always wondered what it was,” said Mr. McCarthy in an email interview. “One Saturday, I was driving by on the way to do some errands, and I saw the priest coming down the driveway to get his mail. I stopped and asked him what a Melkite Church was. He said if I had a few minutes, he would explain and show me the church. He did and he invited me to Liturgy the next day. I went that day and kept going!”

The priest gave a generous gift of his time; the fruit of that gift was a reawakening of a vocation in Mr. McCarthy. He began attending St. Ann’s in 1995 and was ordained a deacon in 2003.

Mr. McCarthy grew up Roman Catholic. He was attracted to the liturgy (called the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Catholic Church) because it reminded him of his time as an altar boy serving at the Latin mass (especially the high mass) – “it was something that was familiar to me – the incense, the icons. It seemed familiar although it was a completely different rite.”

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His wife Lisa, also Catholic, was taken aback at first as the Eastern Catholic Church is not well known to Roman Catholics. Mr. McCarthy invited her to come to Divine Liturgy with him as she was curious about it, and she came to understand better her husband’s attraction. “It was an education process,” he said.  They maintain an ‘East-West’ home as Lisa has remained Roman Catholic.

“A priest told me, ‘People pray in different ways, they are comfortable in different rites; there’s nothing wrong with that,’” he said.

Deacon Dennis McCarthy

Mr. McCarthy served for several years in the military before settling in CT. A change of jobs brought him to the Worcester area where he now serves as deacon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Hamilton Street in Worcester, MA with the Rev. Paul Frechette.

Deacon Dennis has a BA from the University of Connecticut in Economics, an MA in Human Resources Management from Pepperdine University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and an MA in Theology from Providence College. He is currently enrolled in an advanced Theology Certificate program at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

The Eastern Catholic Church contains twenty-three different branches including the Maronite and Melkite communities. The Eparchy of Newton, led for the last five years by Bishop Nicholas Samra, oversees the Melkite Church. The Eastern Church celebrates the liturgy using the Byzantine rite. In 2014 Pope Francis lifted the restriction on Eastern Churches ordaining married men into the priesthood as had always been their tradition. Through aggressive and effective outreach to men, Bishop Nicholas has ordained several priests and deacons: “Eleven priests and eight deacons. Two [are] celibate eparchial priests and one religious. The other eight are married priests,” he said.

Bishop Nicholas, aided by Deacon Dennis, ordains Rich Bailey as subdeacon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Worcester, MA.
Bishop Nicholas, aided by Deacon Dennis, ordains Rich Bailey as subdeacon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Worcester, MA.

The Melkite Church is experiencing much growth in the last several years. “Requests for new missions have increased,” said Bishop Nicholas through an email interview. “One of the reasons is the horrific war in Syria and the economic problems of the entire Middle East. We have received many newcomers from the Middle East and we are trying [to] locate as many as possible to keep them attached to their Melkite traditions.”

Many non-Melkites are choosing to join the church because of their attachment to eastern spirituality and liturgy.

As a result of this growth, Bishop Nicholas made an extraordinary appeal to the Pope. “I requested from Pope Francis to name a second cathedral in the USA – the parish church of St. Anne in Los Angeles. He consented graciously and we celebrated this naming with the presence of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and delegate of the Pope to proclaim the cathedral.” It is hoped that a second eparchy can be created in California.

Bishop Nicholas Samra celebrates liturgy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Worcester, MA.
Bishop Nicholas Samra delivers his homily during the Divine Liturgy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Worcester, MA.

Deacon Dennis McCarthy is part of this growth by making the decision to explore his vocation more deeply.

“I always felt a desire to perhaps be a priest growing up, but focused on other things. The interest was awakened after I had been a part of the St Ann community in Waterford for a few years,” he said.

The priest at the time, the Rev. Damon Geiger (now stationed at St. Jude Melkite Church in Miami), encouraged Mr. McCarthy to consider becoming a deacon. “I was so new I didn’t even know if you could be married and be a deacon. He’s the one who asked me and asked me to pray about it. I talked to my wife about it and decided to try it to see if it was the right thing to do, which it proved to be.”

When the path was opened regarding married priests, Deacon Dennis knew it was time to pursue his vocation as a priest. Bishop Nicholas’ support and encouragement has been a key factor in Deacon Dennis’ spiritual development.

“Bishop Nicholas has been a really good leader. Having been born in the United States and growing up [here] while having the Middle Eastern background, he is the perfect bridge between the United States and the Patriarch. He’s really got a plan for the church; he’s got a very practical approach to the practical, everyday necessities of the church to have it survive. He’s done all the right things. He’s got a mission and a vision and he doesn’t veer from that. That’s comforting to know to have someone like that at the helm of the church. He’s been very supportive of me since I became a deacon,” said Mr. McCarthy.

Despite logistical hurdles, Bishop Nicholas is committed to ordaining married men to the priesthood.

“The church is still struggling with it because you have the issue of health insurance for the spouse — if the spouse doesn’t have health insurance and you have to cover the spouse now along with the priest. And what about the kids? There are financial concerns that the eparchy is still struggling with. It’s been a bold move on his [the bishop’s] part,” said Mr. McCarthy.

Deacon Dennis is both excited and at peace about his future. “It is very humbling to think about the possibility of celebrating the Liturgy as a priest,” he said.

Note: Susan Bailey’s husband, Deacon Elias (Richard Bailey) served with and was mentored by Deacon Dennis while serving at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on Hamilton Street in Worcester. He aided in the writing of this piece.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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The Feast of All Souls — a sense of “Going Home”

Do you believe that life ends here …

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or perhaps, somewhere else?

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Today’s Feast of All Souls gives me pause; I wonder …

  • My mom and dad are gone, but are they? Where are they?
  • Where will I be going? Where do I want to do?
  • Do I believe there is something beyond this life?

For some reason I have always had a strong belief in the afterlife; it’s what got me through the deaths of my parents. I remember looking at my mother’s casket covered in beautiful purple and white flowers and feeling a strong sense that she was safe and free from pain. It was because she was well loved whether she knew it or not. Her beautiful memorial service showed that love to the capacity crowd that was present.

I believe that love never dies.

Whether our loved ones live on in our memories or actually “live” someplace, perhaps today is a good day to think about such things. Let go of fear and allow the imagination to fly higher and deeper, to that place where we truly live forever with our Creator.

We are loved. And love never dies.

This video of one my favorite pieces from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” performed by Libera can perhaps lead you to such a place. The video provides the beautiful lyrics to this hymn.

May your reflection fill you with hope of things to come.

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Dedicated singers ease the journey home

NOTE: This story ran in the Catholic Free Press on October 21, 2016 in their Bereavement supplement.

Each Wednesday afternoon, eighteen men and women gather at the Congregational Church in Westborough to rehearse songs for performance. They have come from various churches, Catholic and Protestant, in Westborough, Northborough and Marlborough. Some come from the Westborough Community Chorus and the Assabet Valley Master Singers. The performances for which they rehearse are however, not meant for entertainment.

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(L to R) Jim Nolan, Mary Beland and John McCann are members of the Journey Home Singers and all are members of the St. Luke the Evangelist choir in Westborough, MA. Beland invited both men to join the Journey Home Singers.

The Journey Home Singers sing in homes, hospitals and nursing homes to hospice patients. “Our intention is to bring comfort, beauty, caring and compassion with our singing to anyone who wants us to visit,” said Kathy Todd, director of the Journey Home Singers.

Todd started the group in June of 2009 after attending a singing workshop in the Berkshires. During that gathering, flyers were distributed for a workshop involving hospice singing. Todd was immediately intrigued, inspired by her own personal experience with caring for a dying sister.

“We started [the Journey Home Singers] in June of 2009, which was about six months after my oldest sister died,” recalls Todd. “My sister Martha had been ill with COPD for several years, and had just entered hospice care at her home in August 2008. On August 19 she fell and broke her hip and was taken to ICU at St. Vincent’s in Worcester. About a month later, doctors determined there was nothing more they could do for her, other than having her live attached to a ventilator. My youngest sister and I kept a vigil with her that night after she decided not to go with a ventilator. Time spent by her bedside was the first catalyst that led me to realize a vision that became the hospice choir.”

The workshop was run by Hallowell from Brattleboro, VT. Their mission is to offer support to the dying by bringing comfort, calm and beauty. After attending, Todd felt compelled to start a group. “I thought about it for a long time, I had no experience as a director,” she said. She decided to call her choir the Journey Home Singers, inspired by a song she heard at the workshop, “Angels Hovering Round”: “We’re on our journey home…”

Todd began her search for members, beginning with her choir at the Congregational Church in Westborough. She expanded that search to other church choirs and community choruses. Mary Beland, member of the St. Luke the Evangelist Choir in Westborough, was one of the first to join.

“I received notice from Betsy Sowers (a friend of Todd) that the Journey Home Singers was just being conceived and Kathy was searching around for singers to join,” said Beland who is also a member of the Assabet Valley Master Singers. Recently she invited fellow church choir members Jim Nolan and John McCann to join.

Once assembled, Todde sought to publicize the group. “I work for the Community Advocate (out of Northborough) and they were very supportive,” she said. The newspaper did a story on the Journey Home Singers in 2010 and granted Todd time off as needed to do the performances.

Because they seek to personalize their song selections for each patient, The Journey Home Singers offer a wide repertoire of songs taken from both Christian and Jewish traditions. Soon after the article ran, Todd connected with Mary Poole, once the hospice chaplain at Beaumont Nursing Home in Westborough who assisted Todd in in this effort by supplying the patient’s first name and last initial, faith tradition and condition (responsive/unresponsive).

Beland’s motivation for joining the group was similar to Todd’s. “I was already comfortable with the idea because I sat with my sister while she was dying. She and I shared the same love for music.” She knows that as a ministry, one may not always get feedback from a patient. “If you want applause, you might not get it,” she said.

Nolan feels it is a way to continue to have music in his life while helping others. He too understands that responses will vary although he has noted a “flutter of an eye, a tear, a raised hand” from those to whom he has sung.

McCann was motivated to join because of a rather involved experience he had years ago traveling to Guatemala with his then teenaged son only to return and discover that his brother had unexpectedly passed away. He recalled a moment when he was alone during the trip, surrounded by the wind, noting the quiet and sensing that something was happening.

“In Lo De Bran in the early afternoon, I was sitting alone by a well, on a wall. No one was near me. I was surrounded by a gentle soft warm wind which engulfed me. I felt a little different, but did not think much of it, other than it was very hot … I … felt a very quiet peace.”

When he learned when his brother had been stricken, he realized it had happened while he was sitting by that well. “The Good Lord kept Jim in our presence for three more days, allowing my son Aidan and me to return safely from Guatemala and to be with him. I could never explain how even in the horrors of Jim’s death that God can be so good so as to allow Aidan and me such special moments with Jim just before he died.” It was this experience that prompted McCann to minister to other such people through the Journey Home Singers.

Stories abound of experiences with patients. Todd recalls a man who kept a hymnal near his bedside but was unable to hold the book open due to his condition. “He was a singer – after one song, he joined in even though he really couldn’t hold the book. It made him so happy,” she said.

One experience involved a little girl. “We went into Boston Children’s Hospital to sing for a seven-year-old girl — one of our toughest. She was not conscious and had seizures three to four times a day. The whole family was there, so upbeat. They put their arms around her and sang to her – they would sing along with us,” recalls Beland.

The Journey Home Singers thus fulfills a much needed mission. “If can we talk about dying and be aware of our own death, we can become more comfortable with it and use the time have now in a much more effective, more beautiful way. We’ll live well,” says Todd.

If you are interested in joining The Journey Home Singers, you can contact Kathy Todd at lightsong60@gmail.com or call 508-335-1043.

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available!
Purchase here.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Groundhog Day – reliving the same challenge again and again

groundhog-day-chris-piascik-flickr-creative-commons
Groundhog Day Chris Piascik, Flickr Creative Commons

I never could sit through “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray. Relive the same day over and over? No thank you. And yet, I can’t get away from my own Groundhog Day – the weakness in my life that haunts me, again and again.

What’s yours?

How many of us have those physical “weak spots” in our bodies that constantly succumb? The sore throat that signals a cold. The leg once broken, now chronically stiff. The back that aches simply by standing in place too long.

Spiritual weak spots

st. nicholas ted, Flickr Creative Commons
st. nicholas ted, Flickr Creative Commons

There are spiritual “weak spots” too, brought back to life again and again by circumstance. Mine is managing money – we always seem to be short. The same financial problems repeat themselves endlessly. Right now we’re going through a season of endless hits – dental bills, medical bills, car repairs. I climb two steps up the slippery slope only to slide back down another ten. It is death by a thousand cuts, wearing me down, making me tired and discouraged. Frankly it’s boring, eating away at any desire to approach God and ask again for the grace to continue in the battle.

St. Nicholas, patron saint of finances, must be sick of hearing from me.

The scars of repetition

It’s not like I don’t know why these things happen. We are poor money managers because making lots of it has never been a priority. We accept that. Decisions were made to favor other aspects of our lives rather than money. But the security of having enough would be nice!

Once upon a time my husband and I were polar opposites – he, the spender; me, the penny-pincher. The last major financial challenge forced us to meet in the middle and come together as partners. Learning to work as a team surely helps and I am grateful for that lesson learned, but it didn’t come without scars. Scars of shame at my own stupidity. Scars of loss when we’ve fallen short of meeting our obligations. Scars from feeling the need to keep our money problems a secret. Those scars make it hard to trust; I am stuck.

Injured Piggy Bank With Crutches Ken Teegardin, Flickr Creative Commons
Injured Piggy Bank With Crutches Ken Teegardin, Flickr Creative Commons

These periodic problems with money only fuel the desire to penny pinch and that’s the deepest wound of them all. I am small-hearted when it comes to giving money because I just don’t trust that God will provide what we need. I can trust the Lord in so many areas of my life but when it comes to finances, the well runs dry.

I am guessing this is why the cycle repeats itself — God still has something to teach me. Along with the lesson of learning to work in tandem with my husband, I have also learned not to ask God for money to “fall from the sky.” Instead I ask for fortitude, wisdom and patience. I’m guessing I also need to ask just as diligently for healing. And I’m learning to ask others to pray for me.

paul writing--featuredAs St. Paul was not freed from his “thorn in the flesh” after petitioning the Lord, I doubt I will be freed from mine of the spirit. But I can take a lesson from this favored saint who accompanies me on my marathon journey to God each day: accept it and rejoice in it. To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 12:10, when I am weak, I am strong. Because I depend on God’s grace, not my own strength, to get through each challenge no matter how often it repeats. God’s strength never fails.

It could be Groundhog Day every day but God’s grace will prevail. He will test me, prune me, yank up the weeds, teach me. And I will grow stronger through him and closer to him.

Originally published in The Catholic Free Press, October 14. 2016
copyright 2016 Susan W. Bailey

 

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Susan’s latest CD, “Mater Dei” is now available! Purchase here.
Join her at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, MA on Monday, October 17 from 8 to 9 for a Marian concert to benefit Haiti. Free admission, free will offering to be taken up. Songs from “Mater Dei” will be featured.

Many people find coloring to be a wonderful way to relax and experience harmony in their lives. Is that you? Join my Email List to subscribe to this blog and receive your free Harmony coloring book (and more).

River of Grace Audio book with soundtrack music available now on Bandcamp. Listen to the preface of the book, and all the songs.

Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read my other blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

 

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Little things mean a lot to Mary — offering music for Our Lady

In honor of the birthday of Mary, the Mother of God, here is my September column for The Catholic Free Press. I have an exciting announcement at the end of the post.

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madonna-and-childRecently while driving to work I listened to a song about Our Lady of Gaudalupe, I felt a surge of emotion and recognized a feeling I had not experienced in a very long time – Mary’s special touch of peace. I felt elated quickly followed by regret that I had been so negligent in my devotion to our Blessed Mother. It’s so easy to rattle off a “Hail Mary” without a thought! Continue reading “Little things mean a lot to Mary — offering music for Our Lady”

Introducing The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections

I am excited about a new daily devotional coming out from Ave Maria Press called The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections, edited by Lisa M. Hendey and Sarah A. Reinhard. I was asked to contribute 4 devotions to this wonderful book and am honored to be included in this distinguished group of over 80 leading Catholic authors.

I just got my advance copies and I can now share with you one of my reflections:

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Continue reading “Introducing The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections”

A little grace from a BIG God

old poolRecently I lost something I truly loved.

It was a minuscule loss when compared with the suffering of so many around me and across the world. Embarrassed at how much it upset me, I turned to God in prayer and asked for detachment. The prayer was swiftly answered in a way only God could imagine.

So what did I lose? Continue reading “A little grace from a BIG God”

Another great discovery right under my nose!

Remember when I posted about discovering a little piece of heaven across the street from my house? After living there for twelve years?

Looks like I’ve found another treasure in my town. Continue reading “Another great discovery right under my nose!”

Nice, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Orlando, and your own life: When you can’t find the words during desperate times

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a violent storm, in the world around us, and in our own private spheres.

We wake up to another terrorist attack or senseless shooting. We face a crisis of trust in our leaders.

Our faith is under siege. Believers face ridicule and rejection, and for some, martyrdom.

Sickness and death surround us. We witness children in poverty dying of starvation around the world. We encounter suffering, death and grief among our own families and friends.

In the midst of these storms,
do you find it difficult to pray?

Continue reading “Nice, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Orlando, and your own life: When you can’t find the words during desperate times”