It was not the usual “Paint with a Twist” class where there is wine served in a party atmosphere. Instead, we would be praying with words, song, brush and paint.
Reluctant to participate
The teacher had to cajole me to participate as I was concerned about covering the story and taking photographs.
I had not painted since high school and had long since forgotten how to create art in that fashion. My memories consisted mainly of my frustration at painting because I micromanaged the process rather than allowing that process to direct my brush strokes. By the end of high school I had given up on it.
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:
Do technology upgrades drive you crazy? What if they could teach you about how you react to change in your life? In my latest column for Catholicmom.com., I draw connections between how we react to technology change and the curve balls that life can throw at us. Here’s a tease …
Recently I posted on my beasone.org blog about big changes coming to my site (I have totally revamped it with a fresh new look and lots of extras). Even as I was gushing on and on in my post about how “this will translate into a more enjoyable experience for you,” I thought about how much I dislike website upgrades.
I could hear myself grumbling: “Why change it; I like it just the way it is!” “I can’t find my favorite posts!” “Where is the contact information; I want to complain!”
An ungracious response
I remember a few Christmases ago when I had asked for a new iPod, specifically telling my husband that I did not want the then-new touchscreen technology. I just wanted something that played music and held more of it. When I unwrapped the box on Christmas morning I saw an iPod. With touchscreen technology. I did not react with grace and you know you’re being a jerk when your own kids call you out on it! Yet within a week (after profusely apologizing) I was hooked, having discovered apps …
This is from my recent Tech Talk column on Catholicmom.com. Portions of this article were taken from my upcoming book, River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, from Ave Maria Press. It is available on Amazon.
Round 1 takes place October 20, 21, and 22 – Submit your name and nominate your favorite charity.
Round 2 will take place October 23, 24, and 25 – Vote on the final 3, as selected at midnight, PST, by Lisa Hendey.
First Prize: $250 to your favorite charity and a signed copy of The Grace of Yes
Second Prize: $50 to your favorite charity and a signed copy of The Grace of Yes
Third Prize: A signed copy of The Grace of Yes
I will be posting a review of The Grace of Yes on November 3, the date of the book’s release. This book embodies all that Lisa Hendey is and has been to so many Catholics. Her generosity knows no bounds. She is everyone’s cheerleader and prayer warrior; her wisdom is simple and yet profound.
There is a saint for each of us, who understands our inner selves.
What would it be like to have a heart to heart with your favorite saint?
Recently I was looking for a saint. Not one to pray to necessarily but one to relate to. I wanted to read about someone who was a homebody like me. Someone who was quiet, who, from all outward appearances, didn’t accomplish big things. Someone who was overly sensitive at one time, easily hurt, scrupulous. I needed a “heart-to-heart” with that saint.
I had had a hard month. At God’s invitation I had offered to chair a group of women who put on a diocesan women’s conference every other year. Leadership was never a good fit for me but God had asked so I said I would. Although the conference went off without a hitch, there were many snafus and near disasters in the weeks before the event. I took my responsibility as chair very seriously and chastised myself for incompetence. By the day of the conference I felt like a bloodied, defeated warrior. I knew I was being overly scrupulous but I could not stop myself. Could I find a saint who had felt that way too?
I found her in Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
St. Thérèse was not new to me. Several years ago I was introduced to her through a parish mission. The teacher, Sr. Debra-Thérèse Carroll, CTC, took on the persona of Thérèse and told the story of her life as documented in her autobiography, Story of a Soul.
I was captivated. Never before had I heard of such a path to holiness. As Sr. Debra spoke I could imagine St Thérèse speaking with her small, childlike voice.
For the first time, the path to sainthood looked doable for the average person.
It was my introduction to faithfulness to the smallest things and the sacred nature of the mundane. After that mission Thérèse became a part of my prayer life.
That was fifteen years ago and I had fallen into forgetfulness. Now I felt a prompt to remember. I pulled out an old copy of Story of a Soul and started reading it. I had tried reading the book several times before but couldn’t relate to it. This time as I read I could feel the consolation. She did indeed write about scruples, saying once of herself,
It was during the retreat before my second Communion that I was attacked by the terrible disease of scruples. One must have passed through this martyrdom to understand it. It would be quite impossible for me to tell you what I suffered for nearly two years. All my thoughts and actions, even the simplest, were a source of trouble and anguish to me; I had no peace till I had told Marie everything, and this was most painful, since I imagined I was obliged to tell absolutely all my thoughts, even the most extravagant. As soon as I had unburdened myself I felt a momentary peace, but it passed like a flash, and my martyrdom began again. Many an occasion for patience did I provide for my dear sister.
There was something so comforting in reading this passage.
A great saint, a doctor of the Church had gone through what I was going through
and legitimized it by called it suffering.
Scruples is self-inflicted, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Better yet, Thérèse wrote about how the Lord healed her of this suffering:
My extreme sensitiveness made me almost unbearable. All arguments were useless. I simply could not correct myself of this miserable fault. How, then, could I hope soon to be admitted to the Carmel? A miracle on a small scale was needed to give me strength of character all at once, and God worked this long-desired miracle on Christmas Day, 1886.
On that blessed night the sweet Infant Jesus, scarce an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave; He put His own weapons into my hands, so that I went from victory to victory, beginning, if I may say so, “to run as a giant.” The fountain of my tears was dried up, and from that time they flowed neither easily nor often.
I realized that I too had received such a grace.
The day after the conference I decided to not to go to Mass at my own parish. Feeling exposed and raw, I didn’t want to run into anyone I knew. There was a church nearby; our former associate, Father Steve, was now the pastor.
No one celebrates the liturgy quite like Father Steve. His reverence, love and knowledge of each and every ritual raise the celebration to a high art form. His church is a beautiful old cathedral, frescos on the walls, statutes of saints surrounding the sanctuary, and a statue of St. Thérèse in the corner, holding a bouquet of roses. The words spoken and the music sung reverberate throughout. Father Steve is the curator of a large collection of first class relics which are displayed in the side chapel. Six of those relics were set on the altar, each with a blue votive candle.
The sight of those saints caused tears to flow and they kept up, on and off, throughout the Mass.
During the Lamb of God, Fr. Steve broke the bread slowly, deliberately, and when he dropped the smallest piece into the chalice it seemed to fall in slow motion. The broken body of my Savior sprang to mind and the full meaning of His sacrifice for me washed over me.
By the time the mass was over, I had been cleansed of my scruples.
I too received a grace, just like Thérèse, to overcome this fault.
St. Thérèse is now my constant companion. How wonderful that our Church provides us with these saints that we can not only pray to for intercession but that we can walk with, relate to, and learn from.
There is a saint for each one of us. Who is your special saint and how has he or she walked with you?
Recently I met with a mother and daughter from our parish to conduct an interview for the local Catholic newspaper. Chris and her teenaged daughter Katy had attended our diocesan women’s conference together in 2011 and I was curious as to how a mother managed to cajole her daughter to give up a Saturday to gather with mostly older women and learn about her faith. After a lively hour the interview was over and Chris and I lingered over coffee and muffins to share tales and concerns about our spiritual lives. The time flew by and we knew by the time I left that we would do this again.
Our hearts and minds connected instantly, finding so much in common. We bonded through our common faith and deep desire to grow in love of God.
Ever since I was a teenager, I have craved such relationships. Throughout high school I was blessed to have been part of a regional non-denominational youth fellowship run by a famous Protestant church in Boston, Park Street Church. Twenty-five kids from our high school belonged to this group including my future husband. Every Friday we’d get together and play volleyball, sing at the top of our lungs and listen to inspirational preaching about what it was like to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Fellowship with other Christians was an integral part of this group and it left me with a lifelong desire for such friendships. I moved on from the group after college and marriage but I never lost my need for a community of believers. It haunted me for years to come.
My rebellious years arrived during my twenties. It didn’t appear that way on the outside as my husband and I faithfully attended mass and got ourselves involved in various church activities. But inside I wandered aimlessly. People at our church were very nice but they were so much older than we that we found little common ground. My husband and I had not yet learned to share our spiritual lives with each other so my faith withered in isolation, much like the seed on dry ground. My thirst for Christ and for other Christians gnawed at me endlessly but I had no clue how to quench it.
Each year just before Easter, Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic “Jesus of Nazareth” miniseries would air on the TV and I would fall in love again, crying copious tears. I wished fervently for those feelings of love to remain alive. But, in an instant they would pass and I’d return to my cold isolation.
A breakthrough finally came in my mid-thirties. At that time I was a mother of two young children. I worked the second shift at a local daily newspaper, often coming home after midnight. Faith at that time came down to the perfunctory attendance of mass each week, no more. A new passion had taken over as I poured myself into my job, wishing to advance up the ladder. In the process I offended a colleague whom I had been friendly with. She in turn wrote a disparaging letter about me to another colleague and strategically left it where I could find it on the computer. Late at night as I was finishing my shift, I read the letter. In stunned silence I could feel a pressure on my chest as hurt, anger and confusion welled up inside. Desperate to keep my feelings secret I rushed to the ladies room, breathing heavily and sweating profusely. My supervisor caught wind of my plight and followed me in, asking what was wrong, and I shared what happened. Her kindness dispelled the anxiety and I was able to get ahold of myself.
That letter was a gift in disguise. The next day, still distressed over what my colleague had said about me, I turned to a book by Chuck Swindoll called Simple Faith and read a section about forgiveness. I fought vehemently against the notion, crying out to God that I could not forgive this woman. It was then that I finally realized my need for God to take over and I asked Him to help me forgive her.
God was tremendously gracious to me. He filled my head with many practical ideas as to how to make amends. This woman had no idea I had found the letter so I could act clandestinely. I remembered things we had talked about in the past, especially the soap operas, and chatted with her about them whenever we were together. I found my mind opening up again to God’s grace and my heart softened, becoming pliant, and ready for whatever He wanted. I left that job two months later, walking out the door with a bottle of champagne and best wishes from that colleague.
My relationship with God restored, that longing for fellowship with other Christians burned inside of me. Knowing my need, He led me to a morning bible study at our parish. I struck up a conversation with another mother who eventually invited me to a rosary prayer group. In the process, I met a precious new friend in the Blessed Mother. Shared the rosary and our lives together, my thirst for Christian fellowship was being quenched after eighteen years of wandering alone in the desert. The grace of those friendships poured over me like a balm, healing the wounds brought on by isolation. My pride and arrogance began melting away as I turned over my life again to God.
Over the years I have continued to seek out and develop relationships with other Christian women with whom I could share my faith. These relationships are some of the most precious gifts God has given me. My friendship with Jackie, a homebound woman, is one I particularly treasure. We spend a couple of hours together each week chatting about our interests and eventually, sharing deeply about our growing love for Jesus. That time together is a comfort to our souls and a light to our minds and hearts. The insights fly back and forth, fast and furious, with deep joy and passion. We laugh, cry and learn from each other.
My husband’s discovery of his vocation as a deacon opened up his heart and deepened his zeal. As he read and studied, he began sharing with me what he was learning. His insights taught me and my feedback helped him to better understand what he was learning. Sharing our faith lives together has deepened our love for each other and created a wonderful sense of harmony in our marriage
More than ever I am convinced that we are never meant to walk with God alone. The day that Jesus began His public ministry, He called Andrew, Nathaniel and Simon Peter to follow Him. While He would retreat to hilltops in the middle of the night to pray alone with His Father, He was never far from His friends, even walking on water to be with them. After ascending to heaven, He provided the Holy Spirit, to bind together His followers in love and unity. He foresaw the difficulties and dangers of following His path and thus freely gave of the Spirit to them.
A favorite icon by Rublev of the Holy Trinity best describes why faith in God can only live and grow in community. In the icon, we see three angelic figures, each looking at the other with indescribable love. Henri Nouwen described it as an endless circle of selfless love, a circle that each Christian is invited to join. The Trinity is the symbol of perfect and live-giving community, the Church that Christ has given to us through the Holy Spirit.
Long ago God had planted that thirst inside me for friendships with my spiritual brothers and sisters. He is continually calling me into that circle, just as He calls all of us. Faith cannot grow, cannot live without that vital food. It took me eighteen years of aimless wandering through the desert to figure out what I had already known and experienced as a teenager. I’m always amazed how dense I can be!
My new friend Chris is now a part of my circle and I look forward to the growth of our friendship as God continues to reveal Himself to us.
Recently I posted a review for my monthly column on Catholicmom.com that was a sheer pleasure to write. For years I have longed for my lifelong friend from high school to write a book. Overcoming many odds (some of which you will find out about in the following review), Reg has finally done it, assembling her many award-winning columns into a collection. If you think that holiness is just for long-dead saints, read on.
Written by M. Regina Cram, Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life is a collection of her award-winning columns from the Catholic Transcript (of the diocese of Hartford, CT) and the Hartford Courant. Cram’s candor, laced with humor and free of self-indulgence and melodrama, makes this book a breath of fresh air.
I must insert a disclaimer here: Reg Cram is a lifelong friend but I had no idea she could write like this. The book grabbed me in an instant and never let go.