Mary at my side

Note: This article was originally published in the Catholic Free Press and Catholicmom.com. It was noticed by Spirit Catholic Radio and they called me for an interview! The interview appears at the end of this post.

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Our backyard is my little slice of paradise. After the loss of our above-ground pool a few years ago, we replaced it with a carefully planned patio. The space includes a lovely koi pond (without the fish), equipped with a fountain. Complementing the pond are plantings of yellow lilies and tall grass. A cherub statue, looking up as if pondering, sits on one of the rocks.

This is my place of prayer during the warmer months. On a loveseat next to the pond I spend twenty minutes each day at dawn saying my morning prayers and meditating on a hymn. I look forward to this time of quiet. Some nights I go out and brave the mosquitoes to meditate at the pond; the fountain’s LED light causes the water to sparkle.

A few weeks ago I felt a sudden impulse to add someone else to my pond – The Blessed Mother. Recalling a statue in the basement, I brought it up and placed it on a rock next to the cherub. I love gazing at her as the fountain sprinkles water down like rain around her. And at night, the LED light shines on her.

Mary and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship but it is certainly no fault of hers. I have spent a lot of time with Mary in prayer groups and in reading yet I could not seem to grasp in my head or or my heart how or why I should spend time with her. It took a small family crisis to answer that question and draw me back to her side.

A short while ago my son and I had a serious falling out. We fundamentally disagreed on an issue and could not find our way back to each other. It broke my heart. We had always been so close, sharing thoughts and dreams together. The day of after that falling out, I thought of Mary and fled to her side. I prayed by the pond both day and night, shedding tears and asking for her help.

Like her Son Jesus, Mary does not ask, “Where have you been? Why have you been ignoring me?” She does not pass judgment or make me feel guilty. She opens her arms and welcomes home her errant child. I felt no hesitation in turning to her. She is a mother; she knows.

Over the course of a month I turned to her daily. I even repositioned the statue so I could see it from my bedroom window. She is a constant reminder and a perfect reflection of that sweet and special love of the Father, Son and Spirit. A love freely given to me, and one I do not deserve. And yet I can accept it and that, to me, is one of the great mysteries of a relationship with the Omnipotent God. He has no reason to love me other than the fact that He is Love itself.

Mary, of course, heard my prayers and set to work, and in the end my son and I reconciled. That first phone call that set things right again was a balm on my heart, dispelling the grief and healing the wound. Mary had sent a sign signaling the change of heart, one which I was fortunate enough to recognize because she opened my eyes to see it.

She heard me. Even though I had turned my back on her in the past, she attended to my needs. All it took for me to reconcile with my son was a simple invitation; it was the same with Mary. With Jesus, she waits for any sign of turning around, of coming home. Like the Father to the Prodigal Son, she too rushes to my side.

That line from the Shakers hymn, “Simple Gifts,” says it perfectly: “To turn, turn, will be our delight; till by turning, turning, we come round right.”

Here is my interview on Spirit Catholic Radio –
click on the image to listen:

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Recognizing the creative person within

I manage a blog for a dear friend with a beautiful heart. I just had to share her latest post with you. It reflects what I wrote in chapter 5 of my book, River of Grace, which describes a similar idea — that we are all called to create with what we have been given. To find that storehouse of creative energy, we must get in touch with our Creator who fuels that energy. My friend Brunhilde uses her creativity to inspire us to come closer to God. The beauty of her paintings and her words is a great way to start that movement towards the One who created our vast world, and us, out of nothing. We in turn, have all of his creation at our disposal to use towards bettering our world and drawing closer to each other in love.

Brunhilde has recommended a book that I will be ordering for myself soon.

I hope you enjoy this lovely reflection.

Psalm 42:2-3, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God.” When I created this painting I truly cried out to the Lord, not in sadness but in love to […]

via In Prayer and Meditation — Brunhilde Luken, artist and writer

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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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Prayerful resources for your Lenten reflection

Lent is already well underway but perhaps you are still in need of ideas for your reflection. Click on any of the images below for blog posts, songs, videos podcast presentations and Flow Lesson exercises to enhance your Lenten experience:

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Do you have a particular spiritual practice that helps you draw closer to God? Please feel free to leave a comment and share–we can all use new suggestions!

And please–feel free to share on your social media:

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May you have a blessed Lent and a Happy Easter!

 

A Spiritual Exercise Using . . . Spaghetti!

This is from my book, River of Grace – give it a try!

bending and breaking

This is one of the many Flow Lessons in River of Grace – here are more to try …

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In celebration of Lent: Praying Twice – Singing the scriptures with the St. Louis Jesuits

A celebration of Lent? Isn’t that a contradiction?

Denis Egan ssc_0414
Denis Egan ssc_0414

Those of us who grew up in the pre-Vatican II church and for sometime after saw Lent as dour and depressing, maybe even … creepy. I know as a child I was always put off by the purple shrouds covering the statues in the church. In my childish mind, it’s as if they were dead.

John Ragai Ash Wednesday Lent Season 2015
John Ragai Ash Wednesday Lent Season 2015

And who can forget being smeared with ashes on Ash Wednesday as the priest intoned, “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”

Lent used to be all about repentance but with a negative twist.

To many, it merely felt like piling on the guilt for past transgressions. In actuality, repentance really means coming back home where we belong, to be filled with holiness so that we can then share it with those around us.

Isaiah 58:5 from today’s lectionary (Feb. 20)
describes the negative approach to perfection:

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Yet, this is not what our Lord desires. Instead:

US Army Garrison Red Cloud - Casey Camp Stanley volunteers support local soup kitchen
US Army Garrison Red Cloud – Casey Camp Stanley volunteers support local soup kitchen

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! (verses 6-9a)

So, shouldn’t Lent be more about saying “yes” rather than saying “no?”

While I have been rethinking words such as “discipline” and “obedience,” seeing them more now as life-giving “yes” words (see previous post), I hadn’t done that yet with Lent. Until, I chatted with one of you.

In our chat, the reader said she looked forward to Lent as her “favorite time of the year,” adding that Lent is “an opportunity to work closely with the Lord to make change in myself .”

That made me stop short. I couldn’t enter into Lent now with that same dread I carried since my childhood. Couldn’t I too look at Lent as “an opportunity?”

We may fast from foods or back away from activities that have consumed us
(like the boob tube and the internet) but isn’t fasting really about creating space for something better?

Creating that space requires discipline. Yet filling that space with something holy can turn out to be far more satisfying in the end.

On the ride home last night I decided to sing to God to begin filling that space.

The St. Louis Jesuits, from kilisyano.blogspot.com
The St. Louis Jesuits, from kilisyano.blogspot.com

I wanted to sing songs where I knew all the words; this made me think of the St. Louis Jesuits.

Anyone involved in liturgical music from the 1970’s and 80’s will know the music of the St. Louis Jesuits. Their folk-style, scripture-based songs created a revolution in liturgical music (a revolution that was not embraced by everyone). But I embraced it. And when I found playlists on YouTube of all of their music, I broke into song joyfully.

If you have a smart phone (and a robust data plan), you too can sing along with the St. Louis Jesuits all the way home.

Singing the scriptures drew me into a deep place of prayer.

  • I shed tears singing “Be Not Afraid”  as I thought of the Christians in the Middle East being martyred and driven from their homes.
  • I meditated on the wonder of God as I sang along with “O Beauty Ever Ancient.”
  • I smiled and sang out with joy upon hearing “Sing to the Mountains.”

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And then I thought, I have to share this opportunity with all of you.

Come and enter into prayer by singing the scriptures. There is nothing like music to move the soul, to tap into those things you wish to bring to God in prayer.

If you can, try singing with the St. Louis Jesuits the next time you have a long ride in the car. Here is a complete list of all the playlists on YouTube.
A word of warning: YouTube inserts an ad after every two songs played, just so you know. But the experience of singing the prayers of your heart make that interruption tolerable.

Lent can indeed be a time of celebration.

A time of joining with God and being filled to the brim with his Spirit so that you too will feel a compulsion to share.

Copyright 2015 Susan W. Bailey

Artwork: Denis Egan ssc_0414Flickr Creative Commons, John Ragai Ash Wednesday Lent Season 2015 Flickr Creative Commons, The St. Louis Jesuits, from kilisyano.blogspot.com

Holy Silence – from The Holy Rover blog

Obtaining true silence, that stillness of the heart and mind open to hearing the whisper of God from within, is one of the most challenging aspects of the spiritual life. I believe it is the most important thing we can do for if the voice of God is continually drowned out with our busy lives, we will miss the truth.

Christian singer Michard Card says it so beautifully in his song, “The Final Word:”

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

What is Holy Silence? How do we quell the noise in our lives? One of my favorite bloggers, The Holy Rover, has a wonderful post about silence that I wanted to share with you.

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Icon of Elijah at the mouth of the cave (Wikimedia Commons image)
Icon of Elijah at the mouth of the cave (Wikimedia Commons image)

One of the pleasures of being married to my husband has been the many stories I’ve heard through the years about philosophers and their peculiar habits. One of my favorites is about a friend of Bob’s who several years ago gave a lecture in a philosophy class and then was asked a follow-up question by a student. In response the professor said, “You know, that’s really a good question. Let me think about it.” And then he sat down and thought about it. And then he thought about it some more. He furrowed his brow, he got up and paced across the floor, he stood looking out the window with a faraway look in his eyes. The minutes ticked by slowly as the students watched him in growing bemusement. Finally he gave his answer, clear and well-reasoned. And after class the students spread the story as proof of just how strange philosophers can be.

What flummoxed the students, of course, was the extended silence. Most of us are uncomfortable with silence, especially in a public setting such as that. But even when talking privately to a friend, we typically rush in to fill any pause with words. So the example of the philosopher in class, of someone being comfortable with an extended silence, conveyed a message that probably went unlearned by most of his students.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Click to Tweet & Share: Holy Silence – from The Holy Rover blog http://wp.me/p2D9hg-tG

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