Saturday, September 3, 2016

W. W. M. T. D.? What Would Mother Teresa Do?

W.W.M.T.D.?      What Would Mother Teresa Do?

September 5, 1997 was the day Mother Teresa died. My husband and I were beginning R.C.I.A. classes to reconcile our Christian faith with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Communion of Saints was new to me. I was just exploring Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses... Well, this cloud of witnesses; that really opens it up!
But there were so many saints proclaimed by the Church! Which one do I pick? Who do I most identify with? Also, was it okay with God that I talk to these saints?

Baby Steps

I was familiar with baby steps because I had plenty of them pitter pattering all over the place. Our fifth child at this time was four months old. “A little child shall lead them…” Katie Joy went with me everywhere, including RCIA classes.

Mother Teresa seemed like a safe bet. I didn’t need to pray to her, but I could certainly learn from her. And like today, 19 years later, Mother Teresa’s name and story were showing up everywhere, even in the mainstream culture.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because humility is universal. Everyone finds true love of neighbor, inspiring. She didn’t judge anyone based on religion, ethnicity, or wealth. In fact, she chose the lowly, the outcast, the poorest of the poor. In them, she saw the face of Christ. Mother Teresa was countercultural. She always did the opposite of what the world esteemed as valuable.

People were drawn to that. They still are. And they will continue to be.

I had a coffee table book of photos of Mother Teresa. I’d heard about her at Mass. I learned of her example in the hand-outs that the kids came home with from Sunday catechism classes.

Some time after that, I started teaching as a catechist for elementary aged children.
I came across this picture within a curriculum:
Mother Teresa.jpg

I was so impressed by this because of the photo itself but also the caption: Mother Teresa holds a baby girl with one arm. Can I say, “Moved to tears?”

I ripped this drawing out of the spiral teacher’s guide, framed it, and hung it in my laundry room. Whenever I felt that dirty clothes were getting the better of me, I’d gaze at the picture. It gave me perspective, against my whiney first world meltdowns. After contemplating its profundity, the mismatched socks, the ‘wet the bed’ sheets, and ‘never seeing the bottom of the hamper’ woes didn’t seem so important.

I learned a little about Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I admired that they lived in solidarity with the poor they served. How it was sweltering hot in Calcutta, India, but the nuns slept on simple mats on the floor with no ceiling fans, let alone, air conditioning. I was impressed by the habit she chose for her nuns, the white sari with a vivid blue stripe. The simple spiritual uniform cost only $1. It reminded me of a ceramic bowl I received from a nun who was moving back to her hometown to retire and she had to give away many things.

Mother Teresa’s example inspires me to examine myself, my standing with my relationship to God and my neighbor. Have I loved my children, submitted to my husband, shown mercy to my friends, and enemies?

About three years ago, I went on a business trip with my husband. We’d been Catholic by then, about 17 years. I’d grown comfortable with the saints and their place in my prayer life. My devotion to the Queen of Saints, Our Lady Mary, had developed to a level where I was frequently praying my rosary and counting on her as my mother and prima uno intercessor.

During this trip, we stopped at a shopping mall. I walked into a Macy’s department store to the cosmetic counter. You can’t do a trade show without your make-up!

A kindly petite brunette lady stepped out of the Estee Lauder booth, smiled big, and asked me if I needed help. I felt a little embarrassed, because most of the time, I buy my make-up at the drugstore. But since we were in the mall, and out of town, I thought, “What the heck? Let’s see how the other half lives.” I really wanted a makeover. Just a teensy one.

Her name badge said, ‘Kola’. She had a tinge of an European accent. Her eye went right to my Miraculous Medal necklace. She said, “I like your medal.” I warmed to her instantly. She then said, “I grew up in an orphanage in Albania. Mother Teresa visited when I was about nine years old. She blessed all of us, and gave each one of us a Miraculous Medal.”

Kola told me that years later, she came to the U.S. as a student, met her husband, and now they have three children.
I replied, “I think the Miraculous Medal worked.”

Kola applied my makeup, sold me on foundation, and put a smile on my face for the rest of the trip. She is my Mother Teresa connection.

When I’m feeling convicted about materialism, I think to myself, W.W.M.T.D? I also remember Pope Francis’ new year’s resolution of making the more humble purchase. I choose the less expensive.

When I’m cranky with my family, I remember her words,

“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

When I am overwhelmed with feeding the hungry, I remember her words,

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

What are your favorite quotes from Mother Teresa?
Please share a situation where she has influenced you.
After all, we do share in the Communion of Saints.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Autism Awareness: Light It Up Blue

Blue: The Color of Heaven

Light It Up Blue!

It’s April, Autism Awareness Month.

April also signifies National Poetry Month.

How do I compete with that?

Well, waxing poetic... Paul’s life is a poem.

Paul ran a half-marathon on April 2, 16

Here Goes:

    First things first. The coffee pot. After a restless night of haphazard dreams, that earthy caffeine is the only way I’m going to get this party started at five am. We have to leave by six for a half marathon that Paul is running today. Western Carolina University is an hour away.
    At 26 years old, Paul must depend on me to drive him to the race. He’s anxious (in a good way) to get there. I asked him the night before what he’ll wear.

     “My long running pants and running shirt. And a running shirt with long sleeves… I think-- (he draws this out slow). I’ll wear different shoes in the car and change into my running shoes for the race.”

    I’m listening to him close these days-- paying attention and measuring how articulate he’s grown the past few months.
    I attribute these subtle victories to what Our Lady refers to as “signal graces”. I’m a rosary prayer warrior. There are 15 promises associated with faithfully praying these divine mysteries. I’m starting to recognize their fulfillment. I pondered this, ‘signal grace.’ What does that mean? I take it to believe that it is a sign connected with what is so deep within our heart of hearts; that God hears our cry, our prayer. Paul’s 'peace', is a subtle, quiet victory. It’s not lost on me. I’m not alone in this. Every ‘autie’ Mom out there knows what I’m talking about.

    We get on the road. It’s pitch black in the mountains, no street lights. But we’re used to it. We stop for gas at Ingles. Paul doesn’t lose an opportunity to sneak in the grocery store with the night stockers to use the bathroom. The store wasn’t open yet and Paul stealthily stepped underneath the sensor to walk in. If anyone noticed, they didn’t say anything. They probably recognized him anyhow in our small town, “Oh that’s Paul. He’s alright.”

    Back on the road, the minutes seem to tick tock past, fast. We should have left earlier.

The morning sky emerges. It’s a privilege watching dawn rise over a blue ridge line.

    I lift my faithful rosary beads off of the rearview mirror. I can’t tell if its rattling disturbs Paul or he’s settled by it. Probably somewhere in between. I begin with the Seven Sorrows of Mary Mysteries. I’d picked up where I’d left off from Friday...Third Sorrow: Losing Jesus In the Temple.

    My thoughts: Oh Mary, how did you stand it? I always think of losing my Paul at Hilton Head Beach for a couple of hours as he wandered off for a walk without telling anyone. It’s part of my meditation to apply my own real life struggles to Mary’s; her's to mine. “Jesus, I worship you in this mystery.”

    All of a sudden Paul starts clenching his fist and smashing one against the other palm. But he controls it-- it’s diminutive. This is a recent trend for him to calm down sooner than later. I’m trying not to get anxious myself, for fear that he’ll crank higher and we’ll suffer an episode the whole way there. As the driver, it’s distracting. We experience it all the time, my husband and me, sometimes his siblings too. It’s like being around somebody in a bad mood. You never get used to it. You just endure it.

    “What’s wrong?” I ask.
     Paul speaks in fragments.
    “I’m worried of silliness. Of daydreaming--talking to myself--when I shouldn’t.
     When it’s inappropriate.”
    He continues: “Do you think I should be not talking out loud? Do you think I shouldn’t be not appropriate this way?” His voice rises and loudens.

    He stammers his words, showing the frustration he harbors for himself.

    I say, “Paul, let’s not focus on what’s wrong. Let’s focus on what’s right. I’m proud of you. You are articulate. Do you know what that means? Have you heard that word before?”


    “It means that you express yourself well. You don’t speak in broken sentences anymore. You’ve grown in how you speak. You can have a conversation now. We can talk about things.”

    “Okay,” he settles.

    I launch into a prayer aloud, taking the risk that it will annoy Paul.

    “Guardian Angel, and St. Michael (Paul’s patron saint), please help Paul calm down and let him know how much God loves him. St. Michael, the Archangel, please commission your healing angels over Paul.”

    I still feel strange, when I pray like this, something I started only recently. I was a Protestant so many moons ago. I was taught that we pray only to Jesus, not his mother, not the angels and saints. Old cemented foundations crumble hard. But I’m stretching my wings of faith. When your child is autistic, you’ll go out on any limb, even if it breaks, because it may just help. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘faith’, believing though you can’t see.

    Paul instantly stops his clenching and slapping.

    Is it because he’s 26 now? Human development and maturity we take for granted in our neuro- typical children. In our autistic children, it manifests as miraculous.

    We come up on the turn that short cuts our route to WCU. I’m nervous. Even with the GPS, in our rural area, the satellite doesn’t always get it right. Space is far away from where we live in the boondocks. The GPS adds 20 minutes to the trip. “What?!” I panic. Paul groans, “ugh, ugh, ugh.” He wrings his hands. This doesn’t help. What is the point of a shortcut if you get lost anyway? Somehow I think there’s a lesson here.

    We make it with 40 minutes to spare.

    It’s chilly. It will be good for Paul running 13 miles. He’ll warm up quick. He takes his place at the starting line. No lack of confidence here with about 40 or so runners all together. The starter prepares the racers with housekeeping details, water tables at the mile splits, ambulances at checkpoints, massages and food wait at the finish line, blah, blah, blah. “Are you ready?” she shouts. Paul soundly replies, “Yes!” (As if his response will start the clock.)

   I note that Paul is extremely composed. He’s aware of the other runners, and totally at home among them.  I see a maturity in him, earned from experience in running but also from living 26 years on the planet. He stretches a tricep and takes a deep breath. He’s trained as best or better than most, I know. in athletic cardio circles, our mountains are the reason for the adage, “West is Best.”

   “HONK!” There he goes!

“Go Paul!” I yell, then whistle with a thumb and middle finger underneath my tongue. An old swimmer whistle, now a lifeguard for my adult autistic son. My 5k race starts 15 minutes later. I run in solidarity with Paul. Really there is no other reason than to stay in shape for my job as a Mom, an advocate.

    Paul finished in 7th place with a time of 1:34. He placed third among his age group. Tough crowd. I thought how brave he is, how disciplined. I also thought that the autism hampered him a little. He wasn’t aware that if he’d trained a little harder, a little smarter, maybe ate less french fries, he’d do even better. But does that matter?

    He wasn’t angry at not placing first, or second, or even third. This too is a recent development, his acceptance of himself.

This was Paul’s race.
His race.
Blue. The color for autism awareness.
He lit it up blue that day.
For so many.
Blue. The color of heaven.




Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mary, Our Tabernacle of Mercy

We're starting the Year of Mercy on this special feast day.

One of Mary's days, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. December 8.

And like the way God does things, there is nothing more appropriate.

It's great to be Catholic. To belong to the church that Jesus founded, built upon the rock of Peter, sealed and guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his church. This is Scripture.

A few months ago, I completed a personal pilgrimage called Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, guided by the writings of St. Louis de Montfort. It has been a life changer.

My consecration ended on August 15 which is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Yes, she was assumed into Heaven. Didn't suffer a mortal death. Why do we believe this? Well, there is no tomb that holds Mary's skeleton in the ground. I would think that the Mother of God would be commemorated that way, if she had; wouldn't you? Is is a stretch for me to believe that? No. Through Scripture we can infer that Elijah was assumed and also Enoch. For a fuller explanation, please see,

And there we may say, "But those cases are recorded in Scripture." If it's not in the Bible, it doesn't count. Not if you're Catholic. Why? Because we believe that the Church existed before the Bible was shared in 60 or so A.D. The church gave us the Bible. Look at 1 Timothy 3:15. Our Apostle Paul says, " If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. We take that scripture quite literally.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus' conception. We already know He was conceived and preserved from sin. He, being fully human, yet fully divine.
What I've come to learn and believe is that Mary was conceived and preserved from sin. St. Anna, Mary's mother was from a devout lineage of Hebrews, called the Essenes. They were looking for the promised Messiah. They devoted their lives to God in every detail of their earthly existence. This included the marriage bed. These devout souls took it all very seriously and only came together in order to conceive a child and give glory to God. This wasn't happenstance. Mary as the Mother of God wasn't a case of random selection. She was chosen by God; for God. Through His grace, she consented and said yes. She chose to cooperate with the divine will of God. Mary was not an everyday person. She was holy. Are we saying she was divine? No. She is not part of the Trinity, but she certainly plays an essential role in the salvation of every Christian, whether he or she acknowledges her or not.

This leads me to devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. I count her also as my spiritual mother. 

Do I worship her? No. Like I've said before, we don't worship Mary. We just don't ignore her.

But where in Scripture does it say that Mary was sinless? Where does it say she was assumed into heaven? If it isn't spelled out in Scripture, "I don't believe it," many say.
Why is that? 

The Catholic Church is not a secret society. The documents are public and for every one to read. Just like Jesus. He preached openly for everyone. The word, "Catholic" after all comes from the Greek word, katholikos, meaning universal: from kata ‘with respect to’ + holos ‘whole.’

Here's the thing. On the one hand, Catholics take Scripture literally. We recognize scripture to be All authoritative. Every word is sacred, every word is divinely inspired. All Scripture is derived from Truth. And because Jesus is the Way, The Truth, and the Life, we know that the Word of God is how He communicates with us. But because God is infinite, we know that every situation, every truth, every miracle, every mystery is not contained in a bibliography of 73 holy books. Scripture even tells us that!

John 21:25: But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

On the other hand, because God can not be contained and his truth is endless, and He gave us the church, we trust the Holy Spirit for discernment, for interpretation. We can through critical thinking, infer truth based in the Church and from Scripture.

I believe that Mary was preserved from sin. That fits what I've learned about how God does things. He loves his only begotten son. He is well pleased with Him. Why would He not specially preserve his son's mother from original sin? Why is that such a stretch? If you were God, wouldn't you? When I prepare food for my family in the kitchen, I try to make sure that the sink is clean, the pots are clean, and the dishes and silverware are washed; spotless, actually. And I'm only human. When a surgeon operates on a patient, every thing is as sterile as he can get it? Right? To prevent disease, or infection. Sin is disease. Sin is infectious. To me the question becomes, "Why wouldn't God preserve Mary from sin?"
Mary being preserved from sin doesn't take away from our worship of God. For me, it enhances my worship of God. My all knowing, all loving Creator, who doesn't leave anything out, doesn't waste anything, and thinks of everything.
Jesus was raised by Mary. God entrusted his son to her. In her humility, she relied not upon herself to care for Jesus, but with every fiber of her being, she trusted God her Father in Heaven. She didn't demand attention. She said in her canticle recorded in Luke 1: 46-55: 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
For He has looked with favour on His lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.

He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children for ever.

There is nothing here where Mary demands the attention. To me, she is the perfect example of a Christian; one who leads all to Jesus.

I'm also thinking about Gabriel when, he said, "Hail! Full of grace! The Lord is with you." Luke 1: 28. When a container is full, that means there is no room for anything else. Mary was full of grace, full with Jesus. There was, is, and never will be any place for sin in the holy vessel that Mary is. Then there is St. Elizabeth who followed with, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Luke 1:42. And by the way, Scripture says that Elizabeth was full of the Holy Spirit when she said this.

I've asked myself these questions: "Why would I dig to find dirt on Mary? Would I do that to my own mother? Why is Mary's sinless condition a threat to my relationship with Jesus?" It is not a threat. Her Immaculate Conception is an affirmation to my belief in my savior Jesus Christ, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He will come to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.
Recently, I recalled verses from Revelation that helped me conclude that the ignorance of Mary that Christians have is rooted in Satan's ploy to divide the Church. When Satan failed in his attempt to murder the Christ child, Scripture says that he went about seeking to devour Mary's children. Revelation 12: 15-17:
15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.

It is time to be bold about our faith. Let us not be ashamed of our salvation. Let us not be afraid to love Jesus and love his Holy Mother. Mary doesn't detract from our relationship to Christ, she enhances it.