"We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us." -Pope Francis

our journey to chickens…

 

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Here’s the lovely “before” shot of our chicken coop.  A little more paint and we’ll have an “after” shot to reveal soon!  Stay tuned!

 

 

This spring and summer brought our family a whole new adventure.  We had a comfortable, corner-lot home in an HOA cookie-cutter subdivision, and it was a complete blessing, don’t get me wrong. 

But something was off.  Something about it started to feel a little like that creepy and super cute town in the movie Pleasantville. 

We started receiving letters in the mail.  The first letter showed us a nice picture of our clothesline, full of colorful cloth diapers that we hung on our back deck to dry and to be sanitized by the sun.  The HOA said this was a violation.  Ultimately, we disputed this, and they agreed to let us dry our diapers.  Then, sometimes the grass was too long or some dandelions sprung up, and we would get a letter with a nice picture of grass a few inches too high, showing us our violation. 

My favorite letter was the one showing a picture of our mailbox, explaining that it needed a fresh coat of black paint.  It went on to say that these letters are sent out to improve the “quality of life” of residents in the subdivision.  Now, I understand that home upkeep is important.  But mentioning quality of life in a letter where you’re talking about mailbox paint?  When there are starving people out there who deserve a better quality of life? 

The real kicker was that we found out we couldn’t have chickens.  And something kinda’ clicked.  In a world that relies so much on microwaves and wi-fi, we felt this strong desire, perhaps even a calling, to learn how to become more self-sufficient.  Why not?  What harm could there be in learning how to take care of ourselves? 

So, why did we need to seek approval to put in a new garden bed?  Who were they to tell us we couldn’t raise chickens and harvest our own eggs?  People have been gardening and collecting eggs for centuries all over the world.  Our government promoted victory gardens and taught canning practices after WWII, and now we are choosing to commit to these HOA rules that prohibit self-sufficiency?  What had we signed up for? 

Every week we drive to the grocery store and pile up our carts with food we did not sow, food we did not cultivate, food we did not reap.  Are we grateful for the farmers who dedicate their lives to keeping us alive? 

We often sit in air-conditioned homes in the suburbs, far from the noise and smell of the farms, because we don’t want to hear the roosters crowing that help to bring us fresh eggs, and we don’t want to smell cow manure from the cows that give us milk and meat. 

So in March of this year, we moved.  Not far away, we just moved closer to our church actually, which is great.  But we decided to go for it.  We started our journey to a garden of fresh food, and our journey to chickens. 

And I’ve got so much more to tell you about what God is up to in our lives… stay tuned!

 

P.S.  God is merciful & He loves you… Pass it on!

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101 Places to Pray Before You Die

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*This book, like many on this site, was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with you today…

Going on a roadtrip?  Here’s your Catholic travel guide.  I found this book to be full of incredible stories that I had never heard before, and unless you’re an expert on Catholic history in the United States, you’re probably going to be in the same boat.

In 101 Places to Pray Before You Die, you’ll journey through each of the 50 states alphabetically, and learn about several places in each state that seem well worth a visit.

When I was on a cross country RV trip with my family during my summer break after 6th grade, we made a special stop at the Corn Palace.  It was supposed to be amazing.  I remember my parents taking a picture of us in a photo op wooden board that made it look like our heads were connected to a giant ear of corn.  Definitely not amazing.

Yet, the sites in this book do seem to actually be worth your while, and I can attest to this because I have been to several of them myself.  After providing descriptions and stories associated with each place, author Thomas J. Craughwell goes a step further by providing you with contact information, hours of operation, and a heads up if there’s a major renovation or project going on that might interfere with drop-in style travel plans.

This is a book about places, but you’ll learn about them through stories.  The storytelling in this book is excellent.  You’ll learn fascinating and true anecdotes about wars, saints, authors, incredible artwork, historical sites, churches, little known hard working nuns, courageous priests, shrines, retreat centers, and more.

This book can easily be read one state at a time to go along with your already made travel plans or if you’d like to make a quick retreat in your home state, but Craughwell does a great job of holding interest if you’d like to read it cover to cover as well.  And you may find after reading it cover to cover, that it may be worth creating a trip of your own to go and visit these amazing places.

It’s worth knowing these places exist!  What amazing site might you be driving or flying right by on your next vacation?

101 Places to Pray Before You Die: A Roamin’ Catholic’s Guide can be purchased from Franciscan Media or Amazon.

P.S. God is Merciful & He loves you!  Pass it on…

the day Mother Teresa died…

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It was one of those moments you can never forget.  You remember exactly where you were, exactly what you were doing when you found out.  Like that one class transition during high school, when I was leaving my science class, and someone mentioned something about an airplane crashing into a building.

It was September 5, 1997.  I know that date because the internet knows the date, the world knows the date.  I was in elementary school, at a Catholic school at the time.  I remember that I was sitting in the library.  It was a sunny day, and we were listening to a presentation from the librarian.  Suddenly, an announcement came over the PA to let the school know, that Mother Teresa had died.

I mean, I had heard of her before.  But the librarian just burst into tears.  She needed a minute to compose herself, and then she explained that she was so sorry to hear this news.  She explained what an incredible impact this woman had on her life, and shared that she always hoped one day to meet Mother Teresa.  Now she never would.

And it struck me the other day, as I considered that announcement over the PA, the tears of this woman, and the pain and sorrow of death, that these saints in Heaven are not lost forever.  Mother Teresa knew pain and suffering well.  She endured much spiritual dryness and profound spiritual darkness.  She endured much evil.  And what was her response?  To keep the faith.  To keep pushing.  To never give up.

What would Saint Mother Teresa say to our tears over her death?

I cannot say for sure.  But as we know that she is now in the eternal presence of God, I think she would tell us to rejoice.  I think she would tell us to rejoice at her birth into eternal life.  And I think she would point us to Christ, and say that it is not too late to meet her… for we all make up the body of Christ, the whole Church makes up the body of Christ.  And one day, if we are faithful to the commands of Christ, and if we love Him and accept Him, we will be perfectly united to this body of Christ in Heaven.  Together with all of the angels, and all of the saints, and God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  And there is no need for tears over that…

 

P.S. God is Merciful & He loves you… Pass it on!

Born to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life

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*This book, like many on this site, was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

This book took me by surprise.  I was expecting something soft and comfortable, but this book is all about growth and stretching into your wings.

We’ve all heard analogies about how we should “soar” in our Faith or “fly to the Heavens.”  Usually such analogies are very bird-related and concern species like eagles and doves.  It was very interesting to read through this guided journal book that is patterned around the life cycle and habits of the beautiful, intricate, delicate, fragile monarch butterfly, with whom we have more in common than you might think.

Author Melissa Overymyer does a beautiful job in this book of turning hearts towards Heaven.  This would make a great gift for anyone who is just embarking on their Faith journey and looking for next steps.  Or it would be a great book for those wishing to integrate journaling into their prayer life, and for anyone who wants to deepen their relationship with Christ.  Those grieving a loss or going through a life change will find comfort in this simple, yet beautiful and rich six week process.

I think this would be best as a book for women, mostly because the cover is full of bright flowers and butterflies, but there is much for everyone to consider in these pages.

The book will guide you through beautiful, fruitful meditations, prayers, rich poetry, and many strong Scripture verses.  There is ample space provided for recording your own thoughts and reflections to each brief writing prompt given.

The book is broken into six sessions, full of information and discussion questions to ponder throughout a full six weeks.  There is also an accompanying online course for this book from the author that you can register for at franciscanmedia.org/soar.

Get ready to take your prayer life to a new “cocoon” level of comfort, as you soar to peaceful prayer time with this book and guided journal.

Born to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life is available from Franciscan Media and Amazon.

P.S.  God is merciful & He loves you!  Pass it on…

Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis

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*This book, like many on this site, was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Here is a collection of some of the most profound and beautiful words from Pope Francis speaking about our Mother Mary.  If you love listening to Pope Francis speak, you will love this book.

Whether you’ve devoted to Mary, or just starting to learn more about her, there’s something in this book to challenge you and to help you grow in your faith.

Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis makes for a quick read because the excerpts are fairly short in length, and they can be read altogether one after the other.  Or you could choose to read it like a devotional.  Opening this book at random is a beautiful thing to do, too.

Excerpts are taken from homilies, writings, papal addresses, and even social media accounts of Pope Francis.  They are full of prayers, messages of hope, notes of spiritual direction, and reflections.  Embedded in all of this is a golden thread that runs throughout the book, that is call to action for the Faithful, that we might pray with renewed fervor and zeal to our God, and that we might place ourselves more fully under the spiritual guidance and protection of the loving Mother Jesus gave to all of us on the Cross.

I don’t usually scribble in the margins of books, but my copy of this book is covered in additional thoughts, little arrows and underlined sections, and ideas about where these excerpts can be used or referred to in my own personal life and ministry work.  In short, this book has proved to be a very useful companion for my own life, and it is one I will keep handy on my bookshelf so that I can turn back to it as needed.

I’m grateful to the editor Alicia von Stamwitz for compiling these thought-provoking quotes from our Pope into six small, concise, easily accessible chapters you’ll be turning to again and again.

Purchase Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis from Franciscan Media or Amazon.

P.S. God is merciful & He loves you!  Pass it on…

grateful for guilt

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I have struggled immensely with guilt in my life.  Anyone can tell you that.  But I have decided to rejoice in this gift!  Guilt keeps me going to Confession!  It keeps me striving to be perfect as our Father is perfect in Heaven.

We must take care not to dismiss or disregard the guilt of others as insignificant.  There is so much of that in our world today – so much justification of little sins. 

There are so many excuses made for our errors, faults, and imperfections.  One may say, “But God knows this is just how I am!  So it’s okay!” 

Yes, but He overcame the world to give you strength to overcome yourself.

Our guilt is there for a reason.  Namely, that we confess it to God, and move on with a little more knowledge, a little more life experience about how to do better next time. 

Sure, some guilt is unfounded and is the result of sins of scrupulosity.  But that guilt we must give to God, too.  Scrupulous thinking is the work of the devil, no doubt.  It keeps us in a negative spiral so that we think we are not good enough to go to Christ.  I know this all too well.  I know how satan tempts me all too well.  And this is excellent and as it should be. 

satan loses his power over us when we can see ahead of time all the cards in his hand – when we know exactly which card he is going to play next. 

Yes, I am grateful for my guilt.  I am even more grateful for the One who takes it all away. 

 

P.S. God is Merciful & He loves you… pass it on…

Share Your Story to Help Us Share Ours! Mary Garden Showers would love to hear from YOU!

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Mary Garden Showers is a ministry empowering women in crisis pregnancies through the loving support of baby & blessing showers

We have had the privilege of serving many women & families, and many wonderful people have been a part of our journey as a ministry.  We are grateful. 

We invite you to please consider sharing your thoughts about this ministry, how it has impacted you, how you think it will make a difference, or your related stories with us today.  We would like to include them in a book project, currently titled “When Love Blooms: Celebrating Each Life with Mary Garden Showers.” 

Perhaps you are a mother who has received a shower, a shower guest, a person who recognizes the need for this ministry, a volunteer, or a chapter leader.  We would love to hear about anything you wish to share with us related to this ministry & the importance of loving and supporting women who are pregnant in crisis situations. 

If you are a mother, did you have a baby shower?  We would love to hear about what your shower meant to you or would have meant to you if you had received a shower.  We would love to hear about how you triumphed through your crisis situation, or what made or is making your crisis situation challenging.  How is your motherhood journey going? 

How can this ministry support you and love you best?  Or how might we have been able to support and love you if we had been around when you needed us? 

If you attended a shower, sponsored a shower, or volunteered at shower, what impacted you about this experience?

If you are someone who simply understands the importance of this ministry and its impact on the pro-life movement and on motherhood, we would love your thoughts on this!!!

Other thoughts & stories related to Mary Garden Showers and showers/support for women in crisis pregnancies are welcome.  Your contribution can be any length. 

We would love to hear from you & please share this with others who may have input for this project. 

We hope that this book will enable us to spread the word about what we are doing, and that it will help many more women have an opportunity to receive a Mary Garden Shower.

Please contact us by replying to this post, or by emailing us here if you would like to share your thoughts & stories with us!  We will be happy to send you a submission form if you’d like one.  God bless!

3 Steps to Mercy for You

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*This article originally appeared on VirginiaLieto.com here.

 

There’s a lot of mercy talk these days in the Church. Why?  Because it’s the time of mercy!

The Church recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. If you’re not familiar with this message and devotion, take a moment to learn a little more here.

We should strive to show mercy to everyone we meet. Mercy is a great virtue, no doubt.  But today I want to ask you, how often do you show mercy to yourself?

Are you your own worst critic? Are you hyperaware of your faults and not sure how to actually improve?  Do you ever beat yourself up at the end of the day for not doing a better job at keeping it all together?

I’ve been working on kicking these bad attitudes for a while now, with great success. How?  Divine Mercy!

 

3 Steps to Mercy for You

Here are 3 steps you can take today to help you start showing mercy to you:

 

1. Participate in the Sacraments Frequently

I’m not saying you should get married frequently, nor do you want to take a “collect ‘em all” mentality and start preparing for your last rites, but frequent Confession and receipt of Holy Communion are beautiful ways to stay close to Christ. Mercy is waiting for you in the confessional!  Mercy is waiting for you on the altar at Mass daily!  Show up.  You deserve mercy!

 

2. Educate Yourself

Pick up a copy of the Catechism. Bring questions to a priest.  Read the Bible.  Study up on Divine Mercy.  Learn the works of mercy.  It’s actually an act of mercy to instruct the ignorant, and we’re all ignorant of many things.  Learn all you can to strengthen your relationship with Christ!

 

3. Forgive Yourself

You’re going to fall short. Every day you’re going to fall short of the person you want to be, and the person God is calling you to be.  Pick yourself up.  Forgive yourself.  We talk a lot about forgiving others, but it’s so important to forgive ourselves.  Would you forgive a friend if she apologized to you?  Well you can be that friend who just apologized to you.  Having a healthy relationship with yourself is vital to having a healthy relationship with others, Christ included!

 

So, take some time today to show mercy to you, because you’re worth it. Jesus died for you!

P.S. God is Merciful & He loves you… Pass it on!

Our Lady of Fatima: 100 years of stories, prayers, and devotions

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Have you heard the message of Fatima?  Even if you are familiar with Mary’s apparitions at Fatima, I guarantee you haven’t heard the story told quite like this before.  And if you’re skeptical about the whole thing, all the more reason to pick up this book.

Mary wants to lead us to her Son, Jesus Christ.  She wants peace for the world, and she wants us to repent of our sins so we can all make it to Heaven!

There’s no better time to pick up this book than right now, as we are about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of these apparitions.  In fact, the Church will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, which is right around the corner.  On this day, Pope Francis will also canonize Jacinta and Francisco, two of the Fatima visionaries, as Saints for the whole world to celebrate!

In this book, author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle takes readers through a century of fascinating stories related to Fatima.  She recounts what occurred in this city back in 1916 and 1917, and the fulfillment of the Fatima prophecies that have taken place since that time.  She also shares things that Sr. Lucia experienced later in her life as she worked to ensure that Mary’s message spread throughout the Church, and that things were completed as Mary and Jesus requested.

In these pages, you will hear remarkable stories you’ve never heard before, and details that you won’t find in other places.  Did you know that Saint Mother Teresa planned a top secret mission in Russia specifically to occur just as Saint John Paul II consecrated Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart?  Did you know she pulled it off?  Do you know about the devotion of the Five First Saturdays?  Do you know why Mary specifically requested five and not six or seven?  Have you heard the Fatima prayers?  Do you know how you can incorporate these prayers into your daily life to make atonement for the sins of the world?  All of this and more is shared in this fascinating book.

Perhaps as astounding as the Fatima miracles themselves, are the personal experiences of the author that she shares at the end of the book.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it’s unbelievable what this woman endured for the sake of this writing, and the timing of her injuries is absolutely astounding.

In short, I had a hard time putting this book down!  You won’t want to miss this exciting read, especially as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima apparitions this year.

We all must now do our part to make reparation for the sins of this world.  Find out what you can do to live the Fatima message today!

And a note to any skeptics:  With Mary, you have nothing to fear except fear itself.  Fear of Mary will only keep you from Mary, which will only keep you from a deeper intimacy with Christ.  Our Mother Mary who is Our Lady of Fatima, is the Mother of Jesus Christ who is our brother.  Hence, she is our Mother, too, and Jesus also gave her to us on the Cross.  Mary is truly amazing.  She also only wants to do the will of her Son.  She wants to support Jesus as much as possible in the work of bringing all souls to Heaven.  Perhaps you will be able to get to know her just a little better through the words in this book.

This book is available on Amazon and from Franciscan Media.

Mother Mary, pray for us!  God bless you!

Pray with Your Senses – Color & Sound Sets Make Great Gifts!

I recently had the privilege of working with these two “Color & Sound” sets for Paraclete Press.  They have paired completely unique, fun, and inspirational, Marian themed coloring books with high quality Gregorian Chant CD compilations.

Set aside your electronic devices and games, and do something with your hands that will free your mind up for prayer.

I wanted to share these with you today just in time for Mother’s Day, but they would also make a perfect gift for a graduating senior!  These books are a gentle way to instill or rejuvenate our Catholic Faith.

You could also use them for prayer time in Adoration, or as a teaching tool for children to help them learn the Rosary and how to meditate on Mary’s many beautiful names.  Children love to color, so teach them also that they can turn their coloring into prayers!  It’s fun to actually pray the rosary as you’re coloring each decade page, too.  I think these also work beautifully as side-by-side adult coloring books for those times you are coloring with young children.

In fact, my daughters love to see my finished coloring pieces, and I enjoy coloring with a picture that stretches me beyond the super familiar shapes of Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty.

So here are two excellent Color & Sound sets for you to consider!  May they enhance your own prayer life, and the prayers of the ones you love.

  1.  Mother Mary – Color & Sound:  An Imaginative Pathway to Stillness and Beauty

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This coloring book has a page for many of the beautiful names we give to Mary the Mother of God.  Each page contains a title for Mary, a powerful prayer or quote related to this title, and a little more info to peak your curiosity about where this title came from, or who Mary appeared to under this title.  The pictures are fun and simple enough for coloring, and the end result is a beautiful picture that might even be suitable for displaying in your home!

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This set includes “The Chants of Mary,” a Gregorian Chant CD sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Men’s Schola.  I love having this CD on in the background of my day.  It puts children to sleep like a light switch when we play it in the car.  It keeps me calm in the inevitable challenging moments that arise at home with three toddlers.  It is 65 minutes of Heaven on earth.  Brush up on your Latin with the accompanying CD booklet that contains English & Latin lyrics as side-by-side text, along with beautiful full color pictures and images.

  1. The Rosary – Contemplation with Color and Sound: Color and Music to Inspire your Prayers9781612619194_p0_v1_s192x300

This coloring book takes you all the way through your rosary, with a page for each decade of the Glorious, Sorrowful, Luminous, and Joyful Mysteries!  There’s also a page for the Apostle’s Creed & Hail, Holy Queen.  The pictures are whimsical and leave much room for contemplation as you pray along with your coloring.  Enter into each mystery of the rosary a little deeper, and then go back and remember your prayers when you see a beautiful, completed picture in their place.

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This book is paired with “Feasts of Our Lady,” a Gregorian Chant CD by the Monastic Choir of St. Peter’s Abbey, Solesmes.  It also contains a booklet with side-by-side Latin & English text.  This CD is one of my favorite Gregorian Chant compilations.  The music is very vibrant and rich.  The harmonies are solid.  The sweeping melodies lift one’s thoughts to Heaven.  You will not be disappointed!

Purchase these CDs from Paraclete Press or Amazon!  And remember, God loves you & He is merciful!  Pass it on…