12/52 – Brother Mickey McGrath

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Brother Mickey McGrath is an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.

I was fortunate to meet Brother Mickey on my very first weekend retreat at the Dominican Retreat Center I go to. There was so much that I didn’t understand or know about the whole retreat experience. I was slightly withdrawn; I knew no one. I took my meals with people, but I was still alone. Now, that I’ve gone to more events, I recognize some of the people, I’m a little more comfortable in the physical place, but things are still new. I just discovered that there is a refrigerator for the retreatants to use. I’d say it’s taken me three years to find that out.

This first retreat, though was also an art experience. I do not art. I know after following me for as long as some of you have, you wonder why I say that, but I really don’t believe I have any talent. I’m too linear. I’m too much a writer.

This retreat changed all of that.

It was titled Drawing Closer to G-d, and its focus was on mandalas. Mickey had beautiful ones. I learned some art techniques, including to color outside the lines, to draw beyond the mandala border.Art is pictures and symbols and color, but it is also words, and I really enjoy the word art that I’ve done this year, especially my political and my scriptural.

Every time Brother Mickey directs a retreat in my area, I do my best to attend. That has given me the opportunity to become friends with him, enjoying warm greetings when we see each other. I’m a bit more talkative now, and I ask questions if I have any. I add to the discussion, and I art.

And I enjoy it so much that I do it at home. I find the coloring very calming, contemplative and prayerful.

Brother Mickey was and is my inspiration for stepping out of my comfort zone, for drawing a bit and coloring a bit, and truly moving closer to G-d as well as myself.

Brother Mickey’s works are available through his website.

The Halfway Mark

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We’re a little more than halfway through Lent. I’ve mentioned before my difficulty in giving up bread. Fortunately, the additions I’ve made to my Lenten journey are working out much better than the bread. I have indeed attended the 9am daily mass unless I had a prior commitment. I’ve remained after mass on some days to join the other ladies who stay daily to pray the rosary. I read the Lenten reflection book my church provided. I’ve kept a Lenten journal, writing in it daily, and using it for notetaking on my retreats. I have also done some art projects. Once they’re completed, and I make room in my media files, I will share them here. I love the burst of creativity that the retreats give me.

Even just a two hour session once a week is enough to breathe a renewed spirit in me, and set me off on a project.

The month of March was full of spiritual opportunities. I was lucky to be able to attend a total of thirteen days of retreats or workshops. I’ve tried to go through the retreat center’s calendar, and I’m able to continue once a month through June. Just the idea that it’s available has me full of adrenaline to keep pushing.

As you can see, I also have my keyboard back, so I’m hoping to do a little catch up from last weekend, especially with my series: Emma Watson’s Book Club, The New 52 for weeks 12 and 13, and another book news. Those book news posts really help me organize my thoughts on the two books. They’re very jumbled up in my mind, I think due to the emotional level of both stories.

I was also asked last week to share my conversion story, which would mean talking to people, like an audience, and it’s not something I want to do, but I do kind of want to share it. When I talk about it, I get a lot of positive feedback, but I’m not sure I’m ready for it. However, after saying all that to the person suggesting my opening up, I did feel as though I might be able to in the future. That was definitely something that surprised me.

I can feel myself growing.

I will absolutely talk more about my church’s parish mission that occured in the early part of this week, but in short it focused on Pope Francis’ life and thoughts, which in general focus on mercy and forgiveness. I was truly blessed that i joined the church around the same time as Pope Francis’ choosing. He is a true inspiration to me, and the three days I spent immersed in his merciful ideas was really what I needed to end this half of Lent, and be able to continue down my path. Related to our parish mission, I will have a story of mercy and grace to share tomorrow.

The Best Laid Plans

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I’m on retreat this weekend. The subject is Wise and Holy Women. I had intended to make two posts or so this weekend, but G-d had other plans. When I  unpacked I  discovered that I did not have my keyboard. 

On Sunday, I  will write the twelfth week of the new 52 which was supposed to appear here today. Week 12 is a person, Brother Mickey McGrath, oblate and artist. He is our retreat director. He is wonderful and I will tell you of his influence on me over the last few years, opening my heart and creativity. 

In the meantime, follow the link in his name and look at his beautiful and spiritual art. 

Until next time, 

Blessings

A Spiritual Marathon

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​I had expected to be able to post throughout this week, but unfortunately this is probably the busiest week of Lent for me. Until next week that is. As I mentioned to my priest last night, it’s all good busy, but this morning I was beyond exhausted. I stayed in bed an extra hour until my headache subsided, and now I’m slowly getting ready for today.

As part of my Lenten journey this year, in going to the desert figuratively, and finding my own wilderness, I have taken on many spiritual projects that are dear to me. It was fortunate that my local retreat center had so many sessions and experiences to choose from.

I have been keeping a Lenten journal since Ash Wednesday, and I have been loving it. From the feel of the pen gliding across the paper to the beautiful green Celtic designed journal itself, it has given me a feeling of purpose that I will try to continue, although not daily, throughout the spring and summer, and perhaps convert it to an Advent journal later in the year. Continue reading

Emma’s Book Club

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Continuing the Monday book recommendations that I began a few weeks ago with President Obama, I’ve chosen Emma Watson’s book list for this next grouping of weeks. 

Most people probably know Emma from her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series of movies. She can currently be found on big screens as Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast.

She speaks out forcefully on feminism and equality, and whatever other issue comes to mind. She doesn’t hold back. She is the Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women as part of HeforShe which advocates for gender equality.

She seems to be a voracious reader, very  much like Hermione, and she shares that with the world through her social media accounts and public activities.

Not only did she have her own book club on Goodreads, she also hid books on the London Underground to encourage reading through an organization called Books on the Underground.

The first of the books on her recommended list is one that I just finished recently and one that fits into the crazy narrative that’s gripped US politics. Paranoia, wiretapping, fake news, and phony polls. When Mr.Trump became President Trump, people said we should re-read 1984. I graduated high school in 1984, and I know I read the book, but I couldn’t really remember it, so I re-read it, finishing it just last week.

The similarities are mind-boggling and frightening. One of the things that I am reminded of in both re-reading this book and watching current events play out is that history must be studied and learned and remembered or it is destined to repeat itself. In too many cases, we can’t let that happen. We must stand up for what we believe and what we see and hear with our own eyes and ears, respectively. I won’t get into specific politics other than to say it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and pay attention to it; to grasp facts and differentiate them from opinions and hyperbole. We still have time.

But first, read 1984 by George Orwell.

Forgiveness

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In death, sometimes people become more than they were in life. It’s not anything intentional or deceptive, but it’s the lost potential, the lost could have been. They also become bigger in life in that way a blue skyed spring morning can be look at that sky or that blue color is godly and vast and beyond that is the universe.

Brittany was my friend. She wasn’t a friend with a capital F or a best friend, but like a lot of friends we tolerated each other, liked each other enough, were kind and polite, cheerful and helpful to one another. All the things we should be to people we know and people we don’t.

Brittany taught me that mistakes are for everyone, they can be held close, thrown at people over and over again or they can be dropped on the roadside as we move forward. She taught me forgiveness and led me to deep breaths.

She gave me something that if I hadn’t accepted before she died would have been lost and that loss would have haunted me. Instead it is her loss that remains with me. Daily when I speak her name at Mass and yearly when I throw on my purple shirt and flowered scarf and celebrate her life with Mass and a cup of tea.

Today is that day.

Happy Birthday, Brittany.

Book News – House: Inspection

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To our amateur minds, the house looked great. It’s amazing what you can do with primer and shelf liner. Seriously, but that’s probably another chapter. This is about the home inspection.
One of the things  that I found most upsetting about the home buying experience, and you will see there were more than a few was the inspection. By the time the inspection rolled around, we were certain we’d made a mistake. There were just vibes that were off since we signed the contract and put our bid in for the house. On the surface, everything seemed mostly okay, but the inspection changed that.

It wasn’t just what was discovered during the inspection that upset us, and it wasn’t just the misrepresented about parts of the house that came to light at the inspection (and after moving in), but the inspection itself and what is and isn’t inspected. Continue reading

Obama Book Club – Doris Kearns Goodwin

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For most of the past Mondays, I’ve shared with you some of President Obama’s book recommendations as outlined and discussed in this Entertainment Weekly Article.

I’ve tried to share books that I am somewhat familiar with. I am currently listening to the audiobook of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I am slightly distracted by the voice of the narrator, Richard Thomas, known in my childhood as John-Boy on the the popular show from the 1970s, The Waltons. He is the perfect voice to read anything related to the Civil War or this, a biography of Abraham Lincoln and his Administration, his team of rivals.
I’ve been reading a lot of history and biographies lately. Part of that I believe is to show myself how far we’ve fallen but also to be reminded of how much potential we have as a country. We can come back from anything. After all, we came back from the Civil War.We came back from 9/11. We can come back from the Trump Administration.

President Trump could learn a lot from Lincoln and how he worked with his oppositional party. It’s the only way our country can flourish; by coming together for the betterment of all.

The idea of an Obama Book Club was mentioned with humor in an article I read, probably that one I’ve linked to above, and I thought it was a great idea to recommend books that President Obama reads and recommends.

In the following weeks, I will share other “book clubs”, beginning with Emma Watson in one week’s time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing inside our former president’s mind, a man who reads for work, for context, and for pleasure, all good reasons to read and to emulate.

11-52 -Do the Little Things

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St. David’s most widely known miracle was while he was preaching at the Synod of Brefi when a small hill rose beneath his feet so he could be seen and heard by those assembled. A white dove took its place on David’s shoulder. What preacher or public speaker wouldn’t want to be seen and heard more clearly? He also gave sight to a blind man and raised a widow’s son from the dead.

He established monastic settlements throughout Wales. His brand of monasticism was through simplicity and asceticism.

They [the monks] were to pull the plow themselves, eat only bread and vegetables, herbs, drink only water, own nothing and pray each and every evening.

They looked after travelers and the poor. Beekeeping was one of their other many missions.

Born around 500, he died, probably in 589 on March 1st, his feast day since the 12th century, and is buried at the Cathedral bearing his name in St. David’s, Pembrokeshire. His shrine was a popular pilgrimage during the Middle Ages and his relics are still there today.

Ironically for me, his flag is in Hufflepuff colors, a yellow cross on a black background. His symbol is a leek.

He is the patron of Wales, vegetarians, poets, and doves.

His last words to his followers were:

Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.

Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywydDo the little things in life has become a well-known inspirational saying in Wales.

This is such a good philosphy for everyone to have and to try and live by. We all have those moments of wanting to help or do something for someone else, but feel overwhelmed by the scope of what to do and how to do it. Moving forward with simplicity and doing the little things  are ways we can all contribute to someone else’s well-being. Start small. Offer to drive an elderly neighbor to the grocery store or to church. Mow someone’s lawn. Hold open the door for the person in front of or behind you. Pick up litter on your path. Smile at someone passing you in the aisle. There are so many small ways we can do big things.

One of my favorite non-profits is Random Acts. They excel at simplicity and creating big things out of small gestures. Check them out at the link and follow St. David’s advice: Do the little things.

Ruth 1:1-18

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One of the retreats I’m on this month is a weekly group. I had done this before with New Testament Women and this session is Old Testament Women.

We pray at the beginning, and then collage from our personal reflections on the two readings, then we share our art, and read the next two for the following week using Lecto Divina. I’ve talked about Lecto Divina in the past. I had been using this technique since I began reading Scripture, but I didn’t realize it had a formal name. It was just something I did.

Today’s class was canceled due to our snowstorm, and will be held next week, but I still wanted to re-read and reflect on these two women today: Naomi and Ruth.

Ruth has always been a favorite verse of mine. I always had a connection to her for some reaosn. One thing I discovered in the reading last week was how much of a Hufflepuff she was. Loyal to her adopted family, her kindness, her friendship with her mother-in-law, even her friendship with her sister-in-law. She’s faithful. Once she married Naomi’s son, she became a permanent part of her family.

She couldn’t state it any simpler: Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge.

Her determination and loyalty really stand out, both as things I strive for, and as part of that Harry Potter house.

See? Everything is connected and interconnected.