Inspire. December.

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What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In some things I am struggling, but I still find that inspiration is all around. I see labyrinths everywhere, and I’m beginning to find words to accompany them. I search for new ones to walk and to pray on, and each one is as different as the clouds in the sky.

Labyrinth. (c)2021

I am devoted to Mary, and I think on all of the knots I’m called to untie, many of which I cannot do without her intercession. Last week was the feast of her Immaculate Conception, a special day in my parish of the same name, and each Monday I recite the Joyous Mysteries with my Cursillo family.

Mary, Untier of Knots. Tiny Saints. (c)2021

I have also completed a book series that I long to write about and share with you. It was not only entertaining, I have decided on a Halloween costume (already!) and it has inspired a few ideas of where to approach my book on my journey through Wales (although that particular title is already taken – *shakes fist at Gerald of Wales*). I have lists to make for my book, and having finished the series, I have already began it again. I read the first five books in 2018 so they were not fresh in my mind. I was able to be surprised by some twists and turns that I had forgotten, and I will continue the rest in the new year. Fear not, I will share my thoughts on Amelia Peabody and her adventures in the coming weeks, if not days.


In the meantime, enjoy the waiting of Advent, the lights of Chanukah, and the promise of the New Year, and eat all the foods of all the holidays.

Our Lady of the Rosary

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Today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is commemorated each year on October 7th and many churches have special rosary events. Many of these happen all through the year but they have a special significance during October and May.

I personally find great comfort in praying the rosary. I participate in a weekly recitation every Monday with my Cursillo group and I’ve been part of a Living Rosary at my church for a few years now. They’re starting it again post-pandemic this month.

Since today is Thursday, the mysteries of the Holy Rosary recited are the LUMINOUS MYSTERIES.

1. The Baptism of the Lord

2. The Wedding at Cana

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom

4. The Transfiguration

5. Institution of the Eucharist

Visit How to Pray the Rosary on the Vatican’s website for prayers and directions if you’re not familiar with praying the rosary.

Pictures below cut.

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Rightness

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There are times when things don’t work that should and you more or less know that they don’t work even though you also know they should, but you can’t figure out why or what the problem is. Or how to make it better.

We know the opposite too.

This holds true for many things, both tangible and un- , but for me this week, it was a pair of pictures, both Mary, both by the same artist, my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath.

I had attended a weekend retreat under his direction in 2019. His retreats always include his artwork related to the weekend subject.

One of the pictures that I was drawn to was Mary, Queen of the Prophets. It was blue and yellow-gold and swirly and I was perfectly captivated by it.

Mary, Queen of the Prophets
(c)2020 Bro. Mickey McGrath
Trinity Stores
Link attached to picture.

I ordered a print, framed it and hung it in its place.

Every time I looked at it I got a twinge of unease. Nothing specific. Nothing sinister. Just something not quite right.

The feelings I was getting made no sense.

I had wanted the picture for some time. I knew exactly where it would go when it came. But I don’t know. There was something undefined and uncomfortable when I looked at it despite its beauty.

And I lived with it even though I considered trading it back with the picture that originally hung in that space. I think I thought I would eventually change it.

Recently, Brother Mickey created a new Mary art. This one was Mary, Untier of Knots. Our Lady, Untier of Knots is my personal favorite of Marian devotions. I feel an overwhelming devotion to her. I have cards, coins, and medals of this devotion.

Mary, Our Lady, Untier of Knots
(c)2020 Bro. Mickey McGrath
Trinity Stores
Link attached to picture.

For Christmas, I decided ot use a little of my gift money to order the print. I bought a frame and it arrived very quickly. Having nothing to do with the Queen of Prophets in particular, that spot was where it would hang – behind the chair in my corner office. It was time for change and Mary, Untier of Knots was *my* Mary.

As soon as it came I hung it on the wall.

The first time I looked at it from across the room, I felt a calmness wash over me.

There was serenity and feelings from deep within me.

I brought the other picture up to my bedroom. The walls are yellow and I thought it would fit with the blues and the yellow-gold and the swirls of the print. I propped it up against the wall on the floor beside my bed, intending to leave it until I could figure out where in the room exactly it would go.

Then something happened.

I looked at it – Mary’s face, Mary’s hands, the swirling of the background.

Even resting on the floor, it was home. I was full of emotion seeing it in this temporary place, but still…its place.

Wherever I would hang it in my bedroom it would fit; it would be perfect.

Things have a place and when they’re in the wrong one, you know it. Even if you don’t actively know it or the reasons for the discomfort, you feel something real, and eventually with a little nudge, these things can be righted.

They find a way.

Even a random switching of two unrelated things.

And when they are righted, you know that too.

Who Are The Saints We Turn To?

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When I was young, I loved to read about Joan of Arc. It was many years before I discovered she was a saint. It just wasn’t part of my growing up to associate her with religion; not really. I know she talked to G-d; I mean, so did I! I wasn’t Christian so I didn’t grow up attending church. But I knew Joan of Arc. She was a part of my girlhood, like Anne Frank, another young girl, someone I could relate to who also died too young. These were my heroes.

In my recent years of finding Catholicism and spirituality, I’ve added to my “collection” of saints and saintly people. I love hearing that saints are just like us. I’ve also learned that they are an outgrowth of their times. Sometimes their lives are huge and important and sometimes their deaths are, but in a lot of times, they are just ordinary people who do or preach extraordinary things. I know that today is All Saints Day, but I was still taken aback by the number of times I was called by the saints in the last two weeks.

Once I put this topic on my calendar a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and the saints I look to in my life. They do change depending on the circumstances. I didn’t start reading on any of them in particular, but I looked at the saints for the day, seeing which feast days were coming up and thought a lot of who I felt the closest to.

Throughout October, I had been attending weekly zoom presentations on Diversity in Spirituality. Last week’s lecture was given by Dr. Kim Harris of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Her focus was on Black Americans, their experience, their worship, and their saints (and lack thereof). In addition to music and talk of the ancestors, Dr. Harris also asked the following question:

In our troubled and tumultuous times, what kinds of saints do we need or what kinds of saints do we need to be?

I was stunned into silence. That is very nearly the exact question I put on my calendar, the one that I’ve been contemplating on for the past two weeks, and here it was as our breakout room assignment!

What kinds of saints do we need in our lives right now indeed?

In conjunction to that synchronism and along with all of these thought provoking happenings, yesterday, I also attended a scheduled Day of Reflection centered on walking and praying with the saints. I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks and it did not disappoint. It also led me in my continuation of thinking about the saints and who I feel the closest to.

This was a question that I had been giving a lot of thought to, although in my mind I hadn’t phrased it quite like that at all. I’ll share a few thoughts with you.

I’ve mentioned Joan of Arc earlier. I was always enthralled by her hearing voices and following as well as being able to command an army. Maybe it was because I grew up in the feminist wave of the 70s that it seemed impossible to ignore and easy to admire.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a newer, local saint. Her birthplace is in upstate New York at the village where the North American Jesuit Martyrs died although they weren’t there at the same time. The spring where St. Kateri was baptized is there, and I am hoping to be in good enough shape to go through the woods to the spring sometime in 2021.

St. Elen is my personal saint, the patron of travelers and roads. I chose her for my saint’s name for my confirmation in 2014. Upon finding her, I found so many things about her that I could relate to as well as having been in her homeland, literally where she walked the earth although I did not know it at the time. I was fortunate to be able to pilgrimage to one of her holy wells in Wales in 2017, and it still gives me pause when I remember my times there.

Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein draw me back to my Jewishness and my Jewish upbringing. I know that Maximilian Kolbe wasn’t Jewish but he was killed in the camps in Nazi Germany as was Edith Stein. It reminds me that others (in Edith Stein’s case) have walked a similar path to mine.

I was drawn to Mary, Untier of Knots through Pope Francis’ devotion, and it has only grown stronger over the years. There is something very familiar about untying knots as a mother from shoelaces to necklaces to yarn and in needlework, not to mention the untying and smoothing that goes along metaphorically.

St. Dafydd is, of course, the patron saint of Wales, a place that I feel connected to since I first set foot there in 1987.

And finally, in this moment at least, Mary Magdalene. I didn’t know much about her; her life was co-opted a bit and confused with others, but what I do know and believe is that she followed Jesus from very early on. She was the first of his disciples to see him after his Resurrection, and she brought the word of his Resurrection to the apostles, becoming the first to bring the Holy Word of Jesus to others after his death. I love that she is the Apostle to the Apostles and that she is in history as someone who can possibly convert hearts to allow women priest and preachers.

Which saints are you drawn to during these difficult times of chaos and uncertainity?

Art is mine based on the song:
Saints Of God In Glory
Frank Brownstead · Bernadette Farrell · St. Thomas More Group, 1991.
(c)2020

Listen here.

Mental Health Monday, Part 2: Sing of Mary: A Springtime Celebration

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These mental health Mondays have been giving me trouble each week. I’m struggling to find my balance, and each day brings a new horror of deaths and White House incompetence that quite honestly is beyond frustrating; I don’t want to overuse the word, but it is horrifying. It’s beyond anything that we’ve seen in my lifetime. For those of you who saw the New York Times cover commemorating the covid-19 death toll reaching 100,000, you can see and understand it’s devastation.

It’s been a difficult time for those of us already on the edge with our “everyday” mental health issues having to slog through isolation day after day, and then watching on television people doing the exact opposite and wondering what the whole point is. I understand. Some parts of my anxiety have subsided, but some parts of my depression are heightened a bit. Nothing that needs a med check, but enough that it’s noticeable, and it’s hard to center myself.

I would usually find a quiet corner in a Starbucks and write. However, the Starbucks dining rooms are closed, and writing just isn’t there for me. While pre-covid I would sit in the car and have lunch and read or write on my Kindle, I find that eating in the car when the car is respite from the home isolation is not giving me the mental boost that it once did. I don’t know if it will come back post-covid, but for now, I’ve put off that worrying for another time. I’m trying to stay in the present, and the writing…I hope it will come. I will occasionally jot down a few thoughts in a journal, and I’ve been publishing here, but the writing that I long for just isn’t available to me right now. I can’t slow my brain down enough to get through a sentence let alone a paragraph and I may have mentioned my overactive brain has also been keeping me from sleeping properly.

Our family did have a nice weekend. We went to the comic store (curbside) and then got takeout from a chicken place, went to the state park and had a picnic in our car. Despite what I said above about eating in the car, this was actually a lovely time and we had a nice drive to places not too near our home so it was a different view for everyone. The people around us seemed to be following covid protocols so there was no outside stress from counting the maskless faces.

Upon arriving home, I discovered an art and music presentation that I had missed, but luckily through the magic of technology and the internet, I was able to watch the video of it.

The art was by my favorite spiritual artist, Brother Mickey McGrath and I know that when I’m enamored by something I post about it a lot and I will readily admit to being a Bro. Mickey stan. The music was from Meredith Augustin. I’m providing the link below because I think that this presentation, while religious in nature was also very soothing and would be a beneficial mental health exercise for anyone. Brother MIckey’s voice in describing the artwork and Meredith’s singing really just lulled me into a different headspace, and the beauty of it I think transcends and invites non-religious people to enjoy it as well, and spend an hour with it, away from everything else that may be weighing on us right now. I would certainly encourage you to give it a try, at least through the first musical section. If it’s not for you, of course, stop the playback and find your own musical and art encounter.

I had originally planned to draw or doodle in my sketchbook while I watched it, but I was so caught up in the presentation and pulled so far into the pictures that I didn’t do anything but give myself over to it. I can always doodle tomorrow.

Give yourself that time to breathe.

Sing of Mary: A Springtime Celebration in Art, Story, and Song with Brother Mickey McGrath and Meredith Augustin

The Black Madonna

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As part of Mary’s month, I’d like to something written by my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath, artist and author. This article, titled We Need Images of the Black Madonna Now More Than Ever appeared in the March 5, 2018 issue of America Magazine. Below is one of the pictures that appeared with the article.

Our Lady of Montserrat. (c) Brother Mickey McGrath 2020