Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis

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Click to visit an article on Pope Francis’ coat of arms and motto. He kept both coat of arms and motto from his time as Cardinal with the addition of papal symbols. MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO translates to “he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him” from a writing of St. Bede. All Rights Reserved, Vatican and Pope Francis. (c)2019

Jorge Mario Bergolio was chosen as the 266th Pope after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his position of Pope in 2013. Jorge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936 to Mario and Maria Bergolio. He had four siblings: two brothers, and two sisters. 
Cardinal Bergolio chose Francis as his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, indicating his concern for and his commitment to the poor. His focus is towards the poor, and the church meeting its people where they are as well as encouraging mercy by and for Catholics worldwide.

Pope Francis is also a pope of many firsts: he is the first Pope who is a Jesuit; he is the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century.

You can find Pope Francis on Twitter and on the Vatican website, where you can read all of his writings (as well as other Popes) and homilies. I’m currently in the middle of reading Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad; an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness.) The website is a fascinating virtual pilgrimage of its own.

He was inaugurated as Pope in 2013, on March 19. That was nearly exactly one year since I had been visiting and praying at my church.

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Sundays in Lent – 2nd Monday

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“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36

One of the things that I really loved about the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy was the reminder that not only does everyone deserve mercy, everyone has the capability to offer mercy; to others and ourselves.

We were one of the fortunate parish churches that had a holy door for the entire year. I walked over its threshhold a few times over the course of that year, but even on the days that I didn’t cross over and through the doorway, I was aware of it. I almost always read the prayers on the door on a daily basis. I gazed at the picture, and I photographed it more than once hoping to capture all that it offered reflected back in the picture. It was near impossible. You really had to be there.

On the days that I did walk through the door, I would pause at the closed door, read the words on the door, read Pope Francis’ prayer that he provided at the start of the Jubilee, and sometimes say my own prayer, occasionally an Our Father.

I was aware, and I brought that awareness with me everywhere and in everything I did.

The Jubilee Year ended, but the mercy continues.

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee:

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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.

A Thanksgiving Reflection

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Cornucopia. Colored Pencils. (c)2016

Today is the first Thanksgiving Mass that I will be able to attend. I’ve looked forward to it. There is a tradition at my parish to bring a non-perishable food item to donate. 

At the time of the offering, instead of passing a basket around the pews for a monetary collection, parishioners process to the altar and leave food items. It was a really profound experience, everyone giving what they could, wishing the others a Happy Thanksgiving when they passed one another.

At the end of the Mass, each family was given a small loaf of bread to bring to mind the Eucharist we had just received to share with our families. Breaking bread is a tradition followed by nearly every culture across the globe.


Our parish has a very active St. Vincent de Paul Society who collect food for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for those that request them. They also provide Christmas gifts to those less fortunate so that the kids will still have a memorable holiday. They also work throughout the year. They ask for nothing in return. My son and I volunteered one year to help load the Thanksgiving boxes/baskets and it was an exuberant, lively, joyous crowd, bending and lifting, filling boxes and organizing food and household items like paper towels and toilet paper. One of the things that amazes me when I see the men and women volunteering for the Society is the compassion and positivity they come to their ministry with.
I am still surprised when I do something for someone else with no expectation of reward, although every time I’ve volunteered or done something extra or special, I have received a reward: a smile, a thank you, but most importantly, a swelling of my soul that feels so much better than receiving a gift myself.

We all want acknowledgment for our good deeds. It doesn’t have to be much; a simple thank you or smile will suffice. But seeing a child with a huge smile as they receive a winter coat or a pair of boots or sneakers. An extra pudding or lollipop. Bright eyes shining with joy.

During the homily, which was of course very G-d centered, it made me recall the first thanksgiving. Not the holiday proclaimed by President Lincoln, but the very first one. While both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans had their beliefs and would have expresed their gratitude to, there was also much more to that day and fall season for them. Today should be a reminder of that cooperation, the beginning of that friendship. The Native people welcomed the new immigrants, refugees even, from religious persecution. There was the language barrier and the difference in customs, but they muddled through.

And we can all muddle through with the challenges we’ve been given and thankful for the blessings we receive.

Thanksgiving is a good reminder to look around and smell the flowers. Take a little extra moment to look at your family as they’re playing with cousins, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, taking a hike or playing in the snow, and sitting around the table, passing dishes that we’ve eaten every year since forever in our families.

I make my friend’s sweet potato pie or a sweet potato casserole.

I make my grandmother’s green bean casserole, which is really French’s recipe. My grandmother always made it without milk to keep it kosher in her house.

We rely on 1950s convenience: Heinz gravy, DelMonte French style green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. We make mashed potatoes from scratch, but my mother used to use a box mix of potato flakes. My sister’s husband would only eat mashed from scratch. He never noticed the difference. (I’d leave a few lumps in it for him.)

Think about what you’re grateful for and try to remember it the rest of the year. One way is with a gratitude journal. Or a jar to add slips of paper to for the year. I did this one year, and it was a joy to sit on New Year’s Eve and read through that last year of good moments. Whatever you come up with, find something that works for you and your life.

This year had some really difficult times for our family, and we’re still struggling with them: my mother-in-law’s death this summer and the election of Donald Trump as our new president, at best a wariness as we wait to see how his administration forms. I already have some issues, but this is not the forum. Suffice it to say, we are all waiting to see where we go from here, and we should all be praying for our next president and our country. I would encourage that to be the first thing we do.

If I learned anything from this past Year of Mercy, it is that mercy is everywhere; we just need to simply accept it when it’s given or found.

For my part in being aware of my blessings and my gratitude, I will be planning on incorporating a gratefullness to a weekly writing blurb.

In the meantime, I look to my family, my extended family, my friends, my church, and my support network to continue moving forward in my writing and my life.

I will spend tomorrow being grateful for what I have and how far I’ve come.

Bless you all on this day of thanks.

5/8 – Year of Mercy – Intentions

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It always amuses me when things do not go as planned but still they go, and then it’s okay or even better.

I arrived this monring at church intent on writing for about half an hour or so. Instead, I spied the holy door and my intent changed to going through the holy door first, one more time. I prayed the prayer that Pope Francis provided for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. I prayed the prayer on the door, and I entered. I was greeted with sounds of the choir practicing. Acapella. Beautiful. The church was still dim, lights not on yet; only natural light filtering through the skylight and the stained glass. It reminded me of my first few days visiting the church.

Before I could take my seat to write before the mass began, I was stopped by a good friend. She was telling me how she and her husband started watching The Walking Dead. They started with season one and are a few episodes into season two and they love it. This made me smile. It shows me not to make assumptions. I would never have recommended that she watch it but so glad she enjoys it.

I was also stopped by my morning of service committee chairperson to tell me I was on my own at the registration table next week. Instead of my usual dread of such a thing, the change, the unexpected, I was not only relieved but thankful I’d volunteered for the registration in the front place.

Mercy and gratitude are everywhere.

You don’t even need to look very far to discover it.

2/8 – Prayer

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As part of this Year of Mercy, today is the Marian Jubilee, a Feast of Mary, Mother of Mercy. We can listen to the Pope’s homilies,.both for last night’s vigil and this morning’s liturgy in St.Peter’s Square.

I know that I’ve been looking at more ways to find and to show mercy and one of those has been to pray to Mary.

Prayer was never something that I was comfortable doing growing up. We were religious in the sense that we followed the traditions abd celebrated the holidays; we observed Passover and Yom Kippur. My parents lit yartzeit candles for their parents, and now I light them for mine.

I didn’t pray as much as talk to G-d when I needed to say somethihng or meditate on something or to ask for help or guidance.

I was really shown how little I actually prayed when I didn’t know how to express myself during a National Day of Prayer after 9/11. I went to a local temple with my four year old, and they didn’t know why I was there, and I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. I sat with my son, and we muddled through, not knowing what to do or how to say it, but trying to do it anyway.

In starting my journey through the Catholic Church, I still didn’t know what to pray for; or how. There is a moment of silent prayer during the mass – well, several moments – and I never know what I should pray for. It feels weird to pray for people. I don’t know why that is…was.

In those prayers of the faithful I had my faithful trio of prayers, mostly for myself to get through another week, waiting for the anti-depressants to kick in or the talk therapy to take effect.

Patience.

Strength.

Courage.

I found Mary, Untier of Knots, and that really spoke to me. I was excited to find out that this was Pope Francis’ favorite devotional.It made siense in my life too – all these knots of crap happening, and I could slowly, methodically untie them, like Mary does in the painting and on the prayer card.

I began to say the rosary. I found it comforting, and deliberate.

I think I identify with her as a parent, and I try to emulate her unending patience and mercy for those around her, a perfect example depsite what was done to her son. She is full of forgiveness and accepting of G-d’s will.

Find your own prayers that work in your life, both in their substnace and the time to include them in your meditations.​ I will continue to try and do this in my prayer life.