Category Archives: Easter

When Our Candles Are Extinguished, Keeping The Faith

Passing through the narthex doors, the balance on my kids’ excitement meter tipped far right as they spied the ushers with those thin, white, paper-circle sheathed candles in hand. Of course, my meter headed in the opposite direction as I considered the possibilities ahead (think of two little balls of constant energy armed with flaming torches one inch away from flowing brunette locks and loose shirt tails). Ah, yes, a procession was in our immediate future on this Holy Thursday evening.

After ascending from the basement quiet room, with my smallest choir wannabe, on my way to receive the precious Body and Blood, I was pleasantly surprised (okay maybe just plain surprised) to find not a single candle was dangling limply from a crack down its center. Somehow in my absence Daddy had managed to keep the half a dozen sister-pokers safe or at least some inexplicable stroke of luck had been at play.
Once the last communicant returned to his seat, the altar boys began the domino of illumination. One by one, person to person, the Body of Christ passed the light from forward to back so that in moments the whole church interior was aglow in soft, flickering candlelight. And my proud offspring were smiling from ear to ear.
Seeing as the southern weather is bipolar this spring, we were woefully under-dressed for the outdoor procession. Daddy, therefore, volunteered to remain church-bound with the baby leaving me the honor of chaperoning the torch bearers single-handedly (one hand per flame wielding boy).
Cautiously we each made our way down the stone front steps as we followed the Blessed Sacrament. The initial downward movements left a few of us extinguished, so began the acts of charity as those still holding onto their warm glowing flames reached over to reignite our wicks. How beautiful it is when our normal pattern of pew-staking separateness is broken and we become the one that we are meant to be; sharing our space and our resources.
However, on this night the wind would seem the winner. By the time our feet made contact with the adjacent sidewalk, all but a handful of candles had succumbed leaving us all the more vulnerable in the cold night air. The kids, being “childlike” of course, continued their hopeful pursuit in search of re-ignition long after I’d resolved to walk in the chilly darkness.
Having wrapped my sweater around my five year old, my thin blouse was little consolation against the cold wind. Considering the open-toed sandals and skirted bare legs accompanying us in the procession, I imagine I wasn’t alone in my misery.
A few of my children had scouted ahead in search of light, but my position toward the rear left me mostly unable to see the canopy that led us. However, upon reaching the final corner I caught sight of the King’s memorial. The red altar servers’ torches at the head of the line had also lost the battle. Their glass cup protectors had failed to stave off the blustery air.
But the four tall, corner candles encircling the ciborium which housed the precious Body and Blood maintained their constancy. While we followers stumbled along in darkness, Christ’s Light remained leading the way. And isn’t that a visual portrayal of the Truth?
Earlier in the day, I’d chanced an encounter with a near occasion of sin. That is, I’d boldly and pridefully typed my two cents worth in challenge to a friend’s post on facebook (good thing confession is before Easter). The topic was local politics, specifically candidates running for office. As is the case with such discussions (okay, arguments) the lines were drawn and commentators claimed their sides.
I was heralding a long-shot runner, a devout Catholic who lives out his faith and sets his standards accordingly, but the opposition was quick to assess my choice as non-viable. Like stones in the hand of young David, they informed me there was no feasible way my contender could ever take down Goliath.
Yes, Noah’s ark was the creation of a doomsayer and David’s confidence was based on childish naïvete. Then there were those foolish disciples who believed some political agitator was the Son of God. Not to mention, all those stupid saints (like Francis) who traded riches for suffering.
How easily the winds of the world blow against our meager attempts to scatter Light. We’re left fumbling through the blackness- fearful and confused. Peter did this once the accusers dragged Jesus toward Calvary. Just hours before he’d pledged his complete devotion and endurance, but then all too quickly he recanted once the Source of his courage was withdrawn.
Though I may have given up on relighting my candle, I continued to follow the procession knowing where it was leading. Such it is in life, just because our human endeavors to evangelize may appear lost or insignificant against the spotlight of sin, we can be assured the Source of all Light, of all Truth will never cease to burn. Like Noah’s obedience, David’s courage, the disciples’ faith and the saints’ abandonment, so long as our path is illuminated by Jesus Christ we cannot go wrong.
We need only follow close, even if required to do so blindly. Whether we have benefit of other members of the Body to encourage and protect us or if we must walk alone vulnerable to the buffeting forces of opposition, we will not be misled. Christ reigns today as He did 2000 years ago and His Light will continue to shine through all eternity leading all who follow Him home.

Making Ready for Easter: 4 Posts from the Archives

With Holy Week in full swing my mind has been drifting toward Friday, but at the same time I am juggling the plans for our “new school year” which will begin next week . By juggling I mean: writing out five planners, cleaning the school cabinet AGAIN, distributing new books, and trying to formulate a new daily plan that includes more time and attention to writing for my blog all while cradling the baby and mediating sibling disputes. However, with all that being said I remember the focus of this week is not supposed to be on me. 

I decided to reread the posts I wrote last year at this time to help me recollect and prepare to make the journey from Holy Thursday to Good Friday and onward to the celebration of Easter. Won’t you join me…

Holy Thursday:

Envision reclining at table with Jesus, listening to the sound of His calm,mysterious words as He offers His Body and Blood for the first time. So many struggle with this abstruse teaching that they give up and flee the room. He speaks of a coming time when He’ll no longer be present, how confusing and worrisome. Perhaps, the Apostles desire a further explanation, but instead they must wait to fully comprehend the meaning of all that they are witnessing. Read HERE

Did you ever have a problem that you didn’t even realize you had? Like stinky feet or bad breath, no, not that kind of problem. Those kinds of maladies usual illicit someone’s notation. But, sometimes we can suffer from a dilemma without ever realizing its existence and impact on our lives. From childhood traumas to youthful heart breaks to adult disappointments, we can bear the invisible scars throughout a lifetime. Like an old sports injury, they can impede our present actions, cripple our faith. Read HERE

Good Friday:

So in hushed stillness, we sat in the first pew waiting for The Stations of the Cross to begin on this Good Friday. My eyes searched the bare altar, scanned the purple clothes hiding my favorite statues, all in an attempt to find consolation in familiarity. The lights still out and the sanctuary lamp missing from its stand added to the strange sense of loneliness. Read HERE

Easter lilies, tulips, aromatic incense and the warm glow of candles filled the sanctuary. The altar was dressed in the full splendor of tapestries. As well, Our Lady of Fatima stood in a place of honor veiled in glorious white. My favorite saintly statues returned to greet me and the pews were filled with brothers and sisters donning their best attire. Servers surrounded the altar and Father stood clothed in a royal white and gold chasuble. Like heaven had leaned down and kissed the earth, this morning’s Easter Mass proclaimed the Resurrection. 

If you are inspired by any of these posts, would you please share my blog with friends and acquaintances who might also enjoy these posts. Just please be sure to link them back to my blog so that increases my traffic and encourages me to keep writing. -Tara

Home Schooling 101: Easter Egg Inspirations

Years ago we initiated the annual hunt in Brelinskyville on Easter morning. Under cover of darkness a 5’4″ bunny distributes brightly colored plastic eggs beneath bushes and daffodils beds, in outdoor work boots and under porch stairs. Come morning’s light our eager basket-toting scavengers set out to collect their treasures.

The eggs have always contained sweet treats and sometimes a bit of shiny silver coins, but at one point in time I decided they needed something more. That’s when I began to include a scriptural verse, inspirational note or saintly quotation inside. My kids like to call them “fortune eggs” since the notes come on thin strips of folded paper.

A fun and simple way to evangelize, we’ve include these notes in eggs that we donate to community egg hunts and we make up small baskets with a few goodies for our neighbors and include a few “fortune eggs.” One year my boys decided to keep the notes in a bowl after Easter so they could pick out one each evening to read aloud. Some of the quotes need to be explained to little ones, but that’s a great way to begin a deeper conversation.
If you’d like to add a little extra surprise to your eggs this year, feel free to copy and print what I have come up with for this year.
God is so good and merciful, that to obtain Heaven it is sufficient to ask it of Him form our hearts.
-St. Benedict Joseph Labre
Patient endurance is the perfection of charity. -St. Ambrose
God is good.
God is love.
Jesus loves you.
There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s. -St. Teresa Avila
The saints were so completely dead to themselves that they cared very little whether others agreed with them or not. – St. John Vianney
Jesus, I trust in You.
The world would have peace if the men of politic would only follow the Gospels.
-St. Brigitta of Sweden 
Maintain a spirit of peace and you’ll save a thousand souls. -St. Seraphim of Sarov
The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweths them that trust in him.
-Nahum 1:7
Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent. -St. John of the Cross
Never rebuke while you are still indignant about a fault committed- wait until the next day, or even longer. And then calmly, and with purer intention, make your reprimand. You will gain more by a friendly word than by a three hour quarrel. -St. Jose Escriva
If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. -St. Ignatius of Loyola
Thank the good God for having visited you through suffering; if we knew the value of suffering, we would ask for it. -Blessed Brother Andre
I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of God. -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
-Psalm 27:14
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Every child is a gift from God.
Love of man leads to the love of God. -Indian Proverb
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and rely not on thine own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5
Other books were given for our information, the Bible was given for our transformation. -Anonymous
He who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands. -Bernard of Clairvaux
Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. -Oswald Chambers
Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself. -St. Anthony of Padua
Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family. -St. Angela Merici
Never utter in your neighbor’s absence what you would not say in their presence.
-St. Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi
Christ make my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve. -St. Anges
When you seek truth you seek God whether you know it or not. -Edith Stein
As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to Heaven by Mary.
-St. Thomas Aquinas
Be not anxious about what you have, but about what you are. -St. Gregory the Great
Do something good for someone you like least, today. – St. Anthony of Padua
Let us love God, but with the strength of our arms, in the sweat of our brow. -St. Vincent de Paul
Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.
-St. Therese of Lisieux
Love Him totally who gave Himself totally for your love. -St. Clare of Assisi
At the end of our life, we shall be judged by love. -St. John of the Cross
True charity means returning good for evil-always. -St. Mary Mazzarello
Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society. -St. Francis of Assisi
Make up your mind to become a saint. -St. Mary Mazzarello
You cannot be a half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all. -St. Therese of Lisieux
Laugh and play and dash about as much as you like, only be careful not to say or do anything that would be displeasing to God. – St. Mary Mazzarello
The gate of Heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it. -St. Elizabeth Seton
The whole science of the saints consists in knowing and following the will of God.
-St. Isidore of Seville
God loves obedience better than sacrifice. -Blessed Jan Van Ruysbroeck
Hate the sin, love the sinner. -St. Augustine
No one heals himself by wounding another. -St. Ambrose
No one is really happy merely because he has what he wants, but only if he wants things he ought to want. -St. Augustine
The soul of one who loves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing. -St. John of the Cross
It is such a joy when I awaken to salute God by singing. -Blessed Teresa of the Andes
In everything ask yourself what the Master would have done, and do that. -Ven. Charles de Foucauld
Never make a decision without stopping to consider the matter in the presence of God. -St. Jose Escriva

The Triumph Of Easter

Easter lilies, tulips, aromatic incense and the warm glow of candles filled the sanctuary. The altar was dressed in the full splendor of tapestries. As well, Our Lady of Fatima stood in a place of honor veiled in glorious white. My favorite saintly statues returned to greet me and the pews were filled with brothers and sisters donning their best attire. Servers surrounded the altar and Father stood clothed in a royal white and gold chasuble. Like heaven had leaned down and kissed the earth, this morning’s Easter Mass proclaimed the Resurrection.

Waiting and walking through the Church’s Triduum celebrations led me to a deeper appreciation of the joy experienced on Easter. Truly, it is after tasting the bitter cup of trials and sorrow that we learn to savor the sweetness of victory. How often I have taken for granted so many little gifts, little consolations, little comforts, but after reclining at the Lord’s Supper and kneeling beside Him on Holy Thursday, I am renewed in recognizing the value of every reception of the Eucharist, the benefit of serving rather than being served and the honor in saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

My sin of vanity can lead me to discredit the blessing of life’s marks on the body, but witnessing the torture and disfigurement of Jesus on Good Friday taught me to see the dignity of our fragile humanness. His pierced hands, feet and side, His torn flesh and punctured scalp marked the human side of His nature which He chose to take on. His total self-sacrifice transformed ugliness into beauty. So, too the gray hairs, wrinkles, stretch marks, scars and handicaps can memorialize our self-giving, our willing surrender to bear witness to the capacity of suffering.

The silence of Holy Saturday invited me to be still and reflective, to ponder His descent into hell. How eager and grateful must have been the righteous ones, who’d been waiting for this prophesied Savior to take them up with Him into glory. Still today, our brothers and sisters in purgatory await their rising and Holy Saturday reminds us that they ask for our intercessory prayers. We can be participants in their sanctification. Too many times we grow impatient waiting on God’s timing. We forget that His promises are reliable, but that we may be required to await their fulfillment. Holy Saturday depicts this required time of silence, of pausing. It inspires us to trust with abandon, not to force or attempt to cajole circumstances to fit our flawed ideals.

So, after the long season of Lent, after the difficult pilgrimage through Holy Week, Easter is the triumphant crown of Salvation glory. Fitting it is then that the brick and mortar church and the members of the Body of Christ should be an image of this splendor. The crown we did not earn. We did not merit such glory, but Jesus Christ, our King, invites to be sharers in His eternal victory. 

 For He is Risen, so let us glorify Him today, tomorrow and every day so that one day we may experience the everlasting Easter. 
Happy Easter from Brelinskyville

The Resurrecting Power of Mercy.

Like the devil himself was trying my patience and tempting me into despair, this morning horrific news reports bombarded me from every angle. Typically surrounded by a protective news bubble (by choice), I stumbled upon reports of dismemberment of parents and children, a radio broadcaster detailed the sick artwork of a child-hater, a blog hit my screen filled with angry rants, an article filled me in on the scandals created by a drug-dealing priest, and porn-promising spam snuck its way into my in-box. Add to this, the current hot-topic debates that equate the sacred Sacrament of Marriage to milk and unborn humans to benign tissue and it would seem the world’s gone hopelessly mad.

So in hushed stillness, we sat in the first pew waiting for The Stations of the Cross to begin on this Good Friday. My eyes searched the bare altar, scanned the purple clothes hiding my favorite statues, all in an attempt to find consolation in familiarity. The lights still out and the sanctuary lamp missing from its stand added to the strange sense of loneliness.

Then as the clock met noon, the bells chimed loudly crying out the hour, the lights clicked on and Father, the Deacon and the servers began their Cross walk. On hearing those first words, tears puddled in the corners of my eyes, but I drew them back. Genuflecting to the declaration “Because by Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world,” I was transported in my thoughts. Watching our innocent Lord stand accused, seeing Him accept the crushing weight of the wooden cross, I couldn’t help but choke on my words as I begged His forgiveness and requested His aid to keep me from offending Him again. Choking because I know I’ll fail repeatedly.

The Welcome Distraction Of A Kiss

Periodically, when kneeling shrank my height, our 4 year old leaned over and left a sweet kiss on my cheek. These tender momentary distractions helped keep the tears at bay.

We accompanied Jesus down the long, arduous roads toward the end on a hill where He’d give up His life. The Stations of the Cross are a journey, both communal and personal. Traveling them throughout Lent leads to extraordinary grace, but especially on Good Friday.

Our steps complete, Father and his assistants disappeared and the church emptied of all signs of life. The next two hours for me were spent filling hungry bellies with a meager meal and seeing to the task of providing a safe place for my youngest to expend their ample energy before the hour of mercy called us back to worship.

Just before the third hour, I ushered my brood back into the serene sanctuary, back into the silence, the loneliness. Then, the procession stirred the stillness and as the priests reached the naked altar they prostrated themselves. Impressed by the awesome display of three large men, robed in rich red garments, lying face down on the altar riser, my son inquired, “Why are they doing that?” “They are telling God that they adore Him,” I explained, “and they are offering their whole selves to Him.”

Listening to the readings reminded me that Jesus was the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise. His Passion foreshadowed in detail to generations. Again those wet drops welled up as I considered how much God so loved the world. After the gospel recounted the Passion, Father spoke to us of the mercy of God. He reminded us that in His lifetime, Jesus Christ spent time in the company of unbelievers, of critics, of sinners, and betrayers, He turned no one away. He healed, fed and taught all who came, even those who would reject or betray Him. God is unchanging, He continues to offer Himself for all of us today, all of us. 

Behold The Wood Of The Cross

Then, a crucifix was carried to the altar and its purple veil removed as Father declared, “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Salvation of the world.” Affixed to this 3 foot crucifix was a corpse of our Lord, our Salvation, which we were invited to venerate. Reaching my turn at the head of the communal line, I bent forward, delicately gripped the wood and kissed the carved, pierced feet of my Savior. A sublime moment, when such a little act has the power to release such a flood of mercy.

Returning to my seat, I found myself considering all those horrific news reports and the perpetrators that gave them warrant. Jesus died for them, too. Even if they come late to work in the fields, He promises them the same wage, salvation. Evil will never overpower mercy. The morning’s temptations to despair were arrested in this moment by Truth. While the world may be going mad, evil will be conquered just as it was on Calvary.

The reception of Christ’s Body and Blood followed, increasing my strength and then once again the Good Friday celebration was complete. But left on the altar riser was that crucifix and I found myself wishing to curl up at its foot (I restrained myself for fear spectators would decide I’d finally and completely lost my mind). But, I really wanted to drop there and pray, pray for all those unbelievers, scandal-inducers, lost souls, misguided believers and evil-doers. I realized this was my opportunity to fight back against the madness. I had the power to beg God’s mercy for myself and the whole world.

Truly, it is a Good day this Friday. Each year it opens the doorway to history and allows us to go deeper in our journey. It destroys hopelessness, pours out mercy and prepares us for what is to come on the third day. How can we immerse ourselves, our whole selves, in the intense joy of Easter without first discovering the power of the crucifixion which proceeded it? It is in witnessing the total self-sacrifice of Jesus on that instrument of torture that we can begin to understand (although never fully) the breadth and depth of His love for us all and the resurrecting power of His mercy.

Learning To Wait: Walking Through Holy Week Alongside Jesus

Walking down the hallway in my home, I glanced into the nursery which is in the process of being reclaimed and one word came to mind, “waiting.” The pale blue walls have been retouched and the trim work accepted a fresh coat of white paint. The unfinished door was finally finished and the little boys’ furniture has vacated the space. Now just a naked changing table and an empty dresser have moved in, along with an unoccupied bassinet.

Entranced for a moment, I imagine the day when the little room will spring back to life. Bustling with activity, as baby is swayed to sleep in that bassinet by a sibling, diapered on that table by daddy or when those dresser drawers are receiving tiny, folded onsies. But for today, the bare floor and sparse furnishings remind me that we are waiting, patiently anticipating.

While all of Lent signifies a period of waiting, Palm Sunday invites us, like an open door, to reflect in earnest on the week of waiting that lies ahead.

Imagine Preparing The Way

Imagine the Apostles’ thoughts as Jesus directed them to seek out the young colt and upper room. What odd requests those may have seemed on first hearing. If in their shoes, I’d have been excited and perhaps a bit anxious searching to fulfill my Lord’s command. Waiting to see if those prophesied resources were so easily secured.

Envision reclining at table with Jesus, listening to the sound of His calm, mysterious words as He offers His Body and Blood for the first time. So many struggle with this abstruse teaching that they give up and flee the room. He speaks of a coming time when He’ll no longer be present, how confusing and worrisome. Perhaps, the Apostles desire a further explanation, but instead they must wait to fully comprehend the meaning of all that they are witnessing.

Accompany our Sweet Lord into the Garden of Olives, kneel beside Him on that solid earth. Consider the spark of His Passion as Jesus beholds the face of each and every one of us (you and me). Two thousand years ago He studied your face, watched your life unfold, contemplated you while in the Garden and chose to offer Himself in reparation for your sins. He accepted your punishment. Fervently praying to the Father, the first drops of precious blood beaded on His tense brow in anticipation of what was to come. The Apostles, too weary to wait, drift off to slumber. Jesus, in solitude, remains alert; listening for the footsteps of His betrayer.

Upon the arrival of Judas’ kiss, how rapidly the setting transforms. Angry soldiers, confounded Apostles, an accursed betrayer and Jesus are triggered into action. But what does Jesus say when His followers draw their swords in His defense? He admonishes them. Further waiting is required as they witness the arrest of an innocent, the Son of God.

Enduring In Silence As The Accusations Fly

How do we endure in silence as the accusers line up to utter false statements against our beloved? Hearts pounding, heads spinning, we bite down hard to keep our tongues still, fearing for our own lives. Helplessly we’ll remain around the fray awaiting the verdict.

My heart breaks for our Blessed Mother, as the crowds demand the death of her only child. Each moment of torture seems unending as Jesus waits in between the cracks of a whip. Who can endure the thought without retreating into distraction? Ears cannot bear to imagine the grueling sound and yet she, along with His dear ones, listens and waits for the end.

From the sidelines, picture His torn shoulders buckling under the weight of that heavy, wooden cross. Broken and drained, Jesus struggles to lift His feet and propel Himself forward; forward to more agony. Breathing seems a chore as we bridle our want to run to our Lord, to lift that burden from Him.

It’s noon when His arms are stretched across that timber and with every smash of the hammer, His gentle hands are pierced more deeply. It seems as though our waiting may never be over. Several years ago, my family was audience to a reenactment of the Passion. In place of nails, the actor was secured to a cross with tight ropes. There was a moment when they up-righted the lumber that the actor was visibly pained and it took my breath away to see it. He remained tied there for some time and all that I could think about was wanting the play to end.

Our Lady and St. John stand vigil at the foot of that cross as the hour hand creeps around the clock again and again. And then that heart-wrenching utterance sounds as Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”) Who can withstand another second? If you’ve ever cradled a dying loved one in your arms, you know the conflict. Your heart aches wanting to keep them close, alive, but you pray for the suffering to be finished, for death to free them.

The World Itself Cries Out

In the hour of mercy the world itself is shaken, the sun hides its face and the Sanctuary veil tears in two, as Jesus relinquishes His Spirit. His lungs release a last breath. How eager His mother is to receive Him back in her motherly embrace, but again she waits on the cruel soldiers, witnessing their callous actions.

Finally, our dear Christ’s body is delicately wrapped in fresh linens, loving laid in the unoccupied tomb. We see the massive stone rolled into place, blotting Him from our eyes.

Today, we know the joyous ending that awaits us next Sunday. With perspective, we are privileged to appreciate what came on the third day. But before we arrange our Easter celebrations this year, let us first reside in the periods of waiting. Savor the week ahead. Meditate on the footprints which carry us from Holy Thursday through Good Friday. Sacrifice our time and accompany our Lord throughout the week’s memorial Masses.

As my journey through motherhood has taught me, waiting is a necessary part and tasting the bitterness of sorrow first, makes the flavor of glory all the sweeter.