Gunman attacks Priest, and then asks for Confession.

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I was shocked to hear the recent story of Fr John Hamlet. Fr Hamlet had been called out on an emergency hospital visit late at night on Ash Wednesday, but due to his car being currently in an unusable state he instead decided to catch a cab.

He managed to give the hospital patient the last rites and then after a short while started to make his way back home – this time on foot. He knew it was not advisable to be walking alone in that part of town late at night, but he did not have enough money to pay a second extortionate cab fare that evening – even though it was freezing cold.

As he turned into an alleyway that would shortcut 10 mins off his walk home, he suddenly realised he was being followed. He quickened his pace but soon realised that the end of the alleyway had been  blocked off by two dumpster bins. Before he knew it, Fr Hamlet was pushed into a doorway and a young man was holding a gun to his head.

“Give me your wallet” The young man shouted into his face. Terrified, Fr Hamlet agreed, and then indicated to the young man that he needed to unzip his coat to get his wallet from the inside pocket.

As he unzipped his coat the young man noticed his priestly collar and suddenly dropped the gun. “Oh I’m so sorry Father! I had no idea you were a priest – If I had known I never would have tried to rob you. I’m a terrible Catholic…” And the young man dropped to his knees and began to cry uncontrollably.

“That’s ok my son” said Fr Hamlet as he tried to console the young man. He asked the young man if he would like confession and the young gunman agreed. Feeling incredibly moved by the situation Fr Hamlet tried to make the young man feel better. “You know what – I don’t even have any money left in my wallet, but why don’t you take this packet of cigarettes instead? I know I could sure do with a smoke after tonight!”

“That is very kind of you Father” said the young man picking up his gun and placing it back in his trousers “But I’ve given up smoking for Lent!”

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Beautiful Lent.

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‘Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge’ – Monet.

How’s your Lent going?

Are you finding it easy? Then perhaps do a little something extra.

Are you struggling? Then perhaps ease off a bit and try something a little easier.

You see, it is not how much we are fasting, but with how much love we do it that charms the heart of Christ (St Therese of Lisieux). Sometimes the smallest things require the biggest effort. God sees all of this. It’s not an endurance test 🙂

I have been giving up my first cup of tea in the morning, and also trying my best to find a way of giving up worrying. My worry habit exposes my lack of trust in God and my reliance on myself. This is something that needs to be addressed, but it really is easier said than done. However, I have found one little thing that really has seemed to make a difference.

I was at my Mum’s house on Ash Wednesday and she handed me a CD. “You should listen to this – it’s really good!” (You know you are approaching middle age when your Mum recommends you music – and it IS actually really good!) It was a CD from Medjugorije made by the young men and women of the Cenacolo Community. It was basically a praise and worship CD – but she was right, it was REALLY good!

I found that listening to people who had allowed Christ to be in complete control of their lives, who were worshiping Him with such enthusiasm and openness really lifted my mood. The whole thing was just so good, so beautiful, that it seemed to remind me that there were things bigger than me and my problems.

I had the same experience today in the car when I accidently turned on Radio 3. They were playing Vaughan Williams and I don’t know what it was, but the sheer beauty of the music seemed to have the most profound calming effect on me. It was just so beautiful. I swear the medical profession should start using beauty as a treatment for all sorts of ailments. Yeah – beauty therapy! I guess that would make composers like Vaughan Williams and artists like Monet beauty therapists!!

I think beauty is extremely important during difficult times in our lives. Real beauty is an intensely spiritual thing that simply cannot be rationally explained. Beauty – I believe – is a purely human experience. I don’t think animals are touched in the same way by a piece of music or a beautiful sunset. I believe real beauty speaks directly to our immortal souls. It is God giving us a foretaste of the life to come. And that is perhaps what I find so calming about it – to know that this life’s problems are only temporary, and they will not exist in heaven.

I suppose you could look at beauty as being an incredible act of mercy – giving us hope and inspiring patience, forbearance and also creativity within us. It reminds us that God is bigger than us, and that He is good.

I found that my response to this beauty was not just awe and wonder, but incredible gratitude. And I feel that is a most appropriate feeling to dwell upon as we go further into Lent and head towards Holy Week.

Let Prayer be your Refuge this Christmas.

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For all you Americans… This is a Christmas pudding. We Brits like to pour brandy all over it and set it on fire when we bring it to the table. It’s awesome! (you wouldn’t understand 😉 )

Depending on your situation, Christmas can be completely overwhelming in different ways.

As a mother of 3 young kids it can get pretty hectic. In years passed I have literally been exhausted to the point of tears – which was a stupid position to let myself get into. It would take one wrong look from my husband and we would end up having a blazing row. I’ll never forget the time about 7 or 8 years ago he ended up calling me a b**ch at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve! I refused to open my presents for 3 DAYS!!! Lol! Thank God those days are over! We survived it, and came through, and the marriage carried on. Anyway it couldn’t have been that bad because I fell pregnant 4 weeks later with our 2nd!

Now we do less, have less, expect less, and Christmas tends to be a much happier time for everyone.

All I’m saying is that Christmas tends to amplify everything – including marriage issues. So just be aware of this and try to give each other a break. Don’t allow Satan to use this time to steal your joy, or use you to steal others joy.

Louis and Zelie Martin pray for us.

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This is a Yule Log. It is totally pagan but it has chocolate and cream so I allow it in our house!

And what about relatives? Find them difficult?! Yes. Everyone does. And the worst thing about it is that your job as a Christian is to try to share the Good news of our savior’s birth with a bunch of lousy atheists who insist on staying in your house, eating your food and telling your children that Christmas is all about the birth of Santa!

I guess the only thing I can say here is to pray to God for patience and charity! Remember that God made them, and wants them to come into a relationship with Him, and He may well be using you as the link to accomplish that. Try to understand that you have no idea what the Holy Spirit might doing within them right now, and that your prayers for them all this year will sure to be making a difference – you have been praying for them all year, right? Now is a good time to start 😉

But what if you don’t have a family? or you can’t be with your family? The other thing that people often find overwhelming at Christmas is loneliness.

Having never been alone at Christmas I can’t really comment on this other to say that I do know what it is to be in a room full of people, and be the loneliest person on the earth. Loneliness doesn’t just strike those who are physically alone. It can strike anyone at anytime of their lives, in any given situation.

What I used to detest here is when I used to pretend. On the outside everything was just fine and dandy, but on the inside I would be lost in the dark, drowning in a sea of lonliness. Those dark days are thankfully over, and it is only now when I look back that I see that that loneliness was from God. He was allowing me to enter deeply into the emptiness  of a society without Him, to see that what was being offered to me by the world would never, ever satisfy me. He was teaching me that I needed Him more than I needed air. Through the agony of my secret silent internal isolation He was preparing me for a relationship with Him.

That loneliness, that longing, was soon to start dissolving with that peace that only He can give. The peace of knowing where you belong, of being truly loved and valued. It is the same peace of a sleeping babe in the arms of its mother.

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This is a pantomime dame. It is the only time of year when parents pay to let their children be entertained by a old man in a dress pretending to be a woman (unless you subscribe to SKY TV and watch “I am Cait” – which I know none of you do of course. Apparently it’s hilarious (the pantomime I mean).

What ever you situation this year let prayer be your refuge. Allow God to use your situation to draw you deeper into relationship with Him. An hours meditation on Luke’s Gospel, 5 mins when you get the luxury of escaping the kids to go to the bathroom! Or just a simple glance up to God – a surge of your heart towards your infinitely powerful creator who comes to you today as a tiny helpless baby born to a teenage girl in a stable.

Mary has known chaos at Christmas entering Bethlehem on a flipping donkey for goodness sake!!! She has know longing and loneliness. She had a complicated marriage situation! Her husband was not the father of her Child. She had relatives some of whom no doubt did not understand her faith. But she also had Jesus.

As she held Him for the first time, as she look into the face of God, and kissed that little sweet face, everything else must have just melted away leaving her with the awe and wonder and glory of a newborn baby, and above all, Love.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas this year. Know that I will be remembering you all in my prayers – especially all you priests, giving everything and working so hard! Try not to get overwhelmed, and I look forward to hearing how Christ has made Himself known to you all this Christmas 2015. xx

“The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

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It was August 2015 a few days before the start of my husbands Lightning Process treatment for CFS that I knew something special was about to happen. Lying in bed in the dark and the silence, I could feel that feeling.

Sometimes it feels like the room is filled with angels, sometimes it feels like I am totally present – in front of a mirror of truth, and can see myself for who I really am. Quite often my heart just burns heavily inside my chest, a bit like when you are the early stages of being in love. Sometimes it is Jesus, sometimes it is Mother Mary, sometimes it is Teresa or Therese or Joseph. It is difficult to describe.

I know that not everyone feels this type of thing but for me it is a normal day to day thing. This doesn’t mean I am holier than other people – of course not, far from it! This is just the way that God has always made Himself known to me – ever since I was 4 years old.

So you can imagine my surprise when my  husband rolled over and said to me “Can you feel that? The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

“Yes” I said, “you know I can, But YOU can feel it too?!” 

The air was soft. It was the softness of a mother’s caress that seemed to say “It’s all finished now. Enough suffering, you are going to get well now.” She was  letting us know that she had not just seen our suffering, but she had been standing at the foot of our cross, every day since the beginning.

It happened a second night, and then a third. And it was then that I began to expect a miracle.

Nick’s recovery happened on the second day of the treatment. It was like flicking a switch. In the morning he was sick, in the evening he was well. He actually felt so ill that morning that he called to say that he wasn’t going to make it in. But they convinced him to go in for 10 mins or so 😉

And I knew that this was our last ditch attempt at getting him well before we would have to make some serious life decisions about selling the house and changing the kids schools. It was also pretty much the last strand of hope for keeping the marriage together. I’ve never really spoken of this before, but the effects of long term illness on a marriage with 2 young kids and a newborn baby, and the vulnerable state that puts you in is not to be underestimated. Without the intercession of St Joseph – protector of families, I don’t know what would have become of us.

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But none of that mattered anymore. Nick had gone in on that Tuesday morning as sick as i’ve ever seen him, and when he came out he was well. He has been well ever since. It happened on Tuesday 11th August – the feast of St Clare!

And for those of you who don’t know already he will be going back to work for the first time in 2 years in the new year 🙂 He went for one interview last week and they offered him the job on the spot!

This indescribably difficult period of our lives is now truly coming to an end.  Nick will be stepping back into the usual father/husband role, and I will GET MY HOUSE TO MYSELF once again for the first time in 2 years!!! (I will miss him desperately of course… 😉 )

The baby is 2 now and is going to start a few hours at nursery, and I will get a little more time to sew vestments. Things are really looking up for us now. Praise God! Praise the name of Jesus forever! And God bless His beautiful mother Mary who loves all her children, and stands at the foot of all of our crosses and suffers with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Celibacy and the Priesthood.

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I was saddened recently to hear the extremely disturbing news of a priest who has recently decided to leave the priesthood to take up with an 18 year old girl. I’m not sure when the girl’s 18th birthday was, but I do know this is not a decision that would have happened over night. I understand he began thinking of leaving several months ago. How long were they involved before he decided to officially leave the priesthood? When did she turn 18?

It does raise the alarm bells for some extremely serious safeguarding issues that I very strongly hope are being fully investigated by his Bishop. God only knows what her parents are going through right now.

My hope is that he has the best intentions for this girl and has decided to do the right thing by her and marry her. Perhaps the obvious age gap will not cause a problem? Who am I to judge? After all she is an adult now – just, and legally able to make her own decisions. But then again, at 18, I was extremely naïve and vulnerable and an older man did take advantage of me.

I hope that his Fatherly background will ground them both solidly in the understanding of God’s plan for marriage and family and they will be able to live out this extremely important vocation for the rest of their lives. I hope he is making chastity a priority right now. But then again – I hear he is a supporter of gay marriage, and other equally false theological notions.

Somehow, his dodgy theology and his dodgy actions seem to complement each other perfectly. The man needs prayers. And so does that 18 year old kid.

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I’ve had long discussions recently regarding priestly celibacy. Personally I think it is a difficult argument to make when I see married Anglican convert priests often doing a better job than some of the celibate priests I know. These men are living proof that the duality of vocations is possible, and many of them describe the two vocations as complimenting each other rather than opposing:

“I am a Catholic (Anglican convert) priest, with lots of children, and a long happy marriage. My parish has 1,000 parishioners on a Sunday who appear very happy and cared for. I work extremely hard at both vocations and I understand the celibacy discipline. But my vocations aren’t in competition but are complimentary to the other. I not less committed to either. Both have sacramental graces and responsibilities attached to them.

I have a wife who is 100% behind me and children who are gracious in sharing me. It’s all of grace and I claim no power in it. I have to rely fully on God and listen to my wife, children and parishioners. It’s not always easy but when is either marriage or priesthood easy? It’s grace.”

However the beauty and incredible witness of celibacy are not to be overlooked:

“Besides all the practical benefits of a celibate priestly class there’s something even more important. The world is obsessed with sex and its advertisement, for the world it is the be all and end all. Celibacy shows the radical nature of the Faith, without it, not just the priesthood, but the whole faith would become something bland. It would be seen as just another part of life, when it is supposed to be life.

There’s also the added advantage of dealing with people that are having difficulties in relationships e.g., I was talking to a man suffering from SSA the other day and was able to talk to him about the heroic virtues without looking two faced. In other words, “We priests and religious can live life without sex or emotional relationships that involve intimacy and God will give you the grace to do it too!” It would be a very different case if I was married with four children.”

The fact that the other rites within the Catholic Church successfully have married priests and the fact that our Roman rite has not always required celibacy also makes the argument for celibacy more difficult. It would be naïve to think that the celibacy requirement did not have a lot to do with keeping money within the church rather than it going to widows of priests – but I’m sure the Roman Church would never be so materialistic, would it?

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I guess the best explanation I can understand is that a priest is called to love all equally with everything he can give, and in this way he is required to forgo exclusive relationships. I guess several decades ago when priests lived in community this would be good. The community would be the ‘family’ of the priest and stop him from having to endure isolation and all the temptations that come with that. But nowadays priests are more and more living alone. I’m not sure this is a good thing. Jesus always sent the disciples out in pairs, He didn’t expect anyone to go it alone.

And then there are the wonderful ex-priests I know who left to get married. Given the chance I know they would still be excellent priests today. Their decision to leave must have been agonising.

There is also the issue of older Deacons whose families have grown up and left home. They are already successfully dedicating themselves to their parishes. Would it not be reasonable for them to become Fr’s if they felt the calling? I know of one such deacon who did just this after his wife died. His adult children support him totally. But this situation is of course completely different to that of a young man with young children.

The jury is out for me on the issue of priestly celibacy. I can see major benefits and disadvantages to both states. And after all, it is a discipline not a doctrinal issue which means that it can be changed at any time. But I must say that I hold the deepest respect for those of you who are celibate priests, and who have given everything to serve God’s church. I pray for you everyday.

I must also make it crystal clear – in my eyes, an adult male leaving the priesthood to be with an 18 year old kid has very little to do with the issue of celibacy, and much more to do with the issue of sexual abuse.

2017 – Are you ready?

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I have been wanting to write the ‘2017 post’ for a long time now. For about 10 years I’ve had a gut feeling about that year, but of course gut feelings don’t mean very much do they? But those feelings are still with me and are getting stronger – whatever that means. I also feel things are escalating at an increasingly fast rate now. But again, feelings don’t mean very much, so I’ve been gathering various sources of information that could possibly explain why 2017 feels significant to me.

Firstly It is 100 years since the first apparitions at Fatima. These extraordinary events in 1917 can be seen as ushering in the catastrophic twentieth century. By 1917 the first World War was grinding on with horrors never before imagined by the human race. The lady of Fatima predicted another war if mankind did not repent. This war would be presaged by a heavenly sign. This took place with an amazing display in the night sky across Europe on January 25, 1938–just before Europe was plunged into another war.

The rest of the century would witness untold misery and bloodshed in genocide, atomic warfare, terrorism, famine, natural disaster and the rise of technologies that would poison nature, destroy the family and set humanity on a course of self destruction.

The miraculous nature of the events at Fatima have been affirmed by the church and most of the popes of the last century have had a strong personal and seemingly apocalyptic association with the prophecies given to the three children. The co-incidence of the dates of May 13 (when the apparitions began) and October 13 (when the apparitions ended with the miracle of the sun) are interesting. Pope Piux XII was consecrated bishop on May 13, 1917 – the day of the first apparition and became known as the Fatima Pope. He consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima and made repeated references to the prophecies.

Photograph taken during the “Dance of the Sun” at Fatima on 13 October 1917.

Photograph taken during the “Dance of the Sun” at Fatima on 13 October 1917.

Paul VI met the visionary Sister Lucia and prayed with her on May 13, 1967–on the fiftieth anniversary of the visions. John Paul II was almost killed by an assassin’s bullet on May 13, 1981, and six years later on the seventieth anniversary of the visions went to Fatima to give thanks to the Virgin for saving his life.  Benedict XVI affirmed his belief in the supernatural origin of the visions, visited Sr Lucia, went to Fatima and said “the prophecies of Fatima are by no means completed.” Pope Francis had his papacy dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2013 and consecrated the world in a public ceremony on October 13, 2013. He has the image of Fatima in Rome  today to be venerated and plans to visit Fatima in 2017 for the centenary of the events.

Seeing that it is one hundred years since the events makes one wonder how significant this anniversary in two years’ time is for world history. Also, seeing how the events of 1917 opened up an unprecedented century of evil in the world one is reminded of the vision of Pope Leo XIII in which Satan would be given one hundred years to attempt to destroy the church.

In 1884, after saying Mass on the morning of, according to at least one source, October 13th, as he was leaving the Altar, the 74 year old and frail Pope Leo XIII fell to the ground as if dead. He related that he had experienced a sort of vision, in which he heard two voices, one of which he took to be that of Christ, gentle and kind, and the other that of Satan, guttural and harsh.

Satan said, “I could destroy Your Church if I had the time, and more power over those who give themselves over to my service.” And then Pope Leo heard Christ to answer, “You have the power, you have the time: 100 years.”

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII

Curiously, the prophet Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser predicted seven ages of the church. The fifth began in 1517 with the Protestant Revolution. This period of tribulation comes to it’s five hundredth anniversary also in the year 2017. This fifth age would culminate in terrible persecution of the church. After that he predicted an era of peace and consolation. Our Lady at Fatima also predicted a period of peace after the difficulties to come.

Will 2017 therefore see some sort of climactic event which surges humanity and the whole world into a new era?

Wait – there’s more…

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In 3/2 B.C., there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star). The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah). So it heavily symbolized Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah. Further, rising right behind Leo was the constellation Virgo, with the sun behind and the moon at her feet.

After this incredible triple conjunction, Jupiter began moving westward in the sky, eventually coming into conjunction with Venus, a planet long symbolically associated with motherhood. The conjunction of the king planet and the motherhood planet was so close, that no man alive had ever seen anything like it and together it formed the brightest object in the sky.

All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah and a Virgin was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it. Jupiter continued its western movement in the sky until it finally stopped. When it stopped (as seen from Jerusalem), it stopped directly south, directly over the small village of Bethlehem, on December 25 of 2 B.C. This may be easily seen with modern star programs that can show you the night sky on any date in history from any perspective. It is the advent of such computer programs that now allows us to not only look at the past, but to look at the skies of the future.

Given the context of all I just described, it is when we turn our gaze to the heavens of the future that things start to get really interesting.

“A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.” – Revelation 12

The author of Revelation clearly indicates that this vision is one of a sign in heaven or in the sky. What do we see in the sky of the near future?

In 2016, an astronomical event begins and will last nine and a half months:

On November 20, 2016, Jupiter (the King planet) enters into the body (womb) of the constellation Virgo (the virgin).   Jupiter, due its retrograde motion, will spend the next 9 ½ months within the womb of Virgo. This length of time corresponds with gestation period of a normal late-term baby.

After 9 ½ months, Jupiter exits out of the womb of Virgo. Upon Jupiter’s exit (birth), on September 23, 2017, we see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). At the feet of Virgo, we find the moon. And upon her head we find a crown of twelve stars, formed by the usual nine stars of the constellation Leo with the addition of the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

Unbelievable right?! And as far as I can determine, this is a unique series of events in the history of mankind with a startling degree of concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12.

So what does it mean, if anything? The obvious and truthful answer is that we simply do not know. That said, we are not entirely without possible context.

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The culmination of these astronomical events occurs just 3 weeks before the 100th anniversary of the great miracle of Fatima, in which the sun “danced” (another heavenly sign), an event that was witnessed by many thousands.

In August 1931, Sister Lucy of Fatima was staying with a friend at Rianjo, Spain. There, Our Lord appeared to Sr. Lucy and He complained the requests of His mother had not been heeded saying, “Make it known to My ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My command, they will follow him into misfortune. It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.”

And again in another text, Sr. Lucy quoted Our Lord as saying, “They did not wish to heed My request! … Like the King of France, they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors in the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.”

Those references to the King of France are very interesting for our discussion as this is an explicit reference to the requests of the Sacred Heart given through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 17, 1689 to the King of France. King Louis XIV and his successors failed to heed Our Lord’s request to publicly consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result, on June 17, 1789, one hundred years to the day after the request, the National Assembly of the French Revolution rose up and declared itself the government of France and stripped the king of his power. Later, the king lost his head to the revolution.

It is not possible to know the relevance of this 100-year allusion or to know if and when the clock may have started ticking, but it is certainly interesting and relevant in this context. And let’s not forget the vision of Pope Leo XIII.

I must also note that the date the astronomical event begins on 20th November 2016, is the Feast of Christ the King. It is also the very day that Pope Francis’ declared “Year of Mercy”, comes to an end.

So what does all of this mean? Nothing, quite frankly – after all, I could walk out my door tomorrow morning and get struck by lightning or hit by a bus. Coming face-to-face with our creator is a certainty for all of us one day. But all this does make me wonder if following the Year of Mercy in 2016, we will be having the Year of Justice in 2017?

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the 3 days of darkness, or the (so far neither approved or condemned) 10 secrets of Medjugorje yet…

Blessed candles: Check.

Salt and Holy water: Check.

Been to Confession: Check.

Daily Rosary and fasting for the conversion of the world: Check, but I really need to do this one more…

Sources:

2017, Fatima and the End of the World

http://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/2127-apocalypse-now-another-great-sign-rises-in-the-heavens

When you are Fat and Old.

Well, it’s been almost 4 days since I got back from Rome now and I have to admit I am still not back to normal. I’m having a seriously hard time coming down from the whole experience mentally and emotionally, and physically I am still completely destroyed.

I averaged about 5 hours sleep a night when I was there due to late night restaurants with the most raucous bunch of contemplatives you could ever wish to dine with, and I was getting up at 6.30am. I was also walking at least 5 miles per day.

To be honest with you I’m seriously unfit. I’ve never really recovered from having kids. My tummy muscles are totally shot. I still have a 3 inch gap between where the muscles are supposed to meet on the front of my stomach. That’s never gonna heal – not even with 1000 sit up’s a day. But on the up side I do have a rather nice squishy platform to rest my laptop on while I write this blog post.

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“…it’s like being on a bouncy castle.”

Due to stress and tiredness and laziness and exhaustion I just can’t seem to loose any weight. Seeing myself on TV was a bit of a shock tbh. It not only exposed the fact that I am highly superficial in terms of appearance and attached to the thought of a body that is long gone, but also that I do actually look rather different in reality than I do in my own imagination. I didn’t realise I was that fat! Ha! The truth hurts hey?! Not that it bothers my husband. Nothing puts him off. As far as he’s concerned the more wobbly bits the better. Just this afternoon he enthusiastically described our nocturnal nuptial activities as “…like being on a bouncy castle!” LOL! I told him it was more like Sumo wrestling. Who says romance is dead hey?!

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Sumo wrestlers.

But seriously, I’m 36 next month. Most days I feel like I’m 86. Being a wife and mum is tiring. Being a good wife and mum is exhausting. And I’m not getting any younger. Infact as I am getting older I am finding that I relish time on my own more, and also those precious moments of silence I sometimes get during the day.

Beauty means different things to me now. Beauty is my children, my creative work on my vestments, the fact that me and Nick are still willing to give more, even after 16 years together. Even though my body is long past any point of aesthetic recovery, it is true to say that I have never felt so beautiful internally. It’s because I’m happy, and I know that I am loved. I have never been so secure in my identity in the eyes of God as I am now. Happy people shine, and at the moment even though I am tired and fat and old, I just feel like I am radiating love like a Supernova.

A big, fat, Supernova! Ha!

Gosh I’m tired – time to stop writing now before I say anything more stupider than I usually do.

Omgosh I did a bidding prayer at the Vatican!

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I’m writing this at Fiumicino airport on my phone so I hope it is going to present itself ok?!  Let’s try…

Well… Yesterday I read a bidding prayer at the Vatican, during the canonisation Mass of Louis and Zelie Martin – the parents of St Therese of Lisieux.

This all came about because I am a secular Carmelite. My formation director is friends with one of the Carmelite friars in Rome who happens to be the assistant to the General Procurator (the guy who investigates the miracles attributed to possible saints) and he was looking for an English speaker to do one of the bidding prayers. So she gave him my email address!

We had a practise on the Saturday, but I actually missed our practice slot because I was too busy chatting. Typical me. But in my defence I was chatting to the relatives of Louis and Zellie Martin, and Therese of Lisieux! (but that’s another blog post I am yet to write).

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I was just so happy to be there watching all the preparations to be honest. Let me tell you this: a Papal Mass is one big choreography. It was fascinating to see the organisation going on in several different languages. Lucky for me most people spoke at least basic English, because I can’t speak a word of any other language. I struggle enough with English frankly! But it didn’t matter. There is always someone who is available for a bit of impromptu translation. But I did at least get to go and stand at the Ambo and freak out at how many chairs there were!

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Sunday morning I arrived at St Peters square at 7.45am and there was already hundreds of people queuing to get in. Lucky I had a ‘special’ ticket and was able to go straight through up into the VIP area.  There I met the rest of the bidding prayer crew.

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We were able to have a run through but I have to say, I wasn’t really nervous, just really, really excited!

Then Mass started. We were sitting pretty much in the front row. There were just two suits in front of us who I assume were security, with black briefcases that I assume contained lots of guns and stuff. Seriously – I think we had the best seats in the house.

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Pope Francis seemed to me to be a Father under enormous pressure, who desperately needs the prayers and support of Mother church. It’s not an easy marriage at the moment. I don’t envy his job one bit.

He declared Louis and Zélie Martin saints. The first married couple ever to be canonised together. May they watch over, and be a tangible source of help to all married couples and families.

So then, after the homily, came the moment of truth for me. Bidding prayer time. I’m very happy to report that I managed NOT to trip up, fluff my lines or do a Marilyn Munroe with my dress.

Click to view video.

After Mass their was opportunity to get a quick photo of Papa Franko in the Popemobile.

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He usually takes about 20 minutes to drive around the whole of St Peters square and kiss babies ect. But his drive was cut rather short that day. Probably because he needed to get home pronto to watch Argentina destroy Ireland in the rugby (just kidding!).

The crowd was estimated at about 80k, and spilled out into the roads surrounding St Peters square.

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And I even managed to get a pic of the gorgeous altar frontal – for research purposes only 😉

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Then I had to leg it before security rolled me up in the red carpet and threw me out! Ha!ha!

It was an INCREDIBLE day. Probably one of the best days of my life. I’m in no doubt that my Carmelite sister St. Therese orchestrated all of this for me on her parents big day! I’m forever in her debt. <3

I prayed for you all, and all your intentions xxx

When you feel used…

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I have experienced many negative emotions over the course of my life, but the one that leaves me with the most bitter taste in my mouth is that of feeling used. I am not a resource or an object to be utilised at the whim of the user. I am a human being, a child made in the image and likeness of God. And I deserve to be respected and treated as such.

Be it through disingenuousness, naivety or just plain old wishful thinking I believed I meant more to that person than I actually did. It hurts. It hurts a lot. And it makes me feel very, very angry and very stupid.

But I guess these things happen hey?

Never mind. Forgive and move on. But just before I do…

It is worth just reflecting on whether any other relationships I have are (in the words of Plato) utilitarian relationships – user relationships. After about 5 seconds reflection on this matter, to my horror, I discovered that most of the relationships I have in my life have some sort of utilitarian aspect to them. Either I am being used or I am the user. That was an unpleasant discovery.

Be it my kids, my husband, my parents, friends, whoever… there is always a risk that I could be using or allowing myself to be used. This is not to say of course that we should not be generous in our time or resources to each other, it is just when that delicate balance of giving and getting become, well, taken for granted I suppose.

A priest told me today how he always asks his marriage prep couples why they want to marry their fiance. 9 times out of 10 he said that the answers were “Because she makes me happy” “Because I feel comfortable with him” “Because he makes me feel ‘whole'”. It was all about what their fiance could do for them, rather than what they could do for their fiance. I’m sure I displayed this exact same utilitarian attitude 16 years ago when I got married. Ha! They’ll learn! Lol!

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St. Teresa of Avila

Remember that disastrous silent retreat I went on last June where the silence drove me to cigarettes? You know – the one where the fire alarm went off all night. Yeah – that one. Well, the one thing that I really remember from it was that Teresa of Avila teaches us that our ‘horizontal’ relationships are credible indicators of the ‘vertical’ relationship we have with God. She tells us that “we cannot know whether or not we love God, although there are strong indications for recognizing that we do love Him; but we can know whether we love our neighbor” – (5th Dwelling Place, Interior Castle).

So if pretty much all of my earthly relationships have a utilitarian element to them, then what does that say about my relationship with God?

Yeah.

Feeling small. Feeling bad.

I guess if I honestly examine my verbal prayer life, it is all “please can You” this and “please can You” that. I just want stuff. I want to feel better. I want so-and-so to be better. I want, I want, I want. My gosh it’s all about me. It reminds me very much of the relationship my children have with me. They are always asking me for stuff! Actually I was having a conversation with a seminarian today in which he told me how he was preparing himself for Fatherhood by getting used to the fact that being a priest, like being a parent, is usually a pretty thankless job with a bunch of ungrateful children. I felt sad about that, but I understood what he meant. It made me think about the last time I had thanked my priest for the wonderful job he does. Have I ever thanked him?

Coupled with that, I never realised how one-sided my relationship with God was. It’s probably because i’m a spoiled princess who expects everybody to adore her. The fact that I am very secure in the knowledge that God does actually adore me does add a little bit of confusion to the mix! But I guess the point is that I should be adoring Him as much as He adores me. He gave up His life for me, even though I didn’t deserve it.

I need to dwell on that fact more.

And the more I dwell on that divine generosity, and the more I let it penetrate every aspect of my being – and doing – the more I will allow it to transform me.

So from now on I will continue to give and not to count the cost (St Ignatius of Loyola) but perhaps I might be a little more discerning about my motives for giving, and the attitude of the receiver.

“So Un-Baptise me then…!”

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Poor kid hasn’t even entered the water yet!

I remember that blurry period in my life of hormonal angst and naivety, combined with the self-assurance of the fact that I knew all things. I like to refer to it as my time of self discovery. My parents simply describe it as “The Teenage Years”.

I remember one time announcing to my parents that I wanted to get un-baptised, but I didn’t know how to go about it. After a few seconds of expressionless silence in which they realised I had taken them to new levels of astonishment, they calmly suggested that I “Don’t worry about it too much” knowing that in about an hours time I would have forgotten about it and would be pouring my heart and soul into some new life altering activity.

They were right. And besides – you can’t get un-baptised! Sacraments cannot be undone. You can’t un-make your first holy communion or your first confession. You can’t get unconfirmed or un-make your vows as a priest. You can’t un-receive the sacrament of the sick.

In exactly the same way you can’t un-receive the sacrament of matrimony. The relationship may break down, and you may even decide to divorce (which still leaves you able to receive communion as long as you stay single), but you will still be sacramentally married to that person until one of you dies.

Language is important, and I think it is necessary now for Catholics to start to start referring to it as the Sacrament of Marriage/Matrimony rather than just Marriage – which in secular terms means something very different.

Perhaps if we start referring to it within it’s proper context as a sacrament, we might begin to view it differently, and realise that some things are beyond our authority to change.