Smoking my way through the Ave’s.

Nun Smoking Cigarette --- Image by © Norbert Schaefer/Corbis

Walking into Mass late wearing a mantilla is never a good look – especially if you are the only one in your parish who wears one. Of course the perfect accessory to complete this look is a swath of misbehaving children and a lack of visible husband. I guess I’m the girl who has it all! 😀

The older kid’s tooth fell out in Mass and he went into mini hysterics as he bled everywhere – ’twas the “unbloody sacrifice” no longer. The middle one was having a strop because she “didn’t want to love God” and the youngest had escaped into the pew 2 rows in front. I feel resentful that my children are spoiling my time with Jesus at Mass and I feel like a failure of a Mother.

“Jesus help me!”

That night I listen to my Divine Office through the App on my phone while I clean the kitchen. I feel guilty about combining prayer with housework, but I know that if I sit down quietly to do it I will not make it through to the end because I will be asleep because I am so exhausted.

Tuesday morning I do Morning Office in the car on the school run. The older one is fighting with the middle one and I am swearing under my breath because we have been sitting in traffic for over 10 mins. We are going to be late for school – again. I am a 9/10 on the stress levels. I hear bits of the Office – intermittently interrupted with the 3 x table and complaints that the pencilcase that I bought last week is now either lost or broken or something.

On the way home I stop in my favourite supermarket car park (you heard me correctly – I have a favourite car park) play my Rosary App, and smoke my way through the Agony in the Garden and the Scourging at the Pillar. The guilt of smoking leaves me as I realise that my Blessed Mother is showing me through these two mysteries that Jesus knows what anxiety is like, and He also knows exhaustion.

I get to morning Mass and have a quiet time where I can be with Jesus alone. I take enormous comfort in the fact that He wants me to come to Him, and He wants to dwell within me, to be as close to me as possible while I take on the work He has given me – which most of the time I don’t think I can cope with.

I get home refreshed and begin listening to the 3rd and 4th Sorrowful Mysteries. My husband comes in. He is in a bad mood. We argue loudly with the Rosary playing in the background, and then I remember the Crowning with Thorns and summon up all my strength to finally hold my tongue. My husband goes into the other room and I try to contain myself while I listen to the Carrying of the Cross, because my marriage really feels like a cross right now.

As I pull myself together and begin work, I listen to the 5th Sorrowful Mystery – the Crucifixion. I remember to submit my will to God’s will, knowing that He is in control and there is a plan to all this madness, and His Mother is always there to hold my hand.

You see, I used to think that I needed to be quiet and holy to say my prayers. I couldn’t be more wrong. Jesus and His Mother want to be there with me in the dirt and stress and struggle of my ordinary daily life. What sort of fool would I be to keep them out?

“God is found in the pots and pans.” – St Teresa of Avila

Par Marie A Jesus (To Jesus through Mary)

Victoria Seed

By Victoria Seed…

I have taught RCIA preparation (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) for fifteen years, in five different parishes in three different countries, and I can tell you, hand on heart, that there is no such thing as a “typical convert”. God calls all to know Him, after all, and so people from every background and walk of life seek Him in the sacraments of the Church. Everyone has a story about why he is there. Some are persuaded by years of research or a philosophical argument; some have a health of a spouse, friend or relative; some are blithely tepid for years until they have a Damascene moment, an experience of being directly and forcefully spoken to by God. But I will always remember Ling Wei because I have never heard a story similar to hers. Ling Wei wanted to be a Catholic because as a child she had seen a picture of Mary.

Growing up in a Buddhist Chinese family in Malaysia, Ling Wei had no contact with Christians, and knew nothing about Jesus. When I began to teach her she had never even heard the Christmas story. How, I wanted to know, did she even form the desire to become a Catholic? She explained that her aunt had come to stay with the family for several months when Ling Wei was a child. Her aunt had converted to Catholicism while living in London. She went by her confirmation name, Michelle, and the family thought her quite peculiar. Auntie Michelle was given a bed in Ling Wei’s room, and, as her visit was an extended one, she added a few homey touches to the decor: a crucifix above her bed, and a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the bedroom door, right where Ling Wei could see it while she lay in bed. ‘I always had terrible nightmares, really scary evil dreams,’ Ling Wei told me, ‘But as soon as Auntie put that picture on the wall the dreams stopped. Mother Mary was so beautiful! I felt so happy when I would look at her as I fell asleep. And she would look at me, and I was not scared anymore. I knew even then that I wanted to move to London with Auntie so I could be a Catholic like her.’ So, at the age of eighteen, living in London with her aunt, Ling Wei asked the parish priest to baptize her. I was the RCIA catechist in the parish at the time, and so her preparation was entrusted to me. The pastor suggested that one-on-one instruction would be best, as the RCIA group I was already leading was made up exclusively of ladies from an Anglican background with a very different knowledge base.

We met twice a week, and, despite her eagerness, it was a challenge to teach Ling Wei. Her English was far from fluent, and she found Scripture completely baffling. Father and I had many conversations about what level of understanding was necessary for her reception. (The conclusion was to be able to meaningfully recite the Creed, and to have an understanding of the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the need for regular Confession.) We persevered. I tried to teach a simple story from the Bible at each lesson. Some days it seemed to be working; some days it seemed hopeless. I had never before instructed anyone with a completely Eastern world-view, and I had little idea how to proceed.

Advent arrived. We had been working for four months. I always teach my RCIA students to pray the rosary midway through the course. It’s a good spiritual discipline, and I just find it makes them feel Catholic, often at a time when they are a bit frustrated they can’t yet receive communion. I brought to the lesson a card giving pictorial instructions on how to pray the rosary, a beautifully illustrated booklet with scripture passages and reflections on each mystery, and a set of beads for each of us. We went through all of this carefully. We learned the Hail Mary and Glory Be and the Jesus prayer. We reviewed the Our Father. We talked about how the series of ten Hail Mary’s gives us a period of time to meditate on the mystery of the decade, and how while we pray we should be picturing the story we are praying about.

We decided to pray the Joyful Mysteries together. I announced the first mystery: The Annunciation. I read the scripture account from Luke and we prayed. Ling Wei announced the second mystery: The Visitation, and read the scripture passage. We prayed. I announced the third mystery: the Nativity of Our Lord. I read from the Bible. We prayed. Ling Wei began to laugh. ‘When I am reading the Bible I do not understand any of it. Not a thing! But when I am praying this Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary I understand ALL of it! I can see EVERYTHING!’ she exclaimed. Ling Wei was baptized and received into the Catholic Church the following Easter, despite my failings as a catechist. I don’t think we ever moved beyond the simple instruction one would normally give to children making their first communion, but clearly Our Lady was able to overcome all my deficiencies and lead Ling Wei to Christ. She was joyful to receive the waters of Baptism, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and the body and blood of our Lord Jesus in her first Holy Communion. Since she was a small child she had wanted to follow Our Lady, and that path could only ever lead her to Christ. No one knows Jesus better than the Blessed Virgin who both bore him in her womb and remained at his side as he died on the Cross.

Were you wondering about that first image of the Blessed Mother that Ling Wei saw? I certainly was after she told me the story. Her aunt still has the picture hanging up as home, and Ling Wei borrowed it to show me. It was a picture of one of the mosaics from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Lourdes. Mary has her arms outstretched and the inscription around her reads Par Marie A Jesus, French for “Through Mary to Jesus.” These words are a promise. If we entrust ourselves to Mary she will see us safely to her son. You may think I am being fanciful, but ever since I saw that picture that hung in Ling Wei’s bedroom as a child I have believed Our Lady always intended to catechise Ling Wei herself, through the rosary.

Through Mary to Jesus

The BIG Rosary

 

 

A very sweet priest friend of mine was kind enough last month to give me a giant rosary.

I tried hanging it on the wall, but my husband said it made the house look like we were living in a convent so I had to take it down! Then it kinda just hung around for a few weeks until suddenly my tiny brain had a brainwave – “Let’s actually pray with it, like, together!!” (Sometimes I wonder how God can possibly put up with my unbelievably slow grasp of His utterly obvious plans.)

So that’s what we now do most evenings. The baby can’t join in yet because she just eats the beads and distracts the other two. But the older two love the BIG rosary and join in just fine. We say 1 decade together and try to all move along the beads in a clockwise motion otherwise there would be a ‘prayer collision’ between decades 2 and 3! It’s a really nice way of praying together as a family.

My kids know the prayers of the rosary because they have grown up watching and listening to me saying it. It is second nature to them, even if they do fidget, giggle and occasionally thump each other during the Our Father! Tonight was even more special because Daddy decided to join us. 

If you would like to learn how to pray the Rosary in your family try the Interactive Rosary.

Our Lady Queen of Peace pray for us.

St. Joseph, patron saint of husbands and fathers pray for us.

St Dominic Calaruega, receiver of the most Holy Rosary (feast day today 8th Aug) pray for us.

St. Dominic of Silos, patron saint of hopeful mothers pray for us.

My Medjugorje trip, Day 1 – Peaceful culture shock.

This is my personal experience of, and witness to Medjugorje. I would like you to share this post to draw more attention to the best place on earth, so that others may have the opportunity to fall in love with Medugorje, Mother Mary, and ultimately Her beloved Son Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Day 1…

Travelling on my own with 2 small kids to Medjugorje seemed rather daunting. Ok I was terrified! Thank God my mum offered to come and lend a hand! The journey from London Gatwick was surprisingly smooth. The 2 1/2 hour flight went quickly and the 2 1/2 hour coach trip with the kids was fine (with the help of my portable DVD player). So far so good.

We are staying with Jacov Colo, the youngest of the 6 visionaries. He was there to welcome our group. He seems like a nice chap! very down to earth with a good sense of humour – an old softy really! He was 9 years old at the start of the apparitions in 1981. He lost his mother at 11 and his father at 13. He was then raised by his uncle. He had his last daily apparition on september 12th 1998. Since then he sees Our Lady once a year on Christmas day.

Jacov in the early years.

Jacov today.

Our room is basic but comfortable, and the food is great! Everyone here is very friendly and genuinely kind and helpful. They want to make our time here happy one.

This evening mum had the kids and it was cool enough for me to climb mount Podbrdo. I was on my own, but surrounded by many other small groups of pilgrims quietly praying the rosary, listening to the story of Medjugorje, or just silently making their way up the mountain. It is so peaceful here. My goodness it is so peaceful here. I am finding this peace to be a little difficult to get used to. It has been 8 years since my last trip, and the adjustment from the secular environment of the UK is proving to be a bit of a culture shock. It just goes to show how different life is when you are surrounded by people who believe in God, and when you are surrounded by people who don’t.

The ‘guard’ I put up in my normal daily life isn’t needed here. Here there is no fight.  I am free to be overtly catholic and there is no one trying to oppose or oppress me. Instead every where I look there are people praying quietly. Young, old, black, white, fat thin, first timers and returnees.

Some gently coming to terms with rediscovering their faith, others walking around with big smiles and eyes like saucers because it has suddenly dawned on them that God does exist! Others have come for a specific intention, to pray for a loved one – living or dead.

Some are over coming addictions, some are discerning the priesthood, some are praying to heal their marriages. Others like me, are trying to teach their children that there is something more. Something the culture in the UK doesn’t offer. Something they can take with them back home and remember when they are faced with difficult decisions later in their lives.

I am so happy to be back here! I pray this trip is a success, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!