#Donna

Cultivating Gratitude

Although it is difficult at times, I try to cultivate and teach those around me to start every day in thanksgiving. It’s like gently planting a seedling and hoping it will take hold and grow. Say grace before you partake and express gratitude frequently for the little things in life–for wiggly puppy companions,  parking spaces in a crowded lot,  meaningful work, babies sleeping through the night, listening friends who really care, moments of wondrous beauty, family who know you by heart. But most of all, since Eucharist means “thanksgiving,”  think of the mass as the ultimate gourmet thanksgiving dinner. We come eagerly to the table famished, fill up in a fleeting moment, go out to the world and come back, hungry to eat and drink of the Light again and again. Remembering gratitude for life, embracing every moment is simply another chance to plant one more sign of hope for a world in need.

by DC

Remembering All Souls

All of us have a longing to be remembered after we die, even Jesus, who asked us to break bread, “in remembrance of me.” Today is All Souls Day, a day Catholics set aside to pray for all deceased. Perhaps that seems strange to some people, but to us, it is just the opposite. Primarily, it is a day that calls us to remember those who have crossed over the threshold of eternity, testimony to our belief in the afterlife. We pray, go to mass, or visit the cemetery.  As a child who tagged along when my parents cared for the graves of relatives, I knew the deceased well, for the cemetery was also a place of storytelling. After hearing the same tales repeated frequently, these departed souls have remained spiritually alive to me.  I can still hear my mother’s voice praying, “and let perpetual light shine upon them,” when we were about to leave. My heart swells today in remembrance and love for her and all of the many others who have gone before us.

by DC

Saints and Gratitude

I start this first day of November with gratitude. It is All Saints Day, a day that might seem ordinary to most people just coming off the sugar high of Halloween. But not to me. It is a wondrous day, a day I sink into the solidarity of our belief in the Communion of Saints. From the very beginning of Christianity, virtuous and heroic people have risen up who have shown us the merits of living an altruistic life, a life centered on Christ. Their stories are so memorable that when repeated, rise as beacons of light for all the living on Earth. To believe that they are alive in another realm, able to spiritually support us, can be a giant leap of faith and yet, this is central to our belief in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. So I begin this November in gratitude for the safety net of the lives of the saints and in humility for believing in their invisible and ubiquitous presence amongst us.

by DC

Celebrating Eternal Life

Within the next few days, our autumn attention shifts to eternal life as we celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints and All Souls Day. These three days are also called “Dia de los Muertos,” (the Day of the Dead) in Mexico. Returning this year, our community will experience the traditional Mexican ofrenda, or altar, located inside the church, constructed by our Hispanic ministry and dedicated to all deceased. Believing that the dead would be insulted by mourning, the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience. Those who have gone before us remain a part of the community and are called to share in our celebrations. The altar is decorated with the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, many symbolic objects, and marigolds. The most familiar symbols are the skeletons and skulls which are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy clothes and entertaining situations. Let us join in these beautiful festivities and rejoice in our eternal promise of everlasting life.

by DC

October Feast of Teresa of Avila

 

Today is the Feast Day of St. Teresa of Avila, proclaimed a Doctor of the Catholic Church because of her intelligence, deep piety, and body of impressive writings.  A Spanish mystic of the sixteenth century, she was a Carmelite nun who has been described as “eagle and dove,” for her rare combination of courage and gentility. She was also deeply recollected from resting in the “prayer of quiet,” (often called contemplation). Teresa developed such a personal relationship with Christ that she often called him her Beloved, her Bridegroom. One of my close friends, Tessa Bielecki, an expert on Teresa, describes her as the “wild woman of Avila,” because of her passion for life.  She loved to eat, to dance, to play the tambourine, and to embrace each moment of life as it were her last. Each October, I am so grateful for this great saint who has mentored and accompanied me on the spiritual journey for so many years.

by DC

Go to Amazon for books on St.Teresa by Tessa Bielecki:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=tessa%20bielecki&sprefix=tessa+bie%2Caps

Listen and pray St. Teresa’s Prayer, “Christ has no body now but yours. . . ”

http://youtu.be/tF7Yb9fobCg

Wisdom Takes Time

A lot of unfortunate events have happened recently that have sent our country into a deep grief. This month’s theme, “The Wonders of Autumn,” makes us ponder those whose lives are so hard that to dwell upon such sweet spiritual ideas is untenable; and for those whose lives have been cut short and will never have the opportunity to grow old like ourselves. Wisdom takes time and experience to sink into the soul. While many of us have the grace and facility to ponder the beauty of the natural life cycle, do our brothers and sisters suffer because somehow we are not more empathetic?  Have we lost Jesus’ core message to pay attention and take care of the poor?  Until the Christ of the gospel shows up in the polling booths and out on the street, the cycle of life and death may only hold meaning for folks like us, the privileged few, while the rest of the world suffers, sometimes at our own hands. Yet all of us must go on, holding the tension, recovering the natural wonder of each moment.

by Andrew and DC

Autumn Wonder

If I never had a clock or calendar, I would still know when autumn begins in California. I notice the subtle beauty of shadows and fewer hours of brilliant sunlight. I see the wisteria vine and liquid amber tree in my yard become bare and welcome the fresh coolness wafting through my windows at sundown. My soul feels like a leaf floating slowly to the ground. It is easier to be quiet now. The natives poke fun at me for loving a season that to them is almost nonexistent in Southern California. But they are mistaken. I learned autumn’s rhythm in the Midwest where the seasons are more dramatic. The lessons of creation are never finished., rather, give us endless cycles of life and death, the Paschal Mystery, a source of growth for our spiritual lives. We all have much to learn. During October, we writers return to our meditations on the spirituality of this season, praying you will be enriched by the autumn wonder the Creator of Eternal Presence places before us in abundant splendor.

by DC

Bernadette, Friend and Guide

One of the first movies that captivated me as a young child was a film called “The Song of Bernadette.” A black and white classic now, it tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous, a poor French girl who encountered a “beautiful lady” on the banks of the river Gave in a place called Massabielle, in Lourdes, France. Quite unexpectedly, her story resurfaced when I was an adult and inspired me to do more research about her. I learned that Bernadette was very different from the way she was portrayed in the film. She wasn’t afraid and tearful like actress Jennifer Jones. Rather, she was fierce, determined and laughed all the time. Now that’s my kind of saint!  Bernadette has since become an important spiritual guide and friend to me. When I feel the weight of the world, I gaze at her photograph and gather strength. I especially like this one because it looks like she’s suppressing a laugh. Bernadette reminds me to take only God seriously and the rest of life lightly, the true path of holiness

by DC