Thursday, May 31, 2012


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit finds joy in God my Savior,
For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness;
All ages to come shall call me blessed.

God Who is mighty has done great things for me,
holy is His Name:
His mercy is from age to age on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has deposed the mighty from their thrones,
and raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry He has given every good thing,
while the rich He has sent away empty. 
He has upheld Israel His servant,
ever mindful of His mercy.
Even as He promised our fathers,
promised Abraham and his descendants forever.
                                     (Mary's Magnificat; Luke 1:46-55)      

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What to Take to a Potluck

I absolutely love summer.  I love the long, late hours of daylight.  I love fireflies flickering across a darkening yard.  I love densely leafed trees, the sounds of birdsongs, smells of grilling burgers.  

Most of all, I enjoy the social activities of this casual, spontaneous time of year.  Cookouts and picnics and reunions.  Potlucks where everyone brings Their Very Best...

Recently I realized that I have a Very Best to share.  To read about what I think is just right for (but not limited to) potlucks, follow me over to Suscipio (click on this line to get there).  

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity.” (Galatians 5:22)

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Legacy of Letters

July 21, 1897

To Sister Therese, 
     I have your photograph, and henceforth you live in my mind, after having up to the present only lived in my heart.  I am expressing myself poorly.  Try to understand, however, that your letters, your thoughts, take on a body, a form; they are no longer strictly abstract, they are you now.  I had really tried to build up your features in my imagination, and I must tell you I was not too far from the reality, at least regarding the general outline, so that when seeing you for the first time, I recognized you....
     Maurice Barthelemy-Belliare

I sometimes wonder what it will be like to meet the saints face to face.  Amazing thought, isn't it?  Patrons, intercessors, special friends in Heaven that we've grown fond of over the years - we'll be able to see them!   Will we recognize them?  Oh, I think so.  I do not expect formal introductions; I have a feeling we'll be joyfully embraced.

As you know from this blog, I love letters and writings the saints have left us.  To me, these are markers along the path for those of us still climbing toward Home.  They are also a means of getting to know members of our eternal family.  I often feel that a saint is directly addressing me, offering guidance as I face challenges, encouraging me to persevere.  "Come on, you can make it!"  "I faced obstacles too, you know, and this is what I did."  "I wasn't always saintly... let me show you what and how I overcame..."

We indeed have a rich inheritance.  I thank God for those who passed it on to us.  It is they who have left for us the real Breadbox letters.  I pray we will spend eternity praising (with them) the One True Bread of life.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

We Dare Not Speak Without Honey

Most people don't realize who they're quoting when they speak of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I was well into adulthood when I learned that this bit of wisdom had come from one of my favorite saints.  

"You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with ten barrels of vinegar." (St. Francis de Sales)

I often think of this in connection with another quote from this Doctor of the Church.   

"It is an act of of charity to cry out against the wolf when he is among the sheep"  (St. Francis de Sales)  

These two thoughts may not appear to have much to do with one another.  But in my mind, they work together.  In fact, I often strive to "navigate between them," as one might drive between two lines painted on a highway to keep vehicles moving safely.  Can I explain what I mean by this?  I have no idea.  But here goes a try...

As one of Our Lord's sheep, I have seen wolves come amongst us, oh - so many times.   In saying this, I'm not thinking of people as much as I am of ideas and ungodly "values" that creep in, usually in sheeps' clothing.  They enter in the name (very often) of freedom, tolerance, rights, happiness, prosperity, pleasure, modernization, peace, fairness, justice for all.  Not wanting to be unkind, we can let them prowl freely among our families and groups and parishes without our uttering so much as a whisper of protest.  We don't want to rock boats, ruffle feathers, stir waters, or cause anyone to be uncomfortable.  Besides, we (I should say "I") don't want to appear, well... you know.  Uncool.  Behind the times.  Uncharitable.

It takes a lot to cry out against wolves.  But if we know the truth and do not speak it, are we acting in genuine charity toward the sheep?  Francis would say no.

However, there are a couple of ways of speaking.  We can lash out in anger, in sharp words that can sting and personally wound our "opponents"... in other words, we can dish out the vinegar.  Or...

we can speak in honeyed tones.  Not fake ones, but in words and actions that carry a gentleness... a genuine kindness that enables our fellow sheep to hear.  After all, ears tend to turn off at the sound of vinegar.  The truth we're trying to communicate can pass by totally unheard if we allow frustration and anger to "vinegar-ize" what we say. 

We all know there are wolves among us.  I don't have to name them; we see them in newspapers, on television, in magazines, on the Internet, in politics, in workplaces and healthcare systems and schools and so many "areas of et cetera" that this page isn't long enough to list them.  They rob children of innocence, families of stability, societies of integrity, preborn babies of life, and individuals of eternity spent with God.  The cost of our silence could be staggering.

But we dare not speak without honey.

We dare not speak without love.

"I take in my hands the two rays that spring from Your merciful Heart; that is, the blood and the water; and I scatter them all over the globe so that each soul may receive Your mercy..."  (St. Faustina)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

for though... yet I will...

"For though the fig tree blossom not, nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.  God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go on the heights."  (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Painting by Albert Bierstadt, 1870

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hints of Heavenly Color

I wonder if heaven is filled with colors we have never imagined.  Oh, surely.

It seems we get hints of heavenly hues, and sounds, and scents, even as we go through life here on earth.  Touches of wonder.  Little (and sometimes big) miracles that can't be "explained away."

God can "paint" whatever He wants, of course; however and whenever He wishes.  He can pick up whatever brush He finds most useful.... sometimes you, sometimes me... and dip us into pigments we've never known.  He uses dark hues as well as bright ones.  Shadings and shadows we may never have expected.
A brush would make quite a mess if it struggled in the Painter's hands.  Oh, but how often I have I been such a one! How often I've pulled away from the Painter!  Yet even after that - if I just allow Him to dip me in His cleansing love and mercy, He picks me up and uses me again.

God sees the whole picture of creation.. my life, your life, the world..  He is the One Who knows how it's meant to work together.  I pray to be supple and yielding in His hands, allowing Him to make something beautiful of it all.

"God makes all things work together for the good of Those Who love Him, who are called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him."  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Now, about your future...

Letter of August 3, 1851

Dear Eusebius, 

"Well, you are wondering about your future.  Pray simply, humbly, and fervently to know God's will, and your path will be made clear.  Then you must follow the inspiration divine Mercy puts into your heart.....Now I want you to say to yourself: 'I am, above all, a man, a rational being, created to know, love, serve and glorify God.  I come from God.  I go to God.  I belong to God.  My body is His. My mind is His.  My heart is His.  I shall be judged according to my deeds, according to the way I have corresponded with the grace given to me.  Well then, by God's help, I shall use this body, this mind and this heart as much as I possibly can for His greater glory, honor, and love.'  Life well employed consists in this: a faithful correspondence to grace and a good use of the talents we have been given.  This rule of life applies equally to all."  (from St. Theophane Venard)

Painting by Rembrandt

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That Secret Martyrdom

'There are in fact two kinds of martyrdom.  
One takes place only in the heart, the other in both heart and body.
We too are capable of being martyrs, even without having anyone slay us.
 To die from someone's enmity is martyrdom out in the open.
To bear insults, to love a person who hates us, is martyrdom in secret.'
St. Gregory the Great

Painting:  Jean-Leon Gerome, The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, 1883

Friday, May 4, 2012

Melted Away....

"I count up Your graces and Your mercies, because You have melted my sins away as if they were ice.  

"And whatever evils I have not done, that too I reckon as Your grace.  For what might I have done when I loved vice for its own sake?  

"I acknowledge that all things have been forgiven me, both the evils I did of my own free will, and those which, by Your guidance, I did not actually do."  (St. Augustine)

(painting in US public domain)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Be the Good News

Mary Cassatt painting 1893
"If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our families.  Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another.  It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband....

"It is easy to love those who live far away.  It is not always easy to love those who live right next to us.  It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a needy person than to comfort the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.

"I want you to go and find the poor in your homes.  Above all, your love has to start there.  I want you to be the good news to those around you.." 

(Mother Teresa of Calcutta, from the book No Greater Love, MJF Books, NY, 1997, pp. 27-28)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Toward the Depths

"The more we pray, the more we wish to pray.  Like a fish which at first swims on the surface of the water and afterwards plunges down, and is always going deeper; the soul plunges, dives, and loses itself in the sweetness of conversing with God."  (St. John Vianney)

I typed this quote with the intention of elaborating on it.  But why should I do any such thing?  For me, this says it all.

It's time to dive.

"You too shall seek the Lord, your God, and you shall indeed find Him when you search after Him with your whole heart and your whole soul."  (Deuteronomy 4:29)

"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth."  (Psalm 145:18)