Category Archives: The Saints

The Saints I love and adore.

Speaking from Within

Change is coming. As the season is turning from fall to winter, I can hear the subtle signs of change in the air. And, it’s been many seasons in the making. 

The past week at mass, Father Mike talked in circles about changes among our parish and cluster. He didn’t state anything for certain, but asked us all to keep an open mind. What I like best about his homily was that he made it relatable to us. He used himself as an example of how much he loved his own parish in the South Hills. Yes, all of his family’s most important moments in life happened within the walls of his church. And for us, it’s within the walls of our church that our faith has been supported and nourished. It’s difficult for us — it’s personal — our church is the compass that guides us. I can relate to this for my family parish of St. Rose of Lima has sadly already undergone the first phase of change.

I wanted to jump up and say, “You get it! Thank you that you don’t just speak the words that are politically correct — that you speak the words inside of your heart.” And I say this, because it’s a sign that Father Mike cares about how the changes are going to affect all of us. And that I can follow and support for the “Church Alive” campaign has not come with a lot of positive vibes for me. For the first time, I finally see the vision for this campaign. As in Ecclesiastes, everything has a season. And for the church, maybe it’s a great renewal of sorts. As hard as that will be for all of us, I will stand by my faith, no matter what it means. And it’s time that those who left our church find their way back to us.

Always B E L I E V E !

Thanksgiving is about a month from today. In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m going to post one little thing at the bottom of each blog post that I’m grateful for.

Today I was driving along Franklin Road in Cranberry Township on my way to physical therapy and passed a row of the most gorgeous, color fall trees in bright oranges, yellows and reds. It made my day!


God, thank you for the colors of fall.

In Search of Happiness

This prayer came through as part of my message today for Lent from Matthew Kelly at Dynamic Catholic. It’s just beautiful and what a great prayer for the start of this week. It came with the message that you can only find happiness within God’s plan for your life. I believe in God’s plan, as he has guided both Tom and me on our journey together. This week I will look for happiness.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right, if I current to your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen.
The Serenity Prayer

And yesterday, part of Matthew’s message was that “it is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness…it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle…the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society…”
St. Pope John Paul II

Yes, only God truly knows what is deep within my heart. Tom comes in a close second, but there’s just no way he can know everything. God does know how I struggle in this life from a moral standpoint with what’s going on in this crazy world — and how much I hide my true feelings so I can blend in easier — gosh that never used to be who I was! Somewhere along the way, I decided I needed to blend in.

Back when Matthew Kelly challenged me to think about what I was resisting in order to move forward, it had come to me that I seriously needed to let go of some things that I was holding onto. Some of these things are the same things that have caused me to close myself off and not be so forthright and trusting — I became so serious. So as part of my Lenten journey, I am letting go and I am choosing happiness. Watch out world, Pam Miller Peters is getting her mojo back. And I’m excited to be who I am in all ways, even if I don’t blend in.

Always B E L I E V E !

Goodbye to St. Rose

So Saturday we went to my Mom’s house for Tommy’s birthday. I’m glad we did, because we planned to go to church with her at St. Rose and sadly, we realized that it’s one of the last few masses at that worship site. First they changed the name of the parish to St. Monica and now they’re doing away with masses at St. Rose. I guess change is never easy.

Let’s look at the facts. There’s nothing wrong with St. Rose. It’s a large church. It has ample parking. It sits on acres of land so there’s ample room for expansion. The church in Chippewa is jammed in among neighborhood houses. From what I understand, they’re going to buy those houses, tear them down and expand the church on that property. What happens if someone doesn’t want to sell?

I’m not going to blog what I really think, because it would be downright disrespectful. Plus, I told my husband on the way home that I’m upset because St. Rose has meant so much to me in my life. But even he agreed that the decision seemed ridiculous, because there is nothing wrong with the church. Not only isn’t there anything wrong with it, but it’s the nicer and the most comfortable of all the churches.

Again, I wish I could say what I really think about this subject. But I’ll hold my tongue, because I am no longer a parishioner there. But I will say that I can’t believe they’re going to ask the people that have held this worship site as sacred for their entire lives for the millions of dollars to build the new site. It’s so beyond ridiculous. Good luck with that.

I held back the tears as I sat in the pew at St. Rose. I was glad to have the chance to say goodbye. And as I listened to Father Schwartz give the homily, I realized it’s not about a worship site as much as it is about my relationship with God. But even as I left the church with those thoughts in my mind, I felt my heart harden just a bit — for it was too bad I wouldn’t be going to my hometown church ever again. I feel like so many things are slipping away with my faith. Would I become one of those people that didn’t have a connection with the church anymore? I pray not.

I’ll never forget St. Rose — so many memories. And yes, it will always be St. Rose to me. They may as well close it than to call it something else.

If today your hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Psalm 95:6-8.
Today I need to the strength to just have a little faith.

Prayer to Saint Rose of Lima
O Saint Rose,
you were filled with
the love of God
who enabled you
to leave the world
and be free for
Him through the austerity
of penance.
Please help me to follow
in your footsteps on earth
so to enjoy the torrent
of God’s delights
in heaven with you.
Amen.

Finding the Beauty

It snowed this entire week — except for maybe Tuesday! By Friday morning, it was snowing again, and I just couldn’t take it — that little bit of added stress on top of everything else was putting me over the edge! If I could have just went back to bed and got up when the sun came out around 10 am, I would have been much more relaxed! To make matters worse, the morning show guys on my radio were joking that we were getting another 3″ on Friday night. I am now officially over the cold, the gray, the sludge, the slop, the ice, the filth and the salt of this winter!!! 

By the time I got home from work, I decided I needed to readjust my attitude on winter, because we still have at least a month to go, including a trip to Ellicottville, NY next weekend! And for me, the next month at work will be packed full of travel and all kinds of new business initiatives — there just was no room for any added stress. Not to mention my CT scan is due and my doctor’s appointment is coming up — all things that typically add to my stress, even when I pretend otherwise — just know they’re looming puts me on edge!

So I told Tom I wanted to go out and find some beauty in this winter. I know it exists as I daydream of a crackling fireplace in a cabin in the woods, while a thick blanket of snow falls outside — having no place to go and nothing to do. Or thinking of pure peacefulness with only the sound of a stream running through a lush green forest after a fresh snowfall. That’s what we needed to find — it’s what I love about winter.

As luck would have it, we got another two inches of snow on Friday night and woke up to a fresh coating on Saturday. We decided to head out to McConnells Mill State Park to practice what we learned in our digital photography class. The class wrapped up this past Thursday, and we were anxious to start practicing the theory. And surely there we could find some unspoiled beauty with McConnells Mill’s covered bridge, running stream and waterfall. Now, believe it or not, neither of us have ever been to McConnells Mill, even though it’s located just 30 minutes north of where we live. We figured this might be the perfect place to actually see the beauty in this relentless winter!

Now, if any of you know my husband, Tom well, you know that he never heads out anywhere without enough gas in the car. As we passed a little two-pump gas station in Harlansburg, he thought maybe he should have stopped — he only had a quarter of a tank of gas. We continued on, and as we got into the park, the roads were snow covered by a few inches. I was following a map on an App I had downloaded, and when we came to a fork in the road, I told him to go right. That way took us to the covered bridge, and we would have to hike to the waterfall. He made the right turn, and there we were facing a very steep slope over the hillside without any guardrails — and we couldn’t even begin to the see how far down it went. But we didn’t have a choice, there was no way to turn around at this point.

McConnells MillAs we crawled over the hillside, I snapped a couple of photos through the windshield with my iPhone. It got really steep, and I was nervous, telling Tom we should have taken my SUV. Tom agreed, but neither of us knew we would encounter these kinds of slopes! I had no idea how far down it went and was really worried about coming out the other side. Tom stopped in the middle and sighed — he was mumbling something about he wished he would have stopped for gas. We decided to get out of the park and get gas so Tom could relax. If we could make it out.

McConnells MillAs we reach the bottom and started climbing up the other side of the slope, Tom was getting worried that the roads were very snow covered on this side — he hoped it didn’t get much steeper. We came up to a Jeep that had stopped in the middle of the hill between two large rocks — rocks the size of small homes. He was really sweating now that we were going to get stuck on the hill. But we didn’t! This view took my breath away — it was amazing. We made it out of the park ten minutes later, and went back to Rt. 19 where Tom found the nearest gas station and bathroom!

We went back again, knowing we could make it in and out now, and actually parked at the covered bridge. Parking was tight as there were quite a few other people had the same idea as we did. It wasn’t as peaceful as we had hoped — I actually couldn’t believe how many people were out there. I tread through some deep snow banks and took some pictures of the stream. I thought it may actually have a lot of ice, but there was none. There was no where to set up the tripod, so we called it a day.

Yes, we found some gorgeous views and the snow was pretty. But I realized that it wasn’t so much about finding the scenic snowscapes, but finding the peace that came with it. For me, finding the beauty this winter means I need find some time to slow down and unwind.

Here I’ve been looking for some reprieve from this winter, realizing it’s peace I’m seeking, and God has been talking to me all week — in the novena that I’ve been praying to St. Francis of Assisi — who is the perfect example of peace. It’s not finding the beauty with my eyes, but finding the beauty within my heart.

Always B E L I E V E .

Just Believe

St_JudeI never prayed to Saint Jude before. I don’t really know why that is. His feast day was yesterday, October 28th, and we had prayed a novena to Saint Jude for the past nine days leading up to his feast day. The prayers to Saint Jude were touching and reached a very personal chord. I truly believe that Saint Jude heard our prayers of our deepest needs.

So I now know that Saint Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes. I think all of us could think of times in our lives when we feel helpless and desperate and alone. Saint Jude will definitely be a go to saint for me when I pray, because I can pray for not only my own situation, but those near and dear that I know are hurting in one way or another — in need of his intercession. All things are possible with Saint Jude. All things are possible if you just believe.

Saint Jude was one of 12 Apostles of Jesus, a brother of Saint James the Less, and a relative of Jesus. He was also known as Thaddaeus by Matthew and Mark in the New Testament. Saint Jude is called upon in desperate situations because his letter in the New Testament stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Saint Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

Prayer to Saint Jude (on our final day of the novena):
O Saint Jude, holy Apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, you are honored and petitioned by the universal Church, as the patron of desperate, hopeless and impossible cases. Pray for me. I am so very helpless and I feel alone. 

Intercede for me that Almighty God may bring swift aid where it is needed most. Come to my assistance in my great time of need! 

Pray for me that I may be given the comfort and help of Jesus. Most importantly, I ask that you pray that I may one day join you and all of the saints in heaven to praise God in consolation, rest and joy for all eternity.

I will remember your prayers, O Holy Saint Jude. I will honor you as my patron as so many have before me because of the graces God deigns to give freely at your request.

O righteous Saint Jude, apostle, martyr and companion of Christ, grant that I may grow constantly in a loving relationship with God. In working out my salvation in this life I have infinite needs and desires that God placed within me. Today I turn to you, asking you to intercede for me. 

(mention your request)

Saint Jude, I have specific requests of God that may only partially fill the infinite needs and desires that are in my heart. I ask that you pray not only for those requests but also for a greater reliance on God to satisfy the needs and desires that I have. May I seek God with a sincere heart knowing that it will profit me nothing if I gain the whole world yet suffer the loss of my soul. So, help me to see God’s good and gracious purpose in all my trials.

Amen.

Saint Jude, pray for me!

A Halloween Toast

HalloweenWell, Halloween is almost here. It’s just a couple of weeks away, and Tom is already planning what treats we’re giving to the neighborhood kids. Trick-or-treating in our neighborhood is quite a different experience from what I knew growing up.

We didn’t have any neighbors. The closest neighbor wasn’t within walking distance. Dad would take us kids by car to every house in South Beaver Township where he knew the residents. We would hit at least 40 houses, and we would climb in-and-out of the car at every home. It was a workout! And we always ended at Grandma and Grandpap Knowlson’s house (after the cut off time, of course).

Mom stayed home and gave out treats to the kids that stopped at our house in the middle of nowhere. I think the most she ever had was a dozen kids. Some years, there would be none. My grandparent’s house was the same way. They lived back this long, long drive and in this home that could have appeared spooky itself with very little lights. We’d walk up the porch and knock on the screen door. Grandma would stand there and pretend not to know who we were, guessing, “Are you George? Maybe Susie? Do I know you?” Gosh I miss those days!!! I’ll always remember Grandma’s laughter, standing there wearing the same apron she always wore, and Grandpap in “his chair,” waiting for us to come inside to see our costumes. I remember it like it was just yesterday — such bittersweet memories.

Grandma Miller was an excellent seamstress. She could sew the most amazing things with just a few scraps of material. She could sew anything you wanted with just a few measurements — no pattern or anything to follow. We had this fabulous box of Halloween costumes that she had made over the years. I don’t know who wore them before us, but they were incredible! There were princesses, queens, witches, dresses with fringe and ornate western dresses — complete with sequins and feathers and all kinds of accessories. There were the most amazing clown suits and hobo outfits. We outgrew most of them when we got to middle school and had to come up with our own costumes after that. One year Grandma Miller made Tommy, my youngest brother, an Energizer Bunny costumer for a Halloween parade. He played the drums and it was a perfect costume for that. She was so creative, she made Tom’s entire head the nose of the bunny so that it’s head tilted back just like the bunny in the commercials. We used that outfit over and over as adults. Grandma Miller was so talented, and she shared her gift with everyone she knew.

Life goes on and things change. Tom and I take chairs outside in the driveway with blankets if it’s cold. We know a lot of our neighbors and the adults walk around with the kids, pulling red wagons with a six pack of beer. Sometimes the Moms have a concealed glass of wine. I guess it’s suburban trick-or-treating!

My Mom will ask me how many kids we had — and we’re usually around 100. She’ll tell me she didn’t have any kids or very few kids — just like the old days. And I’ll think back on those houses we visited as kids — many of those people have passed away now. I’ll always think fondly of tracking through the wet leaves, tripping over things in the dark — and coming home with a paper bag full of candy. And sometimes the people we visited would step outside and wave to my Dad in the car. He would just smile and keep us moving — hitting as many houses as possible.

So this Halloween, as we sit on our folding chairs, I’ll be reflecting on days gone by, thinking of Dad and my grandparents — and just how much I miss them. And this year, I’ll toast with a glass of wine in their honor.

Have a happy Halloween and safe trick-or-treating!

A Prayer for my Dad and Grandparents
Receive, Lord, in tranquility and peace, the souls
of Your servants who have departed out of this
present life to be with You. Give them the life that
knows no age, the good things that do not pass
away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Saint Ignatius Loyola

St. Rose of Lima

My First Holy Communion at St. Rose of Lima Church in Darlington, PA (with Father Lemp)

My First Holy Communion at St. Rose of Lima Church in Darlington, PA (with Father Lemp), 1975.

If there is one parish that has touched my life more than any other, it’s St. Rose of Lima parish in Darlington, PA. I attended that church since I can remember — and it’s so special in so many ways.

I made my First Confession and First Holy Communion there in 1975. There were five girls and eight boys and we were all in the second grade. I actually went through all of my CCD classes with those same kids — until we were confirmed there in eighth grade. My Aunt Mary was my sponsor, and I can still remember the light purple dress I wore to make that sacrament — with Bishop Leonard and Father Lemp.

Debbie's First Holy Communion (with Father Lemp), 1980.

Debbie’s First Holy Communion (with Father Lemp), 1976.

Father Joseph Lemp. He was the pastor there for most of childhood and into my teens. And, he had a huge influence on my entire family. He was a kind man with a great smile and soft disposition. He was always interested in whatever you had to say. He attended many of the celebrations we had at our home — for all of us kids — for all of our sacraments — and even some of our other parties. There was always a Catholic presence in our home from the time I can remember. Father Lemp inspired us to have a simple and deep relationship with God.

Father Lemp’s family had a house on Martha’s Vineyard, and we vacationed there a couple of different years by staying at their home when I was in high school. He used to frequent the Wooden Angel in Beaver, PA and was a wine connoisseur. I’ve been to the Wooden Angel a couple times in my life, but preferred the Wooden Indian right next door.

Bob's First Mass, July 11, 1992 at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

Bob’s First Mass, July 11, 1992 at St. Rose Catholic Church.

Father Lemp was very supportive in my brother Bob’s decision to become a priest. And when he got sick and passed in September of 2005 at the age of 75, he left his chalice to my brother. My brother cherishes it and uses it on his most special occasions.

St. Rose of Lima was our parish. Something wonderful happened there every single year of my childhood. We went to mass every weekend there. We never missed mass — hardly ever. We went to every holy day, every Christmas and every Easter there — well, sometimes we went to the sister church, St. Ann’s in New Galilee for some of the special masses. We all made our sacraments at St. Rose of Lima — our First Confessions, First Holy Communions, our Confirmations. My sister Debbie and her husband, Scott were married there in 1994, as were Tom and me in 2001. Tommy was baptized there and made his First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation there. He was an altar boy since he was eight or nine years old. Both my brothers were altar boys there. I was a Eucharistic Minister until I moved out of Darlington in 1998. My nieces, Megan and Tara were baptized there and made all their sacraments there, too. Bob and I were Godparents for Megan there. Tara just made her confirmation there this past Saturday. Bob had his first mass there and Mom burned many a candle for me there. And, we buried my Dad from there.

Father Bob's sermon at our wedding in 2001.

Father Bob’s homily at our wedding in 2001.

We supported that parish. There were all kinds of fundraisers that my parents volunteered for and we helped at many of the events. My Dad was on the parish council and my Mom was part of the Ladies’ Guild for many, many years. I remember the card parties. We would set up folding card tables and people came and played card games all night. That was back in the days when people smoked in public and the hall was a complete cloud of cigarette smoke. As kids, we used to sell cans of pop and empty ash trays so people could continue to fill them back up. Mom worked in the kitchen making food — and Dad worked the door and sold tickets and raffles.

Megan's baptism at St. Rose (Father Bob and I are Godparents).

Megan’s baptism at St. Rose (Father Bob and I are Godparents).

There was a weekly bingo too, but Mom and Dad rarely took us back in those days — we were just too little to be allowed in the bingo hall. That was back in the days when they used hard cards with cork markers to cover your cards. But eventually, they started using the paper cards with ink daubers. My grandparents and Aunt Mary (when she was old enough) used to come and play every week. One week my Grandma had recycled her own dauber by filling an old one with red dye she made from pokeberries from her home. Well, as the night went on, the pokeberry juice started to expand in the dauber and it exploded with a huge bang right in the bingo hall — staining one of the brand new ceiling tiles as the bottle shot straight up and into the ceiling. My Dad told that story all the time, laughing as he did — telling us all how she scared the living daylights out of everyone. And then Grandpap would chime in that he was worried about the entire five gallon jug she had under the kitchen sink at home — he hoped it didn’t explode before they got home!!! That ceiling tile remain stained for many years.

We worked spaghetti dinners, flea markets, bake sales, dances (attended dances), funerals and all kinds of other events. Later, when I was in college, my parents resurrected the bingo and managed a weekly bingo every Thursday night. I rarely helped at that time in my life, but my parents were completely devoted.

We loved our church — we loved St. Rose of Lima parish. It was a place of faith, a place of community and friendship. So to say it holds a special place in my heart is an understatement.

The years have gone by and my Mom and sister still belong to St. Rose of Lima parish. I’ll go every once in a while with my Mom, but it’s hard for me to see all the changes that are being made, so I don’t go there that often. It’s so difficult, because for so many years going back to St. Rose was like coming home. But, today, in general, I feel that the parishioners are so disconnected from the pastors. Back in the day, Father Lemp was part of our family. He didn’t put himself above us. He was our equal, our friend, our confidant, yet a great disciple for Jesus — just knowing him made us better people. He didn’t put himself on a pedestal. 

I talked to my Mom for a long time on Sunday evening as she’s just as sad as me. St. Rose is joining with three other parishes and becoming one — St. Monica’s. Are you kidding me? To me it will always, always, always be St. Rose of Lima parish until the day they tear the building down — and even then that ground will always be a holy place in honor of Saint Rose of Lima. Whoever made this decision obviously had no love for these parishes — only quick solutions — that don’t make any sense at all.

Long live St. Rose Lima parish in the hearts of all us who love it dearly.

Always B E L I E V E !

Prayer to Saint Rose of Lima
O Saint Rose,
you were filled with
the love of God
who enabled you
to leave the world
and be free for
Him through the austerity
of penance.
Please help me to follow
in your footsteps on earth
so to enjoy the torrent
of God’s delights
in heaven with you.
Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi

St_Francis_of_AssisiOn Thursday night, I had planned to go to bed by 11 pm. I was so tired from the exhausting week, and I was looking forward to my White Space Friday — A good night’s sleep is what I really needed. I was still wide awake at 10:45, and as I scrolled through the television channels, I came across a movie on TCM network — St. Francis of Assisi. It had me intrigued, because I had never seen it before, and St. Francis has always been one of my favorite saints — he believed in true peace and loved all animals. When our new Pope took the name of St. Francis, I was overjoyed.

So this movie was made in Italy in 1961. It was quite basic by today’s standards, I watched for a few minutes and figured I’d go to bed. But a half hour later, I was so engrossed in the movie, there would be no going to bed now. It was a very simple view of the life of Francis Bernadone. The story goes that he was born to a wealthy merchant in Assisi, Italy. He left his father to go and fight in the crusades with his friend Count Paolo of Vandria with the dream to become a great knight. While traveling with the soldiers, he was called by God to leave them and give up all his worldly goods and dedicate his life to God. Even though the movie was quite elementary, there were some really beautiful scenes. I especially loved the scene when the two cheetahs were unleashed on him in the desert on his way to see the Muslim sultan. He tamed those cheetahs and by that, gained access and respect from the sultan.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

There was another scene while on his journey with his 11 followers to Rome to see the Pope to establish a new order, when a white bird (which I assume was a dove), landed on St. Francis and was not afraid. He told it to then fly into the sky and the flock of birds led them to Rome. This reminded me of a recent picture I saw being shared on Facebook (to the left) of our new Pope, Pope Francis.

The movie goes through St. Francis’ life in how he rebuilt the church, grew the faith across Europe and taught the message of peace. I found it so relevant to today’s world — it was amazing to realize that the struggle in Jerusalem in the early 13th century were the same battles of today — Muslims against Christians, both fighting for the holy land. There is still no peace, and it has grown into even more violence as we’ve seen in recent years/days with terrorism. It makes me think that we need a man like St. Francis today — with the ability to draw others to him just by his simple faith — but realize that peace seems so unreachable with such extremists and terrorists in this world — the task would be too great for any one person. Or would it, if it was God’s will?

The movie’s basic theme was to give up all possessions and follow God by trusting in him. But, I felt that St. Francis was a very sad and lonely man in the movie. This is the only part that I think was poorly done. I would have thought that he should have been portrayed with such great joy with his amazing faith in God — to listen to his calling and leave all his worldly possessions behind. But instead, they showed him just very drab and unemotional. Not to mention, to gain followers by his simple message would require a very approachable and generous man. There was one scene that I felt he had that warmth and love — the one where the children came to him with all their animals to be blest. There had to be 40 or 50 children, carrying ducks, lambs, dogs, cows and other animals with bows tied around their necks — it was beautiful. But other times and in other scenes, like the one where his aristocrat woman friend became a nun — it was dark, and you felt the great sacrifice she was making by the solemness of the ceremony.

When my brother, Bob was ordained a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh, it was a great day of celebration for us all. Bob was ordained with two other men and this was the first time I had ever been to an ordination. As Bob came down the aisle, tears streaked his face — and I’ll never forget that moment — I truly saw the love he had for God — it was pouring from him as he was filled with so much joy. And that is how I would see St. Francis — someone with much joy to share with his followers.

I think this movie also demonstrates that human nature hasn’t changed since the time of Christ. St. Francis had a lot of resistance from his friends and family on his desire to seek God — and this was a constant struggle throughout the movie. Something that we would all face if we were to take up the cross for Christ.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it worth watching. And if nothing else, it will make you more curious about the life of St. Francis.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Mary Month of May

Blessed Virgin MaryIt’s no surprise that the month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus — during the month that we celebrate all of our Moms out there.

I’ve always prayed to Mary, because she intercedes on the behalf of all Mothers — something I wanted to be and would never be. I believed for years that Tom and I had time to adopt children. But as I neared my 40’s and the cancer just kept recurring, somewhere along this way, I gave up. Sadly, we gave up.

Just eight weeks before our wedding, I was told I had cancer and would never have children. I was absolutely devastated, but relieved that it was considered curable at the time. I seriously don’t know how I would have handled losing Tom at this point in my life, but I did give him a chance to walk away. He stood by me and never looked back.

My brother Bob was a priest at Holy Martyrs parish in Tarentum, PA at the time. He had been a priest for less than 10 years. He talked to Tom and me about God’s plan for us — and told us that we can make all the plans we want to, but in the end, we follow God’s plan. Tom and I clung to those words over the years. We believe them and put all our trust in God. During the most difficult situations, we turn to God. I honestly believe that we would not be as strong as we are without God in our lives. And, it’s not always easy. Sometimes we just don’t understand things, but we put our complete trust in Him.

And Mary. My Grandma Miller gave me a statue of Mary — one that she had displayed in her home since I can remember. And strangely enough, she gave the statue to me when she moved out of her home, because she knew I would take care of it. I don’t know how she knew that — I never asked her for it or even told her that I prayed to Mary all the time. It sits on my dresser and everyday as I put on my jewelry, I look at the statue and I pray a Hail Mary — sometimes two, sometimes three. The statue is chipped, old and has no monetary value — but to me, it means so much!

This year during the month of May, I’ve been trying to say the Rosary in honor of Mary a few times a week. I go to bed and sometimes fall asleep in the middle of it, waking up with it still wrapped around in my hand. I have the most beautiful rosary too. It’s made of mother of pearl, and Bob got it for me in Rome.

My Grandpap Knowlson used to say the Rosary everyday from his chair in their living room. He would say it anytime someone was in trouble — for someone else’s benefit. That’s something that I aspire to do a better job of  — something so good as to pray on behalf of someone else, who doesn’t even know you’re doing it for them. When I had my surgery in 2009, parishioners at St. Gregory’s prayed the Rosary during one Saturday evening mass on my behalf. When I learned of this, I cried. I was so touched that others interceded for me — there was no feeling of greater love than that — from a community of believers.

I know that everyone has their own cross to bear. Sometimes my friends will say something like, “I shouldn’t complain to you about … it’s nothing compared to what you have to go through,” and my response is that everyone has trials and nobody can compare those kinds of things. It’s how we handle the cards that are dealt to us — that is where we have a choice — to make a difference and inspire others if possible. I know one day I’ll fully understand this cross that I must bear.

Until then, I will trust in God and will always honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially during the month of May.

Memorare
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

St. Patrick Would Approve

irish_banner

The weekend is almost here — and it’s St. Patty’s Day! As Christians, we celebrate his feast day on March 17, the date of his death. The story is that Patrick was born a Christian in the British Isles and was kidnapped by pirates at the age of 16. He was taken to Ireland, which at that time was a pagan country. During his time in slavery, his faith deepened. He escaped later at the age of 22 and returned home where he became a priest and then a bishop. He returned to Ireland and converted the pagan country to Christianity over a period of 30 years. He is accredited with the conversion of this entire country!  

In Pittsburgh, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with a parade downtown, followed by bar hopping and drinking green beer that goes all day long and into the evening. Last year Tom and I made the mistake of going to the Rivers Casino after 5:00 pm mass on Saturday evening. Everyone was totally tripped out with green hair, green duds, big plume green hats, green beads, green blinking necklaces, green glow sticks and green jewelry — total drunken craziness. These people had been drinking since the morning parade and they were completely wasted. Now, I’m always looking to celebrate, but I prefer to do something with a little less hangover (at my age anyways) the next day. I’m not that 20-something crowd anymore. I’m not even that 30-something crowd! Of all the holidays, though, St. Patrick’s Day is one of those that always make me smile, because my Irish friends always go all out!

Last week, we went to St. Bonaventure Catholic School’s 3rd Annual Luck of the Irish Cash Bash with our good friends Tracy and Donnie. Their children go to school there and Tracy volunteers so much of her time to the school. We always look for the opportunities to support Catholic functions and it’s a bonus that we can spend time with them! I have to say, I was blown away by this event (especially with it being only in it’s third year)!

Now this is the way to celebrate St. Patrick — with a Catholic school fundraiser. He would have thought so, anyways, right? The theme was perfect for giving away loads of cash. The best part about this event was that it brought together over 500 people in one place as a community to support one goal — the Catholic school for their children.

At one point, I looked around the gymnasium where there were probably more than 350 or 400 people in this room alone (the event was held in the gym and the cafeteria). The room was an absolute roar of noise and everyone was having a fantastic time. Every 15 minutes they were giving away $100 or $300 on the hour. People were screaming in celebration as they won money on raffles and strip tickets — at the craps table or the chuck-a-luck wheel. The 50/50 raffle gave away over $1,200 alone! There were silent auction items and at least 20 raffle baskets — donated by various people and organizations. The food was a endless buffet of breaded chicken, creamy scalloped potatoes, rigatoni, veggies (that I of course skipped), pulled pork, salads and more. The beer and soda was free flowing the entire night.

I won $60 right off the bat on a strip ticket. I of course spent it back that night and then some — but that’s what we were there for. I was buying the strip tickets, because I knew what they were from our bingo. All of the people around me kept asking how to play and what to do. Everyone was winning left and right — it was truly an Irish Cash Bash and the whole room was absolutely basking in God’s light.

I applaud the volunteers — and there were a lot of them. I know Tracy spent countless hours there. These people do it for their school and their church, because they want to spend their free time furthering the legacy of their school that ultimately teaches their children to believe — St. Patrick would approve.

While there were no children at the event, they were present all around us — having created all the artwork that plastered the walls of the cafeteria and gymnasium. They made all kinds of Irish things, but the best was a giant rainbow made up by the colored hand prints of each student in the school. It was beautiful — of course it was Tracy’s job to hang every single handprint. I couldn’t help but think about Heaven is For Real book with all the reference to Coltin’s rainbows in Heaven. There were rainbows all over the walls. I believe just another sign that God was very much present at this event.

It was a wonderful evening and a surely a successful fundraiser — after all, how could it not be with St. Patrick looking down upon them?

So here’s to another year in celebration of St. Patrick! And while some people don’t really know why they are celebrating St. Patrick (they just show up for the party) — it’s still a day where many Christians are all focused on a very important saint, unaware that they are really furthering his life’s work.