Tag Archives: catholic

I’m Not Giving Up Chocolate This Year

So, what am I giving up for Lent? I don’t think it’s a matter of what I’m giving up as to what I’m going to do this year to make my life better. I signed up for daily messages from Matthew Kelly at DynamicCatholic.com. They’ve created a campaign called Best Lent Ever, where you can sign up for Lenten inspiration through thought-provoking messages. Dynamic Catholic is committed to re-energizing the Catholic church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism! I love that. What a fantastic mission!

I also read six-minute meditations from my “Little Black Book.” The church provides these little books that cover the 40 days of Lent (plus days leading up to Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter) with scripture readings from Luke’s passion narrative with reflections. I look forward to reading them every year. It’s one small thing I can do to consciously think about Lent every day.

So, I also had my first session yesterday with my new personal & business coach, Barbara. And, after we went strong for over three and half hours before breaking, I started to think about how things in my life are coming to a culmination. Some of the exercises and things I need to think about for my next meeting with Barbara are crossing the message that I received today from Matthew Kelly and my Little Black Book. God, I am listening.

First, Barbara has asked me to find time each day to “relax”. To just “be”. And it took us a while to define what that meant. No, it’s not working on my computer with the TV on in the background. No, it’s not shopping online. She determined that I always had to have something to focus my mind on. And that probably meant there was something that I didn’t really want to think about if everything was quiet. Of course, she’s completely correct. The times I am in complete silence, I think about things that sometimes make me cry. It’s usually when I lay down at night to pray. And as I talk to God, all my fears and short-comings come pouring out.

But before I heard of Matthew Kelly’s daily messages, or had Barbara’s homework assignment, I had decided to take 15 minutes a day to meditate during Lent, in addition to the Little Black Book. And to meditate around something with meaning that could move my life forward. I mentioned this to Barbara, and she immediately said, “and that’s an excellent thing for you to focus on for Lent.” Barbara is encouraging me to meditate and think about something that will help me move forward. Matthew’s message today was simple, “Resistance. What in your life are you resisting that’s holding you back from moving forward with God’s plan?” And the message from the Little Black Book — Jesus looked to the past the night when the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, but he also looked to the future to the great banquet in Heaven. How am I looking into the past with my joys and sorrows, success and failures, etc. And how am I looking forward?

Wow! It’s like everything is coming together, and I have a challenge in front of me! God, I am listening!!!

So, what am I resisting? What is it that I need to do to move forward? How is God speaking to me? I guess now I have something to meditate around — and can I find the answer? Is it inside of me? Sometimes these kinds of things make me freeze up and get a block. I came home from work and said to Tom, “The message I got today for Lent is asking what I am resisting. So what do you think I am resisting in my life to move forward with God’s Plan?” His answer was, “Change.” I said, “What do you mean? There’s so much change in my life, and I’m usually leading it.” and he said, “I don’t know — it just sounded good.”

So, I’m on my own with this one. Maybe tomorrow’s message will help think about it in a different way. If you haven’t signed up for Matthew’s daily messages, join me! And if you’re interested in getting your own copy of The Little Black Book, you can visit their website at www.littlebooks.org.

Always  B E L I E V E ! 

What’s Tradition Anymore?

My morning radio station has been asking listeners to call in and let them know what kind of wedding they had and why. Was it a big wedding? A small wedding? In a church? On a beach? Why did you do what you did, and if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? All kinds of crazy listeners called in. I think they probably aired the most outrageous.

“Yep, I had my baby at 17 and as soon as we could, we got married by Justice of the Peace. My daughter’s wedding will be big, since I didn’t get that,” one woman called in. Another caller was a guy who said that he got married in 15 minutes by the Justice of the Peace and then had lunch at McDonalds. Wow, I have no words for that one. Another girl called in and said planning was so stressful, she and her fiancé eloped. Another girl got married on the beach with 64 of her closest family and friends. She said it was three weeks of the most fantastic vacationing. Three days of these callers, all different, yet all the same. There was a major key missing with them all.

Megan and Aunt Pam

My niece Megan was so excited on my wedding day.

Not a single listener mentioned tradition. If you look at the history of weddings, they were rooted deep in faith and religion. Being married in a church, under God and witnessed by all those who love you is an important part of the marriage ceremony. If you’re from Pittsburgh, the city has all kinds of ethnical backgrounds, including Italians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Germans, Irish and Polish, among others in the wonderful melting pot of the 19th and 20th centuries — you’re familiar with tradition. The city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the second largest parade in the country. Pittsburgh is also home to Polish Hill, Little Italy, Troy Hill, Deutschtown and celebrations are held throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, Little Italy Days, numerous religious parish festivals and so many more. And all these wonderful ethnicities celebrate the sacrament of marriage in all its grandeur through their religion.

My Mom and Dad’s wedding was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Beaver Falls, PA. Sadly, it’s no longer there. It was a magnificent church and a beautiful setting for the ceremony. I will sit and watch the 7 mm film, now translated to DVD, sometimes with my Mom. We try to identify as many relatives and friends as we can. I’m so sentimental and I cherish this video, knowing I’m lucky to have it. It’s such a period piece as well — from the 60’s — with the wonderful chic summer dresses the women wore to the shined up black sedans of the time. That was 51 years ago and it speaks of the same traditions I had at my own wedding just 13 years ago.

It’s sad to me that this tradition is no longer important to many people. Well, why would it be? Attending mass on Sundays is rarely practiced. We miss mass from time to time, but we always go the next week. My Catholic faith was always an important part of my life growing up. It reinforced our values and made us think about what we can improve in ourselves. It shows me the way every day and leads me in this life. Many people are leaving their religions to go to churches that are more secular. We are losing the traditions, so now weddings are quick and cheap, or crazy outrageous. Spending $10,000 on a wedding gown is almost as much as our whole wedding cost! It’s just ridiculous, materialistic and consumerism at its best. One show I watched on television had the mother of the bride replace all the carpeting in the reception hall, because “it didn’t match their colors and the style was sub-par to them.” Who are these people?

I do have an open mind, and try not to judge. I know people’s dreams are not the same as mine — one of my close friends was married on the beach in Aruba, and it was beautiful and a wonderful week of celebration. Other friends were married in Las Vegas with close friends and family. All true believers and faithful Christians. But, I am elated when I receive a wedding invitation to a Catholic ceremony in a Catholic church with a full Catholic mass. I am impressed when I hear about someone else’s wedding in the church — of any religion. I’m even more impressed when an employee tells me a story about going to mass twice at St. Paul’s Cathedral, because she and her husband had the time wrong, so they had to go back later. That’s dedication. And yes, it’s extra credit with me if all these are important to you too — that’s just who I am.

I believe in tradition and sacred vows! So for me, if I were to call in the radio station, I would tell them that my wedding had just under 200 guests. And the church was the center of our day, follow up with a giant celebration at the Holiday Inn. It wasn’t overly elaborate by any means. We made sure we spent money where it was most important — like making the church beautiful with lovely floral arrangements. Our reception had all the traditional elements — from the Pittsburgh cookie table to the money dance. I imagined that day my whole life and listened to all the wedding stories from my relatives. They say every little girl dreams about her wedding, and my dreams were rooted in the faith passed down to me — with little nuggets and sentimental gifts that I carried with me. But I am guessing the radio station would find my story mundane. What’s tradition anymore?

So as Tom and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this week, I’m going to pray that people find their way in this life through faith. And the key to that faith can be found in all those fantastic stories that our great grandparents, grandparents, parents and relatives tell us about the traditions in their lives. When you realize those traditions, you may just find a little faith along the way.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Delightful Father Ed

Tom and I are becoming regulars at St. Ferdinand’s parish. We agreed that once our commitment to Super Bingo at St. Gregory’s is done next June, we’re probably going to officially join this parish.

Last night we sat in our usual row in the back at the 4 pm mass in front of the same people we’ve been seeing there for the past two years (since Father Bob left St. Gregory’s). We usually get to mass 20 minutes before the start, so many of the people around us are chit chatting quietly. This week, the lady behind Tom leaned forward and started to talk to us. She had been talking to two other parishioners who had just come back from Seneca Alleghany Casinos in New York. Tom and I had just gotten back from Niagara Falls in Canada and my view from the hotel room included the Seneca Alleghany Casino on the American side. Tom and I smiled at each other and she must have noticed. She had probably been looking for an opportunity to talk to us.

Anyways, it felt really good to talk to someone from this parish. And it gave us the opportunity to tell her we were members of St. Gregory’s parish. Now, when we attend this mass, we can truly say hello and continue to get to know them.

Father Ed was the priest for this mass. He’s now retired, but I love listening to him. He’s so fluent and soft spoken — his voice is patient, kind and loving. I’m so glad that he still does mass, even in retirement. He has so much to offer. And he gave us a great message for the coming week. When Tom and I got in the car, I said to him, “it sounds like his sermon was right out of my blog,” and we laughed.

He wanted to know what the hurry was all about. We rush everywhere in our lives — we rush to work, we rush home, we rush the kids to dance class or football practice, we eat fast, we even pray fast. Do we even know what we’re saying when we pray, or are we just getting the words out as fast as we can? Are we even making time to pray? We are in such a hurry — and if we get in someone’s way who’s in a rush — they certainly let us know about it. He related it back to the reading about Jesus healing the 10 lepers and only one samaritan came back to thank him. Do we take the time to thank God for all the blessings in our lives? Do we even take the time to notice the blessings in our lives?

I noticed people nodding everywhere. We all could relate to every word he said. And then it was over in five minutes and we were standing, reciting the Creed. I wouldn’t have minded if he had talked longer! In contrast, last week at our parish, we had an 18-minute sermon by a Deacon. And it wasn’t a real-life message — we were being “preached at,” something that I loathe. There’s nothing worse than going to mass and leaving frustrated.

And then there’s wonderful, delightful, unassuming and humble, Father Ed. Who can simply relate the readings to today’s world so that we can all receive a message to put us on the right path for the coming week. God Bless you, Father Ed. You are truly inspiring and strengthen my faith.

Two Different Kinds of Love

Joe BullickI just finished a book by a local author, Joe Bullick, titled “Put a Tent Over the Circus.” I learned about this book through the Catholic Charities newsletter (page 7). The book is a true story about a boy’s journey as a foster child during the Great Depression — and sounded like a wonderful read for me — because I considered adoption and/or fostering a child. I also loved the fact that it was written about Joe’s life as a child from Joe’s point of view. I think first person accounts of periods throughout history are so much more real than the way history actually portrays it. Things are romanticized and remembered so fondly — and that’s how it should be.

So, I called the number in the newsletter and the phone was answered by an older woman, “Hello?” I asked for Joe — I’m sure she wondered who the heck I was, but never asked. I really did call his home phone — I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect that. Then I heard her running through the house, “Joe… JOOOOOOOE! Joe, it’s the phone, it’s for you.” It took a couple more minutes and he answered the phone, “Yea, this is Joe,” a sweet old man. I explained to him that I read about his book in the Catholic Charities newsletter and wanted to get copy — was it sold anywhere or could he mail it? He was so pleased to hear that I was genuinely interested in his book and that I read about it in the newsletter. He went on to tell me how much Catholic Charities meant to him — and why he gives back to them. He then asked all about me and where I lived and worked — and he met me in the parking lot at Bob Evans in Cranberry after work that night. Talk about customer service! He wanted to sign a copy and hand deliver it.

At Bob Evans, he was easy to spot, standing outside his white truck. I pulled in next to him, and he knew I was the one he was meeting. We made introductions and then he handed me the book and said, “Now that’s a picture of me on the front of the book. I was five years old that day. All I had was that suitcase and was taken to the home of my new foster family. I don’t look scared there, but I was that day,” he said. I told him that I couldn’t wait to read his story, and that I couldn’t believe he made the 25 minute trip to Cranberry during rush hour. He laughed — such a sweet man — and said that he wanted to “get out of the house.” He didn’t mind coming to meet me at all. And then we said our goodbyes and he grinned, telling me he was getting his wife a soup inside the restaurant. I smiled as I drove back into traffic. Just so unbelievably sweet — I imagined they’re one of those old couples you see that still hold hands when they go out together.

I loved so much about this book. Joe or Joey (as he is referred to in the book) has wonderful memories of the way things were during the great depression — and throughout his entire childhood. It’s really focused during one part of his life where he struggles as a little boy with two mothers — not fully understanding why things were happening the way they did in his life. It really shows the resilience of the human spirit and how love can make all the difference. I loved his storytelling.

Joey was so fortunate to have a mother that loved him so much. She knew that it was best for him to be raised in a foster family — one that could provide a much better life for him than she could — just the basics in life, nothing extravagant. As a single mother, she turned to Catholic Charities to help her find a suitable family. She selected the Fitzpatrick’s — a couple who couldn’t have their own children — and were very much dedicated to the Catholic faith, promising to raise Joey as a Catholic. She was an integral part of the arrangement — it was an open fostering situation, meaning that she had regular communication with the Fitzpatrick’s and they with her. She often had Joey at her apartment in the Northside of Pittsburgh on the weekends and he spent the week with the Fitzpatrick’s, going to school in the North Hills.

Joey had fond memories and recollections of the apartment near Allegheny General Hospital — the sirens he would hear or the rain on his window. He often compared the oil lamps that burned all night with the complete darkness of the Fitzpatrick’s home in the country. He talked about Uncle Harry’s blacksmith shop (Harry Fitzpatrick, his foster dad) — about the smells, sounds, the fears he had of the horses and the things he learned about life. He talked about his Mummy Fitzpatrick and the wonderful bread she made in the kitchen. His stories were absolutely heartwarming.

Joe is a great storyteller, simply telling the memories that make up who Joe Bullick is today. And as you read the book, you can clearly see God’s hand leading little Joey through his journey. And, while he faces tragedy throughout his life at a young age — I believe those things were part of Joey’s path in this life and without them — his life would have been very different. He questions many things in the book, but the answer is so simple — he couldn’t get to B without A.

This story shows that each of us has path to follow. Each of us suffers tragedies in our lives and how we handle that is what makes us who we are today. It’s an inspiring story of hope, love and true faith.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Joe included loose sheet poem in my book that says…

Legacy of an Adopted Child
Once there were two women
Who never knew each other;
One you do not remember,
the other you call mother.

One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name;
One gave you the seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.

Two different lives shaped
To make yours one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.

One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears;
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.

The first gave you life and
The second taught you to live it;
The first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.

One gave you up,
It was all that she could do;
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears
The age-old questions through the years:
Heredity or environment: What are you the product of?
Neither, my darling, neither — Just two different kinds of love.

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.

The Papacy

So today was the first day of the conclave to select the new Pope. There a total of 115 eligible cardinals who will make up that conclave. One that I know personally from when my brother was in the seminary — Cardinal Whuerl. He was a Catholic Priest when he mentored the seminarians, back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Then he became Bishop of Pittsburgh and that’s when my husband met him when Father Bob was installed at his parish in Tarentum, PA. We were all disappointed when he was moved to Washington DC, but obviously happy that he was promoted to Cardinal.

We had our bingo appreciation dinner on Sunday night and I sat across from my brother, and we got talking about the upcoming conclave. He said that the Americans actually shook up the Italian media a bit by the way they approached the interviews — unheard of from any Cardinal from Europe. So that got everyone buzzing about the American Cardinals and that maybe change was something to be considered, now throwing the Americans into the realm of possibilities. Media began to buzz worldwide and the theory that “no American would ever be Pope” was no longer valid.

Father Bob has a couple favorites. He likes Cardinal O’Malley from Massachusetts and Cardinal Denardo from Texas. Both have past ties to Pittsburgh and he personally knows each of them. He feels they understand the issues and challenges facing the Catholicism around the world.

But anyways, I was so busy today that I only had time to find out that the smoke was still black by a news feed from The Catholic Company on my Facebook page. Okay, onto another day which we all expected! And I’m glad it didn’t happen during some long meeting today.

What’s really amazing to me is how technology is affecting this election for the new Pope. Okay, I admit, I’m utilizing it — so if I am in some meeting, I know right away that a decision has been reach so I can find the closest news feed to me at the time. I’m signed up to receive a text message and email as soon as the smoke is white. You can sign up too at PopeAlarm.com. Too crazy right? Well, don’t mistake it for PopeAlert.com or you may entering into a fantasy league of who is selected as Pope. I had to laugh out loud at that one! Or have you heard about Adopt a Cardinal? This is a site where you can choose a Cardinal or be assigned one so that you can pray for him during the conclave that he receives the Holy Spirit to select the next Pope. Interesting. And Cardinal Whuerl is featured on the homepage!

I’ve founds so many sites, blogs, tweets and articles — it’s amazing what’s out there. And I started to think about it — you know, the entire world is focused on this election! As a marketer, I can truly say — what a way to receive worldwide PR at no cost — while reinforcing your followers and their faith. People are educating themselves, following and discussing their faith throughout the day! It’s historical! And what a contrast to the recent 2012 US Presidential election which turned neighbor against neighbor. We are uniting in faith — the one major factor blatantly missing from the Presidential election.

I believe there is nothing that happens by coincidence. God has a plan, and he’s masterfully aligning all of us as his faithful followers during this time to reaffirm, reinvigorate and renew our faith in Catholicism. I feel so lucky to be alive to experience yet another Papacy conclave. And I sit here, holding my necklace — the cross that Father Bob had blest by Pope John Paul II when he was in the seminary in Rome, along with the religious medallion blest by Pope Benedict XVI that features Pope John Paul on one side and Pope Benedict on the other — I will now have to add another piece of jewelry to represent our new leader! Bring on the white smoke!