Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Nun in a barn gave a bishop to the Church

*This story was told to me a few weeks ago. I was so moved by the profound nature of God's movement in our lives. Your daily work is so important and contributes greatly to the Kingdom of God. As humans, we think so small. We must think LARGE and MANY. This single act of self-denial and work of love united to Christ could be responsible for tens of thousands of souls. Can you even imagine? A simple nun in a barn gave a bishop to the Church. She didn't care for the work in the barn. In fact, she very much disliked it. She united her work to Christ and look what it did! I am certain you will love this story. God used Bishop Ketteler's priesthood to bring many souls to Christ.  Only a very small handful knew that behind his holy priesthood was a lowly nun offering her barn work for some unknown soul.  Do not waste your work!

My Priesthood and a Stranger
William Emmanuel Ketteler (1811-1877)
Each of us owes gratitude for our lives and our vocations to the prayers and sacrifices of others. One of the leading figures of the German episcopacy of the 19th century, and among the founders of Catholic sociology, Bishop Ketteler owed his gratitude to a simple nun, the least and poorest lay sister of her convent.
   In 1869, a German diocesan bishop was sitting together with his guest, Bishop Ketteler from Mainz. During the course of their conversation, the diocesan bishop brought up his guest's extremely blessed apostolate.  Bishop Ketteler explained to his host, "I owe thanks for everything that I have accomplished with God's help, to the prayer and sacrifice of someone I do not even know. I can only say that I know somebody has offered his or her whole life to our loving God for me, and I have this sacrifice to thank that I even became a priest."
   He continued, "Originally, I wasn't planning on becoming a priest. I had already finished my law degree and thought only about finding an important place in the world to begin acquiring honour, prestige and wealth. An extraordinary experience held me back and directed my life down a different path.
   "One evening I was alone in my room, considering my future plans of fame and fortune, when something happened which I cannot explain. Was I awake or asleep? Did I really see it or was it just a dream? One thing I do know, it brought about a change in my life. I saw Jesus very clearly and distinctly standing over me in a radiant cloud, showing me his Sacred Heart. A nun was kneeling before Him, her hands raised up in prayer. From His mouth, I heard the words, 'She prays unremittingly for you!'
   "I distinctly saw the appearance of the sister, and her traits made such an impression on me that she has remained in my memory to this day. She seemed to be quite an ordinary lay sister. Her clothing was very poor and rough. Her hands were red and calloused from hard work. Whatever it was, a dream or not, it was extraordinary. It shook me to the depths of my being so that from that moment on, I decided to consecrate myself to God in the service of the priesthood.
   "I withdrew to a monastery for a retreat, and I talked about everything with my confessor. Then, at the age of 30, I began studying theology. You know the rest of the story. So, if you think that I have done something admirable, now you know who really deserves the credit—a religious sister who prayed for me, maybe without even knowing who I was. I am convinced, I was prayed for and I will continue to be prayed for in secret and that without these prayers, I could never have reached the goal that God has destined for me."
   "Do you have any idea of the whereabouts or the identity of who has prayed for you?" asked the diocesan bishop.
   "No, I can only ask God each day that, while she is still on earth, he bless and repay her a thousand-fold for what she has done for me."
The sister in the barn
   The next day, Bishop Ketteler visited a convent of sisters in a nearby city and celebrated Holy Mass in their chapel. He was distributing Holy Communion to the last row of sisters when one of them suddenly caught his eye. His face grew pale, and he stood there, motionless. Finally regaining his composure, he gave Holy Communion to the sister who was kneeling in recollection unaware of his hesitation. He then concluded the liturgy.
   The bishop who had invited him the previous day came and joined him at the convent for breakfast. When they had finished, Bishop Ketteler asked the Mother Superior to present to him all the sisters in the house. Before long she had gathered all the sisters together, and both bishops went to meet them. Bishop Ketteler greeted them, but it was apparent that he did not find the one he was looking for.
   He quietly asked the Mother Superior, "Are all the sisters really here?"
   She looked over the group of sisters and then said, "Your Excellency, I called them all, but, in fact, one of them is not here."
   "Why didn't she come?"
   "She works in the barn," answered the superior, "and in such a commendable way that, in her enthusiasm, she sometimes forgets other things."
   "I would like to see that sister," requested the Bishop.
   A little while later, the sister who had been summoned stepped into the room. Again Bishop Ketteler turned pale, and after a few words to all the sisters, he asked if he could be alone with the sister who had just come in.
   "Do you know me?" he asked her.
   "I have never seen Your Excellency before."
   "Have you ever prayed for me or offered up a good deed for me?" he wanted to know.
   "I do not recall that I have ever heard of Your Excellency."
   The Bishop was silent for a few moments and then he asked, "Do you have a particular devotion that you like?"
   "The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," was the response.
   "You have, it seems, the most difficult task in the convent," he continued.
   "Oh no, Your Excellency" the sister countered, "but I cannot lie, it is unpleasant for me."
   "And what do you do when you have such temptations against your work?"
   "For things that cost me greatly, I grew accustomed to facing them with joy and enthusiasm out of love for God, and then I offer them up for one soul on earth. To whom God chooses to be gracious as a result, I have left completely up to him and I do not want to know. I also offer up my time of Eucharistic adoration every evening from 8 to 9 for this intention."
   "Where did you get the idea to offer up all your merits for someone totally unknown to you?"
   "I learned it while I was still out in the world," she replied. "At school our teacher, the parish priest, taught us how we can pray and offer our merits for our relatives. Besides that, he said that we should pray much for those who are in danger of being lost. Since only God knows who really needs prayer, it is best to put your merits at the disposition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus trusting in his wisdom and omnipotence. That is what I have done," she concluded, "and I always believed that God would find the right soul."
Day of birth and day of conversion
   "How old are you?" Ketteler asked.
   "Thirty-three, Your Excellency," she answered.
   The Bishop paused a moment. Then he asked her, "When were you born?" The sister stated her day of birth. The Bishop gasped; her birthday was the day of his conversion! Back then he saw her exactly as she was before him now. "And have you any idea whether your prayers and sacrifices have been successful?" he asked her further.
   "No, Your Excellency."
   "Don't you want to know?"
   "Our dear God knows when something good happens, and that is enough," was the simple answer.
   The Bishop was shaken. "So continue this work in the name of the Lord," he said. The sister knelt down immediately at his feet and asked for his blessing. The Bishop solemnly raised his hands and said with great emotion, "With the power entrusted to me as a bishop, I bless your soul, I bless your hands and their work, I bless your prayers and sacrifices, your self-renunciation and your obedience. I bless especially your final hour and ask God to assist you with all his consolation."
   "Amen," the sister answered calmly, then stood up and left.

A teaching for life
   The Bishop, profoundly moved, stepped over to the window in order to compose himself. Some time later, he said good-bye to the Mother Superior and returned to the apartment of his bishop friend. He confided to him, "Now I found the one I have to thank for my vocation. It is the lowest and poorest lay sister of that convent. I cannot thank God enough for his mercy because this sister has prayed for me for almost 20 years. On the day she first saw the light of the world, God worked my conversion accepting in advance her future prayers and works.
   "What a lesson and a reminder for me! Should I become tempted to vanity by a certain amount of success or by my good works, then I can affirm in truth: You have the prayer and sacrifice of a poor maid in a convent stall to thank. And when a small and lowly task appears of little value to me, then I will also remember the fact: what this maid does in humble obedience to God, making a sacrifice by overcoming herself, is so valuable before the Lord Our God that her merits have given rise to a bishop for the Church."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Giving them a Gnocchi memory

We were so excited to see the movie Unbroken several years back.  It is the true story of Louis Zamperini.  Louis was the Olympic runner who found himself as a prisoner of war after his B-24 bomber crashed into the Pacific.  He and two other men survived the crash and were stranded for 47 days on a raft floating in the Pacific.  They endured sufferings that only the strongest of minds could withstand.   Constant shark attacks, little to no food and water, torrential storms, and fending off several attacks by Japanese bombers while trying to stay alive, tested these courageous men daily and once rescued found themselves again in worse captivity as POWs.

Louis was a very difficult child for his Italian immigrant parents.  He was constantly in trouble with the law and at school.  One scene in the movie, Louis is sitting on the dark steps watching his mother make Gnocchi.  Gnocchi is a traditional Italian dish.   It is a dumpling made with flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, and cornmeal.  Each egg was cracked and kneaded into the flour with care. He watched each egg be cracked while methodically counting in his head the number of eggs in the recipe.   Louis had a particularly rough day as he had been found drinking and was beaten by his father that night.

 His mother didn't know Louis was observing.  She was just preparing food late that evening.  She didn't know she was imprinting on his mind and heart memories of home that would give him the will to live in a few short years.   She wasn't purposefully teaching any lesson or trying to show Louis anything.  She just was. She was just preparing dinner.

Fast forward many years later, Louis is floating in the middle of the Pacific for a month now and it was well-known that the mind went before the body in such desperate situations.  Louis knew that and encouraged the other two men to keep talking.  He said over and over that they had to keep talking.  There were two topics that the men talked over and over about.  Food and baseball.  Mainly food.  Louis would recall the scene of his mother making Gnocchi.  He would tell the men how she cracked each egg into the flour.  He took Mac's hand and pretended to knead the dough.  It kept them going and gave them hope.  That simple memory was enough to keep him alive and motivated to get home.  His mother's Gnocchi.

 Several scenes later into the movie and after having been a POW for over two year now, Louis is forced to go on the Japanese radio and lie that everything is okay and all the prisoners are being treated well. This is quite contrary to what is actually happening in the camp especially to Louis who was beaten everyday by the Japanese.  He was beaten so close to death numerous times.  He was addressing his family members individually and reminded his father to get some good rabbits for mom's Gnocchi sauce.

I think of this specific simple theme a lot in my motherhood.  Louis's memory of his mother making Gnocchi kept him going.  What would keep my children going if in a similar situation?  What will be their "Gnocchi" memory in our home.  For me, it is my mother making bread.  My mother made bread every Monday.  We consumed hundreds of loaves and rolls.  Bread still pulls us home. My brother and his family walk over every Saturday morning for homemade toast.  Bread is what my kids look forward to when going home to visit my mom.
Meal preparation can often seem to be a chore. With the lens of providing them memories of the actual making and preparing food and our presence in the kitchen moving about, cracking eggs, measuring flour, boiling water, mixing, baking, and all that food prep entails is actually plowing into their memories feelings of home, comfort, joy, excitement, routine, and availability.  To me, it is not a mundane task to cross of my list.  I recall often Louis and his memory of his mother and collect myself to give my children that same image.  I know in the years to come and life's trials begin to confront our children on an adult level, memories of home and kitchen will give them comfort and a sense of belonging.

Christmas Wonderfulness

We try so hard each year to push the Christmas decorating back as far as possible as to allow the season of Advent to be celebrated. The kids are always so excited to deck the halls. Frankly, I am too! I love all the smells and bells of preparing for Christ's birth. Since I was due around Christmas, we let them decorate early. About three years ago, I decided to let them decorate for the most part. I had spent the morning correcting and reminding everyone to "Please be careful!" and "Please don't break that!" I drove myself crazy and probably ruined the spirit. NO MORE. They were so excited! I didn't want their memory to be of me stressed. They truly had a wonderful time. I sat and watched and admired.
I found this village on super duper clearance years ago and it is always the most treasured item.  They play with it from the moment it goes up until the moment I pack it away for next Christmas.

Dominic is my trusted advisor.  He shares my joy and excitement for Christmas decorating. 

Dominic and Rose were talking together while he played through Christmas songs. 
We buy one new nutcracker every year.  We name them after members of our family and extended family according to what the nutcracker portrays.
A couple years back, we started getting one new snow globe every year.  I am always on the lookout at Goodwill, Target, or any thrift store to find these treasures.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From my eye as your mother Vol. 1

 As we were walking down the garage stairs together, I remembered I had forgotten something inside.  I told her little 22 pound body to go get in the van.  She stated, "Okay."  Then, she toddled herself to the van door and knocked to be let in.  It was too sweet to watch. Little person/Big Van

 Most of my pictures are of them playing.  I see so many times throughout my day moments that truly take my breath away.  They really do.  I see these precious moments and almost can't move because if I move, I won't get to watch it all. 
We have new neighbors that have a DOG.  Oh my!  They sat and waited for a dog viewing every summer day for a long time.

summer ice cream

A man dressed as Ronald McDonald was walking around the zoo and gave us 457 free ice cream cone coupons.  They were burning a hole in our wallets so off we went to redeem them at our local Walmart that houses a McDonald's.  We sat outside Walmart and enjoyed our ice cream this wonderful summer night. I was pregnant with Belén this summer. 
I know these entries are so simple, but I must write them down because when our children are older I hope they love to look back upon these adventures and say, "I remember that! I got my own ice cream cone.  I going to do that with my children.  I loved that."

Monday, January 16, 2017

God's playground Fall 2016

I love that that one of the first comments out of our childrens' mouths when a new family moves into town or family is coming for the weekend is "We should take them to God's playground!" They love tromping around the grounds be it winter, spring, summer or fall.  It provides a different beauty each season.  I love the silence out in the woods.  Reminds me of a poem we memorized for school by Robert Frost called "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." 

It's good to have a place like this in your childhood. 

The Power of One

We watched Curtis Martin's talk twice with our children. I often think we can fall into the trap that happiness and fulfillment are out "THERE". It can't certainly be within the walls of our homes with "just" our husband and "just" our children, especially little children. I mean you have your college degree, right?  I have never understood this because my parents elevated the calling of marriage and motherhood to such a level that nothing compared to it.  I mean WOW!  Raising little ones for heaven.  Being John's helpmate, friend, his only lover, companion, and supporter.  What an assignment!  I am the ONLY person that can fulfill those things.  I am their ONLY mother.  I am John's ONLY wife.  No one can do what I've been given to do.  Isn't that wonderful to think about!  I always say to my friends when they tell me they are expecting a new baby, "You've been promoted.  A whole new person!"  

I acknowledge the value of work and education.  I love education.  I read books on education, but if our education doesn't reflect back on Christ and teach us more about Him, it is worthless.  This business of raising little ones for heaven is supreme and beautiful.  The voices that you might hear that say you are wasting your life and time are not from God.

What I loved most about this talk is how he visually shows the power of ONE.  Please take the time to watch and BE THAT ONE.  Invest in your family.  Jesus focused specifically on the twelve apostles.  He didn't initially have one million apostles.  He had twelve.  He was preparing them to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations.  The ripple effect of your devotion and care will be beautiful for generations to come well beyond the years we live on this earth.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Suggestions needed

I would love to hear suggestions about how to bless, acknowledge, console, and celebrate the gift of life.  Because of the internet, we all have had the opportunity to meet many families that experience the joy of a new pregnancy, the grief of a miscarriage or death of a child, and the wonderful news of a new baby.  I want to celebrate with my friends but need suggestions beyond "Congratulations!"  and "We are praying for you!"  

What would you send a family that miscarried?

What would you send a family/mother/friend who lost a baby shortly after birth? 

What would you send an close internet friend who just had a baby?

What would you send an internet friend who miscarried?

What would you send a friend who found out she is expecting her 11th baby? 3rd baby? 8th baby?

 Thank you in advance!!  God bless!

Friday, January 13, 2017

I delight in you

 I simply had to go outside and take this picture.  How could I not?  She was playing Christmas music in the dark by the tree.  My deepest belief is that one of the greatest gifts we give to our children is the notion that "I delight in you!"  If your parents do so very much, imagine how much more your Heavenly Father does? 
I am a simple mother.  I can get overwhelmed easily.  I run best at home with my people around me.  I like family meals at night filled with great conversation.  I like prayer time and devotion together unrushed.   It gives us the time to stop and see.  I gives us the time to delight and listen.  I remember when I first moved to Lincoln and I had just met a mother of a large family.  I asked her what activities or sports her children where in.  She replied confidently, "We have a very simple home.  We do things as a family together.  We don't run here and there most of time.  We like home." 
I've remembered her words often as they spoke volumes to my simple, sensitive heart that desperately reaches each day to grab time and to just be with our children. 

 We call this the newborn neck tilt.  Always gazing at our newborns.
 I have many hairdressers.  They are always braiding, curling, spraying, poofing, and fixing their hair.

Belén often has an extended period in the middle of the night where she is just awake and usually not crying.  She is just awake.  I recalled the words Elizabeth Foss once wrote that the phone has taken the place of the motherly gaze.  She was recalling the many nights before phones were a part of our everyday life where she rocked, nursed, burped and most importantly just gazed at her new babies.  She expressed sadness for new mamas who are missing out on that all important gaze of admiration.  Belén was my first baby to have a real smart phone.  I mentally told myself that I wasn't going to miss it with her.  I wasn't going to miss the delight of my new baby whom I just met.

 For school, Dominic had a project that required him to check the skyline twice a day.  He set the alarm on his watch and diligently did it for weeks never missing.  I don't know why I enjoy their precious ways so much, but I think I took a picture almost everyday he did it.  I watched him look up, determine what he was to record in his science notebook, write it down, look up several more times, and then come in. 
 His sword is his other appendage.  He finds it first thing in the morning and wears it all day.  One time when we went to the chiropractor, we laughed so hard as he jumped up on the table and had to un-weapon.  He had two swords, one in each pocket, and rocks in his coat pockets.  I'm not quite sure how he slipped all that past me, but it was so adorable to see him lay his weapons down before an adjustment. Whenever he watches any show that has a tiger or pirate in it, we always hear him say "I need to get my sword." He runs swiftly into the toy room and digs until he finds it, if it isn't already on him stuffed down his pants.
 Have you ever watched a child look at a snow globe?  Holy smokes.  Snow globes remind me of my mother. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Always someone to hold you

 She is always held by someone.  From the moment she arrived, she has been in the arms of someone short of the time I require her to be left alone so she can swing a bit by herself.  They love to hold her.  She has many mothers that usually meet me at my door in the morning asking to hold her.  What amazes me is how they love to just sit and hold her especially Clairvaux and Zellie.  Our chiropractor asked who holds her the most and in unison they all said "Clairvaux."  John and I laughed one time because I was on the floor finishing up getting her changed and dressed and immediately four sets of arms went out to hold her.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of it.  Instant arms. 
What I wish I could tell someone is that the love multiplies.  It is not something unique to our family.  My friends say it also.  The smallest is welcomed with the utmost love and care.
Lillie said, "Belén, I want to show you the Christmas tree."

Multi-tasking holding his 8th sister and reading "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Her #1 handler.  My sisters always laugh how amazing my girls are with babies and how they never tire in holding our babies and other peoples' babies.  I am the same way.  PLEASE!  Let me hold your baby.  We were at my sister's home for a visit with cousins and I walked inside to two of my girls sitting together each holding a baby instead of playing outside with cousins.  Isn't that precious!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Lourdes-22 months

I have found that Instagram is proving much more efficient in archiving my thoughts and pictures as usually I have one free hand or just a quick second to write a thought or memory.  To a fault, I love documenting the lens in which I see our children everyday.  I cling tightly to the things I see them do and say.  I love catching the everyday moments I witness that I know are fleeting and want to write them down. I have concocted this notion that blogging must be this long journal like post, almost like a mini-story each time.  That mentality isn't working though because months are going by and I don't write anything because it isn't a mini-story to reveal.  I want to change that because in reality in years to come, they will read our blog not my Instagram account.  I hope to go back through my Instagram pictures and put those recordings here and then begin posting just something little each day or at least each week that I see or think about our days and lives together.

 Poor little thing.  Missed her big sisters' tea party while napping so had to dine alone.  She didn't mind a bit. 
 Her pigs are high and tight everyday.
 Her beloved Dada always to the rescue.  Zellie started sewing lessons this past fall and made this little French hat. 
 9/10 meals are eaten with extended toes
 She's one of the quirkiest birds we've ever had.  Smart, witty, won't stop talking, and grimaced really good at the lector announcing the opening hymn at mass.  To top her morning off, I trimmed her bangs a bit to short (resembling Roberta off of Swiss Family Robinson) and she was in a tiff all morning because she said they "Hurt!"
Sometimes your hair gets in the way and you have to pull it back really tight.

 The neck.  Always the neck...especially bent over reading gets me every darn time.
Favorite hobby: Dumping out and destroying board games.  The older girls started a Christmas puzzle four times due to the above destroyer.  They finally gave up as she was determined to foil their efforts.