Archive for Marian Mothering

The Little Way of Lunches and Laundry

“The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.”

“A toddler makes it difficult to do God’s work,” I lamented to my husband not long before Christmas. Our parish offered ID-100264365several opportunities to grow closer to Christ during Advent, and with Christmas around the corner, it seemed I’d be unable to attend a single one.

I’d specifically been planning to attend nighttime Adoration, but our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter needed me. She was still dependent upon me to nurse her to sleep, and though I very much wanted to sneak out the door, I could hear the exhaustion and desperation in her cries. I sighed and slipped off my coat, picked her up, and cuddled her in my arms. Instead of consoling the heart of Jesus at Adoration, I consoled my baby girl. Instead of getting spiritually fed by our Lord, I fed my daughter as she drifted off to sleep.

I’d like to say I did these things for my daughter with the love and compassion of our Blessed Mother, but I’d be lying. On the contrary, I did these things reluctantly and begrudgingly. I did these things for her with a quiet resentment.

Isn’t this always the way of it? So often I desire to find silence so I can pray, and yet, with children running around the house, silence is nowhere to be found. Many times I wish I could take a half hour to read a snippet of any of the myriad spiritual books lining my shelves, books that I’d long ago planned to crack open, and instead I see them boasting their perfectly un-creased spines. I’ve told my husband on at least a few occasions that I was going to take some time to go to the local soup kitchen to feed meals to those in need. I’ve yet to find the hours to go. And for all these things I counted as spiritual losses, I have looked at my children at some point and thought, “Yes, children indeed make it difficult to do God’s work.”

But, then, early this morning, as I attempted to get up to begin my day with some quiet prayer, my six year-old son came into my room, snuggling next to me to get warm, and whispered, “I want you.” Internally, I sighed, Even at 5 in the morning, I can’t steal some time alone. And though my body was tense, my son relaxed into me. He put his arm around my waist and I noticed a smile on his lips.

This is God’s work, I heard from somewhere within me. This is God’s work, came the whisper again. Because I needed the repetition.

My mother had been trying to tell this to me for quite some time. Always when I lamented that I felt the desire to be at church, she reminded me of my need to be at home. But my stubbornness had blinded me to what she wanted me to see for so long:

That to do God’s work, we must be content to do His will, even if that means being at home to tend our families instead of at church to tend to parishioners.

That raising our children and taking care of our families is God’s work.

That while facilitating a Bible study might be God’s work, telling our children the stories of Noah and King David and St. Paul is God’s work, too.

That while working at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless is certainly God’s work, standing in our own kitchens, feeding our families, is God’s work, too.

That while praying before the Blessed Sacrament is God’s work, praying with our children is God’s work, too.

As parents, we do God’s work in so many little ways.

A few years ago, when I read a book about Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta and of the volunteers who left their First World riches behind to tend to some of the poorest souls on Earth, I felt I’d missed my opportunity. After all, I was now a mother of a young son. There would be no Calcutta for me. No chance to bathe those who couldn’t bathe themselves, to feed those who couldn’t feed themselves, to clothe those who couldn’t clothe themselves.

But the irony of it is that while I wondered when I’d be able to do these works, I was actually doing them already. After all, aren’t I up early each morning, packing my son’s snack and lunch to nourish him during the school day ahead of him? Don’t I spend hours each week, cleaning endless piles of laundry so my family is appropriately clothed? Don’t I change diapers several times a day, and bathe the children every night? Don’t I clean the house constantly throughout the day so that my husband, who works so hard for our family, can come home to a place not of chaos but of peace?

The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.

Blessed Mother Teresa knew this well. She instructed, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home, and love your family.”

Doing God’s work, I’ve realized, really is as simple and as important as that.

image credit: “Happy Mother and Son Playing” by photostock (freedigitalphotos.com)

A Thinking Prayer

This year marks the 800th anniversary of Our Lady’s gift of the Rosary to St. Dominic. That’s 800 years of miracles, hearts softened, and prayers answered through the intercession of our Blessed Mother.

saint dominic rosary flemish schoolThe Rosary is a powerful prayer. Mary is a powerful woman. While great wars have been stopped and lives have been saved due to devotion to the Rosary, what I find most compelling is its power of conversion.

The soul is a mysterious entity to us mere humans. We think we know our own, until we are humbled by a sin we have been overlooking. We wish we could convince other souls to unite more closely with God’s will, but it is never by our words alone that this can be accomplished.

We are unified beings, body, mind, and soul, and the formation of the soul requires a unique combination of grace, knowledge, and wisdom. We need ways to turn to God that stretch our intellect, our devotion, and our love. And, being the fallen and flawed human race that we are, we need a lot of help along the way.

So, we turn to the Rosary. As I heard Janet Moore describe at a retreat I attended recently, the Rosary is a “thinking prayer.” The more we meditate on its mysteries, the more our thoughts become like Jesus and Mary’s. And it is from our thoughts that our words and actions spring. I found it immensely helpful to have Janet lead our retreat group through the Rosary, providing ideas and scripture for meditation as we came to each mystery.

Prayer takes practice. There are always new ways to enter more deeply into ancient devotions. That’s the beauty of these gifts of our Church. There is grace attached to them that is living. We have only to create space in our hearts for Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit. As Janet pointed out, Mary was with Jesus His entire life. She was at the foot of the cross and witnessed His thirst for souls. She has so much to share with us–so much to say as she guides us into His embrace. She wants to form us just as she formed Jesus in her womb.

Consider the assistance of a spiritual director or a Rosary meditation book as you pray your Rosary this month. Read the Bible stories to your children that the mysteries are from. Find some way for you and your family to enter more deeply into this beautiful, “thinking prayer.” Mary is waiting to take your hand and show you the way.

My Body Given Up for You

madonna nursingI recently overheard a fellow pregnant woman comment to her husband words that saddened me. I chalked up my sadness to my hormones (the ones that have me constantly crying at television commercials). I told myself I had taken her too seriously; quite likely, I had. After all, she was very pregnant, too. And achy. And tired. And round. I know. She said so.

As we shopped nearby one another, I couldn’t help but hear her say, “It’s not fair. I’m the one who has to have my body change. I’m the one who has to work it all off. And if I’m punished like this now, it’ll be your turn later.” She didn’t say it with laughter; she said it with bite.

I assume “later” meant after the baby is born. A time when she can force equal “punishments” on her husband in the way of middle-of-the-night feedings and messy diaper changes. And before it seems I’m picking on this poor, soon-to-deliver mother, I realize it’s not just her.

I hear similar words often from friends, acquaintances and strangers. This need to “even the score” when it comes to childbearing or childrearing. I’ve been guilty of it, too. A couple of weeks after my son was born, my husband decided to go for a run. While he was gone, I sat in our house, fuming as I breastfed our infant.

“Sure, he gets to go for a run,” I thought angrily. “I would love to go for a run, but this body won’t let me! I have swollen, aching breasts that are glued to my child, and I’m still recovering from an extremely difficult delivery!” When he returned, I let him have it, telling him at one point that if I couldn’t run, then it wasn’t fair that he could. Yes, I was that childish.

And here I am, five years later, very happily pregnant again. But, I noticed that I, too, have slipped into slight self-pity mode at times during this pregnancy: about my weight gain, about my inability to exercise like I used to, about the completely blocked nose I had for two months, and about the gestational diabetes I’ve been diagnosed with for yet another pregnancy.

But, as often happens when I’m starting down a path to wrong thinking, God sets me right. He did so a few weeks ago as I sat in morning Mass. I knelt down in my pew as usual and listened to the words of Consecration.

This is my body given up for you.

These words, the words I hear at every Mass, struck me differently this time. Because this time, I was pregnant. And this time, instead of staring at the priest or gazing at the bread-turned-body or bowing my head during those words, I was staring at Mary, who was to my left and to whom I suddenly felt an urge to turn to.

As I heard those words, I found new meaning in them. I saw our Blessed Mother as a teenage girl, giving her fiat to God. “Let it be done to me according to your will.” In other words, This is my body given up for You.

I saw Mary as a mother, her son leaving home to dedicate himself to the world. A mother, unlike others who try to keep their children close to home, or who have difficulty giving their sons over to another woman in marriage. Mary, giving her son freely to the world. Talk about letting go!

I saw our Blessed Mother years later, walking her son’s path, watching him be tortured, and then keeping vigil at his cross. I saw a mother giving her needs up for her son’s. Freely and without complaint.

And I saw myself in a new light. As I looked at my bulging belly and felt the tightness of my pants, as I imagined stretch marks and the stack of sweets I can’t eat, I whispered to my unborn child, “This is my body given up for you.”

As I thought ahead to delivery, one that I have been terrified about thanks to the arduous delivery of my son, I changed a prayer I’d been reciting for much of my pregnancy. Instead of pleading with God for a quick, easy birth this time, I began to ask for strength to endure whatever type of delivery I will have. And then, I ended that prayer with, “This is my body given up for you.”

I’ve even begun to find greater peace in the daily grind of raising my son. I recently sat with him in the middle of the night as he whimpered about his belly hurting. Bleary-eyed, exhausted, and desperately wanting sleep, I thought, “This is my body, my sleep, one of my body’s greatest needs right now, given up for you.” I thought it not in a way that patted myself on the back for such little sacrifice, but simply, with gratitude that God would grant me the gift of motherhood so that I could offer such tiny, humble sacrifices.

So that I could, as St. Therese of Lisieux pointed out, follow a small but no less important path to God.

 

The Hidden Life

I can’t help but feel a bit deflated at this time of year.  After the anticipation of Christmas and the flurry of gift wrapping, baking, decorating, and checking things off of numerous to-do lists, I suddenly find myself surrounded by the laundry and dishes of every day life with no routine for accomplishing what needs to be done.

The joy of the Christmas season is in my heart, but the physical work of a mother and housewife is in my hands, its ordinary monotony contrasting sharply with the festivities of the past several days.  It takes effort to return to the routine of daily family life–to once again find the rhythm that keeps our household functioning and thriving.

As I was folding laundry on the eve of the feast of the Holy Family, my thoughts turned to Mary and how her life took shape after the birth of Jesus.  She, too, had to establish her household routine after the excitement of that first Christmas was over.  She, too, found herself washing clothes, cooking meals, and changing diapers after the event of the birth had passed and the visitors had all returned home.  Perhaps she, too, even had moments in which she thought, “Is this all there is?  Is this my life now?  Washing and cooking and cleaning, hour after hour and day after day?”

Holy Family by Juan Simon Gutierrez

Holy Family by Juan Simon Gutierrez

But she carried on in faith, fulfilling the role God gave her alongside her spouse who did the same–because they knew.  They knew it was God’s will that they fulfill the most insignificant aspects of their vocations to the best of their abilities.  They knew they were a piece of the puzzle of God’s plan to show the world how much He loves us.  They knew their example during the hidden years of their family life was just as important as the public ministry that their Son would one day step into.

The Son of God spent thirty years focused on living with His earthly parents as a Holy Family–thirty years focused on obeying His parents, doing His chores, and assisting His father as a carpenter.  Thirty years of showing the world that it isn’t the specific accomplishments that people can see, but the way in which you direct your heart in the midst of a humble life that makes you great in the eyes of God.

“The family is . . . a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity . . .”  Pope Benedict XVI

Jesus grew to the full measure of His humanity in a humble home with Joseph and Mary by His side.  He demonstrated perfect holiness before He ever performed a public miracle.  He told His heavenly Father, “Thy will be done” long before kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He helped others by the work of His human hands and lived the beauty of self-donative love with His family every day in preparation for the Cross.

So, too, do we have the opportunity to grow in holiness by persevering through the daily routines of family life and living them as an answer to God’s beckoning–a beckoning to faithfully perform each of our daily duties for the saints He knows our children can be–a beckoning to imitate Mary as she so perfectly united her marriage to God and surrendered her motherhood to His will–a beckoning to recognize miracles in the mundane and joy in that which no one else can see.

Cradled in the Rosary

“What I needed was prayer.  As to which prayer, I had no idea; I only knew that I yearned for a prayer that would quiet my mind, engage my heart, and speak for me words that could capture the love and hope I had for this baby.” 

It all began with a little girl – a little girl whose thumb-sucking habit and gorgeous eyelashes were visible during her twenty-week ultrasound.  My journey with the rosary began with her, because I thought I might need a miracle.

It’s a long story, but when I met my husband, I had just begun exploring Catholicism. In the early years of our marriage I was new to the faith and had a lot to take in – scripture, tradition, liturgy, and in general, a deeper understanding of Catholic teaching.  Reading, studying and pondering came quite naturally to me, but establishing my prayer life was a work in progress, and while I had heard of the rosary, I knew relatively little about it.

126010463My ignorance, however, was about to change. During my pregnancy with my daughter Claire, the standard second-trimester ultrasound revealed a choroid plexus cyst. I understood the terminology, but had no idea what it meant for the well-being of my baby. And no one seemed to want to tell me anything about these cysts, which was extremely unnerving.  Currently, if you do an online search, you’ll immediately see a myriad of sites offering information about this condition, which in my daughter’s case was a tiny sac of fluid within her brain, somewhat like a blister, pinched off as the choroid plexus formed.  But, this ultrasound happened back in 1997, back when the internet didn’t provide fingertip access to the wealth of information it does today.

At some point after the scan, I do recall some mumbling about an association with trisomies 18 and 21, and conversely, that the cysts resolve, sometimes posing no problem at all.  But, anyone who knows me well will tell you that when it comes to obtaining medical information, I err on the side of saturation.  Perhaps it’s a control thing, but enduring this lack of feedback was painful.  I was completely preoccupied with a desire to understand the worse-case scenario of the diagnosis, perseverating on the one fact I was familiar with – babies with trisomy 18 have very abbreviated lives. I was devastated.

Furthering my dismay, the appointment for a level II scan was scheduled a month out, and in the meantime I clearly needed something more productive to do than purchase tissues. At first, I thought I just needed distraction, but keeping busy did nothing to ease my angst.  What I needed was prayer.  As to which prayer, I had no idea; I only knew that I yearned for a prayer that would quiet my mind, engage my heart, and speak for me words that could capture the love and hope I had for this baby.  I needed to be cradled in prayer, pacifying the fear and sorrow that consumed my thoughts.  It was a pretty tall order, and not knowing exactly where to turn, I suppose I did what any grace-desperate neophyte would do – I grabbed a glossy Catholic prayer pamphlet from my bedside table and began to read.  Fortunately for me, it contained a beautiful guide on how to pray the rosary.  I don’t think I had rosary beads when I started.  I just started.

It has been said before, but is certainly worth repeating, that God uses our struggles to draw us closer to Him.  Recently, a dear friend of mine spoke of a point in her life in which she quite literally had no strength to do anything.  While she was hospitalized, too weak to even speak, her mother regularly visited and prayed the rosary aloud.  She shared with me that as her mother prayed, she felt lovingly rocked by the rhythm of the Hail Marys. She felt herself wrapped in the love of Our Lord, and tenderly cradled in the arms of Our Blessed Mother.

During that month of waiting for the ultrasound, I too, was cradled in the arms of Our Lady.  She knew the pain of worry, and, as mothers do, soothed my heart with her embrace. Whether a miracle occurred, I really can’t say, but my daughter was found to be perfectly healthy.  Perhaps the therapeutic effects of the rosary were a lifelong gift for me, rather than a remedy for my unborn child.  In Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s moving reflection on praying the rosary he aptly wrote, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next.  The power of the rosary is beyond description.”

Image Credit: Catherine Yeulet (photos.com)

Pope Leo XIII’s “Fidentem Piumque Animum” (Day 9)

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On this 9th day of our series of 1-minute Rosary Quotes, ponder this beautiful quote from Pope Leo XIII’s “Fidentem Piumque Animum”:

The form of prayer We refer to has  obtained the special name of “Rosary,” as though it represented by  its arrangement the sweetness of roses and the charm of a garland. This is most fitting for a method of venerating the Virgin, who is rightly styled the  Mystical Rose of Paradise, and who, as Queen of the universe, shines therein  with a crown of stars. So that by its very name it  appears to foreshadow and be an augury of the joys and garlands of Heaven offered by her to those who are devoted to  her.

I think for many of us our children comprise many of the roses on that garland that Our Lady offers to us.  Then there are our spouses, our friends, our parishes, and the gifts we’ve been given in living out our Christian calling.  When I consider my own garland, I know I don’t recognize some of the roses:  gifts sent to me by Mary, those “little graces” of the Christian life.  But I can strive to notice them!

 

Pope Leo XIII’s “Iucunda Semper Expectatione” (Day 7)

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Our quote today is from Pope Leo XIII’s “Iucunda Semper Expectatione” (1894).

The recourse we have to Mary in prayer  follows upon the office she continuously fills by the side of the throne of  God as Mediatrix of Divine grace; being by worthiness and by merit most  acceptable to Him, and, therefore, surpassing in power all the angels and  saints in Heaven.

Mary as Mediatrix is on our side, ready to have a chat with Jesus about our sufferings and intentions, ready to intervene because we are her children, too!

Pope Leo XIII Day 5: Magnae Dei Matris

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In Magnae Dei Matris, written in 1892, Pope Leo XIII describes the Mary as “the Mother of mercy” who comes to our side during our time of need:

When we have recourse to Mary in prayer, we  are having recourse to the Mother of mercy, who is so well disposed toward us  that, whatever the necessity that presses upon us especially in attaining  eternal life, she is instantly at our side of her own accord, even though she  has not been invoked. She dispenses grace with a generous hand from that  treasure with which from the beginning she was divinely endowed in fullest  abundance that she might be worthy to be the Mother of God. By the fullness of  grace which confers on her the most illustrious of her many titles, the  Blessed Virgin is infinitely superior to all the hierarchies of men and  angels, the one creature who is closest of all to Christ. “It is a great  thing in any saint to have grace sufficient for the salvation of many souls;  but to have enough to suffice for the salvation of everybody in the world, is  the greatest of all; and this is found in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin.”

The Amazing Grace of the Rosary

“Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.”

My first adult attempt at praying a full rosary wasn’t a good one.

I was nearly three months pregnant for the first time, and my husband and I were in the car on our way to a friend’s birthday party.  It should have been a beautiful time.  It should have been a rosary of joy and thanksgiving.  Instead, my first rosary was one of desperation.

rosary buttonI hadn’t been feeling well the previous few days.  I had lower back pain and cramps.  And my pregnancy symptoms, the ones that had been apparent from the start, had gradually disappeared over the course of the week.  “You’re reaching the end of your first trimester,” I was told. “That’s normal.”

It didn’t feel normal to me.  Not that I’d been pregnant before.  Not that I had anything to compare it to.  At my eight-week prenatal visit, the midwife had tried in vain to find my baby’s heartbeat. “No worries,” she said. “It’s still quite early to hear a heartbeat. You’re so small, though, I thought we might. We’ll hear it at the 12-week visit.”

But the lack of a heartbeat two weeks earlier, together with my lost pregnancy symptoms but gained premenstrual ones worried me. My husband tried to allay my fears, repeating the encouragement we’d been given by nurses, doctors, family and friends. But, in my heart, I felt something wasn’t right. On the way out the door, as we prepared for the one and a half hour drive to the party, I grabbed my rosary beads.

Though I rarely prayed a decade, and could not remember praying a full rosary in my adult life, I usually had beads around. Sometimes, they just sat on my dresser. Other times, they hung out in a pouch in my purse. But, they rarely made it to my hands.

On that day, though, the day of the birthday party, I held them tightly. In the car, I talked with God. I prayed the random Our Father or Hail Mary, but though I had the beads in my hand, I didn’t pray a single decade. Until we got within a half hour of the party and we passed a Catholic Church.

“Pull in!” I begged my husband.

Within minutes, he parked in the empty lot and I raced into the church. The abdominal pains were coming stronger now, but I still held out hope. I knelt into a pew and began to pray the rosary. I prayed it fervently, if slightly incorrectly, saying only the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, not even knowing about the Hail, Holy Queen or the Oh, My Jesus prayers. I’m not even sure I said the Apostles’ Creed. But, I did pray five decades, the first time I remember ever doing so.

And, as I neared the final Glory Be, the miscarriage began. I was lost. Confused. I thought this could save my baby. In my immature faith, I clung tight to that hope I’d had.

 As we turned around and drove back home, towards the emergency room of our local hospital, questions raced through my head. I thought the rosary could bring miracles. Why do this? Why take my baby while I pray a rosary? What is that supposed to tell me?

Here’s the funny thing, though.  I could have had a crisis of faith.  I very nearly did.  But, I think, in retrospect, that the rosary I prayed as I began to lose my first child gave birth to a love of the rosary within me.

Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.

Because as I lay in the emergency room bed, there was a moment when I very clearly felt arms around me, hugging me from behind, even though the only thing behind me was a wall. And I was sure that was Jesus.

Because while I was losing my child, I, who am always emotional, was somehow calm. Even more astounding, I worried not about my comfort but about comforting those around me. When my husband looked white as a sheet and had to sit with his head lowered, I encouraged him to take a walk outside. To take a breather. And I didn’t resent him in the least when he did. When the young medical intern fumbled her words and was obviously nervous and upset, I soothed her, “Don’t worry. It’s okay. Really, it’s okay.” Where did that come from? I wondered. Because that wasn’t me. That calm, more concerned about everyone else than my own current sorrow, wasn’t me. It was Mary.

I have prayed the rosary (almost) daily since then. It is a prayer that finds me no matter where I am in life and teaches me how to be more like our Blessed Mother. How to be more like our Lord. In the Joyful Mysteries, I find the beauty of life. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, I find the beauty of strength in suffering. In the Luminous Mysteries, I find my Jesus, the beautiful God-Man who moves me. And in the Glorious Mysteries, I find the hope of our Father in heaven.

The first time I prayed the rosary, I prayed for an obvious miracle. But the power of the rosary works deeper miracles:  not one-time shows to which we can say a quick thank you to God and be on our merry way, but subtler, slower-forming miracles, the kind that take deep root and have the power to change our lives, to change us, from the inside out.

And that’s what pulls me back – each day – to the rosary.

The Rosary Box

rosary buttonFour years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary.  My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.

I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved.  When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening.  The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time.  When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening.  Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother.  Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment.  Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.

Fast forward to four kids.  There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes!  I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries.  There are lots of resources on the internet.   Some very beautiful.  Some very traditional American.  Some very basic.  I purchased this durable book-Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.

rosarysorrow

 

Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still!  So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old.  What could help them?  What things did I already have around the house?  What things could I find simply, inexpensively?  What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?

At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).

I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes.   Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!

I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper.  For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper.  For the Luminous, a shining paper.  For the Glorious, a gold paper.  For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper.  The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper.  Each box has a label.  I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.

rosary box

rosary box2

There isn’t a magic item for the boxes.  Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works.  In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple.  If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.

In our house, these boxes appeal to the 3-7 year old age children.  I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box.  When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images.  It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.

Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary.  It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home.  And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.

Our Lady’s 15 Promises

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The Blessed Virgin Mary offers Fifteen Promises to those who recite the Holy Rosary.

The 15 stated promises:

    1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.
    2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.
    3. The rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
    4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the heart of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
    5. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the rosary shall not perish.
    6. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
    7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
    8. Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have, during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
    9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.
    10. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
    11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.
    12. All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
    13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
    14. All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.
    15. Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Mary Is Living in My Heart? . . . Help!

What would be the absolute worst thing that could happen to a nice Protestant girl?

Why Mary, the Blessed Virgin, would do a little interior house cleaning, then make a home for herself in the poor girl’s heart, that’s what!  If that was not bad enough, this perplexed Virgin Maryyoung woman’s belief system would stay staunchly anti-Catholic for oh, about another 10 years, even though she had converted to Catholicism.  I mean what choice did she have?  Nobody but the Catholic Church even wants someone who craves the Eucharist and has a relationship with the Mother of Christ.

Obviously this young woman was and is me.  God has a peculiar sense of humor and now I can look back and laugh at my dilemma.  At the time, though, I was shook up.  As Pope Francis said at the Easter Vigil, God delights in shaking us up, or as I like to say, ripping the rug from underneath us.  Nope, God will not stay in a nice, neat little box of our own making.  Just when we think we have Him all figured out, He pulls another fast one on us.  Thank goodness; life is never boring when you give God permission to work in my life.
I was reluctant to turn to Mary; I couldn’t help but feel like a heretic somehow turning from Jesus as my only Savior.  Yet over and over, God only offered healing and peace when I turned to His Mother.  Finally a wonderful priest from Madonna House, the Director General of Priests, Fr. Bob Pelton, smiled at me compassionately and said something like this:
“Melanie, why don’t you relax for a few months and stop tormenting yourself with guilt? Simply relax into the bosom of the Church and Her teachings and allow your relationship with Mary to grow naturally, without fighting everything with your intellect.  Trust in your own heart as well.”
Even now, some 30 years later, tears are welling up and I could weep with relief all over again as I write these words.  Somehow I was given the grace to lay down my logic, reasoning, and Protestant theology, and simply throw myself into the arms of my Spiritual Mother.
Actually, we really do not have a clue what we are saying “yes” to in the beginning of our Christian walk.  At our wedding, 34 years ago, I sensed these words within my heart:
“I will change the way the two of you work and play, the way you walk and talk, the way you laugh and cry, everything about you, so that you will reflect the glory of my Father in Heaven.”
Foolishly we thought that this was a nice word from God!  Little did we know that 34 years later God is still turning us inside out as He transforms us.  I agree wholeheartedly with Pope Francis, God does seem to delight in shaking us out from our narrow little lives.  I could not live any other way.

Thank you God for not listening to my opinions or plans for my life.

Thank you for the grace to give You permission to take over and make me yours.