For Peace While Suffering (A Few Words for Wednesday)

From this mornings Office of Readings in the LOTH, there is the following Psalm of David. I have several family members who are elderly and ill, as you probably do too. Webster wrote recently of a friend who is suffering from an illness that is likely the door to her immortality.

But whether we depart suddenly or slowly, we will depart. Ponder then, these few words of David, where with hope and faith, the door leads us home, refreshed, and unto God.

Psalm 39
Dixi custodiam. A just man’s peace and patience in his sufferings; considering the vanity of the world, and the providence of God.

Unto the end, for Idithun himself, a canticle of David.

I said: I will take heed to my ways:
that I sin not with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth,
when the sinner stood against me.

I was dumb, and was humbled,
and kept silence from good things:
and my sorrow was renewed.
My heart grew hot within me:
and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.
I spoke with my tongue:
O Lord, make me know my end.
And what is the number of my days:
that I may know what is wanting to me.

Behold you have made my days measurable
and my substance is as nothing before you.
And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.
Surely man passes as an image:
yea, and he is disquieted in vain.
He stores up: and he knows not for whom
he shall gather these things.

And now what is my hope?
Is it not the Lord?
And my substance is with you.
Deliver me from all my iniquities:
you have made me a reproach to the fool.
I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth,
because you have done it.

Remove your scourges from me.
The strength of your hand has made me faint in rebukes:
You have corrected man for iniquity.
And you have made his soul to waste away like a spider:
surely in vain is any man disquieted.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my supplication:
give ear to my tears.
Be not silent: for I am a stranger with you,
and a sojourner as all my fathers were.
O forgive me, that I may be refreshed,
before I go hence, and be no more.

From the Treasure Chest: “Difficulties of Private Interpretation”

Alec Guinness (as Chesterton’s Fr. Brown) stands in for Fr. Bampfield

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a lengthy essay by Reverend George Bampfield entitled “Cannot.” Yesterday, I posted a little note on the Bible, and today Reverend Bampfield will help me explain something else that helped me decide to become a Catholic. I don’t know what Father George looks like so I have borrowed Sir Alec Guinness in the role of Chesterton’s Father Brown as a proxy.

The reason, or answer if you will, is right there in the title of this new Bampfield gem that I discovered today, by searching the YIM Catholic Bookself with the word “scripture.” I think you will enjoy what my friend Father George has to say on this matter. [Read more…]

Because I Love the Bible

Here is a reason that answers the question posed by this blog daily that I’ve never written about yet. So here goes: I love the Bible. Well, duh, Frank you may be thinking, of course you do. Well, let me be more specific. I love the entire Bible and every single book therein, including all the books that Martin Luther tossed out during the Protestant Reformation.

I have some mechanical ability, which I have written about in this space once or twice. And I know a thing or two about removing parts from a motor, or adding them, for example. To make a long story short, you don’t remove parts from an engine, leave them off, and expect the motor to work. Remove a turbocharger from a diesel engine, for example, and you will have a motor than runs, but it will run like a sick dog with absolutely no torque. What’s the point of that?

Of course, the other possibility is that you can add parts to a motor in an effort to make it stronger. “Soup it up,” so to speak. Usually this results in some additional power and fun, but at the expense of the longevity of the motor. In other words, you might make more power, but you will probably wind up grenading the motor as well. Oops.

So when I was coming around to the idea of converting, see, I wanted to know what was the scoop on these “extra” books in the Bible. Like a mechanic, I was wondering if the Catholic Church had decided to throw some aftermarket parts onto the motor, if you follow me. You know, like adding a supercharger to a motor that was already strong.

So I grabbed my souvenir Catholic Bible, from my first failed attempt at RCIA class,  and I started looking at these mysterious books. As a result, I discovered some wonderful passages from books that were in the Bible that I had never heard of. Like the one from the first reading from Mass yesterday:

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength, search not. The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise. Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.

Um, not very scary, is it? As a matter of fact, don’t those verses make all kinds of sense? And there are 50 more chapters of this book to sink your teeth into.  Then I found these verses from the first chapter of the book entitled Wisdom,

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the LORD in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin. For the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels; and when injustice occurs it is rebuked.

Wow, I thought. Seek the Lord,  just like it says in Psalm 105, but with a twist for clarity.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she acquits not the blasphemer of his guilty lips; because God is the witness of his inmost self and the sure observer of his heart and the listener to his tongue. For the spirit of the LORD fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what man says. Therefore no one who utters wicked things can go unnoticed, nor will chastising condemnation pass him by.

Of course! God knows all, sees all. GPS has got nothing on God. It says so right there in 1 Samuel 16:7.

For the devices of the wicked man shall be scrutinized, and the sound of his words shall reach the LORD, for the chastisement of his transgressions; because a jealous ear hearkens to everything, and discordant grumblings are no secret. Therefore guard against profitless grumbling, and from calumny withhold your tongues; for a stealthy utterance does not go unpunished, and a lying mouth slays the soul.

Again, there is nothing strange here. There was a lot of “grumbling” going on in Numbers(14:27), for example, remember? And the command to not lie? That’s right there in the Ten Commandments.

Court not death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands. Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth, for justice is undying.

I remember clearly thinking to myself after reading this particular passage, “where has this book been all my life?” No wonder I feel immortal, because, gulp (!) I was created to be immortal.  And then I realized there are 18 more chapters in this book too?

And so it goes, as I explored, and continue to marvel at, the wonders of Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees. The passage in the New Testament that sealed the deal for me was when these verses in Hebrews chapter 11:32-35,

What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

could only seem to be understood by referring to 2 Maccabees chapter 7:1, 13-14. Take a look,

It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

And then I learned that all of these books had been in the Bible since the beginning of Christianity. They had been in the Old Testament, but got tossed when Luther decided to toss them. At this point, I had to concede three things. 1) I’m not a biblical scholar; 2) The Catholic Church, the institution that assembled the Bible, is the Authority, and further, it has the Authority to decide what books belong in the Bible and what books don’t; 3) These allegedly disputed books were in the Septuagint, which happened to be the authoritative Old Testament Canon in place while Our Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth.

At Mass today, for example, the gospel reading is from Luke and begins like this,

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.(Luke 4:16-17)

What the passage doesn’t say, of course, is that He could possibly, on a different day of the week, or on a different day of the liturgical calendar, have been handed a scroll from Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, or 1 & 2 Maccabees. These books were in the scrolls too, when God walked upon the earth. I don’t know for sure, but like I said, I’m not a biblical scholar. Which is why I rely, again, on the authority of the Church.

So the mechanic in me was left with only one question to consider. As a Christian, did I want to go along with a stripped version of the motor, the one missing a few parts, with all of the pitfalls associated with that, or go along with the original version of the motor; the one that has all of the original parts, all in the proper place.

It really was not a difficult choice to make for me. Especially after I learned that Luther didn’t like the book of James or Revelation either. Lucky us, he left those in because leaving those “parts” out would have been like forgetting the oil sump pump and the oil pan.

I’ll share something on interpretation of scripture shortly.

Elvis Presley Sings “The Miracle of the Rosary” et al.

 

 

I missed commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the passing of the King of Rock and Roll. I was led to a startling discovery about someone known as the “Chinese Chesterton” on the same weekend that marked the passing of Elvis Presley (August 16, 1977). My humble apologies, because I love you Elvis Presley, and especially your gospel music.

Elvis, see, could sing any song well. Like, for example, Do the ClamAnd despite his fame, and fortune, he never forgot his love for the Lord. He was never ashamed to sing His praises. And as you will see in the first selection below, he had no problem singing Our Lady’s praises either. A post of that video by a friend on Facebook was my wake-up call for this belated appreciation.

Was Elvis a Catholic? I don’t think so. But just like he sent a letter to President Nixon, volunteering his services as a Federal Agent, maybe he sent a letter to the Pope at the same time? Only the Vatican archivists know for sure. Regardless, let me get out of Mr. Presley’s way, because these songs need no introductions, and let you enjoy his gospel side.

Elvis, thanks for singing the Good News. Requiescat in Pace.

Miracle of the Rosary.

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Oh Happy Day.

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The Wonder of You.

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He Is My Everything.

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Where No One Stands Alone

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Take My Hand, Precious Lord.

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How Great Thou Art

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For All the Missions: Oblates of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines

When U.S. Catholics talk about a shortage of priests, we’re talking about how we have one priest for every 2,000 Catholics. But the priest shortage in the Philipines is five times more dire; one priest from every 10,000 Catholics in the most Catholic of Asian nations.

Yesterday at Mass in my home parish, Father John Wykes, O.M.V., spoke about his order and its mission, which includes fostering vocations in the Philippines.

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary was founded in the early 19th century in Italy by the Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri to encourage the spiritual rebirth of Catholics through retreats and parish missions. In 1994 an Oblate began giving Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Cebu, the Philippines. By 1999, the order was building the Oblates of Virgin Mary Formation and Retreat Center. Here, seminarians prepare for ordination and lay and religious can stay for extended retreats. From the Center, Oblates regularly offer the Spiritual Exercises to other parts of Asia: Japan, Korea, Mongolia and so on.  

I was unfamiliar with this order. Those of you who live in the Boston area might know of the Oblates because since 1983 they have directed the Saint Francis Chapel on the ground floor of the Prudential Center in Boston. It has Eucharistic Adoration during the morning and afternoon hours six days a week, and one hour in the afternoon on Sundays. Father Wykes directed the chapel from 2005 until earlier this year, when he became Director of Media Communications for the U.S. Province, which comprises communities in Massachusetts, Colorado, Illinois and California, as well as the Cebu mission.

I was touched by Father Wykes’ story of how, as a six year old in Detroit, he spent 35 cents on his very first book. Published by Paulist Press, the book is called “Who Knows Me?” Now middle-aged, Father Wykes still has the book, which he held up during his homily. He compared the joy of that purchase to the joy of Oblate seminarians given their very first book – Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Spendor – in the seminary.

The poverty in the Philippines is so great, he said, students usually share or photocopy their books. When folks tell Father Wykes they are amazed he still owns the book he bought when he was six, he said he tells them he is amazed he was able to buy a book at the age, while in other parts of the world, a young man must wait until he is 21 or 22 before he owns a book.

Loving Father, as Jesus taught us to beg the harvest master to send laborers into his vineyard, so we now ask you to bless the Oblates of the Virgin Mary with new vocations. May your Spirit draw men of integrity to love you intensely, and to serve you courageously in poverty, chastity, and obedience. Reveal your mercy to them, and remove the distractions and fears that keep them from echoing Mary’s joyful Yes. Guide them in discerning the mission for which you created them, so that they will become wise and gentle shepherds of souls. We ask this through the intercession of Fr. Lanteri, and in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

Because Going to Mass Can Be Like Yoga Class

Guest post by Marian R. Bull
I woke up from one of those blissful, healing naps that I most love about summer Sundays, opened my e-mail, and got the joyful surprise of my life—a guest post from my daughter. Here it is.

This morning, I was lucky enough to find myself in the beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Name in downtown Chicago. A newly converted Catholic, I still sometimes find myself peering around in my peripheral vision at certain parts of the Mass, thinking, “Should my head be bowed right now? But that guy two pews up is looking straight at the priest. . . . ” I’ve got the hang of it by now, but I still need some help from my fellow parishioners. And I’m okay with it.

Today, while contemplating the bald, bowed head next to me, I was reminded of a recent article I read about what to expect from your first yoga class. One of the headers read, “You won’t have a clue what to do. And that’s okay.” I got to thinking about the ways that yoga classes and Masses make us appear, and the way they make us feel, and the beauty inherent in each experience. (I would like to make clear that I don’t go to yoga to hear the Word of God, and I don’t attend Mass to increase my flexibility. But both are important, though not equally so, and fill distinct needs in my life.)

When I first started attending mass, I felt a bit silly. I felt love for—and from—God, and I felt fulfilled, but I also felt a bit lost in what my RCIA sponsor tenderly called “Catholic aerobics.” But I soldiered on and got accustomed to the bowing and the kneeling, and I found that it gave my prayers, both silent and recited, more intention and meaning. I also realized that not everyone was staring at me thinking, “That girl’s head wasn’t bowed at the right time. What a silly little neophyte!!” We were all there to worship, to connect with the Holy Trinity on both a personal and a congregational level. What mattered was that I was coming together with others, each on our own spiritual path, each with a love for this amazing Church. And honestly, the more the merrier, right?

Yoga class is a bit the same way. Sure, the upper-class mothers are in overpriced yoga clothes rather than their Sunday best, and the “aerobics” look a bit different, but in the end, we are all there to find something: a workout, a mind-body connection, an escape from our busy days. And in yoga, as at Mass, once I stopped worrying about being “worse” than my peers or looking silly, what I gained from my practice increased exponentially. I focused more on my physical and mental intentions, and I felt more fulfilled after each class. I didn’t necessarily find Jesus, but I did find peace. And maybe a little bit of the Holy Spirit, too.

So why does it matter that these things are similar? For me, it’s about two things: shutting up the voices in my head worried about seeming clueless, and letting myself find peace and meaning through an individual, yet shared, experience. I love quietly murmuring “Namaste” to my fellow yogis just as I love enthusiastically saying “Peace be with you!!!” to complete strangers at Mass. (Sorry, Bald Guy Next To Me, I may be overly enthusiastic, but I’m just super psyched about sharing my love for Jesus with you.)

Once you stop worrying, you remember why you’re really there. And you actually have time to pray. And breathe. And listen to the word of God (or, in the case of yoga, to your thoughts and your body). And smile. Because, isn’t it awesome??

One last vignette. I am very blessed that I have a boyfriend who has occasionally attended mass with me. (Neither of us was raised in the Catholic church.) And honestly, how well he knows the liturgy and all of its aerobics is about as important to me as what color shirt he wears. His company makes the Mass even more meaningful: sharing the experience of connecting with God is simply beautiful. I am also lucky that he has been open-minded enough to come to yoga with me. I’ve got to admit, in his first class, he looked like he didn’t know what he was doing. And just like the article said, it didn’t matter. Because as we walked out, he looked at me, and smiled, and said, “I haven’t felt like this since the last time we left Mass.”

For Thoughts Like These from Frederick Charles Kolbe

Neil Young wrote and performs a tune entitled Just Singing A Song Won’t Change the World. He makes a great point, doesn’t he? However, Neil himself also says, “Even so, I will keep on singing.”

I feel the same way about reading good books on Catholic faith.

Although just reading a book may not change the world in one shot, it may help change it one person at a time. That has been my experience, at least. Some believe that reading the Bible alone is enough. But I wouldn’t be a Catholic if I thought that was true.

I’ve been reading my friend John C.H. Wu’s book, Beyond East and West. John shares a lot in this 364-page autobiographical sketch. What follows is a little fragment from an essay written by Monsignor Frederick Charles Kolbe that John shares with his readers and which I will now share with you. Monsignor Kolbe, you have the floor.

From the essay, The Art of Life

The light that enlighteneth every man coming into this world must have shown with special strength into the souls of those who so earnestly felt after Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, which, whether they knew it or not, is God. And every human response to this Divine shining is of the nature of Faith.

“The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole earth,” and I cannot but think that it is with some degree of the virtue of faith helping their natural insight that such men as Buddha, and Plato reached their moral level. There is something very touching in these early efforts after perfection, and like all early art, they sometimes produce simple effects which are beyond our reach in these more conscious days.

My friend John adds, “what he says about Buddha and Plato applies also to Confucius and Mencius.” Then, I found this interesting fragment from the same essay in an old Catholic magazine known as The Month published in 1903,

People sometimes fancy some disorder of theirs has a spiritual cause, when it may be only medicine or rest that they need. A typical example of this is explained by one of George Eliot’s keen observations —all the more useful to us because she was not thinking of religion at all—namely, that a violent emotion is always likely to be followed by a dreamy disbelief in the reality of its cause. When after a season of special devotion we are unaccountably tormented by temptations against faith, it will spare us a good deal of worry if we recognize that our body is only undergoing a customary reaction.

Or this: when he is contrasting the careful self-examination and perfecting of individual actions which characterizes Catholicism, and the tendency of Protestant spirituality to deprecate these details as excessive.

In this art, Protestants are impressionists (see Monet’s Sunrise, 1872, above). They employ vague sweeps of color, and deprecate close inspection. But true Art demands infinite detail and submits to endless analysis. The highest painter reveals himself in the ravishing delicacy of his lightest touches, and the truest idealism is that which seizes upon infinite detail and suffuses it to an exquisite degree with the glory of God.

Two boats in the water:  one fuzzy, one clear. Although I’m no expert in art, and I love French Impressionism, I know with certainty that painting this bottom portrait in such high detail required the level of skill and care that Monsignor Kolbe writes of in his description above.

With God’s Grace And A Little Help From My Friends

When I was a newly minted Marine, fresh out of boot camp and on my way into life, I was certain that I could lick it. Everything was possible, and all would be right in the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my world would be just fine. I realized that I was no all-powerful genie, but I had complete confidence in the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. The winner, which I knew I was, would take all. [Read more…]

For the Love of St. Joan of Arc: A Novena (Day 9)

As we finish this novena, I’d like to thank readers who prayed along with me. What changes did you experience in yourself as you followed this spiritual discipline? Please share in the comment section below.

This novena has given structure to my days and given me St. Joan of Arc’s presence as a spiritual companion. My special intention during this novena was to ask God to find me a job so I may help support my family. I’ve been searching for work for two years. During that time, I returned to school for retraining so I might become a teacher.

In the middle of my novena days, God answered my prayer. I was offered not one, but two, full-time jobs as a high school English teacher. This was more of a blessing than I could have imagined. I have accepted one of the jobs and begin work soon at a large suburban high school, where I will be a Special Education teacher in the English Department.

We should not consider novenas quid pro quo arrangements, or engage in, as one priest so aptly calls it, dispensing-machine Catholicism. But the more we develop a relationship with Our Lord through prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the better our communication becomes. Like any relationship we care about, we need to spend time together. God does answer prayer.

He did so with Saint Joan of Arc. While she died a tortuous death at the stake, undoubtedly her soul flew peacefully to heaven. The Church eventually restored her reputation and confirmed her as a saint. Her mother, Isabelle Romée (depicted in sculplture in the photo above), began that process after her daughter’s death. An illiterate woman like St. Joan, Isabelle, taught her children the beauty of the faith. After her daughter’s death, she petitioned the Church for a retrial. A comprehensive trial involving clergy from across Europe concluded in 1456 – 25 years after St. Joan’s death –  that the young peasant girl was a martyr.

The nullification trial opened with St. Joan’s mother speaking. Now a widow, who had lost two other children in addition to Joan, she traveled to Paris in the winter to attend the trial. Imagine how she felt as she uttered this testimony on November 7, 1455.

 I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. 

Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire. For the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous and irreparable loss to me, Isabelle, and mine. I demand that her name be restored.”

When Isabelle was 78, the court found the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, guilty of heresy. The man had manipulated St. Joan’s trial and sent her death into motion to suit his own political agenda. The Church canonized St. Joan of Arc in 1920, 500 years after her martyrdom.

Dear Saint Joan, Thank you for accompanying me throughout the day, and in the work that I did. Thank you also for your guidance and your counsel. Please help me to listen to God and to you, dear Saint, that I may do what I am called to do. Please intercede on my behalf and beg God to take all my faults and turn them into virtues. I thank you for all you have done for me, and all the things you have interceded for on my behalf. Please continue to pray for me and for all the souls who need it.

St. Joan of Arc, Pray for us. Amen.

For All the Saints: Monica

Prayer works, especially the prayer of a parent for a child. That is the vital message of St. Monica. Monica is a later Mary. I revere her because, through her prayer, her son Augustine converted and became a Doctor of the Church. I revere Mary because, through her “yes”, she gave us Jesus and brings us to Him. I could learn something about parenting from Monica and Mary, but then I already have Joan of Beverly.

It is no secret among her friends or in our parish that Joan of Beverly faces serious health challenges, so I am not violating any confidences here. Tomorrow morning, in fact, a Mass will be said for her at our parish church—an unusual measure for a living person, but then Joan is an unusual lady. A cancer that began in her lungs and was apparently cured has metastasized and created a few small tumors on the back of her brain. She is courageously undergoing radiation treatment which has left her sapped for energy and looking remarkably like the stylish, short-haired and famously skinny model Twiggy, of 1960s fame. Joan is old enough to remember Twiggy.

What’s remarkable about Joan, as it is about Monica, is that in her affliction Joan has been praying for her friends and especially for her family. Joan has a large family—seven children, God knows how many grandchildren, maybe seven great-grandchildren, though I’m not sure of that either—and her prayers for her family are working. Joan does not tell me all the details—that would be a violation of confidence; and I won’t tell you any—ditto. But sitting with Joan in her living room and hearing her stories is like being thrown backward 17 centuries and listening to Monica.

Like Catholic parents anywhere, I suppose, Joan has always prayed for her children. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer nearly two years ago, she told me that she had been praying for reconciliation among certain members of her family and that, because of her sudden illness, that reconciliation was coming about. She laughed a great toothy Joan laugh and said, “I didn’t know the Lord would use my illness to bring this about, but he did!” She thought nothing of her illness, everything of His answer to her prayers.

Today’s reading from the Office is Augustine’s account of his last days with his mother. Monica told Augustine, “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect . . . ”

Joan is not yet at this stage. She loves life, perhaps more than ever. I saw her at Mass last Sunday, and I was looking at the happiest face I could imagine. After Mass, many friends crowded around her and you would have thought Joan was a child at Disneyworld, surrounded by Mickey, Minnie, Snow White, and all seven dwarfs. I have never seen her happier. 

Why would she be so happy, facing a life-threatening illness like brain cancer? Because now again Joan is praying that God may lavish gifts on her children, and again He is doing so. Tomorrow, I’m sure many friends of Joan will gather at the 7 a.m. Mass to pray that God will continue to lavish his gifts on her.

St. Monica, pray for us all.