Friday, December 19, 2014

Last minute Advent

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and my good intentions, Advent blurred into five days before Christmas. It began well, and the first candle was lit on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.....a prayer said over the wreath waiting in the kitchen.

I hummed "O Come O Come Emmanuel" while decorating the tree. 

The second Sunday came and went and one day my 5-year-old granddaughter asked why the pink candle hadn't been lit for Gaudete Sunday. Yes. She is five. I looked at the wreath and felt that pang of melancholy at never making it to the second or third weeks of Advent. Each year it seems, I replace just a single candle.

My intentions were numerous. I had planned to renew my Marian consecration, to pray a novena, to attend daily Mass, weekly Adoration, to volunteer more; but somehow Shingles and Lyme disease treatment found me, along with the business of appointments, assignments, shopping, baking, and everything, but preparing my heart to welcome the coming of the King. 

One of the issues with Advent is that it gets consumed by Christmas. The truth is, of course that Advent indicates the coming of Christmas. But the kind of Christmas the liturgical period of Advent is meant to signal is not the Christmas we observe in this country. The secular Christmas is about the storing up of things. The Christmas to which Advent directs us is about being emptied, so we can become satiated. 

Advent directs us to the spirituality of emptiness, of enough, of a barren, but quenched soul. Advent reveals to us, the essentials of life and commercial Christmas points to its superfluities. 

The two great liturgical seasons of the church year, Advent and Lent, are about very different things. Advent is not "a little Lent." Advent is not a penitential period. Advent comes to trigger consciousness, not to provoke our consciences. 

Lent reminds us who we are and who we are not and Advent reminds us who God is and who we are meant to be. Advent is about the opulence of vacuity. 

The Jesus "who did not cling to being God," but is like us in all things, models what most of us take the greater part of our lives to learn: how to "be ourselves." The divinity who comes to us as an infant is the archetype of what it means to learn from life as we grow into who and what we're meant to be. The God who comes without retinue or riches is the metaphor of a humility that requires us to remember how really small we are in the universe--and to come to the point where that is enough for us. 

Advent is about the power of emptiness and the spiritual meaning of smallness. 

When we have little to begin with, we have even less to lose. We know, then, that we don't have all the ideas or all of the answers. It means that we have nothing to fight over and even less to boast about in life. We become full of potential. 

When we know who we really are, when we present no disguises and display no vanity, when we are honest both with ourselves and with others, we are free to be ourselves. We have no image to maintain, no lies to gild in an exaggerated world. 
We become full of integrity.

When we learn to live with the basics rather than to hoard what does not belong to us, we can never be made bereft by the loss of life's little baubles because we never depended on them in the first place. We become full of contentment.

When we recognize our own limitations, we need never fear failure. Then we can't possibly be destroyed by losing because we never anointed ourselves entitled to win. We become full of confidence.

Finally, when Advent permeates our souls, we come to understand that small is not nothing and empty is not bereft. To be small is to need, to depend on the other. Smallness bonds us to the rest of the human race and frees us from the arrogant isolation that kills both the body and the soul. To be empty is to be available inside to attend to something other than the self. We become full of the blessings of life.

Then, emptied out by the awareness of our own smallness, we may have the compassion to identify with those whose emptiness, whose poverty of spirit and sparseness of life is unintentional. Then, we may be able to become full human beings ourselves, full of compassion and full of consciousness.

An Advent spent in thoughtful reflection on the power of emptiness and the meaning of smallness puts everything else in perspective. Most of all, ourselves. Or, as Isaiah put it, "The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low."

Perhaps the season did not escape after all.......

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Don't be an angry Catholic

While I am proud of being a practicing Roman Catholic, there are times when I would like to run and hide and pretend that I have no association with the Faith of my infancy.

It seems to happen over and over- my husband or I will attend an event designed for evangelizing other Catholics and nearly every time, we seem to run across a few judgmental and angry people. They are the type who will look down upon others whom they do not feel worthy of being in their presence or worthy of attending the event. Maybe they don't worship the right way, or sing the right songs, or volunteer in the right ministries. Or perhaps they are not considered holy enough. I just don't know.

It happened again this week when my husband attended a men's event designed to bring holiness to the family and into the Church. Several of the men could not smile or laugh, no matter who tried to engage them. They seemed to be critical, sullen and moody and perhaps taking their role as a Catholic father and man much too seriously. I am not saying that we should not treat our Faith seriously, but for crying out loud, smile once in a while! Show a little joy. Sure there is Catholic persecution but it should not come from the members of our own faith. We do not need to judge others as to who is holier than the other. It is not important to bring up the sins of another or treat them as if they are insignificant, while probably wallowing in their own hidden transgressions.

We encourage the sacrament of reconciliation and suggest frequent trips to the confessional. Yet, we seem to be so wrapped up in our own righteousness that we fail to see that the man or woman in front of us may have already been forgiven for their sins and yet, we choose to condemn them. No one knows the heart of the man or the woman except God. It is easy to judge the person next to you for not living up to your expectations of what you think they should be doing or not doing. No one knows the history of the person in the pew, except God--just as, nobody knows the intentions of another, except God.

Even with well known sinners in the Church and outside the Church, we do not know their heart and whether or not they have asked for forgiveness. Perhaps that person had an abusive childhood or marriage. Perhaps that person is ill. Perhaps that person has already made reparations for their actions.

Instead of condemning, it might be helpful to speak with that person, get to know them, and welcome them as Jesus welcomes them. I bring these issues up because I have been that person. And sadly, I have also been a judgmental Catholic. I am a sinner and yet I have been forgiven. It does no good to attend conferences, rallies, or Bible studies if we cannot open ourselves up to being  Christ for others. If we can learn from this, perhaps we will be the welcoming Church that we propose to be.

Please don't be an angry Catholic as I have seen it turn away way too many people. Let's love each other as Jesus loves us. Please

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eucharistic Adoration. It's not just for old people

My grandfather, aunts and uncles used to call it, "making a visit" and I wondered what they meant.

My parents never spoke of it at all.

In my 30s, I finally learned what "making a visit" really meant; and along with several Catholic homeschooling families, I brought our children to experience a different way to pray to Jesus. Aside from the children, the chapel was generally filled with those in their 70s or beyond. It seemed sad to me that my generation or my parents generation had no idea what Eucharistic Adoration meant or why they would want to go.

Eucharistic Adoration is a practice in which the Blessed Sacrament is adored by the faithful. And let me tell you, it is a really nice privilege to be able to take time out of a busy day to slip into a chapel for prayer.

Thankfully, the practice of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is making a resurgence among young Catholics. At St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie, the youth are on fire with love for Jesus.

This Saturday, they are hosting Behold. A time for praise, worship and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Louisa Frederiksson says this, "With the new school year, our lives become very chaotic. Adults, teens, and children all experience the speeding up of schedules. In all of this business, we might lose sight of God.

 Father Todd Belardi is at St. Anne's Behold event to tell you how you can use this new year to form the new and improved version of yourself with Christ's help. Come and join us at St. Anne's Catholic Church at 7 on September 20th for a night to praise and adore our Lord, to experience the healing of Reconciliation, to feel the joy of fellowship, and to learn with our guest speaker. See you there!"

Want to learn more? Watch this captivating video on the Behold experience
Behold Jesus

Friday, September 5, 2014

Melancholy moments, but still here

This morning my dear friend and mentor, Fr. Bob asked me why I haven't written in my blog for some time. He was curious as to whether the evil one has sabotaged my writing.

While the latter is not the case, at least overtly, I think that perhaps the evil one has influenced my desire to chronicle my life under several pretexts. Primarily, I have been going through a rather melancholic time in my life. Days ensconced in cooking, cleaning, laundry, Barbies, swings, and a plethora of dishes for my son who was home on college break and our 5 year old granddaughter who has gone back to school have ended as abruptly as they began last May. And while I have my loving husband by my side, it just isn't as fun to cook for two, and it isn't as necessary to maintain the same cleaning regimen with two as it was with four.

The silence is once again deafening, and it has occasionally occurred to me as the mother of five children and grandmother to eight, that I was not designed to live in solitude. My purpose has always revolved around caring for others and ensuring that their lives run smoothly. My needs were always on the back burner, as it was supposed to be for all good mothers. Am I correct?

Perhaps not. Quite possibly, I am overtime for something new.

In these couple of weeks of the annual pondering of my purpose, the excuses for why I had no time for various things has evaporated. I do have time and it's necessary to focus a bit more on doing things for myself rather than ignoring the fact that I am a human being who also needs a bit of nurturing now and then.

My first foray into this began last June when I traveled to Georgia with a couple of writer friends, and truly, it was liberating and so unlike anything I have done before. Two weeks later, I traveled to New York to help my daughter and son-in-law as they had our newest granddaughter. More recent indulgences have included afternoons of reading, golfing, and becoming a Marriage Ministry Leader with my husband, and a troop leader for American Heritage Girls. Interspersed with my job as a freelance writer, I have been taking self defense courses, and not only learning about my second amendment rights, but successfully passing a couple of firearms training courses and getting my concealed carry licenses to carry a concealed firearm in 36 states.

Now that I have raised a few eyebrows among those who consider me to be a petite, placid, ill-equipped 50 something woman--the desire to expand my knowledge in self defense and the use of firearms has been a burning ember deep within my soul since I was a young girl.  I recall watching longingly as my dad and three brothers would be the ones to go to the shooting range.  I, on the other hand, was forced to remain home as good little girls should and do 'womanly' things. I never understood why girls couldn't shoot, and this summer, I realized that not only could we shoot, we could do it well.

I think my dad would be proud too. The irony was not lost on me the other day when my husband and I were out shopping. I wandered off while he was looking at movies, and instead of finding me by the clothing or makeup, I was in the sporting goods department, pricing ammo.

So, while the transition to empty nest has happened once again, the sadness that accompanied it has lessened a bit because I have learned that while my life has revolved around children, I am still a person of value and the desire to continue growing and educating myself is ever present.

Now, if you need me, I'll probably be at the range.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Come to the Bella Madre Music festival

Bella Madre Music Fest 2014 

Bella Madre Music Fest | Music Under the Stars
August 23, 2014

Music Under the Stars – This August, the first ever Bella Madre Music Fest will come to the lawn at St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, bringing live music, food, and beverages in an outdoor “Amphitheater” type setting.  Scheduled for Saturday August 23rd from 6pm – 10pm, the Bella Madre Music Fest will feature the Saturday Night Preachers as the headlining act. 
The Saturday Night Preachers are a four-year-old band whose members have made music together all their lives. Brothers Norm III (guitar, mandolin and banjo) and Jason (upright bass) have played music together since childhood along with their father Norm Jr. (guitar). Anneliese (vocals) married into the family and has certainly established herself as “one of the boys”.

All four members have grown up with a great appreciation for music and its makers, giving them a diverse portfolio to draw from. This four piece has its roots in bluegrass, folk, Americana, and country while penning their original songs that have become crowd favorites at their live performances.

The Saturday Night Preachers are also active in their community participating in several local fundraisers including Thoughts for Food, Jammin’ for the Arts and Rock the Block.
The Bella Madre Music Fest also features “home-grown” talent from St. Anne such as The Kneesels who bring their own blend of country, Americana and blues, Anna Nuzzo, a regular cantor at Mass and local Christian artist who just released her first CD, Alex and the Others who bring a new twist to the ukulele and harmonies, Raining Mile-80’s rock, New Image Chorus, all male barbershop ensemble and Richard Sosa, who will be featuring original folk, Americana and gospel hymns from his upcoming CD.

The Bella Madre Music Fest will also feature gourmet food via Mandy Muffin Tops CafĂ©, Holy Spirits Wine, domestic and microbrew beer on tap and a “Mercado” Tent with local vendors from WildTree Food and Groceries to local artists and crafters.
St. Anne Catholic Church hopes to make this a regular summer destination every year for festival goers and music enthusiasts.

Headliner: Saturday Night Preachers (Bluegrass, Country, Blues, Americana)

·       The Kneesels (Tom and Beth Kneesel, Country, Blues, Original, Folk)
·       Anna Nuzzo (Original Contemporary Christian)
·       Lauren “Yorgi” D’Angelo (Original Pop)
·       Alex and the Others (Folk/Christian)
·       Raining Mile (80’s Rock/Original)
·       Nancy Maio and Nataliya Niikonova (Classical Violin)
·       Maria Salerno (Female Vocalist)
·       Richard Sosa (Original Folk, Gospel, Alt-Country)
·       Yielding (Contemporary Worship)
·       Other artists TBA

·       General admission tickets are $10  and can be purchased at the gate or online through, starting August 6, 2014.
·       For group sales, please contact
·       Students and Senior receive a $5 discount per ticket. Must show student/senior ID at door.

For press inquiries or to request images:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Returning to the world and trying to be not OF the world

Tonight we are staying in Bowling Green, Kentucky, ready to leave Roxane in the morning and head back to Wisconsin.

I apologize for no blog post yesterday, but we were staying at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia, where Flannery O'Connor often visited on retreat.  They are not only a cloistered group of Cistercian Monks, but there is no Internet and so, we were forced to communicate the old-fashioned Christina's tiny cell, whispering and giggling like school girls.

Surely anyone passing by the room would have scolded us for breaking the mandatory "Grand Silence" after 8 pm, but we just couldn't resist. We had been so very good all day, after all.

There is much to tell about this trip, but those lessons and revelations will be saved and savored for future posts, as I am a very weary traveler tonight.

But, in case you were wondering, yes, of course I have photos of Holy Spirit Monastery.

The experience was mystical and enjoyable........I hope you enjoy these tidbits

Holy Water Font-simple and yet elegant

After the rain--can you see the church in the reflection?

Physical world on the left -spiritual world on the right. 

 There will likely be no blog tomorrow as it will be a full day of driving, but we can catch up later, you don't mind, do you?
A peek into the cloister

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flannery & Me and Lessons of Andalusia

Despite my initial reticence and musing on how I could relate to Flannery, it seemed that within moments of stepping on the compacted red soil, it was decided for me.  Almost instantly, I could feel her spirit begin to intermingle with my own. 

As if it were too sacred to enter hastily, we waited with respect before cracking wide the front door. Instead we silently absorbed the serenity of the expansive milky porch. At least a dozen matching rocking chairs positioned in a line, as if preparing to welcome callers. 

Closing my eyes and breathing deep, I pictured Flannery's eager face, waiting for friends to call--pitchers of sweet tea on a lacy tablecloth with a platter of pound cake ready to be nibbled, in a proper southern manner, of course. 
Photo courtesy of Roxane Salonen

A significant time passed and we inhaled her home, walked in and to the left was her bedroom and writing space, nearly just as she left it 50 years ago. Her words seemed to spill through the doorway, into the hall, bedrooms and wrap around the kitchen...I could hear she and her mother Regina, chatting about this or that; and felt how she bravely suffered her disease, not letting it disrupt her craving to write. 

And for those who don't put words to paper, you might not understand, but for us, it is an intense craving. The writer just has to...write; or little by little we perish. 

The words, the stories, the curious thoughts that take flight in our minds, are the blood that sustains our hearts; and walking through Andalusia yesterday, made me realize this need more than ever. 

Dancing my fingers over the ivories of her Steinway upright, I could feel the irritation of missed chords, and the joy when songs were played correctly. 

As I think again on Andalusia, much more is bubbling beneath the surface and I know that Flannery is teaching me now, and her lessons will continue as long as my heart remains open.....I have much to learn.