A Mother Remembers; the Eucharist Heals

Today, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, is the anniversary of our son Tim’s First Holy Communion, a day of sweet remembrance. As I wrote in the Diary in the year after his death:

“Due to Tim’s distractible and excitable nature we had
requested that he receive his First Communion at a Saturday
morning Mass with just family and his church friends present.

We hoped that a quiet setting might help Tim feel more
inwardly composed and aware of the day’s significance.
At home we helped him dress in his white shirt, tie, and
navy blue pants, and then we drove down the hills to our
little brown church in the valley. There we had the privilege
of bringing our son to the steps of the altar where Jesus was
waiting for him.

We found that preparing our children to receive the Eucharist

was a great blessing and an awesome responsibility.
To see an eager child, empty of the marks and scuffs of
serious sin, respond to the eternal invitation of Love has
been one of our most sublime joys. When God added to
our family the simplicity and insights of a mentally challenged

child, our joy reached a completely new level. We
used a miniature Mass kit with small vessels and cloths,
read the stories of young Eucharistic saints, and prayed
that God would supply our deficiencies with an increase
of grace.

Tim bounced and glided happily through the Mass and
received Our Lord with due solemnity when the time came.
He posed for pictures afterwards and was most gleeful
about the refreshments downstairs in the hall. One of his
church friends, a grandfather as well as the parent of his
own special child, presented Tim with a box of three small
ducklings. Now Tim’s joy was boundless.”

In 2015, while writing as the Country Carmelite, I wrote on the feast of Corpus Christi, which that year just happened to fall on June 7th, the anniversary of Tim’s death. I thought about the supreme Gift of the Eucharist and also about how marvelously the grace of the sacrament heals and nourishes us spiritually.

“On the liturgical front, today’s perfect gem of a feast serves to remind us of the great love God has for us. Not being content to enter our world and take on the humanity of a creature, to suffer horribly under torture and to die the excruciating death of crucifixion, Christ has chosen to remain with us, to be our consolation, our strength and our joy in this land of exile. We profess our belief today that in the hands of the priest and under the formula of consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into Christ. He truly lives on our altars and in our tabernacles, leaving us no longer orphans and no longer bereft of His help, His sustenance and His comfort. How blessed we are!

  I know with a deep conviction that my mourning for Tim has been mitigated, soothed and sweetened (yes, sweetened is the right word) by my daily drive to Mass; my meeting with the best grief counselor under the sun; the sweetest guest of my soul. I meet Tim in the Eucharistic presence of Christ, too, where I say to both Tim and Jesus: “I love you! I will always love you! Never stop! Famous words!” Tim’s pre-hug ritual is mine now, too. Christ gives me the hug and brings Tim, too. ‘How can I keep from singing?’ ”

Our diocese is in the midst of a “Year of the Eucharist” and we have just celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity and this coming Sunday it will be Corpus Christi once again. What joy as I remember Tim and his innocent faith, hearing the whisper in my ear on the way back from Communion one day when he was about 14,” Mom, I taste something sweet! I think it is the Holy Spirit!”

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Connections or Therese, Benedict, a Poll and the Rosary

So, it has been a while since I have added anything to this blog. Life has been busy and in transition, to put it mildly.

This morning, though,  I want to pull together a few ideas and make some important connections. It is the feast of St Therese! The saint of the Little Way, Carmelite par excellence, and our great teacher in the science of Love.

I was reading a little book of meditations yesterday by Pope Benedict XVI and came across this thought:

Therese never set foot in a missionary territory and was never able to practice any missionary actively directly. Yet she did grasp that the Church has a heart, and she grasped that love is this heart. She understood that the Apostles can no longer preach and the martyrs no longer shed their blood if this heart is no longer burning. She grasped that love is all, that it reaches beyond times and places. And she understood that she herself, the little nun hidden behind the grille of a Carmel in a provincial town in France, could be present everywhere, because as a loving person she was there with Christ in the heart of the Church…This center, which Therese calls simply “heart” and “love”, is the Eucharist. For the Eucharist is not only the enduring presence of the divine and human love of Jesus Christ, which is always the source and origin of the Church and without which she would founder, would be overcome by the gates of hell. As the presence of the divine and human love of Christ, it is also always the channel open from the man Jesus to the people who are his “members,” themselves becoming a Eucharist and thereby themselves a “heart” and a “love” for the Church…The heart must remain the heart, that through the heart the other organs may serve aright. It is at that point, when the Eucharist is being celebrated aright.

Now, if that connection between Therese and our beloved Emeritus was not beautiful and deep and moving, add in the situation in our Church today, where from recent polls, the belief in the real Presence is dismally anemic. What are we to do?

Someone ( sorry, can’t remember where I read it!) had the great idea during this month of October, and with Therese in mind, to pray that there be a resurgence in this most essential of articles of our faith: that Christ is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in that small white host which we consume at every Mass. Lord make us worthy for so great a gift! May we be Love, too!

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Ruby Slippers

For quite a while now, when I first kneel down in church I find my heels clicking together as my toes rest on the floor tiles. In the strange way that memory and imagination work together, I am taken to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She clicks her heels together with those amazing ruby slippers on her little feet, and repeats, “There’s no place like home!”, over and over.A pair of Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland for the film, The Wizard of Oz.

Then in the way that intellect takes over from there, instead of banishing the thought as unworthy of this sublime setting, I immediately agree. Yes! There is no place like home. And this is home. This is where my restless heart finds its truest home, here in the presence of The One who gives us the only gift we should ever desire and the truest place of rest.

So, I click and smile and give thanks when I kneel down before Mass, but lately there is another unbidden thought that follows.

There are so many people, in my acquaintance and not, who have no clue about this Home, this Guest, this rest. My heart goes out to them, the true homeless, and they are legion. Then, of course, follows my prayer.

It reaches the pinnacle of desire as the priest elevates the host. “I believe for those who do not believe. I love for those who do not love. For all the homeless Lord, have mercy!”


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Heavenly Thoughts on Ascension Thursday

Earlier this week our son, Fr. Tom, sent this picture of the Alps while he was on a flight from Rome to Hong Kong. He included a little caption about pondering what heaven might be like.

Tom over Alps

When I saw it I suddenly remembered a conversation I recorded over ten years ago. I found it recently when I was going through some of those endless stacks of paper that seem to be my particular form of hoarding.

Grandson, Alex, age six ( after a discussion on the way home from school with his dad about what was for dinner):

“Grandma is cooking? Oh, Grandma cooks like an angel. Grandma cooks like heaven!”

His brother, Eddie, a year younger, pipes in:

“Yeah, Grandma cooks like a cafeteria!”

Alex is quick to correct him in true big brother fashion and with perfect logic:

“No, Eddie. The best thing in the world is heaven. If Grandma is the best cook in the world then Grandma cooks like heaven.”

Eddie, accepting of correction and bowing to logic says:

“Yeah, Alex, that’s right!”

Part of me is so honored to have reached this pinnacle of culinary honor, even by the judgement of a couple of young boys.  I also smile at their innocence and commend Alex on his knowledge of things eternal and use of reason to get his point across.

Mainly, though, I am in awe of the intellect and innocence of young children. Heaven is “the best thing in the world” as it is the place where God dwells and for us to be there means living in His presence for days without end. How the little ones can often grasp what us older folks cannot see. Alex will graduate from high school in a few days, with Eddie a little behind him. Oh how the days do pass so swiftly this side of eternity!

1 (55)

Tim walks with his nephews at a park in Alabama

We contemplate heaven in our thoughts today as we glimpse the apostles and Mary looking up into the sky as Christ disappears from view. We yearn as they yearn for an end to our trials and that perfect happiness that means living in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen helps us to understand:

The central idea in the liturgy today is the raising of our hearts toward heaven, so that we may begin to dwell in spirit where Jesus has gone before us. “Christ’s Ascension”, says St. Leo,  “is our own ascension; our body has the hope of one day being where its glorious head has preceded it”. In fact, Our lord has already said in His discourse after the Last Supper, ” I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come and take you to Myself; that where I am you also may be”. The Ascension is, then, a feast of joyful hope, a sweet foretaste of heaven. By going before us, Jesus  our Head has given us the right to follow Him there someday and we can even say with St. Leo, ” In the person of Christ, we have penetrated the heights of heaven”.

There is a lovely echo in the prayer Liturgy of the Hours today;

Father in heaven, our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Christ beyond  our sight so that we might seek him in his glory. May we follow where he has led and find our hope in his glory, for he is Lord for ever.

Amen. Alleluia!


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Learning Our Native Language

Last night I finished reading a Christmas gift from Andy, The Divine Adventure: St. Teresa of Avila’s Journeys and Foundations. (ICS Publications) I have been reading it slowly since late December, savoring the descriptions, color photographs and little details I found there that made our Carmelite saint’s travels come alive. The book also included small graphs plotting out the elevation between each city in Teresa’s travels, highlighting the difficulty of her journeys for those of us who have not been to Spain.

The Divine Adventure: St. Teresa of Avila's Journeys and Foundations

She was not a young, vigorous woman at the time she traveled in Spain either. Roads were poor, the weather problematic and bridges few and far between. Teresa had a singular mission to perform, though: the forming of the Discalced monasteries, where consecrated women hid themselves from the world and made prayer their first and foremost occupation. So she pressed on with energy and a lively sense of humor, seeing God at every roadblock and around every bend. Not content to rest when she had her sisters established in the city of Burgos, she pressed on, making two more stops before obedience saw her pick up her walking stick again and arrive at Alba de Tormes where she died at age 67.

In a little aside,  the authors comment about the importance of the life of prayer.

Today we live in a world in which we’ve succeeded in establishing contact with the stars, a world hungering for the widest communication possible, eager to pass beyond cultural barriers to study languages and symbols, and demanding 24/7 communication with our electronic devices and social media. And yet we are practically illiterate when it comes to the one language we really need to know, prayer. Only when we are convinced that prayer is essential to really communicate with God, to discover the inner world of our spirit, and to help humankind will we try and learn how to do it. If we take Mother Teresa as our tutor, it will simply mean learning our native language.

Our native language! What a perfect way to describe prayer. And once we have passed beyond the proficiency that St. Teresa teaches us, how well we can communicate in this language, yes with God first and foremost, but also with others who speak the same language. Would that one day we really could truly “defeat our Babel with your Pentecost”.

We live in hope.

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Keep Me Beneath Thine Own Almighty Wings

Vespers are on my mind this Sunday evening. Back home after a Carmelite retreat, I opened my breviary on the porch as the shadows lengthened and the breeze made the air so delightfully fresh. A lovely way to begin to bring the day to a close and to ask God’s blessings upon it all.


In the last several weeks I have found myself in a number of conversations with half a dozen women who are new to praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I answered a few questions, suggested a book and a website ( you’ll find these on Coffee and Canticles thanks to my friend, Daria) and discussed rubrics, the beauty of the Office of Readings and sometimes, the struggles that we have in finding the time to pray in our busy days.

Skyping with a newly-married niece, I was also surprised this week to see her hold up the wedding gift she received from her husband, a four volume Liturgy of the Hours. Now that is a marriage that is off to a good start!

On two nights of the retreat, a group of Carmelites from our community introduced some of the newbies into the intricacies of chanting Compline together, instead of a simple recitation. Their joy at the other worldly aura of our voices blending together was sweet to behold.

Earlier in the week I picked up a novel that had been on our homeschool reading list. No doubt I had read it twenty some years ago…….The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock. After all these years it seemed new to me and, there, in Chapter V, a dear scene in which a mother and her eldest daughter head off alone into the church for Evensong.

     “I loved Evensong. I loved the stillness of the church that enfolded the small evening congregation, the mellow evening sunshine that slanted in low through the windows in summer, the gathering, sombre shadows of spring and autumn evenings, and the profounder darkness of the winter months, all wrapped the evening worship in a mystery and a beauty…..

Mother settled into our pew with a happy sigh. The evening service was a cherished time for her, when she could give herself to the worship without the stress of the little ones’ company or the anxiety of being late……

Glory to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings
Beneath thine own almighty wings.

I knew about his almighty wings. They were folding around us here, in the quiet of the evening, kind and everlasting and utterly secure. It was the same wings that wrapped me round in our home, in the bedtime candlelight. Sanctuary from the busy and complicated daytime, God gathered us under his evening wing, haven for all our weariness.
The evening service felt as familiar as an old friend, comfortable to be with. I knew these prayers and Actually, I could say them all while thinking about something completely different, which to my sham I frequently did.

     ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,’ we sang.

     I thought of Peregrine, singing the same words, but in Latin, all those years ago; wrapped like me in the contentment of evening calm, blissfully unaware of the turbulence of surprise and grief that lay around the corner…’No! I told myself sharply, ‘this is not the time! Come out of the walled garden and shut the door firmly behind you and turn your back on it. Concentrate!’

“Glory be to the father, and to the Son….Mrs. Crabtree sang vigorously behind me.

     Father Carnforth took the evening service. his gentle, wheezy old voice led us through the prayers; the Lord’s prayer, the responses, the collect of the day. I felt reassured by the humble confidence with which he prayed.

     ‘Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give…’

     What a gift! What a thing to ask for! And yet, incredibly, it is given. I knew that peace; I had been brought up with the flavour and texture of it in our home. Peace, at the very core of things, constantly unobtrusive, like the humming of the fridge and the ticking of the clock. Peace, freely given. Beyond our making, or even our understanding. Thank you, God.

May every one of us know this peace and may our prayers at Vespers serve to still the world and make us open and receptive to the divine presence.

Deo Gratias!

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Looking Back Over the Road

Last night Andy and I met at a little pizza place. Their main business seemed to be take-out so there was a steady stream of customers coming in to pick up warm cardboard boxes. The busy staff  were in perpetual motion taking orders and making pizzas. We pushed two tables together and rearranged the chairs so we would have enough room for our group of eight. A blast of cold air and there were Paul & Jasmine and our three grandchildren. Then another blast and in walked our friend, John.

We usually make pizza at home on January 7th, but tonight we opted to gather at Bella Rome. Same intent, though. It was Adoption Day and we were still celebrating twenty five years later, undeterred by the fact that the guest of honor was not physically present. We still wanted to honor this family anniversary and think about Tim.

When I told the kids that we were having a special guest join us for dinner, the girls thought I meant Tim. Sweet ones! “No, just Tim’s friend, John”, I explained.

We talked about this and that while we waited for the pizza to be assembled and baked. We asked about the school day, about how the cars were running, and when John sat down, we asked him to tell us about his Camino adventure. As if on cue, John pulled out a stack of pictures from his walk to St. James Compostelo in Spain last year. He gave us a little travelogue, explaining the pictures, the terrain, the customs and the greetings of fellow pilgrims along “The Way”. Happily for us, a retired college professor is never without his historical details and background!

John told us about the yellow arrows showing the way, the common greetings of the pilgrims, but also about the two Latin greetings that resonated the most with him.

“It’s like this with the yellow arrows
on the Camino.  Generally they are a
ready guidance system, all along the
way.  Painted on the sides of buildings
and fence posts, they indicate changes
in direction. Turn left.  Turn right.  Go straight
ahead.  Pretty simple.  But the occasional
vertical arrow, which means go straight
ahead, reminded me of the old pilgrim
Camino 1020
If you pass someone walking on the
path today, you might smile and wave,
and shout ‘bien camino,’ or have a
good walk.  But in the middle ages,
the two latin words were much more
common than now.  The first greeting
to a fellow pilgrim, might be ‘Ultreya’
meaning, good luck on your way to
Santiago, hope you make it to the end
(and don’t get robbed or run out of
food, or become injured, etc).
The reply might be ‘Suseya’ which
more literally means, after you get to
Santiago, hope you make it home again.
But the ultimate spiritual meaning is
hope you make it to your final home,
after the last camino!  This digs deep.
It means a lot, and is the perfect
encouragement, especially for a physically
exhausted pilgrim, who doesn’t know
if he’ll ever make it home.  “
John Paulmann
Camino 2021
We are all still pilgrims on the road of life, occasionally exhausted and sometimes discouraged; footsore and sunburned.
Tim, though, and countless others have made it through the gates and sit around the heavenly table. Someday we will look back over the road and sigh with contentment that we, too, have indeed run and not grown weary. May God help us all.
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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers from the Country Mother! In honor of the day I have a little story to tell you.

On Friday I got an email telling me that there was a comment to moderate on this blog. As I read what Jessie had written, I was suddenly alert and surprised. She had been searching for her mother-in-law, Brenda, to find out any information she could about the baby Brenda gave up for adoption in 1989.  Jessie had written to me, hoping that I would respond and that Brenda could communicate with me after all these years.

We spoke later in the day and I told her as much as I could about Tim and, with sadness, about his death. I can only hope that my words consoled her. Yesterday I mailed out copies of Diary of a Country Mother to Brenda and to her son Nathan, Tim’s half-brother, and to his wife, Jessie. I hope to do the same later for Nathan’s sister, Shawna.

The books should arrive tomorrow, a day late for a timely Mother’s day present, but the perfect gift for Brenda to read so that she can get to know Tim, the son she will not have a chance to meet again in person in this life.

Today I want to pause in the normal activity of the day and set aside a few moments to thank Brenda and all the other mothers who have made the brave and difficult decision to choose adoption for their child. What a huge amount of courage it takes to place an infant

A perfect ocean day

in the arms of another mother, trusting that their sweet little one will be loved and cherished and cared for! There is an injury to the mother’s heart, one which heals over and fades with the passage of years, to a certain extent I am sure, but whose scar still throbs when other children are born, when you see a little boy of a certain age and on Mother’s Day, of course.

Thank you, Brenda for your courage. Thank you for the gift that your sweet son was for our family. May God bless you today and all days and may He give you joy in your children and grandchildren to offset the sorrow.

Tim always said he had three mothers. First his birth mother, second, me, his mom third Mary, his Mother in heaven. With the three of us close in spirit today we offer thanks for Tim and his abundant love that brings us together in joy.

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Carmelite Conversations

On March 16, I had the great pleasure to be a guest on the Radio Maria program, Carmelite Conversations. Host Mark Danis, a Secular Carmelite, spoke with me about Diary of a Country Mother and I had a chance to talk about Tim, our family and the writing of the book.

My thanks to Mark, his co-host, Frances Harry, and Radio Maria for this opportunity.

You can listen here:      http://radiomaria.us/march-16-2015/

The Country Mother

The Country Mother


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Suffer the Little Ones


On Saturday evening I was fixing dinner and had a free moment, so I picked up a little book we keep on display in the dining room, Saints: A Year in Faith and Art, to see whose feast was that day. There I read about Venerable Carlo Gnocchi and was intrigued by his story. I sent Andy to the computer to see if he had been beatified or canonized yet while I made the salad and pulled the pizza from the oven.

He did a little searching (what a good husband to jump at my commands!) and found photos and an endearing story of an Italian priest who had been beloved by so many.

It wasn’t his heroism in war or the loyalty he felt to the young men he served with, however, that caught my attention, but his efforts after World War II when so many Italian children had been left orphans, maimed by land mines and were so in need of medical care and love.

That, by itself, would have been an amazing story. What endeared Bl. Carlo Gnocchi to me, though, was the theology of suffering that he taught his children.

“Just as in the physical body there are organs destined for the protection and the purification of the whole organism, organs that often become sick for the defense and salvation of the body, such as the tonsils, the kidney, etc.; there also exists in the Mystical Body of the Church, souls destined to support suffering in virtue of their purifying capacity for the sake of the social body. Among these souls we certainly encounter children who are called more precociously to suffer the cleaner their souls are from personal sins and the more similar their sacrifice is to that of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… Each child that suffers is like a small precious relic of the Christian redemption which actualizes and renews the redemption in time for the expiation of daily sins.”

How beautiful! The children who suffer and have been taught this redemptive theology can have a particular dignity that ennobles them and helps them to see the value in their suffering.

And, oh, how we do need to emphasize this point of Catholic teaching in our society today where rejection of those disabled in body or mind is the norm, whether they are born or unborn!

Here I had enough to ponder and to pray about, but as God often does to illustrate a point further, I picked up another book that evening and read a passage which gave even more emphasis to the meditation.

The Stations of the Cross are not given to us only to remind us of the historical Passion of Christ, but to show us what is happening now, and happening to each one of us. Christ did not become man or to lead His own short life on earth—-unimag-inable mercy though that would have been—but to live each of our lives. He did not choose His Passion only to suffer it in His own human nature—tremendous though that would have been—but in order to suffer it in the suffering of each one of his members through all ages, until the end of time.

              The Way of the Cross   by Caryll Houslander

Christ, suffering in His Passion through each little one who suffers; each little one another Christ redeeming the Church through that suffering given over freely, as gift. O Blessed Mystical Body of Christ!

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