The Amen at the Bottom of the Page

I think of this new year as a white page given to me by Your Father on which He will write, day by day, whatever His divine good pleasure has planned. I shall now write at the top of the page, Domine, fac de me sicut vis, Lord, do with me what you will, and at the bottom I already write my Amen to all the proposals of your divine will. Yes, Lord, yes, to all the joys, the sorrows, the graces, the hardships prepared for me, which you will reveal to me day by day. Grant that my Amen may be the Paschal Amen, always followed by the Alleluia, uttered wholeheartedly, in the joy of a complete gift. Give me Your love and Your grace, and I shall be rich enough.”

Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, OCD

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December 17, 1989

December 17, 1989

Today is the anniversary of Tim’s baptism, so I will borrow this entry from The Diary of a Country Mother:

December 17, 2005 Morning
Another dawn is rolling slowly over the hills on a frosty morning. I sit inside with a cup of hot tea and take advantage of the morning quiet to write.
In a little while Andy and I will dress and brave the cold and make our way down the Blandford hills and along the Westfield River to the little town of Huntington for morning Mass. Our godson Mark is with us so we will have his red-haired, five-year-old liveliness along to brighten the ride. Today is the anniversary of Tim’s baptism, and we will head for church and the presence of God to offer our gratitude for his life and the gifts of grace he was given along the way. We will pass the cemetery as we drive. Another bittersweet day.
The sweetness is there, though. It is in the light of the sunrise and the remembering hearts. A large measure of that sweet peace is due to the faith we have that Tim’s story has a happy ending and an ending that has no end. Due to his learning disabilities, we spent a lot of time reading to Timothy. He loved books that had sequels; he didn’t want the story to end. When he was little we read the Little House on the Prairie books and as the years went by, the Narnia Chronicles and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was always more to come.
Now Tim is in the never-ending story! Eternity means always one more chapter, and the story comes from the best book ever conceived. How marvelous! And how nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend. All the memories we have of perfect days are of days that had a natural end. The sun sets, we say our farewells, put out the lights, and we go to sleep.
Our perfect certitude that Tim now experiences eternity comes in large measure from the grace he received on the day we celebrate today. He was baptized in a beautiful sanctuary in Cranston, Rhode Island. It was dedicated to Our Lady under the title of Madonna de la Civita, a copy of a church in Italy held dear in memory by the Italian immigrants of the neighborhood. Tim was still a tiny babe, a day shy of one month old, and Andy and I had petitioned for his early baptism. We didn’t want to wait until the adoption was finalized, which could take about a year. With our eyes on eternity, we dressed Timothy Andrew in the family baptismal gown worn by his brothers at their baptisms, with his name embroidered along with theirs on the hem of the slip. We invited family and friends to witness the adoption by God of a new child of His. We dedicated this new child of eternity to the Mother of God after the baptismal rites and then we celebrated. As we do today.

Afternoon
At Mass this morning, when the deacon read the Gospel, we heard the genealogy of Christ. In his homily our pastor referred to the ancients’ interest in genealogy and to the resurgence in genealogical research in our own day. He pointed out, though, that the only genealogy that has any lasting value is that which is ours by virtue of our baptism. We have been adopted into the family of God and by His death and resurrection we have a right to our portion of a son’s inheritance: Eternal Life.
I sat and listened and smiled inwardly at another instance of God’s eternal watchfulness. We were here to celebrate Tim’s baptism, and we heard the words that would best console and inspire us. It was indeed another day to celebrate.
After Mass, Mark marveled at the donkey and sheep and calves in the living nativity outside of church, much as Tim would have done even at fifteen, and then we headed back past the cemetery and on to pick out our Christmas tree. There was a thick layer of ice atop the snow and our footfalls crunched as we inspected the trees and Mark helped cut the chosen one.
We remember, we celebrate and we give thanks.

Each child that is born brings to us the smile of God and invites us to recognize that life is His gift, a gift that must be accepted with love and protected with care, always and at all times . . . Baptism is adoption into the family of God, in communion with the Holy Trinity.

—Pope Benedict XVI, Sistine Chapel Baptisms
7 January 2007, Baptism of the Lord
I guess God adopted all the people just like you guys adopted me.

–Tim

 

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Happy Birthday, Tim!

November 18, 2014 would have been Tim’s 25th birthday. I have been thinking for a while of a fitting way to honor him on that day. What do you give someone who now has everything his heart could ever desire? Of course, that is what eternity in God’s presence really is!    OK, so it has to be something with eternal significance. But what?

Two thoughts converged together in close proximity. First, Tim just flat out loved babies. Not just his nephews or cousins, but really any baby within holding distance. Maybe it was also a case of innocence appreciating innocence.  Tim loved to hold them, look at them and make them smile. He was particularly adept at that!

Second, he could not wrap his mind around the idea of anyone harming one of these little ones. No doubt that is why he viewed abortion as a great horror. He would take any unwanted babies and make room for them here. Tim’s solution was to ask God to rain down orphans on our house. He literally planned to stand outside with an upended umbrella to catch them. Oh, the sweetness of an innocent mind!

These two thoughts together brought to mind a new initiative that a fellow writer from the Catholic Writers Guild, Charlotte Ostermann, has begun. It is called 50 Million Names and its goal is to bring people of good will together to give names to each of the 50 million and counting tiny girls and boys who have been aborted. Here is Charlotte describing the idea for the National Catholic Register:

 

“To participate in the project, all you do is create a registration on the site,”

http://50millionnames.com/      Ostermann said.

“As soon as the webmaster approves you, you can log in any time and give as many names as you like. We ask that each name be accompanied by a concrete gesture [of charity], in addition to your prayers for this child’s relatives and abortionist. These gestures are meant to create a ripple of effects in the world in honor of a child who was denied the chance to bless this world himself. They are meant to bring our concern from the abstract, conceptual level to the freedom of our own action and creativity.”

 

“For me, the naming of a child individualizes the task of ending abortion,” Katie McCann said. “While we work to end abortion on behalf of every child, I think it’s motivational to think about each of these children as real individuals, rather than as a collective number.”

As Ostermann emphasized, “Violence is not the end of the story! These children exist, and the fact that they are real, unique, unrepeatable and present before the throne of God gives us joy. The gestures given in the names of these children will be a legacy of love that demonstrates our belief in the significance of every human person.”

 

The logo rather brings to mind Tim’s image of a baby in a rain drop, doesn’t it?
50MNP Logo with Tagline 360x360I would love to see the site experience a veritable downpour of activity on November 18. Will you be a part of the storm? I can just imagine Tim’s huge grin! Pass the message along in any way you can think of, please!

On the website after you have chosen your name and gesture add the words,

Happy Birthday, Tim!

In God’s perfect timing there is also a new review of Diary of a Country Mother here:

http://www.carrotsformichaelmas.com/2014/11/13/a-must-read-book-and-giveaway-diary-of-a-country-mother/#comments

Thanks, Haley!

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With our love & prayers for all of you,

Cindy & Andy​ Montanaro

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR9cei0KTv4&feature=player_detailpage

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The Intimacy of the Human Voice

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Sometimes the immediacy of an email is the right medium to express a hurried thought. At another moment sitting down to write a letter is the best course of action. Then there are times when only the human voice can accomplish a meeting of minds.

My phone rang and a dear friend proceeded to read me a poem that she thought would resonate with me the same way it had with her. I closed my eyes and listened through tears.

Humility

Humility is to be still
under the weathers of God’s will.
It is to have no hurt surprise
when morning’s ruddy promise dies,
when wind and drought destroy, or sweet
spring rains apostatize in sleet,
or when the mind and month remark
a superfluity of dark.
It is to have no troubled care
for human weathers anywhere.
And yet it is to take the good
with the warm hands of gratitude.
Humility is to have place
deep in the secret of God’s face
where one can know, past all surmise,
that God’s great will alone is wise,
where one is loved, where one can trust
a strength not circumscribed by dust.
It is to have a place to hide
when all is hurricane outside.

Jessica Powers (1947- 1984)

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Hospitality and Betrayal

Friday in the Octave of Easter

I have always liked to cook and bake, so it seemed a natural progression to invite others to share in the finished product. After I married and had a home of my own I worked on perfecting the art of hospitality. It is often a work involving many days to get the menu to coincide with a limited budget and the guests’ needs, the flowers and table set and the house tidy enough to feel comfortable inviting guests to come in and sit down and enjoy the bounty.

This month within the space of several weeks we enjoyed guests for a birthday luncheon and then Easter feasting. What a joy it has been!

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Besides the physical components involved in the art of hospitality I have been pondering the whole idea behind the concept. Perhaps it has something to do with my earlier thoughts on Edith Stein and intercession.

This time, though, with Lent so close behind me the thoughts have paired up hospitality and betrayal.

There is a certain opening up of one’s self when an invitation has been offered and the accepted. The guest is met at the door and then brought into the inner sanctum of our home and shown the favor of our ministrations in many large and small ways.

How many times had the apostles and disciples been present at a meal with Jesus? Mostly it was simple fare, but the atmosphere was one of trust and confidence. Until Judas’ final act of betrayal. It is hard for me to fathom this brutal act in light of all that had been offered to him. And not just in the realm of the physical. Christ had given his love, trust, teaching and friendship. How could an apostle who was offered so much turn away his face and betray the Son of God to those who were hunting him?

Ah, but how we all do the very same thing! We who have been invited to the quintessential meal, offered food fit for a king, the very “bread of angels”, betray the host with our sin, come to the meal with dirty hands, forgo the invitation or pay no attention whatever to the host. What’s more he is offering Himself for our sustenance!

It is only a difference of degrees.

May we all strive with a holy strength never to betray this great King and his banquet of love. May we always and ever show Our Lord, the supreme Host, our true thanksgiving for such a great gift.

Then with our souls and hands clean, we may with good conscience follow suit and

“Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another”

as we read in the first Letter of Peter from today’s Office of Readings.

May you all take great delight in the feasting as the Octave and the Easter Season continue and may you offer hospitality to many as you ponder the great feast we are offered in our “daily bread”. Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

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Of Saints and Sufferers

Today, if you were to visit a certain cathedral in the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the country of Italy, you might remember the 7th century St. Zosimus, who was the

bishop of Syracuse for 40Imageyears or so. I, however, was not in Syracuse gazing up at this impressive facade, but inside a chilly church vestibule in western Massachusetts sitting at a table with a small pile of books.

I remembered St. Zosimus, though, as today is his feast day. As some of you might know he is also Tim’s Confirmation patron, and I had ample time to think about both Tim and Zosimus today as I sat at my book table in between Masses, surrounded by a laptop playing the book trailer and a poster-sized copy of the book cover. I had some folks amble over to take a look at my display and sold a few books.

More importantly, though, I met four families who are still in various stages of grief over the loss of their sons. They each had a different story to tell and had found different ways of coping. Each parent, though, had a sustaining faith in God that bolstered them in the dark days. Sometimes it is only possible to muddle along, to pull the shades and pray as one woman said, but the prayer to a loving God who is always there and who loves the little babies, the depressed ones and those sweet men in the grip of addictions outweighs the heavy, pressing down of sadness.

Tonight I pray with the Holy Spirit for peace for all the families and I beg of Tim and Zozimus the grace of remembrance. May they and all those who live in the presence of the Most High rain down on us all the gift of perseverance and of lasting joy.

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Thoughts on a Snowy Day

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It is snowing again. Not surprising for winter in New England. Thankfully I have no place to go today and I can enjoy the beauty from my window and later experience it more personally outside with my shovel.

We are still awaiting the repair on Andy’s truck to be completed which means I have been without a vehicle for many days in the past month. I have tried to use the homebound time to good purpose, finishing up some long-postponed projects and finding others buried under piles.

One little sewing job that I accomplished last week might strike the average person as a bit unusual. I pulled out an envelope from the wooden trunk of Tim’s mementos and found the plain white envelope marked, “Tim’s last haircut”. At the funeral home before securing the top of Tim’s casket, Andy snipped a little clump of hair to save as a family relic. As Tim’s barber it was fitting that he be the one to perform this last service.

In the weeks following the funeral I had made a little brown cloth rectangle to house some of the hair and attached it to my brown scapular so I would have a little piece of Tim close by. For those familiar with the concept of saintly relics in the Catholic tradition, perhaps it does not seem too odd. I lost the last relic, though, sometime in the past year and so set about making a new little cloth envelope to house another few pieces of hair.

I find hand sewing very relaxing and if the house is quiet it provides the perfect moment for meditation. I thought about how dear our family is to us and how deeply we miss those who “have gone before us marked with the sign of faith”.

Pondering this train of thought a bit I remembered a little boy in a Boston hospital that we were praying for. Emails had gone out and were sent around asking others to pray for young Matthew. We could all put ourselves in the place of the parents in their concern for their suffering child.

Later when we heard of Matthew’s death, we all mourned, despite the fact that we had never met this lively ten year old. As a child of God he was another brother, son or friend we had never had the privilege of knowing, but whom love compelled us to pray for.

I remembered the weeks after our son Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was seven. With no internet then, I made phone calls and sent our postcards to all those on my Christmas Card list begging for the help of their prayers. Everyone was generous, even those who did not know our family. In the attic I still have a box of construction paper pages that children in Argentina made, lettering on them the little sacrifices that they would make for Paul’s recovery.

The prayer of intercession is a necessity for us; part of the design of Christ who admonished us to “love one another as I have loved you.” It is one of those essential components of Christianity without which we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Think of intercession as the act of a spiritual “Good Samaritan”.

In a biography called, Edith Stein, Modern Saint and Martyr, Joanne Mosley writes that St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross saw intercession as hospitality. She was moved by the plight of the Jewish people in Nazi occupied countries; her people. She considered the Old Testament witness of Queen Esther standing before King Ahasuerus and begging for the deliverance of the Jews. As Esther stood before the King in her bravery, Edith would stand before God interceding that doors of hospitality be open to them. But it was not physical intercession or hospitality that she could offer, but spiritual.  We open up the doors of our hearts to others with the prayer of intercession.

Here is Joanne Mosley explaining:

When Edith stepped out of the parlor, she had welcomed her visitors into ‘the lodgings of [her] heart’; then, before the tabernacle, she handed them over, taking them ‘home to  [her] Saviour’s heart’. And so the chain would continue, Jesus handing over to the Father in turn: ‘He fetches you home to his Father’s kingdom.’ Intercession is hospitality. It is always in movement, it never stops at our door. For our hearts are only ‘lodgings’, temporary shelters on the path to God, our true home. It has been rightly said that without God, we will always be homeless.

In the end, this particular meditation comes back to Tim once more as I set down my needle and thread. It was the poor, little homeless orphans that held Tim’s heart’s door open to intercession.

Dear God,

If you know of any orphans, guide them to homes where people are to take care of them. If there are any around here (Do you know of any orphans around here, Mom?) send them to our house. Help us find space for them and money to buy their clothes and help the prices of food to be low so people could buy food for them.      Amen.

This is how I see Tim begging with the little birdseed of his prayer:

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