Faith: Mary

Mary Mother & Queen of all Joy and Strife

Mary gothic statue from Pexels


We celebrated the Assumption of Mary on August 15 and her Queenship yesterday (August 22) and I’ve been “pondering these things in my heart” about Mary and why she is so important to me and all for the whole world.

One main thought I’ve had rolling around my head is this:

Mary has the full knowledge of ALL of the sufferings and ALL of the joys in the whole history of humanity.

She knows both the strife and the joyful triumph of life.

She has experienced pain personally but she is also in full knowledge of the meaning of her pain and of the whole world’s suffering.

This is what makes her the best Mother ever.

We can run to her with our skinned knees and our bruised and bleeding hearts and she will happily embrace us and comfort us. She will not wave us away or admonish us to “quit your whining and just trust in Jesus!”. She knows our pain is real. 

I used to be confused about Mary – if she was “without sin” how could her heart also be “pierced” by suffering? I was confused because I couldn’t understand if someone was “sinless”, why would they suffer? And why, if she truly “knew” God in such an intimate and pure way, why would she feel suffering and anguish? I guess, in a way like my Jewish ancestors of old, I thought only sinners experienced suffering.

But Jesus suffered too.

What I’ve come to understand better is that suffering, on its own, is not a sin. 

If you struggle, if life is hard, if you don’t always feel all happy and good inside – it does not make you a sinner.

It simply makes you human, living in the reality of this incomplete and broken world.

But this is why Mary is so important for us. She is a human, like any of the rest of us, conceived and born of human parents. The only difference is that God spared her the “stain” of sin. He didn’t just hide her from sin though.

Through Mary’s Immaculate Conception, God opened Himself to this one woman amongst all women and revealed Himself to her in His FULL “Be-ing” and Glory – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Like when Eve suddenly “knew” of the good and the evil too when she ate of the forbidden fruit, now Mary knew of ALL the GOOD in all its fullness.  God not only gave her a hint to how the story ends, He showed her the whole ending in a way that makes the “current” time not only make absolute sense but shows how our suffering is an integral part of the ending.

Because of this, Mary is fully aware of the suffering of the world but she also knows that our suffering has a greater meaning and purpose. Like a gentle and wise Queen, she shows us, by her perfect example, how we can embrace our current reality and not only “get through it” but how we can unite our lives completely with Christ so that we become part of the Great Story.

In Jeff Young’s (aka The Catholic Foodie) August 22 reflection in The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion (that I’m so excited to be a part of!), he encourages us to come to Mary with our pains and struggles and allow her to comfort us and then encourage us to get back on our feet and continue on this road because what we will find at the end will make it all worth it!

Mama Mary, you know what it is like to suffer with God. Please help me to accept my life as it is and to trust that Jesus is right here with me. – Jeff Young




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A Promise in a Wheat Field {Marian Consecration} 3

Fifteen years ago, I made a promise. And today, I renew it.

Knee-deep in a golden ocean of luscious thick wheat.

I ran my fingers gently on the soft kernals as we walked through it, taking in the beauty and simplicity of the scene.

Thin wispy clouds swayed in the pale blue sky, a soft pink sun hovered over the horizon.

The air was clear, it had been a warm day but a chilly breeze trickled in, not quite ready to fully embrace summer’s warmth.

My mind wandered, my soul filled up with gratitude for the amazing day I’d spent with two of my closest friends, pondering the unknown future.

Soon many of my friends would breathe a long sigh of relief and say their goodbyes, celebrating the end of their formal education and step into the world of lessons that could never be taught in a classroom.

Though I had one more year, I too would soon say my own goodbyes as my family and I packed up our belongings and moved 1,000 miles away.

My heart was heavy with a bittersweet Grace.

We reached a good spot and just stood there, in the wheat field. Taking it all in. Thinking. Praying.

Jackie had picked up some pamphlets she’d found at church – something about Mary, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and a militia he started in another time, another place. It sounded exciting enough.

We looked at it and read it over quickly and decided we’d do it. We’d read this Prayer of Consecration and give ourselves over to Jesus through His Mother. Together, we would CONSECRATE and ENTRUST our lives – and our very souls – over to the same woman whom Jesus entrusted the apostle John to while  giving his life for us the Cross.

As we read through the consecration prayer together, I had a small feeling this wasn’t some small thing. By this act, I gave myself over to my Mother, and I also took her “into my home [soul] as my own.”

I looked over the wheat field and saw – in my mind’s imagination – a hand, reaching over an empty field, scattering seeds, the seeds grew into the hardy wheat I now stood in. All that was needed now were the harvesters.

Mary was calling me – calling us – to be the harvesters for the Master of the land. And I knew, without knowing then exactly how, that she would use us to bring about many great fruits by our prayers of consecration that day. And she would gather all these fruits and present them, with us, to her Son, on our behalf.

And with these fruits, He would feed us, His people.

These excerpts from 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Michael E. Gaitley explain Marian Consecration well – though I’d suggest reading the whole book for an even deeper understanding.

Mary knows the power of the Redemption, the power of merciful Love, better than anyone…Therefore, she calls us not only to conversion but “to accept her motherly help to return to the source of Redemption.” For again, Mary’s task is to bring us to the Fountain of Mercy, to the pierced side of Christ to his Merciful Heart.


Essentially, then, consecrating ourselves to Mary “means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to the infinitely Holy God. It means entrusting ourselves to she who was most united to Christ’s own consecration…Consecrating ourselves to Mary means relying on her motherly intercession to help us offer ourselves more fully to Christ in his own consecration for our redemption.” (pgs 103 -104)

Thank You IHM Sisters {And a Book Giveaway!}

In yesterday’s post, I shared a small review of Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions and the Video Hangout conversation about Five Years I had with author John Schlimm.

Today I’m excited to join with Image Catholic Books in offering one GiveAway of John Schlimm’s Five Years in Heaven! There are many ways to enter but only one of the options below is necessary for a chance to win your own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I also mentioned John’s #ThankANun campaign going on as a way to encourage others to think of how a “Nun” has been a positive influence in their own lives and take the time to thank them (even if only through our prayers.) Now, when people say “Nun”, they are usually referring to a “Religious Sister”, unless they are cloistered and then it would be more appropriate to say “Nun.” Just saying.

Like John, I was blessed to attend a high school where “Nuns” taught. At the time, their convent was on the high school campus, their apostolate was literally a walk across the parking lot.

I came to love all the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary dearly – well maybe almost all of them ;). I loved their sincerity and kind hearts, I admired their attention to detail and their patience – it couldn’t have been easy working with a bunch of high schoolers with raging hormones and burning passions for life.

Those Sisters were a subtle – yet pivotal – part of my high school years. Through their silent but steady example, I grew to desire what they had. I wanted their Faith and loyalty to Christ. I even went on a Discernment Retreat and spent many hours talking with them through the years. Turns out, through all those times, God was actually using those moments to show me how beautiful the Sacrament of Matrimony is. But that’s a story for another day perhaps.

I remember the soft-spoken voice of Sr. Mary Ann as she brought us deeper into an understanding and appreciation for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I admired Sr. Veronica Marie’s outward patience as she tried to get a bunch of sophomores excited about the deep symbolic truths hidden inside the Liturgy of the Catholic Mass even though her monotone voice was more like a sweet nap-time lullaby.

It was the time she gave to her students outside of class that I remember the most. She was there for whoever needed it, to listen, kindly offer a few words of advice, but mostly to just listen. And Pray. All those Sisters were – and still are – so good at prayerful listening. A skill I’m still working at refining.

But, out of all the Sisters who taught me and formed me during those High School Years, the two that will forever stand out in my memory are Sr. Mary Magdalene and Sr. Giovanni.

I met Sr. Giovanni my freshman year. I had heard “horror” stories of her from my older brother but my mother insisted she wasn’t all that bad. When I met her, she looked like she was a thousand years old…but she had a certain zeal about her and a hint of mischief. I was never quite sure how to read her. If I thought she smiled at me, I’d smile back, which only brought on a death stare that tore a hole clear through my eyes out the back of my head.

She was incredibly particular about where exactly we were to write our name on the right side of the blue line going down the college-ruled notebook paper. One time, I think I got a slight crease in one of my assignments and I asked my mom to help me iron it for fear I’d get marked down for the slightest wrinkle. The worst thing that could happen is that she’d call me up in front of the whole class and ask me about the wrinkle.

During class-time passing periods, she would get out her cane and hobble through the flood of students hurriedly trying to navigate the over-crowded hallways to get to their lockers and next class in 4.59 minutes. She’d look you right in the eye and point her finger at you and think for a moment. You had to be perfectly still while she decided whether to call you an “Angel” or…scowl at you and dub you a “Not so Angel”…or worse Mud Plus. Don’t even ask about Double Mud Plus.

Aside from how scary she was, I knew deep down she was really more of an “Angel” herself, she just wasn’t going to let all of us kids know it. I grew to really love seeing her passing through the halls, hoping to be one of the lucky ones to catch her twinkling eye and her crooked smile and maybe even the prestigious honor of being dubbed an “Angel”…for that day. Thank you Sr. Giovanni. You were just what I needed that freshman year and I hope you’re up there smiling down at us…maybe still picking out the angels from the not-so-angels. 😉

Sr. Mary Magdalene. Just look at her face and tell me how you couldn’t love her? Sr. Mary Magdalene – now actually Mother Superior Mary Magdalene, was kindly referred to as “Turbo Nun”. For that she was indeed. She was – and still is – full of energy and motion all.the.time. Even when she was irritated with us, she would find a way to smile…even if through clenched teeth. She had a way of getting down on our level and tried to reach us silly sophomores, who thought we knew everything, and meet us where we were. Although she never went into to many details, there were hints that alluded to a not-so-holy past. I think this is what helped her understand us and what helped us relate to her.

Sr. seemed to have only eyes of Faith when she looked at all of us. She always tried to give us the benefit of the doubt. I think there were many who tried to take advantage of that. But if this bothered Sr., she never showed it. I think Sr. truly desired for all of us to share that same excitement and love for Christ and His Church that bubbled up inside her. Her joy was contagious, I wanted what she had.

Sr. Mary Magdalene, thank you. Thank you for sharing your energetic zeal and passion for Christ and the Church. You never gave up on any of us, even if we’d given up on ourselves. You were – and are still – like our Spiritual Cheerleader, constantly cheering us on and encouraging us to keep going, keep searching, keep turning to God to fill that “God-shaped hole in all our hearts”.

I have many precious memories of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I’m truly thankful for their presence in my life and high school years. As an adult, when I run into them at various events in the Diocese or at their Mother House, my heart fills with Joy and Gratitude for all the love they’ve poured out to all of us over all these years through their prayers and presence in our community.

Do you have any special memories with a “Nun”? Take time to Thank God for them today – and if you can, send them a little card of thanksgiving. 

A Visit to My Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe 4

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Earlier this year, I had the great blessing to take a trip to Mexico City to visit family and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a truly amazing journey.

I don’t know why but for some reason I only wrote a few quick thoughts about it once here. I talked about the delicious authentic Mexican food, just not the miracle. 🙂 It was a wonderful trip and I think I needed to process it for a while before writing about…that and I got very distracted with all the goings on of family life and other such things.

I offered that trip as a mini pilgrimage, asking friends for their prayers and carrying their intentions in my heart and a notebook that I brought with me to the Basilica. I learned a lot from my time there. Most importantly, I learned it’s not about the Tilma but about Jesus and His Mercy and desire to continuously offer His salvation to us all.

A Mass is celebrated every hour at the Basilica so I offered Mass for everyone in my notebook.

The image of Our Lady is hanging high on a gold-plated wall.

To get there, you go around behind the main church into a sort-of tunnel under the alter, to some moving sidewalks (like in airports).

You get on one of the the sidewalks with everyone else and then, you look up,

and you see her –

At first it was very crowded since Mass had just let out but after the big crowd died down, it cleared out nicely. I went on the sidewalks, looking up as the belt moved me from one end of the room to the other, cranking my neck so I could see.

While I did this, I went through all the names in my notebook and prayed for each person and for their intentions. I brought their sorrows, their hopes, their struggles, their doubts and I lifted them into her loving arms.

I lost track of how many times I went on those sidewalks, over and over. Looking up, praying, gazing…searching…wondering. Looking for something. Proof? A sign? Maybe a wink or something. 😉 (That would have been creepy actually.)

The image looked so…ordinary. I’d been here once before but this time was different. I’ve lived more, seen more of life, had more questions, more doubts. The only way I could think of to describe this image is to say that it looked like a big stamp, like a graphic image in a way. definitely not a painting as there are no brush strokes of any kind. It really looks like it was just…set or pressed onto the tilma…like a stamp. You can see creases where it had been folded but other than that, no other major damage or tears or holes of any kind. For something that came from the year 1531, it was in amazing condition.

Aside from the image, the other thing that really struck me was what was around the image. A Church with Mass every hour during the day. Dozens of confessionals all around the back of the church were there was a constant line. And Eucharistic Adoration in a separate chapel, a peaceful alcove behind the main sanctuary.

I didn’t see anything “special”, no shining light or angelic singing, no eye movements or even a slight turn of her lips. When I came home, I read about all the “proofs” about this miracle and I also read all the “proofs” against it. And I wasn’t really sure what to believe. Honestly, I’m still not.

But I do know this. When I was there, I looked around at all of this and thought – Mission Accomplished. Though there are still many who do not understand the real significance of Our Lady’s image – myself included – the Sacraments are present. His Mercy and Grace are constantly available to all who come.

People flock to see the image for various reasons and when they come, if their hearts are open, they receive our Mother’s loving and comforting embrace and God’s Grace through His Sacraments. And this is why she came. This is why He sent her.

The miracle of Our Lady’s image on the Tilma started it, but that’s not what the real point was and it still isn’t. It’s not about the Tilma. It’s about Jesus. It always has been, always will be.


There’s so much more to this story than I can tell you in one blog post, or that you could read in one setting.

You can read more about the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Catholic Online

You can read more about the the deeper technical and scientific findings about the image here. 

Here’s a good visual of some of those:

And this article – ST. JUAN DIEGO’S MIRACULOUS PROOF – is also very interesting.

So for this to be a forgery, the forger would have had to not only be a masterful artist, painting something so beautiful on hemp (instead of campus), but also be well-versed in Scripture, Aztec culture and symbology, Mexican topography (and not just the area around Guadalupe, but all of central Mexico), astronomy, and Spanish religious devotions.  Or we can just accept that this is plainly miraculous, and an event which led to the salvation of millions of souls, those very souls which seemed most lost to satanic forces.  At some level, “skepticism” simply requires a level of incredulity that belief doesn’t.


My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother’s Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace.

I Love Being Catholic

Happy Sunday! Tonight I read a beautiful message on the Love Being Catholic Facebook Page. She took the thoughts that jumble around in my brain and put them into words so perfectly. I love God, I love His Bride – the Church. I love His Mother, my Mother – Mary; my friends, the Saints; the Sacraments – how would my soul be nourished without Jesus in the Eucharist or my soul healed and opened up for His Grace without Confession? How would the Spirit whisper His Truth and guide me without the seal of Confirmation and how would my husband and I fill up on the grace without the grace we receive through our Sacramental Marriage? I know the people of the Church are not perfect – for I know myself well! But like St. Peter said when asked by Jesus if he would leave like the others – “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And where else can we receive this “Word” and live out our love for Christ to the fullest and most abundantly than in His Church? The Church is more than meets the eye or ear through the mainstream news and media. Look beyond that, look deeper and you’ll see something quite extraordinary and beautiful.

Read on for more…

For those without access to this Facebook page, I share – with permission – the rest of the message below:

This Facebook page was set up to spread the joy and beauty of the Catholic faith. It is for Catholics, fallen away Catholics, or anyone who might be interested in learning more about our faith, and perhaps understand a little bit better what we believe and why we believe it. Our Catholic faith is attacked on a daily basis by the media, atheist, other religion and organizations, and yes even by other well-meaning Christians, so it is important to know and understand your Catholic faith. 

All of us know Catholics whom have left the Church for various reasons. Some left, and came back. Others were encouraged to leave and join other churches or religions, or they left religion all together. They left because they didn’t feel that they had a “personal relationship” with Jesus in the Catholic Church. They left because they were hurt about a particular teaching. They left because they were fed up with the behavior of other Catholics, priests and bishops. They left because they were not taught the true beauty and joy of our faith, even though they may have attended Catholic schools their whole life. They left because they thought the homilies were boring, or the music wasn’t entertaining enough. They left because they didn’t feel welcome in the Catholic Church. They left sometimes for no reason at all – just that God and church weren’t a priority in their lives anymore. Regardless of the reason, many Catholics have left the Church and we want them to come back home.

When they leave, and go elsewhere, they are often taught that the Catholic religion is wrong, that we worship Mary, that the Pope is the anti-Christ, that we are not Biblical, that we do not need to baptize our babies, and that we are all brainwashed and can’t think for ourselves. They are told that Catholics never read the Bible, that we don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, that purgatory is not biblical and doesn’t exist, that abortion is okay, that marriage should be re-defined, or not defended, that you should never ask Mary or the saints to pray for you, and that the Eucharist is just a symbol, and not the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

Many Catholic countries are being visited by well-meaning Christians who are there to teach them about Jesus, which is a wonderful thing, yet they are also encouraging them to leave the Catholic Church, the Church that Christ founded. I am sure they are doing what they believe in their heart to be right, by what they were wrongly taught about Catholicism. But this is a big deal, and this is why it is so important to know your faith, live it humbly, and share it with others.

And why does it matter if they leave the Catholic Church, as long as they are following Jesus? It’s all the same right? Why should we care? Why does it matter?

It matters because as Catholics we think it is important to belong to the Church that Christ founded over 2000 years ago. It matters because when you leave the Catholic Church, you leave the Eucharist – and all the sacraments that Christ Himself instituted. It matters because as Catholics we believe the Church contains the fullness of the truth, because it was founded by Christ Himself. This does not mean that we think other religions and Christian denominations do not contain any truth, for they do. But the Catholic Church, since it was founded by Jesus Himself and not a man, contains the fullness of truth, so we think it is very important to belong to the Catholic Church and share our faith with others.

The Catholic Church is both human and divine. Because it is divine, it will last forever. Because it is human, it will have scandals, and sinful people in it, just like what you will find in all denominations and religions. Scandals do not prove that the Catholic Church is false. They only prove what is obvious: that the Church contains sinners as well as saints. Yes there have been terrible things that have happened in our Church – the sexual abuse scandal was horrible. I personally was disgusted with the behavior of some priests and bishops. 
Unfortunately this is not just a “Catholic” problem – the abuse of children happens throughout every religion, denomination, organization (yes even atheist abuse children), school and family. According to what you hear and read in the media, it is just a “Catholic” problem. Not true. There is Evil everywhere. Evil does not discriminate and has no boundaries. Despite humans messing things up at times, the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and will forever be guided by the Holy Spirit until the end of time. As St. Teresa of Avila says, “The Truth suffers, but never dies.”

There are over a billion Catholics in the world, many of them holy and devout people, doing their best to imitate and lead souls to Christ. It’s not too often that we hear the good that the Church does to help so many. Among all the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517. Most of today’s Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots.

Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.

Even the oldest government is new compared to the papacy, and the churches to which door-to-door missionaries belong are young compared to the Catholic Church. Many of these churches began as recently as the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. None of them can claim to be the Church Jesus established.

The Catholic Church has existed for nearly 2,000 years, despite constant opposition from the world. This is testimony to the Church’s divine origin. It must be more than a merely human organization, especially considering that its human members—even some of its leaders—have been unwise, corrupt, or prone to heresy. Any merely human organization with such members would have collapsed early on. The fact that the Catholic Church is today the most vigorous church (and the largest, with about a billion members) is testimony not to the cleverness of the Church’s leaders, but to the protection of the Holy Spirit.

Church history does matter, because if you study it you will see that the early Church was totally Catholic. The early Church believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; Christ appointed Peter the first pope as the leader of the early Church; Early Christians did pray for their dead; Christ did give the apostles the power to forgive sins; Mary was loved and honored by the early Christians, etc. . . Think about it – if you are looking for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can’t get more personal than when you receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the holy Eucharist, and are a part of the actual Church that Christ founded. It’s important to know this, know why we are Catholic, embrace the fullness of our faith and then be good, holy witnesses to others.

If you have never studied Church history, study it now and see what the early Church was really like, what Catholics believed, and what they practiced. So many protestant pastors have converted to the Catholic Church after studying Church history, particularly regarding the issue of authority. (Two great books to read on church history are: “Four Witnesses”, by Rod Bennett, and “The Father Knows Best” by Jimmy Akin.)

Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa are two Catholics who truly lived their Catholic faith. Their holiness, love for Christ, and devotion to Our Lady set a wonderful example for all of us to follow. Remember – our goal is Heaven, bringing souls to Christ, and letting others know about the Church that He founded. As Christians we are all in this together, doing the best that we can to imitate Christ. As Catholic Christians, it is important to know what we believe and why we believe it, so that we can share the joy and beauty of our faith with others, and hopefully, help others in their journey to the Catholic Church. And please teach your children all about our beautiful faith, about Christ and His Church. Be sure to teach them apologetics as well – how to defend their faith. They will definitely come across many attacks and wrong information that others will tell them about the Catholic Church. 

So welcome to this “Love Being Catholic” Facebook page! Hopefully we will all learn a little bit more about our beautiful faith, and share the love of Christ and his Church with others. For those who have left, please come back. There is so much that many of us did not know about our faith growing up, and we hope with God’s grace this will touch some of you to at least think about returning to the Catholic faith. For those of you who are just entering the Church – welcome home!

Wherever you are on your journey, know that Jesus loves you. We love you where you are, and our hope and prayers are that you will be led gently and joyfully back to the Catholic Church. Being a part of the Church that Christ founded will bring you much joy, peace and closer to Christ than you could ever imagine.

So fellow Catholics, please know, love, defend, share, and live your Catholic faith humbly and joyfully. And please always remember to do so with truth and charity. 

May God bless and protect you all. 

In Christ,

Liz (Elizabeth Mary)

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