Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Little Catechist

Hello friends! Spring is here in Virginia and with it comes the fullness of a school year coming to a close. Our homeschool mirrors the schedule of the public schools (save for the getting up in the morning) and many of our activities, like dance and t-ball, will wrap up this month.

This ushers in the summer pace of swim team, watermelon and popsicles, and hot midday afternoon read alouds in the AC.

My third daughter is about to receive her First Holy Communion on Sunday.

My heart is always so grateful for the work of Sofia Cavalleti through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and I have made this known to most everyone at my parish that...I gave of my time to the ministry of Sacramental Preparation for Children this past year in order to help my own child prepare.

There was One Face of God I was after to share with my daughter, and that is...the Good Shepherd. My children all know that this is where my heart finds its home. This Shepherd Who pursues me...UNTIL He finds me. When I sit in this thought, I can feel confident IN my unworthiness. He loves us so so much and with SUCH joy.

We are in the midst of the days leading up to this MUCH ANTICIPATED time. A thought springs up inside me, what if we lived every day in this kind of joyful anticipation in receiving the Eucharist. I truly feel like my daughter, in her beautiful gown that her sisters, her mother, and grandmother wore, will feel like the whole Mass is wrapping her up in the words....


All for you dear child. Yes, yes believe it...all for you.

And so the abundance and enormity and divinity of this GIFT can make us feel all sorts of feelings...and I sense that stress, a good stress, of wanting to do THIS well manifesting in her.

But she muses about things...all week she has been saying things like...

"It really is so simple the way we come up to get the biggest gift. I think Jesus is happy that I am excited."

So...I sat with her and her littlest sister last night in the church parking lot because we were going to Holy Communion rehearsal. We were enjoying our Chick-Fil-A because it was a night where some of the family was at a tball game and some of us were at the church. As I was strapping baby sissie into her carrier my little catechist said,

"I am not really worried about messing up."

And I say.. "You won't mess up! How can you mess up receiving as gift?"

She says, "Yeah, I think Jesus doesn't mind if I don't do everything right. I mean even if I drop the bread that's ok."

To which I panicked a little inside but said joyfully, "Oh you WON'T drop the Bread. Jesus wants a joyful heart."

And then her reflection brought her to this moment...

Jesus said "This is my body, take and eat. He didn't say...This my body, take and eat it perfectly."



Yes you're right.

You mean, little one, that...He wants me broken?

He wants my sin?

 He wants my disordered priorities?

He wants my hypocrisy?

We place the image of the Good Shepherd on the small altar in the new pasture of the Church, as the sheep are gathered and we think about the words of Jesus. How "Body and Blood" sound like such BIG words...and then we say, "Body and Blood is another way to say ALL OF ME."

The Good Shepherd gives all of HIMSELF.

It isn't close to a fair exchange Lord, but this is my offering. The mess and the struggle and the darkness and the trying and not trying and failing. All of me...All for you. Perfectly imperfect.

Thank you Lord for my child who, God willing, comes to you with GREAT confidence this Sunday. Thank you for being so gentle and good and kind.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Withered Hand

Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and it was restored as sound as the other. Matthew 12: 11-12

It was as if He had said it in the depths of my heart. Stretch out your hand Stephanie. Stretch out your mind. Stretch out your heart. Your own plans are limiting. Stretch Stephanie to my Will. If you say it Lord...and He did...and then in my arms I held my sixth child.

I held gift. My hands were filled when I opened them.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mission with the Good Shepherd Or...I think I am an Evangelical Catholic

I love the smell of his hair. There is a sawdust smell mixed with sun and outside. His dark hair curls a bit at the nap of his neck from the salty sweat. His sunburned skin feels warm on my belly as he carries me. He holds his hands firmly on me, I have no feelings of falling, only that I am secure, finally.

Just like the prodigal son, I am coming to my senses.

My ear is finally very close to his mouth again. I am learning the sound of my Good Shepherd's voice. I am learning my name.

He has been talking to me, telling me stories.

 I have some wounds that need healing but right now it is his voice that occupies my thoughts and heart and helps me to know only good things of love and joy and hope. He is carrying me back home and I see...I see the full pasture!

"For you!"

He sets me down gently and presses in close to my face one more time.. a huge beautiful smile and eyes that delight only in me! And he whispers one more time "For YOU my beloved."

Oh the grass is so GREEN here and lush and I have been so hungry!!!!!!!!

I eat gradually as my stomach can't take too much at once, but then.. I just keep finding more beautiful patches and great variety and I can't believe the clean cool water in this place! I absolutely love love love my home! The gradual eating becomes a full on engorgement and I munch and consume and I eat my fill! This! This is the pasture I have always wanted! There are so many of us but the abundance, it just never runs out, and oh I have a particular taste for a specific patch and this is just absolutely divine!

Oh I love this Good Shepherd so much and this pasture He has brought me to. Munch munch munch!

Then I meet a particular friend in this big pasture, my friend after a few years has a habit of coming close to my ear. I can barely hear her because my munching is a very loud chomp. Maybe I hear her as I pause to come up for a bit of air.

Stephanie. Stephanie...He calls you still.

What? Can't she see I'm busy eating!Gromp gromp!

"Look up from the Feast for a moment dear friend!"

And I do, and when I pause from my consuming in that brief moment...oh my goodness! There is that voice again!

I am taken back to those strong shoulders and that kind gentle voice.

Oh its my Good Shepherd!

And as I finally stop chewing and munching as I look up to my Good Shepherd...I see He is going back out.

And its as if everything in the periphery comes into I see the suffering and lost and wounded of thousands upon thousands of other sheep! They are malnourished, they are in the dark and they need my Good Shepherd!

And I get a better look at my Good Shepherd. Now that I'm not so close and can take him all in...I see a crown of thorns on his head. I see that he is carrying a large wooden cross on his shoulder...I must have been so snug and comfy and relieved at being found that I didn't notice his suffering before!

He must have only wanted me to see his joy and not the cost.

He was leading me with beauty and gift first!

Oh He is so so good!

I get panicky...

Oh my goodness! How much this pains me...I tell my friend! What...what can we do for our Good Shepherd?!?!

"We can listen to His voice."

And I listen...I listen and the stories come flooding back and I hear him.

My head is up and I hear him

 and I want others to hear him! The others out there that I can see past the pasture! I see others! I want to tell them about the pasture! I want them to just see, just see the pasture I'm in. Don't you get it just come to this pasture I start to shout! I kind of stand at the edge of the pasture and show them...look this is how you eat in here. Chomp!

But...but they don't see me, not the way I want them to.

Isn't it obvious how Good this pasture is!

Why don't they get it, and it's kind of their fault that they just don't get these things!

And suddenly...

A warm breeze passes over me, and I see that I have been so busy..kind of bleating to the others and just standing in the pasture that I notice what my good friend does.

She follows the Good Shepherd out. She covered herself in the muck outside the pasture and something about her makes her kind of look dirty and smelly like the mess of sheep out there. She walks up to one of the lost ones and gently nudges her head under the other sheep's neck, to support them. She is gentle and kind and never acts like the other sheep is any burden to her. In fact I see only joy, only joy as the sheep comes alongside her and they start walking back to the good pasture.

She shares the stories about what the Good Shepherd has done for her.

She shares the stories that the Good Shepherd shared with me.

There is no rush, but patience and the whole time one ear is listening to her new friend and the other ear is turned in the direction of the Good Shepherd whose voice can be heard even from very far away.

I start to notice. There are many sheep who are doing what the Good Shepherd is doing! They are loving like the Good Shepherd loves. They are completely outnumbered, there seems only one of these sheep that walk alongside for every thousand or so.

And a rush of energy fills me to the heart is about to burst. Mercy! He LOVED me first! He loved me first and so, I must take up this work too! Yes yes...I see. We do it for the one!

Help me Lord to show joy in announcing your Good News! I am your unprofitable servant. Send me Lord! Thank you Good Shepherd for loving me first. I know what you want me to want me to take up your work!