A big thank you to the incredible ladies behind the Buffalo Catholic Women’s Conference this weekend! I had the undeserved honor of speaking to a full auditorium of women, along with Rachel Balducci (cue the high-pithed squeal!) and Matthew Leonard. It was so exciting to meet them in person!
Connecting with perfect strangers and leaving as sisters, knowing we are connected by the same Father, is always astonishing to me. It just never gets old. It was truly wonderful.
This season has been particularly packed with speaking engagements, but each one is beautiful in it’s own way. I can hardly believe that the next big event is the Arise RETREAT! Presently, we are preparing to welcome nearly 60 souls on Divine Mercy weekend. Thank you, Lord!
I am also thrilled to announce that there will be a retreat next year! Mark your calendars for April 5-18, 2018. Fr. Nathan Cromly, CSJ will return as Retreat Master. More details to come, soon! I hope you can be there!
Also, I’ll be changing out of my sweatpants and into my Sunday best for an appearance on At Home with Jim and Joy airing on EWTN. You can’t see my face, but my expression is reminiscent of the raised eyebrows, shocked emoji (and has been nearly frozen that way for days)! 🙂 It is Christmas in my spirit, just so thankful for the overabundance of gifts. You can call in on the show (I’ll be recording on April 17) so please check back for details.
So, so much going on, friends. I pray all is well with you. To get caught up, share prayers, and journey through Lent together, I hope you’ll check out my podcast, Good Things Radio.
Thank you to the CCWC team for inviting me to be the Master of Ceremonies this year. It was a blessing to not only be a part of the program as emcee, but also as a participant. Over 2500 women gathered in Columbus, making it the largest event of it’s kind in the United States! You can read a full recap of the day in an article from The Catholic Times, here.
Last year, my husband surprised me with an old-timey wooden record player and music system. Since the day we plugged it in, it has been like a melodic time machine carrying us back through the years. My mom brought over her old 45 records with songs that filled our home when I was a little girl. Her vinyl collection includes everything from Dean Martin to “Disney Disco” (and our favorite: Macho Duck). I also dusted off my old CD’s (nearly antiquated by today’s digital standards)! Among the titles was an album called “What I Love About Sunday.”
In the compilation of inspirational hymns and feel-good songs, are two famous ballads about Daddies. “Dance with My Father Again” and “Daddy’s Hands.” As I washed dishes around my sacred sink and absorbed the lyrics into my spirit, I felt a dam open in my heart (and eyes)! This March will mark six years since my Dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. This June will mark five years since he died. A girl never outgrows the memory of dancing with her daddy. As time stretches on and the years pass, I am less able to hear the sound of his laughter, and the feeling of his strong hands gripping mine. Our family was far from perfect, and I can say that sometimes we put the “fun” in dysfunction, but I never doubted that my father loved me. Deeply. Like Garth Brooks proclaims in “The Dance,” I am just thankful for our time together. So many beautiful sons and daughters long for a dance that was never shared. Through the gift of working in ministry I’ve had the privilege to hear many stories. I repeatedly encounter the hurt of those who are carrying a father-wound.
A father who was absent.
A father who was abusive.
A father who could not say “I love you.”
So often, it is a pain that is passed on to the next generation. The hurt is heavy and can be lifelong. So, how do we bear under that and reconcile our earthy Daddy to our Heavenly Father? Brennan Manning devoted a great deal of his life and ministry to answering this question. A storyteller and man of faith, this story is a must-hear for everyone.
What does all of this have to do with Lent, 2017? Well, in gathering my materials to become prepared for the next 40 days, I ran across a beautiful message from Pope Saint John Paul II on what would be, his last Lenten message in 2004.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. With childlike simplicity let us turn to God and call him, as Jesus taught us in the prayer of the “Our Father”, “Abba,” “Father.”
Our Father! Let us repeat this prayer often during Lent; let us repeat it with deep emotion. By calling God “Our Father,” we will better realize that we are his children and feel that we are brothers and sisters of one another. Thus it will be an easier for us to open our hearts to the little ones, following the invitation of Jesus: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Mt 18:5).”
Lent is filled with so many rich, holy seeds to help us bloom and grow in our faith. The paschal mystery. Dying to self. Rising to new life. Taking up our cross. Giving generously of ourselves and our time. Breaking unhealthy patterns and forging new pathways of prayer, penance, fasting, and almsgiving. We never know when it will be our last Lent, so I believe there is a sense of urgency in “returning to Him with our whole hearts” and falling in love in a final and absolute way, with our Father. Allowing him to heal us. Embracing the mystery of suffering, not being afraid to drink of the cup we’ve been given, and praising God through the roses and thorns.
As I laminated a few scriptures for our family to memorize this Lent (we chose Sirach 2:1 and Timothy 1:19), and researched the Nineveh 90 I began to feel overwhelming pressure to “get it right.” My oldest son is now 15, and he will soon be an adult. Yet, I have learned there is no magic formula or perfect recipe for raising saints. We all struggle with different temptations and doubts. We all fall short. That is why I am convinced that the most important thing we can do is simply sit at the feet of our Father. Abba. A good daddy always knows exactly his child needs.
In his book Abba’s Child, Manning penned a famous prayer entitled, “Abba.” He suggests praying in the following way:
1. Sit, kneel, or lie on your bed for a few moments and let yourself relax in the Father’s welcoming presence. A few deep breaths can be helpful here for relaxing.
2. Once you have relaxed, breathe in slowly while saying “Abba”; breathe out slowly while saying “I belong to You”.
3. Slowly, prayerfully, repeat these words for several moments: “Abba” (breathing in); “I belong to You”(breathing out).
4. End this time of prayerful meditation by praying The Lord’s Prayer.
Take the Abba Prayer with you into your day, and live close to the Father’s heart. “Abba, I belong to you. Abba, I belong to you…”
Songwriter David Helser was recently so moved by this that he felt called to write a worship song based off Manning’s prayer.
God bless you as you sit, pray, and dance with the Father this Lent. May he take you into his arms and lead you to new places in your soul as you draw closer to Him and find new life.
Additional resources here:
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day. I’ve been humming the hymn “Joyful, Joyful” (the version from Sister Act!) all day..
My son Grant was born on Valentine’s Day. This year he turns 13. A teenager.
Love came to me that day in all of it’s 8lb 11ounces of fresh new skin, fluffy brown hair, and blue eyes on the day he was born. We had lost a baby at 13 weeks (Luke) and his birth was the resurrection of new hope in my heart. New promise of eternity as another immortal soul was placed in our keeping, temporarily.
Grant was also my inspiration to start this little blog, 14 years ago! It was originally named “Brooke’s Baby Page” and designed to document my pregnancy when I worked at a radio station in Green Bay, WI. Those original posts are floating somewhere in the cyber cosmos and I doubt I’ll ever retrieve them, but I am certainly grateful that I kept writing. It has allowed me to capture little snapshots of time and emotions that are long forgotten.
Celebrating Grant’s birthday at the assisted living facility where my Aunt Gladys and Aunt Nonie lived. They are no longer with us, so the picture comes with both roses and thorns. Little boys. Big hugs. Women we so love and miss. The ties of faith, love and family.
And this one…
Cheek to cheek with my little blonde boy.
And finally, our “Adios Dos” (Goodbye TWO!) The day before he turned three…
It could easily share a few more images (complete with Grant in a gold diaper dressed as Cupid)! 🙂 But since Grant is a man of 13, I also want to embrace the person he is today, and celebrate the present. As much as I love my son with a bond that is impossible to describe, it really is stupefying to think that God loves us so much more than this. More than all human imagining. He is loving us with a love for which there are no words!
As fluffy and sweet as this day is, I know it can also be a day of sorrow for many. The bitter and the sweet. So no matter what, I pray that you may feel this special bond between you and your Father today. Abba. Daddy, pouring His graces from his pierced side, into your heart.
“For I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. you are mine.”
He has written His name on your heart, forever. That is the best kind of Valentine. An eternal love. He loves us best! I pray that you discover Him anew in your heart, today.
To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure;
to find him, the greatest human achievement.” -St. Augustine
God bless you today, friends. Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.
with Father John Michael Paul, CSJ and Brooke Taylor
You are invited to walk in the footsteps of Christ. See where Jesus was born, preached, walked on water, suffered and died. Join Father John Michael Paul, CSJ and Brooke Taylor, November 26-December 7, 2017. Stops include: Bethlehem, Nazareth, wine tasting and wedding vow renewal in Cana, renewal of baptismal promises in the Jordan river, a cruise on the water of Galilee, Gethsemane, Jerusalem and much, much more. This trip will take place at the beginning of Advent. Cost: $4000. All lodging, meals, tickets, transportation and even airfare is included! Call: 440-457-7033 to reserve your spot today. Click here to sign up, today!
Superior 5 Star Hotels and Services!
Day 1: Depart from USA. Arrival next day.
Day 2: Arrive at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. We will meet our guide and head to our hotel by deluxe motor coach. We will have a brief orientation meeting, enjoy a meal, and acclimate to our new surroundings. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 3: After breakfast, we shall view the Place of the Ascension before we descend by foot and visit the Pater Noster Church commemorating Jesus’ teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Then we will walk down to the church of Dominus Flevit; here Jesus wept over the City of Jerusalem and foretold its destruction (Luke 19:41-44). We shall then visit the Garden of the Gethsemane, the scene of Jesus’ agony, betrayal and arrest (Luke 22:22-54). Also visit the Church of All Nations containing the rock where Jesus is believed to have prayed before His betrayal and arrest, after lunch, visit the Upper Room, the site of the last supper. Then continue to visit the Dormition Abbey, built over the site where the Virgin Mary was laid to rest its name meaning eternal sleep. Proceed to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, which is built over the site of the house of the High Priest Caiaphas and the dungeon where Our Lord was imprisoned before his trial. It is also here that Peter denied knowing Jesus thrice (Luke 22: 54-62). Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 4: After breakfast, we will visit Bethlehem starting with the Basilica of the Nativity and the Grotto, venerated as the birthplace of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7). Also visit the Church of St. Catherine, the Crusaders’ Cloister, the Chapel of St. Jerome and the Grotto of the Holy Innocents. Continue to visit the Shepherd’s Fields (Luke 2:8-20). After lunch in Bethlehem we shall drive to Ein Karem, home of St. Elizabeth, and mother of John the Baptist to visit the Church of the Visitation and the Church of St. John the Baptist. Enjoy a night tour of Jerusalem. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 5: Today we shall drive to Jericho to view the Old City and the Mount of Temptation. We shall also view Zacchaeus’ tree. Proceed to Qumran – ruins of the ancient Essene settlement in whose nearby caves the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; take the cable-car to the top of Masada – the scene of the epic stand by the Jewish Rebels at the end of the Great Revolt against Rome nearly 2,000 years ago; and enjoy a relaxing float in the Dead Sea. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 6: After breakfast we will drive to St. Steven’s gate where we shall enter the Old City and start our morning tour at the Crusaders’ Church of St. Anne and the Pool of Bethesda. Continue to the Tower of Antonia where Jesus was tried and the Church of the Flagellation from where we will follow the Stations of the Cross ending inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. After lunch in Jerusalem visit the Wailing Wall and Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are hosted. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 7: Travel at a slow pace to the Jordan River and to the tourist Place of Baptism for a visit and for renewal of Baptismal vows if desired. Visit Nablus and Jacob’s Well. Dinner and overnight in Galilee.
Day 8: After breakfast we will leave the hotel and take a cruise across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Capharnaum. We will visit the boat of Jesus Museum discovered in 1984. It dates back to the time of Christ: an amazing and breathtaking discovery. We shall first visit Capharnaum the Town of Jesus where He carried out the major part of His Ministry. Jesus told Peter and Andrew “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:12-22), and here Jesus made the promise of the Eucharist (John 6:22-71). We will visit the excavations and St. Peter’s Church before we continue to visit the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter (John 21:1-14) followed by Tabgha, the site where Christ fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-13). Proceed to visit the Mount of Beatitudes which commemorates the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). Dinner and overnight in Galilee.
Day 9: After breakfast, drive to Cana of Galilee where we will visit the Franciscan Church of the Wedding Feast. Enjoy a wine tasting in Cana (especially the pomegranate wine). Continue to Nazareth where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). It was also here that Jesus grew up. Visit the Basilica of the Annunciation. We shall also visit the Chapel of St. Joseph and the Old Synagogue which tradition holds that this simple building stands on the site of the synagogue of Jesus. Next visit the Church of St. Gabriel (Mary’s Well), which is built over the only freshwater spring in Nazareth. After lunch we will drive to Mount Tabor, the place where Jesus was transfigured. Ascend by taxis to the summit to visit the Basilica of Transfiguration, and to see the magnificent view across the plain of Jezreel. Dinner and overnight in Galilee.
Day 10: Back to USA from the Holy Land.
Please note: We do our best to ensure that all sites listed in this itinerary will be seen. However, due to scheduling conflicts, or other circumstances beyond our control, sites may be visited on a different day than listed. If this happens it will also necessitate a change in the restaurant for dinner. However, we will never sacrifice the quality of the meal, all restaurants will meet Proximo Travel’s very high standards. Since we have several different trip configurations touring at the same time, it is likely that groups on different tours will be combined when their itineraries overlap in certain areas. In addition, because of Jewish holidays and/or when the group is small, we may be able to add a few sites that are not on the itinerary. In order to do that, in some cases we might add one night in a certain hotel and take away a night from the other one. Sometimes because of the inconvenience of flight schedule, the group might stay the last night in Tel Aviv or in Haifa in order to avoid getting up way too early to get to the airport on time (Still five star hotel).
World Autism Awareness Day is Saturday, April 2. To hear the special podcast of “Good Things Radio” dedicated to this theme, click here.
Autism affects 70 million people, globally. Each person is different. I do not seek to speak for anyone else. But since our family is counted among that number, I do want to take a minute and share something I wrote about our journey. It is a tribute to my daughter, Karolina. If even one person finds this and feels a sense of solidarity in these words, I thank God for that. You are not alone. May we be a people of the Beatitudes, and celebrate the saints in our midst.
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Autism
The secrets of the universe you hold in your mind.
Yet words to voice your wisdom you’ve been unable to find.
You live in a world of silence, and so often I feel left out.
I long to connect with you. In desperation, I want to shout.
The days you scream in endless frustration for reasons I can’t find.
This is the agony that makes me nearly lose my mind.
Lord, how can I do justice to a child such as this?
When she cannot tell me what she needs, and every hug she will dismiss?
Friends and peers pass you by, in spades
And the dreams of a miracle slowly start to fade.
But in you I also see
Something holy, and powerful beyond this world and me.
A song that rises from an inner depth of light
That comes from within you, to serenade the night.
Your life is a symphony of rejoicing through the tears
Your music keeps me dancing and helps release my fears
As you flap your arms and jump and tiptoe merrily
You give me strength to fly with you and take in your melody
If you can do it, I know I can too.
My precious sinless child, I pray to be more like you.
You teach me patience, joy, faith, and amazing fortitude
An understanding of the cross with breathtaking magnitude.
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
And autism is such a perfect disguise.
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
And in you, I’ve seen this hidden strength all along.
You are the light of my life, and the daughter of my soul
You are the North Star that points to heaven to help make me whole.
How blessed are we who love autistic saints
Because on the canvas of their lives, we see the promise of heaven God paints.
Saturday, April 23. Click here for more information.
Women’s Conference with Brooke Taylor and Linda Isaiah
Saturday, April 9, 2016
3833 Hudson Drive Stow, Ohio 44224
Click here for more information.