Sunday, March 22, 2015
I was reminded of that universal truth this morning after a conversation with my oldest son Johnny who is in his second year as a missionary at an orphanage in Liberia. As I hung up the phone I marveled at how my child has turned the worst experience of his young life into a pivotal turning point for the poor in this faraway land.
Johnny and the other missionaries from Comunita Cenacolo care for approximately 20 orphans. Every day, he and his friend Nick walk the school age kids 45 minutes to school and in the afternoon they walk them home. The youngest child is 6 years old. “We could take them in the car but it wouldn’t be right for our children to be driven to school when all the other kids have to walk,” Johnny told me.
As the “community” acculturates into Liberian society, it is very important for them and for the orphans to live as closely as possible to the life of the locals.
During the Ebola crisis the government allowed the children to stay in the orphanage 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “For sure it was challenging,” Johnny admitted. However, he said they developed a routine and a deeper bond with the children while using the extra time for education and to teach them new skills-like rapping. That’s right. The beat of American rap music can now be heard in a remote section of Liberia! Americans always seem to leave an indelible imprint wherever they go!
Last month Johnny called me from a 130,000 acre Firestone Corporation complex where he and Nick were on retreat. Locals live and work there removing the rubber from trees so it can be shipped abroad to make tires. During this retreat he met four nuns from Our Lady of Consalata, (Our Lady of Consolation). One of them from Brazil has been dubbed, “Angel of the Orphans” because she has cared for approximately 400 orphans, many of whom are victims of Ebola.
I’m thrilled to report that Johnny will be using a portable camera to interview the nuns about their work with the children and the help they give a colony of lepers.
“Is Ebola over in Liberia?” I asked. “There’s a new case, it’s probably on your news, of a lady in Monrovia who has Ebola. Officials are investigating this but she may have come from Sierra Leone.” Other than that, Johnny said Ebola doesn’t appear to be a serious threat any longer.
I try to imagine how my son copes with all the daily challenges, but from our conversations it is apparent that he is living a life of surrender and acceptance. He has surrendered the conveniences of his American upbringing and accepted the hardships that are a natural part of missionary life.
Johnny said there is a sense of purpose and joy because he feels he is making a positive difference in the lives of some really poor people. “Mom they don’t have the basics that we take for granted. A little girl broke her arm and when she was taken to the hospital, someone had to go to an outside source to buy the materials for her cast because the hospital didn’t have the medical supplies.”
An ongoing issue is the shortage of doctors and other medical staff, but it appears divine providence has stepped in! A surgeon who is a member of Comunita Cenacolo and a former addict has now entered into the missionary life of this orphanage.
“There was a little girl in the village with a tumor in her arm and the hospital would not operate.” Johnny told me. “It was amazing mom! Our doctor numbed the girls arm, cut her open right in front of us, removed the tumor, and then sewed her back up! She’s just fine now!” Johnny said this same doctor operated on an infection behind his ear and all is well!
So today as I move into the final weeks of Lent, I renew my gratitude for the cross that transformed my son’s life and filled him with a reservoir of love so that he would be willing to suffer for others. Because let’s face it, true love-Godly love-always flows from the cross!
Friday, February 20, 2015
And when you least expect it, under the most unnerving circumstances, at the craziest time, your behavior will come right back at you with exhilarating delight!
The other night my strong spirited youngest son and I were standing at opposite ends of a power struggle that I was not about to lose. There are some decisions a parent simply has to stick by no matter how unreasonable “no” may sound to the adolescent brain!
No by the way is a sentence. It doesn’t mean maybe, or we’ll talk later, or let me think about it. No means no.
Words flew around the room, muddying the already uncomfortable discussion and wounding emotions. Joy had definitely taken a hike that night!
The next day I felt the gnawing desire to honor my decision to go to monthly confession. And what do you think happens?! I get a text message from my dear son who is a junior at Jesuit High School.
“Went to confession..thought about it and I’m sorry for saying those mean things to you.”
Wow! What more could a mother ask for?! “Thx, I forgive you. Proud of you. Love u.” I replied. “P.S. I went to confession too.”
My son has a conscience! The judgment part of his brain may not be fully developed, but his conscience is absolutely open for business!
Apologies are tough at any age. Admitting our weaknesses is scary. Going to confession can feel even scarier. However, my sons are learning that I don’t expect any more from them then I expect from myself.
I've told them "I’m sorry" more times than I can count and they know I seal the deal through monthly confession. There’s power in speaking the words to a priest and a feeling of freedom following absolution.
I try really hard to live what I preach, to practice what I believe and to allow the Lord to enter my heart every single day through the gift of the Eucharist, the joy of the gospel and the strength of the sacraments.
As a single mom who is raising boys, I need-I want-God’s help. And every once in a while one of my five sons lets me know that my example and HIS powerful grace is contagious!
Thank you God!
Mary Lou McCall
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
She looks to the heavens and sees the big picture…through the eyes of an artist …and the soul of a lady who is deeply connected.
I came to know Linda several years ago and I felt an instant connection; a synergy that spanned the endless space between her life and mine. Sometimes that happens. Human beings share a knowing. Words are unnecessary. We just are.
Even when the bridge of separation winds its way through the years of our lives, carrying us to distant dreams, the imprint remains until time winds its way back to us at just the right moment when inspiration meets acceptance.
Linda’s spirit had been hovering in my consciousness for nearly seven years. Hanging on like a recurring daydream…nudging me ever so gently to reconnect. Finally-I did.
My long overdue e-mail met with instant gratitude! Joyful reunion! We talked and talked and I felt the providential renewal of our friendship and the unfolding of our future.
Linda is an exceptionally gifted artist. Her pieces are intimate, yet bold; timeless tear drops of life that reach beyond the veil of human understanding. Her sculptures and art have inspired moguls and movie producers and her “Stargazer Project” is a living legacy to men, women and children everywhere.
"The Stargazer is the connection of the above to the below." "We are a conscious relationship to the universe. We are responsible for our planet and its future. The Stargazers exist first as monumental sculptures and are the first figurative sculptures to be translated into buldings, which are proposed cultural resort and environmental centers around the world." Linda Scott
A star gazing deer with antlers in its mouth reaches to the heavens, the gift of the cross wrapped in a red bow is planted firmly in fertile soil, and a giant pierced heart-proclaims eternal love.
Please visit www.lindascott.org
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
A little over a year ago I sat with a half dozen other women waiting for a mammogram. The lady next to me asked, “How long has it been since you had your last one?” Taking a deep breath I replied, “Several years.” “So, you’re that woman?” She asked in disbelief. “Yes-I am,” I answered. I didn’t even try to explain why, because in that moment, the reasons rang hollow.
The next day I got a call to return for a follow up mammogram because of suspicious calcification. After the experts read that one, I got another phone call. I would have to go under the knife for a breast biopsy to see if I had cancer. At that point I was really worried. My dear mother had died of breast cancer.
So I told the Lord begrudgingly, “Fine, if you want me to have cancer for the conversion of so and so and so and so, then fine…I’ll accept it.” I was convinced it was a done deal. God however, was just beginning-to teach me a very valuable lesson.
Back then I was in the middle of praying the second part of an intense three part Ignatian prayer series, “Lord Teach Me to Pray.” As I sat in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel reflecting on the gospel readings the Lord spoke to me, “If you want intimacy with me or anyone else, you have got to learn to ask for what you want.”
Without missing a beat I replied, “Fine, I don’t want cancer. You know all the reasons why. My children need me, we’ve had so many illnesses-you know everything. I really don’t want cancer so please don’t give it to me. Now having said that, you know my heart, so if you really want me to carry this cross, I will do it for you.”
Asking for good health or anything else was difficult because I have NEVER been comfortable asking for what I want. I am a military brat and I have been trained subconsciously to accept even the unacceptable.
On the day of surgery as the nurse is prepping me, she reads my blood pressure and remarks, “You are really calm!.” She was right...I was calm. I understood beyond a doubt that God had my back!
A few days later on February 11, 2014, exactly one year ago today, I received the phone call that I was cancer free! “Thank you thank you!” I blurted out to the Lord! Then I called my friend Judy who squealed, “Do you know what today is?” “No, I don’t” I replied. (She’s like a date encyclopedia-I kid you not). “It’s the Feast of Our lady of Lourdes!” she replied happily.
Lourdes has become a place of spiritual and physical healing following the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to a young girl in 1858. There have been thousands of reported miracle healings and more than 60 church approved miraculous cures.
This feast day also marks the observance of the World Day of the Sick instituted by Pope John Paul II. I have never been to Lourdes however, I have a 6 foot statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in my home-a gift from a complete stranger. How's that for a Godincidence?!
So today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I will continue to pray in thanksgiving for my miracle moment and for the joy of intimacy with God who is always faithful, always listening and patiently waiting to give us the desires of our heart, when it is in our best interests. All he desires is that we ask…
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Jack dreamed of flying airplanes and serving his country and he was on his way to achieving those goals as a student at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He was one of those rare young men who had made the cut, securing a coveted spot in the prestigious and highly respected military academy.
Naturally Jack's parents and younger brother are devastated. They are reeling from their sudden loss and the excruciating pain that feels like acid to the soul. They already know this pain.
Just four years ago their newborn baby died suddenly of cardiac arrest right before their very eyes. His precious life ended as abruptly as his brother Jack’s. There was no warning, no goodbye, nothing to indicate impending doom. And no one could ever have imagined that this family would find themselves in this place of death so soon.
I don’t know why this happened and I won’t begin to minimize their tragedy with an assessment of God’s purpose and plan for their lives. I will pray and I will ask God to let them know in a powerful way that he is with them, that he is carrying their cross to the foot of Calvary where he has ransomed their pain and their suffering.
The place where hope hangs it’s weary head because that is where God revealed his promise to redeem even the most tragic set of circumstances; the place where one day all that feels so very wrong-will one day feel alright.
And I will urge the Blessed Mother to wrap her mantel of protection around their bleeding hearts because who knows better than she, this kind of searing grief?!
And finally, through my own tears of sadness-I will hug my sons a little tighter tonight…in gratitude for the time we have together and for the continued blessing of their young lives.
Matthew 25:13 “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”