Friday, April 3, 2015

THE CRUCIFIXION: DYING TO SELF!


In 2007 the Easter season turned surprisingly personal as I experienced firsthand the process of dying to self through a very painful crucifixion.

The turning point came when members of my spiritual family betrayed me.

Their rejection and subsequent persecution seared my soul with excruciating intensity. Their bold lies and lack of compassion for my young children left me questioning everything I believed about my Catholic family.

I stopped going to church. For two weeks I couldn’t bear the thought of walking into a Catholic church, so on Easter Sunday my sons and I huddled together next to a lake reading scripture from the Bible and asking the Lord for his direction.

My heart was bleeding.

Still-I loved the Lord and he loved me...and somehow that love gave me the strength to throw myself at his mercy inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

“What do you want me to do now?” I cried out. My sons and I had been through the ringer, tested by fire…and now this. “What do you want me to do now?!”

“Do not let them take you from me!” I heard those words as clearly as I have ever heard anything! And in that one split second that followed, I opened my heart to Jesus and made the decision to plant both feet firmly in front of him-once and for all.

For most of my life I had split myself between God and family, work and the world and with devastating consequences. Not anymore!

I went to confession, returned to weekly Mass which turned into daily mass and daily adoration and regular healing services and prayer groups where women of great faith prayed the rosary and before I knew it, I was no longer the walking dead.

The disciplined rhythm of my prayer life began to resuscitate me as the Lord breathed a refreshing spirit of truth into my entire being. My reality had shifted.

Over time I have come to understand that I had to lose everything in my broken life that was not the will of God, in order to gain the authentic life that he had designed for me from the very beginning. There would be no place in my new world for fake friends or foolish antics or missions that are masterminded by a darkness that is waiting to destroy even the best of intentions.

As I picked up the tools of my Catholic faith with childlike abandon, Jesus picked me up and carried me along the painful, yet illuminative path of crucifixion. And with my cooperation, he gained control of my broken heart as he purged me of the poisons that had penetrated my life.

God truly raised me from the dead; he restored my confidence and trust; he sanctified my desires and intentions and he guided me ever so gently into a sanctuary of indescribable joy and unending hope!

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

LOVE, LIBERIA AND THE CROSS!

True love flows from the cross!

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

CONTAGIOUS CONFESSIONS!

What you say and do as a parent matters. The faith example you set, “practicing what you preach” leaves an imprint.

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
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LINDA SCOTT-THE STARGAZER PROJECT

Linda Scott is a stargazer!

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.
Linda’s art is personal, profound and life giving! I am hoping that her sculptures will eventually pop up in communities across the globe to remind us of the intangible and often elusive truth that everything in this great big universe matters because heaven and earth, life and love, hope and healing, you and I are universally connected to the source and the summit of our existence, the almighty God.

Please visit www.lindascott.org

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FEAST OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES! A MIRACLE MOMENT!


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…