FAMILY

When my daughter came to visit me at work, closed the door and placed a positive pregnancy test on my lap, you can imagine my surprise. To say I was a bit shocked would have been an understatement. It took me a full nine months, just to register how much my life was about to change forever and that I was going to be a Grandmother!!!!

Ironically, when she left my office, the mail arrived. I had been waiting for this statue from Medjugorje for months, and its timing assured me that like Mary, the unexpected announcement of a baby is the greatest gift one can receive. It comforted me and assured me that God predestined this child.

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As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching I reflect back on the blessing of births and see how truly important my family is. Somewhere in my business of raising children, working, growing older, etc. I lost that connection. I inadvertently shifted my focus from them to a cluttered life of tasks.

As time goes on, our families tend to grow farther apart, perhaps due to demographics or broken relationships. Sometimes we become concerned with things that seem important, but aren’t. We may hold grudges or feel that we are misunderstood or unloved, we bicker with sibling rivalry; we have personalities clashes, etc., and all these things can get in the way. That is, until, a loved one dies, the birth of a child or priorities shift without our control then we realize we are missing something very important. That important something is our family.

I’ve learned over the years that through good or bad, thick or thin its family that is always there for me. May this Thanksgiving remind us of how important our family is and recognize how much love is present. May we find the courage to let go of past wrongs and reconcile if need be. There are people like my one son, who for various reasons have no relationship with blood relatives. May they find comfort in their adopted family’s in love and friendship, as well as Christ’s, for we are all adopted into Christ’s family.

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To those who have lost a loved one and have to face the Holiday’s staring at that empty chair or worse, ” alone” may they find the strength to celebrate the blessing of beautiful memories shared. May we remember with gratitude our loved ones, past and present and if you know of someone hurting and alone this season, please invite them to your table of plenty. We all have so much to be grateful for and to share.

Wishing you and your families’ countless blessings,

Happy Thanksgiving!

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THE POWER IN A NAME

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No matter what you are facing there is so much power in simply speaking the name, Jesus. Before we begin Advent next weekend, I wanted to give you a pre-Advent reflection on the importance of names especially Jesus’ name. Pope Francis recently spoke about this saying,  ” Christmas is the season of hope and confidence. The birth of Jesus, he added, brings the good news that God loves human beings in an infinite way. He urged pilgrims to repeat aloud the meaning of the name of Jesus. Jesus is God among us.” This got me thinking about the importance of Jesus’ name and our own. In Hebrew Jesus means “God Saves.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this,

432 The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and hence forth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation,23 so that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.24

 

435 The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, says: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one word “Jesus” on their lips.

Scripture makes more references to Jesus’ name than I have room for in this blog post, but I will reference a few that I think most expresses the significance and power of His name. 

Philippians 2: 9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven en among men by which we must be saved.”

Proverbs 18:10  The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

Being someone involved in many ministries, I can tell you I have witnessed first hand the power in the name of Jesus. It got me thinking about the fact that God places importance on our names too. Some Theologians say that our name is no accident and that God gave us our names before we were born. Do you believe that? And do you know what your name means? My name is Dawn, and it means, the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise. I must admit; I like the sound of that especially when I envision God giving me that name through my parents. If you haven’t already done so, I admonish you to research your name and ponder its meaning and significance to God.

In the scriptures, God changed four people’s names and after he changed their names he changed their lives to reflect their new name. First was Abram to Abraham meaning “man of many Nations” then Sarai to Sara meaning “mother of Nations.” Jacob to Israel after wrestling with the angel meaning “triumphant in battle”jacob

and Simon to Peter meaning ” rock.” Some may say that Paul’s name was changed from Saul, but I do not include him, because Saul changed his own name to its Greek meaning to be more accepted. Priests likewise change their names to symbolize their new direction in life so do religious and third orders. I can recall wanting to choose for my Franciscan name Habakkuk which means “embraced by God,” but our spiritual director intervened and said that was not the name for me. As fond of it as I was, I viewed his response as coming from the Holy Spirit. I ended up being professed “Gabriel Maria” in honor of the “Annunciation” to signify my “yes” to God is always important.

I have heard that some people believe that when we die God will give us a new name. I’m not certain if that is true, but I will end with these two scriptures for reflection.

Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Rev 2:17…To him that overcomes…I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.

POPE FRANCIS’ ADVICE FOR FAMILIES

 

Pope Francis, never ceases to amaze me. It’s no wonder that he is the #1 quoted person on the face of the planet. He has more retweets, shares, news articles and bloggers talking about him on social media than you can imagine. It’s no surprise he has made the cover of Time and Rolling Stone magazine just to a name a few. I can only surmise that his influence on today’s culture has to do with the fact that he has been able to make himself prayerful and pure enough to let the Holy Spirit catapult him into our hearts. He moves with the wind of God’s spirit, and the results are staggering.

 Listen to his advice on parenting and relationships this man in my opinion is right on target. His wisdom is simple and reasonable. On June 16th, 2014, he said,

 “When I confess young couples and they talk to me about their children, I always ask one question: ‘And do you have time to play with your children?’ And many times the father tells me: ‘But Father, they are sleeping when I go to work in the morning and when I come back at night they are already asleep in bed.’ This is not life.”

 How true is this statement? I’ve seen this happen in many families, as a matter of fact; this has been an issue for years. My husband recalls his dad commuting from Manhattan arriving home at the end of the day when he was in bed and leaving before he got up. My daughter recently told me that she met a young couple from Rhode Island whose husband is a lawyer like her fiancé. Knowing how many hours they have to put in at the law firm it doesn’t leave much time to spend with family during the workweek. What they decided to do is to change the children’s routine. When Dad gets home from work no matter the time, he does nothing, but is present with his kids then he tucks them into bed. The kids are going to bed much later, and this routine may take an adjustment on everyone’s part, but the time spent together as a family is quality time spent.

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The next piece of advice from Pope Francis was from August 6th, 2014

 “Many children and young adults waste so much time on hollow things: Chatting on the Internet, playing with the cell phone, seeing soap operas. High tech products are meant to make life simple and to improve the quality of life. But often, they distract us from what’s really important.” Misused technology, he said, has become one of the elements that separate a family.

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These pictures speak volumes don’t they? 

On September 28th, 2014 he said, “One of the most beautiful things in the life of a family, of our lives, is to caress a child and to let them be caressed by a grandfather or grandmother.” The pillar of family life, are the elderly. They are the future of the people, because they are its memory. 

 

I have the fondest and most impressionable memories as a child of my two Grandmothers, both of which led me to a deeper faith. This picture below is my granddaughter’s great, great grandparents at her baptism.

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In conclusion, I will end this piece with advice from our Pope that I think is most essential for a happy marriage.

POPE FRANCIS October 4th, 2013

“I always give this advice to newlyweds: ‘argue as much as you want. If the plates fly, let them. But never end the day without making peace. Never!”

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BLURRED LINES

Threats of terrorist attacks, Ebola, and global warming have a lot of people nervous about the future. Some are going to extreme lengths to survive the unknown by purchasing luxury survival condominiums to protect themselves. Exorcists have seen a rise in demand for their services, perhaps because of an increase in interest in the occult.The Catholic bishops of Kenya have revealed that young women have been sterilized without their knowledge as part of a vaccination campaign sponsored by UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Addictions and mental illness among our youth have risen drastically and so has the crime rate. There are more reports of kids like Elizabeth Smart being kidnaped from their bedrooms in the middle of the night. It’s enough to cause a panic, and this is what are children are growing up facing.

Maybe it’s no wonder that they are choosing role models like Kim Kardashian, who become famous from a sex tape and then release sexual photos to keep relevant. The picture below is the cleaner version.kkcover1(rgb)watermark

They listen to songs that talk about dealing drugs, murder, abusing women and so on. They watch video’s like Nicki Minaj “Anaconda” and award shows with Miley Cyrus “twerking” and acting sexually inappropriate. Recently there surfaced this group spewing their “positive message” on feminism. You will have to check it out for yourselves, but in my opinion this “positive message” doesn’t look or sound very positive.

Unfortunately, it’s the kids that are growing more confused by emulating these poor role models. They are vulnerable and being misled. If you talk to any experienced teacher today, they will tell you how disrespectful children have become and how much harder it is to control them. Commercials pound into our heads that we deserve the best, bigger, better and newer. How do we not let our children and ourselves become immune to this culture’s distortion of the truth? Where are our modern day saints? Do we no longer see what is right and what is wrong or have we become accustomed to blurred lines? Perhaps, in all the distractions we have forgotten what we believe in, or we are unclear of what we choose to believe so we sit in limbo and do nothing. Let me leave you with this parable for food for thought.

There is a crowd of people standing around waiting when Jesus shows up. He calls those who know his voice to “come, follow me” as he walks past. Some of the crowds follows. Then the devil shows up, and he calls those who know his voice to “come, follow me” as he walks past. Some of the crowds follows, but some didn’t, they just sit comfortable on the fence. One of the devil’s minions looked back and said to him, “hey, what about them?” the devil replied, don’t worry about them I own the fence.

 

HOW TO GET UNGLUED AND UNSTUCK

This morning at mass I spoke with a gentleman who told me about a Friar down in Seaside that is 89 years old. He is full of life, bubbly and energetic and to top it all off he looks fifty. He asked him what his secret was and the Friar responded, “it’s quite simple “I NEVER LOOK BACK” too many people get stuck by always looking back. I won’t allow that to happen. The past is the gone, over, kaput you can’t go back and you can’t change anything so why hold on? Let it go and move on.”

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These are very wise words, and they got me to think about my life and the areas in my life that I hold onto the past. One of the biggest areas for me is when I don’t listen to myself then have regret. You know what I mean, when you do something really foolish, and you knew better. Making poor decision and choices that may negatively affect the ones you love or yourself. We get stuck saying, “I wish I…” or “I should have….”and on and on we think about it as though there is something we could do about it and we can’t. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve, but DIDN’T. Right now, I can hear my granddaughter breaking into the Frozen song “Let it go.”

I realized something very important just this morning. Poor choices, bad decisions, regrets, mistakes they’re all apart of being alive. They represent growth, change and humility. I also don’t believe that God is going to point His finger at us in the way that we imagine in our heads. As long as we are trying to do our best, correct and learn from our mistakes I think He will look at us with love and charity. We have to make mistakes or how will we learn? If I didn’t make poor choices in my life how would I know to make smart ones? If I didn’t suffer through the rejections in my life, I never would have looked for something new or tried to do better.

Getting stuck in life’s circumstances is an uncomfortable place to be, and usually the reason we get stuck is because we are afraid to make a change afraid to let go. A Deacon in our Scripture study last week said this about fear, “fear means run and hide or face and rise.” It’s interesting how every time fear is involved it holds us down like an anchor, and we begin to drown slowly. We spend a lot of time flailing ourselves to keep a float instead of cutting the anchor off and swimming to shore.

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There have been two things that I have learned about letting go and I will share them with you. One is to forgive yourself for allowing whatever it was to happen to you then forgive the other person for hurting you. I remember a friend of mine who lost two children within nine months of each other share how much she blamed God for the death of her two children. She used to scream at God and ask Him what else He was going to take from her. She would taunt, “Go ahead I dare you!!”

Over time, she had a conversion and began to feel regret for all the anger towards God she held on to all of those years. In a special prayer, she shared this regret with God and remembered hearing him speak to her heart. He said, “it’s okay that you were angry with me I could take it. Your children were only supposed to be with you for the time that they were and no longer. Even though you yelled at me in anger during that time you never stopped talking to me.” This experience helped her to let completely go, and now God never stops giving her opportunities to witness her story to other mother’s who have lost children. She says, “Dawn you won’t believe where, when and how he uses me. People come to me in the most unusual places from my real estate office to a party, a bar, a restaurant, etc.

The second way I learned to let go is by keeping my focus on the present, and I do that with the help of being grateful and praising God for my blessings. When I wake, I find reasons to thank him in my morning prayers and at night I reflect and do the same before retiring to sleep. I found that it was through praise in our darkest moments that God picks us up and carries us to the green pastures of his riches. It is only through the surrender that we truly release ourselves into his care. When God can work, and we can grow and look back at our past and smile recalling how that experience brought us to where we are today that is better.

I used these few techniques in my young adult group that helped them to let go of situations in their lives and perhaps you will too. If you have a fire pit in your backyard or a fireplace, write down your fears onto slips of paper then burn them in a symbolic ritual of letting go. The smoke will represent your prayerful intention rising to heaven into the care of God. You also might try getting yourself some helium filled balloons. Writing on each one with a marker what you’re holding onto, say a prayer and release the balloon to God in heaven taking the burden of holding on off of you. However, you choose to let go just do it freeing yourself to be the best you were meant to be. Please feel free to share your results with us here in the comment box.

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THE END FOR BRITTANY MAYNARD

I’M SO SORRY TO REPORT, BRITTANY MAYNARD DECIDED TO END HER LIFE. SUFFERING LIKE CHRIST WAS TO MUCH FOR HER TO BARE AND NOT HER DESIRE. DYING WITH DIGNITY IS CREATING QUITE A CONTROVERSY WITHIN MORAL THEOLOGY. WHAT IS RIGHT, AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN COMMITTING SUICIDE? PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT AFTER READING THE LATEST ARTICLE.

http://www.people.com/article/brittany-maynard-died-terminal-brain-cancer?xid=socialflow_facebook_peoplemag

BRITTANY MAYNARD

Many of you have heard the story of Brittany Maynard as her story has become viral. She is the voice of terminally ill patients who want the right to die with dignity. She moved to the State of Oregon that allows her to take her life with drugs when she is ready. Creating quite a controversy as countless people have responded and prayed for her to reconsider and to see the love of the cross in her suffering. All of those prayers has delayed her original plan of ending her life on November 2nd. Is it due to the power of prayer? Do you agree with those wanting to end their life with dignity before the pain and horror of death takes their life? Listen to her speak and share your thoughts.

NO GRIEF REHAB

Many of you may have heard of Madonna Badger, but for those who haven’t let me give you a brief synopsis. She is a woman with three children living in Connecticut preparing Christmas Eve festivities with her parents. Her mother just finished baking her award-winning apple pie.
2 Her three girls finished decorating the Christmas tree.

3 They all went to bed in anticipation of the best Christmas ever.

1Then in the middle of the night their house caught on fire, and everyone died but Madonna. As you can imagine, she lost herself in grief and because there are no grief rehabs they committed her into numerous mental institutes. She became so depressed it was a huge victory just to get out of bed to eat. 6One day she cried so hard and deep that it felt like she was bleeding. 4Of course, she wanted to die which is why they placed her in confinement, I mean wouldn’t you? Finally, she found one Dr., who was able to explain to her in terms that she could understand and was able to help her. He said, “you’re not crazy your just really sad and they don’t have rehab for grief.” He told her that because she was a mother she was spiritually connected to her children, and he explained it in scientific terms and used terminology that I’m having trouble recalling. He asked her to picture herself with an invisible cord coming from her womb to her children and another one behind her attached to her mom and dad. The cords got prematurely severed, and the connection is so strong that she still feels connected. The separation has left her as an open wound raw and bare. Most people that have gone through what she has fill that emptiness with addictions, like alcohol, drugs, sexual misconduct, smoking etc., but what that does is keep the wound raw and prevent it from healing. He advised her to sit in that rawness and experience it.

Over time, she was able to form a skin over her raw wound, and her words of wisdom are this,

* When she is full of love and happy memories she can feel the presence of her children and parents. She can hear them speak to her, and she can again feel connected and healed. If she allows anger and resentment to take control of her emotions, she loses the spiritual connection and presence of them. Love is the bond that keeps them together.

* She suggests that we don’t stress over the small stuff with our children. She recalls arguing with her kids to eat organic, missing recitals for work, fighting over homework. She would give anything to have those moments back. She reflects back asking herself, was it that important? Yes, she wanted them to eat healthy and organic, but enough to spend moments in strife? How she wishes she let those moments go and had more happy moments with them. Don’t live in regret make changes now.

* She believes we are all spiritual beings having human experiences that makes us all connected and for that we need to let others love us. It was through the compassionate love of strangers and her embracing that love is what ultimately healed her.

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For her, the greatest lesson she learned through this horrific experience is we need to be there for each other when things grow dark. Being that light of Christ shining their way out of the storm. We need to allow others to love us and let go. She has recently remarried a man she calls her rock of strength. She has known him since she was nineteen years old and they are beginning a new life together. Perhaps you have words of wisdom from your experiences with grief that you can add to this list. Feel free to share in the comments below.

THE CHALLENGE

Jesus says in Matthew 22: 37-40

“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

This scripture passage sure got me thinking. Especially after hearing about a saint (not St. Francis) that overcomes his fear of lepers and devotes the remainder of his life to serving them. Although I see this act of charity commendable, I don’t think it is precisely the kind of love Jesus was referring to. My reasoning is this, when we see people who are less fortunate than ourselves it is much easier to love them. If we choose to deny them, I refer you to this scripture from James 2:14-17

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

The challenge I pose to you today following this scripture is this, “can you love the neighbor who knows exactly what to say to get under your skin?” You know who I’m talking about, the person in your circle of friends or in your family where every time you’re around that person you feel friction. You may even feel friction upon their name being mentioned. They know just how to provoke you or push your buttons. They may insult you, provoke you, consistently want something from you or just call you out on everything you try to do or say. Can you love them with the same compassion as you would the leper?

That my friend is “the challenge” and it is not easy. I call these people our sandpaper people, because it hurts to be close to them, but they smooth our interior rough spots so we can slide easier into heaven. (If you click on this word  “SANDPAPER PEOPLE” you will find my blog where I expand more on them.) I bring this up, because the Holidays are quickly approaching, and you are bound to be around at least one love challenge and we don’t want to resort to such tactics like this,

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I once heard that if the generous act you do does not put you out in some way then it isn’t a true act of charity for it only solidifies the scripture in James. I can recall most vividly a time when I experienced this to be true. Periodically I would have prayer meetings at my house and this one particular time two of my neighbors came. Both women were very involved in the church; one was in her early 70’s and lived one block to my left. The other was in her upper 70’s and lived one block to my right. The older one had just suffered some serious health issues, was frail and needed help up my stairs. We had a great gathering, praying, singing and sharing our faith together. When the meeting was over, I noticed the two ladies were leaving at the same time. When I saw the one struggling to get down the stairs, I had asked the other to please help her and would she walk her to her home to be sure she arrived safely. Her response totally floored me and enraged me when she responded, “NO! She is going that way, and she pointed to her right and I am going that way and she pointed to her left. I was so stunned I could not believe what I was hearing. For crying out loud, we just got done praying and praising Jesus, is this what He would do?

For many of you that know me you know that I challenged her to change her mind. She chose not to and for that I will never forget this lesson. If you aren’t being stretched or inconvenienced in some way with your charity, you need to check your motives and why you are doing what you are doing. True love is sacrificing if you don’t believe me just look at the cross.

Guardian Angels

Originally posted on Dawn's Faith Connection:


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Yesterday was the feast of Guardian Angels, and it reminded me, of all the times I felt the presence of angels in my life, and the countless stories I’ve heard from others. The belief that God sends Guardian Angels to watch over us and that they carry our prayers to Him was common long before Christianity. You will find many references to angels in the scriptures. I will reference a few in the Old Testament see the book of Tobit, Genesis, Ezekiel 9, Psalm 91:1 and New Testament Matthew 19:10 or Luke. I recently posted on our facebook page about a fourteen-year-old girl, who was in the hospital suffering from pneumonia, and she claimed to have been being visited by an angel and miraculous healed. Part of this incredible miracle is the surveillance camera at the hospital recorded the encounter. Click on this link http://jesus-loves-you.org/?p=1240&page=2 and judge for yourselves.

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