I was cleaning out a closet recently in a room that serves as my office. This particular closet is home to a veritable “hodge podge” of items. There are bins with precious memorabilia of days gone by, some dress clothes and some clothes that I just can’t part with like my and my children’s 1st communion outfits. It is also home to things that just need a temporary home for one reason or another. One such thing was a large wicker basket full of breakables; breakables that I had forgotten were in there.
On this particular day, I went into this closet wanting to purge the unnecessary. In the process, I carelessly shifted things around disturbing the wicker basket which was precariously perched on top of an American Girl Doll locker from my daughter’s childhood. Without notice, the basket and all of its contents tumbled to the floor. With a gasp and a selfchastisement for my carelessness, I watched and heard the contents crack and shatter.
I bent down to see what I had done and in that array of brokenness there was, in its mighty tenderness, a ceramic figure of Jesus’ hand holding a child of God in gentleness, peace, comfort and wholeness. To my great delight, it was not broken! In fact, it was untouched and perfect. This was not something that could be left unnoticed and unshared; it captured my full attention and made me pause to remember that no matter what is happening around me, around you, around us, God is holding each one of us in the palm of his loving and mighty hand-- always and everywhere.
What a beautiful comfort!
I was inspired to attend the Cursillo weekend July 25th – 28th because that Saturday, July 27 marked the 11th anniversary of my mother’s passing and I knew my mother had made a Cursillo. I also knew that I had kept her Cursillo folder, but I had never really looked at it. So after I got home, I was inspired to find it. And in the folder I found her picture and her notes which I found were very similar to mine. She made her Cursillo in 1994 at St. Anne’s in Duluth, I believe. And most precious of all, I found a palanca card from my father to my mother. So, he must have made his Cursillo weekend first. I felt blessed to have, for some reason, kept this folder and then blessed to be inspired to look for it. I only wish I could talk to my parents about their experience, but I guess that must wait for the 5th day!
When I first lived my own Cursillo weekend 18 years ago in November of 2001, I never imagined that I would be asked to be the Rector for a Cursillo Weekend. Yet there I was in July, at Saint Joseph's in Rosemount, as the Rector for Weekend 373. As you can expect, it was an amazing experience for me! I had a hard time keeping my emotions intact, and every night I prayed for the strength to keep my composure. It worked right up to my final talk on Sunday afternoon, but by that time, I was ready to let the Spirit (and tears) flow out of me! The weekend didn't come without challenges, as we were close to cancelling the Men's Weekend due to a lack of candidates. However, once again (as always) the Holy Spirit prevailed, and we had 6 wonderful Candidates attend the weekend. The age range of the 6 Candidates was from 24 to 73, proving that Cursillo is for the young and the old. This vast difference in age made for many humorous stories and anecdotes throughout the entire weekend.
I believe the success of the weekend is a direct result of the dedication and Christ like love of the entire Men's Team. The Rollo Team was full of "All-Stars", with most of them being prior Rectors. The Spiritual Directors were so down-to-earth with their talks and we all learned some great lessons, even though we have heard these talks many times before. The Kitchen and Palanca Teams had several members who had just lived the previous Cursillo Weekend in February. Throughout the weekend, thanks in part to the small number of Candidates, all of the Team Members and Candidates had a chance to really get to know each other both on a personal and Spiritual level. We all started out as strangers, but we definitely finished the weekend as true friends and Brothers in Christ. I will never forget this experience as the Rector for Weekend 373, as it gave me another 18-year tune-up for my Cursillo life.
Last year I was preparing to be the Rectora for weekend 370, and when it was cancelled, I acted like I accepted it gracefully, but I really didn't. I went through some of the stages of grief and then some other stages that I didn't even know where they came from. The only people I shared some of those feelings with were Tom, my husband, my groupies and my Moms-In-touch prayer partners. But some of the feelings I have never shared with anyone because they come from the evil one and I have to fight that battle daily, so I pray the St. Michael prayer to kick the demons to the curb. But the lessons I learned this year are lessons that I keep learning over and over again and hopefully this time they will stick. I have 3 points to make and they are:
God has a plan. Always. God has a plan!!
When I said yes to being the Rectora for weekend 370, I had people at the Clausura of Women's # 368 right away tell me that they were putting their app in to work the team. There are about 30 positions to fill, so I started calling Cursillistas to fill them. I just expected everyone to say yes, which didn't happen because of family issues or commitments already made before I called. Since many, many of us are grandparents now, they wanted to spend quality time with their grandkids during summer, myself included. Still I worked hard at filling the team and God provided. But I just said a key phrase, "I worked hard" not letting God do it. I relied on my own power, strength and will.
I am not in control. I never have been, & I never will be.
Every day I say the 3rd step prayer of AA as my Morning Offering. “God, I offer myself to you to build with me and to do with me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, so that I may better do your will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those that I would serve, of your power, your strength, and your way of life. May I do your will always. Amen."
So, if I said that every day, did I mean it? I thought I did. But the enemy is so subtle and he can rob us of our joy so easily if we let our guard down. And that is what happened. I thought I was in control of filling the Candidates apps too. I was trying to recruit sponsors and candidates my way, not God's way. I never asked him how to go about it. So, when the candidate numbers were too low to actually have the weekend, it was cancelled. It was in the following months of processing this turn of events, that I came to realize a very important lesson that God had been teaching me my whole life. Which brings me to my 3rd point:
It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me.
So finally accepting that truth and living it every day, giving up control, praying faithfully, listening and meaning the words I pray in my mind, in my heart and in my mouth, when Diane Repucci called and re-asked me to be the Rectora for weekend #374, I could ask God if He wanted me to do this and I felt his answer was Yes....
I am the type of person who has a disability of losing things, misplacing things, things happen to me repeatedly that don't usually happen to other people.
I don't know if Satan thinks I am an easy target and wants to thwart my Faith in God. I do not let him get away with it, and I fight with all I've got, and believe me when I tell you, we had a real battle on our hands for this Women's weekend. I shared some of the things that were happening, but the magnitude of all of it is overwhelming that it would take too much time to repeat it and I don't want to give the evil one any more of my time.
Good News! God was victorious and HE WON AGAIN. The weekend was totally awesome, the Rollo's were magnificent, and the New Cursillista's were really into learning all that God had prepared for them this weekend. So, I will say it again:
God has a plan - Always - God has a plan
Josie Olson and her husband, Bill Sr. were long time members of Cursillo. She helped start the Highland Park Ultreya many years ago, was a rectora, member of many teams and welcomed many Cursillistas to our community. The “theme song” for the weekend she coordinated was I Say Yes My Lord—which is how she lived her entire life. Her obituary says: Josie had a passion for Christ and was devoted to the Cursillo Ministry for many years. She led by example in her commitment to her marriage, raising seven children and always being there for whoever needed her. Her joy was infectious and she had a sharp sense of humor that always left you smiling. She was a gift to everyone around her.
Have you ever felt invisible? — Nope!
Have you ever made someone feel invisible? — No! of course not!
Summer is here! And with that comes the return of green grass, flowers, birds and our many homeless! The same corners are filled with those who seem to have nothing. I don’t know about you, but I pass the same corner to and from work, with the same homeless people working the same spot day after day. Once in a while I pull up and give, but more often, I tend to stay back a bit or fiddle with something in the car so I don’t have to lock eyes. Sometimes I pray the light stays green until I get through the intersection. Think about that! I intentionally ignore one of God’s very own!! So, the answer to question number two, for me, is yes. Not my finest moment.
We were blessed to be able to attend my nephew’s wedding in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado this past fall. The evening before the rehearsal dinner was warm. The streets were filled with locals, tourists, college students and quite a few homeless. The seven of us walked the cobblestone streets looking for a restaurant while trying to avoid the pockets of people asking for money. A particular women, clearly drunk, came toward us asking for money to buy cigarettes. My group continued on, giving her wide berth. I was in the back saying to myself, “just keep walking, just keep walking” much like Dori in Finding Nemo! I could smell the alcohol as she approached me. Suddenly I just stopped, looked at her and said I am sorry but I do not have any cash but, I can pray for you. She stopped wobbling, began to cry, and said “Thank You”. I said, “but I have no money!” She said Thank you for acknowledging me, for Seeing me! Most people walk by as if I am not here. I surprised myself at that point, and reached out to hug her. She cried harder. I asked her name, it was Shelly. I said, “I will pray for you.” (I meant I would add her to my list for bedtime prayers). But noooooooo! She took off her hat, made the sign of the cross, extended both her hands and waited for me to take them. She wanted me to pray with her right then and there in the middle of the streets of Fort Collins. I was speechless!! Right now, Right here? There were people every-where. My heart was racing! I looked up to God and heard him say, “Pull up your big girl pants. I’ve got you!” So, I took her hands and prayed, out loud! I really don’t even remember the prayer. I hugged her again and off she went. I don’t know if our encounter changed her life, but it sure made an impact on mine and the family members I was with.
All my family is Christian and the reactions were different! My parents hung back to ensure my safety, my brother’s first words were “check your pockets” and then it went on to people commenting that there were plenty of jobs and no sympathy for people that were homeless begging for food or money.
However, the next night after a bountiful, rehearsal dinner with lots of leftovers, another member of our group, from the night be-fore, suggested we go find Shelly and give her and anyone else a wonderful meal served by us!!
While they did not find Shelly, they did locate a Union Gospel Mission and gave them the, much appreciated, dinner.
Thank you, Shelly, for reminding us that we are all children of God and no one should be made to feel invisible!
In late January of this year, myself and Marilyn Neuville (another Cursillista), were part of a small delegation that traveled to Kerala, India with the Archdiocesan Center for Missions. We went to visit the Diocese of Vijayapuram in the city of Kottayam. Vijayapuram is one of four dioceses throughout the world that the Center for Missions helps support. Our purpose was not your typical mission trip of doing something, but one of immersion: to experience and encounter Catholic life there.
Before our trip we were given a journal filled with various scripture verses and quotes to ponder and reflect on. One quote in particular left an impression on all of us. It helped us to approach our trip with a sense of humbleness.
“Our task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy; else we may find ourselves treading on someone’s dreams. More serious still, we may forget that God was there before our arrival.” Max Warren
During our time in India we truly came to feel that we had come to a holy place. In India, Catholics make up less than 2% of the population, but in Kerala almost 20% percent of the population is Catholic. Of the three Catholic rites that are practiced there, the Vijayapuram Diocese is the smallest and poorest. The people are of the lower caste. They rarely can affect political and cultural life, they face discrimination, not so much in the form of violence, but more economic discrimination, as a result, they are very poor, but their faith we discovered is very rich.
One beautiful example of this rich Faith, that we were privileged to witness, happened at the St. Anthony Pilgrim Center. On the first Tuesday of every month they have a “Day of Prayer”. On this day, over 30,000 people come for healing prayer services, confessions, counseling, and Divine Mercy devotions, along with Mass celebrated every two hours from 8 am to 8 pm. The pilgrims come with a desire to experience God. Almost half of those who come are not Christian, but they see the Church as a place of comfort, and for the Church in Vijayapuram, it’s an opportunity to serve the people and be a witness for the power of Christ’s love and compassion. It was truly a beautiful encounter of the work of the Holy Spirit.
In 1990, the diocese established Basic Christian Communities (BCC’s) in all of their 84 parishes. This model is patterned after the early Church to promote community. The early Church lived out their faith as a minority and drew strength
from their small communities. Similarly, the people in the diocese of Vijayapurum also live out their faith as a minority, and they draw strength from within these small Christian communities. Families in a parish are divided up into groups for 15-25 families. These groups gather together regularly in the homes for fellowship, prayer, singing, study, discussion, works of charity and agapa (eating together). Through BCC life people get to know, love and care for one another. Through our visits to the BCC’s I couldn’t help but see the spirit of the Cursillo movement in these gatherings. They were truly inspiring.
At each BCC meeting they take attendance. If someone is not there they ask, “Has someone seen them lately?” If not, they ask, “Who will go and check on them?” Isn’t that a beautiful witness of Christian love and concern?! Wouldn’t we all want someone to check on us, but we also need to be the ones to check on others.
At our first BCC gathering the sense of God’s Presence could be felt in the room. Peace and joy radiated on the faces of the people as they welcomed us with great hospitality and love. We had a beautiful time of sharing from the heart, as though we had known them for a long time. Then they prayed over us. It was our first encounter of the Charismatic Church of India! We were asked to share with them a song. We chose “Holy Ground” and from that moment on, that song best expressed what our hearts were beginning to experience and would continue to experience throughout our time there - that God was present and where He is, is Holy.
We had so many amazing experiences that I’d need a lot more space to share them all! If they send another delegation to India my hope is that through reading this reflection many of you would consider going. You will love it!
This morning I received a phone call from a friend. She was in distress over her elderly father. He had fallen, and was taken to the emergency room. There, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, diverticulitis, heart trouble and they hadn’t even addressed the fall.
“I will be with him until he is settled, say a prayer.” ~ I prayed.
Shortly thereafter I received a text message from a friend. “Birth day is today! Spending the day at the hospital waiting on the baby!” I prayed.
A beautiful reminder that we are not alone. Jesus waits with us in good times and in bad, steadfast and loving He is with us.
The Taize song came to my heart,
Wait for the Lord, his day is near.
Wait for the Lord, be strong take heart
Prepare the way for the Lord
Make a straight path for Him
Rejoice in the Lord always
He is at Hand
Joy and gladness for all who seek the Lord
The Glory of the Lord shall be revealed
All the Earth will see the Lord.
Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious.
And because I love you. Isaiah 43:4
The women’s weekend 372 was a witness to the power of Christian friendship and love. We were all called to be on this weekend at that particular time and place. Whether candidate, sponsor or team member, each had a part to play in God’s plan to grow in faith by our witness to each other on Weekend 372. It was beautiful to watch the quietness and anticipation of Thursday turn quickly to a joyful noise in the coming days. We were women growing in love with Christ, for each other and ourselves.
The women’s weekend began with a feeling of anticipation and maybe some worries of what we left behind at home, or at work, and thoughts of what really was to come of the weekend. The days evolved with many talks, prayer, conversation, food, tears and laughter. The Prayer team and those who prayed and sacrificed, transformed us, in doing so. The Rollo team added to our shared learning of our faith and the ability to see God’s plan and how it manifests differently in each of us depending on where we are planted, where we live out God’s mission. Our time in the Rollo room provided great discussion allowing a shared and maybe renewed or enlightened, understanding of our Catholic faith. Our discussions and posters allowed each of us to remember and realize the many ways Christ works in our lives. Many were touched by spontaneous prayer for those in difficult situations and by our shared time of prayer during our reconciliation.
The Chaska GA prayer shawl ministry surprised us with a prayer shawl for each candidate and they were literally wrapped in love and prayer. Our kitchen team and the facility liaisons made the weekend extra special by serving wonderful meals and providing a place to pray, discuss, discern, eat, sleep, laugh and cry. We were served by all with great love. All of this together brought deeper meaning to “De Colores,” as the many colors of
our spirit filled community came together for Weekend 372. One important message that resonated throughout our time together was “We are God’s beloved daughters.” We are all wonderfully chosen, different and precious to God. We each have a unique mission and a unique story. Sometimes our story is not an easy one or a happy one. We make mistakes, and others may make choices or decisions that impact us. But… we can all find joy in being chosen by God to live with Him and for Him, no matter our circumstances, or our particular life story. We all have God’s grace to strengthen us. We all have the gift of God’s mercy to renew us. We all have God’s love to comfort us when others may not. And we all have new sisters and brothers in Christ to lean on for prayer and support.
We have hope.
We are God’s beloved.
Since 2003 I have had the privilege of using public transportation, using a combination of buses, the Northstar and the Lightrail to get to and from work (which is currently the VA Medical Center).
Being a part of this 'public transportation community' is a wonderful way to step out of my sheltered neighborhood into the heartbeat of the city. I have had several powerful experiences/lessons over the years, of which one follows.
The doors opened at the US Bank Stadium and a young man got on with a handful of 8 1/2 x 11" flyers. He began soliciting for money, and signatures, to allow for skate boarding expeditions to take place on the stadium mall. I was having a difficult time understanding him due to the speed he was talking and the Chicago dialect.
I heard a woman's voice from across the aisle say, "I barely have enough money to buy food but I think I have a quarter." I turned and watched this 'living on the street toughened face' woman as she rifled through her wallet. She pulled out two quarters and gave them to the young man saying "good luck with what you're trying to do." I was dumb founded and recalled the story from Mark about the 'widow's mite.'
I couldn't keep silent because my heart was bursting with excitement of what I was seeing so I slid across the aisle and looked into her eyes saying, "that is one of the most beautiful things I have seen" and began to tell her the story from the Bible when a poor woman gave two small coins to the temple treasury and how Jesus said that she gave more than the large amount that many rich people were giving. I told her that I witnessed that story in real life through what she just did. The woman paused and then became animated while explaining that she had not heard a story from the Bible in a long time and how good it felt.
I looked around me and there were several other people observing the conversation. I'm telling you, I was standing on holy ground, and it was in a train. Truly God was present.
Welcome 4th Day!