Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Children's Rosary

" Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual desertification. [We see every day around us], what a life or a world without God looks like." -- Pope Benedict XVI, October 11, 2012, about the "New Evangelization".

"Amidst this religious desert which Pope Benedict describes, our children stand in the middle, surrounded by secularism and consumerism, drowning in a Godless culture." -- Most Reverend Henry J. Mansell, Archbishop.

Summer is upon us. Our children will be getting out of school. And what will your home life look like this summer? Perhaps you will send your children away to camp, telling yourself that your children will be busy and happy. After all, camp is a wonderful experience.

But, what are your children like when they are not in camp? Are they begging for more toys than they need? Are they trying to sneak in as much TV and computer time as they can get away with?

What is "wrong" with our kids today? Why do they have so much, and yet whine for more? Their dissatisfaction seems bottomless.

I would say to you that there is a spiritual hole in our childrens' hearts. Our children need less "stuff" and more family relationships.

In the end, I would say to you that they need more God in their lives.

When I was growing up, my parents never taught me to pray. No one ever prayed for me. I ultimately had to confront this spiritual desert of mine, when I was called to finally choose a church and convert to some form of religion. At that point, I was already a wife and a mother, and I had struggled without prayer my whole life.

When I chose to convert to Catholicism, it was an overwhelmingly profound moment when a member of the Conversion team told me that he would pray for me!

Prayer has an unlimited power, as infinite as God Himself. Prayer has literally saved my life! [ Related blog post, "Prayer For Wisdom", July 23, 2011].

How vital it is to teach our children to pray! Without prayer, without belief in the ability to ask for intercession by Divine power, we are left to believe that we will succeed or fail only by our own human abilities. No wonder our children are anxious and depressed.

Recently, I stumbled upon an amazing children's ministry that teaches children to pray the Rosary.

Now-- maybe non-Catholic Christians are skeptical about praying to anyone other than God?
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort said, " We never give more honor to Jesus, than when we honor His Mother."  Saint Maximillian Kolbe said, " Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."

I urge you to teach your children to pray! Children are even closer to Jesus than we adults are:  Jesus said, " I give praise to You, Father . . . for although you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, You have revealed them to the childlike." [ Matthew 11: 25].

Please visit the website for Children's Rosary at, for information on how to teach children to pray the Rosary, on how to start a children's Rosary ministry at your church, and to order instruction booklets.

If we teach our children how to pray, we will be able to say to them: "Before, by yourself, you couldn't. Now, you've turned to Our Lady, and with her, how easy!" -- St. Josemaria Escriva.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Celebrating the Trinity

" Jesus said to His disciples: ' Now I am going to Him who sent me, yet none of you asks, 'Where are You going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I will tell you the Truth: It is for your own good that I am going away. Unless I go away, The Counselor will not come to you; but, if I go, I will send Him to you. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all Truth, He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.' " [John 16: 12-15].

As Catholics and Christians, every Sunday in Mass, we pray the Apostle's Creed: " I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . ."

This Creed declares the simple basics of our Christian belief in a God who is found simultaneously, in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In this Scripture, we see that the Trinity was no accident. It was God's plan to send His only Son to earth so that we could see and understand God, but in human form.

It was also God's plan to send the Spirit of Truth, after Jesus' death and Resurrection.

It is very hard for our human minds to remember the words of a wise loved one, who has passed on. We try to hold their image in our minds, to remember the texture of their hair, the twinkle in their eyes, their height, their build, even their scent.

Many memories of Jesus and his stories are written down in Scripture. We also remember Him and praise our God and His Son-- in the Mass, and with the Sacraments, in liturgy and in prayer.

But real time memories fade and lost loved ones' influence seems to fade with time. How do we keep the memories part of our everyday life?

It is the Holy Spirit who is our constant, daily Companion and Counselor. The Holy Spirit is not a thing or an image, or a concept.

The Holy Spirit is an "alter-ego", if you will, of God and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is a Person.

The Holy Spirit is capable of whispering the Truth in our ear. "He will guide you to all Truth. He will declare to you the things that are coming."

I have lived by the Counsel of the Holy Spirit my whole life. But I never appreciated Him or even knew Him, until one day, I thought that He was gone.

My life had turned upside down after my father died abruptly and without warning, one spring morning. One minute, he was here on earth. The next minute, he died, and my life erupted into chaos.

At the same time, my best friend was dying, only I did not want to admit it at the time. The pain was so very intense.

I ran to my pastor and told him, in a panic, "God is gone! He was always at my side, but now there is only utter silence and total chaos; because suddenly I am alone and I don't know what to do anymore!"

I was instructed to spend time each day in meditation and prayer.

The person I was missing was not my earthly father. It was God, who had been appearing to me in the form of the Holy Spirit for as long as I could remember.

As I began to meditate and pray, my whole life spun out before my eyes:

Suddenly, I understood that when I had nearly drowned at about age 3 or 4, it was my mother's arms that had saved me. But my near drowning was never discussed in the family. When I returned to swimming lessons that next week, I resisted learning more strokes. It was the Counselor who was whispering the Truth, that it was wise for me to stick with simpler strokes until I could feel brave again in the water.. . because no human gave me this advice.

When I was six, I came home from school, and my mother had abruptly given the family dog away. I did not cry, this did not seem "allowed." But as I walked to school that day, I asked myself, "What kind of mother did I get?" I was learning the hard Truth about human love.

By about age 8, in my cruel, harsh life with this family, I had begun to mask my emotions and go off alone and speak less and less, and prepare to make my escape to a wider world. I was living the advice of Jesus that, " "Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet [and leave their town], as a testimony against them." [John 9: 4-6]. Only I did not know this passage at the time. But the Spirit was calling to me, not to hate those who abused me, but instead, simply to leave them.

When I was in graduate school, many years later, I was the victim of a violent crime, during which I came close to dying. My family forbade me to come home to heal. I found myself praying, not for healing, but for Wisdom; because I did not understand how a family could abandon their daughter at such a time of crisis. This was the Prayer of Solomon!  Yet, at the time I had no idea who Solomon was!

And after I finished graduate school, I met the man who would be my husband. From our first meeting, I felt as if I had both "just met him", yet "known him all my life." My family was dead set against this man. How could I defy them? And yet, somehow I "knew" the Truth, that this man who embodied so much love, integrity, patience, and faith, was meant to be my partner in life. I chose the Truth, and yes, I married him.

I really do not believe that, as a mere child growing up, I was THAT smart to figure all this out by myself. By the time I was 14, my parents were refusing to take me to church. I was not receiving Communion, I was not praying, no one was praying for ME. I did not own a Bible. I knew no one who had faith or would teach me anything about Scripture or Jesus.

I simply "knew" the Truth. This Truth called to me and appealed to me in my heart, because the Truth was always leading me to Peace, to Love, to Self-Protection, to Patience, to Gentleness, to Joy, to Strength.

I never realized what this Voice of Truth was. It was just there, guiding me, encouraging me. All I knew was that, I really, really wanted the fruits that this Truth promised.

It turns out. . . all that I wanted -- was God!  And I was oh, so right to follow Him!

[Related postings, "Prayer For Wisdom", July 23, 2011; " Holy Trinity", June 19, 2011; " Most Holy Trinity", June 4, 2012; "I Live by the Spirit", May 19, 2013.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Evil Seed

" This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and will not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the Truth comes into the Light."
[John 3:19-21].

Evil is the opposite of Love and Light.

The consequences of evil, tragically, ripple downward through the generations. The consequences of evil ripple outward to all who are the victims of evil, as well as to the victims' loved ones.

Evil can even haunt a community [ Governor Dannel Malloy after the mass shooting at a Newtown, CT elementary school said, "Evil has visited this community today."]

I have had evil committed against me as far back as I can remember.

After my father died abruptly, and I took my mother back to care for her, the memories of my past began to surface.

As I began to fully realize what my childhood had truly been, I wanted to : change my name; leave the country; isolate myself from people so as not to burden anyone with this pain . . . . All of the above.

I hated the well-meaning offerings of condolescences at the loss of my father, because they seemed as so many lies. As I cleared out my parents' house, I detested the sight of any belongings of theirs in my home. I wanted to give it all away or throw it all away.

I have suffered crushing guilt over the evil in my family. For a time, I kept going to Reconciliation, confessing all my family's sins against me, vainly trying to gain some absolution on their behalf. Sadly, the pastor told me, This can never work.

I hate it when anyone tells me that I look like my father. Or my mother, for that matter. I am afraid that this means I will be like them.

People say to me, "Why do you 'dwell' on these things? I do want to bury all of these horrible images I am getting from my childhood, bury them deep down in the ground, with my father.

Recently, there was an article in The Daily Beast, reprinted from Newsweek, entitled "The Children of Killers", (Eliza Shapiro). The article talks about Travis Vining, son of serial killer John Vining. Travis says, " We are not capable of burying these things."

True. He tried this. So did I. But buried memories of evil come back as serious, chronic illness; as nightmares; as flashbacks, as sleeplessness; as panic attacks; as mysterious physical pains; as irrational rage. The memories arise unbidden, day and night, unwanted, horrifying ghosts from my traumatic past.

The Newsweek article confronts about the real issue here, which is, 'Is there such a thing as an Evil Seed?'

You see, I have had so many times that I bog down on the question of whether evil is a choice? Can I choose Good? Or, I wonder, Do I have the innate capacity for such overarching evil myself, given the human beings from whom I descend ?

This is not a rhetorical question. If evil is something that is genetic and perhaps a function of mental illness, then forgiveness becomes a much easier path. Even society's approach to criminal justice might change drastically if an evildoer literally cannot help himself. Perhaps the criminal might receive both incarceration and medical treatment?

The question of evil goes back centuries, all the way back to Genesis, when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the Tree of Life, thereby unleashing the great battle of good vs. evil.

St. Augustine believed that there is capacity for both good and evil in every one of us.

Recent history from the World War II era shows that ordinary citizens, not hardened Nazis, carried out the worst of the genocide; even though their SS commanders gave them the choice, each day, to absent themselves, if they felt they could not participate. ["The Replication of Evil", Nov. 8, 2012]. Professor Avinoam Patt, PhD., states that, "Evil is a behavior of choice."

According to a Wall Street Journal article of April 27, 2013, " The Criminal Mind", (Adrian Raine), scientists in the new field of neurocriminology are using "brain imaging techniques that [identify] physical deformations and functional abnormalities that predispose some individuals to violence."

I have meditated for such a long time about the question of evil. I have wracked my brain trying to figure out whether my family was evil or mentally ill ?

In the end, I like what Martin Luther King, said about evil: "We may debate the origin of evil, but only a victim of superficial optimism would debate its reality. Evil is stark, grim, and colossally real."
[Strength to Love, 1963.]

King goes on to say: "Although Jesus never offered a theological explanation of evil, he never attempted to explain it away."

Finally, King says: "Above all, we must be reminded anew that God is at work in His universe. As we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, the God of the universe struggles with us. We must also remember that God does not forget His children, who are the victims of evil forces. He gives us the interior forces to bear the burdens and the tribulations of life."

I have spent so much energy (that I do not have), trying to explain to myself how my family could have been so cruel? I am finally beginning to realize that, it does not really matter if their evil was a choice or a matter of mental illness. The result for me is the same: I must heal.

And for that, I need God. This is too big of a job for me to figure out. It is a job for God. All I know is that, I will destroy myself in the process if I hate them back, or if I refuse to forgive.

The fact that God never forgets His children who are victims of evil forces?-- I will take that sacred balm of comfort in a second! May God always hold His children in the palm of His hand.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Live By The Spirit

" On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you! After this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Jesus said, ' As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And He breathed on them and said, ' Receive the Holy Spirit.' [John 20: 19- 22].

Pentecost means, "fiftieth day". Pentecost is a Christian feast that is celebrated fifty days after Easter.

Pentecost was the day when Jesus gave the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is really the birthday of the Christian church, because God existed before Genesis; and Jesus, His Son came thereafter; and Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto the disciples on the fiftieth day after Easter. And so, at Pentecost, the Holy Trinity came to completion and the Christian Trinity was born.

The Holy Spirit is mystical, ethereal; everywhere and nowhere; inside us and inside others. The Holy Spirit is not the Christ, but comes from the Christ. The Holy Spirit bestows upon us the Gifts that enable us to know Jesus more fully. From these Gifts come the fruits of the Spirit.

We live in a world that worships, not God and the Holy Spirit, but technology and science. In this modern world, we have become so devoted to hard cold facts, that we have lost sight of mystery, incipient creative forces, mysticism and awe.

We believe that because we cannot prove that the Holy Spirit exists, then the Holy Spirit cannot, therefore, be real. Have we lost all wisdom; all hope; all love; all intuition?  No wonder modern humankind suffers from anxiety and depression. . . .

I will tell you, then, my story. And I will say that, even without knowing as a child, who the Holy Spirit was, I have lived my entire life by the Spirit.

When I was a little girl, I sat in the pew at church and struggled mightily to understand words such as "Redemption", and " Salvation". I wondered what Heaven could possibly look like, and where, exactly it was. I had the Gift of Wisdom: that is, the desire to know Christian belief.

My parents tried to force upon me their own idea of what I would be when I grew up. But I had the Gift of Knowledge-- a knowing, deep inside me, that it was God who had a plan for me.

When my parents stopped taking me to church, I continued to ask them to take me to Sunday services. I had the Gift of Piety: I was willing to worship God and to serve Him, even if my family refused.

When my mother would declare that we "worship the Almighty Dollar", I would silently correct her by whispering to myself, "You mean, Almighty God." I had the Gift of Awe for the Lord.

Gradually, I came to utilize the Gifts of Counsel; that is, I developed an intuition regarding how to act, even if this was not what I was being taught at home. And I came to exercise the Gift of Fortitude, that is, I acquired the strength to pursue my convictions.

From these basic Gifts, I began to reap the Gifts of the Spirit.

I made Peace in the home, offering to perform the family chores that were otherwise the subject of argument.

I was able to cultivate Joy, even in the cruel, loveless home in which I lived. I sang songs and brought flowers in from the garden.

Even though no one ever hugged me or told me that they loved me, I lived my own life of Love, by being Gentle and Patient, Modest and Good.

I learned to take the long view, and to stay out of the way as necessary. When I was hit, I left the house. When not fed, I found food elsewhere. I started saving for my independence at age 13, saving up every dollar that I could from my babysitting business. I was learning Patience and Forbearance.

My father had an ugly name for every ethnic group. He was so angry at the world. But I sought Self-Control. I decided not to hate back.

No, I cannot systematically prove the existence of the Holy Spirit. But since I grew up in a home of hate, violence, every kind of abuse, a home where nothing was sacred, where wealth was worshipped, and where Faith was mocked; a home where it was believed that your gifts come from your parents; a home of no Joy and no Love; then how could I possibly have known how to pursue the Gifts and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit--- unless the Holy Spirit exists and lives inside of me?

You want Science? I will give you Science:

Science says that I should be dead by now, from suicide, from alcoholism or drug overdose. But no, I found the Fruit of Joy, not the curse of despair.

Science says that I should never have been able to get married. But no, I found the Fruit of Love. I am not alone! I have a wonderful husband, and I am a devoted and loving mother.

Science says that I should be in jail now, after a young life lived with violence and hate. But no, I long for Peace and I work everyday to make my family, my neighborhood, my world, a place of Peace.

Science says that ethnic hatred is taught. Given that theory, I should be bitter and angry and hateful towards everyone. But no, I have received the Fruits of Gentleness and Kindness and I bestow them upon all.

Science says that I should have been so damaged that I would never have been able to discover my abilities or utilize them in a profession. But no, the Gift of knowing that God had a plan for me has enabled me to love and to serve Him with my talents.

I have lived by the Holy Spirit, by His Counsel, His Wisdom, His Knowledge, His Understanding, His Faith and His Strength.

I am still here, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has taught me all the things that my human family did not. Everything I have, that is Good and Gentle and Patient and Loving and Kind and Wise and Joyful and Forbearing and Strong, I owe to the Holy Spirit within me.

In fact, I owe my very life to the Holy Spirit. And I thank God every day that I had the Wisdom to recognize God's voice, and the Strength to follow Him!

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This Girl is Rising

" Those who have done good, will rise to live." [John 5: 28].

I recently went to see a new documentary film, Girl Rising, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins.

This film tells the stories of nine girls, in nine different countries, who beat incredible odds, in order to not only survive, but to thrive.

The girls' voices are narrated by actresses such as Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

A young girl, Wadley, from Haiti, sees her life change dramatically after the earthquake of 2010.  Her family can no longer afford to pay for school. But she insists on returning to class. She tells the teacher, "I will come back to school every day, until you let me stay."

Suma lives in Nepal. She is sold as a girl, by her family, into Kamlari, a bonded servitude. Every day, a group of young women come to her master's house to argue with the master, "Set. her. free!"

Yasmin lives in Cairo, Egypt. When she is about six, she goes off to market with a friend. A man  takes her to a dark place and assaults her. Yasmin tells the police, "I fought him. I am a superhero."

Azmera is a girl who lives in Ethiopia. When a young man, much older than she, tells her family that he wants to marry her, she says, No! She says, "What if a girl's life could be more?"

Amina is a girl from Afghanistan. When she was barely a teen, she was forced to begin wearing a birka that covers her from head to toe. She was given in marriage to a man she did not know. The dowry money given to her family was used to buy her brother a car. Amina says, " I WILL speak."

Sokha is a young girl from Cambodia. Her job is to pick through the garbage in a dump, to find metal cans or anything of value. She says, " But I will not be thrown away."

Senna is a girl from a mountainous mining town in Peru. Her father named her after Xena the Warrior Princess. Senna says, "I am strong." Senna won a poetry prize. She says, " Poetry is how I turn ugliness into art."

Mariama is a teen from Sierra Leone, with her own radio show. She says, "If you try to stop me, I will only try harder. There is nothing to stop me."

I am a girl rising, myself. Only, I grew up in America. I was not from a poor family.

I was hit, I was not fed, I was called ugly every day, I was called a failure. I was abandoned because I was the victim of a crime. I was not allowed to go to church. I was told what color to wear and how to wear my hair.

I stopped feeling any emotions, I stopped eating from my family's hand, I stopped sleeping, I stopped speaking, I stopped having any opinions. In the narrative in Girl Rising, it is said that from these harsh experiences, it is as if these girls are split and torn into two, and become ghosts. I became a ghost, floating around quietly, not speaking, gradually turning into a silent wisp-- thin, invisible, irrelevant.

But, my family made a few "mistakes" along the way with me, at least from their perspective. First, they educated me. And so, I quickly figured out that how they were treating me was wrong. And I was thereby made smart enough to take care of myself. 

My family's other mistake was that they took me to church as a tiny child. By the time they refused to keep taking me to church, I already believed in God. After awhile, I started to think, 'God cannot hate me as much as my family seems to. He does not make junk.'

I said to myself, "You may not feed me, but I refuse to starve."

I said to myself, " You can take away church, but I still have my Faith deep inside me."

I said to myself, "You can hit me, but I will leave the house and go by myself to sit under the sweet pine trees."

I said to myself, "You may forbid me to have my own opinions, but I will read the dictionary after school and memorize all sorts of learned words. I wilol make myself smarter than anyone."

I stopped speaking for several years. But I WILL speak. Now I am speaking to the World!

I will not be beaten down by physical abuse, starvation, denigration, verbal abuse, rejection or neglect.


 In America, husbands physically hurting wives is not all that uncommon. There is a practice in some cases of husbands and boyfriends branding their women with tattoos, as if women can be owned. Women who are educated are sometimes labeled "man haters", or worse.

And so, I ask the World, How are you treating your wives, your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your nieces, your aunts, your grandmothers, your godmothers?

God is in all of us. If this is how we treat the women in our World, then this is how we are treating God!

"Girl Rising" will be aired on CNN, on June 16, 2013, worldwide! Check local listings in your area. Or go to, for more information.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A World of One

" Lifting His eyes up to Heaven, Jesus prayed, saying, 'Holy Father, I pray not only for them [the disciples], but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in me and I am in You; that they may also be in us, that the world may believe that You sent me. . . . . Father, they are Your gift to me. I wish that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my Glory. Righteous Father, the world does not know You, but I know You, and they know that You sent me. I made known to them Your name and I will make it known, that the love, with which You loved me, may be in them and I in them." [John 17: 20-26]

This Scripture is one of the last prayers that we hear of, before Jesus is crucified and dies on the cross.

This is a poignant prayer. Unbelievably, Jesus prays for His disciples, and for all those who WILL believe in Him through the disciples' Word. That is, Jesus prays for US!

Even more unbelievably, Jesus calls His disciples, God's gift to Him! By extension, this means that we, as Christians, many generations removed, are His disciples, and are also God's gift!

I grew up in a home without Love. And yet, I have great Love for others. I once asked my pastor: 'It is said that you cannot love, unless someone has loved you first. So, how is there is so much Love in my heart, despite my heartless family ?" He told me, " Your Love comes from God!"

Understanding this so clearly now has changed my life. For, even if no one else on the planet loves me, I have the precious Love of God and Jesus in my heart. And this is a Love that no one can take away.

And the corollary of that is, this Love, with which God loved His Son, is in me! I have often feared that I will somehow "run out of Love." And now I know the Truth, that the Love inside me is as infinite as God Himself!

I look back on my life and I see that I have been able to love completely and unconditionally, even though I did not know where this Love came from. Somehow, I realized that this infinite Love inside me was be used, not wasted :

When I was in graduate school, a man broke into my apartment. He held a large knife in his hand, and he assaulted me. He tried to kill me when I fought back. I briefly snatched the knife out of his hand, but I did not have the heart to use it against him. He left me, battered and bloody. I had to call 9-11. Before the police even arrived, I had forgiven this assailant. I did not know at the time, why I forgave him. I just did. Now I know why. This assailant also had God's Love inside him. I could not hurt him back. No matter what he had done to me, we were brother and sister in Christ.

My parents left me in that far-away city to fend for myself. I was told to stay in school and earn top grades. As if nothing had even happened to me. At first, I could barely roll over in bed. It was difficult to make meals. I was afraid for the first few weeks to even leave my apartment. But I never hated my parents. I just prayed for Wisdom.

Yet, after my father died many years later, I took my mother back in an instant. I told myself, 'After all, this is my mother. I cannot abandon her, the way she did me.' Now I realize that I was responding this way, because I was honoring that God was also in my mother; and no matter what she had done to me, if I abandoned her, I would have been abandoning God.

This precept of faith-- that God's Love is inside all of us-- is sometimes hard to take. In Matthew 25: 42, Jesus explains: " For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger [alone in a far city], and you did not invite me in; I needed clothes and you did not clothe me. I was sick and you did not care for me. Whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do, unto me".

My parents did all those things to ME, their only daughter. This means that, in reality, they were also doing these things to Jesus Himself! How painful this is!

But if I abandon or hurt them back, or commit these egregious acts against others, I am only doing these things TO Jesus!

I have been criticized for behaving this way. People have said that maybe I was a fool. Or blind. Or pathological.

What I say to you is that, everyone in this whole entire world is a child of God. We all have a piece of Jesus and God in our hearts. We are one World. How does that make you respond when you hear of an abused child; a greatly impoverished country; an elderly person who is alone and ill? If you reject, abuse or abandon these, you are killing the Jesus in your own soul.

Have you ever heard of "Kid President"? He says, "Hey, we are all on the same team!"

Criticize me all you will, call me names. But, I pray that God will one day be saying to me, "Well done, my good and faithful daughter! Come and share your master's happiness!" [John 25: 21].

[Related postings: "We Are One", May 27, 2012; " Prayer For Wisdom", July 23, 2011. ]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Warning Signs of Abuse

" The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness, like those long dead. Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You." [ Psalm 143].

As if the cases of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart are not enough. .. now comes the news of three young women kidnapped and held captive in Cleveland, Ohio for ten years. The kidnapper was a neighbor everyone recognized and knew.

My heart sings that these women were finally found, alive. They have been freed from that dark place.

But my heart sinks to see yet another case of such criminal behavior, hiding "in plain sight".

This is not my normal, personally reflective posting. I am simply going to list below the warning signs of abuse.

We all need to be aware of these warning signs. It does not matter whether you live in America or elsewhere -- abuse is abuse is abuse. It is the same everywhere in the world.

From "Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect: The Signs and Symptoms",

"The first step in helping abused and neglected children is learning to recognize the signs. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination."


The child:

**Shows sudden changes in behavior.
** Has not received proper help for physical or medical problems.
** Has learning problems.
** Is always watchful, as if preparing for something bad to happen. [ I still need to keep my back to the wall and see all exits and entrances.]
** Lacks adult supervision. [I almost drowned in a neighbor's pool].
** Is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn. [ I stopped speaking when I was ten. Teachers noticed.]
** Does not want to go home. [I argued forcefully to go to school even when I was very sick. I told my mother I was "not sick."]


The child:

**Has unexplained injuries [I had several black eyes at a very young age].
**Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home. [I was almost hospitalized from extreme stress after my father tried to bring me home alone, without my mother. Also, I used to cry when my husband-to-be dropped me off after a date. I did not want to enter the house.]
**Shrinks when approached by adults. [I rarely smiled and could not look an adult in the eye.]

**Reports injury by a parent or adult caregiver.


The child:

**Is frequently absent from school.
**Begs or steals food or money. [I was painfully thin and starving. I ate dinner about every other day and rarely ate breakfast. I ate ravenously at neighbor's homes].
**Lacks needed medical care. [ My chronic lung disease was not treated once I reached 14.]
**Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
** Lacks sufficient clothing for weather. [ I walked to and from school in rain, snow, freezing rain etc. Neighbors gave me rides.]
**Abuses alcohol or drugs.
** States that there is no one at home to provide care. [I told my mother-in-law- to- be that I "had no mother and father."]


The child:

** Has difficulty walking or sitting.
** Suddenly refuses to change for gym.
** Reports nightmares or sleep disturbances. [I had nightmares and was sleep-walking. OR, I slept all day out of avoidance].
** Experiences a sudden change in appetite. [I barely ate at home and claimed I was not hungry].
** Demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or behavior. Often demonstrated in drawings or at play.
**Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease or infection under age 14. [I had mysterious infections under the age of ten.]
** Runs away. [I kept an escape kit at a girlfriend's house].
** Reports sexual abuse.

The parent is secretive and controlling and extremely private. [I was allowed to wear only certain colors. The blinds and doors in my childhood home were always closed, even on hot days.]


The child:

** Shows extremes in behavior, such as extreme passivity or aggression. [I displayed no emotions, neither joy or anger, by age eight.]
** Is either inappropriately adult or infantile. [I taught myself to give up diapers, I put myself down for naps, etc.]
** Is delayed in physical or emotional development.
** Has attempted suicide.
** Reports a lack of attachment to the parent. [ I told my kindergarten teacher I did NOT need my mother.]

The parent constantly belittles, blames or berates the child. [ I was called ugly every day; and when I needed help, I was called a failure.]"

I would add to this any self- destructive behavior on the part of the child: self cutting, cutting off all her hair, consuming glue or hand sanitizer, rubbing her skin raw.

The abused child "in plain sight"--- that was me . . . . . Please do not let this happen to any other children!

If you suspect something, contact the police, the child's school or a state agency or social worker. These authorities are all required to report and investigate.

You may not be sure what you are seeing is really abuse. But if you report what you see, you may save a child's life!

[Related Postings: " The Culture of Abuse", April  10, 2013; "Rescuing The Invisible Child", April 18, 2013; " STOP! Abuse", April 14, 2011; "And the Angels Wept", June 26, 2012.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit

" He who was seated on the throne said, ' I am making everything new.' Then, He said, ' Write this down, for these Words are trustworthy and true. It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.' One of the seven angels carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God. It shone with the Glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. The city wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, was as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. . . . jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there." [ Revelation 21: 5-25].

These stunning Words are a description of what Eternity will be like when God brings about a New City and a new order.

I once commented to my pastor that waiting for Eternity to come was a very long time to wait, indeed, before experiencing Perfection.  Our world is so very violent, so greedy, so polluted by our own hands, so vicious and ugly.

My pastor reassured me that we can love each other in so many heartfelt ways, and work towards creating a little heaven right here on earth, right now.

But, I thought to myself, I am only human. How can I possibly withstand such a cruel world all my life, all by my own frail defenses?

In this week's Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a Final Declaration, before His Crucifixion. He tells them, " I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever-- the Spirit of Truth. I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you! Before long, the World will not see me any more, but you will see me. On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me and I am in you. The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of everything I have said to you."   [John: 14: 16-26].

I used to believe as a child that my Faith was to be found only in church-- as if one's Faith is as evanescent as a butterfly or a puff of dandelion seed. I was afraid that if I was not physically around the church, that my Faith would go Pfft! and disappear.

I used to believe that God was somewhere "out there", certainly past my own physical being, maybe even up in outer space.. I never even knew what the Holy Spirit was, until something like 2008. The Holy Spirit was something that only Catholics talked about. And I never knew that the Holy Spirit was not a "something", but a Someone.

I used to wonder how I could possibly find God? Or follow Jesus-- since everyone knows that He died over 2000 years ago ?

I used to wonder, if my parents told me nothing but lies, then where would I find the Truth?

Recently, I sat down and practiced some meditation. I breathed deeply and slowly; and I tried to set my busy, conscious mind aside for awhile. I set about imagining my perfect place.

What arose next was nothing less than stunning.

I was imagining that I was on vacation again at the lake, at the place where we used to go when I was a child. I was on the flat roof of our vacation rental. I used to sneak up there as a girl, to get away from the world for awhile. Once again, I imagined that I could feel the warm sunshine on my back. I could see the glistening lake, past the metal railings. I could smell the sweet pines, and hear the rustling breeze.

As I breathed deeply, I was suddenly totally surrounded by a glimmering, pulsing Presence, filled with light and energy and soul.  A great, shimmering, silvery space rose up around me. The silvery light reflected brilliantly through a million prisms. The space around me shone and glowed. This place was not about light, it WAS light. It was not a new space, but a place that was eternal and timeless. The Presence was peaceful, strong, awe-inspiring. I was humbled and blinded and amazed. But I was not afraid at all.

Truly, I did not want to come out of this meditation. I did not want to come back from this place. I wanted to stay there Forever.

I had not yet read this week's Reading from Revelation. But when I read those words at Mass this week, I said to myself, "I was there!" The description of the "brilliance", the surfaces "clear as crystal", the roads as "transparent glass", the light so bright that there was "no need for the sun or the moon", the notion that there will never, ever be any night there-- all were exactly as I had experienced in my meditation.

My Wise Advisor had given me the guidance for this meditation. I spoke to her afterwards. I was in awe. I could not adequately-- in ordinary human language -- explain where I had been. I simply told her, "You gave me God!"

Several years ago, I had been lamenting to my son that sometimes I did not know "where God was?" He has been attending religious instruction weekly for a few years already. He actually giggled at me when I said this, because this notion that a grown-up knows less about God than a child does, was hilarious. He told me gently, "Silly Mommy! THAT is where He is!"--- pointing to my heart.

I understood at the time the intellectual meaning of his words. But fundamentally, I had no idea what he was talking about. How could God and Jesus be inside ME? And where in the world were they? How could they even "fit" inside me?

Now, I know, from a place deep inside me, that God really is not "out there".  He really IS in me.

Growing up, my family was not loving  or truthful or faith-filled. I used to feel so desperately alone. Now I know that I was never lost or alone at all! I was truly filled with the Holy Spirit, all along.

And, I have this amazing sense of peace because -- if I can access this Holy Spirit inside me once, I can do it again. So can YOU!

All that I need to do is say, "Come, Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is there for me, whenever I need or want that peaceful strength, that surpasses all understanding.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.