Luke 21: 12-19

The Gospel reading for daily Mass on Wednesday, November 25:

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”   Luke 21:12-19

When I was growing up–no, even when I was grown–even as recently as a decade ago, I never thought the words of this Gospel reading would pertain to me.  They were for another time, another place, for other peoples long ago.  But now I know that these warnings will come to be, and in fact, are here already for the Christians in the Middle East.  I have read that there have been more martyrs in this century than there have been during all of the time of the Roman persecutions.

Here in the U.S., the persecutions begin: not as direct as killing in an attempt to wipe Christians out, but in marginalizing and ridicule. There is a cost to standing up for the Word of God:  Doctors who refuse to do abortions.  College students who defend the sanctity of life. Pharmacists who don’t want to distribute the “morning after” pill. County clerks who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  Bakers who don’t want to participate in a same-sex ceremony.  I myself, a lowly clerk for a city government, can be reprimanded– or even fired–just for speaking of my faith while at work.

I have to admit, such things give me pause. As a mother, I pray every day for my children, who have left the church, that they might return to faith, to Jesus.  My heart and soul wants this, of course, but my instincts as a mother rebel against the thought that they, too, will pay such a price if my prayers are granted.  Short-sighted as it might be, the weak, human part of me wants them to survive, to thrive.  I pray for strength for my own resolve even as I lift them up in prayer.  I know what is right and just, but the consequences are frightening.  Especially for a loved one to endure.  What I don’t fear so much for myself, I dread for my children.  Yet . . .

As we enter into the Advent season, St. John the Baptist exhorts us to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord.  It becomes necessary to make a choice, to take a stand.  I remember a recent homily in which our pastor said that if it should one day become illegal to be a Christian, and they came after you–would there be enough evidence to convict?

Holy Spirit, guide me and give me courage and wisdom.

Jesus, I trust in You.

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The Feast of Christ the King & Semantics

We are coming to the end of the liturgical year with celebration of the Feast of Christ the King.  I have always had trouble with the very language of this feastday, of this particular title of the Lord.  Yet it has taught me much, in the end.

The word “king”–what does it mean to you?

I pondered this in detail as I painted an icon of Christ Enthroned several years ago, and think of it again each year as we approach Advent.  A king.  A ruler.  A leader.  One who guides his people.  A family position, the inheritance of a dynasty.  This is, I believe, close to the definition of a king to most of the world.

To me, as an American, since childhood, this word “king” has left me cold. Confused, even.  A king is a person in a fairy tale, an imaginary person, wearing a crown and elaborate clothes.  He rules his fantasy world.  People bow to him, but don’t necessarily love him–he can be either good or evil.  He is exalted in  the stories–but he is not real.

Further, a ruler/a leader, to me, is a person who is replaced every 4 or 8 years after a bitter battle on TV and in newspapers.  The potential leader is subject to complete public scrutiny, with every misdeed, every lie large or small, exposed and ridiculed.  The people can accept or reject.  They have the power to do the choosing and install the leader.

None of these are fitting descriptions for our wonderful God.

No doubt I am being much too literal in my understanding of this title of Our Savior, but still, this is what this feastday invoked in my thoughts: an insistence on a myth of an unreal God, and of his impermanence.  Of course that cannot be true, and thus I grappled from childhood with my gut reaction to this one particular idea.  But I think I am finally growing up!

Outside of novels, I still do not relate too well to the idea of monarchy, of royalty, of kings.  But I have come to understand this reference to be a wonderful unifying theme for the world. It has made me think outside of the culture I was raised in, and to appreciate that our Church is a universal Church, for all peoples and all times.  More than any other teachings or words of our faith, this feastday has brought me to the realization of the true meaning of “catholic”.

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What is in a Song Book on the Front Porch?


this is beautifully written, and I wish I had seen it 30 years ago when my children were small

Originally posted on Living the Reality of Jesus:

Today I see a lot of Churches, (including Catholic) jumping through hoops to entice our youth, to come to Church.  (As if Jesus is not enough and for heaven’s sake do not ever make it where they must sit still for an hour!)

I have seen gimmicks, games, loud music, parties etc…, become the corner stone, (even though Jesus said, “He is the Cornerstone”) that our youth must havein order to go to Church.  (Nothing like Mom and Dad saying, “Get up, get dressed, today is Sunday and we are going to Church.”

Anyways this brought up a memory of mine, from before the time I started school.

I had the most wonderful Grandmother who was paralyzed on one side of her body.  When she became paralyzed she and I could no longer do the same things we used to do.  We used to pick berries, churn butter…

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Beauty of Creation

I’ve been away visiting my mother in another state.  It’s good to be home again.  As I flew homeward, I was lucky to get a window seat.  Evening was approaching as we took off, and I watched a really beautiful sunset from my vantage point of 32,000 feet in the air.  Just below there was a thick  layer of fuzzy-looking clouds, forming a “floor” for the skyworld beneath us.  Sunrays turned it a deep golden color .  The sky was clear above, and I think you could see for hundreds of miles.   There were a lot of wispy clouds above this layer, and they began to light up in reds and oranges.  The sun was a big red ball.

Most beautiful of all: some of the upper layer clouds were actually raining.  Although the drops never reached the actual ground far below–they dissipated into and were absorbed by the golden layer of cloud cover.  What they DID do was create a multitude of rainbows above the clouds, shining up there among the deeper sunset colors all around. It was spectacularly beautiful.  I have never seen anything like it.  Words cannot do it justice.

Oh, how I wish I had brought my camera!

What a world of beauty our God has given us.


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The Road Of Life


I love this analogy. I think maybe I have not yet let Jesus take the lead seat on the bike.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
September 4, 2004

At first, I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong; so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was there sort of like a picture of a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.

Later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was like a bike ride, on a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t recall when he suggested we change places, but life has not been the same since.

When I had control, it was rather boring, and predictable . . . It was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew the exciting paths to take, up mountains, and through rocky places…

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Icon of Our Lady of Kazan


Where is Kazan? It’s in Russia, about 300 miles due east of Moscow.  It’s the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan.  The original icon was probably painted in Constantinople, and came to the region in the 13th Century.  Two hundred years later, the area was conquered and occupied by the Tatars, and Kazan was made their capital city.  The icon had completely disappeared.

In 1579,  a fire destroyed the city.  The Mother of God appeared in a dream to a little girl, and told her where the icon had been hidden from the Tatars long ago.  Tell the bishop, Our Lady said, and so the girl went to her bishop.  He did not believe her. When he refused to follow up on this story, the child and her mother went to the place themselves.   They  dug up the image from beneath a burned up house, and brought it to the cathedral.  The newly unearthed icon was still in perfect condition, despite having been underground for over a century.  The bishop placed the icon in the Church of St. Nicholas, where it was said to work many miracles.  Throughout the next centuries, it was carried in battle by Russian troops, giving them courage and leading them to victory.

Several “translations” of this image were made by many iconographers and were widely venerated throughout Russia.  Many of the icons were claimed to be “miracle workers”.  No one knows for sure which of these is the original, or even if the original still exists.

It really isn’t that important which painted board came first, the important thing is the prayers and graces that come through the veneration of our Blessed Mother.  This is part of the role of the iconographer: to write the images to transcend–to endure throughout the centuries, faithfully transcribing the colors, details, and symbolism for the glory of the Church and the prayers of people of every era.

Recently I completed a version of this icon.  I painted it in acrylic paints, and it measures 12 X 18 inches.  All icons of Our Lady of Kazan have this same composition and features, according to the original archetype of the 13th century, handed down copy by copy through the ages, to manifest God’s grace to all generations.

There are a lot of different versions of various icons of Mary and the Child Jesus.  Each type is put into different “categories” by experts.  Our Lady of Kazan is considered to be a “Hodegetria” type.  This Greek word means “She Who Shows the Way“.  The composition of this image has been simplified. Unlike other Hodegetria icons, Mary’s hands are not visible.  (Usually she is indicating or pointing to Jesus, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.)

In this icon, instead of pointing with her hand, she inclines her head towards Him, indicating with her entire being that He is Lord and Savior.  Her expression is pensive, looking past Him towards His inevitable Passion.  The Child faces the viewer, extending His right hand in blessing.  His clothes shine with divinity.  As in all icons, the figures move towards the viewer.  Icons are images of relationship, interacting with the viewer in prayer, showing heaven approaching earth through the Incarnation of Our Lord.


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I lost my best friend today.  He had cancer, and I held his dear fuzzy face as he died this morning.

About half the people that hear about this will say –or perhaps just think without voicing it: oh, it’s just a dog, get another one.  The other half will be very sympathetic, because they have been there, too.  But still there is a particular loneliness to grieving for a lost pet.

The sad loneliness about this circumstance is that there is nobody to truly share your loss and grief with.  Your pet probably didn’t have friends.  Just you, the family.  Nobody else actually misses your pet but you.  Yet the loss can be profound.  Nobody else truly knew him and loved him, but you.  It puts one in a lonely position of great sorrow.

I certainly don’t mean to diminish the grief of losing a family member or friend.  Yes, that is terrible and awful.  Today, as my husband and I work through our own grief, I want to cry out, but it is hard to find someone to SHARE the real sense of loss and sadness.

I was once given a book by an old friend of mine:  Father Jack Wintz.  Several years ago he wrote a book called Will I See My Dog in Heaven.  It is a great comfort to me.

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Christ the Bridegroom Icon

I have received a great gift.  A friend from Romania sent me a beautiful icon which he painted especially for me.  I am so blessed with this image and his generous friendship.  I love this icon.  It is so beautiful.

It arrived a short while ago.

I was able to find relatively little about the prototype of this image in my reference materials.  I learned that it is used in the Orthodox Church during the first service on Palm Sunday.  It portrays the unselfish, all-giving love of Christ for His bride, the Church.

 The Scriptural base of this image– Matthew 27: 27-31“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped off His clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about Him.  Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.  And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  They spat upon Him and took the reed and kept striking Him on the head.  And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the cloak, dressed Him in His own clothes, and led Him off to crucify Him.

You might notice that in this image, compared to Western paintings of the passion of Christ, Jesus is depicted without blood or overt suffering.  The Orthodox tradition does not emphasize the suffering of Christ so much as it does His glory, dignity, and triumph over death.  The teaching is the same, east or west, but the emphasis is different.  As in all icons, the image is quiet and powerful, expressing no emotion but simply being present to the viewer.

Some of my own thoughts:

As I look at this icon, I see Christ humbly enduring mockery and ridicule.  Here in this country, we Christians are not likely to be subjected to physical torture and death, but we are very likely to experience mockery, ridicule, marginalization and rejection.  We face humiliation and exclusion, being the butt of jokes.  These are the forms that martyrdom takes in our culture.  I pray for the grace, courage and strength to remain strong in faith and trust in God.

The Lord’s hands are bound–in the position/gesture that symbolizes humility in icons. He is silent and gives Himself over because of my sins.  His fingers are extended in a gesture of blessing despite what is being done to Him.  His bound hands speak of imprisonment, as well as submission and humility.

It is a sorrowful icon, and my reflections here are gloomy, but it also reminds me to focus on the hopes realized 3 days after Christ’s Passion.   And in that sense, the icon is not a sad image but one filled with hope and a love that cannot be conquered by evil.

The blessing of the icon

The blessing of the icon



My icon has been blessed by my pastor, and occupies a place of honor in my home.  I promised the iconographer that I would pray for him daily, and each day I do indeed lift him up in prayer to the Lord for all of his intentions and needs.

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Communion Story

My husband volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister in our local hospital.  He visits each person who has identified him/herself as Catholic, offering the Body of Christ to any who would like to receive it.  He told me a story about one patient this past week:  he stopped in to visit her.  He introduced himself.  She was recovering from surgery and they chatted briefly.  He offered her Communion.  She said no, no, explaining that she had been attending an evangelical church for the past several years and had not been to Mass.  Besides, she said, she just eaten breakfast.  They talked some more, about the fasting requirement, about related subjects.

“Did you give her Communion?” I asked, and  to my surprise he said “yes”.  Thoughts of the rules and needing to be properly prepared to receive Our Lord ran through my head.  Scripture passages.  Homilies.  Years of training and study.

He went on to tell me that they first prayed together.  He prayed over her and for her.  They said the Our Father together.  As they prayed, she began to tear up.  She asked for the Eucharist,  and gratefully received the Host.  Then she began to cry in earnest.  My husband felt this to be a beautiful, powerful moment and a profound experience of faith.

I thought about it, knowing the canon law and the importance of being in a state of grace and properly prepared to receive the Eucharist . . . but also  knowing how the necessity of the moment seemed to call for this bending of the rules.

Jesus is the very definition of mercy and forgiveness, and He alone knows what was in a person’s heart.  I suppose that if it came down to this sort of on-the-spot decision,  even if it turned out to be in error, I’d rather err on the side of mercy and compassion than in being strictly correct.

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Divine Mercy Icon

I have been working on an icon of the Divine Mercy, and recently completed it.  Before beginning work on it, I prayed about it for more than a year.

For those who don’t know the background story of this image, here is my paraphrased, shortened version–from memory:

Sister Faustina Kowalski (now St. Faustina) was a young nun in Poland, who began to have multiple visions of Jesus beginning in the 1930s.  She kept a diary of these conversations and visions.  In them, the Lord reassured her of His great love and mercy for all souls.  He taught her a prayer–the Divine Mercy Chaplet–to be recited on ordinary rosary beads.  Jesus promised great graces to all who said it, with special mercy granted to those who prayed it on their deathbed.

original Divine Mercy painting

He asked her to have a painting made of Him, just the way He appeared to her.  St. Faustina, who was not an artist, was a bit flabbergasted at this request.  Commissioning a painter was a bit problematic for a young nun in a convent, with her vows of poverty and obedience, but eventually she was able to carry out her task with the help of her confessor.  The artist painted the image to her specifications. She was not pleased with the result–after all, who could paint the Lord to look as beautiful as He appeared to her.  Eventually, however, she accepted the image as good enough.

Jesus told her that He wanted this image displayed in every Church. He promised grace and blessings would be granted to each church as well as each person who prayed before the image.  In addition, Jesus asked that a feastday be established throughout the world, to be called Divine Mercy Sunday. It was to be celebrated the Sunday after Easter.   Getting the word out about this, too, presented some practical difficulties for the young nun.

Decades later, with the support of St. Pope John Paul II, this feastday was established.  St. Faustina was canonized. Copies of the painting are found all over the world.

Divine Mercy is a Roman Catholic devotion, so my decision to repaint the image as an icon raised some issues for me.  This is my version, containing all of the elements requested by Jesus, consisting of:

Our Lord is dressed in a simple white garment. One hand is raised in blessing.  The other is pulling aside the robe over His heart.  Two rays emanate from His heart.  Jesus explained the symbolism of each “the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls” (Diary of St. Faustina).  The pale ray “stands for the water which makes souls righteous” (Diary of St. Faustina).   On every version of the painting, these words must be written:  “Jesus I Trust in You”.  The words “Jesus I Trust in You” are written in the original Polish, as well as in English and Spanish.

The above are the essential elements for the image.  (Read more about it here.)

I added several specific icon elements as well:  Jesus is standing before a mandorla, shaped like an almond–a symbol of life in ancient Semitic cultures. The mandorla stands for the glory of God. It is painted in 3 rings of dark color, representing the mystery of  the Triune God, for in His essence He is unseeable and unknowable.

Christ’s halo is a symbol of the Holy Light and radiance of God.  It is inscribed with Greek letters that say I AM WHO AM.  The IC XC above are also Greek:  they read “Jesus Christ”.  Every icon has the name of the person depicted written on it so that there is no doubt who it is.  (An icon does not attempt to be a physical likeness, but a spiritual portrait.)

The color is not so great in this photograph, but the background is actually a golden color. Yellow and gold are used to indicate that the Light of God being present all around the figure, and are a typical icon background color.  The border is a darker shade of gold.

The figure casts no shadows, as the light comes from within.  He moves towards the viewer from Heaven, not bound to any physical place or time.

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