A Journey Through Lent

We are entering into our holiest season in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Lent is a time to prepare us for the glorious Resurrection of our Lord. On Ash Wednesday, I got up a little earlier to prepare for Mass. I carefully picked out a coordinating sweater and scarf because this day is sacred for me. Listening to the homily of Father Nan was especially rich food for my soul. Our priest spoke on how we are to prepare inwardly. He said, “The essence of Lent is a movement from the external life to the eternal space to make room for God.” These words stayed with me because they spoke of how God works in our soul. As I helped with the distribution of the Eucharist, I was fighting back tears of overwhelming joy. I thought of all the people who attended the service, souls searching for a fresh start in their spiritual journey. In my heart I want nothing more than to please God. In the natural this is a testing. The journey to draw from the waters of the deep wells can only be accomplished through our own faithfulness.

The Scenic Route

Whenever I’m driving with my daughter Sonja, she always takes the scenic route. I get a little irritated with this because I’m a freeway girl. Not Sonja – she takes her time getting to and from where she is going. “Mom, don’t you just love this house?” My reply is always the same, “No! why do you always take so long to get us home?” “Do you see that front porch? That’s exactly what I want for my house,” she adds. Though Sonja is my daughter, she will find her way to God in this manner. We are different in our walk because God created us this way. I cannot force my strong beliefs on her because she will drive in another direction. Our Son Mikos, on the other hand, is always questioning the doctrines of the Catholic Church. He is serving God under the Protestant umbrella. He is faithful and is the spiritual leader of his family. Both Mikos and Sonja are saturated in prayer, and I know that they pray as well. Their spiritual  journey is their own, and I come alongside of them, gently nudging them through prayer.

The Detours 

I cannot tell you how many unnecessary detours I have made in my journey or how I’ve felt a loss by my sinful behavior. Or the psychological warfare and games the Enemy plays with my head, causing me to feel spiritually inadequate. I can only refuel my spiritual perception through prayer and the Eucharist. Lent is a period of reflection; I look in the mirror and see not my face, but myself with ashes over my head, dressed in sack cloth. This is a time we resolve to practice humility, self-examination, and repentance. We are to be as John the Baptist to the world: his life’s journey was to lead others to Christ; he lived and died for the Gospel; he was the epitome of truth. From his mother’s womb, John the Baptist was obedient to his call.

44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

The Mountain Roads

Years ago I attended a retreat in Lake Arrowhead.  I was driving a large Chevy Suburban and was not prepared for the challenge this mountain drive was going to be. In my inexperience, I drove with extreme caution and reduced my speed. I had no idea how many vehicles I was holding up behind me. Finally I turned into an area to allow others to safely pass. I counted 12 vehicles! Like prayer, going up the mountain to meet God comes with consequences. By being overly careful, I was unknowingly holding others back by controlling the flow of traffic on the road. We can’t do this because of our lack of experience. Not even God will force you to reach the top of the mountain. Our Lord will equip us for the journey, but it is through our free will that we accomplish these life journeys.


“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”  -St. Therese of Lisieux

During Lent  three things are required of us: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer does not always come naturally; speaking for myself, it took several years of discipline to develop prayer as an everyday part of my life. I am constantly praying throughout the day, especially when negative thoughts creep into my mind. I usually pray a Hail Mary; this helps me go into deeper prayer. When I’m upset, it takes a lot more than a Hail Mary to get me back to the right spiritual direction. Many times I will open the Bible and ask God to give me a Word.  The Enemy attacks me because I am an intercessor, so I must always be aware of how the Devil works. If someone calls me for prayer, I am obligated before the Lord to comply. Reading Sacred Scripture helps us draw closer to God, and that is what we should always be doing.


Years ago, when our children were in their teens, I could fast for many days. Nowadays I’m happy with fasting one day. Fasting is self-control; we master this by preparation. You can also fast from social media,  from watching your favorite television programs, or by giving up one or two meals a day. God recognizes our efforts and honors our sacrifices.


When I was the head of a ministry feeding the homeless once a month, almsgiving was a routine part of my life. COVID-19 has changed all that. We serve by sharing God’s gifts with others; we give of our time and talents. As part of almsgiving, our Bible study group will pray the Rosary in front of Planned Parenthood during Lent.

My Prayer

Dear Lord, help us through these 40 days of Lent. Open our hearts and minds to draw closer to You. Speak to us through Sacred Scripture, and guide us on this Lenten journey. Train us to set aside special time for deeper prayer, and encourage us to give of ourselves to Your service. Help us out of any situation that would lead us astray, and make us more and more like You, Jesus. Amen.





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Happy St. Valentine’s Week

First grade; I could not find any photos for the 3rd grade (still sporting the same hairdo)

How many of us can remember getting our hearts broken? Honestly this happened to me only once. I was never serious enough about any young men  to have my heart broken over. I learned a lesson about experiencing a broken heart in the third grade. I was alone in my pain because I was surrounded by too many brothers and sisters, and our mother was too busy to hear my sad little story. If I kept this in my memory bank it was for a life-learning reason. I am grateful to God for all my childhood memories because they have served into molding me in who I have become today. Through the good and bad, Jesus will always be my Valentine. My love story with Mike is that of two people whom God brought together forever. We are truly one; I see what he sees and we love each other unconditionally. That will never change. We are examples to our family on how to overcome any situations that the world throws our way. I always look to God for all my misgivings in life and continually pray for His guidance. I want to become the woman that God created me to be, but only through His special graces can I say, “Thank You for loving me, Lord.”

This is the true story of my one and only heartbreak:

She carefully sorted her Valentine cards, setting aside the one for her teacher. Just one card read, “Will you be my Valentine?” This card made her little heart patter with excitement. She was smitten by Joe, the smartest kid in her third-grade class. He was perfect in her eyes; even his crowded front teeth made her smile. No one in her family of eight knew that she would one day marry Joe. How could they understand?  Her four- year-old sister was too young to grasp these things, and her brothers, all three of them, would tease her to the point of tears. Her two older sisters thought of her as a mere child. There was only one person she could trust: her best friend Anita. Anita was petite in size, kind and sweet. Only she knew how this little girl loved Joe.

It was Valentine’s Day, the day she would know for certain if her true love would reciprocate. The bus ride to school seemed to take forever, and all she could think about was the cards she and Joe  would exchange. Her unspoken love was about to reach a new zenith, and this was a lot for an eight-year-old to bear. When she entered her classroom she quietly took her seat near the back of the room. They sat in alphabetical order, so she was always among the last ones. She wished her last name started with a “P” like Joe’s instead of a “U”.  All day long, during lunch and two recesses, she waited for the Valentine card from Joe. The art project that day was to make a holder for all the Valentine cards. She cut and pasted, and the end product was perfect for holding that one card from Joe. Fifteen minutes before dismissal, the teacher announced that it was time to exchange cards.  The girl’s eyes widened with excitement as she pulled her brown bag containing the Valentines. You could hear the giggles as all the children took turns in handing out their cards. It was Joe’s turn, and, as he came toward the little girl, she put her head down. This was it, she thought to herself; now I will know how much he loves me. The bell rang it was time to go home. She held that one card tightly in her hand and opened it. The card had a picture of a kitten holding a heart which read, “You are sweet, Valentine.” What! No! No! This was not happening! She looked over at Anita.  Anita was smiling, almost gloating. The same card, purchased at Woolworth’s, that she set aside for Joe was in the petite hands of Anita! Joe loved Anita, not the little girl. She wanted to cry so badly that it hurt; but she remained strong. The bus ride home was torture, and sitting next to Anita added to her heartbreak.

Yes, this is my first memory of Valentine’s Day. I have no idea what became of Joe, but I do remember that he broke my heart that day.


St. Valentine

Valentine’s Day

This year  no Valentine cards will be permitted in the elementary schools in our district because of COVID-19. I loved this holiday in grammar school, and our mother always made sure we had Valentine cards to pass out to our friends. Hopefully this holiday will be in full force next year. My poor eight-year-old grandson Jacob will  miss Valentine’s Day. He will never know who secretly loves him.

Valentine’s Day has become a huge marketing ploy. The statistics are staggering; over $22 billion has been spent annually on this holiday. The average consumer will spend $142 on the Feast Day of St. Valentine. Remember that it is about love and not the gifts. (I have to keep repeating that to myself.)

According to a survey from Compare Cards, which polled over 1,000 people in the United States about Valentine’s Day, this is the breakdown:

Gen Z (ages 18 to 23): $82

Millennials (24 t0 39): $113

Gen X (40-55): $293

Baby Boomers (56 to 74) :$55

St. Valentine

St. Valentine of Rome is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages.  St. Valentine was put in prison by the Emperor Claudius for marrying couples and professing his faith in Jesus. While he was in prison he healed a jailer’s daughter of blindness. On the day of his execution he left the girl a card signed “Your Valentine.” This is the reason we exchange Valentine cards.

My Prayer:

Dear Lord,  You are love; without You, our hearts would be unfulfilled. Teach us to love as You love. Send us special blessings on St. Valentine’s Day. Allow us to smell the sweet fragrance of Your Holy Presence. Bless all who have lost a loved one and fill the void with Your love. Thank You for Your unconditional love that brings unity to all. Amen.

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First Pray

The evidence

“Next year in Jerusalem” is a phrase used by the Jews to express their desire to return to the Holy Land. It’s not like throwing a coin into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, signifying that one day you will return to “The Eternal City.” If I had a choice in life, I would live in either of these two cities. I’m familiar with Jerusalem and its undeniable, complicated mix of religions; this adds to the excitement of this city.

Dimitri’s store

Shopping is always an adventure in the Holy Land; you learn early on where to get the best deals. Both the Old City in Jerusalem and Bethlehem offer tourists reasonable deals with room to negotiate. I always bring back plenty of gifts from the Holy Land. The last time I visited was no different. I wanted to purchase some rosary beads that were native to the Holy Land. The national stone of  Israel is eilat,  which can only be found in the copper mines of King Solomon’s Quarries (aka Zedekiah’s Cave).

Eilat Stone

The Eilat stone’s colors are a mixture of deep blues and greens. In some jewelry the blue is more predominant, in others the green. Mixed together the dramatic stones varied and distinctive  swirling patterns of colors similar to marble. In past years I purchased eilat crosses for all of the ladies in my Bible study group. When you frequent the Holy Land as much as our group has, you become familiar with the shops and know many of the owners. There is one store in particular that we frequent because we will always get a fair deal. Dimitri Souvenirs Shop, located just past the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. This store is a tight squeeze because it is so compact, but Dimitri will most likely have whatever you are shopping for. If he does not have the souvenirs, he will make sure to direct you to the right shop. Dimitri did not have any eilat stone rosaries and he did not know of any shops that sold them either. That did not discourage me one bit; I was on a mission to find rosary beads made with eilat stones.

At the First Station of the Cross is another store where we have made many purchases. The owners of this shop are Palestinians who live in the West Bank. Their store displayed jewelry, antique swords, glassware and rosaries. But they had no eilat rosaries either. Next door to their store is an ornate antique shop with expensive icons taken from Russian churches. As I walked in I was impressed with the cleanliness of the store. Near the cash register was an enclosed glass cabinet displaying rosaries, beautiful green rosaries. “Are these eilat stone?” I asked. The gentleman behind the counter said, “Yes.” Finally, what I had been searching for was right before my eyes. My nonchalant behavior, pretending that I was not interested, was working to help me to get a good price on these almost-impossible-to-find beads. The man pulled out the beads and told me that they were indeed made of eilat. “How much?” I asked. He told me how hard they are to come by but that he would sell them to me for $60. “Oh, that’s way too much!” I said as I turned to walk out. I’m familiar with the routine here in the Holy Land; you bargain until you get what you believe is a fair deal. “How much do you want to pay?” he answered. The stupid ball was in my court, but I double dribbled when I blurted out, “Would you take $40?” What was I thinking! Before I could change my mind I made the purchase. I went back and bought four more rosaries. This was one of the few purchases I made during that trip. I was beaming with pride at the beautiful purchases. I could not wait to get home and give them to my friends.

Authentic Eilat stone
The fake Eilat beads

Fake Eilat

I gave one to one of my friends, who gave it to her cousin who had recently lost a family member. I remember thinking, “Wow,” she just gave away an eilat stone rosary! This beautiful rosary quickly became my favorite. I use it regularly and I sleep with it in my hand. Last week, while I was brushing my teeth, I noticed a small chunck of bright green on my right cheek. I used the amplified mirror to further examine it; clearly this was something that was not on my face when I went to bed. I walked over to my bed and the only unusual thing was the eilat rosary. The green color had been painted on the plastic beads and they were turning white. More than anything, I do not like to be taken advanage of. I ran downstairs to tell Mike that I had to go to the Holy Land to return the rosary. I also needed to tell my friends about the fake eilat rosary beads. Note to self: Pray Before Purchasing Items.


The little good for nothing vacuum

Pray Before you Purchase

While I was shopping for some antique end tables the other day I came across a robotic vacuum cleaner. My daughter Sonja had wanted one of these for some time. I asked a young worker, “How much for the RoboVac?” “$189, but today it’s half off.” I asked if it worked, and the young man plugged it in for about five minutes. Within a radius of two feet the little robot cleaned the floor. Before I purchased the device, I asked about the store’s exchange policy. “We only give store credit on returns,” the manager answered. I called Sonja and she gave me the go-ahead, so I purchased it. On the way to Sonja’s house my friend Pat called. She was telling me that she felt that she was not praying enough about things pertaining to her life. She went on to say that she was going to pray about everything, including small things. I looked at the back seat of my car and thought to myself that I should have prayed about this vacuum.

When we got to Sonja’s house we plugged it in and charged it up for about 15 minutes. I wanted to make sure that it worked before leaving. The remote control was corroded, so that was the first sign. We had to manually start it up, so this was the second sign. We turned it on, but after sweeping the floor for about 15 seconds, it went back to its home base. Sonja’s dog Paco was barking out of control at the robot. We tried it again but the little robot just wanted to go back to its home base. Only this time, on the way back to the base, it started to poop out all the particles it had just picked up. We could not stop laughing, but deep down all I was thinking about was the money that I spent on this ridiculous, recalcitrant vacuum. I could not ask for my money back because I understood the store’s policy. Sonja wanted me to demand the return of my money, but since this organization helps unwed mothers, that was out of the question.

The moral to this story:  I never prayed about purchasing these items. With the rosaries, I was duped because I was an out-of-town tourist and had never shopped in that particular store. Then with  the RoboVac, I was too excited about the price. A lesson learned: I need to pray before buying anything.

My Prayer: Dear Lord, teach me to be a better steward of my money, and forgive me for any frivolous spending. Dear Lord, help me to learn from these little life lessons. Blessed Mother Mary, watch over all the shop owners in Israel and help them recoup their losses from this pandemic. Amen.

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