Lilacs, Rwanda, Immaculee and Women’s Inner Strength

Have you noticed the lilac bushes are in bloom?   In the Midwest every spring in early May the streets and yards are lined with beautiful purple fragrant lilacs.   Perhaps you grew up with a Common lilac, Persian lilac, Dwarf Korean variety, Himalayan, Chinese lilac or even a lilac tree.    My sister Linda Kay Doyle had a beautiful white lilac bush that she cherished.  It was an exceptionally fragrant lilac in her yard, just off her deck.    My sister Linda died 10 years ago today, May 5 2005.   She was an avid gardener and whenever I would visit her home, we would walk arm and arm around her yard to explore what was currently in bloom.

lilac

Linda was an educator who was very compassionate and cognizant about the surrounding world.   She was always giving me fiction and non-fiction books that would get me thinking.   We had long conversations about the underlying theme of books such as the Kite Runner and The Red Tent.   The week before she passed she urged me to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda with Don Cheadle.

Hotel Rwanda is the story of the 1994 horrific genocide that took the lives of one million people who were brutally murdered in Rwanda, Africa.   In an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.   In three months, one million Tutsis; men, women and children were massacred by the hands of the Hutu marauders.   The movie shared the courage of one man who in the face of unspeakable dangers granted shelter to thousands of helpless refugees in the hotel that he managed.

I never had the chance to chat with Linda about her thoughts on the Rwanda genocide.  And yet, two years after she passed, I learned about a woman who survived that genocide and knew that I had to hear her story.  Immaculee llibagiza was a Tutsis college student, who was urged to go into hiding by her father.   Immaculee found shelter at a pastor’s home, where she and seven other women hid from the deadly rebel mob in a 3-by-4 foot bathroom for 91 days.    During those 91 days of unimaginable suffering, Immaculee found her faith, taught herself English and most incredibly, committed herself to a life of peace, hope and forgiveness.  Even for those who had murdered her family.

Last week, I was privileged to attend a luncheon entitled “Aid for Women” and the keynote speaker was again Immaculee.  She again shared her powerful life lessons from her Rwanda experience of love, forgiveness and world peace.    The organization she spoke was in support of Aid for Women, which has been instrumental in providing support for women and especially empowering women to choose life.  They provide funding to Heather’s House, a home for unwed mothers providing education, medical assistance, spiritual and housing support.  You can read more about their organization at www.helpaidforwomen.org.   You can read one of Immaculee’s several books or watch this short video about her story.

Linda placed an enormous value on the inner strength within a women and the bond of friendship between women.   Considering Linda’s own health limitations, nothing held her back and I knew she drew strength from faith, friendship and family.   Where do you draw strength to be the women God intended you to be?  How do you age gracefully and rest within the challenges of your life, the body we have been given and live within our unique giftedness?  How do the relationships in your life help you to fly?  Helping women explore these questions have become my life work.   Thank you, Linda!!!!

All Souls Day, Reflection On Losing A Child

Image of Angel Wings

My son came home from school the other day in a bad mood. He was picking on his sisters, reluctant to begin his homework, and grumpy about any after school snack I offered. I’ve learned to give him some time before trying to figure out the reason behind his irritability.  That night, when I tucked him into bed, I asked “Why such a long face?”  He said that at school that day, his teacher had asked if anyone would like to offer up a special prayer intention, and he said, “I prayed for you and Dad and for the baby you lost.”  Then he said, later that day at recess, one of his classmates told him he was always making up stories, so the boy didn’t believe we had lost a child. At that moment, my son began to cry, and my heart broke for him. At the same time, I was also taken aback by his prayer intention. My first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage over 14 years ago, and my husband and I had only mentioned it a handful of times to our children.

A few days later, on our way to Sunday mass, my son asked me, “Mom, so why did we forget?” In the rush to get our 5 children to church and still trying to fix his sister’s hair, I responded in a hurried tone, “Forget about what?” He said, “The baby.”  I didn’t really process his question until after communion when I was kneeling down to pray. Then it hit me then like a ton of bricks.  Why had I forgotten?  As I prayed, I imagined this child in heaven with the saints and the Holy Family, and overcome with emotion, I began to weep. For the next week, this image of the little one I had lost continued to resonate in my heart and on my mind, along with the inescapable question of why had I forgotten?

During the winter of 1999, my lifelong best friend and I both found out we were expecting our first child. The babies were due in October and we were delighted not only with our little baby bumps, but to be going through this life-changing experience together. At 14 weeks, however, my pregnancy took a terrible turn. My husband was out of the country, so my girlfriend left work to join me at the ultrasound where together we saw the absence of my baby’s heartbeat. It was unspeakable, but my friend was so incredibly supportive. I have always been so grateful to her for her selfless love, for enduring that experience with me and sharing the grief with the loss of my child.  It must have been even more difficult for her as she was still expecting her own.

To someone who has miscarried, people’s genuine attempts of condolences sometimes feel more like thoughtless words: “Well it must have God’s plan,” or “The baby probably had health issues,” or “You will have others,” or “It was only 14 weeks, and it happens too many.” Unsure of how to really process this type of loss, I did what I imagine many women do: I put my grief behind me and went back to my daily routine.

The following year, I became pregnant again, and we went on to have 5 children in 7 years. Our children knew that Mom had lost 1, but there was no discussion beyond that. Being around many conservative moms over the years, and since I’ve entered the Catholic/Christian blogging world, I’ve often been struck when I’ve heard women say, “I have 6 children on this earth, and 2 in heaven.” It never occurred to me to mention the baby I lost.  I could understand how women, who were further along in their pregnancy when they lost their child, would refer to their child, the loss, their grief and even the soul.  I realized that in my mind and heart, I had convinced myself that our lost pregnancy didn’t carry much weight. I had pushed my feelings down, never allowing myself to love or know this child, not allowing this soul to be present.

I believe in God-incidences. Recently at a conference, I was introduced to a woman who shared with me (without prompting) her similar experience of suppressing her feelings following her miscarriages. She told me how she had been transformed, however, on a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia (the location where 30 years ago the Blessed Mother appeared to 6 children, revealing messages for the world, visions that continue to this day). The woman had the opportunity to go to reconciliation while at Medjugorje, and the priest, without any prior knowledge of her situation, remarkably asked her about the babies she had lost 20 years ago. Like me, she hadn’t embraced the lives of the children she had miscarried, and told the priest she didn’t know their gender. He proceeded to guide her through a prayer of sorts, in which she imagined herself standing before the Blessed Mother and Jesus, who were holding the hands of the children; she saw one was a girl and the other, a boy. The priest told the woman that God plants information like that in our hearts, and to trust that feeling, to name the children, and to remember them. He reassured her that the children love her and are waiting until the day they are reunited with her. She described the great love she felt from the Blessed Mother and Jesus.

As this woman told her story, tears were rolling down my cheeks. She knowingly asked, “Did you lose a child?” “Yes,” I replied. She continued, “Did you name your child?” I said, “I never knew if it was a girl or boy, so no.” In my gut, however, I had always believed the baby was a boy, so on that day I named our son Riley Thomas O’Flaherty.  The woman encouraged me to pick a day as his birthday, and suggested All Souls Day, pointing out that this was one day a year that I could hold that child in my heart, but also in the community of others in the celebration of the Mass.

Over the next few days, I spent time in prayer and began to imagine this child desiring a relationship with all of us, and in a way, guiding us in our faith and life. I drew comfort in picturing this angel boy riding on the bus with my other children, and as an angel might do, providing them encouragement, comfort or solace on any given day.  My heart is warmed by the image of Riley talking with Jesus about how he wants blessings showered upon my husband, his earthly father, as he strives to launch a start-up business.  How Riley may ask the Blessed Mother to provide me a gentle spirit with my children when I am exhausted at the end of a long day and am feeling so depleted.

This women had also shared with me that through prayer, she has come to feel that God wants all women to know His love—women who have lost a child through miscarriage at week 3, 12 or 40, as well as women who have lost a child through an abortion; that He loves us all, that the children’s souls are at rest, and that the child can be remembered in a special way, regardless of how they are lost.

One morning, weeks after my encounter with this woman, I realized that I, too, felt transformed. The sensation was almost as if our family had expanded by one overnight. What a gift I have been given, to now experience that additional love, both for Riley and from him (even if it’s on a spiritual level and not a physical one). I went back to my other son and thanked him for listening to his inner voice (the Holy Spirit) and for reminding us of this gift we have in heaven. .

We will celebrate Riley’s birthday on All Souls Day each November. Another tradition I’m planning, to help keep his memory alive is to buy an ornament for our Christmas tree with his name on it, which will join those we have for our other children. And just as I’ve come to feel Riley’s presence with us here on earth, I now ask him to be an intercessor in heaven for my prayers.

Are you, or someone you know, in need of healing transformation?

  • Perhaps your parish priest can hold a private Memorial Service for families who have lost children in the womb, to facilitate healing and to honor the eternal lives of the children in heaven.
  • Naming your child and creating a special day of remembrance may be a first step.
  • Rachel’s Vineyard is “a safe place to renew, rebuild and redeem hearts broken by abortion. Weekend retreats offer you a supportive, confidential and non-judgmental environment…to help you experience God’s love and compassion on a profound level.” Retreats are held in both Catholic and nondenominational settings, in 48 states and 57 countries. http://www.rachelsvineyard.org

My hope is that you will share this blog with women or men who may benefit from hearing this story.

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children on earth and 1 in Heaven. Her recent writing projects include “Faith In the Family, Night Time Prayers?” and “OneParish Catholic App.” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Back To School, Prayer

Back to school 2014

This week our five children returned to school.  Our oldest entered 8th grade and our baby, kindergarten.   The beginning of a new school year brings excitement and a return to routine in our daily life: homework, extra-curricular activities, dinner as a family at the table, and earlier bedtimes.  During the summer, when our schedules were more relaxed, I had set a personal goal of reading small bits of scripture with my children, hoping the stories would become more ingrained in their heart and mind, and that they would come to know better who Jesus was to them.  Our 4th grader was very interested in reading her children’s bible on most nights, but I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped with the others.  As parents, we establish the family values, goals and expectations; I wonder which ones will take root and still be with my children when they are grown.

Summer also brought a fall for my mom, resulting in fractures that required her to spend 7 weeks in a rehab center.  Because she would be going home with a walker, my siblings decided to de-clutter her house to make getting around easier for her.  Have you ever cleaned out your parents’ home, while they were in the hospital, or after they passed away?  It can be a rather odd experience, going through their drawers, closets, and personal belongings, finding old letters that were written to loved ones, jewelry that had been saved from a deceased relative or everyday items that were stashed in a special drawer, clues to what your mom or dad held close.  Sifting through your parents’ possessions while trying to protect their privacy and dignity can be an overwhelming, frustrating and emotional experience.  (I’m blessed that my older siblings let me “off the hook” this time, and shared this chore between them.)

My mom is turning 85 at the end of the month, and has been known for writing in a journal. She jotted down memories of us growing up in little notebooks or even scraps of paper, and documented important dates or events with a photo attached. She even recorded details of my dad’s deteriorating health last year as she cared for him up to his death.  My mom also wrote down many prayers and scripture passages over the years that were meaningful to her.  While tidying her home, my eldest sister, Debbie, found this prayer. It was typed on an old-fashioned type writer, and the paper was slightly yellowed.  It was tucked into a big stack of books in the corner of her home, and could have easily been overlooked.  My sister shared it with me, and it reminded me of my daily struggles and how I wrestle with who is in control: God or me?

 

Our Thinking versus God’s Promises

It’s impossible.

               All things are possible. (Luke 18:27)

 I’m too tired.

               I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)

 Nobody really loves me.

               I love you. (John 3:16)

 I can’t go on.

               My grace is sufficient.  (11 Cor. 12:19)

 I can’t figure things out.

               I will direct your steps. (Proverbs 20:24)

 I can’t do it.

               You can do all things. (Phil 4:13)

 I’m not able.

                    I am able. (11 Co. 9:8)

 It’s not worth it.

               It will be worth it. (Rom. 8:28)

 I can’t forgive myself.

               I will supply all your needs. (Phil. 4:19)

 I’m afraid.

               I have not given you a spirit of fear. (11 Tim. 1:7)

I’m always worried and frustrated.

               Cast all your cares on Me. (1 Peter 5:7)

I don’t have enough faith.

               I’ve given everyone a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:8)

I’m not smart enough.

               I give you wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:30)

I feel all alone.

               I will never leave you or forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

 

This prayer is a beautiful reminder that God’s promises are far better than what we come up with on our own, in our human condition. Often, we fall short when we rely on Our Thinking, but if we instead entrust ourselves to God’s Promises, our lives will be a lot easier!

This week is the one-year anniversary of my ministry, Creating Space, and my blog.  As I look back over the year, and even just this summer, I see that some things I had hoped to achieve didn’t happen; my children didn’t memorize scripture (a discipline I admire in our protestant brothers and sisters).  Yet in finding this prayer that my mom had tucked away, I can see how she relied on scripture throughout her life, and without using actual words, she taught me to do the same. Perhaps when my children are 45 they will find my old-fashion blog writings, and have a glimpse of how scripture played a part in my faith, and hopefully their own, as well.

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish” and “Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

Blessed Mother Teresa – 33 Days to Morning Glory

33 days to Morning Glory

Illinois Benedictine University had an amazing event in March, where I had the honor of speaking to the Campus Ministry students. The keynote speaker was Eric Mahl, a former Cleveland Browns football player, who was transformed by God’s forgiving love. Eric shared with me “A Do-It-Yourself Retreat”, basically a 5-minute prayer practice to begin my day. Father Michael E. Gaitley, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers (a community of priest and brothers that has been instrumental in spreading the message of The Divine Mercy),  has written this 33 Days to Morning Glory, which has had an amazing impact on my life. The reading from this morning (Day 16) was from the Blessed Mother Teresa. She shared with her fellow sisters, The Missionaries of Charity, a vision she had of Jesus. I feel it was written for each and every one of us.

“Jesus wants me to tell you again…..how much love He has for each one of you – beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone. We may spend time in chapel – but have you seen with the eyes of your soul how He looks at you with love? Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace, He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able to hear Him saying ‘I thrist’ in the hearts of the poor. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. How can we last even one day without hearing Jesus say “I love you” – impossible. Our soul needs that as much as the body needs to breathe the air. If not, prayer is dead – meditation only thinking. Jesus wants you each to hear Him – speaking in the silence of your heart.” “Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more – He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes – He is the one who always accepts you. My Children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe – you are precious to Him. Bring all your suffering to His feet – only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest.”

These two paragraphs above could probably be enough prayer for me for a lifetime. I believe the love that God has for us is the model we are to use for all other relationships in our life. I think of how my 5-year-old longs for me to play a board game or jump around in the pool with her or cuddle to read a book. How often am I distracted and fail to acknowledge the love she is waiting to share with me? On that note, I am going to go cuddle with her and watch a morning cartoon.

If you would like to read more about the 33-Day Morning Glory, or obtain copies of this prayer, please check out their website below. http://33daystomorningglory.blogspot.com/p/small-group-resources.html

Family Values – Teaching Our Children To Pray

This morning I was interviewed for a parenting article about the O’Flaherty Family values.  If I had to sum the interview up in two words it would be LOVE and FAMILY.  Both of these things in our family are rooted in our faith.   In continuing my summer plan to impart small bits of scripture to our children, I am blessed with the gospel reading for today which is from Matthew 6:7-15.

Jesus said to his disciples This is how you are to pray:

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Cillian and Mother Mary

Back in 1965, Pope Paul VI had a little something to say about parents and their role in educating their children:

“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellow men and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people.” (Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis

Thanks to Amanda another blogger at Worthy of Agape, http://worthyofagape.com/2014/06/11/according-to-the-law-of-christ/ for her quote from the Pope.

Wondering if you can share what are two words that would express your family values?

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at http://www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

Feast of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saint for today is Saint Joan of Arc.

Visitation

From the Gospel of Luke we know that Mary traveled to Judah to spend time with Elizabeth, whom is also getting ready to bear a child.   We hear that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  My family made a New Years Resolution this year to focus on the Holy Family and we have been doing that in very small and simple ways.   This summer we are continuing that focus by spending time pondering short lines from sacred scripture.   Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   How does it feel knowing we are also filled with the Holy Spirit?  We are all called as Christians to share the gift of the Holy Spirit with others.   Do you know the unique spiritual gifts that you have been given at baptism?

 

The Saint for today is Saint Joan of Arc, which I discovered on my favorite new app for my phone.   The OneParish app. reminded me that St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France and she was also filled with the Holy Spirit.    As a young girl she entered into battle and defended her faith.   Did you know that each of us are called to be saints?   I know I have a great way to go on that journey and yet taking time to ponder the saints such as St. Elizabeth and St. Joan of Arc provide me an example to follow.

saint joan of arc

I hope you and your family can enjoy the summer months and some of my post from scripture and saints of the day.

Good Friday, The Interview With God and Pope John Paul Canonization Divine Mercy Novena

My 13 year-old daughter shared this short video with me today. The Interview with God is a nice reminder on Good Friday about the life we have been given and His endless love for us. Good Friday is also a good day to consider starting the Divine Mercy Novena, which is a 9 day prayer that leads up to Divine Mercy Sunday. This Divine Mercy Sunday is April 27 and is exceptional as Pope John Paul II will be canonized.

My experience has been that God provides great grace and healing over the next 9 days, through the devotion to the Divine Mercy chaplet. I hold someone who has passed away in the last 12 months close to my heart, along with anyone I know that needs special healing from physical illness or spiritual healing/conversion. Please consider reading more about Divine Mercy, the messages of Saint Faustina and her experience with the Lord via this link.

http://www.marian.org/divinemercy

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Recent writing projects include:

Spring Sports, Family Dinner and Faith

New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish

Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization”

Lenten Reading – Henri Nouwen The Return of the Prodigal Son

Lent started for me, after having just finished reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen.    Henri Nouwen’s reflection of Rembrandt painting is an amazing journey and a worthwhile read.  My brief reflection doesn’t accurately portray the impact this book has had on my spiritual journey, yet I wanted to share two takeaways.

The Prodigal Son

I grew up in a large close-knit family of 9 children.   My older brother, for a period of 10 years was separated from our family.   He was living out of state and was busy working.  He missed several major family events such as the birth of several of my children, my Father’s 75 birthday and all the holidays.   I was angry and hurt, but at the same time I also missed him.   Honestly, I was also indignant that he wasn’t around to help our parents.   I thought he didn’t care.    Eventually, he came home around the time my dad was dying.  During my dad’s final year my brother moved into their home, he rolled up his sleeves, opened up his heart and embraced all of their physical and emotional needs.

Having heard the Prodigal Son over the years and being in the midst of my brother being gone, I pictured myself as the elder brother.   One day during his absence, I remember visiting my mom and watching her tears and pain about her one lost sheep, her son.   At that time, I felt slighted and even annoyed that she would continue to care so deeply for him since he has not been around or even truly connected with us for over a decade.  Sitting in front of my mom, I had a feeling of emptiness in heart and a wondering of why she wasn’t recognizing me.  Henri Nouwen’s reflection brought those feelings to life for me, as well as the deeper internal pain I had experienced around that time.

“When I listen carefully to the words with which the elder son attacks his father ~~self-righteous, self-pitying, jealous words~~  I hear a deeper complaint.  It is the complaint that comes from a heart that feels it never received what it was due.  It is the complaint expressed in countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways, forming bedrock of human resentment.  It is the complaint that cries out: “I tried so hard, worked so long, did so much, and still I have not received what others get so easily.  Why do people not thank me, not invite me, not play with me, and not honor me, while they pay so much attention to those who take life so easily and so casually?”

I ordered a print of Rembrandt’s painting and it now hangs in our home, in a clear bright room over the piano.   Fifteen years have passed since sitting in-front of my mother and now I sit before this painting.   While I gaze on the younger son, the elder son and the father in this painting, I am mulling over Nouwen’s words and through my own prayer, I recognize I am also similar to the younger son.

“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.  Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere?  Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father?  I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me  ~~my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts~~ and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God.”

Lent calls us into a time of prayer.   In prayer as we get to know ourselves better, we gain a better understanding of God.   Allowing God to transform our hearts is a gift.

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.comShe is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.  Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include:

40 Day Printable Lenten Calendar

New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish

Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization”

Creating Space - Headshot - Peggy

40 Day Lenten Calendar – Small Act Kindness

The 40 Day Lenten Calendar (below), although originally created for children is now updated for adults.

Sister Michael Gurgone was the kindergarten teacher at our school for over 30 years.  She retired at the end of last school year, yet her traditions live on within our school and community.  Every Lent she would create a 40 day-calendar for our kindergarten children with 40 simple acts of kindness, prayers and fasting.  Sister Michael’s approach was appealing to the children, achievable and had far reaching impact on the children’s family and their parents.

Lent has always been my favorite time of the liturgical year, as I specifically like the opportunity to journey through 40 days with a new vigor in my prayers, fasting and almsgiving.  Lent is often considered a time to abstain from something but I have always viewed it as a means to stretch me physically and spiritually in preparation of awaiting Easter and the Resurrection.  I always remember my parents being so dedicated to the guidelines of our faith tradition during Lent. They encouraged us, as we matured, to enter into reading sacred scripture, attending retreats and “giving something up” with greater intensity.   An adult faith journey varies greatly based on where we are at on our faith journey and although Sister Michael’s 40 small acts were intended for children, I think many will find it meaningful.

Adapted from Sister Michael this printable 40 day Lenten calendar can be designed around your unique journey.   Perhaps on some of the days you will spend more time in prayer and reading.   On other day, reach out to someone to say that you are thinking of them with a quick email or maybe a more elaborate way, by bringing a friend or a grandparent a meal.  Prayerfully consider this Lenten season as an invitation to grow in your faith and to draw yourself closer to God.

“Unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:2

Enjoy this printable calendar for the 40 days of Lent.

lentcalendaredit

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish” and “Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

Here are some additional resources of blogs that you may find interesting.  I am participating in Keep Love in Lent Blog Link-up 2014.   I am keeping Love in Lent this year by supporting these other bloggers.   Plus I am supporting my children who have given up all sweets for 40 days.   Each of these bloggers offer creative ways and thoughts on keeping love in Lent.
 
Monica at Equipping Catholic Families (on Facebook
Chris at Campfires and Cleats (on Facebook)
Tina at Truly Rich Mom (on Facebook
Tracy at A Slice of Smith Life   (on Facebook)
 
http://www.catholicbloggersnetwork.com/
 Keep Love in Lent 2014

How Do Spiritual Gifts Change Your Life?

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In 1979, I was an 11-year-old fifth grader at Saint Joseph School in Downers Grove, IL. On October 5 of that year, my family and I spent the entire day camped curbside in downtown Chicago waiting patiently for Pope John Paul II. We sat with our brown bag lunches amidst the sea of followers. The streets were filled with nuns, priests, children and security guards. This was the first time I had ever heard a foreign language, and many were spoken around me that day, among them, Polish, Spanish and Italian. We were all chanting “Viva la papa!” I remember leaning over and asking an elderly Italian woman with her rosary wrapped around her wrist, “What does that mean?” She looked into my eyes and said, “Long live the Pope.”  In typing this post that phrase still brings a tear to my eye.

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I remember the Pope’s motorcade coming down the street and the excitement of his presence. As he passed by, I knew I would always remember that moment, as well as attending the mass he celebrated hours later, with what felt like all of Chicago. The following day, the Chicago Tribune reported the events: “Pope John II traveled to Grant Park for the largest mass ever celebrated in Chicago. The skyscrapers of Chicago’s Loop resembled cathedral spires as they soared over the crowd.” The article described the gathering of an estimated 200,000 people as “festive yet solemn, happy but devout.” Worshipers of all ages, races and religions had come to see the pontiff.

In his homily, John Paul II said:

“Looking at you, I see people who have thrown their destinies together and now write a common history. .. . This is the way America was conceived; this is what she was called to be. . . . But there is another reality that I see when I look at you. . . . your unity as members of the People of God.”

Years later, in 1989 before I met my husband, Shane, he traveled with friends through Europe after graduating from college. They found themselves in a similar crowd gathered at Saint Peter’s Square to attend mass with the Holy Father. After the mass, Pope John Paul II walked amongst the crowds and laid his hand upon the head of one of Shane’s fellow travelers. This experience of the mass and the encounter with the Vicar of Christ left an equally immense impression on Shane.

This past Sunday after mass, as Shane and I ate breakfast with our 5 children, we recounted these stories, and shared how the experiences helped shape us, and led to our current ministries. Another recent turning point for me came through a life-changing program from Catherine of Sienna Institute: its Called and Gifted workshop. Ever since I had finished my studies in spiritual direction, I had been searching for my next step. The Called and Gifted workshop provided me with an inventory and personal context for my spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts are different than natural talents and strengths. Natural talents are in-born, or inherited from a parent. I can see that in the athletic ability that my daughter received from my husband. Spiritual gifts (known as “charisms,” a Greek word used in the New Testament for “favor” or “gratuitous gift”) are gifts from the Holy Spirit. They are intended to be shared with the world in an outward focus, in charity and service. Spiritual gifts enable Christians to build up the church. (CCC 2003)

Through scripture we hear about spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12:7-10

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the spirit of wisdom, and to another the speaking of knowledge according to the same spirit to another faith by the same spirit to another gifts of healing by the one spirit to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kind of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.”

Our Sunday breakfast conversation evolved as our children were eager to hear, how and when they will receive these spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given to us through the Holy Spirit at our sacraments, in addition to grace, which helps us overcome our fears or hesitation in using those gifts (similar to what the early disciples may have felt). The Catechism states that when we are baptized, we are made a temple of the Holy Spirit and are given “the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1265-1266) Then at the sacrament of Confirmation, an imprint is made on the soul, “an indelible spiritual mark, the ‘character,’ which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.” (CCC 1304)

When we use our spiritual gifts, we are not only building God’s church on earth; studies show that we also become more fulfilled. Gallup, an organization widely known for its polls and employee-selection research, found that when individuals use their strengths in their occupations, they are more engaged, productive, profitable and happier.  In Living Your Strengths, a recently-published book by Gallup, the authors explain that American churches are experiencing a power shortage. “People aren’t harnessing the power of their innate gifts,” I see this in my own parish: individuals volunteer for a position out of a desire to help, but in some cases, the right person is in the wrong ministry. Or in other cases, an individual works tirelessly doing a ministry that isn’t within his or her spiritual gifts, which leads to burnout and disconnection from the church. How invigorating would it be if all members of a church were using their gifts to enrich their parish, while at the same time, making each parishioner more engaged, productive, and happier?

Life is messy, complicated and challenging on many days, and it can be hard to find the joy in our daily existence. Life also changes us. And yet since the beginning of time, man has always searched for a deeper meaning for our existence. As we gain a better understanding of ourselves, and learn what our spiritual gifts are, we are given a glimpse of our purpose on earth. Living, working and serving from your spiritual gifts provides abundant amounts of energy, others will affirm your efforts, and surely in God’s timing you will provide a positive impact on others.

When Pope John Paul was in Chicago he talked about “unity,” and in our union with God we are more capable of unity with others. This quote from Pope Francis reminds me of my daily desire to be attentive to using my gifts to foster unity:

“We should get into the habit of asking ourselves, before the end of the day: ‘What did the Holy Spirit do in me?  What witness did he give me?’ Because he is a divine presence that helps us   moving forward in our lives as Christians.”

The Pope explained that the Holy Spirit is always there to protect and support each person, and that, “without this presence, our Christian lives cannot be understood.” Perhaps this Lent can be a season for you to consider: do you know your spiritual gifts? How are you sharing those gifts?  Who might be able to help if you are wrestling with this topic?

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “New App For your Phone Connect your Parish, Growing the Faith, One Parish” and “Extending Compassion, Losing a Child & Evangelization” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.