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Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

God’s Little Miracles: What Great Grandma Called Them

We are approaching a special time of year in Southern Indiana: mushroom season. My great grandmother always called them God’s little miracles because the mushroom is such a mystery. They grow from under trees and they spring up out of the side of rocks. I’ve been mushroom hunting my whole life. From the time I was a very small child we have been tromping the woods to find fungus. This season is a reminder to me to keep my eyes on Jesus. I’ll explain why.

A couple years ago I was mushroom hunting. I was scouring the woods to find a grand mushroom. One caught my eye and I went running toward it. I kept my eyes glued on the mushroom as I jumped over logs and tore through a sticker bush. Anyone that has been mushroom hunting knows that you have to keep your eyes fixed on the mushroom. If you lose focus, you might never find it again. So I was very intent on keeping my eyes on that mushroom. I was also giddy as innocent childhood memories flooded back, plus the hunt is absolutely thrilling. I quickly darted around until I finally captured that mushroom. With pride I stood tall with my find basking in the glory of finding one of God’s little miracles.

My excitement quickly plummeted when I realized I was stuck. Stuck in the middle of trees and sticker bushes. As I began my crawl out of that mess, it was slow. I was scratched. My hair got tangled in a bush. It was very slow moving, but I did manage to find my way out of that mess. It was painful and with much effort, but I lived to tell the tale.

I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. This was much like life. On the way in I had my eyes fixed on that mushroom and I ran right through some really big obstacles. However, on the way out I was focused on the thorns and foliage and I was almost defeated by them. The only difference was my focus. That one difference resulted in two totally different experiences.

So now I see that my focus needs to be on Jesus. It shouldn’t be on the obstacles. In this life we have so many. Jesus will never abandon us. He will always be a place of focus. So let us keep our eyes locked on Him and follow Him the way He intended. Not to take the obstacles away, just to help us get through them. We are so blessed to have this option. We are so blessed to be able to call on Jesus. We are so blessed to able to follow Him. There is such a difference in focusing on Jesus and focusing on the storms around us. Let us trust in Him.

Another thing my great grandma always said was to thank God every time you found a mushroom and to hope for another. “Thank you Lord, send us another one.”

Cheers to another season of mushroom hunting!

Blessings to you!

Categories
Anni Books Ink Slingers Reviews Spiritual Growth Testimonials

The Importance of a Faith-Filled Life: A Book Review

 

When I was a teenager, the Roma Downey series, Touched by An Angel, was all the rage. Millions, my family included, would tune in every week to watch how God’s angels touched the lives of everyday people – people like you and me. We would watch and wait for the last scene, when the angel looked into the heart of the one God had helped to say assuringly, “God loves you.”

At that point in my life, I devoured one angelic testimony after another, savoring each tale of how an angel guided someone through difficult trials. These books were more than just testimony to the incredible nature of God’s creatures… they provided hope for the readers. They reminded us that God is around us, providing miracles as signs of his presence for those of us trudging through life.

Therefore, when I was provided a free copy of Once I Was Blind But Now I See, a testimonial by Charles Piccirilli with Kimberly Cook, in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance. To read about a man who, having dabbled in the occult, made his way back to God through to the Catholic Faith, and experienced God’s hand and voice in his life? Of course I had to review that book!

Mr. Piccirilli actually doesn’t go into depth about his life with the occult. He chooses instead to gloss over that dark life so that he may focus on what came after; adamant that once he banished the demons which used to invade his space and embraced a life with Jesus, his life turned around.

As I read how Jesus has physically, emotionally, and spiritually touched Mr. Piccirilli, I was moved, but in ways I did not expect.

Mr. Piccirilli’s experiences were just as hopeful and well-written as the best angelic testimonies, and made for a real page turner. I read the entire book in one day.

Simply put, Mr. Piccirilli’s story is amazing!

For one who reads this book, however, I must caution that Mr. Piccirilli’s experiences are outside the normative experience for most of the faithful. But, it does not mean it can’t be true. Throughout the bible, we are told of prophets who will be in our midst – and, simply because a man may be a prophet, does not mean his faith will not be tested like the rest of us. There is no discussion of Mr. Piccirilli’s test of faith, but it can be argued his time with the occult is test enough.

When reading this book, I wondered how Mr. Piccirilli’s claims can be true? How is it that God could bless this man’s life so much? What could Mr. Piccirilli have done to deserve these incredible and miraculous experiences?

Reading Once I Was Blind But Now I See challenged me, in a positive manner, as well. I asked myself where my faith had gone – the faith of my childhood, which led me stay up hours past my bedtime to finish a book of angelic miracles I had purchased that morning?

As I sat in prayer on this book, I was gently reminded of one of my favorite bible passages. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 highlights the gifts of the Holy Spirit. While one of my gifts may be writing, Mr. Piccirilli’s gifts seem to be healing, working of miracles, and prophecy. While that may be uncomfortable to some, it’s a good reminder that we are all called to recognize the gifts we have been given, embrace those gifts, hone them, and then use them for the glory of God.

Like any gift from God, there is nothing neither I nor Mr. Piccirilli could possibly to do to deserve what was received through His grace.

Once I Was Blind But Now I See serves as a reminder that God does answer prayers – perhaps not on our schedule or in the manner we would like, But He answers them in the ways that are in accord with His plan. This book also highlights how God allows for us to use our free will… to choose to follow His directions and His plans for us.

It is a testament to how loving and forgiving God remains, even when we try to strike our own course, instead of following His path.

In a manner which is engaging and easy to read, Mr. Piccirilli shares how he has been touched and immensely blessed by God. His book reminds readers of the importance of living a life filled with faith – not in expectation of the miraculous, but rather because God is here, providing miracles all around us each and every day.

And, no matter what way miracles may manifest in this world, this book is a testimony to the greatness of the glory of God.

Because, with God, all things are possible.

**This book was provided free of charge to the author of this piece, in exchange for an honest review. If you are interested in further information about this book, or would like to purchase this book, please visit The Lion of Design.**
Categories
Conversion Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year A)

What does it take for you to believe in Jesus? Or what did it take? Was it being knocked over and struck with blindness like St. Paul. Or maybe it was witnessing a miracle. Do miracles even happen any more? I believe they do, if we’re open and willing to see them. This Sunday’s Gospel had me thinking about miracles. As we approach Easter I’m trying to look at Jesus’ miracles in a new way.

It’s hard to approach something in a new way, especially if we’ve been hearing it our whole life. I believe this is why the Church year is set up in a cyclical fashion, so we are challenged to continuously read the life of Jesus and see it in new ways each time. Which brings us to the beauty of lectio divina. Lectio is the ultimate challenge of praying with the text and allowing God to show you some new aspect of it. When you are praying with this passage remember that you are not necessarily trying to understand everything from the passage (and this one is a long one!) you are giving God the opportunity to point out something to you that you need to hear today. A year from now you may read the same passage and God will want to tell you something different. What he shares with you may be very different from what he has shared with me.

With that in mind I invite you to locate the Gospel for this coming Sunday (in your own missal or other publication or you can find it on the USCCB website) and join me as we read, reflect, respond, and rest in God’s Word. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

READ

  • I am the resurrection
  • Jesus wept
  • Thank you for hearing me
  • Began to believe in him

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

I really have to step back and put myself in the mindset of the people in this reading who are witnessing the miracle Jesus performs. I forget how absolutely astounding it must have been to see a dead man walk out of his tomb. I feel like the last sentence of this very long Gospel passage is a bit of an understatement. I also wonder who walked away not believing. It doesn’t say that “all” began to believe, but that “many” began to believe. How could you not believe?? Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. He was bound in burial bands and his face was wrapped in a cloth. And yet, he walked out of the tomb! It’s miraculous!

Miracles are something that we forget about often. We are surrounded by so much technology and the modern world has made it it’s mission to prove everything by science. It’s easy to forget that miracles are not just something that happened once upon a time. They still surround us today if we just open our eyes to see them. For me, I used to find it rather useless to pray for things that seemed an impossibility. More recently I was reminded that Jesus is a worker of miracles. This Gospel passage pretty much drives home that message. Now when I go to the adoration chapel for my weekly hour, I regularly thank Jesus for the miracles he performs and I ask him to work miracles for the intentions I bring before him. No matter how impossible they seem to me, I continue to beg him for the miracles I know, sincerely know, he can perform.

Something else that stuck out to me in this reading was just before Lazarus is raised from the dead, Jesus prays to God the Father and the first thing he does is thank him for hearing him. Sometimes I feel as if my prayers consist entirely of thanking God for my blessings. Which is all good, but then I forget to pray for other things, too. I was reminded here that God likes to receive our prayers of thanksgiving. Even Jesus, his own son, begins his prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving. It’s a nice reminder that when we pray, we should offer all our thanks to God first before asking him to then consider our intentions.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Reflecting on the miracles that God works each and every day, I’m reminded of some particular prayer intentions I’m always bringing before God. Sometimes I find it difficult to imagine that these particular intentions could come to fulfillment. But then I remind myself that God works miracles and nothing is impossible for him. What may look impossible from my perspective may look very possible from his. I only have to trust. This passage reminded me that even impossible things can happen.

Thank you, God, for the blessings in my life and for the many small miracles that happen each day. I pray for those who do not believe in you that they may be reminded of your love and presence in their life and will come to believe.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Feast Days Ink Slingers Natalie Novenas Prayer Saints

In Honor of St. Joseph: Our Guide, Our Intercessor, Our Friend

I picked up the phone and heard my sister’s ecstatic voice on the line. “WE HAVE SOMEONE INTERESTED IN THE HOUSE!”  My heart sang and I smiled. I could hardly believe my ears! This was good news, and a very big thank you was owed to St. Joseph.

Going back to the beginning….

My sister Shell and I have been best friends since I was born. She waited patiently for me for 6.5 years and squealed with delight when she found out she had a sister! We loved each other dearly and spent every moment together. Our days were spent playing Barbies, making fairy houses, and nearly killing ourselves a couple times (much to our Mother’s grief!) Those were the golden years!

Years flew by and soon we were both grown. Shell married back in 2007, just before I turned 18.

I then met my now husband Stephen shortly after I turned 18 and had a whirlwind courtship and we got married in the summer of 2009. I moved to Phoenix. It was devastating to move so far away from my family, especially my sister. We had no idea if we’d ever move back, but we knew it was very unlikely.

Shell and I talked frequently and dreamt that someday we would live closer and our children would grow up as best friends. If only it could happen!

My husband and I bought a house and settled and called Arizona our home. Four years passed and we welcomed 3 handsome sons into our family.

Shell called me one day and told me that the house they were trying to sell had been sitting on the market for over a year with NO bites. They were under two mortgages and were desperate to get their other house sold.

My sister and I decided that very day that we would begin praying the St. Joseph novena asking for his intercession. We figured that if it was God’s will, he would let something happen so that we could live closer to each other and see our children grow up together. It was a crazy prayer, a very impossible intention at that point, but we had great faith! Shell was also praying that they would sell their house.

On the last day of our 30 day novena, my sister called me with the news. Someone had just contacted her and wanted to rent to own the house they had been trying to sell!

We began a second novena….

I still remember the day clearly. My husband Stephen broke the news to me suddenly.

One evening he blurted “I got a job offer in Washington!!!!”

I sat there stunned, my head whirling. At first I didn’t know whether to believe it was true.

“Wait….Are you serious?”

He absolutely was!

I called my sister in a flurry with the news and she, like me, could hardly believe it. We both laughed and cried with joy. Could this REALLY be happening?

With the second 30 day St. Joseph novena complete, we began a third, begging his intercession for our house to sell.

Sell it did…Almost immediately after we put it up for sale. Everything fell into place so perfectly and without a hitch.

The day our house closed and we had $20,000 profit from it transferred into our bank account was also the day my husband got a confirmation that the job was absolute in Washington and we were moving!

Moving day came mid-January 2014. We packed up our vehicle, said our goodbyes and hit the road. It was the beginning of a new adventure and a trip that proved dangerous and very scary!

We prayed hard, and finally made it to our new rental home and settled in.

My sister and I were only FIVE minutes away from each other! We laughed in glee that such a miraculous thing happened to us! We could drink coffee, spend the day together and watch our children play. We do not for a day take our situation for granted!

After a year in our rental house, we knew that we were ready to buy a house in the area.

The housing market was poor. I checked the listings daily and felt more and more disheartened.

One day, a house popped up onto the market as a new listing. The house was beautiful, well taken care of and had 5 bedrooms, a generator attached directly to the house, its own well and it sat on nearly 5 acres. It was too good to be true!

I called my realtor immediately and told him I wanted to see the house IMMEDIATELY!

We made an appointment the next day and went to see the house. Our realtor opened the door and when we walked into the house I knew, immediately that this was our house. It was even more beautiful in person then in the pictures.

We made an offer on the house THAT day and offered over asking price!

This was right before Christmas and we prayed for a Christmas miracle! We continued praying the St. Joseph novena daily since we first began about 1.5 years ago and now we begged for his intercession once again.

We waited anxiously as the day approached that the owners would be viewing the offers. Apparently we were not the only ones who made a quick offer on the house, there were several sitting on the desk and the house had only been on the market 4 days!

Finally, after what seemed like forever, I got the anticipated call from our realtor.

Our realtor said “I have good news and bad news…” The bad news is that several of the offers were much better than yours…” My heart sunk. “However, the good news is that the sellers accepted YOUR offer out of all of them!!!!”

I stood there shocked, in completely disbelief.

We finally signed several months later. We had a VA loan and it proved to be extremely difficult. We almost lost the deal several times, but miracle after miracle happened and things kept falling into place slowly, no matter how hopeless it felt at times!

I was pregnant at this time, about 4 months along.

We were finally able to rest easy as we settled into our beautiful new home and awaited the arrival of our 4th child.

June rolled around quickly as we enjoyed our days in our new house and soon I was in labor.

I prayed asking for St. Joseph’s intercession and protection again as I was home alone when labor began and quickly progressed.

My husband and midwife got to our house just in time to witness the gentle birth of our 4th son.

We named him Joseph Andrew, after our patron saint and dear friend St. Joseph.

St. Joseph has protected us diligently and 4 years after we began the St. Joseph novena, we continue praying it DAILY.

If you have an impossible situation in your life, pray the St. Joseph novena. I promise you he will be there. In honor of his feast day, I share my testimony of this 30 day St. Joseph novena!

St. Joseph, Pray for us!

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Prayer Saints Spiritual Growth

Dear 8 Pound 6 Ounce Newborn Infant Jesus

“Dear 8 pound 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly but still omnipotent, thank You for all Your power and Your grace, dear Baby God. Amen.”

This line from Talladega Nights is one of my favorites. The setting is crude and the reason the family prays is maybe not the best (they are praying to win and to have more money), but it does highlight an aspect of faith that many often don’t consider. When we pray, we don’t necessarily have to pray to the Jesus we all envision when someone talks about our Lord. Jesus was Lord and Savior as a man, as a teen, and as a sweet infant as well.

Infant Jesus of PraguePerhaps you’ve not heard of the Infant Jesus of Prague. A statue of the infant Jesus dressed like a king was brought to Prague by Maria Manriquez. While not the first statue of the Infant Jesus, it is definitely one of the most well-known. It was said that the Infant Christ had appeared to a friar and revealed the statue to him. The beautiful wax statue is 18 inches tall and shows the infant wrapped in kingly clothes. In His left hand he holds a globe with a cross atop it. This shows He has kingship over the world. His right hand extends a blessing to us with His first two fingers raised to show His dual nature- truly human and truly divine.

The statue was eventually dedicated to a Carmelite monastery where the friars and many others began to have a deep devotion to the Infant Jesus. However, as The Thirty Years War raged and the Saxon army invaded Prague many times, the friars fled the monastery in 1628. They hid the statue behind the altar. Years later when they returned, they forgot about the statue. In 1638 it was rediscovered but the hands were missing.  Father Cyril, the friar who found the statue, was said to been visited by the Infant Jesus who told him, “Have pity on Me, and I will have pity on you. Give Me My hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you.”

Father Cyril, as all the friars at the monastery, had no money to fix the statue. They also did not possess the skills necessary to fix such a work of art. He asked for the Blessed Mother’s intercession, pleading to have the funds become available to help him fix the statue. It is said that he received another vision from the Infant Jesus who told him, “Place Me near the entrance of the sacristy and you will receive aid”. He did as he was told and within a few days a man came by and fixed the statue. Shortly thereafter miracles began happening. An altar, and finally a chapel, was built to house the Infant Jesus. Despite unrest and war, miraculously the chapel and the statue have always remained unscathed. To this day pilgrims from around the world come to venerate and pay their respect to the Infant Jesus.

Devotion to the Infant Jesus may seem strange to some when the bible only speaks of Christ’s work as an adult. Sometimes it’s easier for us to connect to the man who was Jesus Christ; after all we are often faced with the same temptations and struggles that He faced. But Christ came to us as an infant. He came as a helpless newborn that had to rely on His mother and earthly father to provide for His needs. He came unable to talk and unable to walk. He came vulnerable to the world. He came as we still come. It is not only ok but it is also good to pray to Christ at the various ages and stages of His life, including as an infant. He was both human and divine from the moment of His conception. His entire life, from conception to death, was holy and is worthy of worship and adoration.

Infant Jesus of Prague 2I have a particular devotion to the Infant Jesus. I have a statue of him as well as pictures in my home and I carry a devotional card and medal in my purse at all times. I find His vulnerability as an infant to match the way my heart often feels. I feel helpless to take care of my needs on my own, unable to speak the right words when necessary, and unable to walk the right path without guidance. He understands that helplessness. He knows that I rely on Him to take care of me just as He relied on Mary and Joseph to take care of Him.  When I pray to the Infant Jesus I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I know that even as a baby He is able to guide and protect me.  I turn to Him for many things but I find it especially comforting to ask Him to watch over my children, especially my babies.

If you haven’t discovered The Infant Jesus of Prague I encourage you to learn about Him. The miracles that flow from Him are tremendous and the peace that comes from entrusting yourself to His care is overwhelming.