Author, Be Radiant, Catholic, faith

A Pennsylvania Dichotomy

adventure church clouds cloudy

Somehow, I always seem to look for dichotomies.  I appreciate the incongruous connections that appear in life.  A significant one appeared as I traveled the roads of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.

As I traveled, I jumped from one radio station to another, trying to catch the news of the area.  At one point, I heard on a Catholic channel, a story shared that really struck me.  The discussion was about the two pillars of the church: Mary and Peter.

Now, I am not a theologian, so I can not speak to its truth or theology.  I was also driving, so I did not write down what station or who said what.  I can only share what I remember of the discussion.  The story went something like this.  That Christ, in his infinite wisdom called Peter the rock, on which he would build his church, the institution.  But, they explained, that Mary, carried the baby, the body of Christ, within her.  It is her mantle that wraps the body of the church, the people.  The description continued that sometimes the rock will crumble a bit and that the people are there to mend it.  Other times, the people, the body, leave the mantle of Mary and the church, the rock, is there to cause them to pause and return.

I heard the story while I was driving through the rainy mountains of Pennsylvania, for what was my first CMN conference, Catholic Marketing Network convention and trade show.  Never having been before, I was not sure what to expect.  I knew that authors and speakers and publishers and gift shop owners and all sorts of people who celebrate and support Catholicism would be coming together.  What I didn’t know was how they would interact, how they would connect with each other.

I have been to many a trade shows and conferences in my corporate, secular life.  But, this one was different.  The spirit was different.  There was no competition, there was singularity of purpose.  Authors would encourage each other before meeting with publishers, anxious to know the response a fellow author received.  Publishers connected with each other.  Gift store owners compared notes so easily.  If someone stopped you for directions, to the Adoration Chapel usually, they apologized for interrupting and were so appreciative of any assistance.  Most importantly, every conversation ended with “God Bless”.  This group of primarily lay people, were living the gospel as I understand it:  to love one another and to be in service to each other.

I really felt what it was like to be under the mantle of Mary, together.  This was part of the body of Christ.  The loving, supportive, engaging, faith-filled body that we desire to be as we live our faith.

After the convention, I continued on my journey, visiting family in New Jersey and Ohio, and showing up for a baby shower in Indiana.  I finally found myself back at home last week, as news of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report appeared.  Heartsick and devastated, I kept thinking of the contrast.  What I experienced in Pennsylvania, at that convention was faith in a very real and living way.  This; this news of priests and Bishops and Cardinals, this news is horrific.

I have been reflecting on these dichotomies and it occurred to me that the story I heard on the roads in Pennsylvania provide a glimpse of understanding for me.  “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”  That rock is crumbling.  At the same time, the experience of this conference demonstrated to me what the “body” can be.  We can be one; loving and in service to each other.  The body stands strong for our faith, shares our faith, and can even assist in the mending of the rock.

When I speak, I often share my mantra of Be Radiant.  The intention is to let the light of God shine through you.  It struck me how hard it is to be radiant during difficult times like this.  At the same time, if the body comes together and we each share our God given radiance, perhaps we can light the path in this dark world and along with the rock that stands strong, help lead others back to God.

 

 

Be Radiant

A Light in the Dark

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I was visiting with a friend today and she shared a harrowing story of her grandmother that ended quite beautifully, thanks in large part to some lovely, dare we say, radiant strangers.  It goes like this.

Her grandmother, about 85, decided to walk five blocks to a convenient store. Sure, her daughter and granddaughter were coming over in a little bit but, it was only going to take her a few minutes to run this errand.  She had planned to take her cell phone, but when she picked it up, she realized it was not working (the battery had died) and so she left it at home.

She finished her errand and decided that she really had plenty of time, so why not take the bus to her daughter’s house and save her the trip.  It would be a nice surprise.  But, that is when things got a little turned around.

The grandmother forgets things occasionally, like so many of us do.  This time however, she forgot which bus stop to take and ended up getting off at the wrong spot.  Downtown, on the south side of St. Louis, so many things looked the same to her.  She started walking the city blocks, looking for her daughter’s house.

The more she walked, the more turned around she became, the more scared, the more nervous, the more forgetful.  Day turned to night and her family was besides themselves, as it had now been 4 or 5 hours, and they had no idea where to look.

The grandmother started knocking on doors, could anyone help her?  But, by this time, so afraid, she couldn’t even remember what street she lived on, let alone where her daughter lived.  And then she found the light in the darkness.  Late Saturday night, she knocked on the door of a loving couple.  They could see she was scared and lost.  They brought her into the house, calmed her down, gave her a bit of water and tried to help her remember things.  Where was she going?  What was her address?  Was there a phone number to call?

They were at a loss because she was at a loss.  But, they had a relative who is a police officer.  They called her, could she help?  Sure enough, the police officer was able to help her figure out at least the name of her street, and she took her there.  They walked up and down the street to see what looked familiar.  And, at 3am, there was her daughter, sitting on the stoop of her house, so afraid for her mother.

As my friend, the granddaughter shared this story, still so clearly rattled, it occurred to me that the star of the story is that kind couple. How spectacular that of all the doors to knock on, that the grandmother knocked on theirs.  The family does not know who they are.  But, their kindness, their warmth, their caring for a nervous grandmother, made all the difference.  To me, they were radiant.  They were the light that dark Saturday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author, Be Radiant, faith

A Horrible Headache

Author Donna A Heckler as a child
Donna about age 9 or 10

Let me take you back, many, many years ago when your author, as a 7 or 8 year old, had a horrible headache.  I remember it well.  Truly, I had never had a headache before so I couldn’t figure out what was occurring, but my little head was just pounding.

I went into the kitchen to look for my Mother.  She took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  My head really, really hurts I explained.  I don’t think I even knew the word for headache yet, to be honest.  She asked me what had I done?  Had I fallen, had I hit my head?

“No”, I said, “I was just thinking.  And, now my head really, really hurts!”

“What were you thinking about?” she asked curiously.

“Well, I was trying to figure out how God could be three persons in one.  I can’t figure that out, and I really, really tried!  And, now, my head really hurts!”

My mother proceeded to explain that this was something that people are not supposed to understand, we needed to accept it on faith.  While I don’t recall if she said it was a “mystery”, she did tell me that it was something that only God understood.  She suggested I just accept it and not try to sort it out and then my head would feel better.

I thought about this at Mass today on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and thought I might share the story with you.  This little girl stills wishes her brain could figure out the Holy Trinity.  This Catholic adult is humbled by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the three persons in one who love, strengthen and guide us.

I smile as I think about this very real introduction to faith that I had as a child.  As an adult, I smile as I think about how many times faith removes the horrible headaches in our lives, allowing us to be radiant.

Be Radiant Friends….

 

 

 

 

 

Be Radiant, faith

Finding Radiance in the Rain

Rain on Leaves

This author and speaker did a bit of a mid-west tour this past week, driving from St. Louis to Indiana to Iowa, back to Indiana before heading home.  I tried to tell myself I was doing one big loop through the upper mid-west, though truth be told, it was more of zigs and zags, through the rain most of the way.

It was a rainy trip and I was slogging through downpours and thunderstorms as I drove.  During one part of the journey, when the rain didn’t seem like it would ever let up, I challenged myself to find the radiance, in the rain.

Surely it was there, I just needed to be present and look for it. I pulled off the highway to get some gas and a little bit to drink.  As I checked out with my beverage in hand, the clerk, never-looking up, murmured “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  I automatically said thank you and turned to leave.  No, I thought to myself, really thank her for saying that.  I turned back to her.  “Thank you for saying that.  That was really lovely.”

Words can not describe her reaction.  She lifted her head up and burst into the biggest smile I have seen in awhile.  Standing  a bit taller, she looked me in the eye and said with a shoulder shrug and that beautiful smile, “I always say that, it is sort of my thing.”

“I am so glad” I replied, “It is a wonderful thing to say.  Thank you so very much.  You have a blessed day as well.”

I stepped outside, into the rain and realized I had seen the radiance I was looking for that day.  Right there, at a little Speedway gas station in Indiana, by a shy, beautiful cashier who wanted to remind me, and all of us, that we are blessed.

 

Be Radiant, faith

Till Death Us Do Part….

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St. Mary’s Cathedral; Photo Credit Jamie Thompson

I had the wonderful fortune to witness my nephew and his fiancee get married on December 30.  The church was beautiful, so peaceful and holy.   In the quiet of the church, what was palpable was the love these two had for each other.  Yes, they are young.  But, they had found each other and as I watched the sacrament of marriage, one thing was clear, they truly complete each other.

I headed back to my home town and later that first week of the New Year, finally got to finishing up all the mail that had accumulated during my absence.  Magazines are always piled on the bottom of the stack, so it took me awhile to get to them.  As I started looking at the two or three magazines that had collected, I was stunned.

There, boldly staring up at me was a cover and headline that shook me to the core.  Above the name of the magazine in fact, was this headline “A Guide to Divorcing Well”.  Are you kidding me?  There is no ability to ever divorce well.  None.  Marriage is a lifelong commitment and if it is ending in divorce, there is no way that can be good or done well.

It took me a few days to calm down enough to pick up the magazine and read the article itself.  I did not make it through the article very well.  I didn’t have to – much as I expected, it was about taking advantage of the spouse.  It had tips for minimizing the cost of divorce and simplifying the process.  What?  Divorce should be hard and painful; it should not happen.  How have we as a society gotten to this point where national magazines scream headlines on how to divorce well?  The magazine used that headline because they knew that it would draw people in, it would sell copies, it would speak to people.  But, in selling more magazines, how many people became intrigued, excited even by what divorce could be for them?

When I was at my nephew’s wedding, it was a radiant event.  They were so clearly sharing their love with each other, we all witnessed that in their marriage.  And, they were embraced by a large family, showering them with love as they began their life together.  There is nothing radiant in divorce.  There is no light, no joy; only brokenness and pain. Divorce is not good.  It can not be done well.  Town and Country Magazine, you may have been genteel in the day.  But, any magazine that espouses “divorcing well” is far from genteel,  far from classy. By the way, you have just lost one more subscription.