Feeding Your Family’s Soul Week 8: Honoring Mary

The policeman seemed to emerge from the shadows right next to our van, wearing a bullet proof vest and carrying his weapon in a defensive posture. He walked along the street, eyes darting, attempting to penetrate the darkness as he searched. My husband picked up speed as we tried to find our way through the maze of emergency vehicles that blocked our usual route home.

We had the baby with us, but we’d left our other five children at home under the watchful eye of our 13-year-old. We’d hoped to bring some of the peace and relaxation from our date night home with us, but our tension only built as we wondered what we were returning home to.

Fortunately, we got out of the crime scene safely, and the street on which we lived was quiet. The Hail Mary’s I’d been silently repeating in my head dissolved into relief as I walked in the door of our house to find all of our children safe and happy.

We soon learned that during an attempted robbery in the neighborhood through which we had just driven, a homeowner had been shot and the “armed and dangerous” suspect had fled on foot.

Right here in small town Kansas.

In a good neighborhood.

Where my husband and I had just been driving, right around the time of the crime.

You can try to do everything possible to keep your family safe. But no matter where you live, or what you do, there will always be an element of evil in the world that is completely beyond your control.

That is where our Blessed Mother comes in.

fatima procession bannerThe messages of Fatima tell us that Mary is aware and interested in everything that happens in our world. From our personal interior lives, to the realm of the political sphere, she is there. She is fearless. And she is fighting for all of us. She carries our prayers to our Lord in a splendor of purity and glory–she prays for us in a way that we never could on our own. At the Fatima apparitions in 1917, she warned us of the imminence of world war, and of our fate if our hearts are not fully converted to the Lord.

Because she cares. Deeply.

When an assassin attempted to murder Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, the bullet narrowly missed vital organs. Although badly injured, the pope recovered, and was convinced that it was our Lady who saved him. As he said, “One hand shot, and another guided the bullet.” Even the assassin himself revealed in an interview that he was shocked his bullet had missed its mark. He seemed to realize that an unseen force had worked against him.

This is why we honor Mary, and why we teach our children to honor her. Her yes to be the mother of Jesus was also her yes to be a mother to us all–a yes to do everything possible to bring the world to her Son.

My children have loved hearing the story of the Fatima apparitions during this specialfatima procession sunset anniversary year. We continue to make an effort to pray the Rosary together as a family, and we all enjoyed an evening at a local IHM novitiate house where we shared a meal, joined a procession with our Lady of Fatima, and prayed a Rosary with several hundred others.

And I am grateful and relieved that I can give my children a mother who, unlike me, is  perfect. A mother who will watch over my children when I cannot. A mother who will help me as we work together to carry them to heaven.

For more ideas on sharing the Catholic faith with your children, see Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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Posted in Book Review, Books, Faith, Family Life, Fatima, Hope, Mary, Prayer, Teaching, The Soul Project | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Soul Project Week 7: Grateful For Life

Soul Project Life image

We had our first real taste of fall weather this morning. As I sat snuggling my 9-month-old, savoring the warmth of her little body while the wind whipped outside and the furnace hummed inside, I felt grateful. Grateful for this little life, saved by modern medicine from the effects of a severe heart defect. She is our rainbow baby–our first living baby after the loss of miscarriage. There is nothing like losing a child to make you more fully appreciate the gift of another.

Our entire family felt the loss of that miscarriage deeply. My other children instantly understood that the tiniest baby in the womb is a life to be treasured. We all still talk about Julian as a valued member of our family, waiting and praying for us in heaven.

And just as we’ve learned the value of life from its very beginnings, so too, have we learned the value of life wrapped in the innocence and humility of disability. I’ve witnessed my children help my handicapped sister tie her shoes, climb a flight of stairs, and walk up to receive communion. My sister was my mother’s first child. When she became pregnant with me, her doctor advised her to have extensive testing done. He said that if any results of those tests looked at all questionable, she should consider having an abortion.

Thankfully, my mother chose life from the moment she conceived me. No testing, no questioning, just life. She chose life, and now my sister has a tiny army of spiritual warriors in my six children–a whole army to educate with her priceless lessons in patience, sacrifice, and love.

Now, my children are getting older–and so are my parents. And even though there are times when my children would rather be playing video games or hanging out with their friends instead of visiting with grandma and grandpa, they are also learning to appreciate the wisdom and unconditional love that comes with age. They are learning to appreciate the gifts that only a well-seasoned life can offer.

This week, our family discussed the value of life. We talked about the evils of abortion and euthanasia and the importance of praying for an end to these practices. But most of all, we simply built upon the culture of life that we’ve built into our family. We’re hoping to attend a Mass with our bishop outside of a local abortion clinic later this month. My daughter recently toured a pregnancy crisis center with her Little Flowers Girls’ Club group.

I’ve been amazed at how simple it is to present these pro-life values to my children. It makes sense to them. Trying to explain to an innocent child what abortion is starkly reveals its horrors. My children have seen for themselves that the beauty of life isn’t in its perfection, or ease, or convenience. They’ve seen firsthand how some of the heaviest crosses in life are the most beautiful, and how openness to life is a gift worth sharing.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

Art in photo by Jean Keaton

For more lessons in the Catholic faith, see Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.

Posted in Abortion, Book Review, Books, Family Life, Freedom, Hope, Love, Miscarriage, motherhood, Teaching, The Soul Project | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Prayer of St. Francis For Parents

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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace in my home:

Where there is fighting between siblings, help me to remind them
     of their love for each other;
Where there are hurt feelings, help me to show their little hearts
     how to forgive;
Where there is negative self-talk, help me to remind them
     of the wisdom of their Creator;
Where there is discouragement in school work or relationships,
     help me to show them there is always someone to care and help;
Where there is darkness threatening to consume their hearts and minds,
     help me to be aware of its presence and know how to get them
     the help they need;
Where there are tears flowing freely, help me to always take the time
     to offer a shoulder and a tissue.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
a break at the end of a long day as to give someone else the comfort
     and rest they need,
to have my feelings heard as to listen to the tender feelings
     of my children,
to be openly admired and thanked as to shower small acts of love
     on my family.

For it is in lovingly preparing a home cooked meal that we receive
     true spiritual nourishment,
it is in forgiving the short tempers of tired, hungry children
     that we are forgiven our own bursts of impatience,
and it is in giving just a little more love at the end of the day–when we
     think we have nothing left to give–that we move one step closer
     to heaven.

  Amen.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

Posted in Faith, Family Life, Hope, Love, motherhood, Prayer, Relationship, Spiritual Works of Mercy, Works of Mercy | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Rush Of Angels’ Wings

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This week, our family chose to focus on the chapter on angels from Feeding Your Family’s Soul.

This subject instantly captivated my children. They were fascinated with the varying strengths of three of the archangels, and they loved coming up with all of the different ways their own guardian angels help and protect them throughout their days. And our conversations on the recent feast of the archangels and feast of the Holy Guardian Angels highlighted another strength of O’Boyle’s book: that you can pick and choose from the 53 different chapters, lining them up with a coinciding feast day or liturgical season.

As my children and I work our way through the many facets of our Catholic faith, they are growing in understanding of the power of God and His Church. They saw this week that they don’t have to rely only on their parents, teachers, or other authority figures for protection and guidance. There is Someone much bigger watching over them, and He has a multitude of helpers assisting Him. The angels are constantly fighting the battle of good and evil for us. And while they may not always be able to eliminate evil altogether, they are sure to always rush in and carry us through it.

Whether protecting us from bodily harm, guiding us from temptation, or escorting us to our heavenly home, the angels are always there. In the midst of even the greatest tragedies, you can hear the rush of angels’ wings.

This was the lesson we all learned this week. That a power greater than ourselves will never forsake us. That the trials of this world, however horrific, are passing, and the angels are committed to leading us through to that upon which our gaze should always be fixed: our eternal home in heaven.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 5: The Consecrated Life–A Life For Everyone

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“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” Those are the words of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest from a farm in Oklahoma. A priest who, in his own quiet way, persisted through his struggles with Latin to become a priest, listened to God’s calling to fulfill a mission in Guatemala, and ultimately laid down his life for the Church and those he served.

This past weekend, my husband and my 13-year-old son traveled to Oklahoma City to attend the beatification Mass for Fr. Rother. My husband and I were hoping it would inspire our son, and give him some interesting substance for a school project.

Even though they arrived at the convention center early, throngs of people were lined up outside the doors. The convention center was full, and as my husband and son entered the lobby area, they were told that even the overflow seating was filled to capacity. There were probably 17,000 people seated in the convention center, and my husband guessed that at least 2,000 were turned away.

At first, this was a huge disappointment. But my husband tried to make the best of it and enjoyed some time with our son. They visited the Oklahoma City National Bombing Memorial and a science museum. And even though the original intent of the trip had fallen through, we realized that our son had been inspired. He was inspired by the crowds of people who wanted to witness a saint being made. He saw for himself the impact that a person who has fully committed his life to God can make.

My son saw the impact of a life of consecration that weekend–both in Fr. Rother and in my husband.

One of the compelling elements of Fr. Rother’s story is that he is an “ordinary martyr”. He grew up as a small farm boy in a family that simply practiced their faith–a family who knelt beside their modest dining table every night after dinner and prayed the Rosary–a family who worked hard, but also never failed to pray hard. But it was this simple life of devotion that led to the crown of martyrdom when the persecutions in Guatemala brought extremists to the bedside of Fr. Rother. It was this simple life of devotion that brought Fr. Rother back to Guatemala, even after a brief escape back to Oklahoma when he learned he was on a “death list” in his mission territory.

While my husband and I fortunately don’t live in mission territory under such severe persecution, we do have daily battles to face. Over-committed schedules, exhaustion, homework, and illness threaten our family’s prayer life. The pulls of worldly pleasures and technology threaten our focus on God. And, at times, we even feel deterred from the “good things” we try to do–like attend beatification Masses.

But, as Fr. Rother said, “The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.” As parents, we are here to shepherd our children–to guide them into the safety of the chosen flock in heaven. We cannot run. Even when it is difficult, even when we don’t feel like it, even when we fail, we must get up again. We must return to our mission territory of our children’s hearts and face whatever awaits us there.

That is what I saw my husband do this past weekend, and that is what my son saw him do. They may have felt the loss of a small battle in missing the beatification Mass, but my husband stayed committed to his life of consecration–that of husband and father. And that was all the inspiration my son truly needed.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 4: Humility

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“Sometimes God allows [the devil] to cause some obstacles to hinder our work, especially when we are working for the salvation of souls.” –Fr. Andrew Apostoli, Fatima For Today

“Be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says “Oh, no! She’s up.” –Joanne Clancy 

Do you know how much the devil would love to have your children’s souls? And how much he would love to have your help in acquiring them?

As parents, we are in a daunting business. The business of saving souls. No one is more aware of this than the devil. He loves to tempt us away from our duty. To fill us with discouragement, with feelings of doubt and inadequacy. He loves nothing more than to see us allow the family Rosary to go by the wayside for a week, or to feel so frustrated and exhausted by the end of the bedtime routine that we forgo bedtime prayers.

I’ve certainly felt the devil’s pull this week. The temptation to give up. The thoughts that I’m not good enough, or that nothing I try to teach my children will really make a difference anyway.

But when I have thoughts like that, I have to remind myself of their source. I have to remind myself of the objective truth that instructing my children in the faith is worthy of pursuit, whether I feel like it or not. And so, even though our family didn’t all quite make it to the table together every single night this week, and even though I felt like I was at the end of my rope some evenings, I still opened Feeding Your Family’s Soul and tried my best to have a faith filled conversation with my family.

We learned together about St. Catherine Laboure and her visions and instructions for casting the Miraculous Medal. We marveled at her humility and persistence. She didn’t boast to others about her visions of Mary. And she didn’t give up when even her confessor didn’t believe her. It takes true humility not to boast, and it takes true humility to speak the truth when it is difficult. It is through humility that we veil our gifts from pride even while the glory of God can’t help but shine through.

This week, our family supplemented the wonderful discussion questions in O’Boyle’s book with points from a little handbook called How to be Somebody: Cultivating the Interior Garden FULL CONTACT by Mark Mendes. I adapted questions from this book for my children to ponder, such as: “Do you think that what you do or say is better than what others do or say?” and “Do you think that all your talents, gifts, and qualities are all yours and are not on loan by the Merciful Savior?” and “Do you frequently interrupt people while they are speaking?”

It is especially on the days that are the hardest that God will reward our efforts to teach our children. It takes humility to return to prayer when we’ve fallen away. It takes humility to apologize for an impatient outburst and ask our family for a second chance. It  takes humility to rise each morning, prepared to fight the devil, knowing that we can only do that by relying fully on God.

Humility allows us to empty ourselves and make space for God. As our family studied this virtue together, I was reminded of its importance–and the importance of gently reprimanding my children when they are less than humble. While some are more naturally humble than others, I think it is a lifelong process for everyone to turn themselves completely over to God’s will. Hopefully, in time, my family and I can all help each other to model ourselves after the humility of the Holy Family. And when our feet hit the floor each morning the devil will say, “Oh no! They’re up!”

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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The Soul Project Week 3: Finding Our Little Way

“You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”

–St. Therese of Lisieux, as quoted in Feeding Your Family’s Soul by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

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It can be far too easy to forget how much God loves us. In a world that favors noise over silence, doing over being, and distraction over recollection, the still, small voice of wisdom gets lost. The heart that burns for us is neglected, and the One who thirsts for us remains parched.

But over the last week, as my family and I learned about St. Therese and her Little Way, we saw God’s love re-emerge as a mainstream topic. Perhaps God wasn’t always mentioned by name in a newscast, and we never saw Jesus Himself walking amongst the crowds in the hurricane shelters, but everyone felt it. The love. The great love that was evident in so many small acts.

Surely it was Christ’s pierced hands that passed out water bottles to displaced hurricane victims. Surely it was Christ’s pierced feet that walked through the saturated rubble to help a neighbor salvage possessions. And surely it was Christ’s pierced head that organized rescue missions, initiated supply drives, and counted money to be donated.

This week, we were reminded that the simplest acts are what pull us together. We were reminded that a glass of water, hot meal, and a smile, when given with great love and true compassion, break all boundaries.

We learned to give love, and we learned to receive love. Even in the midst of pain and suffering, we remembered that we are loved. Because especially when all else is lost, we finally learn that it is only the love of God that satisfies.

Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney

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