Saturday, February 12, 2022

The "Cross-bow" of a Bullseye Marriage - Our 40th Anniversary Reflection

 On August 8, 1981 we exchanged our marriage vows at St. Edmonds Catholic Church in Lafayette, Louisiana. We asked Fr. Fred Reynolds, S.J., the main presider at our wedding, to choose the Gospel reading for the mass.  He chose St. Luke’s story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem and people laying palms before him.  He shared, in his homily, that that is a strange reading for a wedding, but not a Christian wedding where a man and woman stand before witnesses and die to themselves in order to be resurrected as a couple set apart for the service and worship of God.  Together they take up their cross of living out the Sacramental mystery. The Icon Fr. Fred gave us to commemorate our wedding is a constant reminder of that celebration and his words to us. Through the cross is new life and joy in marriage.  There have been temptations, distractions and incredibly hard times. We have gotten through these times by following Fr. Fred’s encouragement to recognize the mystical presence of Jesus in each other and bow to that presence especially in the midst of arguments and hard times.   


There is a centuries old tradition that is linked back to a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina called Siroki-Brijeg, which reportedly remains the only place in the world with a 0% divorce rate. When the couple approaches the altar the priest says: “You have found your cross. And it is a cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away, but to be cherished." He then blesses the Crucifix. During the exchange of vows, the groom holds the Crucifix in his right hand and the bride places her right hand on the top of the Crucifix uniting their hands together. The couple unites themselves on the Cross, and they recite their vows over this visceral image of Love Himself. Before they kiss one another, the couple first kisses the figure of Christ, the source of their love. This tradition is called the Marriage Crucifix, rather than the Wedding Crucifix because it was meant to remind the couple of the covenant they entered into, not only during the wedding but throughout the rest of their time on earth.


The Marriage Crucifix ritual is a beautiful way for us to commemorate 40 years of intentionally targeting a Bullseye Marriage. In our book we used archery as a metaphor to daily shoot for a Sacramental relationship. The action of putting our hands together on the cross adds a new dimension to the metaphor by providing a “Cross-bow” to assist us in hitting the bullseye!  

We recognize that there will continue to be major distractions and temptations to take our hands off of the Cross-bow.  But the crucifix reminds us that the journey through the pain and hard times leads to resurrection. Temptation enters into every marriage in one way or another. It is during those times spent deep in the valley that it takes heroic efforts by both to stay the course. Those who are experiencing this or have in the past can fully appreciate the grace that is necessary to hold on through the storm or the silence. There might be days when it all seems hopeless. Then a moment of true grace can bring a flood of renewed love and vitality back to the relationship to renew the sacramental bond. It is during these times of intense difficulty that spouses can experience what is truly meant by those seemingly prophetic words in the Marriage Crucifix Ritual “You may kiss the Cross.”

       

We found much joy in raising our 4 children and we also found that distraction, temptations and tough times were greatest during that time.  When there were so many needs to be met it was difficult to stay focused and there were days when we were just grateful to have survived one more day. Our Fontana family prayer grew out of that time, “May God grant us the wisdom to discover the right, the will to choose it and the strength to make it endure. Thank you God for one more day. Yay God!” 


We now get to witness our children raising their children and passing on the light of our Catholic faith to them.  We pray for them and their spouses on a regular basis.  We pray that they will keep their hands on the Cross-bow as they shoot for a Bullseye Marriage. We pray for the protection of Mary’s mantle over them each day.  We are grateful beyond words for this journey we have walked together for these last 40 years and the honor of getting to know our grandchildren in the years to come! We praise God every day for each day on earth to know, love and serve God. We pray that our thoughts, our words and our actions, show God’s love to ourselves, our family and everyone we meet today!  

AMEN! AMEN! WE SAY TO YOU, MARRIAGE IS WORTH THE EFFORT! 

Keep your hands on the Cross-bow and as you shoot for a Sacramental relationship

 may you have many Bullseye Moments! 


Sunday, January 30, 2022

DICHOTOMY


A prayer chain.

A chain that captures a person, persons or event in thoughts and words lifted to God.


A prayer chain.

Intended to surround a person, persons or event with intense love.


A prayer chain.

Pleading words that God's love be manifested in the world and true freedom be realized within the person, persons or event that the prayer chain captures.  


DICHOTOMY 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

A BLESSED PERSPECTIVE

 A BLESSED PERSPECTIVE

     I sat in mass today and heard "The Beatitudes" being proclaimed as the Gospel.  I tried to count how many times I had heard that reading at mass, read it in the Bible or studied it in a Catechism class or retreat.  I've heard it taught as the "new commandments", the way Christians should live and the "be-attitudes".   Nothing connected for me.  Matthew 5:3-12 eluded my understanding. 

    The Deacon, in his homily, once again patiently explained to the congregation each of the eight characteristics that God wanted us to adopt.  Light bulbs went off in my head...the Deacon was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  All my life, I've been trying to figure out how I'm supposed to live these out, but Jesus was not trying to give us characteristics we need to strive to acquire or to live out.  He was giving the disciples and all of us a different perspective.  A blessed perspective.

    To understand the Beatitudes we have to keep them in the context of the Gospel as Matthew related it.  The disciples had just been called and they had been touring Galilee with Jesus.  They had witnessed him proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and curing people of every disease and illness.  They had seen the crowds of people beginning to grow and swell in number as people from Galilee, Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan brought the sick, the paralyzed and all those afflicted with pain to Jesus.

    Remember, at this time, the disciples were in training by Jesus. Step one in the training process was to call them to follow him.  Step two was to give them an experience of what it meant to follow him; that is, dealing with crowds of people who were desperate to be made whole.  The disciples had to be a bit overwhelmed at this time.  Jesus, being the ultimate leader, knew that it was time to progress to step three in the training. He took them away from the crowds to a mountain.  His disciples gathered around him and he gave them a way to look at the crowds.  He gave them the approach he wanted the disciples to take as his followers.  He gave them a perspective which was radically different then what was common at the time and even today. 

    In a world where human affliction and sorrow was seen as a punishment by God for personal sin, Jesus proclaimed that human affliction was not a punishment but a blessed moment in someone's life.  He was instructing his disciples on how they were to look at themselves as well as the hoards of people who would be coming to them. Jesus was giving his disciples not only the perspective they needed but also the words to use when they encountered the variety of needs, pains, suffering and desires. 

    In essence, Jesus said to his disciples, I want you to know that people who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, long for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers and persecuted for righteousness are all blessed.  When you encounter them let them know that, even thought it might not feel like it at the time, God is with them in a special way.  Divine favor is upon them. 

    But Jesus did not stop there.  He even gave the disciples and all of the blessing we should look for when we are experiencing any of those "blessed moments".  He painted the picture of what that moment could bring an that through the pain, suffering and persecution we should be mindful of and watchful for the blessing which will come. 

    Renoir, the great painter, suffered painful arthritis in his later years.  A young boy once asked him, "Mr. Renoir, why do you paint when it causes so much pain?"  Renoir answered, "Because the pain passes but the painting remains."  Jesus was saying to his disciples that they and all the people they would encounter are God's masterpieces.  The painful strokes of life as well as the joyful strokes are all part of creating the masterpiece.

    It is our choice as disciples of Jesus, to choose to call the various strokes of life "blessed".  When we do that it gives us the mindset to begin to accept the blessing that will remain.  The blessed moment passes but the blessing remains. 

    Jesus was presenting a radical and difficult walk with God.  When someone has just buried a loved one it is hard to say that person is blessed in their mourning.  But that is exactly what Jesus is saying.  The person who is mourning has God with them in a special way.  Those who mourn can be mindful of and watch for the blessing of being comforted.  It does come.  The experience of being comforted by the community is literally divine if you allow yourself to experience it.  The "blessed moment" passes but the blessing of comfort remains. 

    Rick Velghe, a dear friend, experienced the death of his wife, Patty.  He often spoke of the blessing he received from the community as he and their three children walked in the valley of tears.  Years later when he was dying of cancer he actually was concerned about me and how I was doing.  He told me, " I have now been on both ends of the dying experience.  I am on the easier end - being left behind is so much harder."  

    Each blessed moment that passes has a blessing that will remain:

BLESSED MOMENT.......................BLESSINGS                                                                               Poor in Spirit...................................Theirs is the Kingdom of God                                                        Mourn............................................... Comforted                                                                                   Meek.............................................. Inherit the land                                                                              Hunger & thirst for justice ..............Will be satisfied                                                                     Merciful.........................................Shown mercy                                                                                Clean of heart................................They will see God                                                                  Peacemakers'..................................Called children of God                                                                    Persecuted for the sake of righteousness....Theirs is the Kingdom of God

    Jesus did not mince words at the end of this portion of his teaching.  He clearly defined the distinct possibility of what was to come if his disciples continued to follow him.  What I find fascinating, is Jesus never apologized for how hard it was going to be for those who followed him. Instead, he prepared his followers by stating exactly what could happen.  He said, "let me tell you that when you get insulted and persecuted and people utter every kind of evil and lie against you because of me [then chalk that up as a blessed moment]" Rejoice and be glad because the reward will be great in heaven!  The blessing will remain forever.     

    I sat in mass today and heard the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes being proclaimed and a lightbulb went off in my head.  What I love about insights is that it doesn't matter how many years it takes for them to surface because when the lightbulb comes it illuminates a new approach that can be wrestled with and lived and worked on until the next insight illuminates the next part of the path.  For now I will walk with the understanding that in Matthew 5:3-12,  Jesus was not trying to give us characteristics we need to acquire or live out.  He was giving the disciples and all of us a different perspective.  A blessed perspective. 

Sara Fontana    Original article written 1/31/2005   Revised 3/22/2021

Monday, August 26, 2019

GOD PREPOSITION



God through...

God through me 
       is all the other prepositions 
           whirling around within me

God with me
God for me
God above me
God beside me
God in me 
             then bursting forth out of me....

God through me
      into the lives of others
God’s love through me to others 
    and
God’s love through others to me. 

God through...

Friday, October 6, 2017

GOD HUGS


GOD HUGS                               
 “Mommy, I hurt myself.”  With tears streaming down her face, my daughter comes running to me, pointing to her skinned elbow.  I bend down, pick her up in my arms and give her a hug.  I carry her into the house and bandage the elbow.  Afterwards, we sit in the rocking chair and I let her rest in my arms a bit as we rock.  Then she’s off and running again, knowing that I’m nearby. 
            “Hugging” moments are special for parents. Cuddling up with the kids for a bedtime story, or back-from-school hugs or morning hugs or even spontaneous hugs are all treasured moments. As our children move into adolescent years, the open arm affection often is replaced by a  “leaning into” hug. (When my oldest daughter was 12 she would do a type of sideway lean when I asked for a hug.)  As they move through the teen years and into adulthood the hugs between parent and child may return but they are fewer and farther between then the early childhood years. 
            As my children have moved into the teen years, I have come to realize that those “hugs” were more than just treasured moments.  Each time I was available for a hug or asked for a hug, I was unintentionally teaching about God.  Wordlessly, I was planting the seed of faith and teaching about a God who constantly waits nearby to envelope us in hugs.    
            God’s hugs are bigger than any parents’ hugs.  They can hug the inside of a person when the hurt goes deeper than a skinned elbow. It is important that as parents we become intentional about giving our children opportunities to experience God’s hugs.  As parents, we are the first evangelizers of our children.  By bringing our children into the waiting arms of God we answer Jesus’ great commission to “go and make disciples of all the nations”. 
We disciple our children and bring them into God’s waiting arms when we establish God-centered rituals in our home.  Rituals like praying before meals, praying before bedtime, praying for others and giving thanks for the experience of God in our lives. We bring them into God’s waiting arms when we bring them for Baptism, or to church.  We can even disciple our children through simple moments like the spontaneous applause and shout of “Yeah God!” after observing a gorgeous sunset together. 
            God has designed families to be a school of evangelization.  The goal is to bring the children to God’s waiting arms.  As our children experience the warmth and comfort of God’s arms they no longer need to be brought, they notice and slip into God’s waiting arms on their own.  The cycle continues when and if God calls them into marriage and family, they then begin to bring their children to God’s waiting arms. 
            The key element here is the experience of God’s loving arms.  Unless I can name a time when I have felt God’s loving arms around me, I cannot bring others into God’s arms. I have met people who could not name a time when they experienced God’s arms around them until they were an adult.  Once they experienced God’s arms they became the greatest evangelizers, going out of their way to encourage others to develop a relationship with God.  It would seem that along with the experience of God’s arms around us comes the desire to invite others to that wonderful place.  Sometimes we bring others to that experience just by living a faithful life.
            My good friend, Patty Velghe, was a wonderful witness of God’s love.  As I watched her with her children, I could see God’s love shining forth.  It was a delight to share parenting tips with her and I learned to be a better parent by watching her simple gestures of love for her children.  When she died, her husband had engraved on her tombstone, “Her love was God’s music.” I know, through Patty’s witness, that the love of every parent is God’s music playfully, solemnly encircling our children and others into the waiting arms of God.  
By Sara Fontana (written 15 years ago but still pertinent today!)
 
GOD HUGS  
God waits.
I walk.
God waits.
I talk.
God waits.
I play.
God waits.
I move.
 God waits.
I run.
God waits.
I stop.
God waits.
I notice.
God waits.

I run into God’s arms.
God hugs.

Then…
God waits.
I rest in God’s arms.
God waits.
I rest.
God waits. I wait.

God waits.
I notice.
God waits.

I go and bring someone else into God’s arms.
God hugs.

Then….

GOD WAITS

By Sara Fontana

Definition of evangelization: Bringing others into the waiting arms of God.
 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A NEW STYLE OF PRAYER...

WHAT I WANT.....


I woke up at 4am with my friend who is battling leukemia on my mind.  Yes, another friend who has cancer. This horrible disease which ravages peoples bodies.  Some battle it and continue living here on earth while some battle it and it leads them into the next stage of eternal life. 

I just lay in bed with my eyes closed, present to the thoughts racing through my brain.  How do I pray?   Do I ask for what I want? … I want her to be 100% healed of the cancer right now and keep on living here on earth!   Then my mind moves to the pious thought  "not my will but yours be done, Lord.” But don’t I want what God wants?  Does God want Donna to suffer and die?  Why do we even have suffering on earth?   My mind races and races through all these questions. 

Then an image of our dog, Mac, comes to mind.  Mac is a medium sized terrier who enthusiastically wakes up every morning.  He literally jumps up and down excited about the possibilities of going for a walk or someone petting him.  Then I have an image of our cat, Fiona.  She greets the day with calm expectation and acceptance of whatever comes her way.  So is that the way I should pray, with the enthusiasm of Mac and the calm expectation and acceptance of Fiona?

Okay, here goes...
                  A MAC/FIONA STYLE OF PRAYER.....
I pray for healing for Donna.  I know what I want.  I enthusiastically petition and thank God for the healing that is taking place. I have calm expectation and acceptance that God knows the big plan and is working miracles in the midst of pain and suffering. 

I want no pain and suffering in the world. 
I want people to not get sick.
I want people to care for themselves in mind, body and spirit and care for others as themselves.
I want everyone to recognize God in their lives and the tools God has in place to strengthen and assist them in being the best version of themselves.
 I want people to feel God’s love and live out that love in their lives.
 I want parents to accept and love their children.  I want parents to be intentional about raising each of  their children to be the best version of themselves in mind, body and spirit.
 I want people to communicate honestly, mindful of being loving in that honesty.
 I want people to feel so empowered and loved within their own skin and in their own mind that they do not have to kill others or hurt others with words or actions in order to feel empowered             themselves.
 I want people to love God with their whole heart, whole mind, whole soul and with all their strength and to love their neighbor as they love themselves. 
I want them to love themselves so much that love spills out in kind, caring actions to themselves and others. 

 I want people to look at their own bodies and the bodies of others as God’s gift.  Not objects for their own pleasure but marvelous dwelling places for their spirit to live within here on earth.  I want people to see their bodies as wonderful, intricate, special systems created in God’s image.


 I believe if we saw ourselves in this way there would be an end to pornography, an end to abortion, an end to sexual abuse, drug abuse and abuse of any kind.  We would live authentically, not changing who we are but embracing who we are called to be.  We would live out our ultimate purpose for being which is to know, love and serve God.  We would enthusiastically thank God for loving us into creation and calmly expect and accept great things in our lives. 

Just as I do not need my children to love me for me to love them, God does not need my love for God to love me.  God created me.  I was birthed into this life because of God’s love.  Just as there is nothing that my children could do to make me stop loving them, so also there is nothing that I can do that will make God stop loving me. 

As a parent of adult children I now connect to God from a different perspective.  I recognize how much I appreciate and enjoy it when my children say they love me, give me hugs, spend time with me, take time to have conversations with me, go out of their way to assist me or give me thoughtful gifts.  It is heartwarming for me to see them living out and embracing much of what my husband and I intentionally taught them when we were raising them.  The way they have chosen to live their adult lives is the absolute greatest gift and way of showing us how much they appreciate and love us.   I believe that what I just wrote is a metaphor for why it is important for us to praise God, speak words of love to God, spend time with God and be of service to all of God’s creation.  Being the best version of ourselves is the absolute greatest gift and way of showing God how much we love God. 

So, now that I’ve taken the time to write down all the things that I want others to do I recognize I
can’t control others.  I can only work on myself, speaking and acting in the world as the best version of myself.  I pray that my thoughts, my words and my actions reveal God’s love to my self, my family and everyone I meet.

Thank you, God, for one more day! I greet this day with the enthusiasm of Mac and the calm expectation and acceptance of Fiona.

God, I love you! Please heal Donna.

June 28, 2016