Tempus Fugit. Time Flies. 

That is the theme rattling through my head today, for today my youngest turns 18. Seems like only yesterday, her and I were having tea parties with the cats. Now, here we are preparing for High School graduation and the transition to college.

This a hectic time of year for my family filled with celebrations. Yesterday, my sister and one of my uncles celebrated a birthday, today is my daughter’s and at the end of the month is my son’s. The first few days of February will bring my parent’s 61st wedding anniversary on the 3rd and my mom’s birthday on the 6th. All dates which I’m grateful to be able to celebrate.

Family is very important to me.

His Holiness, St. John Paul II wrote:

“To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others. “
“In the newborn child is realized the common good of the family”

I consistently fail at fully expressing in words the love and admiration I feel for my parents, my wife and my children. My children are a constant source of pride and joy for me and find myself smiling with excitement as I watch them blaze their own trails and continue to outshine me. I wouldn’t have it any other way and continue to cheer them on as they scale new summits in their lives.

As we all know, family isn’t all rainbows and unicorn dust. Its challenges, heartaches, hurt feelings and concern. Its nights spent in prayer over the obstacles that we seem powerless over.

January is also the month of “The Most Holy Name of Jesus”

Without our Lord Jesus, I wouldn’t be able to face the daily challenges that life presents. And to be rigorously honest, I haven’t always done so in a healthy or positive manner.
My parents are octogenarians and are regularly in need of assistance due to the challenges that age has brought forth. Health challenges and changes are a regular occurrence.
 And my daughter suffers from chronic, debilitating migraines. Another reason we’re celebrating her 18th birthday with joy and excitement. Now that she’s 18, she can finally see a neurologist that specializes in her ailment.

Lizzy doesn’t suffer with what most would experience with a migraine or headache. Her symptoms and experiences have been at times extreme. She experiences (we believe at this time) hemiplegic migraines.
According to various sources such as the NCBI, the Cleveland Clinic, the CDC, the WHO and Texas Children’s Hospital:

”A migraine is a common disorder occurring in 15% to 20% of the population. Hemiplegic migraine is a rare condition, with a reported prevalence of 0.01%. A study done in Denmark indicated the prevalence of sporadic hemiplegic migraine is 0.002% and familial hemiplegic migraine is 0.003%.
Women are 3 times more likely to be affected. The average age of onset is 12 to 17 years”  

Along with severe, throbbing pain, symptoms of Hemiplegic migraines can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, numbness and tingling (especially in the arms and face), loss of balance and coordination, and impairments to speech and vision.
In short, many times these episodes can present themselves as a stroke.

Situations like these not only affect the sufferer, but the entire family.

Lizzy began experiencing migraines around the time she turned 12. Sadly, as time has gone on, they’ve gotten worse and more symptoms have appeared. We’ve been to several different doctors and tried many avenues of treatment over the years.
We’ve been told a variety of diagnosis’s ranging from PMS and PMDD to its “it’s just part of puberty” .We’ve had CT scans, MRIs and other tests done. We’ve attempted many different medicines. We’ve even looked into diet and environment.

Like I said, it affects the whole family. If one member of the family hurts, the whole family hurts.

Many times I’ve found myself wondering if I would get a call from the school to come get her. Would I get to sleep through the entire night? Or, would she even make it to school the next day. Sadly, I must admit that at times I questioned her on how ill she really was.
We’ve had to change plans based upon how she was feeling and if where we were going could possibly trigger an episode. Which colleges she’s looked at seriously have had the added criteria of support for her ailment and “how quickly could a family member be there to assist her?”
Far too often, I’ve found myself sitting with her on the couch at 2am with only the fairy lights on the mantle on, holding her and trying to comfort her.
Even attending Mass has been difficult at times.

Last year at the Easter Vigil, Lizzy was confirmed. Though she got through it like a trooper, the incense and the choir was beginning to affect her. How appropriate that she chose St. Teresa of Avila as her patron saint. St. Teresa (the patron saint of headache sufferers) suffered migraines and other painful ailments.
Her writings, inspired by her sufferings can be a source of inspiration and enlightenment to us all.

“God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.” 

“Pain is never permanent”

Despite it all, Lizzy has remained upbeat, compassionate and an inspiration to me (actually, all my kids, including my daughter in law are sources of encouragement and inspirations to me). She remains an honor student near the top 10% of her class. She regularly serves in our parish and is without ceasing, supportive of me and Easter Pup Creations, even when I’m unable to be.

That’s another reason why we’re celebrating Lizzy turning 18. The hope that with the options now available, we’ll be able to find more answers, new treatments and a way of helping her live her life to it’s fullest.

Yes, family has its challenges. Challenges that I’m still learning to accept and face with the love, support and strength of my family and Our Lord Jesus.

And yes, I’m grateful for my family, warts and all.

But, what do I know … I’m just a simple rosary maker.

St. Teresa of Avila, Ora Pro Nobis

A dream fulfilled. A prayer answered. A journey coming to an end and a new journey beginning. A place to belong. 

Those are some of the thoughts and feelings I experienced On Christ the King Day in 2020 when I was finally received into the church after longing to for over thirty years. The whole story is one for another post, but part of it does relate to this one, “Finding and Walking with Your Saint in 2022”.

In the early part of my journey, one of things I had to gain an understanding of is the concept of praying to the saints and Mother Mary for their intercessions. I must admit, that for me this was not a stumbling block as it appears to be for many non-Catholics. This concept when shared with others has brought me many less than polite comments and messages from those who do not understand.
While the word pray can be used to define worship, it also has other definitions. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word pray also means to entreat, implore, request, plea. To make a request in a humble manner.
In short, we’re not worshipping Mary and the saints, but asking them to pray for us.
In regards to the saints and whether or not they can hear us or intercede for us, two things immediately come to mind. First from the Book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, (NABRE)

And, in the Apostolic Creed, we profess belief in the “communion of saints”.

Throughout my journey and especially towards the end leading to my confirmation, learning about the saints, their examples and asking for their intercession became a regular part of my life. I found that in doing so, especially when I was asked to choose my confirmations saint, that their writings, prayers and examples not only gave me comfort and greater focus, but helped me draw even closer to Our Lord Jesus. Padre Pio (my confirmation saint), St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Josemaria Escriva and St. John Paul II were ones I regular asked for intercession from and whose words and examples were of great benefit to me.

So, when at the start of Advent and the Liturgical New Year right after my confirmation when the lady at our parish who is the Director of Evangelization and Catechesis encouraged others to choose a Saint and word for the coming year, I was fascinated. After some time in prayer and thoughtful consideration, I chose St. John Paul II as my Saint and for my word I chose “Courage” based upon his “Be Not Afraid” speech for 2021.
Like I did my with my confirmations Saint and Saint for 2021, I chose my Saint and word for 2022 after time in prayer in reflection. In reality, it felt more as if they chose me and drew me to them rather than the other way around.

My Saint and word I chose at the beginning of Advent for 2022 (which I’ll address a bit more) is St. Maximillian Kolbe and the word was “Sacrifice”.

As we approached 2022 and for the first several days of the New Year, I had received emails and saw numerous posts on social media in regards to selecting a word and saint for the year. Many were sharing random generators and others encouraged writing out your goals for 2022 and go from there.

One business owner whom I follow and have interacted with shared some great ideas is Andrea for “Sparkle with Grace “(@sparkelwithgraceon Instagram). Andrea specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses streamline organization and goal setting, especially the busy moms juggling home life, children and running a business.
Andrea gave the following tips on finding a word for the year:

• Ask yourself what you need in your life right now
• Think about the traits or qualities that are important to you
• Make a list of words that resonate with you
• Pay attention to words or themes appearing in your life
• See if your goals for the year share a common theme
• Don’t overthink it , let the word come to you

As I mentioned, I chose mine after prayer and consideration in preparing for Advent. To some extent, I used the method shared by Andrea. I spent time considering and praying on where I was, what I experienced and learned in 2021,where I was headed and where I was hoping to go. Where I wanted Easter Pup Creations to go and more importantly where I wanted to be as man.

St. Maximillian Kolbe kept coming to me, his words kept touching me and it seemed that everywhere I looked I either saw something of St. Kolbe or something that reminded me of him. Choosing him seemed natural and meant to be. AS if he chose me (the same feelings I had when I chose St. Padre Pio as my confirmation saint).

I must admit, that when the word “sacrifice” kept coming to me, I was a bit befuddled. I associated the word sacrifice with great acts such as those of St. Maximillian when he offered himself in Auschwitz to spare another, the acts of those I served with in the military – especially those who gave their lives to save another and most of all I think of Jesus sacrificing himself to a criminal’s execution on the cross to redeem us from sin.
But when pondering the words of some others, such as St. Therese of Lisieux, I realized that there is so much more to sacrifice and so much more I needed to do. Many things within myself I needed to sacrifice.

“Prayer and sacrifice can touch souls better than words” and “Love proves itself by deeds, so how can I show my love? The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love” are two quotes from St. Therese that touched me.

And when thinking of Easter Pup Creations and my goals, sacrifice didn’t seem to connect with my rational (in reality irrational) mind. But with prayerful consideration, I was brought back to the original mission of Easter Pup Creations. Yes, to be a successful business for my family and me, but to also be a ministry and source of encouragement to others.

To do so, I would have to make changes. I would have to make sacrifices. 

Along with the easily recognized changes that would be required, such as sacrificing time and energy to work on my business, learn more and to serve others and forgo “me time”, I would have to do more.
I would need to sacrifice comfort at times, especially when I didn’t feel like praying, reaching out to others or when called to speak up and share the love of Christ.
I would need to sacrifice my pride, ego, my fear, my sense of self and my own understanding.
I would need to sacrifice my self-created self-defenses, tear down the walls and be more open to others and to the prompting of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

None of these will happen overnight and many will require me to daily revisit and examine myself. I can only do these things by learning from the saint, asking for theirs and Our Mother Mary’s intercession and most importantly running to the foot of the cross and embracing Our Lord, Jesus.

As Jesus said in the Book of Luke, “Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” ~ Luke 9:23-24 (NABRE)

The exercise of choosing a Saint and word for the year provided not only the opportunity to set some goals, learn more about a saint and their devotion to Christ, but an opportunity to examine myself, my motives, my heart and my relationship with Jesus. In deciding to find and walk with a saint in 2022, you will have a prayer warrior interceding for you and as you learn more about them, you hopefully will find yourself delving deeper into the scriptures and drawing closer and closer to Jesus. And drawing nearer and dearer to Jesus is really what it is all about.

Take some time and pray. Write out your thoughts and goals. Allow Our Lord to show you your heart. In doing so, I believe that your walk in 2022 will be one of greater focus and, hopefully, one that draws you closer to Jesus.

But, what do I know … I’m just a simple rosary maker.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30 (NABRE)