Thursday, September 5, 2019

Our Lady of Charity Novena: Day Six

Lisa and I are humbled to be hosting Day 6 of the Our Lady of Charity Novena leading up to her feast day this weekend, September 8. We can't say enough nice things about Maria or her latest book, as evidenced during our conversation with her earlier this summer.

Finding Mary

Coming to know Our Lady of Charity, through my friendship with Maria, presents yet another opportunity to ponder our Holy Mother's many appearances across the world. Truly, she is everywhere, a powerful mediator with Christ through the Holy Spirit, demonstrating her graces in a loving and nurturing way. When we seek her, Mary continues to come to us under many names and titles, honored across culture and country.

A century-old print of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, given to me by my grandmother, has hung in my bedroom since I was a small child. This summer I experienced encounters with Mary under the (new to me) names Our Lady of La Leche, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and Our Lady of Charity. While she may not visit us through any visible apparition, there are so many small (and sometimes large) "coincidences" that reaffirm her constant presence in our lives, always guiding us towards Christ's love and salvation on the cross.

Even "Cachita's" feast day, Sept 8, represents more than one personal touchpoint for me. My early career grew partly because of another Storm associated with September 8, this one in 1900 Galveston, TX. Sept 8 is the original due date of not one, but both of my daughters, three years apart. And this year, with inspiration from Maria, I started a journey towards Marian Consecration which will come to fruition on Our Lady of Charity's feast day - Sept 8. Truly, Mary's graces are woven throughout our personal lives like those sticky spider webs you walk into without noticing.

As we continue our novena, we ask Our Lady of Charity - of Love - to strengthen our courage in the storm of life, knowing that our faith is magnified when united in her blessed intercession.

Our Lady of Charity Novena Prayers

Most pure Virgin Mary, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. We deplore our sins, knowing your Son died on the cross for our sins. May it be the fruit of our prayer that we atone for our sins on earth that we may bless eternally Jesus in heaven.

O beloved Virgin Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you today: my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart, in other words, my whole being. I am yours, Oh Mother of Mercy, guard me and defend me as your son/daughter. Amen.

Ask for your petition here

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Want to Read More

For more reflection on how we can be more aware of Mary's presence in our lives, drop by Meditating on the Hail Mary, or Mary in the Front Seat.  Leave a comment telling us how Mary makes her presence known to you, and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of Maria's book.

Many thanks to Maria Morera Johnson for inviting us to share in her devotion. If you haven't picked up a copy of her latest book Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped me Grow in Faith and Love (Ave Maria Press), why haven't you?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Conversation with Maria Johnson

A Conversation with Maria Johnson about her new book, "Our Lady of Charity"
If you can get through our laughing, we invite you to listen to our conversation with Maria Johnson as we discuss her latest book, “Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped me Grow in Faith and Love.”

Interview with Maria Johnson

Based on the journal kept during her first return to Cuba in 2015, Maria unpacks her spiritual journey, a little bit of Cuban history, and the devotion to Our Lady which continues to be relevant during our current stormy climate.

In this interview, that she hopes her publicist will never hear, you will learn about:

  • Maria’s Pilgrimage to Cuba after 50 years of political exile
  • The gift she offered to Our Lady of Charity
  • Her Private Audience with the Pope and the personal gift received from him.
  • A specific Challenge given to her by an Uncle (not the Bishop)
  • A tender moment she saw in Pope Francis and how she responded…
(And that’s just the first 20-minutes)

Stay tuned for more talk and laughter about:
  • Becoming our mothers
  • Her calling to become a writer
  • Making a Marian Consecration
  • How to approach failure….
  • The Best Hook in a book ever!
But Don’t Miss…
  • Behind the scenes details from presenting her gift to OLC
  • How Maria became a 3rd class relic of St. Pope John Paul II
  • The response she’s received about her book 
  • Why OLC is an important catechesis for Salvation History
This is the podcast that never ends….  until someone gets a kiss.

Listen here:

“Life’s too short to pass up a chance to do something crazy.” – Maria Johnson

Grab yourself a copy of this book.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Unlimited Abilities: Apollo 11

For over a decade my life intersected with NASA Johnson Space Center, where I provided historical records access and research to not only scholar and historians, but also the engineers studying the past to create the new commercial spacecraft vehicles. So it will be an understatement when I say that there is no escaping the immense significance of today in our country's history.

July 20, 1969. Men from our planet Earth walked on the moon.

That's one small step for man one giant leap for mankind
For how many millions of years has man looked to the stars... to the heavens... and wondered how God sees us.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade....not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
When President Kennedy said these words in September 1962, NASA had sent only four men into space. Al Shepard and Gus Grissom had each taken a 15 minute up/down flight. John Glenn had orbited the earth three times taking just under five hours with Scott Carpenter duplicating the flight a few months later.

Imagine if one of the Wright Brothers had stood on the sands at Kitty Hawk and said, I think we should fly across the Atlantic Ocean before the end of this decade.

But we never paused long enough to doubt we could do it. We persevered.

NASA needed over 400,000 men and women to work together with zero defects to achieve this dream. They had to develop new technology, write programs, create standards, think through thousands of challenges: radiation, re-entry, landing, rendezvous, life support, space suits, back contamination, propulsion, navigation, and communications.

And I have more technology in my cell phone than they had on the entire spacecraft plus Mission Control. 

Through all of their challenges they never lost sight of their goal. Fifty years ago today Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon with Michael Collins in lunar orbit above.

Enjoy the montage (even though they edited out my favorite "first word" from the moon: HOUSTON. Listen for Buzz calling the moon "Magnificent Desolation.")

God doesn't give us DREAMS to disappoint us. God gives us unlimited abilities. We place the boundaries on ourselves. Even now, men and women are continuing to break those boundaries to return to the moon, with plans for Mars and beyond. How much more can we dream? How much more can we accomplish?

Gene Cernan (Apollo 17) once said, "I stood on God's porch."

Earth rises across the lunar landscape

And the view is truly magnificent. Godspeed.

Related Links:
Apollo 50th (NASA - audio, video, photos)

Apollo 50th with Mike Collins (Google Doodle)

Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal (annotated transcript and commentary of the lunar landing)

Friday, May 24, 2019

3 Steps to Shine Your Light Online

3 Steps to Shining Your Light Onlne - How Christians Create a Tidal Wave of God's Love on Social Media

 Close your eyes – think about going on Facebook or Twitter and scrolling through your feed.  Imagine the typical posts you encounter.  Now think about the comments on the most engaging posts.  What do you feel?  Dread… confusion… sadness… anger?

We don’t need studies to tell us that individual are feeling more isolated and depressed after visiting social media than ever before. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are filled with divisiveness, arguments, superficiality, jealousy and anger.  And yet despite this, social media is continuing to become even more engrained in our culture. 

What do we do?  Do we leave Facebook?  Do we remove ourselves from this part of society?

You might be tempted.  I know at times I’m tempted to leave.  But the simple answer is – we can’t.  We must be present. 

We cannot abandon what Pope Benedict calls the “Digital Continent” to the darkness permeating our society.  Christians are called to be the light in the world. 

Imagine a world in which Christians shined with the light of God’s love on social media, one post at a time.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram would reflect love, truth, understanding and most importantly mercy. 

If each of us made an effort to live our Christian calling in the midst of the negativity and ugliness, we could make a huge impact. A tidal wave.  There are more than 72 million Catholics in the United States and 1.2 billion across the globe. And if we work together with other fellow Christians, that number jumps even higher. That’s a huge tidal wave. 

So how do we create this tidal wave?  By tithing our social media posts, engaging with other as in real life and by showing mercy online.

Tithing our Social Media Posts – I challenge you to dedicate at least 10% of your social media posts to God.  The way you do it should be as unique as you are.  Overt, subtle, witty, serious, grateful, abstract, personal, evangelizing, spiritual, funny, joyful…. Be you!!  It can be as simple as “Checking In” at church, or sharing your favorite scripture, quote, meme, prayer, reflection or whatever speaks to you.  Invite your social media followers to observe how your faith is intertwined into your life. 

Engage as you do in real life – When you run into a person in real life and hear their “news” do you give them a thumbs up or a heart?  Probably not.  You say Congratulations or I’m so sorry, or Were you scared on that roller coaster?  So why not online?   Slow your scroll and just talk with your Facebook friends as if they were right in front of you.

Show Mercy to Others – We need to avoid contributing to the negativity that tempts us to leave social media.  When you feel it necessary to disagree or correct someone online, take a pause and prayerfully consider how you respond.  Avoid piling on or saying something about someone you wouldn’t say to them if they were right in front of you. And remember, sometimes the best response is no response at all.

My pastor recently said about social media –

"Like any man-made thing, social media is neither good nor bad in and of itself.  It’s how we use it that makes the difference.  If we use it to tear people down, to destroy them, to exact our pound of flesh, then it’s a bad thing.  IF we use it to build people up, if we use it to spread the Good News, if we use it to show our Christian faith, then it’s a good thing."
Social Media and Mercy quote from Divine Mercy Sunday at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church

We have the opportunity and possibly the responsibility to shift the tone of the online space.  We can shine with the light of God’s love by sharing the Good News, being personal and authentic, and showing mercy to others in our online community. 

The power of social media in our society is expanding.  Rather than abandon it, hide from it or shut it out, we need to engage and be Present!  Not just be present, but to live our Joy in Christ and light up the Digital Continent with God’s love for all.
Lisa Henley Jones - Catholic Speaker, Blogger & Social Media Consultant

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Unplanned: the truth about abortion

Unplanned movie abortion planned parenthood abby johnson what did she see
Unplanned doesn't give you time to settle into your seat. It slaps you in the face with the hard truth right at the beginning. Even knowing this, walking in with your guard up, still it lands like a sucker punch that leaves you gasping. For me, the experience elicited the same emotion as watching the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan. In between sobs, while clenching my 16-year old daughter's hand, all I could think over and over was, "May God have mercy on all our souls." 

After the punch, the movie segues into a fairly straight narrative. Her name is Abby and as a college student she became involved with Planned Parenthood because she believed in helping women, even and especially during a time of personal crisis. We are walked through her disastrous first marriage, a relationship that led her to personally experience two abortions - an evacuation procedure and an RU-486 medically induced procedure. Both of these experiences serve to establish Abby's authenticity and ability to speak knowledgeably about abortion from the woman's perspective. 

Throughout the story, everyone is shown with human dignity. The Planned Parenthood staff, for the most part, are united in doing their job to the best of their ability. The Coalition for Life is also united peacefully on the other side of the fence. There is NO sense of condemnation of the women seeking an abortion. There is no judgment of them at any time. Abby's parents are patient and prayerful; while clearly not in agreement with her choice of career, they allow their daughter the free will make her own decisions. Abby finds love and peaceful support in her second husband, who accepts her for who she is.  

This movie does not take sides as pro-choice VS. pro-life. This movie is simple and might go completely unnoticed except for one- major- fact.

It exposes the truth that is abortion.

And that truth is hard and bitter and ugly. It should reach into your soul and squeeze your heart. It cannot be unseen. Planned Parenthood and their business is personified through one main character almost as a side dish to the real story. Because, this story is about the truth that is Abortion. Planned Parenthood is merely a twisted political business machine profiting from the genocide we willingly allow. 

"It is so that the works of God might be made visible ..." (John 9:3)
Watching this movie, and knowing her story, I see how God worked throughout Abby's life to prepare her to be this messenger. She had to go through these experiences to be heard, to be able to do the work she is doing today. When she is overwhelmed with the awakening realization that she was complicit in the murder of over 22,000 innocent human beings, God is present in the people surrounding her, offering her - and all of us - mercy and forgiveness. God is so good. Only He can bring hope and redemption to our lives when we seek it.

I've read and can debate both sides about why this movie is rated R. Maybe today's teens are numbed to the realistic portrayal of death in the movies, but I think every teen in high school should see this movie. My own teen thinks it's ludicrous that a 15-year old girl can obtain an abortion without her parents consent, but cannot see a movie about abortion without a parent in attendance.

Unplanned is a simple narrative of one person's life before the truth and after the truth. She tells it so YOU will know the truth.  Do not be afraid to see it. 

If you or someone you know needs help with an unplanned pregnancy or healing from a past abortion, or if you'd like to become more involved in helping others, please see this list of Resources

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