A Not Series

Well dear readers, it seems my ideas about an ongoing series of series is perhaps not panning out. I do intend to do something with the Colors in the Focolare movement, but I need to learn more, ponder more. That being said, I am not without inspiration to continue writing. We are just back to the old “series” – a.k.a. as the Holy Spirit inspires me so shall I write. Which is what I’m bringing you today.

Presently, I am helping to pilot a new VLCFF (Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation) course on Mary in Scripture. Thus far it has been an enjoyable course. In these first weeks we have been studying typology. Typology, or the study of types, analyzes Old Testament persons, events, themes and motifs that can be seen as prefiguring New Testament counterparts. Some examples would be Jesus as the New Adam, Mary as the New Eve, the Eucharist and the Passover, etc. In this course specifically we are focusing on Mary and Marian types.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the Gospel of John and how he used types to demonstrate Mary’s role within salvation history. The Wedding at Cana featured prominently in our discussions. We are using an excellent resource by Scott Hahn, “Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God,” (I highly recommend if this topic is of interest to you). In it, he goes into great detail going through the types found within the Wedding of Cana scene. Below is part of a comment I shared within our group discussion:

It is enlightening to consider Mary as the New Eve, and how both had a choice to make. Eve, to take the fruit or not. Mary, to try to solve this problem on her own or to hand it to her Son. As a mom, I know how easy it is to “just do it myself.” To let my kids help, each in their own way and according to their abilities, means that often, things aren’t necessarily done exactly to my specifications or perceived correct manner of doing things. Instead of trusting God to reveal knowledge and His plans for the couple, Eve “did it herself.” Mary, on the other hand, turns to her Son and provides Him the space to do and reveal as He wished. 

Ever wonder what it’s like to have the Holy Spirit speak to you through your own words? That was me as I finished writing this. I wonder if I got the smallest taste of what it was like for the Gospel writers or other biblical authors. To have written something not totally of your own inspiration. The words were yours, but somehow, they came from someone else.

These words are ones I’ve needed to hear, and needed to hear, and yes, needed to hear over again. And they are words that, obviously, I haven’t been able to effectively teach myself. I needed them to come from someplace else. A Godly place.

Whenever I hold on too tight, I cannot hold onto anything at all. The more I try to control a situation the harder it becomes to manage the smallest details. A concrete example.

I have tried for many moons now, years actually, to have better control over waking up on time. Yes, we’ve had lots of babies and rocky sleep and teething and nursing and all the things. Yes. But deep down, I’ve known that there were definitely periods of time between the hard that I could have been rising earlier than I was. I wanted to be able to get up before everyone else, to have that morning time with God, to have time to stretch and exercise, to read a book, to listen to the birds, to have a cup of tea, to…..whatever! Just to get up! Of course, I’ll probably never get all those things done in a single morning before everyone else wakes up (I mean if I started at 4am maybe but since I was having trouble with 7am I’m thinking baby steps were a better idea).

Then, I heard a powerful idea. Coming full circle, it’s something Chiara of the Focolare said. It is from the end of a meditation on what Jesus did for each of us in coming to earth and sacrificing Himself so that we might go to Heaven. I will put the meditation in full below. But the short phrase that I have carried with me is, “For you, for you Jesus.” All that I do, I ought to do for love of Jesus. Before opening my mouth to speak, before choosing what work to do next, before disciplining or praising a child, it’s all for Him. This little phrase has radically altered so much of how I act, when I remember to say it frequently. And I can tell when I haven’t been.

How does this relate to getting up in the morning and relinquishing control? I no longer get up and out of bed for me. I get up for Him. When the first words on my mind when the alarm goes off are “For you, for you Jesus!” I’m immediately turning myself outward. I am getting up for Jesus. To be with Him in prayer, to stretch my body so I can serve Him and my family better. Some mornings I am getting up to simply read a book or to knit a few rows of a project. But I am getting up and out of bed most days of the week before any child is awake or at least allowed out of bed. I am not perfect but I feel the habit forming. This wasn’t something I could do on my own, I had to let it go. I had to find a different purpose.

So now, I find myself trying to order my day around this phrase. For you Jesus, I will cheerfully go about my chores, knowing that when I work cheerfully the work is done more efficiently. For you Jesus, I will chase Nathan around swim lessons because the skills the confidence his siblings are gaining in the water are worth his pterodactyl screeches. For you Jesus I will help Ben cook tofu nuggets (yes, really. They were my idea but Ben made them…and everyone ate them!) because it is good for our family to continue broadening our palate and appreciation for all kinds of food. For you Jesus, I am typing this blog post instead of knitting the shawl that’s sitting on the floor at my feet waiting to be loved, but I felt the Spirit’s promptings and instead of ignoring them, I am full of peace.


Here is Chiara’s reflection in full. I do not have the reference for where and when she wrote this, unfortunately. I found it in a collection of meditations titled, “Heaven on Earth: Meditations and Reflections.”

Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes, “…and he gave his life for me” (Rom 5:8). Each of us can repeat those words of the apostle: for me.

My Jesus, you have died for me, how can I doubt your mercy? And if I can believe that mercy with a faith that teaches me that God has died for me, how can I not risk everything to return such love?

For me…Words wipe away the solitude of the most lonely and give divine value to every person despised by the world. Words that fill every heart and make it overflow upon this who either do not know or do not remember the Good News.

For me…For me, Jesus, all those sufferings? For me that cry on the cross?

Surely, you would never give up on us. You will do everything imaginable to save us if only because we have cost you so much.

You gave me divine life just as my mother gave me human life. In every moment you think of me alone, as you do of each and every person. This – more than anything in the world – give us the course to live as Christians.

For me. Yes, for me.

And so, Lord, for the years that remain, allow me also to say:

For you.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Echoes of Motherhood

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the Focolare. The Focolare Movement is a lay movement within the Church that was started by Chiara Lubich in Trent, Italy, during World War II. Chiara received a series of experiences with a small group of friends that inspired them to dedicate their lives to serving those around them by placing love in the center of their hearts and minds. They were formed by the Gospels, especially John 17 where Jesus prays that “all might be one.” No one was above their notice, time or care and they served their community amidst the devastation of the war. (If you want to read some thoughts about Motherhood inspired by Chiara, check out this post.)

I am currently reading a book which is a compilation of Chiara’s writings and thoughts about the Blessed Mother. I have started this book a number of times, but never finished it. I’m hoping that this time, I go the distance. Lately, I’ve been feeling especially drawn to Chiara, her writings and the movement in general. I’m searching for something, but I don’t know exactly what yet. Perhaps it is something that this movement can offer. Even if not, Chiara has a beautiful way of talking about Mary, Jesus, Love, the Church, you name it. It resonates with me and makes me think. So, I’m going to keep reading, keep learning and continue pondering.

This week, I was reading about how God revealed to Chiara the incredible mystery of the Incarnation and Mary’s Immaculate nature. Chiara recognized that Mary is, as a creature created by God, contained by the Trinity. We all are. But,

Mary contains God! God loved her so much as to make her his mother and his love made him become small before her.

Mary: The Transparency of God, 26

I mean, wow. Let’s just stop everything right there for the next 10 years and contemplate that mystery. Mary, the Mother of God! How our limited language fails us to fully express this mystery. And then, in God’s great generosity, this incredible woman before whom God became small for so she might bear our salvation to the world, she becomes our mother.

Chiara recognized that just as Mary bore Jesus, we are also called to bring Jesus forth into the world. We are, effectively, “little Marys.” Mary allowed herself to be empty before God so that He could fill her with His divine life, His grace, His Son. In becoming imbued with God’s Word, she becomes the model for each of us. Chiara says:

All Christians are called to re-live Mary, who, as we have seen, is the Word fully lived out. We must re-live her in order to generate Christ in ourselves and in others. As St. Ambrose puts it, ‘If according to the flesh, the Mother of Christ is one alone, according to the faith, all souls bring forth Christ.'”

Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke

We are called to generate Christ by allowing ourselves to be filled with the Word. We fill ourselves with so many things – pride, success, ambition, chocolate, television, TikTok, hobbies, worries, plans. None of these things bring us true and lasting happiness. None of these things will bring us to live out our true and deepest vocation – to become Christ-bearers for those around us.

As Chiara said in the above quote, not only are we to bring Christ from within us to others, we help others to generate Christ within themselves. Chiara contemplates Mary as not only Mother of God, but mother to each of us. She pondered,

I remember it was then that I looked upon our mother, Mary, for the first time with the gaze of a daughter, but a daughter who saw her real self in her mother.

From a talk to the men and women focolarini, 1972

As a daughter who saw her real self in her mother. In a twist, I had this experience the other day, but as a mother who heard her real self in her daughter. And friends, it wasn’t exactly a pretty sound. I was upstairs changing a diaper and I heard a conversation between Clare, who is 7, and Gabriel, who is 2. Gabe was asking for help in his sweet and overbearing 2 year old manner. Lots of insistence, lots of NOW, little please or patience or care that he was interrupting Clare’s book. Finally, Clare huffed and said in a tone all too familiar to my ears, “Gaaabe! Do I have to do everything for you!?” She did, to her credit, get up and help him with what he needed. But what I heard come from her could have been my voice, my tone. I was totally caught off guard at this revelation and immediately thought of this last passage which I had just finished reading only a few moments earlier.

If my children are to become little Mary’s, they need an example to follow. If they are to become Christ-bearers, they need to witness what that looks like in everyday life. What I heard from Clare is that I’m coming up short.

Rather than taking this as a discouragement, I’m trying to use it as guidance for the way forward. None of us is perfect, least of all me. I do not think any of this was a coincidence and I am thankful I was aware enough to receive the lesson. My prayer and focus now is that I actually learn from it. Pray for me friends!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Scooch In Closer

We have been so blessed to be with our families this Christmas. This is an uncertain time for many and plans continue shifting with each passing day. While Mary and Joseph were not battling a pandemic, they certainly knew something about plans changing, and then changing again, and again.

While at my parents home, my mom had put out a new nativity scene. It’s a unique set from my uncle who passed away this year. She had carefully placed each figure so they all could be seen and admired. It was clear that this set had a special place in the room and we were all drawn to it when we first got there.

Later on in the day, my mom came into the kitchen, laughing. “Someone went and rearranged the nativity. It’s ok though, I’ll fix it later.” I went to look at it and laughed myself. All her careful spacing was gone. Instead, there was a crush of figures and animals all vying for a place in the simple stable.

There was this energy about it. The animals were huddled together, for warmth? The wise men appeared to be more craning their necks for a better look instead of inclining them in reverence. The shepherd is scooched so close to Mary he almost looks like he’s touching her depending on the angle you approach from.

We left the nativity just like this for the duration of our stay. As we were getting ready to leave, I was thinking about what to write for a Christmas message for you all. Immediately, this thought about how this version, this vision of the nativity, is probably closer to the truth than the staged one. Imagine the shepherds, they heard the good news from the angels and were astonished. They rushed to Bethlehem. Do you really think they stood far outside the door, peeking in over one another’s shoulders? When the wise men came, did they send their gifts via messenger?

The visitors were compelled to come and see. In artwork up and down the centuries we see this scene depicted. There is a closeness, an intimacy, surrounding the Holy Family. That is what my kids captured in their nativity scene. Not only were the figures edging in as close as they could, but you as the viewer have to get closer to see into the action. “What’s happening? What are they all looking at? Why are they pressed in so close?”

As we journey in these last days to Christmas, I have to stop and wonder, which nativity scene am I participating in? Am I keeping Christ at a distance, even in this moment of the sweet little Christ-child? Am I only peeking in, not allowing myself to fully enter the mystery of my Savior coming to me? Or, am I walking in, sitting down next to Mary and looking into Jesus’s eyes? Am I coming to Christmas Mass with all the anticipation and excitement of the shepherds and wise men? Or, am I caught up in the amount of glitter my daughters’ dresses are going to leave on the pew and the cracker crumbs the little boys will sprinkle behind them?

This Christmas is, yet again, not what we would call “normal.” But Jesus is still coming. He is still waiting for you to scooch in closer, to come and see. This has not changed and will never change. I hope you are able to make it to Mass on Christmas Eve or Day. And when you go, I hope you spend some time with the nativity scene there. Take a few moments and really look, really participate. See Mary’s bent head, her eyes fixed on Jesus. See Joseph standing or sitting with them, protectively keeping watch over his precious family. See Jesus, the innocent child, come to save us all.

If you need a prayer to say when you spend time with the nativity , I’ll leave the lyrics to a lovely song by Rebecca St. James called “A Cradle Prayer.” Here is the link to the music if you would like to listen to it.

Jesus I love you my Lord my life
Where would I be without you
Here in the quiet, the still, the night
I am in awe of you

Trials may come and friends they may go What really matters is you my Lord
Beautiful Savior my God, my friend
I am in awe of you
Lord I am in awe of you

Why would you, Creator and King, come as a baby for all, for me?

https://genius.com/Rebecca-st-james-a-cradle-prayer-lyrics

I am wishing you a very Merry Christmas. One full of intimacy, even at a distance. One full of love and family, even if it’s through a window or screen. One full of Christ’s love, which is with you always.