Book Review: Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis

For many Catholics Mary is a source of comfort, intercession and motherly affection. This is certainly true for Pope Francis. Throughout his papacy Pope Francis has made specific mention of Mary as “the first pilgrim” and “the perfect disciple” as well as many other titles and devotions. Mary’s unconditional “yes” is for all followers of Jesus the perfect example of what it means to truly participate in the will of the Father in our everyday lives. Alicia von Stamwitz has beautifully compiled the writings, homilies and even tweets by the Holy Father about the Mother of God in this precious book, Mother Mary: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis.

mother maryThis is the perfect nightstand book. While arranged thematically, each excerpt is only a page or two at the most. Pope Francis’ insights into the role our spiritual mother plays are poignant, full of depth and love. While it is a book that highlights Mary, it is always important to recognize exactly what Mary’s role is – to bring us to Christ.

Mary’s gaze is not directed towards us along…”Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary points to Jesus, she asks us to bear witness to Jesus, she constantly guides us to her Son, Jesus, because in him alone do we find salvation. he alone can change the water of our loneliness, difficulties and sin into the wine of encounter, joy and forgiveness. Video message for prayer vigil at the Shrine of Divine Love, from the Vatican. Saturday, October 12, 2013.

Pope Francis’ call for the Year of Mercy can be seen in many of his reflections on Mary, the Mother of Mercy:

In the end we will all be judged by the same measure with which we have judged: the mercy we have shown to others will also be shown to us. Let us ask Our Lady, our Mother, to help us to grow in patience, in hope and in mercy with all brothers and sisters. Angelus, St. Peter’s Square. Sunday, July 20, 2014.

This book also allows us glimpses into Pope Francis, the man and priest. He recalls images and titles of Mary that are meaningful to him, such as Our Lady Undoer of Knots and how under the mantel of Mary we learn “true discipleship” (145).

Mother Mary is inviting, warm and inspiring. And in true Pope Francis fashion, it a book that gently guides you into deeper relationship with Jesus through His merciful Mother, Mary.

Daily Graces.

Book Review: The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis

PrintThere are so many options for Lenten reflections out there. Many bishops and priests will write a reflection series, most parishes will offer some kind of booklet like the Little Black books or a Magnificat Lenten Companion prayer book. If you are starting to think, oh this is just another one of those books/series, keep reading! The Hope of Lent by Diane M. Houdek is a brand new series of reflections….hold it right there. It may say that these are “reflections” in the title, but I would respectfully beg to differ.

What is so delightfully refreshing about Pope Francis is that in one breath he can cause a person to stop, reflect and be moved to act. Houdek has very thoughtfully chosen key moments in Pope Francis’ daily homilies and addresses which invite the reader to not simply consider the daily readings, but to be inspired into practical action.

Lent isn’t only a time for sitting back and internal soul searching, though this can be extremely fruitful. Pope Francis is fearless in his interpretation and explanation of Gospel truths.

How often we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church who proclaim: “I am a real Catholic!” They should be asked, “What do you do?”

The Lord’s mercy is in doing. Being Christian means acting: doing the will of God. And on the last day – because we will all have one – what will the Lord ask us? Will he ask us: “What have you said about me?” No! He will ask about the things we have done.

– Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Houdek rightfully explores the exhortations of Pope Francis by offering a brief follow-up meditation which typically includes an idea for how to put our pope’s words into action. The daily entry finishes with a few lines of prayer from Pope Francis.

Something I really appreciated about The Hope of Lent is how Houdek frames the purpose for it. She says:

The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance, deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does (vii).

So here we have a simple book that has found a way to hold two key truths in balance with one another. In one hand, it isn’t enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. However, while we are doing all that walking, we must not get caught up in our own action. Rather, the more we are called to action necessarily means we are called to greater contemplation.

We live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking…Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to make decisions, to choose something, we know the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone.

– Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Even though Lent has just begun, The Hope of Lent is more than worth going back and reading from the beginning. And then reading again in June or July. And possibly in October or November as well. Pope Francis’ meditations are full of spiritual insight and practical wisdom that can inspire us to become hope-filled, joy-filled Christians.

Daily Graces.


A Giving Heart

Have you ever heard a story that tugged at your heartstrings? Maybe you’ve watched a TV show or seen a commercial that was particularly moving. Perhaps you were watching the news and saw a story that struck home, that reminded you that there are others out there who are in need or suffering difficulties. Often, these experiences elicit an emotional response – “How beautiful!” “How awful!” “I wish there were more people out there like her.” “Why isn’t someone helping him?”

I would like to share with you one such story that is near to my heart and I hope, will become dear to yours as well.

Ben’s cousin Colleen is presently working in Hyderbad, India through an organization called Sarah’s Covenant Homes. She is a long-term foster mom for 7 children, all with special needs. Colleen has a true calling to work with these precious children. She has had to overcome an incredible number of hospital visits, late nights, early mornings, and a severe learning and language curve since she is in India, a place she had never been prior. Colleen regularly blogs at Letting My Light Shine where she gives heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories of her everyday life with these little ones.  Colleen does an excellent job of sharing stories of all the children in her care, letting her audience really get to know them and the challenges their disabilities present.

Katherine -, #DailyGraces #WorksofMercy #DonateNowI would like to specifically draw your attention to one of Colleen’s little ones – Katherine. Katherine is a 2 year old who is blind, deaf and has a form of cerebral palsy. When Colleen first met her, she was lethargic and very unresponsive. Colleen’s patient, steady and loving care of Katherine has yield some incredible results. In just 3 short weeks Katherine began responding to the stimuli in her environment by crying when she was displeased with something. Before this, she would not have any response, even if she was uncomfortable or upset, she would just shut down and go to sleep.

Colleen’s diligence with Katherine has brought an incredible opportunity to her. Colleen has been very good about following up with best care she can for all of her kids, pursuing whatever avenues she needs to with each of their unique disabilities and challenges. For Katherine, she has been trying to figure out what options are available for her hearing loss. After a whole series of doctor’s visits, Colleen was thrilled to find out that not only is Katherine’s cochlear nerve intact, she is still a viable candidate for a cochlear implant! With only 3 of her 5 senses working, regaining some hearing will completely revolutionize Katherine’s world.

As if this wasn’t enough good news, Katherine has been blessed by a local organization who is willing to pay for the implant itself. It is a huge financial burden off of Colleen and Sarah’s Covenant House. However, it means that it is up to Colleen to raise the funds for the surgery and hospital stay. In total, she needs to raise $3,000.

This year, especially during Lent, Pope Francis has really called everyone out. In his address for Lent, Pope Francis said:

For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.)

We all can’t travel to India. We all can’t sit with Katherine at breakfast and watch her reveal in a sense she can enjoy. We can’t all sit with Colleen as she struggles to help Katherine engage in the world around her. We all can’t sit by Katherine’s bed when she wakes up from surgery. We all can’t be there the day Katherine begins to make connections between the sounds she is hearing and her environment.

But we can help make this life-changing surgery possible. Lent is a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. If you have been discerning a new charity or cause to support, consider Katherine’s. Pope Francis wants us all to “reawaken our conscience” by actively performing the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. By donating for Katherine’s surgery, you are not only helping the sick, you are concretely giving Colleen the tools she needs to shower Katherine with even more love and works of mercy.

Here is the link you need to donate. It is simple and all through PayPal so it is secure. Any amount you can give will help Katherine get that much closer to the gift of hearing. If at this time you are unable to give, please pray for Katherine, Colleen and the other children. You can also share this post or any from Colleen’s blog to help spread the word about Katherine and children just like her in need of advocates, in need of love, in need of mercy.

Thank you so much. Please click through the links so that you can learn more about Colleen, Katherine and the incredible work she is doing.