“Littlest Suffering Souls” by Austin Ruse

 The little wren outside is pecking seeds off the wooden deck- so small and seemingly insignificant.

What could this poor little creature teach me?  

How often we ignore the littlest among us.  How often we ignore the simple of heart, those who go about their purpose in life, while the rest of the complicated world whirls around them.

Especially when it comes to suffering human beings, we’re slow to take notice of those who can’t keep up with the pace.

The book, Littlest Suffering Souls, by Austin Ruse, reminds readers of the great graces available to those who are faced with the care and responsibility of little ones, and additionally, the humility it takes to learn from life’s sicknesses and pain.

And there may be no greater pain that watching a child suffer.  

Our Mother Mary knew that ache.

Ruse shares the blessed heroism of three modern day children and their families. And he shows us that each family is unique in the crosses they bear, but that all are called to embrace them with love.

And then, miracles happen!

Devotion, faith, openness, and littleness of heart

bring exaltation, blessings and unexpected joys.

Ruses’ book is about three small children who suffered greatly from physical illnesses.  Struck with Downs Syndrome, leukemia, spinal bifida, and all their complications, the short lives of Brendan, Margaret, and Audrey were a marathon of enduring pain. The untimely deaths of these little ones, though, continue to bring about great conversions.

Their example teaches us how redemptive suffering which is offered up and united to Christ’s, can be a powerful force.  Readers are led to consider how accepting one’s own crosses in life while keeping hope in expectant trust, can lead to peace and even joy.

Referencing great writers and saints in the Church, Ruse helps us understand this sometimes unpopular Catholic view.  Suffering united to Christ’s changes the world.  Brendan, Margaret and Audrey received wisdom beyond their young years, and suffered incredulously, with joy. Their parents’ stories, and those of their friends, are proof that these littlest suffering souls had a great mission.

All Catholic children, these three little ones became catechists and evangelizers to the family and friends they encountered.  How close they were to Jesus in the Eucharist- many of them requesting an early reception of this sacrament.  Priests who ministered to them and their families, were drawn to their saintly sides and remain forever changed in their own self sacrificial lives.

When the powerful, influential, and the worldly recognized the true Presence of Christ in Brendan, Margaret, and Audrey, they were changed. Renewed by watching them, even popes like St John Paul II, found renewal to serve the Lord and His Church in new ways.

Readers will find themselves privileged to have been given a glimpse of these saintly children, just as one catches a glimpse of a poor simple wren on a spring morning.

 As Ruse tells their stories, the heart and mind are given a new vision.  Our Lord tells us the same in His Word,

Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,and which none of the rulers of this age knew;

for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:  “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart,what God has prepared for those who love him

(1 Cor 2: 6-9)

Brendan, Margaret, and Audrey, pray for us!

From Mist to Midst

“Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.

But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then… God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being… God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” (Genesis 2:5-8)

From a place where mist used to rise, in a garden,

God created the first human person.

Mists are mysterious.  They mystify.  Scripture says that we’re born into a beautiful garden, shrouded in the mysteries of life.

Salvation history began at this moment, and continues on to today.  But today, we celebrate the Easter season, and our Savior is risen and in our midst.

How did we get from mist to midst?

Our walk with God has been a complicated one.  With freedom, we’ve fallen from grace.  We’ve toiled and worked in the gardens of our lives, and struggled through sin, suffering, loss and even death.

Death.  That’s the “d” that splits the word mist.

These things, especially the finality of death, remain mysterious and dreadful realities, unless we truly rejoice in what we’re celebrating these days.

Does Jesus’ death split the mist in your life?  

Can His Presence in your midst make sense of all your suffering?

Mary Magdalene’s in a “mist”- a mist of tears and of confusion.  She’s in the mist of the early morning hours after being up all night weeping.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  (John 20:15)

Here we are back in a garden. It’s not until the “Gardener” calls her name, that all the mist evaporates.

 He’s in our midst.

 And His death has separated all the confusion. His death has breathed life back into the human person.

“Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26)

Notice He doesn’t take the “d” word away.  In fact it seems to be the only way!

If we do not know the necessity of dying with Christ as the mysterious reality of a life of faith, we can never really know the beauty of His Presence, risen and in our midst.

Let His death defy the MIST-ery.

Let His death make all things clear.  Our Savior rises in glory and He lives, so we can too.

The Gardener calls your name in your MIDST.

The Shape of You

It’s such a catchy tune.  He’s in love with your body.  He’s in love with the “shape of you”.

So just what kind of shape is your body in? As we finish this fourth week of Lent?  A lot of people I know are “feeling it”…

…the desert, the discipline, the death to self.  Their bodies are beat.

They’re feeling like their body’s are in the shape of the Cross.  Hanging up there with Christ.  

That’s the shape of HIS BODY.  And it’s given for you.

So the lines can become hard ones to sing: ” Who-a, who-a, who-a , who-a….I’m in love with your Body, Lord.  I ‘m in love with the shape of you….the shape of the cross that we are sharing right now.  Because my pain in yours and yours in mine.  We’re suffering together.

 This passion?  This shape?  It’s intense.” 

What if we sang as we waltzed up the communion aisle….sang that song with all our heart?

“Lord, I’m in love with your Body of Christ in the Eucharist.  I’m just so in love.  I can’t wait to meet you- I’ll be your Bride, and you’ll be my Bridegroom.

You see the shape I’m in, and you love me!   

And, I’m in love with your Body, Lord!”

We pray, we receive, and peace comes even while we still hang in the shape of the cross. Our eyes open and once more we can untwist the lyrics of this song of longing and union in the heart. We look around and let them apply to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  St Paul tell us that we are the Body of Christ.  And each member is united to the rest.  When one suffers, the whole body suffers.  If one is well, the whole body’s well.  

Am I in love with the Body of Christ? In the people in my life each day?

 Will I let my body take the shape of a cross for them?

 Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!  Can I say to the members of the Body of Christ- I’m in love with the shape of you….especially when you are suffering in the shape of a cross.  I’m in love with your body. I will be a gift of self out of love for you.  I want us to hope and to heal.”

Every heart is longing for union and love.  Mysteriously, every heart will find rest in the shape of the Body of Christ.

 This is my love song this Lent.  A song that leads to true love and real life.

  “Lord, everyday discovering something brand new…I’m in love with your Body.”


Stone Rejected

Moses struck the rock in the desert

To quench an Israelite thirst

Even though their complaints rise, they grumble

Still He always loves first.

Christ comes to be, the True Rock Redeemer

Cornerstone builders reject

Spear-struck to pour out the Blood and the Water

For thirst He would never neglect

Sing out my soul in praise of this Rock

Draw near to drink and be still

Grumbling is over, desert long past

Now you are one with HIs Will!






One Powerful Woman

She’s known worldwide.  She is a real person in history.  Even after her death in the first century, she’s been seen all over the world – and with different faces.

Scientifically unexplained phenomenon are attributed to her. It can be hard to refute her successes. Century after century claim miracles affected by her power. December 2015’s National Geographic Magazine named her the world’s most powerful woman.

Who is woman of strength?  Her name is Mary of Nazareth.

 She was chosen as the Mother of Jesus Christ.  The Mother of the Savior of the world.

She always appears to the small and humble, often to little children. The messages are always the same: Pray, and turn back to God.   Simple messages from a mother who loves her children.

Her appearance as an Aztec princess in Mexico in 1531 resulted in her miraculous image being left on a cactus fiber tilma, the cloak of the poor Juan Diego.  This tilma hangs in the basilica in Mexico City where millions have been converted to God upon seeing her. It’s fiber should have long ago deteriorated and studies of the tilma baffle scientists.

At Lourdes, France she appeared to the meek Bernadette, and asked the people to pray and turn to God.  A spring rose up from the ground where they met, and this water has affected thousands of healing miracles.  Some are medical healings of the body and some are emotional and spiritual healing of interior peace and new perspective.

She predicted the 2 world wars at Fatima and also the genocide in Rwanda.  At the time of her last visit in Fatima, a secular newspaper reported the miracle of the sun spinning in the sky.

She has appeared to countless saints, who were commissioned to make her more known.  Many of the bodies of these saints remain incorrupt – more evidence of what must necessarily be called supernatural. Her messages continue today, as she fulfills her task of speaking to her children about God’s mercy and His desire to be one with them.

Some listen and are set free.  Others turn away unwilling to believe.  But still there are the proven facts that even science cannot explain.

What is the source of this woman’s power? 

Contrary to the world’s definition, Mary’s is not derived from self.   Contrary to our nature which demands human praise, Mary’s ultimate power comes from complete openness to God’s love within her.

And because of this, Mary is not only the most powerful woman who ever lived, but also the most free.  Her freedom is completed directed by the love of God that fills her.

Because of her great freedom, which opens her up completely to God’s life and love, she is able to agree to be the very link between divine life and human life.

God in the flesh, comes to dwell within her.

Because of her receptivity she is able to contain Infinity. Because of her humility, she becomes the most powerful.

What of broken humanity?  What of women wounded?  Either by others who have wrongly dominated them, or by their own inward tendency to self?  Is it even possible to look to Mary as our model?

If she is in fact the link, and the surest way to the power, the answer could be to turn to her.  Could we ask her how we might heal?

Could we turn to her to show us the way to true feminine power?

 Can we imitate her openness to God’s love so it can fill us?  Can we forgive those who have so greatly offended us?  Can suffering transform us into something great?

Only if we are convinced of the power of God.  Only if we are convinced Mary can lead us there.

May our souls take a glance at this woman of power, and give pause to the way she can lead us to our own.

Then we rest in the power of love.

Loss of Life in Lent

A Reflection on Luke 9: 23-25

“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. 

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”


Show me how to lose my life

Let it enter Yours

Invitation- death to self

Your Heart an open door.

Contrary to my first response

To save myself from pain

Grant me the grace to take Your hand

To see this loss as gain

Here it is, my Lord, my God

My daily cross and strife

Within Your Heart I find myself

Loss becomes new life!

The Other Side of Ashes

It will be smeared on my forehead this Wednesday.

 That messy ash. That smudge to mark me.  As a follower of Christ.

Not to mention- it means the start of Lent.  The penance, the pruning, the picking up of crosses.

 All to be a follower of Christ.

Ashes there to remind me.  I’ll return to the dust.  This side of life is short. Better hope the smudge wears off before too many see.

I have to admit to being fooled into thinking that real beauty is only what is pleasing to the senses and  what looks good on the outside right now.  And not that those aren’t wonderful and good things:  The smell of a rose.  The sight of a beautiful face.  The mysterious landscape in a painting.

But sometimes life is messy.  And circumstances repulsive to me.  I don’t move toward them but run away…even from myself.  I don’t see beauty on my face  at all- just smudged on ashes on my face.  Just me returning to dust.

But I’ve also lived through too many Lents now.  I know how this works out.  I’ve seen those black ashes can become beauty….that smudge become my path to glory.

And it’s worth the work to push on through to the other side of ashes.

What’s on the other side of ashes?  Resurrection. Glory. Beauty. And Light. There’s only one way to do the work of black ashes into beauty.  Mostly I don’t “work” at all.  Surrender is the key….surrendering that mess to the One who came to transform it.

 Do I believe He can love me enough this year, to meet me here in ashes?

I do.  That’s what we say at a wedding.  I do believe He loves me.  I do believe He can transform this lowly body into a glorified one. (Phillipians 3:21)  I do believe He can take me to the other side of ashes.

40 Days will bring me there.  I wonder what He has in store for me this year.

 I wonder what the smudge will teach me- about Him, about myself and about others.

But more than anything else, I’ll wonder about the other side of ashes.

 Where I’ll see Him, me, everyone, and everything in radiant beauty and glory.

See you on the other side.





New Show to Air on Primetime TV: “American Icon”

Primetime TV is getting ready to launch a new series displaying the gifts and talents of the Holy Spirit in unique and unrepeatable persons.

 The show is entitled “American Icon”

and showcases the flame of the Third Person of the Trinity as seen through individuals who serve as icons through which we see God.

Judges will be called Receptors, who view the icons and then lead American’s viewers in commenting on the distinct ways fans can receive the gift of God as seen through the icon.

 American Icons’ participants will prepare for the show

with a deep interior prayer life and with grace from the sacraments.

These icons will sing, paint, dance, and act in a free gift of self that displays hitherto unforeseen beauty and glory.  As unique performers on the stage of life, their death to self will be evident.  The audience where the show will air is expected to have appear to them “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3) and all may even begin to speak in different languages as the Holy Spirit enables them to proclaim. (Acts 2:4)

 Many will be astounded and amazed.  Many will be brought to closer union with God.

It will be no different with at home TV audiences.  The presence of the Holy Spirit and His power will be evident no matter where American screens are being watched- by TV, phone or computer. No heart will be forsaken or abandoned.  Whether alone or in groups, people will experience the heavens opening and a voice calling them to beloved relationship.

Icons by definition are considered to be a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance to it.

Not to be confused with icons found on your computer, these human person icons will be a sign of Almighty God.

 No longer will the American public be encouraged to venerate at an “American Idol”- which stops at a created image and worships that alone.  These new American Icons will bring the world into the transcendent realities,

simply by pointing to God instead of themselves.

How will viewers know not to stop at an icon’s gifts and talents on display?  Humility.  In each icon will be a fullness of this virtue.  Their souls will magnify the Lord, not themselves, much like Mary.   A certain light will pour out of them as they offer their work and this gift will stream forth from them.

 As persons embodied with a spirit, both the icon and the icon’s viewer will know God. All participants will be considered winners in their respective gift/talent category.

This will begin a new era in media.

 The strength of the programming is expected to carry over into other countries and other forms of media.  The Beauty that is given and received will literally save the world.  As popularity grows, the Kingdom of God will draw closer.

Christ Himself will be so in love with the humility He finds on the earth, that He is likely to come again!  He came the first time because of the perfect humility of the handmaid of the Lord, who was so open to receive Him, that He could not resist coming to rest in her Immaculate Heart and Womb.

His Second Coming will be the same, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.(Hebrews 13:8)

Rejoice! The Holy Spirit is already at work, prompting souls to sign up for this new project.

 Icons are already preparing themselves to be gift.

Tune in and be ready to let the Holy Spirit intoxicate you!

  America’s icons will renew the face of the earth!


Couriers of Grace: My Daughter, the Sacraments and a Surprising Walk of Faith by Nancy Jo Sullivan

Tangible, real signs of God’s love-

these are the children that God gives as gifts to the family.

Tangible, real signs of God’s love as well –

these are the seven sacraments of the Catholic Faith.

Any parent will tell you, as Nancy Jo Sullivan does, that children are our pathways to sanctity.  And inevitably, the ones who present us the most challenges, are the very ones who purify us the most— if we allow God make Himself known through them.

Similarly, for the body as well as the soul, Our Creator has instituted the seven sacraments and has found a way for us to receive His powerful presence in our lives.  At these special times, He intervenes with His grace.

And Nancy Jo Sullivan shows us how the two –

children and sacrament- are together, a great walk of faith.

In Couriers of Grace, My Daughter, the Sacraments, and a Surprising Walk of Faith, Sullivan weaves the beautiful story of her life as a mother, in and out of all seven sacraments.  Sullivan’s firstborn Sarah, is perhaps her greatest professor of love.  Unexpectedly born with Downs Syndrome, Sarah’s innocence and purity of heart, open up new pathways to hearing God speak, even if it means painful struggle and trial.

A lover of fairy tales and the glories of a Kingdom,  little Sarah, the Princess is baptized and saved.  Her mother recalls a near drowning experience of her own as a child, and is given a certain closure in her understanding of dying and rising to new life.

Little Sarah’s stuttering encouragement to “f-f-forgive” bring her mom back to confession, after spending years away. And even when families are broken, (Sullivan experiences a painful break up of her marriage) she sees how they still come together, to celebrate Mass week by week.  It is Sarah’s twirls down the communion aisle,  to receive her Bridegroom Prince that teaches Sullivan and her readers that we are indeed called to be bride!

As sacraments are received through the beauty of ordained priesthood, Sullivan embraces and also struggles with those whom God has chosen for this vocation.  In men who truly are the face of Christ to her in spiritual direction and who treat Sarah with incredible dignity as a person, she is able to reconcile conflicting feelings. Though the Church and even the priesthood itself is not immune from the diseases of sin, Christ is in our midst to heal us!   A lay worker in the Church’s vineyard herself, Sullivan comes to understand her call to “everyday priesthood” – to be priest, prophet and king, living the truth of Christ in her family and in her work.

And even through the painful loss of little Sarah, whose body was created to be here on earth just for a time, Sullivan is given an increase in grace, as God makes Himself known through the tears.  Sullivan witnesses Sarah’s fear of death dissipate as she becomes  certain that she is going to leave earth to see “her Prince”.    She blesses her mother’s forehead-  almost as an “anointing of the sick” for them both, and falls asleep peacefully….only weeks later to rest in peace for all time.

Tangible real signs of God’s love- our children and our Church in her sacraments.  Sullivan shares the beauty of her walk of faith, which comes from them both… and the lessons that emerged as she contemplated their depth.

This book is a gift to any parent raising children, especially in faithfulness to our promises to pass on the Catholic faith to their hearts.

So often we think they will be the only recipients

as we strive to make sure they are covered in the graces the sacraments offer.

But as so often happens in our relationship with God, He surprises us with His generosity and love.

We find we’re the ones who grow in knowledge of His power.

 We’re the ones who are doubly blessed!

“Being” A Real Love Letter

Valentine’s Day is around the corner.

 The card section in the stores are lined with rows and rows of the red-hearted messages.  They’re filled with touching words about love.

Will you send out your messages?  Your reminders of love?

I am reminded of what real love is to me…


 What is a total gift of love?  It’s “being’ a love letter all year long.

It’s the example of a giving life that disposes others to believe in my love.

If I sit around on my computer most days and most nights,

barely waving at hand at the ones that I love…

Can I send them a message red scripted gushy words— in truth?

If I lie about what I have said and have done…

Can I sign my name to a red card bleeding love?

If I cannot die to my childish ways, and only value time spent on myself….

Will they read the love letter of my life?

My conduct will be the true test.  The day to day gift will preach my love. An action, a look, a gesture, a smile …often does more than a long babbling of words.

Oh but wait, there are times when they’re unbearable to me!  I just cannot see them as lovable.  The feelings aren’t there, so the love must be gone…

Why work at it?   Why waste my time?

The world would say so.  Sign off, but don’t live it.

Go through motions, but harbor thoughts these thoughts:

 “They’re not worth my energy and time.”

Imagine Christ as He hung on the cross of Real Love, thinking I’m not worth His time.

No, He sees in each one of us, the great price of His Love and offers His Sacred Heart to be pierced.  The Blood that He shed – every drop shed because He says,

“You are worthy of this Love”.

“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Christ died by “being” the real love letter. Read it at the crucifixion.

To love even when we don’t feel like it.  To “will” the good of the other, while not counting the cost for ourselves.

And this is done daily. Often. Until is becomes more and more real.

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

I’m with ya, Skin Horse.  I’m shabby.  But the people who love me understand.  And I read their love letters to me every day.  Then I receive the Valentine’s meaning in truth.

And “being” a real love letter is what I hope for each day. I’ll love them even when joints are loose.

 So that the hearts I encounter can know from my life that I see in them 

the price of His opened pierced Heart.

And I’ll sign the card with my life.