All posts by Maeve Smith

Finding Joy in Our Crazy World

To begin, we offer a prayer for all those killed or injured in the shooting in Las Vegas, for the grieving families, for the soul of Stephen Paddock, for the peoples of:  Puerto Rico, North Korea, Syria, the Ukraine, Myanmar, the Congo and for all those recovering from hurricanes.

The news is overwhelming.  Maybe it always has been.  I’ve often said to Glenn, “The present seems crazy but the sixties must have felt worse when JFK and other national leaders (Martin Luther King Jr &  RFK) were assassinated.

How do you find joy in your daily life?  I, (Maeve), recently started taking tap dancing lessons and am enjoying them.  I’ve been inspired by the NYC ballets that I’ve attended with my dad in recent summers and by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

For our tenth wedding anniversary last year, I bought Glenn “Bert and Ernie” dolls.   He used to do puppet shows for his younger brother.   Now, he does them for me.

Through working at a school, I’ve rediscovered the simple joys of blowing bubbles…             IMG_2281                    ….and coloring, and have learned about “slime,” water beads and the Tooty-Ta dance….

Dancing with McKenna
Dancing with McKenna
And Dad
…..And Dad

I also enjoy writing whimsical poems, playing games with family and friends, exercising, and travel.  Naturally, you have your own list of things that give you joy.   Feel free to share them in the “Comment” section of our blog!

We also find great joy in God!  He’s the Creator of all the things that give us joy.  October has special significance in the Catholic Church as it’s the month of the Rosary and Respect Life month.   What’s joyful about these, you may ask?

There are four sets of ‘mysteries’ for the Rosary: the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries.  In the first Joyful mystery, the Annunciation, Mary is frightened when the angel Gabriel appears to her and tells her that she will conceive a child.  Scripture says that she was, “deeply troubled by his words” (Lk. 1:29).  But she still said ‘yes’ to God!

Henry Tanner, a 19th century American artist captures this moment well in his painting, “The Annunciation”;

ossawa-annunciation

In the second Joyful mystery, The Visitation, Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth.   Pregnant with John the Baptist, and “filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth tells Mary that the moment she heard her greeting..

“The baby leapt in my womb for joy.”  – Lk 1:44 

Elizabeth also affirms Mary’s trust in God…

“Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled”   – 1:45

Mary, having accepted her role as Mother of God, responds in a befitting way.   She exults…..

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior”  – 1:46-47 

Her joy is palpable.  It’s also meant for us…..that joy break into our lives.  Naturally, we’re not ‘up’ all the time.  Some days, it can even be hard to smile.  But we can let Mary’s joy and example of being open to God’s will  break into our lives and lift us up.   Ride the coattails of her joy in the Lord.

What’s joyful about Respect Life month?  When I was a kindergartener at St. Ambrose school in Latham, I had a homework assignment that I completed with my parents.   We made a little booklet about ourselves.  The word, “Celebrate” was written on the front cover.  My parents wrote things like, “Maeve was named after the Irish queen, Maeve.  She likes strawberry ice cream with sprinkles and enjoys making up words to the song, ‘On Top of Old Smokey.'”

Later, I thought this was a quaint assignment and in life’s tougher moments, I wondered where that happy little girl had gone?

Fast forward to 1999, when I taught English in Bolivia for sixteen months.  I came into a new and vibrant relationship with Jesus and started realizing how I am…

“…precious in God’s eyes…”   – Isaiah 43:4 

Eventually, I revisited that “Celebrate” booklet in my mind.  But now, I took the message in!!  God ‘celebrates’ me!   God ‘celebrates’ you!  He ‘celebrates‘ every soul that He has ever allowed to come into being.

Psalm 139 says,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” 

We know that many circumstances of conception aren’t ideal, but that doesn’t change the fact that God loves us and has willed us into existence.  He asks us to respect, value, cherish and PROTECT life to the best of our ability.   At the beginning of life,  at its’ end, and especially,  in lives that are vulnerable and fragile, He has a purpose.

Glenn writes: 

October 13 is the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun that thousands witnessed in Fatima, Portugal.  This is one of those little-known miracles that nevertheless is absolutely stunning.

St. John Paul II credits Our Lady with saving him, when there was an assassination attempt on his life in St Peter’s square, in 1983.  Why?  The date was May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and the bullet just missed a major organ.

“One hand pulled the trigger, but another hand guided the bullet,” the Pope said.  Later that year, in his visit to the Fatima shrine, he placed that very bullet in the crown of Mary’s statue.

As we fast approach the Centennial of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to the children of Fatima, and as we recall the joy of praying the Rosary, let us also show ourselves to be a people who respect life in all its stages…

“...the new people of the redeemed cannot but respond with songs of joy, praise and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of life…”    

“The Gospel of Life”     — St. John Paul II,  P. 83

Why Mary Matters

I didn’t grow up with a relationship with Mary.  I didn’t hear about her, nor experience Marian devotions.  But when I was twenty-seven, I became a missionary in Bolivia, teaching English to 6th to 12th grades.  I had wanted to go to Africa but civil wars redirected my plans.  I was afraid to go to a Spanish-speaking country because I’m not proficient in languages, but God had things He wanted to show me.  Unbeknownst to me, Central and South America have a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

Artwork by Tom Mussio
Artwork by Tom Mussio

I lived in a small village called Loma Alta, meaning “high hill.”  During the month of May, the rosary was prayed each night in a different family’s home.   After the rosary, someone played guitar and we sang lively songs of praise.   After this, we ate.  Families prepared delicious empanadas, fruit, flan or cakes.   We’d try to guess what would be served the next night.

As I started feeling more of a connection with Mary as my “heavenly mother,”  I thought of different times in my life when I had felt lonely, lost, or sad and realized that I could have picked up a rosary, “contemplated the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary,” as St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary,  and been comforted.

The Salesian order, with whom I served as a Lay Missionary, also has a very down-to-earth way of relating to Mary.   They use the title, “Mary, help of Christians” and see her as Mother of their Salesian family.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,”  Pope Francis writes, “popular piety enables us to see how the faith, once received, becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on.”  Through the people’s great faith and devotions, I learned to love Mary.  I came to understand that she’s my mother, who prays  for me.

She’s your mother also, who prays for you.  Why not pray a “Hail Mary” or decade of the Rosary today?

If you’re asking the question, “Why do I need a relationship with Mary when I already have one with Jesus?”  let me ask you a question.  Would you like to grow closer to Jesus?  Mary’s sole goal is to lead us closer to Jesus, so that we might listen to Him.  Think of the wedding feast of Cana.  What did she tell the stewards when they discovered there was no more wine?  “Do whatever he tells you”  (John 2:5).   She was looking out for the best interest of the wedding couple, who were in the embarrassing predicament of running out of wine!  Jesus initially told Mary that this situation didn’t concern Him.  But when she persisted, He performed his first public miracle.  Jesus apparently realized God was prompting Him through his mother.

With Pentecost approaching, here is one more reason to call on Mary’s intercession.  St. Luke tells us in the  Acts of the Apostles, that Mary was present and praying, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.  This is not merely a detail.  It is recorded so that we may know that Mary will pray with us for the all the gifts that the Spirit wants to bestow upon us.

Come Holy Spirit, and pray for us, Mother Mary!