I was asked to make a short presentation about a new ministry for women, Mary’s Mantle: Women at Prayer, that we have started to the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, (ACCW) in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The focus of the new ministry is to welcome, form and spiritually support women to grow in the Spirit and to pray for priests, deacons, and vocations. The women of ACCW, the local group of women from the national organization, NCCW, focus on leadership, spiritual growth and service to the community and the United States. It is a very inspiring group. They told me that the group was started by US bishops to give women in the country a united voice.
Today they asked questions and really got behind our new ministry with many practical ideas to promote and publicize it. We celebrated Mass together and then sat down for a great meal of mid-western food: scalloped potatoes and ham. What moved me most was the conversation at the table. Being a city person, who has chickens in the backyard, I began to ask the women at the table, who all were from farms, some practical questions about wintering my chickens. This is the first year that I have had the chickens. They each were so helpful and so open about their lives.
One woman told me how God and prayer peculate her life on the farm. She and her husband had a friend in a remote area of Colorado, who had mail service only every other day. If you know anything about raising chickens, this makes it difficult to get chickens through the mail. It is possible to mail chickens overnight, but they can’t sit at the post office for several days. She and her husband agreed to bring some out with them. They loaded 35 little chickens at the hatchery for them and they took off for Colorado (with 100 pounds of chicken food in the trunk). She said, “If it got too cold for the peepers they would start to chirp quite loadly and we would turn up the heat. When it came time to find lodging, we managed to find a “mom and pop” local hotel and got a room around the back. When we opened the door of our hotel room, it was beastly hot but perfect for the day old chicks. She said, “I took the box into the bathroom and laid them in the tub. That evening and again the next day, I took one of the Styrofoam coffee cups, filled it with water and gave each chick a drink by hand, one by one. We stuffed a towel across the bottom of the door to hold the heat in and then ran the air conditioning for us.
We all chuckled thinking about her bathtub chicken coop and the attentiveness she gave each chick. I began to think that in many ways we are like the little chickens. We please God but we need so much from Him; and He needs to hand feed us like she did the chickens.
She told us, “When I have a challenge on the farm, like caring for 35 chicks on the road or when the cows get out when I am home alone, I have five intercessors who are very powerful. They always come through for they really are part of the Communion of Saints. I yell, ‘HELP’ and they start praying for me. It’s my husband, my dad, St. Isadore, the patron of farmers, my brother, who was a farmer, and St. Francis of Assisi. My practical prayers always get action.
I thought, “I never thought that chickens could teach us about the Communion of Saints but they can. Anything good, when we pray in the midst of it becomes a means for us to find God acting on our behalf…even chickens and when the cows get out. I was impressed with the power of this women’s practical prayers and her faith in God in the here and now details. In your life, where is God leading you to extend yourself and to pray with expectation? ~ Mary