Posted by: wordofthevine | March 29, 2015

Preparing for Holy Week?

When we think about it, if we want to go deeper in the spiritual life, what we have to do is learn to connect our beliefs to what we are living. We have to find the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus something that is alive and impactin1239396193f5Mn22g our own lives. Stop and think. Almost everyday, sometimes in small and ordinary ways, we encounter the cross. We have to wait patiently for the car in front of us to merge over on the freeway. We have to listen to a co-worker or a family member as they complete their sentences and thoughts rather than insert our own words into the conversation. We have to welcome the way others do things or their ideas that may differ from our own for we have to let up our own need to control or be right. We have to manage our own feelings so we can honestly react to others and not our own concerns for them. I am remembering about this as I walk alongside the teenagers and young adults in my family. In fact, as I wrote this I had to remove the word my from the sentence…”as I walk alongside my teenagers and young adults. The people in my family are not mine for they are given to me for a time to nurture and love but ultimately they are Gods. God inspires them too for family life is a cross for others by working with your own needs that may be out of balance and impinge on the legitimate needs of others? How can you let the ordinary moments, that cause you to hold yourself back, put you in touch with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus which is a real time force for good in your life. Ask God for a new awareness of just how real the Paschal Mystery is for you today! ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 26, 2015

At Our Last Breath…Finding Ourselves Surrounded By the Light!

Besides offering spiritual direction in person and via SKYPE and traveling to offer retreats, I work as a part-time chaplain for a community hospice. I couOXYGEN VOLUME 13nsel the dying and their families and I often attend them as they are dying. I am remembering one experience that I had sitting at the bedside of a woman with her family as she was dying. At this 11th hour, people often have a foot in both worlds, here on Earth and in Heaven. This woman was talking to her grandmother, who had died many years before and she was seeing the Virgin Mary who must have been accompanying her at this hour of her death. I was remembering one of our conversations as I was witnessing this sacred moment. As she was dying, the woman was grasping the large Miraculous Medal that I had given her. I recalled in our past conversation when I handed her the medal that she was remarking about one of her family members who had left the Catholic Faith. The woman was sharing how beautiful Catholicism was to her and how blessed she had always felt to be Catholic and to have the Blessed Mother and the Eucharist.

As she was dying, as I was sitting with her now, she began to become fearful as she talked to the circle of her family that were apparently joining her as she was making the transition from life on Earth. All of a sudden, she looked up in distress and proclaimed, “But, I don’t want to see him or talk to him. She seemed to recoil from something or someone. I reassured her family that many times as a person passes they are moving towards a great and intensely loving light. Sometimes, we see the fruits of our own life on Earth with uncanny clarity which can be painful.

I began to consider purgatory as I witnessed this woman’s distress at the moment of passing. Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. says in The Three Ages of the Interior Life, that we have to develop “proximate disposition…to receive the light of glory immediately after death without passing through purgatory. Purgatory is a punishment which presupposes a sin that could have been avoided, and an insufficient satisfaction that could have been completed if we had accepted with better dispositions the sufferings of the present life. No one will be detained in purgatory except for sins he could have avoided or for negligence in making reparation for them. Normally, purgatory should be spent in this life while meriting, while growing in love, instead of after death without merit.”

While, I would never attempt to judge the quality of this woman’s dispositions towards God, for in her life she had endured many sufferings and continued to love God, her movement to avoid something at her death made me reflect. What is the quality of my own soul and how rectified am I in going towards the Cross to love those who have hurt me? I was left with a desire to cultivate a generous heart and to welcome suffering, not seek it, when it comes to me. All of this could allow me and each one of us to hold nothing back from the Lord, to freely entrust ourselves to His merciful love here and now and at the hour of our death. What is your plan to grow in holiness the remainder of Lent this year. When we learn to love and offer the present moment of internal rub or pain for the very one causing it, we grow in merit and make up for many sins. That way, at our last breath, we will not fear seeing anyone! Let us go full steam ahead in the spiritual life, trusting not in our own merits, but in the merciful and abiding love of God. ~ Mary

Teach Me, O Lord

Teach me, my Lord to be kind and gentle in ahardon-facell the events of life;

in disappointments,

in the thoughtlessness of others,

in the insincerity of those I trusted,

in the unfaithfulness of those on whom I relied.

Let me put myself aside, to think of the happiness of others,

to hide my pain and heartaches,

so that I may be the only one to suffer from them.

Teach me to profit by the suffering that comes across my path.

Let me use it that it may mellow me,

Not harden or embitter me;

that it may make me patient, not irritable;

that it may make me broad in my forgiveness,

not narrow, proud and overbearing.

May no one be less good for having come within my influence.

No one less pure, less true, less kind less noble for having been a fellow traveler

in our journey toward eternal life.

As I go about my rounds from one task to another,

let me say, from time to time, a word of love to you.

May my life be lived in the supernatural, full of good and strong in its purpose of sanctity.


This prayer was written by Servant of God, Father John Hardon, S.J.

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 22, 2015

This Lent, How to Live the Cross!

We need to finCatherine of Siena and Jesusd the Cross a concrete reality from our own experience rather than an abstract concept that we read about or consider with our heads only. We don’t seek suffering and we emphasize the joy of the Christian walk and way of life, yet, the Cross comes to us. For me, the mother of a big family, the Cross comes walking to me with size 13 feet sometimes. I have teenagers, and while I love them, sometimes I suffer along with them in their ups and downs of life. It is like that when we care about others. We carry their burdens as well as our own.

Rather than waste this unavoidable suffering, we want to know how to cultivate it as a spiritual good, to obtain graces for others as well as our Church. We want to recognize our Crosses, for we each have a unique walk or journey and specific kind of Crosses. The Lord know how best to bring about our transformation into Him and he generously shares costly graces that come to us as challenges, suffering, temptations, experiences of our own faults or the faults of others. He does this not because He desires that we suffer, for He suffers along with us, but because He loves us enough to bring out our greatest goodness. When we recognize our Crosses, come to accept them and learn to love others in the midst of them, we grow more like Him. Life is short and He wants us to be formed with hearts like His.

Think about it. Next time you get your feelings hurt, someone slights you, gossips about you or overlooks you to connect with someone else, offer the pain for them. In a wink of an eye, turn to the Lord, share the moment with Him in your mind/heart, and ask Him to bring graces to that person. We are not talking any sustained prayer for our enemies, just a snap of a prayer that shows a greater freedom of heart to pray for those that hurt us. Try it and see if you experience greater peace in the midst of challenges and challenging people. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 19, 2015

True Eucharistic Adoration!

Sometimes we learn profound things from our everyday experadoremoniences, even at work. I work as a part time chaplain with Community Hospice, as well as provide retreats/conferences and spiritual direction to my parish and way beyond. One day, I was called to visit a man with dementia in a local care facility. He was always either sound asleep or unresponsive when I visited him. I never had a conversation with him and he never opened his eyes and looked at me, but he taught me profound things about cultivating habits of holiness through the Eucharist.

I phoned his wife and learned that he had been a daily Mass goer, a sacristan, an involved member of their parish  and a compassionate and successful business man back home. They had moved to my town once he got sick to be closer to their daughter. We spoke about ways she could honor her marital commitment to him when it was difficult to figure out how to relate to him. She could rub his hands with lotion etc. She requested that I arrange sacramental anointing, which I did.

What really moved me was when I came to his bedside along with his wife and daughter on the day he died.  While he seemed unresponsive, I broke off a tiny morsel of the Eucharist, recited the Lord’s Prayer with his family and said, “Bob, This is the Body of Christ!” He opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue. His daughter bolted off her chair and shouted, “He hasn’t even opened his mouth in 10 days! Look at that!” I was dumbfounded too. He died a few hours later. The power of his love for Our Lord in the Eucharist came through at the last hour! This is truly Eucharistic adoration at it’s best!  ~ Mary


Posted by: wordofthevine | February 10, 2015

Now…a Moment for Eternity!

Sometimes we might lose track of what we are living here and now in terms of our faith and relationship with God. We get distracted and too busy maybe. Maybe we getassumption discouraged or lulled into comfortable living. I had an experience recently as I worked as a chaplain with hospice that really awakened me.

We had been visiting an elderly woman in a nursing home. She was maintaining but moving closer to death. Often she struggled with some physical discomfort that we were trying to manage but spiritually she was amazing. Yes, she had some fear of the unknown that death is. None of here on Earth have fully encountered death, short of Jesus. Her story was amazing too. She had been intentional in her relationship with God for a long time and had served her family and her parish faithfully for many years, being a devoted mother and a sacristan and other ministries for many years. This day we came and she was alive, comfortable but unresponsive. We prayed at her bedside telling her that God was with her and that He was waiting for her. As I prayed for her, God gave me a glimpse of her life from His eyes. He showed me the radiant fruits of her life that glimmered in the Heavenly City of God. All those little sacrifices she made to attend to others, all those minutes of remaining faithful to God and His providence when on a human level she could have fallen back in discouragement. Nothing was lost with the Lord gathering each moment as a radiant jewel in His hands. I told her that God was pleased with her and that a crown of glory was awaiting her. She died 30 minutes later with the aids from the care center at her side.

Now, God knows what each of us needs to fully join Him in Heaven. Purgatory is a movement of God’s grace to assist us greater openness to the radiant reality of Heaven. I know that God was gracing me to witness the fruits of this humble woman’s life. We want to learn from her how to put one foot in front of the other to love God in the midst of the simple human choices and experiences that await us today!

In the space of a foot print, what is God asking from you in this moment. A crown of heavenly glory in the love of Christ can await each of us! ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | January 27, 2015

Finding the Love of God on the Farm…

God did not relieve His son’s suffering.  He did not remove the cross…but instead, transformed His son’s death into new life.

At times when despair creeps into your life because of the challenges of everyday life…market prices on the farmsunlight farm drop below the actual value, a building of market weight pigs die or an entire crops is wiped out due due to natural disaster…remember to turn to Jesus and offer your cross…ask him to intercede for you.
When I look back over my life at the times that seemed so dark, I remember the great joy, the love I felt from my Father, when the worst is over.  It makes God and His son SO real for me.  Had I not had the cross to bear, and the opportunity to be so weak and in need of Gods help and Jesus intercessions, I would never had the opportunity to see the miracles God works in my life.  Never had the chance to know such great joy.  Never had the chance to feel His love and strength.  It also gives me confidence the next time darkness enters my life.  I will always know that He is there protecting, guiding and helping me carry my cross.
Trusting and letting go…letting God work in our life is hard.  Especially when the outcome is not what I expected or wanted.  Then again though, given time, (God’s time), I always see the greater good that comes from the cross…personal growth in spirit, or faith…hope for others who witness my cross…the list of possible outcomes is limitless and not always visible to us.
I once heard a saying…be Christ to all you meet.  Sometimes that includes carrying a cross; making a sacrifice.  There are many opportunities to do just that, on the farm. ~ Brenda
Posted by: wordofthevine | January 10, 2015

The Rhythm of Joy & Sorrow in Farm Life

 As a wife of a farmer, I take comfort in knowing that the weariness and suffering, toil and disappointment…united with the cross, will bring peace and
In northeast Iowa where we live and work, we have seen three years of below average crops.  Not at the fault of something we have done.  You can put the same amount of time, energy and resources into a year on the farm and the results are never be the same.  Why would someone want to do something that is such a gamble in one of the most dangerous occupations.  Because, the rewards are great.  You have the opportunity to see God at work in real big ways, everyday.  And you have the opportunity to be the hands of God to others; to let God work through you.

The rhythm of sorrow and joy that ran through the life of Christ are also present on the farm.  In the middle of darkness, storms and danger, God is always present.

When Peter was beckoned to walk on water, the stormy winds and water distracted him from Jesus.  It was then that he began to sink.  For the farmer, it is the hail that wipes out a crop, multiple feet of snow that stands between them and the daily chores or low prices that do not cover the input costs let alone their labor.  It is easy to loose focus and not trust in the Lord.
So where is the joy that keeps a farmer getting up in the morning?  Standing in the middle of God’s creation when the sun rises…seeing nothing but his Glory and gifts around you.  The beauty left behind when the dust and grime of the week is washed away by a much needed shower. The knowledge that you have been a much needed blessing to the neighbor’s widow after harvesting his crop.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs will be the kingdom of God. ~ Brenda Schmitt, Co-founder of Word of the Vine

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 13, 2014

The Power of Gratitude this Advent

Today I was at a formation retreat for deacon formation as my husband is in formation to be ordained a permanent deacon July 18, 2015 for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The topic was on gratitude! I have come to a new understanding of this most precious virtue and spiritual capacity. I came to see that we have to work at gratitude for many factors in today’s world keep us from it.

Gratitude is about being mindful or aware of the now moments in life. Our culture tends to be future oriented. We can cultivate the capacity for gratitude by taking the same approach that our mothers taught us when we cross the street. We are to stop, look, and go! We have to stop, to bring ourselves back to paying attention and savoring the gift of the present moment and then we have to live that moment as a gift. If we don’t we are vulnerable spiritually. Desolation can take us down or immobilize us.

Each of us has unique vulnerabilities, maybe we rush through life, take on too much so we don’t have to notice our present reactions. For me, being a sensitive person, I get hurt or immobilized by noticing too long the hurts of life. We are to notice, feel the feelings and mine the gift of the suffering. We are not to let it continue on and stop us. What about you? Do you notice both the ups and the downs each as a distinct gift to praise God for, for each has made you who you are.~ Mary

 Keeping an eternal perspective!

Keeping an eternal perspective!

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 2, 2014

Build the Cathedral of You Advent Email Retreat!

We are so busy this time of year with Christmas preparation, we often fail to keep our perspectives on the coming of Christ. Advent can slip away and we mawoman cathedraly find we haven’t taken time. I notice this even in my own house. At Mass this morning, when I caught sight of the Advent wreath, I remembered that I hadn’t gotten the family wreath out yet. Today, that is one of my missions among many.

Take time to slow down and keep yourself grounded. Join Incarnate Institute and Pietra Fitness for, Build the Cathedral of You: Healthy Holiness for Advent. This is an email retreat with MWF emails for the first three weeks of Advent, followed by a short, live, interactive online retreat session on Dec. 21 at 7 PM, CST. Sign up by emailing us at: or

As a theologian, certified spiritual director and licensed dietitian, I will explore a Catholic perspective to healthy eating and weight management that can help you grow in holiness. Pietra Fitness is a beautiful ministry of physical fitness and prayer, a true Catholic light and alternative to new age practices like Yoga and eastern meditation. Join us today. ~Mary

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