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

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 28, 2014

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Today in the United States we thanksgiving-2014have celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a huge tradition of thanksgiving, family and celebration. While there is big diversity around the components of the meal, depending on your family background, turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie are typical foods. Something else is to gather with family and friends to enjoy their company and say thank you to God for his blessings and presence with us. Most parishes offer the Mass today!

I really enjoyed the holiday today, as we hosted twenty people at the house. What I also thank God is that we all gathered together, talked and enjoyed the time. Some holidays, I have gotten sensitive and sometimes let little resentments or feelings of hurt feelings needle me. Not today! You know, family is a great and human experience.

Today, I kept thinking about Saint Ignatius’ exercise of learning to find and praise God to “attain the love of God in all things.” A line from the Spiritual Exercises really touched me and formed my mission today, carving turkey and cutting pie. The spiritual exercise reads: “I will ponder with great affection how much God, our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He possesses, and finally, how much, as far as He can, the same Lord desires to give Himself to me according to His divine decrees. I will then consider that I need to offer the Divine Majesty. I will then make a total offering of myself to God (Puhl, LJ 234).”

Ask yourself, even if you haven’t been in the USA today and celebrated Thanksgiving Day: how much God has done for you. Learn to praise Him in all situations to find Him in all things. Surrender yourself to Him, into His arms, so you aren’t left to your own resources. Where can you start today? ~Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 23, 2014

The Feminine Genius and the Farm Crisis Part III

For many of us lwomen american revolutioniving in the cities, we have to Google farm crisis to learn about the life altering situations that effected farmers and farm families during the 1980’s, a prime time for the feminine genius to come to the forefront.  The farm crisis in the 1980’s was the worst for farmers since the Great Depression. The facts are that during the 1980’s prices that farmers received for crops, livestock and even their land plummeted, while fuel cost and the expense to run a farm sky-rocketed. Many families were forced off the land, a good number of local, family run business in rural America closed, never to reopen again. Many family farms were taken over by corporations.

One Catholic woman, Mary R. shared with me, “One day, at the peak of the farm crisis in Iowa, I was listening to Father Norman White, the Archdiocesan director of Rural Life Conference. He said, ‘Don’t just sit back on the farm complaining about how things are going. Get involved. Let your voice be heard.” She continued, “Farmers that really needed the loans to keep afloat couldn’t get the loans because they didn’t have enough resources to offer as collateral for the big loans they needed. Lawyers, bankers and doctors who owned farms could. We didn’t think that was right, so I got on the board that decided who got loans. With women on the board, the needs of people got taken into account. You know the perspective of women: we care about people. I remember one farmer who was legally blind. He applied for a loan with no collateral. We gave it to him to keep him on the farm and give him dignity. On these decision-making boards, we need the voice and perspectives of both men and women, for without both, our organizations are “blind in one eye!”

Saint Edith Stein has written about the power of the feminine perspective/genius. She says that women are designed to position themselves alongside people, to carry their burdens as their own to give voice to the needs of people. We are gentle, yet strong, to offer our efforts to nurture and provide support for those who really need it.

Mary R. continued, “Even when, a man and woman worked side by side on the farm, everything was in the husband’s name. All the Social Security from the income  went to the man and when women retired, they had no retirement. When it came to farm programs, women had no voice and couldn’t vote on the decisions of the National Farmers Agency. We worked to get these things changed because we could see that things were better for everyone when we worked together.

Another thing we did, right at the peak of this farm crisis, which was the idea from a woman. We went back to the old ways of helping each other out, of being neighbors. In our small towns, we rallied together. We saw who had what. When someone needed to combine their oats, rather than apply for a loan to get one, they borrowed their neighbors. When they needed extra help, they helped their neighbor rather than get paid help. There was power in doing this, being a united front. Many of us were able to keep our farms with this.

Think about your own life. How have you experienced working together as neighbors and of the insights from a woman’s perspective? True richness comes when both men and women become “neighbors” to each other to see the needs on all sides. We need objective awareness of the facts, as well as insights for people. ~Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 21, 2014

The Feminine Genius in the Heartland! Part II

Maybe you read in my last post that I visited the ACCW group (Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women) in the Dubuque, IA Archdiocese. Our table discussion really moved me, an urban farmer as my kids describe me and an on fire Catholic pastoral leader. One dynamic woman, Susan, with beautiful bobbed premature gray hair responded to another woman’s question. She was asked how her harvesting was going. Suswomengrandmaan responded the last two years have been a real challenge. In 2013 and 2014, we had such late rains in May that we couldn’t plant the corn. I lost $49,000 in 2013 because I had to take a total loss and it was looking that way again this year because I fertilized the land for corn and then couldn’t get in to plant it. After June 1, it dried up but there wasn’t time remaining to plan corn because corn needs more time to mature. She said, “I turned to prayer and asked for God’s wisdom. What I came up with was to plan my 160 acres in alfalfa hay. My community was praying that we would get gentle rains so my hay seed didn’t get washed away. God followed through with gentle rains. Now I am making good money selling the hay. Thanks be to God!

Susan’s story continued being inspirational as she went on. My husband, Jim and I bought this farm, a little piece of heaven in 2010. He got to live there for 1 1/2 years before he died of cancer. Susan was farming this 160 acres herself, while she also works as a nurse. She said, “My nephew, who studies agronomy at Iowa State got an internship with a large farming operation. He was all excited to plant the crops but found that this farm only hires women to put the crops in. They are easier on the equipment and more precise. You know, the feminine genius, according to Pope Saint John Paul II, relates to this.

Another woman piped up. You know when the vet comes out to work on the cattle, many times the hired men get kind of rough with the cattle. The cattle get kind of crazy and don’t cooperate well. Usually the vet says, “Go get Lillian. In her quiet loving way, the cattle respond to her. They come off the rafters and just quietly meander into the gate so I can work on them.”

With our patience, our long suffering patient endurance, as women, we can develop our gifts and offer them. I have often thought about the gift of women in the family and even in the Church, as lay people with particular awareness and gift, but I had not thought of the impact of our loving intuitions on the farm. Look at your own life. Where has God placed you to utilize the feminine genius? Where can you exercise profound faith in God’s provision, like both women, who are widows that carry the load of farming: planting and harvesting the crops, and going into the barn with riled up cattle. ~ Mary

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 20, 2014

Holiness in the Heartland! Part One

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 Grant_Wood_appraisalof 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

Posted by: wordofthevine | November 17, 2014

Radiating Christ! This is Our Calling!

Have you ever wondered if you radiate Christ? With six kids, from high school students to young adults, I often wonder this. On any given day, afamily2t least one or two connect with us, and seem like they are moving towards God, and for at least one, I am praying for and concerned about somethings. I guess this is to keep me from getting cocky or prideful. I remember watching a certain large family at Church. All of their kids complied with what they were told, and all of them still seem quite pious. We all have been forming our kids, but ours have always been ones that pushed back and asked why. Even now, the young adults in our family, their practice of Catholicism is on their own terms and not mine. I have come to see that I radiate Christ better, not when I try to appear perfect, but when I show my trust in God’s providence. This often comes when I weather the challenges with prayer.

I came to this after one of my kids told me that I was out of touch. One of his friend’s parents were so open, they would drink and even get drunk with their young adults. This brought me to share, well, that wouldn’t happen with me. There is the way of holiness and the way of the world. Which path are you seeking? I guess I felt glad this kid shared with me, but I pray that God will allow him to feel the consequences if he chooses this path for now. Now I am praying that my daily Rosary for him will be like a magnet that draws him to holiness and God. There are many pulls out there.

You may ask, “Well, why are you sharing this? Isn’t it better to share shining stories of your families piety? My answer is Yes! Life, however, down here is in process. We have to know how to rejoice and how, at the same time, to buckle down and intercede for others. Another kid called this week praising God and how He had provided her husband with a new job and herself with a letter of acceptance to graduate school.

We can find in family life the ways and means to grow towards God, that is, if we take the risks to share with others both our joys and our struggles. Let us pray for each other and our families and share the ups and downs.  We radiate Christ to each other when we do this, for He loves us in our joys and is attracted to us in our needs and worries.~ Mary

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