Thanksgiving in Delays and Detours

 

REJOICE

SEEING GOD’S HAND IN EVERY MOVEMENT OF YOUR LIFE

 

I jumped in the last blue taxi at the Austin airport on the way to Susana’s house. I was excited to get to her because it had been a while and even though it was well past midnight I knew we’d be up late – catching up, talking, and not wanting to go to sleep. This is the spiritual sisterhood that God’s forged, one that’s hard to explain, it just is and seems like it existed since forever.

I’ve been traveling to Austin every so often this year with the addition of Mary’s Touch. God’s expanse of blessing has produced ministry and people. It’s not lost on me. My heart is over full at how it seems to be a massive season of blessing of the authentic – and restoration of things lost or delayed.

After ten minutes in the cab my phone totally died and though a pretty fearless Boston gal most of the time, I was not thrilled about it being the middle of the night with now no working phone and a taxi driver who just announced he was running out of gas. At this point I was getting aggressively “east coast” with a litany of directions to the cabbie as it seemed he was driving me into an abandoned truck stop. I silently prayed and told him to turn the cab around and find a lit gas station. “Just keep going.” There was nothing in sight and I will admit I was fighting the panic that was overtaking me. I am calm in big cities, but open spaces and darkness have potential for panic attack.  After a good 12 minutes, of complete darkness and no lights, finally a gas station and I was plotting my exit.

There was a convenience store that was open and got out and had him pop the trunk, grabbed my luggage and burst into the store asking the woman manning the joint to charge my phone for me behind the counter and could she help me talk Susana to me with directions to come get me. “Don’t worry honey you are good now. You are fine. We’ll send him on his way. I’m Nikki.”

She was safe. She was rattling off names of streets Texas style as I stood there perplexed. She couldn’t figure out why I didn’t know these parts of Austin until I enlightened her that I wasn’t really from around here but was just in town for the weekend. “For what?” I proceeded to tell her I was there for a retreat on the Blessed Mother. “You know the Mother of God.”

Silence.

I got a drink and the trashiest snack food possible to crunch my anxiety away while I waited impatiently for my phone to charge until I could call Susana. I felt dead and relieved all at once and couldn’t stop thinking about how little sleep we would get before our board meetings and the radio shows the next day. It was going to be an all-nighter at this point and I was suddenly scanning the aisles for Visene. It was a total inconvenience for Susana. Did I over react? Why didn’t we book an earlier flight? Why isn’t there Uber in this city? What taxi driver has an empty tank? Was that a total scam? What am I doing in this place?

I suddenly thought about this woman and how she’s alone in this place all night with every manner of everyone coming and going. I said, “Hey Nikki, how do you manage here overnight like this – are you safe?” She told me she’s fine and that her police friends come in and out through the night. She has her buddies that look out for her. She said “I have to work here and I also work at a hotel in a very bad area too. I was born in a cycle of poverty and had a baby as a teenager. I need to work.”

My heart sank as I considered her situation. I told her I thought it was awesome that she kept her baby and that she has this strong work ethic. That she was a leader. That she would go far. I was suddenly giving this massive convenience store pep talk. I was too tired for words, but I was suddenly standing up and was turning Texas cheerleader for Nikki. She helped me. And that she was so encouraging. I thanked her for being here for me.

I told her that I was going to give the retreat this weekend on generational sins and habits and that maybe my cab was breaking down to just tell her that she WILL break the chains of poverty in her family and that God wants to use her to do that. That there was no coincidence with God that my little blue cab couldn’t make it any further and ended up here, right now in this place. She began to weep. I told her she was strong. And that she could stand in the gap and be the woman that no woman ever was in her family – that as her children watched her work ethic and integrity, they would learn from her and model her, not the sins of the past. She cried more and we embraced.

I was so in my own drama about the maze of the broken down blue cab to not see right away that even in the inconvenient moments, we need to praise Him. Praise Him because He sees where we are going and why, even if it’s for five minutes or five months. He is the Divine Transporter in the disguise of broken instruments who seem like a mess, the wrong fit or a mistake. He is the mover, the Divine Shifter to move our feet to be His for another. Thanks-giving. Thank Him when it seems to be going wrong, or you feel detoured, delayed or duped. It is precisely in those moments when God is operative.

Nikki was proof to me that I need to be grateful and expectant. That God is not a man that He would lie and change His mind about my life and the direction it’s going. If there are delays or detours or unexpected stops on the way it’s because there is an assignment, a blessing, and that I am to be a blessing. I was stuck overnight for a few hours that stretched a late night into a super late night, but it was worth it. God loved Nikki that much to inconvenience me to send a message of love and encouragement. God showed me as he burdened me that He bore the greatest burden of the Cross as the greatest message of love the world could ever know. Even if it seemed in vain, a waste, or not even like a kingly thing to do, He did it anyway.

I’m so grateful that I ended up with Nikki that night. She encouraged me and I encouraged her. She has something I needed, safety. And I had something she needed, assurance.

Let’s be grateful for even the things that seem broken. God can bring forth His greatest glory from these places.

I’m still thinking about Nikki. I pray for her every day.

Like Nikki, we can stand in the gap and do things differently so that we break old cycles and old patterns. We can be heroes in our own spaces that we occupy. I look up to her for her willingness to work hard, to not be bitter, to be a loving source of encouragement, to have chosen life at a great cost to herself. I pray she rises higher and higher and God lifts her to the next level. I know He will.

Thanksgiving for His timing and His mercy even in the detours.

Praying for you+

Lexi

 

JMJ+

 

 

 

Heaven’s Call

 

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DECREASE THAT HE MAY INCREASE

I’m not home that much anymore. And each time I get back to visit I see a very noticeable deterioration in my grandmother. She’s my last grandparent. My mom’s mom and this past March she turned 95-years-old. She was determined to make it.. part of our competitive family nature. A holy priest in our lives told my gram that she would live a very long life and this she certainly has.

It seems like yesterday when on one particular St. Patrick’s Day I called her up and asked her to make her corned beef and cabbage for my dad and me because my mom was out of town and we “needed it.” We had a plan B because I didn’t expect her to comply. She was thrilled to do it for us and it gave us a special time with her. She wouldn’t let us lift the pans and she struggled as she hobbled to the table carrying big pots of potatoes, carrots and corned beef. It was her offering of love even if we sort of forced her into it. That’s what grandmothers are for. That was ten years ago and it was the last real time I can remember her doing anything significant in the kitchen at all.

She’s been bed ridden since last Christmas and I can’t remember when, but at a certain point in these past few months, she can’t really speak on the phone anymore. The last time I talked to her my family put me on speaker as I tried to rattle off the coolest little things ever to give her a little Hollywood sparkle. I told her that I “handled” Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson at a big LA event and that lit her up like a Christmas tree.

My parents moved their beach life back to our hometown area west of Boston several years ago when my grandmother was becoming more vulnerable and my mom was commuting several days a week to be present to her. My aunt moved in with my grandmother from her house down the road. It’s been a supreme sacrifice of caretaking for everyone involved, especially my aunt who tends to my grandmother around the clock with an intricate prescription routine, meals and every possible corporal need each and every day.

When we visit, we visit in her small bedroom. We have birthdays in there, endless cups of tea – mostly the ladies in the family set up their own perch, but often the men barrel down the hall and take up their own residence as well. The great grandchildren zoom by and peer in to see if she’s alive and flash their wave of salute and the crawling babies get to be on the bed with her. She knows them all by name and personality and for someone who didn’t admit us into her “club” until the teen years, she’s converted to a baby lover at this stage in her life. There are now new faces – home health aids and hospice nurses, some good, some overbearing and needing more emotional attention than my grandmother. The priest comes to anoint her and hear confession. She loves the pastor who she says is “just like a friend.” She asked him when she could get out of here and he told her it was really up to her. Everyone got it.

The last time I was home, I was straddled between visiting my dad in rehab and my grandmother in her little blue and white wallpapered New England bedroom with CatholicTV blaring and her secret chocolate stash and the remote control nearby. I could be there less because of my dad and I felt this pulling away spiritually, as if God was saying, “Decrease. I am increasing.”

The visits in her bedroom are less dynamic. Coming down the long hallway to find her asleep only to perk up when she senses an arrival. She talks for a few, inspects my outfit to see what I have on and bobs her head back to sleep and rouses with “is that necklace new?” or “when do you have to leave?” and always, “any good men?”

This past year has probably been the most challenging for my family and for my grandmother. Her inability to move and the finiteness of knowing that it doesn’t improve from here have impressed upon my grandmother and all of us that heaven is calling. Sometimes we think she has no clue that this life will eventually end but I know she knows.

There are days when the isolation and duty can become unbearable for the family caretakers who elected to do this so she would not be a number in a nursing home and to provide her human dignity that would be met with love, care and compassion. There are days when the extended relatives want their moms and grandmothers back in a normal routine or to have the freedom to come and go on a whim. My mom and my aunt take turns in family celebrations and milestones so that one of them is always with her. There are onlookers who don’t understand why you would possibly give up your entire life for one when she could just go into a nursing home. We live in a throw away culture with people who are too busy with their own lives and so to many this is lunacy, but to God this is primary.

One night while praying with my mother on the phone God permitted me to see an image of Saint John Paul II in my grandmother’s bedroom with my aunt and grandmother. He was dressed in his Papal white and had his arms sturdily around my aunt’s waste and was genuflecting, one knee up and one down, with his pressed head tucked into my aunt’s womb. We were praying for my aunt to have supernatural strength for as long as this time period lasted. Initially, I didn’t understand exactly what this vision meant but as we continued to pray, I understood that what the Holy Spirit was trying to show me was that all of heaven bows down amid this radical reverence for life – from the womb (head in the womb) to the tomb, my grandmother at the end of her life. That this countercultural expression of love and sacrifice to reverence the dignity of life is the most important of works of any work we can do this side of heaven. Saint John Paul II was so mystically present as we prayed and fittingly so because he helped the world understand the value of life in the unborn and every stage – and even when his own was failing, he showed us how to die. This vision gave me great comfort and continues to bring me deep consolation. I pray it continues to console my family as they pour out their acts of love like a libation to know that heaven truly bows down when His creation honors creation.

Saint John Paul II was also the greatest promoter of the Divine Mercy for the sick and the dying.

We’ve been inspired to have an image of the Divine Mercy placed at the doorway of her home. My aunt positioned the image on the floor at the entrance. There is so much foot traffic now, that we believe that God wants this house to be a house of Mercy for all who enter it.  We cling to the promises of the Divine Mercy for my grandmother during these days and we invite heaven to continue to beckon for her. We pray that as heaven breaks in, her heart will lift from any sorrow of what she leaves behind and long for the promise of Eternity with no more sorrow, no more pain. We also pray for those coming to see my grandmother in these final days, no matter where they are in their walk in this life, they will recognize Christ in my grandmother and experience His mercy for them.

All of life is borne with sacrifice. A mother sacrifices her very own body that becomes stretched and wounded to give birth to a child. That child requires nourishment, care-taking, instruction from both parents and is served by the love and sacrifice of those parents who put away their selfish interests as two now for the third. A new child comes, and rinse and repeat. The older child now sacrifices its first position for the new life that is added to the mix. With the aged, the able bodied, generally children, assist the elderly parents, aunts, uncles and so on in the aging process in the pilgrimage home to God. And it too requires great sacrifice.

Likewise, we’ve encouraged my grandmother to not waste her suffering – her feeling of being imprisoned in her room, the monotony of the days, the humiliation of having her children change her, wash her and clothe her, the fade of this life and its pleasures and the fact that she has to walk by faith not by sight in belief of the life with God that is to come. We have encouraged her to know that she has some of the greatest power that we can have when we surrender our human will to the will of the Father to be used and disseminated for His glory. That our pain, weakness, lack, suffering is not in vain and can be offered and united to the Cross for our family members conversions, healings, for our own penance.

I miss her now and will miss her when. I’m grateful God has given me a continent in between to transition me for the time when He takes her to her Eternal Home. Her quiet and stoic love for her children and grandchildren that occupy her interior will become Heaven’s song as she becomes our fiercest intercessor. For now, I offer my distance as my “decrease” so the Lord will overshadow and be the increase for Catherine Patricia.

Praying for you and your loved ones+

Lexi

JMJ+

Falling into it

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THE HARVEST IS NOW

What I love about New England is the four seasons that constantly remind of change as we advance through life. I was home in Boston for two brief long weekends in the best of fall, my absolute favorite time of year. I get almost euphoric from the end of August into September in Massachusetts. Being so far away on the west coast, it was a surprise gift to be home twice during this fave season. The imprint of this trip showed me a little something about how God works.

The change in the air, the apples that are ripe and ready to be picked, the colors of the pumpkins in fields and the glory of summer transformed into a new heightened beauty and a feeling of abundance are all breathtaking. The visible sign of that which has been planted is now yielding good hearty fruit. Summer is so utterly spectacular and then you sometimes forget that there will be fall which is like a crowning glory, sneak attack for the senses that brings maturity to the whimsical days of June, July and August. The sun has a new glow, the moon hangs a little lower and the air that much more crisp.

We go through seasons in our lives where we may not see a lot happening. Like the dog days of summer. We are living, waiting,  praying through to get to the next level into His will and sometimes the wait is long, arid, and then, like summer transforming to autumn, you just fall into it. God starts handing out blessings in abundance and the overflow of grace produces gift after gift after gift and your eyes are opened to a burst of newness forgetting the wait that stretched every sensibility.

I’ve been off the grid of this little blog since August because God’s blessings have kept me so busy that suddenly I turned around and it’s October. I’ve been praying for a mighty overflow in many areas of my life and God is answering all these prayers one by one in manifold ways. The frenetic pace of 15 planes and 8 cities in a few months in non-stop motion has not provided a lot of time to process what God is doing in my life, but as I take this time to really reflect, I feel called to share with those of you who are waiting for breakthrough, answered prayer and for God’s blessing to reach your barn. Believe that what He has for you will come. Waiting doesn’t last forever. It’s a season.

You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoilIsaiah 9:3

What are you waiting for the Lord to do for you? Heal your broken heart? Move you out of that unfulfilling job? Bless your finances and untie the knot of debt? Bring you that God sent spouse? Heal you of disease? Bring forgiveness in a fractured relationship? He wants to fulfill the longing of your heart. Like the land where the fruit manifests, the land of your heart needs to be tilled, watered and made ready for what He is going to do.

It’s how we wait that determines the harvest we will yield. All that has been “planted” will produce a harvest. Plant in prayer. Plant in sacrifice. Plant in patience. Plant in belief in God’s ability to act for you. Plant in love even when enemies surround you. Plant in a witness that walks by faith not by sight. Plant in forgiveness to set yourself free for all the blessings He has for you. Plant in devotion in order to be empowered by God. Plant in silence in order to hear God. Plant in trust in order that God move for you. This type of planting will reap a bounty in your spiritual life and your corporal life and move you into the territory that God has squarely planned for you to fulfill your destiny.

Whatever you are going through, whatever you seek from above, do not give up but plant until the harvest bursts forth in overflow, brilliant color and all His glory.

Praying for you+

Lexi

Holy, Handsome Masculinity

 

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THE RETURN OF THE REAL MAN

Raise your hand if you find it really attractive when you meet a real man. I can see all your hands raised from where I sit.

And God so loved Hollywood that he sent (go with me here) His beloved Canadian son to LA LA Land to help guys man up in today’s confused cultural swirl. True story! I recently had the opportunity for a very lively and insightful conversation on Mary’s Touch Radio with “real man” Mark Matthews, founder of Bibles & Brew ministry. A great show for Mary’s Touch because after all, Our Lady had THE guy of guys assigned to her, leading her, agreeing with her, co-parenting the Son of the Living God. Mark shares his life of faith, journey from the Canadian prairies to the City of Stars, and the ways he’s actively leading men to live authentic masculinity in today’s world.

Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on it, but there is an essence of a particular type of man when he lives out his God-given masculinity that makes you feel safe, protected, respected and regarded as gift and pursued in the way Christ pursues His Church. And it’s attractive, inspiring and a witness. And this has less to do with the exterior, but everything to do with the interior. And likewise, when men see an authentically feminine woman, it’s rare and attractive, yes?

On the show, Mark unpacks the Catholic viewpoint that men and women are created differently (on purpose!) smashing the world’s false human construct that says’ “we should do everything we can to tear down the differences between men and women.”

Some men struggle in today’s world because they didn’t have adequate fathering or mentoring from a man with a strong virtuous interior. There is also a cultural shift that has left some men emasculated in their homes, on the job and there is sin life that strips men of their true identity. Whatever the case, there are good holy men out there who are helping raise up a culture of true men to reclaim manhood under the Fatherhood of God.

So what makes a true man? Here are some of the attributes of masculinity:

  • INCARNATION: A true man will make things happen in this world
  • PROTECTOR: A true man is someone who protects those who cannot protect themselves
  • MENTOR: A true man will humbly teach and guide
  • CONFIDENCE: A true man sees something that needs doing and finds a way to meet that particular need as God’s co-creator in the world
  • LOVER: A true man is lover and is called to own his sexuality and use it for good; when a man is in full possession of his sexuality it becomes a gift

Please listen to our show HERE for the expanded details on the above…(and major points if you can identify the 80’s movie reference in the show!)

Mark hosts Bibles and Brew twice a month in Hollywood and he can help you establish a similar men’s fellowship group in your area. (Because a real man would just do it!) Visit BiblesAndBrew.com to connect.

What do you think? What makes a real man? What make a real woman? How do men and women compliment each other by living their true identity?

It takes heroic virtue to embrace the gifts God has bestowed. It takes heroic virtue to activate those gifts and bless the world with them. No matter how young or how old you are, it’s not too early or too late for you to become the man that God is calling you to be.

Guys, you are loved – our dads, granddads, husbands, future husbands, brothers, nephews, grandsons, cousins and friends. We need your masculinity and strength now more than ever. It’s attractive, holy and supernatural!

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ

Dropping the mic on the Single Nation

 

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                                 {YOU MIGHT WANT TO RAP THIS}

*Disclaimer: Sometimes I’m hilarious or cra or both – YES, I wrote this! And you should rap it (and make it go viral)) With love to my single friends who are sometimes dying inside.I heard from too many lonely hearts this week and this was my only reaction. Hold on…. and drop the mic on the single nation! XOXO, Lexi

This is for all you single ladies, commitment phobes, and serial daters, tempted to become complete and total haters. ..So you went out with him once, you had a hunch it wouldn’t be that easy, even though you don’t typically fall so head over heelsy…

He said “Yeah, catch ya later.” Later?

This leaves you asking your bestie, “Will he eva text me?”

“You can do better, girl…you are talking about forever, so what if he says whatever.”

Thinking, praying.. I’m just sayin’ why are all these good men waiting?

The good men are waiting, holding back… so we are datin’ the less desirable. No, no my standards are not that pliable. But it leaves me wondering…who exactly is viable?

Talk shows unpacking, matchmakers matchin’, single girls yackin’, saying today’s men are lackin’. Baby, are you trackin’?

Boy, you act so tough out in the world full of never enough. What will it take for you to surrender, to know that life can be better, just go and get her. Before you miss your chance, you know you gotta eventually advance.

She wants a man that is made of inner steel, someone who keeps it real who knows where to go when life gets hard and knows how to lean on the Master, not fearful of disaster and set on a God-sent ever after.

Love isn’t real until you give it away. There is freedom in this self-donation, believe me, it has the power to change the entire nation… why you waitin?

When did we become a world of ones, not twos? In this single nation of careers, fears, past hurt and most thinking it’s too much work – the ladies and the men, both feeling this now and then. . get on your knees and get into the mystery and ask Him to heal your generational history.

Thinking, praying. I’m just saying, why are all these good men waiting?

You’re used to being on your own, God said it’s not good for man to be alone. The Bible says a three-ply cord cannot be broken, this is His holy Word spoken. Guys, it’s time to get daring. She’s been waiting for someone caring.

Thinking, praying. I’m just saying, why are these good men waiting?

Love doesn’t come in a snap or an Instagram, but is part of His Divine Plan. If you think it’s glossy and sweet like some of your Tweets, you will miss the substance that will be the glue well beyond your honeymoon.

I meet so many single women, waiting praying wondering why are all these supposed good men waiting. They cry, sigh, struggle to keep their spirits high while they are waiting for good men to pursue them, woo them and ultimately “I do” them.

Girls even still, while you are waiting, lean not on your own understanding. There is a perfect plan, and He will bring you that man. It’s His timin’, he’s alignin’, all of heaven is conspiring for His Will to bloom in a glorious unfolding so your future is more than golden.

Thinking, praying,. I’m just saying, why are these good men waiting?

 I’m just saying, I’m gonna be praying.. praying that you real men step up and make your move, know you have nothing to lose, you can change the entire nation. Your forever is waiting.

{#singlenation}

Pushing intentions over the edge

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GOOD SAINT ANNE’S SWAY

When the power of God comes down, it’s a force that changes you. The Holy Spirit is a fire, a river, a mighty rushing wind.

As Catholics we pray, ”Blessed be God in His angels and in His saints.” The saints are one with Christ and operate on our behalf. God is so generous, he enables us to collaborate with Him and share in the work of Salvation. The saints give glory to God as they work to lead us on the path to holiness. We don’t worship the saints; rather we ask them for their intercession and to recommend our needs to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus.

My grandmother had a devotion to St. Anne and said that after she prayed “St. Anne, St. Anne, send me a man if you can” that she met my grandfather. As a result, many of the women in my family have a variation of the saint’s name. I was given St. Anne as my patron at Baptism and have always prayed to her.

My mother and I share this and when I was just out of college, we both were formally consecrated under her patronage at St. Anne’s Shrine in Fall River, MA. It was a very serious and solemn consecration under her relics and with special prayers. I remember the borderline stern priest asking me the promises for consecration and the seriousness of the act are imbued in my soul. “Do you promise to raise your children in the Catholic faith?” asked the priest. “Yes.”

Again and with more urgency, “Do you PROMISE?”

“YES!”

I can’t say that I pray to Anne daily but she’s there. When I found out I would be traveling to Quebec for Mary’s Touch Radio Show to accept our Gabriel Award, I remembered that the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupré was a place I needed to visit. As the days of the trip grew closer, I felt only something I can describe as a magnetic force within drawing me to make this mini pilgrimage for what’s coming next in my life.

I was Ubering all around Quebec for business at hand and someone told me you could Uber to St. Anne but not out. I wasn’t in the mood to be stranded in a foreign country on a Friday, so I found a short little bus tour that was going to stop at a quaint island and a stunningly beautiful waterfall – the Montmorency Falls. I thought – Island? YES! Waterfall? YES! I really only cared about St. Anne, but when in Quebec….Of course my little “day off” was a disappointingly overcast day complete with an unrelenting rain mist that left me, little Miss California, soaked through a fashionable non weather proof look and gave a slip in my step with my heely open toe shoes left to traverse a wet suspension bridge over the falls, because, when at a waterfall, you cross over it of course!

Despite the conditions and my non-tour bus persona, I entered in heartily to this experience. I felt like the people on the bus in Under the Tuscan Sun. First the island – checkered with colorful and quaint French homes, which made me wonder exactly who lived there, how did they get there and what did they do? The remoteness and beauty of this territory was a very romantic escape and a snapshot into the “New France” in a throwback sort of way. We stopped at a chocolatier and had a few sweet things in the breakfast hour. Sweetened up for the rest of the ride.

Then the Falls. I’ve never been to Niagara and they told me this was higher. It was a precursor to what would happen at the Basilica. The rushing water, its pounding unstoppable force and the clear direction of the falls and the water spray was rather mystical and exciting. The visual seemed like a metaphor for the way God moves with power. I walked over it, under it and could feel my heart pounding as the water moved in force. The beauty was exquisite how the water crashed up in artistic formation upon hitting the St. Lawrence River. God was showing off in His creation.

Our charming French guide wanted to make a few extra stops and I was suddenly getting frustrated that these diversions would cut into our (my) time at the Basilica. A couple from LA started to panic that they might miss their ship and an aunt and niece from Michigan refused to get off the bus for the stop at the Copper Museum. So did I. I didn’t need a ton of time at the Basilica, I just wanted to get inside – to be near her, to give her my heart, to remind her of my consecration and have her push things over the edge for me the same way the pounding waters crashed loudly over the falls into the St. Lawrence.

But when our French guide said we were going to Mary’s Bread, because the bread is so good and delicious and because Mary…. I started a little interior freak out. “If he’s only going to give us 20 minutes, that’s not enough. Lord, move this along. I believe in Mary and her ancient bread making business and I could eat about 50 croissants right now, but please get us there.”

I was contemplating Ubering and evacuating the bus. But I kept my cool. Finally, after our eclectic tour group ordered up bread enough to last the end of the world in the Quebec countryside, we made our way to the Basilica Shrine of St. Anne.

As we made our approach the driver announced, “YOU HAVE THIRTY MINUTES.”

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That’s it? I knew I should have rented a car. The bus stopped and I leaped over people and down the aisle to the door to position my exit.

“Open the door.” I started running up the hill and to the main entrance and my entire body began to shake and a power washed over me that words cannot describe. I was crying but not sad. I was trembling and nothing was wrong. It was like the power of God was rushing through me. I hurried through the main doors and a woman at the entrance announced “No photos until the conclusion of Mass.” I thought “GOOD, I may make Mass!” I ran down the main aisle and it was the absolute end of the end of Mass but at that very moment within the 3’oclock hour on the feast of the Sacred Heart, the priest announced that he was bringing out the first class relic of St. Anne to be venerated. The same pounding force was moving through me and the Holy Spirit was doing something dramatic.

Had we not stopped for the copper museum, and the bread, I would have been too early for the encounter with my saint. God knew the exact timing and He knows what He is going to do doesn’t take long.

The power of God was more manifest for me here than almost any other place on the earth I’ve visited. I was face to face with my Baptismal saint. I venerated her relic and again gave her my heart, my soul, my offering, my petitions. I took many others with me including my family most especially. And I took all the “Annes” in my life, and those who asked for specific prayers.

My prayers were simple and direct and after kneeling in this grand miraculous basilica where miracles have been happening since the first bricks were laid, and which prompted countless sick to leave behind their crutches, canes, and walkers, I know that. St. Anne has given my prayers to the Father, through the Son and with her daughter Mary, the Mother of God. And for that, you don’t need thirty minutes, because there is no time in Eternity. I know that Good Saint Anne took my everything my interior and my drenched pilgrim exterior and offered everything perfectly to Him.

When God is about to exact your victorious breakthrough, sometimes you have to pilgrim across a continent to know who is working on your behalf – God was showing me that the prayers of my youth were coming to the fore now and to fruition for the glory of God. Lest I ever forget St. Anne’s powerful and miraculous intercession for me, God sent me to Quebec.

Good St. Anne, pray for us!

Praying for you!

Lexi

JMJ+

Saint for a Match Made in Heaven

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RELATIVE OF SAINT-TO-BE SHARES DETAILS OF HER PARENTS’ DIVINE SET UP

If you are follower of the blog, I encourage you to listen to me on Mary’s Touch Radio each week! I have such an exciting show this weekend and I can’t wait for you to tune in!

For those who know me well, you know of my devotion to Ven. Fulton J. Sheen and how very personal it is. Bishop Sheen has been a force of intercession behind every aspect of my life working in the media and for intentions of the heart. Mary’s Touch radio is a huge aspect of this.

Sans major details, my devotion began with his masterpiece, Three to Get Married. This is a classic spiritual work where Bishop Sheen introduces the mind blowing concept that it takes not one, not two, but three to get married. Dang, I need an army. But I digress. Not many people are aware that the late and great New York Emmy Award winning Bishop was a matchmaker. If ever a generation needed a divine kick in the pants down the aisle, it would be ours.

Ever since I read Three to Get Married, I lean on the Bishop to help bring about this vocation for me and for others. (You will all be invited to the wedding, unless it happens really fast and then well, small weddings rule). You could imagine my surprise when I learned that Sheen not only instructed about the Church’s teaching of the Sacrament of Marriage, but he literally got in the middle as a matchmaker. Playful. He loved the drama.

Sheen loved love and family life and he stood in the gap to help others embrace their own vocation. With saints you generally have to just read about them to get the picture, but I’m so excited to let you know that THIS weekend on Mary’s Touch Radio, I speak with Bishop Sheen’s cousin Rosemarie Holliger Costello. Rose’s parents were set up by the Bishop saint-to-be. Rose has become a dear friend and through her I have come to know Bishop Sheen in ways unimaginable.

In the natural realm here’s this famous TV bishop inserting himself for love’s sake. A young couple assisted to meet and come together, encouraged by the Bishop to foster a friendship and relationship with a dignity rooted in Christ. In the spiritual realm God is the third aspect of marriage. It makes sense that the natural sign comes to reveal the spiritual dimension of God’s presence in marriage and the making of a holy one.

Do we think about these things? Do we pray upon these things? Do we invite Christ to be involved in our discernment of a future spouse or in the challenges and joys of our marriages? Do we collaborate with grace when the Divine Lover introduces us to our intended? Do we approach relationships as self-offering or self-serving?

These are important questions.

You may listen HERE to this incredible program where you will hear first hand from the family of a saint-in-the making and his deep impact on an entire family. Rose shares about her parents’ story, their engagement and how the Bishop was uniquely involved. Rose also shares details about some of the lessons she learned from his holy example as well as his unwavering devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Rose connects us to one of the leading churchmen of our time, one whose example remains as relevant as ever especially in a culture that no longer regards marriage, commitment and sacrifice. I firmly believe that Bishop Sheen is an intercessor for the total turn around that our society needs to return to making holy the things we have stripped of the divine.

Fulton Sheen said this about love:

The basic error of mankind has been to assume
that only two are needed for love: you and me, or society and me, or
humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God;
you, and me, and God. Love of self without love of God is
selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only
those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful. One
cannot tie two sticks together without something outside the
sticks; one cannot bind the nations of the world together except by
the recognition of a Law and a Person outside the nations
themselves. Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of
self-giving. Love is triune or it dies.

Check out MarysTouch.org for area listings, go get a copy of Three to Get Married and tell a friend!

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, pray for us!

Praying for you!

Lexi
JMJ+

Maternal Fire

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HONORING THE WOMAN WHO GUIDES US

You have a mother. I have a mother. This is our common denominator. And mothers have power. So much so that there is a special day just for these women: Mother’s Day. American culture has set aside this universal typical May day on the contemporary calendar to single out the women who sacrificially and unconditionally have given us life, love and have set aside their own plans for the lives of their children. It becomes a girlie fun tribute of all things feminine: flowers, pastels, brunches, spa days, gift giving and family gatherings for the queen for a day, the queens of our lives. Kids move heaven and earth to get home or get cards and signs of love to moms. For those who have enjoyed healthy, holy mom relationships, there is no greater love or power of influence on the earth to encourage, sway, guide, impart virtue and make you feel like you can do anything. If not your natural birth mother, assuredly, there has been a surrogate woman in your life who has been a sturdy influence.

Our mothers give us the practical blue print for how to navigate this messy thing called life in academic, social and familial settings. Mothers are the heart and soul of a family. They teach, comfort, care for, make a house a home and impart grace and courage for the ups and downs. They don’t need any formal blog called “Scary Mommy” because she has been that – holding the bar high, warning us when we are out of line, breaking wills and rebellion and laying truth smack down when we need to hear it. Moms step in when the heat gets turned up in family life or life in general – they referee, mediate, pray for us, defend, and go without so we have more. They want our best, our advancement and our happiness. They want us to have the best jobs, homes, health, husbands and wives. They want to pass on the good they have stored up so we can use it for our benefit. Good mothers are not so much our friends as they hold a high office of parenthood to form us, not always please us. They do this out of love.

Living in LA, I missed Mother’s Day in Boston last year so I’m flying home this weekend. What I didn’t realize about this particular Mother’s Day weekend is that we have the double-whammy juxtaposition of two celebratory events honoring motherhood. The card buying country is geared for it’s American “Mother’s Day” on Sunday, but if you back that up on Saturday May 13th it’s the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the 100-year anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to peasant children in Fatima, Portugal which opens a watershed Marian year of grace celebrating and calling to mind Mary’s original appearance. This is a rousing reminder to people everywhere about this historic and very real, appearance to simple peasant children.

Raise your hand if you never knew anything about Mary appearing on the earth in the past 100 years. Never learned about it from your parents? Never heard about it at Sunday School? Never Googled it? Blew it off? Ok, hands down. If you think the Catholic faith is boring, old school and for a bunch of men, track with me: The blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, appeared six times to three shepherd children near the town of Fatima, Portugal between May 13 and Oct 13, 1917. This should sort of blow your mind! The Blessed Virgin told the three children that she had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child living in our century. Mary appeared at a time when the world was at war and violence – she promised that Heaven would grant peace to the whole world if her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed.

As Jesus hung on the Cross and saw his mother and the disciple John, he said to his mother, “Woman behold your son. And John this is now your mother.”  (John 19:26) At that moment in time, Jesus put all of humanity under the care of his own Mother. This is why Mary keeps appearing. She has charge over us. If you are a mom or a dad of minor children, you know what that means. You are custodian, parent, and the boss. Mary is the one with charge over us and with a sway with Jesus. She comes to us appealing for us to amend our lives, begin again and follow a life in line with the Gospel. That no one would be lost, Jesus sends his Mother again, and again, and again.

Are we listening? More intense than a nagging mother making you do the dishes, make your bed, pick up your crap on the floor of your bedroom, get home on time etc., the Mother of God, steps in to break the wills of her earthly children to bring attention to the spiritual practices that are the sure way to sanctity, peace in families and ultimately peace in the world. It was so urgent and important that she appeared from heaven and entrusted these simple children with her message that would reverberate for the past one hundred years.

In 1917 war was tearing through the world. Flash forward to 2017: we have this new and horrific form of terrorism called ISIS taking strongholds around the world annihilating men, women and children for no reason. We have North Korea bearing down threats of nuclear war. More troops being aligned and repositioned around the world. And we have a home grown violence: abortion playing out as a contemporary killing field snuffing out lives of the innocent as a form of birth control and a way out of the consequence of free license and a sexually pervasive society that has moved further away from marriage and family life.

What would Mary say to us now? Would Fatima be more urgent given the state of the world today?

Mary has appeared all over the earth – these appearances, or apparitions, have been investigated and approved by the Church. The apparitions at Fatima freak people out. The messages seem harsh. But isn’t real love, the truth?  Mary obviously cares so much that she’s appeared in La Salatte, Kibeho, Knock, Pompeii, Guadalupe, Loreto, Lourdes and many more places around the world. In Fatima, she comes as a mother with an urgent warning calling humanity to turn away from sin, to amend lives, to convert and even make reparation (offer sacrifice and penance for sins), to pray the Rosary daily, to wear the brown scapular and to tell others. There’s talk of sin, a vision of hell that seems right out of a modern day thriller and fierce warnings. As serious and grave as it sounds she’s more compelling and loving sometimes than our own mothers giving a literal countdown to our teenage rebellious selves before we are grounded for doing something so stupid. Our Lady at Fatima doesn’t want to ground us or have us stuck in our stupid ways. She wants to enlighten us and urge us on to a life second to none with her Son. She wants us to live heaven now and by adopting certain practices in our daily lives and she presents to us the ways to achieve this. (Listen to my interviews with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here and Colin Nykaza here for more about Our Lady of Fatima and Marian devotion)

I was recently interviewed by a priest about Mary and asked why the concepts of sin and hell are lost on our culture. That question really gave me pause because the question does need to be asked but I don’t think the answer is that simple. Yes, sin darkens our own ability to see truth. But it got me thinking. Is it because priests are not preaching and teaching about this? Have we as a Church lost our sense of the mystical elements of our faith? Do we look at the Gospel as a historical event separate from the reality we are living? How come there are so few of us? Is it that an entire generation is basically not going to church, so they don’t hear the messages? Are we not talking to each other and evangelizing the way we should be? Do people know and they are outright rejecting the message?

Our society of more, me and now is clouded by noise, the self and a turning away from heavenly truths with a giant #fail. We are so in the now, we forget that there is an eternity and that our now determines where we will ultimately spend that eternity. Daily mindless grinds, the swirl of the world and sin are the primary distraction and obstacle of separation,

There’s more.

If we are not churched or educated on heavenly realities we can become lost in ourselves and subject to self, ego and even more sinful patterns that impede our relationship with God and make us generally blind to the fact that there’s more to this life. There is an entire life after death, we are born for a purpose, a great destiny – here and beyond. Like our own natural mothers who call attention to the rules, the ways to live a life that will bring our joy, happiness, our heavenly mother does much more than that – her goal is to help us get to Heaven and she holds the keys: prayer, conversion, penance. Sacrifice of chores, hardship of work, suffering and loss offered back to God can bring down His glory. We can blame our family, priests, the church whatever for not knowing about this truth. But it’s time to grow up and take responsibility for our destiny and where we will spend it.

Just as you thank your mother this Sunday for all she has given you in life, you may have hated it when you were a child, the ways she disciplined or kept you in line – you can see now the whys behind all of it. What happened when you didn’t listen? You may eye-roll when the Church points to active and not passive sentimental devotion and the more that you are called to, but it’s true food for the soul and your own advancement – the position that your Heavenly Mother aspires for you to live forever with her Son, Jesus. When God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus passed through Mary. They don’t do anything separately. In the same way, we are permitted to pass through her motherly heart, her heart of fire that burns with love for us.

I pray that this year, you will look with new eyes toward the heavenly reality that God is calling you to Himself. That he’s using his Mother Mary to lead you and guide you, and as she appeared to three peasant children 100 years ago this Saturday, she comes to you now and calls you to a new life, one that will give you the peace that passes all understanding and will make you a bearer of that peace.

This weekend, as you go to honor your earthly mom or the mom-figures in your life, and seek to honor that love, that life-giving force, the sacrifices she or other mom-figures made for you, I pray you will take some serious time to look to your heavenly Mother Mary and ask her to help you align your life under the priority of heaven. Saturday, May 13th is a good place to start.

“O My Jesus forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.”

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ+

Friends of Mercy

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AN UNMERITED GIFT OF GRACE TO ENTER INTO THE DIVINE MERCY

When my parents dropped me off I said, “Turn the car around. I’m not staying here overnight.”

For the record, whenever you are about to encounter a great good, there’s always a force to pull you back into yourself. In my case whenever I’m leaping forward in the spiritual realm, the dust really kicks up. Thankfully, with time, I can see the signs of this warfare and can actually plan for it, but in my early days, I couldn’t recognize this little battle within myself. The enemy doesn’t want our growth into truth but wants to isolate us and keep us in the dark. This weekend was going to be God’s unmerited gift of grace to enter into his Divine Mercy.

Despite my mini meltdown, at seventeen my faith was exploding. My parents were dropping me off at my first overnight retreat as a high school senior and it was simple and profound. I had strong faith that drew me to the Sacraments, a rapidly blossoming prayer life and Marian devotion, but to share it so openly with others who believed was truly life changing. It made me vulnerable. It made me aware of the power of the community. The friendships that forged and the new aspects of what being the Body of Christ meant, really shaped all the days to follow. Let’s face it. If you don’t have anyone to walk with, it can be a lonely journey on the narrow road of faith, AMIRIGHT?

Thank God my parents in their goodness told me to give it a night and see. I soon forgot about the parking lot drama upon arrival as well as my parents as soon as I was immersed into a weekend retreat full of fun, the power of God, prayer, the Sacraments of the Church, and in a profound way – new friendships – the type of people who would teach, instruct and simply walk with you on your journey of faith.

Kate was my roommate on this overnight retreat and just a year ahead of me as a freshman at Merrimack College. She was part of the leadership team. I was a Framingham kid and she was a north shore girl from Malden. We were roomed together in this old convent and never slept because we stayed up all night sharing everything about ourselves. She already knew she was going to be a lawyer and I already knew I was going to work in television. We talked all night about our family lives, our faith walk, career dreams, desire for boyfriends and eventual husbands – and were amazed at the ease in which we connected and the juxtaposition of our teen selves pouring our hearts out across twin beds at this moment in time. She became a big sister in the faith to me and was very much God sent.

After our Quincy weekend, Kate and I kept up our fast forging friendship all through college and young adult life. I would borrow a car to meet her half way in Boston, Quincy or I would ride up to Malden as I was enamored with her huge Irish family and amazing brothers and sisters. I later joined the retreat team and all through college we had special continual formation weekends with amazing priests and other young adult leaders and married couples. We led weekend retreats delivering faith and sharing our testimony to high school teens from around the Archdiocese of Boston. One of these late nights sitting in her parked car talking, praying together – Kate taught me the Divine Mercy chaplet and spoke to me about this devotion. How come I never heard of this? The Divine Mercy now, and especially then, circa 1990, was a rather new devotion in the Church and though on the rise had not made a permanent fixture into parishes and dioceses until Pope John Paul became its chief herald.

Jesus appeared to a Polish nun, now saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament, OLM in 1931. Sister Faustina wrote in her diary that on the night of Sunday, February 22, 1931, while she was in her convent cell, Jesus appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart. Read more here.

What is the chaplet? You pray the Divine Mercy chaplet on your Rosary beads and pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Creed and then on the big bead “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” And on the little beads x 10 you pray, “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” In conclusion you pray 3 times, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have Mercy on us and on the whole world (Diary 476).” We prayed it right then and there.

Jesus said to Saint Faustina, “Unceasingly recite this chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death..Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even the most hardened sinner, if he recites this chaplet even once, will receive grace from My infinite mercy (687) …Oh, what great graces will I grant to souls who recite this chaplet (848)…Through the chaplet you will obtain anything, if what you ask is compatible with My will (1731).. I want the whole world to know My infinite mercy. I want to give unimaginable graces to those who trust in My mercy (687).”

Grace. Great graces. Infinite Mercy. Obtain anything. Unimaginable graces. Trust in My mercy.

The message of Divine Mercy, is truly profound and it really attracted me because of my Polish heritage. I began to read the Diary of Saint Faustina, to whom God revealed his message of mercy and study what it meant. Jesus revealed his message of mercy through a simple Polish nun and all of this recorded revelation – all approved by the Catholic Church (after scrutiny and investigation) is available in the her Diary. This blossoming devotion led us to spend time at the Western Massachusetts National Shrine of Divine Mercy  in Stockbridge – a place of extraordinary grace and blessing right in our New England back yard.

Tomorrow, the first Sunday after Easter is the Sunday that the Church designates each year as Divine Mercy Sunday. Churches around the world will have celebrations and devotions in honor of the Divine Mercy, which will include the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Eucharistic Holy Hours, the reading of excerpts from the Divine Mercy diary, veneration of the image of Divine Mercy and perhaps in some special places include veneration of the relic of Saint Faustina.

Jesus told Saint Faustina, “At three o’clock, implore my mercy, especially for sinners and if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of my Passion.” OK that right there is BOSS! Let me repeat what Jesus is saying to you and to me:

I WILL REFUSE NOTHING TO THE SOUL THAT MAKES A REQUEST OF ME IN VIRTUE OF MY PASSION.

We can immerse ourselves at 3 o’clock each day (I call it the hour of power), but on the day where we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday there are extraordinary graces and I implore you to stop everything and enter in. Even if you have never participated in this devotion, enter in for yourself, your family and the knots in your life. I promise you, you will not be the same.

What are the key elements of Divine Mercy?

  • Ask Jesus for His Mercy (by prayer, repentance) and ask him to pour His mercy on us and the whole world (if you have not been to confession in a while – even years – this is important – don’t be afraid, but let God undo those knots and visit confession this weekend if you can)
  • Be Merciful: God wants us to receive it and share it (share the message of mercy and share his love and forgiveness)
  • Trust!! God wants us to trust in Him – the more we trust, the more He can do for us. Jesus, I trust in You!

I don’t know if I ever would have received the Divine Mercy message as soon or as profound if not in the parked car with Kate that night. Would I have answered something from a church bulletin in the same way as a teenager? Like Kate, I want to be your friend of mercy. If you have never heard of this devotion, consider this a turning point for you to enter in. If you recall this devotion and have waned, consider this a re-entry. I want to teach you how to pray this chaplet and invite you to this profound aspect of our faith that opens to us an ocean of His Mercy that is transforming for our lives and the whole world. I want to encourage you to immerse your life, your sins, your failures, your shortcomings, your longings, your sickness, your wounds, your pain, your family, your dreams and your destiny deep into His ocean of Divine Mercy. When Jesus was upon the Cross and his side was lanced, the Blood and Water poured forth as an ocean of Mercy for you and for me. This ocean of Mercy is transformative. I encourage you to stand underneath His side and receive all that he has for you. And then, go out and be a friend of mercy to someone who needs this message.

Jesus, Mercy, Jesus – we trust in You.

Praying for you, my sweet friends+

Lexi

JMJ

I’m loving you

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Jeff Glor, Don Nelson and me at the Vatican covering Saint John Paul IIs death and funeral in 2005

I NEVER WANT TO FORGET WHERE I STOOD ON APRIL 2, 2005

I still don’t know how I ever made it. Grace is like that.

It was the end of March 2005 and I was on a two week vacation in Palm Beach with my family praying, “Pope, please live. Please, live a few more days.”

I desperately needed a few more days off and a mental and physical break from the frenetic pace of my 24/7 newsroom life where, for the most part, the days bled into each other. I had a ton of comp days from working through Boston breaking news events of the year and was cooling it around the pool enjoying the sunshiny monotony before it was too late to cash in the time.

For the few months previous, the Associated Press was regularly breaking news on Pope John Paul II’s failing health, something I knew was imminent as a newswoman but as a Catholic daughter of his Pontificate that spanned my entire life, I didn’t ever want to consider Catholicism without him. Every time the AP alerts chimed we started to go through our Pope death plans and a subsequent fire drill that had me reorganizing a designated suitcase with just enough toothpaste, suits, and pajamas that ultimately would never be worn as we would never sleep except for a 10 minutes here or there on the floor of the NBC workspace. The AP breaking updates would ping, we’d make some calls to sources and check flights and he would rally. Rinse and repeat.

Everyone has that squad at work that keeps you informed even on vacation. In a newsroom environment, put that loyalty on speed dial and it’s a daily read in with the 411. While I was around the pool, I was getting calls from those colleagues about how this time it was “different” and “maybe you should fly back.” The word at the Vatican was that the pope was really serious. Then the news director called and told me that he wanted me to get on the next flight back because our designated Papal crew was getting booked on the next flight to Rome.

I remember I had one night left to scramble and get everything together that I would need for international breaking news travel. I’d been there multiple times before for work and personal trips, but the suddenness and geographic maze was a complete fire drill. I was not ready. I was not home. I did not have my passport. I only had flip flops and casual clothes and needed to get to the mall to scoop up a few serious outfits and sturdy shoes that would handle what could be weeks on standing feet covering his death, funeral and Pope John Paul II’s successor.

My mom drove me to the airport and somehow I missed the first flight out. That never happens. I started to pray and said, “God if I’m going, you have to make a way. This other plane barely will land on time for me to make the connection. I can’t worry about this. Either you are sending me or not. I’m surrendering this.” My mother hung with me until I made a run for the next flight and we prayed together.

No one had a key to my house except the landlord who was out of town and my passport was in a purse hanging on my bedroom door in the zipped interior pocket. The ninja assignment desk arranged for the news director’s assistant to cab to my house and as she reluctantly rode to my seaside Winthrop cottage, I was giving  instructions for a breaking and entering through the kitchen window. It was this crazy and more, “Tell her to get one of the outdoor pieces of furniture, climb up, cut the screen window with keys, climb in – she will fit – and when she is in there, there is a park bench piece of furniture to catch her. Then go to my bedroom and the passport is in my purse hanging on the door.” It was like Holly Hunter from Broadcast News meets Holly Hunter from The Firm. It got done.

My dad wasn’t with us in Florida and he met me when I landed in Boston. He went to the station to grab the passport, my Pope folder of sources and contacts, and the travel cash that we would need for the trip to hand off to me as if we were in some sort of Spartan race. I just remember running and running and running until I made it through international security. On the other side, I met with our team and we were all hugs and smiles that we were ready to be wheels up.

With all the logistical hurdles, we were already in breaking news mode. I didn’t expect that we would actually get to the Vatican and he would still be alive. It was truly God’s grace to make it in time to be one of the first in St. Peter’s Square while he was still with us.  We connected with NBC where the network had their space right on the ground level until we would later be positioned on a nearby roof for the duration of the coverage. We hooked up with the network bureau, Rome correspondents, Ambassador Ray Flynn and other thought leaders like George Weigel who were all piling in.

It was April and freezing cold in Rome. A coat was left off the mall scramble list of must-haves. We shook it off as we stood in the square and observed the people coming in one by one and later in streams. The Holy Father was drifting, but still with us. We were there. We were praying for him. Observing. Talking to people, hearing their stories and what compelled them to urgently come to St. Peter’s and stand in vigil. A compulsion we shared in our own professional pilgrimage to be positioned beneath the Papal apartments with them. Before his death on April 1st Pope John Paul II said, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.” This was the essence of the return of the love he poured out on the entire world, God’s love. God’s passion. God’s pursuit. God’s constant presence. The swell of people who came to make a return to the one who called them, spoke of God’s love to them, cajoled them, was epic. The Church was alive and not dead. Love was responding to love.

We’d work. Quietly reflect. Observe. Point out observations to each other. It was the calm before the absolute crush of humanity that descended upon the square as far as the eye could see which culminated on the day of his funeral.

I’ve never felt emotion like what I felt when the announcement of his passing was made. It was 9:37 p.m. The bells began to toll. To be standing there so close to his window where we stood below many times before in the same square experiencing his many Wednesday audiences, the canonization of St. Edith Stein and the Jubilee 2000.  I first experienced his Papacy up close as a teenager at World Youth Day in Denver. I covered his United States Papal visits as a journalist and now this-  this momentous full circle moment in time seemed to stand still.

As he passed, I believe so much grace was imparted. I know I received it. My life changed forever after this experience. It was as though the old was passing and the new was coming. He showed the world how to live and how to die. He brought the Gospel to the ends of the earth as the Vicar of Christ on earth. And he also showed us how to embrace every ski slope, every stage, every man or woman of good will, every baby, the sick, the forgotten, the young from all over the world, the sinner, the poor, the wealthy, athletes, the aged, the unborn, other saints, the Eucharist and the blessed Mother. He taught about family, friendship, and authentic love. He lived his life to the full, proclaiming forever the name of Jesus, up until he could not breathe one more breath.

A year after his passing, I was in Rome again. I was working for the Diocese of Palm Beach and traveling on vacation with Fr. Benedict Groeschel on a little pilgrimage through Italy. I went a few days early to enjoy private time in Rome and heard that there was a huge Polish celebration of Pope John Paul II’s life and that Fr. Stan Fortuna from Fr. Benedict’s order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, would be performing as part of this gala event. I contacted Fr. Stan and to our amazement, he got us primo front row seats to this blessed occasion. It’s was a huge Polish scene that was broadcast live on Polush television. JP2s peeps and a few American priests (episcopal secretaries to Bishops) and us. (Thank you Fr. Stan!)

I actually may not have fully grieved his death until a year later because I worked right through it. This Polish remembrance crystalized everything about  Saint John Paul II and gave us all time to process the loss, the legacy and how we were being called forward. It was deeply moving and we wept pretty much from top to bottom. There is a wrap song that Fr. Stan wrote and performed about JP2 that you may have heard. It’s called “I’m loving you” and when performed live I basically wanted to jump on stage and rock out to this. He nails it. Imagine this swank Polish event and then introducing “the American priest, Fr. Stan Fortuna” who in his Franciscsn garb and dreads wrapped this ode to our hero in full street Jazz – all soul.  You can listen to it here. Here’s one verse I want to leave you with as we remember twelve years ago today, the passing of Saint John Paul II, the Great.

In the first days that you was gone

There was a void in my heart, dark like the 

dawn

There you was helping me not to be 

withdrawn

Pushing me to move on with energy, 

purpose and determination, like you been

With the courage and the heroes of the Polish nation

With no hesitation, you went deep into the greatness of your vocation

I’m loving you

Another thing that this Pope did and did well was connect his kids. My dear friend Paul George and I were both in Denver for World Youth Day 1993. We both had profound experiences. If you are part of the JP2 generation and are feeling nostalgic, take a listen to my appearance on The Paul George show here. We talk about JP2, Denver and where we are now.

John Paul II, we love you! Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Praying for you+

Lexi

JMJ