Trusting God in Sickness

I recently read the book, The Practice of the Presence of God (Brother Lawrence/Alan Vermilye). The Eleventh Letter of Brother Lawrence (pgs. 95-96) got me thinking about my own attitudes toward sickness. Long before Covid 19, Bobby called me a germaphobe. Do I really have a fear of germs? Maybe. I usually go straight to the bathroom to wash my hands when I return home from shopping, (You know – touching carts, hangers, check-out touch screens.) or when I’ve been touching other people; but my fear of germs doesn’t stop me from going out, shaking hands and/or hugging in public. Sometimes I focus too much on wondering if I’m getting sick, or when I know I am, trying to figure out what caused it or what I could have done differently to prevent it. I think things like oh no, my throat feels a little weird or I shouldn’t have stayed up so late the other night.

Here’s the part of Brother Lawrence’s letter that made my eyelids stretch and my mouth hang open: “They see sickness as a pain against nature and not as a favor from God. Seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of God, out of His mercy and the means He uses for their salvation, commonly find sweetness and consolation in it.” (pg. 95) He was talking about worldly people, who don’t suffer “like Christians”, and it sounded like he was talking about me!

So why do I mildly freak out when I get sick or when there are sick symptoms in my home? I don’t think I’m afraid of dying, or of physical pain. I rarely take medication, I’ve had six natural childbirths, and suffered physically through many oddball ailments over the years. I think the real problem is that sickness ruins my plans. I might have to lie on the couch or in bed while the house falls apart and I don’t get anything done. Not what I want to do anyway. If members of my family are sick I may have to drop what I’m doing to perform unpleasant nursing or waitressing tasks, or sit in a doctor’s office. How ungrateful and selfish am I?

Brother Lawrence continues: “I pray that you see that God is often nearer to us and present within us in sickness than in health. Do not rely completely on another physician because He reserves your cure to Himself. Put all your trust in God. You will soon find the effects in your recovery, which we often delay by putting greater faith in medicine than in God. Whatever remedies you use, they will succeed only as far as He permits. When pains come from God, only He can ultimately cure them. He often sends sickness to the body to cure diseases of the soul. Comfort yourself with the Sovereign Physician of both soul and body.” (pgs. 95-96)

In thinking more on this paragraph (for some reason I was straightening my hair after I read this letter) I realized that this has been my experience. I’ve noticed a pattern where I get sick after times of busyness, such as I’ve written about here many times. I’m usually burning the candle at both ends, trying to do too much, not taking care of my body, less aware of God’s Presence, and feeling stressed out or worried. Then, BOOM! I have symptoms of sickness and I initially try to reason things out. Then, I realize I’m powerless. And it’s like God is saying to me, if you’re not going to slow down and take care of yourself, then I’m going to help you. It seems that sickness has a humbling effect. It reminds me that I’m not as strong as I thought I was. It can be comforting to remember that God is in control of everything, and that He is the one who heals me.

Sometimes the healing doesn’t seem to come fast enough. Brother Lawrence addresses this at the beginning of his letter. “I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains; but I pray earnestly that God gives you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Accustom yourself to suffer in that manner and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He judges necessary for you.”

How I would love to receive a letter from a friend, encouraging me in this way. This is obviously something that I struggle with, especially when I fall back into my long-practiced habit of self-reliance rather than to completely surrender to God’s will. I need to pray for the grace to trust God in all things. As St. Ignatius states in his First Principle and Foundation: “…we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one, and likewise in all other matters.” It seems this attitude would bring much peace in this time when people are angry and afraid of even the possibility of being exposed to sickness. Brother Lawrence advises, “Be satisfied with the condition in which God places you.” I think St. Paul would agree.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This sounds like a prescription for unruffled peace.

Book Notes: Things That Matter, Chapter 2

“Our newer tech- and media-based distractions are actually just add-ons to many of the old diversions that have plagued humanity for countless generations, like having mixed-up priorities or viewing ourselves or other people in unhelpful ways. They’re internal before they’re external.” (pg. 19)

He’s got a point. Sure, there are many new ways to be distracted nowadays, but they don’t seem to be the root of the problem. I can get distracted by my iphone, but why really, am I turning my attention to it? I was thinking of the spiritual battle when I read this chapter and some of the language in it supports this.

“… resisting it is a battle worth fighting.” (pg. 19)

“We wage war every single day to defeat these distractions and align ourselves with greater pursuits.” (pg. 27)

“This can be difficult and requires moments of wrestling within ourselves. But we learn to fight.” (pg. 24)

I (of course) also think of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Discernment of Spirits. Joshua Becker suggests ways to respond when our distractions have become our “masters rather than our servants”. (pg. 24)

One way is through self-examination and frequently sitting quietly with ourselves. This sounds just like the Examen and being within. He says, “Secondly, we can verbally articulate what distractions are keeping us from our best work, keeping us from those we love the most, or keeping us from fulfilling our highest purpose.” (pg. 24) Then a third response is to remove the distractions diligently and intentionally. Identifying and getting rid of inordinate attachments comes to mind.

Here is a list of distractions to be covered in the following chapters of the book:

  1. fear
  2. past mistakes
  3. happiness
  4. money
  5. possessions
  6. applause
  7. leisure
  8. technology

I’m interested in continuing with Chapters 3 & 4 this week.

Dear Me

From a journal entry on 3/4/21

What would I tell my younger self if I could?

Pray and meditate.

Ask for help.

Learn.

Don’t waste time.

You are beautiful and God loves you.

Do not be afraid to trust in Him.

Allow Him to lead you where He wants you to go. Spend your days with Him.

Let go of your agenda.

Don’t accumulate too many possessions. Keep it simple.

Read spiritual classics.

Do the Spiritual Exercises. The 30 days one.

Find your vocation.

Don’t use a TV or an iPhone.

Go outside.

Go to Mass, confession, and adoration.

Live in reality.

Do not worry.

Give your whole self to God. He will take care of you. He is all you need.

Anti-Procrastination Day

Today I accomplished three tasks that were on the to-do list in my head. One I waited a week to do, one I “should” have done at least a month ago, and the other has been on my mind for over a year. My excitement over overcoming procrastination grew when I realized that today is Wednesday. In the old days, when my children were all pre-teens, and my hair was practically black, the FlyLady was a fun motivator for me. She reminded me to follow routines, to meal plan and cook, and not to whine. And Wednesday was Anti-Procrastination Day.

Nostalgia is the word I’d use here. I spent some time during my lunch break on the website reading her lessons which have not changed at all. This led to my reading posts from My Simple Spot, a place where I blogged from 2009-2010. It was a year when I was particularly focused on simplicity. It started out as a methodical decluttering of possessions, was sidetracked by a miscarriage, led to pondering the reduction of distractions, and ended in my deciding to give up blogging there, and at my other blog, My Thoughtful Spot. I was pregnant with my sixth baby; and decided that as I was adding more to my plate, some things had to be removed from it. Bye-bye blogging.

It was interesting to see how some things haven’t changed. I still spend way too much time reading and researching topics I already know enough about. It’s an idle pastime that doesn’t usually bear fruit. I suppose it reinforces conviction; but without action, it’s really procrastination.

Another thing I noticed; was how I miss being able to express ideas freely as I used to do. I was much more open back then. No time to ponder why right now. Chores and a warm bath are the plan for tonight. Maybe a little reading in bed. A book. No iphone. Abandonment to Divine Providence. Something I don’t already know enough about.

Christmas Vacation

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0bd49786-65ab-43d0-8a93-c886a3b424db.jpeg


Well, well, well… it’s that time of year again! Sitting under a blanket in a comfy living room chair, admiring the cozy lights on the Christmas tree, hearing the sounds of sneezes, coughs, and the clearing of throats… realizing that I have some time to blog now and that it’s been three months since I’ve posted.

I don’t feel interested in reflecting here on what has been, but on looking to what will be. It’s the time of year when I usually begin a new planner. I ponder priorities, not alone, of course. This week I want to pull out the notes from a Spiritual Exercises retreat I went on in October. I wrote down some resolutions that weekend, but they were lost in the sea of busy days, weeks and months that followed.

On Christmas, I received many new books. They have motivated me to finish reading the books I began at the beginning of 2021. Diary of a Country Carmelite: A Year in the Garden of Carmel. Done. The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living. At 46%, but it’s so good. Why did I ever put it down? And The Screwtape Letters. This would not take long to read if I would just keep my iphone out of my bedroom at night.

In the quiet, slowed pace of this Christmas vacation, I am filled with hope. I am out of the mindset of “I have to do this” and “I’ve got to do that” and resting. I am thinking of what I might like to do in the new year. Maybe I’ll post a Book Notes series on St. Augustine’s Confessions. Or the Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Maybe I’ll work-out in the basement, or go outside more often. The possibilities make me happy. Living in the present moment and enjoying God’s Presence and direction… these are the things I miss in my rush to get everything done. Today there is no hurry, no agenda, just peace and joy. I am thankful for these gifts.

Thoughts on the Traditional Latin Mass by Someone Who Knows Only a Little

Question #1 What’s going on?

I’ve read the new Motu Proprio by Pope Francis. It’s troubling me and I’ve been trying to figure why because I don’t even attend the TLM. I did one time. I was on a trip and wanted to go to a Saturday morning Mass. I may have been in New York State or New Hampshire. I can’t remember. I do remember having trouble finding parking and the entrance to the church. I could barely hear anything the priest said, and I felt like I was dressed inappropriately. The women wore dresses and head coverings and I most likely was wearing jeans and a hoodie. But I did like that most of the families had similar appearances to my homeschooling friends, holding babies, and filling up pews with toddlers and teens. I don’t remember music. I was not moved to search for a Latin Mass back home.

That was before Covid. I’ve been thinking about going to one for many months now. I’ve struggled with identifying and feeling my feelings about wearing masks at Mass and receiving communion in the hands rather than on the tongue. I didn’t want to be deprived of receiving Jesus when the churches opened up after the shutdowns, so I received Him in my hands. I felt very sad and disappointed. I saw a few women not receiving the Eucharist at all when communion on the tongue was denied and wondered if what I was doing was selfish. I prayed about it, asked for guidance, and decided to receive Him as reverently as I possibly could at the Masses I attended. The rules changed frequently. I often got anxious when I would wait until the end of communion wondering if the priest would wait in the front of the church for those receiving on the tongue as planned. And I did not enjoy sometimes being the only one to walk up to the front of the church, kneel on the kneeler, and receive Jesus on my tongue.

I talked with friends who attended Latin Masses about 30 minutes away from my home. They shared that they didn’t have to wear masks and they could receive communion on the tongue. And kneeling at an altar rail! They said the homilies were moving, the music was beautiful, there were lots of families… I continued to go to Mass close to home to go with my family. My daughter plays the piano at one church once a month. The other weeks we go to our parish where my children are comfortable. They used to be in the choir there when that was allowed. And I’ve been receiving communion in my hand in NYC because that is what the priest allows. So I have been holding onto a desire to try a Traditional Latin Mass for a long time now, but not taking action. Then I heard about these new rules. And they don’t make sense to me. Question # 1.

This morning during my prayer time, I was journaling and more questions came to mind. Why would you want to get rid of the growing communities and make those people go to the declining ones, which they may have left because they wanted to be more reverent? Why would you ever want to discourage faithful practicing Catholics at all? Will this put priests in a dilemma of obedience or disobedience? This seems very similar to what is happening with the government and vaccines, and it doesn’t seem necessary. It looks to me like forcing people to choose what side they are on. Are you with the current leadership or will you resist or oppose it? Do you trust us completely or do you have reservations? Will you believe what we say or do you see the contradictions in speech and actions? The leaders speak of desiring unity but they make rules to cause disunity. What is the intention or purpose of what is happening?

As I was thinking these thoughts I realized that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts. I barely know anything. I asked Him: Lord, do you wish for us to choose a side?

And guess what I remembered. We are either with Him or against Him. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve God and mammon. We are sheep or goats. Jesus wasn’t afraid of division.

I’ve made a plan to go with a friend to a Traditional Latin Mass in CT this Sunday morning. I’ll continue to live my life one day a time, enjoying the moments, trusting that God has a plan and I don’t need to know the details yet.

Diary of a Peace-Seeking Mom


I just returned home after a week in Cape Cod with Bobby, five of my children, and Joseph’s girlfriend (some of the days). In bed at night, I read Diary of a Country Carmelite, A Year in the Garden of Carmel (just up to today’s entry) by Cynthia Montanaro, OCDS. I know her in real life, and I so enjoyed this peek into her days during 2015, when she made her final profession as a secular Carmelite. While I don’t feel particularly drawn to Carmelite saints, and I don’t really enjoy gardening, I found Cindy’s entries fascinating. They were so peaceful. I know I was only getting a glimpse of the whole picture, but I believe that Cindy does live a peace-filled life, and visuals from her descriptions have stayed in my mind.

From my journal: Such a good example of living the liturgical year – putting God first. Doing unpleasant things -accepting what she cannot change – being grateful and thanking God for the good – or pleasant – Simplicity. Not trying to do too much. Just a little each day. Prayer – Mass – work – family – chores – a bit of recreation. An example of an ordered life. Is there a better compliment than the last one?

Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is my favorite saint! (not including Mary and Joseph) I’m going to watch two movies about him tonight. One is a drama and the other a documentary. They always inspire me. I like the example of Cindy’s simple, ordered life and I love the example of St. Ignatius’ life, and his way. I have my own way. I have my own life. If I put first things first like they did, it should be an interesting story.

Slow Paced

Today I’m doing things I like to do that I rarely make time for, such as giving myself a pedicure and playing double solitaire. (You could add blogging in there too.)

Being a low maintenance person who rarely wears make-up, has not had my fingernails painted in almost twenty years, and has never plucked an eyebrow, you’d think I wouldn’t enjoy pedicures. On the contrary, they are the best sort of pampering. With the clipping, exfoliating, and soaking in warm water, they are both practical and pleasurable. Very satisfying. And if the nails are painted, they need no more attention for months.

As for double solitaire, I always appreciated the uncountable hours my grandparents spent playing cards with me when I was younger. It was the slow paced quality time that enabled me to talk freely and be myself. It helped me feel close to them. I asked for and received two brand new decks of playing cards for Christmas (with the intention of using them with my children.) I didn’t open them up until last night. Let me back up a bit.

I came to New York City with Bob this week mainly to put together a new TV stand while he was at work. I decided to make my ten year old, Mary, come with us. I wanted to spend some time alone with her. So yesterday, besides building the TV stand, we played Sleeping Queens, Lion King Uno, and you guessed it, double solitaire. And she even helped me get an app called Game Pigeon to play more games. I’m enjoying being with Mary and holding her hand as we walk through unfamiliar neighborhoods with her stuffed dog Dandee.

There’s a church nearby that has a 12:05 Mass. Yesterday we attended but left right before Adoration to come home to eat lunch. Today, a thunderstorm at the end of Mass encouraged us to linger longer, which I appreciated.

Back at the apartment, I put on a “Spa Day” playlist and gave Mary a pedicure while she played games on her iPad with a friend from home. I felt like a professional, but my nail painting needs practice. Then I gave myself a pedicure and wrote this post as I took breaks. The music and the being still has put me in a very relaxed state that I highly recommend.

Slow Down and Listen

Billy Joel is one of my favorite musicians. Vienna is one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. It popped into my head as I sat down to write this post. It begins…

Slow down, you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, well, tell me
Why are you still so afraid? Mm
Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You'd better cool it off before you burn it out
You've got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day

“Slow down” seems to be the theme of this blog, and maybe of my life. I often come here to ponder “aloud” my desires to be simple. To remind myself of what’s really important, which is doing God’s will and not my own. And slowing down seems to be the only way that I can hear my Lord. The noise of constant busyness drowns him out for me. I keep cycling between feeling close to Him, then doing too much work or socializing and not spending enough time with Him, and then feeling burnt out and disconnected. I’m learning that I love getting things done, I try to please others, and I tire easily. I seem to be married to the Energizer Bunny, and my life would most certainly be more boring without him. And I have six children and relationships with family and friends. I wonder if God has given me the gifts He has given me to continuously show me how much I need Him. Maybe I just need to keep practicing putting first things first.

So the details are, that I am recovering from two days of shopping, cleaning, triple birthday party prep and hosting. And that was after two weeks of traveling to and from New York City, including shopping, packing, and moving into our new apartment there. Yes, we have an apartment in NYC, and a home in Western Massachusetts. I don’t think I can call myself an aspiring minimalist anymore.

My husband will be commuting there for work. I have been helping to set up and furnish the place. It’s a big change happening in our lives, which means I really need to rely on God. And I need to not look into the unknown future, but to stay in the present moment, where He is with me. I need to slow down and listen.

I hear myself breathing. I try to drop all my worries and trust Him. He takes care of all always. I need to reject the illusion that I am in charge. I do not even want to be in charge. I will bring Him everything and let Him decide what the outcome will be.

Nothing needs to be done but what He asks me to do. I do not need to do things for Him to love me. My existence is enough. Every part of me, body and soul. There is not anything that I can do that will stop His love for me. And He tells me that when I am weak, He is strong. All my strength comes from Him alone. I don’t even think I can surrender without Him. His grace seems make it happen.

He tells me to enjoy the gift. He means of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, which I feel privileged to enjoy. But I think I should enjoy all the gifts. I have so much to be grateful for.

Where Do Messages Come From?

The Holy Land for Holy Week (Jerusalem, September 2014)

It’s a good question to mull over on a rainy Sunday afternoon. First, let me answer the question: Where did this question come from? I recently watched a YouTube video by The Minimal Mom called “The Silent To-Do List“. If you’re an aspiring minimalist, it’s worth the watch. (I plan to use the “filter” in my next round of decluttering.) If not, then here’s what I want to consider today.

She says that Fumio Sasaki, in his book Goodbye, Things, states that every single material item in our house is sending out a message to us. His proposal is that as the things are telling us to do something, they are adding to our to-do list.

So we are carrying around this subconscious to-do list. She adds that as she has simplified her home, her silent to-do list has gotten shorter. This makes sense to me and has been my experience. I was ironing in my foyer as I listened, and taking a quick look around I “heard” many messages. I jotted them down along with their potential sources.

  • the red cooler, “Hannah needs to wash it”
  • the mesh, stuffed animal hammock, “I need to hang it”
  • cabinet fillers, “I need to finish the laundry room project”
  • broken hutch door, “I need to fix it or get it repaired”
  • dining room blinds, “They need to be fixed”

I realize that this is how I actually come up with many ideas for my physical to-do list. But how much of a burden do I put upon myself with the silent to-do list? Sure, I often write things down believing that it clears my head. But I’ll bet those messages keep on coming whether or not I’ve written them down. Why do my lists seem so long? Am I overextended? Do I procrastinate? Am I a perfectionist? Do we have too many possessions? And I cannot ignore the fact that I don’t believe inanimate objects are capable of messaging. So where are these messages coming from?

My first possibility is me. They are my thoughts. This appears to be confirmed by information I received from my husband while explaining the concept to him. I found out that we get completely different messages from the same object. A pile of napkins on the table might tell me that I need to put them away in the drawer where they are kept. But they may tell him that he should buy a napkin holder. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, but he said our kitchen is telling him that it needs more things on the walls and more doodads. So while I’m hearing that we need to simplify, he’s hearing that we need to buy more.

Can I conclude that we are giving ourselves these messages? I don’t think so. I remember hearing in a talk by Fr. John Hardon called Temptation/Inspiration that our thoughts are never entirely just our own. I believe this to be true. Our minds are never operating alone, but under the constant influence of intelligent forces outside of our minds and wills. Ultimately, they all come from one of the two types of spirits.

This brings me to the second possibility. The messages are either from the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. And because I’ve come to the end of my writing time, this is a satisfactory answer to me for now. Practicing the discernment of spirits will help me to recognize the sources of my inspirations and those thoughts I hope to reject. Holy Week is here. I will try to be more aware of my thoughts and spend more time in prayer. And to help, I will limit the messages I am hearing from external sources by culling my to-do lists, paring down possessions, and fasting from media. Have a Blessed Week!