Montserrat Love

Living in this crazy, instantaneous, social-media-driven, can’t-live-without-a-phone world these days can be distracting, to say the very least.  It can also be wild and wonderful, but let’s talk about that another day.  Taking time to disconnect for a few days – usually in the spring – has become an annual tradition of mine.  It’s both important to me and for me to do this.  The place I’ve headed to nine times now is Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas.

 

A place that is peaceful, tranquil, reflective, joyful, beautiful, and quiet.  It allows me to rest and just be, even if I’m ‘busy’ exploring the grounds, reading, journaling or walking up and down the 1/2 mile long drive.

On the days leading up to this time, the anticipation is always welcome and when I turn onto that long driveway and pass through the gate I can feel the tension beginning to ebb away and almost hear the naps and relaxation calling my name.

 

The retreat leader encourages all of us attending to let go of our expectations and agendas and to just enjoy the time.  Allowing God to lead us where we need to go while resting in his presence is freeing and takes the pressure off of finding the answer to whatever it is on my mind.

This ‘letting go’ has resulted in retreats where I did nothing but rest and other retreats have resulted in realizing things God was trying to tell me but which I couldn’t hear.  You know, because of how often I  allow myself to get caught up in the busyness of life. Either way, I’m enjoying the surrounding landscape beauty – both inside and outside.

My time at Montserrat has allowed me to experience thunderstorms rolling in across the lake as well as basking in the warmth of the sun while gently swinging in a hammock or a porch swing.  I’ve listened to the rain from a rocker on the covered lake-front porch and from an open window in my room as I lay resting while also being treated to an abundance of stunning sunrises in the quiet of a mesmerizing morning. I’ve sat in the dining room and spread notes and books out on the table in front of me while appreciating the view and writing in my journal. I’ve relished the many different varieties of birds as they’ve played, dive-bombed for fish, pecked at the ground and sang from the trees or birdhouses.  I’ve knelt in the chapel and prayed when it was so quiet the stillness was almost heavy. One of my favorites is sitting next to the fountain with the gentle trickle of water that is so soothing you can’t help but relax.  I’ve walked and prayed on the rosary path and sat in front of a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with his arms open. I’ve walked and/or run the driveway and circumference of the property countless times while marveling at the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife.  All of this leads to a reverence for the beauty of creation and appreciation of all that our Creator has given to us.

The retreat sessions or prayer conferences, as they are called, are enlightening and thought-provoking.  Each retreat leader brings a different personality and the ability to help us work through the Spiritual Exercises in a variety of ways.

So many opportunities to pray, reflect, read, write and be still.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

Trust me, it is.

Full disclosure means I also have to share that this retreat is silent.  While I know that one element is a deal-breaker for most I would love it if more of us could find the time and, I don’t know…courage(?) to experience it.  In all fairness, too, silence doesn’t mean I don’t open my mouth for 3 days – there are opportunities to speak like offering the sign of peace during Mass or signing up to speak with one of the priests or spiritual directors.  I can also speak out loud at any time to God in my prayers – just not where I would be a distraction to those around me.

Montserrat has become an important part of my faith life.  I look forward to more wonderful, soul-refreshing experiences there.

If you would like more information about the facility or making a retreat here see their website Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House

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Sunrise Surprise

There are weeks when it feels like the world is a little too heavy and the news a little too sad.  Last week was like that. The one year anniversary of Guy’s death and reminders that it’s been 10 months since the loss of Maggie (10 years old) and 7 months since Fr. Tim died along with the news of 5 additional deaths – 3 unexpected, 1 expected, 1 suicide – these made my heart hurt in a big way.

Luckily, I had already planned a retreat which offered me focused time to lift up the repose of all these souls and pray for those left behind who are grieving each of these losses.

How I wish I could take their pain away.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like enough to pray and yet, my faith tells me it is a great starting point.

Prayer – it’s such a powerful tool and being able to spend time with the Lord – disconnected from the pull of a million things that each day brings – praying for those souls and their loved ones, those who are hurting, those who are sick, those who gave me specific intentions and those I love and just want to lift up was a gift.  A gift to myself, to make that connection with Christ and, I hope, a gift to those I prayed for.

This morning I got up to see the sunrise but my phone said it was ‘mostly cloudy’ so I thought there wouldn’t be much to enjoy.  I decided to go down to the lake anyway just to enjoy the quiet of an early morning.

To my surprise, there was color in the sky.  It was like a little hole was opened in the clouds and I was amazed at how pretty it was.

Then, just like that, the colors exploded and became more brilliant and the oranges and golds turned to pinks and purples.

It was a spectacular display of color and beauty.  I believe it was a gift from God saying – I hear your prayers and I’ve got them. (all those I prayed for by name)

A little bit later the clouds, the wind, and the gray settled in and took over the day.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift.

 

 

Takeaways from a Parish Mission

Our church – St. Jude – concluded a 3 evening Parish Mission on Tuesday night and it was a great way to begin Lent.

Fr. Ron Hoye is an amazing presenter and his joy and passion for life and our faith is contagious. His reminders of what our faith should look like were an inspiration to the packed church he spoke to each night.

A few reminders (in no particular order and not complete)

  1. To be a disciple of Christ I should serve God with joy AND enthusiasm
  2. God wants my heart and my hunger for him
  3. God wants me to be happy!
  4. You’ll never find in the Bible verses that say, “I came so you could barely get by”.
  5. Why did Jesus come? John 10:10 says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
  6. Is what I’m doing putting a smile of the face of Jesus?  Even if I’m not doing it ‘perfectly’?
  7. Gratitude – for 25 days take a moment to write down 3 things and tape them to my bathroom mirror. As the sticky notes increase, marvel at all for which there is to be thankful. (no repeats)
  8. Sunflowers follow the sun throughout the day – always turning towards the light.  Jesus is the sun – keep turning my face towards him.
  9. The longer meat marinates the more flavor it takes on.  It becomes more tender.  Spending more time with Jesus helps to soften me and make me more like Him.
  10. God Moment App – random reminders throughout the day to stop and say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

www.parishmissions.org – serious, funny, inspiring, thought-provoking Vincentian Priests spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all ages.

Mother Teresa

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

Painted Churches of the Texas: The Tiny One

Leaving the central Texas area around Schulenburg – and not feeling tethered to a strict timeline – we were making our way toward Huntsville and enjoying the scenery.  We had visited all the churches on our list plus one more and were satisfied with our exploration of this small section of the Lone Star State.

All of a sudden we saw a teeny tiny building in the distance that looked like a small church.  As we flew by at 65 mph we saw the sign and, indeed, it was a church!

Hitting the brakes and making a U-turn we quickly made our way back to see what was what.  As the sign states, visitors were welcome to tour the grounds and the building.

 

On the altar was a notebook for prayer intentions along with a note which stated that Mass is held once a month.

St. Martins – It was the most charming stumbled-on find of the weekend.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to visit The Painted Churches of Texas- I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them.

If you would like to see the other churches we visited that weekend I’ve included the links below:

St. John the Baptist in Ammansville and Queen of the Holy Rosary in Hostyn

St. Mary’s in Praha and Ascension of Our Lord in Moravia

St. Mary’s at High Hill

St. Cyril and Methodius in Dubina

 

Painted Churches of Texas: Freyburg and Dubina

The green rolling hills of central Texas provided a peaceful backdrop as we rambled across the countryside in search of more churches.

We were not disappointed.

The United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freyburg was a picture of quaintness tucked among a lush landscape.

And, the simplicity of the sanctuary was peaceful.

Moving on to Dubina, Texas the Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius was in the middle of Mass so we wandered around the outside.

A bit of a deserted town lay at the edge of the property and made a stark contrast to the striking house of worship.

 

Along with the ‘bathrooms’.  And this is something to note – not one of the churches we visited had an indoor bathroom within the original building.  Not too surprising, I guess, considering indoor plumbing wasn’t a thing when they were built.  There is still debate among my better-half and I as to whether this set of outhouse amenities was the only one available. Funny – as social as we can be we did not pluck up the courage to ask any of the parishioners.  Or maybe we just forgot.  Either way we didn’t get an answer.

Despite the bathroom debate there was no arguing that the church itself was, once again, beautiful and amazing.

Next up:  We thought we were at the end of our tour until we stumbled onto a gem of a tiny church.

If you would like to see the other parishes we visited on this tour check out those pieces by clicking on the following links: St. John the Baptist and Queen of the Holy Rosary, here.  St. Mary’s in Praha and Ascension of Our Lord,  here. St. Mary’s at High Hill, here.

Painted Churches of Texas: St. Mary’s at High Hill

There is joy in slowing down and relishing the journey.  Preferring to meander and not dash through the weekend we were delighted to experience these amazing, stunning, ornate, intricate and exquisite churches. Attending Mass at St. Mary’s in High Hill, Texas (known as the Queen of the Painted Churches) gave us even more time to slow down and soak in all the beauty.  Indeed, she was a splendor to behold.

I got the distinct impression this parish really loves their barbecue.  Their grills and smokers were some of the largest I’ve seen.  I think I’d like to attend one of their parish picnics!

Next up:  Sts Cyril and Methodius in Dubina, Texas.

Click here to see my post on parishes in Praha, Moravia and St. John.  Click here to see the post on Hostyn and Ammansville.  Each church is stunning.  Enjoy

 

 

Painted Churches of Texas: Praha, Moravia and St. John

No scampering for us as we continued our journey down country roads in search of the next Painted Churches in Texas built by Czech immigrants.

Having started our tour at Queen of the Holy Rosary and St. John the Baptist we meandered down more rural roads in search of our next stop.  We didn’t have to go far since all of the parishes are within a few miles of each other.

St. Mary’s Church in Praha (English for Prague)

The next two churches were only open to guided tours.  Since we were doing self-guided we were not able to go inside.  They were still gorgeous in their simple and quiet surroundings.

Ascension of Our Lord in Moravia

 Looking through glass doors Hubby managed to get a picture of the altar.

St. John in St. John, Texas

Many of the parishes had these wonderful outdoor spaces for gatherings.  What a great concept!

Next up – we attend Mass in High Hill at another church named St. Mary’s and also known as the Queen of the Painted Churches.  You won’t want to miss the beauty!

 

 

Painted Churches of Texas – Hostyn and Ammansville

Mention Texas and the first things that might come to mind are cowboys, horses, oil wells, Tex-Mex and barbecue. Or maybe it’s our love of all things football and our flare for doing things BIG.  While all of that is true it only describes a portion of who we are here in the Lone Star State.

The reality is Texas is very diverse culturally.  And, one of those cultures I recently experienced is the Czech heritage.  I was born in Dallas and have been back in Texas since 1979 and yet, I had no idea what a strong influence Czechoslovakian immigrants had on Central Texas.

First arriving in Texas in the mid-1800’s they built some of the most beautiful European influenced churches I have ever seen.  Who knew Texas contained such amazing dwellings for worship? Still in active use,today they are known as the Painted Churches of Texas.  My mom, having seen a piece on television about them, encouraged us to take a weekend trip and begin exploring.  A total of eight were in the area of Shulenburg which is off of I10 – smack in the middle between San Antonio and Houston.

We were overwhelmed by their beauty and the heritage which has been preserved so lovingly.  For this piece I bring you the first two churches we saw located in the towns of Hostyn and Ammansville

Our first stop was not actually one of the painted churches.  However, we were in the mood to explore and so we followed the signs to see what was what.

We were not disappointed.

The Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Hostyn had something going on and we did not step inside.  That was okay, though, because the outside was enough to make us say, “wow”.

The Lourdes Grotto was the largest.

Smaller grottos dotted the church property.

The cemeteries at each church were similar and different from a typical American style.

From there we went to St. John The Baptist in Ammansville.

As we pulled up we saw a sweet little country church.

The quaint white building gave no hint as to the beauty inside.

The detail was amazing and intricate.

The back of the church – containing the choir loft – was also pretty.

Wandering around this sweet and holy property we were in awe of the magnificence we were experiencing.  Knowing we were at the beginning of the tour we couldn’t wait to see what other beauties were out there.

Tomorrow – St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha, The Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church in Moravia and St. John’s Catholic Church in St. John, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

WPC: Reflecting

It is wonderful to walk into the church when it is packed with parishioners ready to worship.  It is also amazing to visit when it is completely empty.

I took this picture of the crucifix reflecting  in the baptismal font with my iPhone.

It was just me and Jesus.  The peace was overwhelming and the beauty of the moment wondrous.

Easter Joy

**The Strife is O’er

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The strife is o’er the battle done; now is the Victor’s triumph won; Now be the song of praise begun: Alleluia!

Death’s mightiest pow’rs have done their worst, and Jesus has his foes dispersed; Let shouts of praise and triumph tell: Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell; the bars from heav’n’s high portals fell; Let hymns of praise his triumph tell: Alleluia!

On the third morn he rose again, glorious in majesty to reign; O let us swell the joyful strain: Alleluia!

Feeling discouraged on Friday our hope is given new life when he overcomes death and the temple is raised on Sunday.  We thought he was destroyed but he conquers and triumphs.  Hope prevails!!

All Glory and Honor and Praise be to our KING!

HE IS RISEN!

ALLELUIA!!

Psalm 30: 5-6, 12-13

Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful;
give thanks to his holy memory.

For his anger lasts but a moment;
his favor a lifetime.
At dusk weeping comes for the night;
but at dawn there is rejoicing.

You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness.c

So that my glory may praise you
and not be silent.
O LORD, my God,
forever will I give you thanks.

*The Strife is O’er – Text by Francis Pott. Tune : VICTORY