Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family


December 2011

Stabat Mater…

At the cross her station keeping,

Kneeling in the shadow of the Cross…this is the posture of most every mother at some time or other.  Yet…never have the words of the Stabat Mater resonated as deeply in my heart as they do now…

Throughout this ordeal with my daughter, the image of the Sorrowful Mother has been constantly before my eyes.  Perhaps it’s my own tear-stained, grief ridden visage that I recognize, as I gaze upon her.  Our Holy Mother, her heart broken, pierced and sorrowful, wept for sinful mankind…for the loss of her precious child…and prepared to be Mother to those who had abandoned and murdered her Son…

…stood the mournful mother weeping…

I weep too.  My child…my sweet, beautiful, compassionate yet imperfect girl…has been taken from me, at least figuratively for a time, by this horrible accident.  But I know that my heart must be pierced, too.  It must be.  This is the way of sorrow for all mothers who want nothing more than the salvation of their children.  God the Father didn’t spare His own son suffering…nor did He spare His mother the anguish of watching her precious child suffer…this is how sin was defeated, how life came to us all…how the gates of Heaven are opened.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Dear Father…pierce my heart…use this suffering to save souls, to help me work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.  Help me to follow in my daughter’s path of suffering, as faithfully as our Holy Mother followed Jesus to the Cross.  Allow me to help her bear the bitter anguish that she’s feeling as she is beginning to understand a bit better her limitations.  Help me to soothe the heartache, to be encouraging rather than condemning.  Help me, Father, that I desire nothing for her but that which leads her straight to You, no matter how difficult the path.

Holy Mother…come to the aid of your poor child.  Heal her heart first, turn it firmly towards your Son.  Help her to live in light and love…

She’s home with us now, but only for a time…long enough for her to prepare to journey back to Kentucky and a try at independence.  Please pray for her…there are so many risks, limitations and frustrations awaiting her.  May God bless you for your kindness…



There and back again…

On December 27 we made our way home to Columbus, stressed-out brain-injured daughter and all her comfort items in tow…

Her release from the acute care ward of the Neurosciences floor was nothing short of miraculous…her lack of understanding of the severity of the injury, however, a troubling side effect of severe head trauma.

December 28th…

A pleasant evening…and then an odd morning.  She was slow…her walk…her speech…her mental accuity…and then there was the troublesome nasal discharge…CSF?  We called the neuro surgeon on call in Kentucky.

“Take her to OSU…”

And here we are.  Back again.  IVs and CAT scans…scary words like brain surgery, rehabilitation, long term implications, neuro-recovery…these are the new vocabulary words that fill our conversation.

She wept when she saw the CT scan…but it was the only way the neuro surgeons could convince her to stay and not leave.  “My head is so broken…”  Like a caged animal, she paced and raged in the small room that seem to close in on all her hopes and dreams…

And my heart breaks for her.  Because she wants to be gone.  To run away.  To be done with all this.  She’s so terrified of what’s ahead.  Everyone seems to be an enemy and every setback an insurmmountable obstacle.  Tomorrow:  another contrast CT to see if she’s leaking CSF or if there is a continuing bleed in an artery adjacent to the sphenoid sinus.

Her team of doctors and rehabilitative professionals are doing all they can to encourage her to stay here, in Columbus…but she doesn’t want to.

She fears dependence like nothing else right now…and she needs to be able to lean in and be held up for awhile.  Please pray for her comfort.  For peace of mind.  For enough cognitive function to make good decisions.  As an adult trauma patient, no one can force her to do even what’s best.  We want nothing more than her independence and good health…it’s so hard to feel that she sees her parents as supporting the “enemy…”

Oh, that my heart were lighter…that my faith were greater…but it is only grace that is carrying me along right now.  I’m spent…right to the last nickel.  But I do know that it’s usually when things are darkest that we see the Light.

Light of Christ…illuminate me!  Dispel the darkness…drive out despair…guide us to that perfect understanding of your holy will…




In the darkened and quiet hospital room…amongst the beeps and buzzes of machinery, she sleeps…sedated, occasionally rasping a request for water…

I keep vigil, waiting for her to return to us, fully and completely…I’m dazed…it all feels so unreal.  One moment, a healthy young girl is walking along a sidewalk, the next moment, a playful jump over a concrete planter, initiates a fall that results in a skull fracture, bleeding on both sides of her brain, a broken collar bone and what promises to be a long journey towards recovery…

Christmas at the hospital.  It is a sad, quiet place…but I’m thanking God for His mercy, for things could be so very much worse…

I thank Him for the little “warning” last night at midnight Mass…the gentle words that came in prayer before Mass, as I exulted in the “mountain top” feelings of grace that were raining down…a gentle voice, in the depths of my heart, reminded me:  “For every mountain top, there is a valley…”  I didn’t understand then, but I do now…

I thank Him for my precious priest…he, too, has suffered a fall…yet, he was so quick to offer prayer and support.  Meredith loves Father…and Father loves Meredith.  Two have fallen, two are healing…may God protect them from further ills!

I thank Him for precious friends, many of them, who quickly offered us vehicles (ours aren’t quite road worthy enough for an extended trip), child care, prayer, money for gas and expenses, filling goodie bags with snacks and water bottles…literally and figuratively raining down upon us “manna from heaven…”

I thank Him for my beautiful, older daughter who rushed to her sister’s side first, asking all the right questions, treating her so compassionately…having left her little son in the middle of a joyful Christmas morning…

I thank Him for my own sweet, young ones…so quick to say “Mommy…please…go to her…go now, go now!”  They give so much of their own joy away for the good of others…

I thank Him for my dear, oldest son…who quickly and confidently helped me pack and even accompanied me on the journey…insisting upon it, in fact.  The first fleeting smile that our Meredith gave was at the mention of her brother Zachary’s name.  She wanted her mommy…but she smiled for her brother…

I thank Him for this gift.  It truly is a hard one to unwrap.  I’m not sure how it will all work out, but I know the destination is grace…a journey towards heaven.

I thank Him that I’m here to love my girl.  To pray for her.  To stroke her hair, soothe her poor head…we’re spending Christmas together.  There’s no crib, no tree, just the colored lights on the monitors, and the cool beads of my new rosary, counting by decades towards the Cross.

I thank Him for the staff of the Neuroscience critical care ward.  For their kindness, solicitude and genuine caring.  They, too, are spending Christmas at the hospital…away from their families, offering themselves for those suffering.

I thank Him for every little sound she makes…for her anger and confusion in those brief, wakeful moments…she is conscious…breathing…living…and healing.

Merry Christmas, friends.  From a mom who’s keeping vigil, missing her hubby, home and children, but who is blessed with a heart full of hope and joy…may God bless, protect and give you peace!


The Great “O” Antiphons…

The O Antiphon house is ready…

Three candles burn shorter and shorter every night, the fourth ready to be lit this weekend…

Tomorrow begins the sprint, the finish line in sight, as we proceed quickly and surely towards the great feast of the Nativity!

Tomorrow we pray the Great “O” Antiphons…

Join us, will you?  The prayers are lovely…so are these beautiful plainsong chants:


December 17 – O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

December 18 – O Adonai

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

December 19 – O Radix Jesse (O Root Of Jesse)

Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

December 20 – O Clavis David (O Key Of David)

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

December 21 – O Oriens (O Dayspring)

O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Sun of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

December 22 – O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles)

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

December 23 – O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!


Sweet light…

Good morning…

It’s the Feast of St. Lucia…

A perfect day to bring light…

…and love to the world.

This sweet tradition has been celebrated for centuries, throughout the world. Little girls, crowned in holly and candles, bearing sweets and light.

My little ones have literally grown-up with this tradition.  From the time they were old enough to hold a candle aloft, they’ve awakened at dawn on St. Lucia’s Day, and dressed as the virgin-martyr, they’ve sang and served…






May the Light and Love of Christ fill your heart and soul, this day and every day after!


Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, Rejoice!

It’s the third Sunday of Advent…Gaudete Sunday.

“Gaudete in Domino semper!” These are the words to take to heart…especially when the heart is broken and the reality of yet another deprivation looms before us.

We are still dressed for Mass. Hats and coats at the ready. Each festively attired for this lovely Sunday, each anxious for the privilege…yes, privilege…of attending Mass on a cold, December morning.

But the car won’t start. The battery is dead, beyond resurrection and it must be replaced…and we, once again, find ourselves offering up our desire to attend Mass, as a sacrifice to our good God.   We are learning, once again, what it means to “rejoice in the Lord…always!”  What more fitting way to honor Him, to glorify Him, than to accept all things, all trials and tribulations as coming from His hand for our good.

We prayed last night that He would truly keep us, in the spirit of Advent…we asked for the grace to wait and watch in joyful expectation for the real “reason for the season.”

So…as we did last Advent, we rejoice in His wisdom.  We rejoice in our desire to worship and receive Him.  We rejoice that He is glorified by our littleness.  Today we will live this, forbearing all things with thanksgiving:

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.”

We will rejoice…in the Lord.



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