Branching Out Blog

Mary - Queen of Heaven

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 21, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Two times in this month of August, we are reminded in special ways in the liturgy of the wonderful mother we have in Mary. We celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the middle of the month and began the readings with the entrance antiphon from the book of Revelation 12:1:

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon

under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Queens I have read about usually have crowns full of precious jewels and robes made of special silks and threads. Mary, the Queen of Heaven, has a cosmic wardrobe and Scripture even tells us how angels rejoice in her assumption. The twelve stars in Mary's crown suggest some of the wonders of the Lord she prayed about in her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). She mentioned these twelve “star” reassuring facts about our Lord:

*the greatness of the Lord;

*He is her Savior;

*He has looked upon her lowliness and ensured that all ages will call her blessed;

*He has done great things for her;

*Holy is his name;

*His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him;

*The Lord has shown might with his arm, dispersing the arrogant;

*He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones;

*He has lifted up the lowly;

*He has filled the hungry with good things;

*He has sent the rich away empty;

*He has mercifully helped Israel, according to his promise to Abraham and his

descendants.

I suggest that each of us could list twelve “stars” or blessings the Lord has given to us in our lifetime. It may be a good exercise for a prayer time.

Mary, Queen of heaven, did not ride in a luxurious coach, but on the back of a donkey. She faithfully nurtured and raised our Prince of Peace. She heard his first words and saw him take his first steps. She witnessed his death on the cross and held His limp body in her lap. Mary, our queen and our mother, is strong and loving.  

At tomorrow’s Mass, we will celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is Queen of Heaven, the loving queen who intercedes for each of us. Just stop and think about how many times you have prayed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” She is a regal example of Our Lord keeping his promises. While not worshipped as a goddess, Mary is our humble, solicitous heavenly mother who gave herself unselfishly as mother to the Savior of the world. May we never let a day go by without thanking her. Hail, Mary, our Queen Mother!

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause, words

One - Two - Three

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 14, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Have you ever noticed how often things happen three times in a row? Sometimes it is on purpose. Sometimes it is by chance. And I suppose sometimes it has to do with when you start noticing and counting. For example, I used to watch a television show about a medical center, and when the “doctors” were moving a patient from a gurney to a bed, they would always say, “On three: one, two, three,” as the lift occurred.

Remember the nursery rhymes and stories with three little pigs, Goldilocks and her three bears, three blind mice, and the three little kittens who lost their mittens? In baseball, three strikes and you are out! There’s the expression: “Three time’s the charm,” which means that success comes on a third try. In Sacred Scripture we read of the Magi, the three astrologers from the Orient. We also read that on the road to Calvary, Jesus fell three times. At Mass we pray, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” After the consecration, we pray the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God three times.

What got me thinking about all these threes? Well, being retired, my husband and I enjoy going out to restaurants for breakfast, and a lovely “three-time” experience occurred for us in just a week’s time. We were sitting in a small diner and waiting for our food, and I noticed that the two women sitting at a nearby table had just received their breakfasts. Before they ate, they silently joined hands, closed their eyes, and said a brief prayer.

A few days later, we were in a different restaurant and a young couple was sitting near us. When their food came, they joined hands, and each said a silent prayer. In that same restaurant about two days later, a little girl, a man, and an older man were seated at a booth. It seemed as if they were all family members. When their plates of food came, they all quietly said a blessing together before they ate.

What lovely faith witnesses! I hear so much in the media about God being left out of our lives. Three times in one week I saw evidence that that isn’t true! I know they were only short religious pauses in those peoples’ lives, but they were good pauses, and inspirational reminders to anyone who happened to notice.

What if we tried to thank God for our meals, or even our snacks, every day? What if we picked out three specific things each day that we usually take for granted and thanked God for creating them or for creating the inventors or manufacturers or designers?

Just like those thank-you prayers for breakfasts, prayers don’t have to be extremely long. If the prayers are sincere and remind us of who is always there to hear us and love us, then they are valuable. Prayers can be made up on the spot, in our own loving words, and can draw us closer to God and to fellow pray-ers. It can be as easy as 1-2-3!

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Topics: gratitude, saying grace, Sharon Krause, daily prayer

Definitions

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 7, 2023 6:00:00 AM

During the course of a day, we rely on our personal definitions of things to determine our actions. We know what “breakfast” means, what “work” means, what “recreation” means. Our definitions are precipitated by what we have been taught by others, our life experience, our physical makeup, our belief system, and/or environmental influences. Of course, numerous other factors can come into play, and our definitions can change many times over the course of our lives.

Through the fourth grade, I attended public school. I was dismissed with a few other Catholic students an hour early on Fridays for “release-time instruction” at the nearby Catholic elementary school. After fourth grade, I was enrolled in a Catholic grammar school full time and also attended a Catholic high school. I learned a lot about the Mass and sacraments and Catholic definitions.

Not long ago, I heard that there were fewer attendees at weekend Masses at my local church. This suggested to me that perhaps many of us need to review definitions of Catholic rites and rituals. Maybe “release-timers” especially would benefit from going over some of the truths and explanations associated with our Church. There are so many websites on our phones and computers now, we can look up words and find the Catholic Church’s explanations and definitions. We can be reminded of the wonderful things available at Mass and through our sacraments. Many of the words we might look up have more than three syllables and not used often in everyday conversation.

I suggest that for refreshment and renewal, we might look up the following words at a Catholic website and savor their definitions:

Eucharist           Consecration         Transubstantiation

Reconciliation     Penance      Responsorial Psalm

Liturgy     Epistle       Evangelist       Contrition     Grace

 In light of the increasing shortage of priests, we might try to reintroduce ourselves to many of the opportunities for sacramental grace and religious practice while we still can with relative convenience. We might need to redefine our religious life practices and what is really important and valuable for our earthly and eternal lives.

 Sacred Scripture is a vast source of knowledge and inspiration. Let us consider what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11:

    When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;

   when I became a man, I put aside childish things.

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Topics: spiritual grouth, Sharon Krause

Growth

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 31, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Although it was decades ago, a memory fragment of mine pops up now and then. I must have been about four or five years old when my mother brought me to our parish church, St. Joseph’s, in Middletown, New York. I recall her leading me up the aisle toward the sanctuary so I could get a close look at the altar and its immediate surroundings. I remember asking her, “Where are we going?” That is all I remember, but I assume she was just getting me used to the environment, because she had decided I was old enough to start attending Masses with her and would be quiet and well-behaved. Perhaps it is a good question for each of us to reflect upon in our spiritual life journey: “Where are we going?” or even better as we mature: “How are we growing?”

In gospel passage read at today’s Mass, Matthew 13:31-35, Jesus refers in his parables to the tiny mustard seed and remarks how it produces a large bush; and he refers to yeast and how it makes the flour mixture grow. Experience teaches that we can grow in good ways and not-so-good ways. Unlike certain, natural anatomical growth that happens spontaneously, spiritual growth is something we can nurture and pursue.

 My mother took me near the holy place in the church, the sanctuary, so I could get a close look. It is important to take a little detour now and then from our normal routine and take a close look at our path to holiness. Could it be that holiness itself is a stepping away from the familiar, normal, material world so that we can come closer to the Lord? That is one reason why daily prayer time is important.

It is so easy to become distracted and caught up in mundane habits. I look around and see people walking with what looks like a growth on their chin and it is really their cell phone being held up to their mouth as they continue their walk or other activity. I hear people seemingly talking to themselves, but really they have earbuds in their ears as they talk to others who are not near them. There can be several people seated at a restaurant table all staring down at their cell phones and not socializing with the diners so physically close to them. If we get out of touch with people near us, how are we growing closer to our Savior who is actually closer and more lovingly available than anyone?

Just like the parables’ seeds and yeast, we can start small in our quest of spirituality. So long as we water the prayer seeds and stir in the little biblical yeast tablet, day by day we can promote growth. Here is a good scripture passage to consider:

      For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,

     virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance,

     endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with

     love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from

     being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

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Topics: praying, spiritual grouth, Sharon Krause, distractions from prayer

Hesitation

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 24, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Have you ever hesitated to do something, to take on a project, to try out an idea, because you thought you did not have the wherewithal to do the job right? Did that decision to delay the attempt relieve your worry, or did it just give someone else the chance to take over and, perhaps, be successful? Did you ever think, “Oh, I wish I had thought of that!” or, “I could have figured that out”?

Taking chances involves faith. When we wait until all the pieces are in the puzzle or all the conditions are positively right, we miss opportunities to be inventive and maybe even surprise ourselves. Worst of all, we leave the Lord out of the hypothesis and problem-solving. So what if something is not quite perfect? God is perfect and is ready to inspire us and help us on our journeys. Even if we fail in our attempts, at least we are doing instead of stewing. We learn and grow with our mistakes and failures if we bounce them off of the Holy Spirit. We certainly are not perfect, but God’s love for us is perfect and he is with us in all of our challenges.

                                      Procrastinator’s Prayer

Praise to You, Lord, who did not hesitate to suffer and die for the sins of humanity.

Reign in my heart and mind today and remind me of your presence.

Open my ears that I might hear words of encouragement and confidence.

Create new and good ideas in me that I can use to spread love and compassion.

Raise my hopes and dreams to help me to overcome fear and doubt in myself.

All-loving Lord, help me to do away with signs of laziness or neglectfulness.

Show me how to spread your mercy and love to other people today.

Teach me to trust in the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, even in little tasks.

Inspire in me words of forgiveness and starting-over with family and friends.

Now and forever, remind me to acknowledge and use well my God-given gifts.

All-loving Jesus, energize me with faith and enthusiasm for life.

Thank you for saving me every day in big and small ways.

I love you, and I am sorry for the times I have made unloving choices in my life.

O Savior of the world, teach me to act this day on my joyful inspirations.

New life and freedom are mine because of you, Jesus. Energize me today! Amen.

 

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Topics: Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Sharon Krause, Rely on Jesus

Away With Words

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 17, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Words can take us away from stress, from boredom, from sadness. Wordplay, i.e. creating puns, is a double-take brain game that can be quite humorous. Of course, we have to choose our words carefully, depending on situations.

Words are like life: many have interesting histories, come from other countries or languages, and can get distorted and misinterpreted, misspelled or misunderstood. Many words aid in solving problems, help in categorization, but also can cause dissension. Certain words are overused while others pass out of popular usage. Words can follow fads and trends, just like life. Words are big and small, old and new. Special words can console and be very calming, while others can spark controversy.

In the reading from Matthew’s Gospel in yesterday’s Mass, Jesus uses his to teach in a long parable about a sower and the different places his seeds fall. Jesus used that as an analogy for the different ways of hearing the word of God and reacting to it. We are blessed that Jesus used so many wonderful words as he patiently taught the disciples. Hopefully we take the time to digest and understand his words and yield the fruit he wants us to yield.

We know that words often go in one ear and out the other. We get busy, distracted, weary and emotional. We might not pursue nuances or go deeper. When we pray, the words can become so habitual that the meanings diminish. We should not do away with words but use them thoughtfully.

The words we use in private prayer can bring us comfort and peace. Faith sharing and praying with others can be enlightening and faith-bolstering. We can use our words to teach, to enlighten, and draw closer to Jesus. We should not “do away” with words, but “come away” with words that enrich our communication with God and with each other.

St. Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Philippians (4:4-7):

 

   Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known

   to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and

   petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of

   God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ

   Jesus.

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Topics: kindness, Sharon Krause

Two Words

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 10, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Happy birthday! Thank you! Merry Christmas! Wet Paint! Marry me! Get lost! Bug off! Love you! Each expression is composed of just two words, but we get the message…and sometimes, the attitude.

 I was at a hospital one day because I had to have a CAT scan. I found out after I got there that I had to “check in” in a particular office before going to the scan room. Stressed and anxious, I was a little put out that I had to sign in down the hall. As I was strolling around, there was an aide walking in the opposite direction. Out of the blue she said to me, “Nice outfit!”

 In my red capris and floral-patterned, red and white shirt, I was caught off guard, wrapped up in my own concerns. When she surprised me with that compliment, I smiled and said, “Thanks!”

 For that brief moment, my mood was lightened and my ego lightly stroked. The smile overruled my anxiety. Those two little words! Two words can change your mind, precipitate a smile, put you on the defensive, caution you of danger, or give you hope. Simple, yet meaningful.

 In the reading from Matthew’s Gospel in today’s liturgy, Jesus first says, “Courage, daughter!” (9:22) to the woman with a hemorrhage after she has touched the tassel of his cloak and is healed. And Jesus yells, “Go away!” (9:24) to the mourning crowd and then calls the official’s daughter back to life.Two-word attention-getters!

 Recently, I have tried the two-word phrase with people I encounter, even some I don’t know. I have surprised them with little affirmations or compliments, made them smile, and maybe uplifted them a little.”Nice hairdo!” “Pretty shirt!” “God bless!”

 Maybe today some of these “two-worders” can uplift us and give us food for prayer:

     Jesus saves.       Love overcomes!

     Jesus rose.         Spirit, come!

     Abba, Father!     Renewed hope!

     Thank God!         God surprises!

     Jesus forgives.   Blessings abound!

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Topics: kindness, Sharon Krause

The Human Race

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 3, 2023 6:00:00 AM

What’s the hurry? We humans are always racing around doing something! Play that computer game! Wishing that red traffic light would change to green faster…got to get going! Quick! I guess I’ll have to find that question’s answer on the internet! Look it up! Ah! Answer comes right up! Race! Race! Race! Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Instant gratification! Hurry! Black Friday sale! Hurry before supplies run out! Arms race! Race to the moon! Race to be “Number One!”

Do we race to help our neighbor? Do we race to church to pray and thank God for our blessings? Our spirituality can suffer because of all our human racing. We can forget how to slow down, how to savor Our Savior. We can get out of good habits of reverence and reflection. Oh, if we could just get past the race pace and into the prayer mode. Trying to channel the racing energy into being in the present moment in our gifted humanity to share love and affirmation is the challenge. If we must race, may it be to thoughtfully and/or spiritually offer improvement…while keeping God as our center.

CONCENTRICITY

Through ages and life stages

True love in concentric circles.

Keeping the Center in the center

Creative constant blessing Source;

Going around, coming around,

Kinship, community, sharing.

Steady and strong reference Point:

Always back to circle Center.

Spreading influence, challenges

In widening inclusiveness.

Like a stone dropped vertically

Into a puddle of water:

Circles growing, radiating,

Focusing on eternal Truth

Through ages and life stages

True love in concentric circles

Keeping the Center in the center:

God.

 

After all the day’s hurry and flurry, it may be a good idea to say this little take-off of a children’s prayer that could be easy to remember:

         Now I lay me down to slumber,

Haste and worries do me encumber.

If I should doubt that God’s “got my back,”

I pray his Spirit puts me “back on track.” Amen.

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Topics: centering prayer, Sharon Krause, daily prayer

Tag! You're it!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 26, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Nowadays one can get tagged or named on Facebook, and therefore that person’s attention is drawn to a certain page or item on the website. When children play the game, tag, a child is tappedthat is, taggedand then he or she has to chase the other players around and try to catch and tag someone else. “Tag! You’re it”! If some store merchandise has a tag on it, that item has a name, price, or something distinctly designated for it.

One way or another, attention is drawn to a person or a thing. Someone or something is tagged. Think about it. What happens, for example, if you are judged or tagged as a worrier or a loser, or a weakling? Once you are tagged, it is difficult to get past the tag or change the label. It can affect how others talk to you, treat you and even dance around you. “Tag! You’re this or that. Now live with it!” Judgment has been passed!

In today’s the gospel reading in today’s Mass, Matthew 7:1-5, we see that Jesus does not want us to judge, so we won’t be judged ourselves. It is not harmful, however, to draw attention to another person’s good attributes. Those tags are good tags. What harm would it be to say someone is “a loving Christian,” “a brave hero,” a good friend,” or even “a good listener?”

St. Paul tells us several times of the value of affirming and encouraging others. Here are a few examples to consider.

     …{L}et each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. (Romans 15:2)

 

     May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with

   one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one

     voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

 

   We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. (Hebrews

   10:24.)

 

   Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.

   (1 Thessalonians 5:11.)

 

What’s in a name? Suggestion? Perpetuation? Criticism? Reinforcement? Affirmation? Names are important. Let’s be careful how we play Tag!

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Topics: be less judgmental, Sharon Krause

Good Reactions

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 19, 2023 6:00:00 AM

When we look at the two main readings in today’s liturgy, Corinthians 6:1-10 and Matthew 5:38-42, we see references to actions and reactions. We know from our own life experiences that our first reactions to some situations are not necessarily the best or the most Christlike. Jesus challenges us to behave generously and not to base our reactions to situations on what other people may expect. Positivity does not have to be preached in every situation but can be quietly presented by example. Lessons of love can be surprisingly taught through generosity and restraint.

In order to behave in ways that model Christian responses, we need to spend time with Jesus in prayer. I share with you now a summer invitation I received, with hopes that you may take time to sit with Jesus and react to his peaceful presence.

Jesus invited me to sit on my front porch with him.

A gentle spirited breeze passed by now and then.

The summer sky was punctuated with cottony clouds.

A small bird eavesdropped from a power line above.

Occasionally a car would go by on the way to somewhere.

The thorns on the rose bush next to the porch only served

   to protect the lone salmon-colored blooming rose….not to hurt my Lord.

My Savior’s love warmed me comfortably….

   much better than the humid summer afternoon air.

The wood of the porch step on which we sat supported us…

   unlike the wood of Jesus’ cross that punished him.

                    There we were:

   open

   simple

          familiar, refreshing, consoling

        loving, forgiving, understanding

    holy

    friendly

     joyful

      serene.

 There, on my porch, with my Jesus, together.

 May our upcoming summer be a time of slowing down long enough to think about how we might grow in the kind of reactive love Jesus practiced and preached.

                            

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Topics: patience, Sharon Krause, restraint

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