Thursday, January 3, 2019

Keeping Christmas

"the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it"
-St John 1:5

I'm usually the first to start tearing down the Christmas tree and decorations on New Year's Day, if not before. In past years I couldn't wait to "get back to normal" and clean the house. Christmas decorating previously seemed like a necessary burden, one that had to be done, but one I didn't enjoy.

But everything changed this year. In the early morning hours of December 18, I got a call from my sister Colleen, telling me that our middle sister Lisa had died suddenly and unexpectedly the night before. Both of us were in absolute disbelief.

I had just visited Lisa on Saturday December 15. She was weak and having trouble breathing from blood clots damaging her lungs. She wasn't able to easily walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, even on oxygen, getting out of breath. She was definitely sick, but I never had an inkling that she would be gone in two days times.

Her health had begun a decline in October, and she spent 10 days in ICU over Thanksgiving. But she had been home two weeks and was supposed to be getting stronger. However, she was depressed because she didn't feel any improvement at all.

Julie, Aunt Martha, Lisa, Colleen
At age 51, she had been the strongest and healthiest of the 3 of us sisters. She worked out several days a week, ate healthy food and generally took care of herself. It was inconceivable that she could die. We had all just been together in October for the bridal shower of her son Michael's finance, Ann Louise. A great light of happy times with our family joining to Ann Louise's family.

Kristin, Kate, Mary, Caroline, Ann Louise
December 17 Lisa's husband Mike took her back to the ER and they admitted her to ICU. They found an infection and she died that evening from sepsis. Michael, Ann Louise and Kristin flew home, funeral plans began. We gathered for a somber "Kavanaugh Christmas" dinner December 24.

Along the way, God did give us lights in this darkness. Christmas Eve Mass was one of the most beautiful at St Raphael. Mike, Michael, Kristin and Ann Louise and her parents all joined us. Fr Kevin asked everyone to pray for the repose of the soul of Lisa Fields during the prayers of the faithful. Eight of the Kavanaugh cousins were together-- not as children any more excited for Santa to come, but as young adults, sharing a craft beer and remembering Aunt Lisa or "A-isa" as they called her as toddlers.

The memorial mass for Lisa on December 27 was packed. As we took our places in St. Frances X Cabrini Church, I gazed upon the Nativity scene in front of the altar, the alter itself and the huge crucifix that hung above it. I remembered that Venerable Fulton Sheen said something about Jesus being the only man that ever came to earth to die. I reflected on the entire Pascal Mystery before me- Jesus's birth in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, Jesus, the bread of life, as he becomes on the altar during mass, and Jesus's death on the cross, that frees us from sin and opens the gates to heaven. Our beautiful Catholic faith- a great light in the darkness.

We had buried both our parents from the parish, Mom in 2006 and Dad in the Year of Mercy, 2016. Fr. Jay Jancarz was the celebrant for all three masses. For Lisa's mass, he chose the gospel where Lazarus dies and Martha makes the great confession of faith. How fitting, as Lisa had been such an important part of our own Aunt Martha's confession of faith, as she returned to the Catholic church after being away for 40 years.

Lisa, Mike, Kristin
The week between Christmas and New Years was filled with family and friends- many lights. Our own six children were all home from work and school. Our Mother's dear sisters Martha and Ann flew in with their husbands Randy and Ron. We celebrated life as best we could and reconnected. We all tried to comfort each other as best we could.

New Year's Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God came and the power of Mother Mary's intercession was a bright light. What a treasure that Jesus gave us his own mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, to be with us in times of darkness, always pointing us to her son.  I had no desire to take down the Christmas tree. In fact, I've kept the lights burning almost all day long and into the night. And I've kept the Christmas crib up in the foyer, awaiting Epiphany when the kings will arrive bringing gifts. It took tragedy to teach me to live the full Christmas season- all 12 days. This too is a light. To put the world behind and focus on the truth.

I know each day God will supply the grace we need. So many friends have emailed, called, texted and even sent a spiritual bouquet, here. All of these great lights have given us love and courage we need. We are asking all who are able, to join us at 3pm each day and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, details and prayers here

And so, I am "keeping Christmas" and looking for lights in the darkness each day. 

I love you my dear sister!

Kristin and Peter
Ann Louise, Michael, Lisa

Monday, November 12, 2018

Musselmans descend on Notre Dame

Nov 10, 2018 we all descended on the McGowan household and the University of Notre Dame for the Florida State University football game. 

Rachel Alverson and John traveled in from Denver, Will and Joey from Tallahassee, Bobby and Jen from their new home in St Pete and seated, Kate, Julie, Mary and Bob.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

December 20 in the Last Days of Advent

The gospel for December 20 is from St Luke's 1:26-38.

As I read it over this very familiar gospel, the song often sung at Christmas "Mary did you know?" came to mind. What actually did Mary know? I found a lot of answers today.

  • Mary knew from the Angel's greeting that she was "full of grace." This means that she is so full of grace that she is without sin. Mary was immaculately conceived in the womb of St. Anne. CCC 491 "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (1)
  • Mary knew the Lord was with her.
  • To Mary this greeting "full of grace" was troubling, so what did she do with what she knew? She pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
  • The Angel reassured Mary that she did not need to be afraid. This assumes she was afraid or had something to fear. Mary knew that people are not greeted by angels every day. Mary knew she had found favor with God and this could comfort any fear she felt.
  • Mary knew she would conceive. She knew the child would be a boy. She knew is name -- it would be Jesus, meaning Savior. Even the name of the child revealed the future and His destiny.
  • Mary knew not only his name, Jesus, Savior, but that one day He would be great. And He will be called 'Son of the Most High' and He will have the throne of His Father David! (What?? the line of David was cut off in 587 BC.) These three points show the child to be the long awaited Messiah for whom all Jews were waiting:
    • This child will be in the kingly line of all Jews
    • He will be God's own son
    • He will be Savior
  • Mary knew He would rule over the house of Jacob, how long? FOREVER, without end
  • Mary knew she needed to catch her breath with all that the Angel is revealing, so she asks "How?" "How can this be?" Whenever we ask "how" the answer is always The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come upon her, the Holy Spirit overshadows, the Holy Spirit gives power, the power of God Himself. That's how, and Wow!
  • Mary knew the child to be born will be called Holy. Holy means set apart.
  • Mary knew the child to be born will be called Son of God- That's pretty specific.
At this point, a LOT has been revealed to Mary, she has been flooded with the Angel's news. But almost as if to put an exclamation point on his message, Gabriel tells her one more thing as if to say "and I can prove it will happen": He tells her something else impossible that has already happened. "Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age"  "FOR NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD."

Then the entire world and all the angels held their breath to await Mary's response to all she now knew. 

Mary knew she was only a handmaid, the lowest type of servant. Mary knew she lived in a small, unknown "backwater" town, Nazareth, Mary knew she was not married and she knew not man. But she said YES "Be it done to me according to your word."

And Luke 1:39 which is not part of the gospel tells us all the more of what Mary did with all she knew. It wasn't enough just to know. Knowledge, with Love, looks for action. So Mary "set out" to go help Elizabeth.

Announcement of the Birth of Jesus
Luke 1:26-3826In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.28And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.31Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.32He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”34But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”*35And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;37for nothing will be impossible for God.”38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

(1) The song "Mary did you know?" while beautiful, is theologically incorrect with the line "the child which you delivered, will soon delivery you." Mary was saved at her conception, in advance  see CCC 491.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent Year B

John the Baptist

God sent a man, John
He came for testimony
to testify to the light
to give witness
or martyr
For others to believe
He was not the Christ
He was not Elijah
"He was the voice of one crying out
in the desert
Make Straight
the way of the Lord."
And John Baptized
with water

Sunday, December 3, 2017

It's Advent!

Advent is very short this year, in fact, it is the shortest Advent possible. The Fourth Sunday of Advent is December 24, Christmas Eve.

For quite some time, I've been wanting to hear Advent Songs during Advent. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer just doesn't help me prepare for Christmas.

So I spent the best $12 of the year creating my own Advent Playlist on my iPhone.
First I googled "Best Advent Songs" From these two lists I purchased the ones I like through itunes: This list by Matt Fradd pulls all the YouTube videos, so you could just enjoy the music of Advent this way.

Here's a few songs I selected:
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel
  • O Come Divine Messiah
  • Alleluia Hurry the Lord is Near
  • Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (I recommend all the music in Handel's Messiah too.)
  • Tender Mercy (Zechariah's Song)
  • Veni Per Mariam
  • Maria Walks Amid the Thorns
  • Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming
  • What Wondrous Love is This?
It's amazing how many versions of each song there are. Have fun choosing your own!

First Sunday of Advent Year B

The new church year begins today! Year B in which we focus on the gospel of St Mark.

Watch! For He is Coming

He may come in the evening
He may come at midnight
He may come at cockcrow
He may come in the morning

I must be watchful
I must be alert
I don't know the time He will come
I must be the gatekeeper

Watch & Pray!

Because I get so tired
so drowsy
so distracted
I go to Him each mornging

And He sustains me to
For He is Coming