Monday, December 30, 2013

Even More, God Is Our Mother

I don’t really follow Pope Francis; however, as a Catholic I certainly regard the pope with the respect and honor due his position as successor to Peter.

What I do read about him, I tend to get from my friends. He seems to be loved or hated and certainly has made people sit up and take notice.

I also don’t watch the news in general or read much on the Internet—secular, Catholic or otherwise. I am not on Facebook and I don’t do Twitter. I’ve made a conscious effort in the past couple of years to purposely reduce the chaos of the world by limiting my exposure to it so that my own world now feels purer and a whole lot more peaceful.

Amidst that peace, I’ve recently begun researching “Sophia” for my third and final fiction book in a series that started with Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. I share this because my research about this seemingly elusive, somewhat mystical, and definitely female Sophia/Wisdom/Mother keeps crossing paths with what I’ve read about Pope Francis. Francis continues to enter into my quiet world in a calm, wise, even motherly sort of way.

Let me explain.

At her essence, Sophia is the wisdom that runs throughout Scripture—yet that small acknowledgement leaves so much to be desired. King Solomon sought her and was richly rewarded; Hildegard of Bingen sang her praises; Mother Julian of Norwich wrote about her when she said that God is both our Father and our Mother. Echoing this mystical sentiment, Sophia was given passing credit in 1978 by John Paul I when he made an astonishing reference to the idea of divine motherhood. In a Sunday St. Peter’s Square address he said, “God is our Father; even more God is our Mother.”

Even more, God is our Mother.

It was a profound, brave statement; one that did not get the attention it deserved. One that wasn’t unpacked and contemplated like it should have been.

As I research Sophia, I can’t help but see Pope Francis as the possible embodiment of her. I keep reflecting on what I am learning about Sophia and the prophetic words of John Paul I: …even more God is our Mother.

Lacking the language to flesh out the idea of “God is our Mother,” we can still begin to see how Pope Francis may well be the prophetic fulfillment. In Pope Francis we see the possibility that “God is our Mother” is a truth whose time has possibly come. Is Pope Francis ushering in the manifestation of Sophia—the groundwork that was laid by Christian mystics and more concretely captured when John Paul I said “even more God is our Mother?”

I even marvel at the pope’s name which is both masculine and feminine.

The words and actions of Pope Francis in light of the “God is our Mother” possibility make us contemplate important questions: What is a mother if not a healer of relationships and a pursuer of righteousness for all? Isn’t the ideal mother one who wishes all her children to be in harmony? Does a mother not run to those most in need? Will a loving mother not admonish her children to be kind and prudent in their words and in their deeds?

Is it not in a mother’s nature to create a home where the spirit of the law prevails? She doesn’t throw out the letter of the law but her heart always reflects the spirit of it.

Indeed, we know that a mother is more apt to speak from her heart instead of her head. When she does, her words are not diluted by too much reason for they erupt from the love she has for her children. Often, she is raw emotion responding to the meekest and most in need. She reaches out to all from the depths of her compassion; everything she says and does is wrapped in concern, passion and love.

Sophia, Wisdom, Mother—known by so many names—is one of them Pope Francis?

(picture © |

Friday, December 27, 2013

Have Your Goals Overtaken Your Life?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In ten?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

If you win the lottery what would you do?

We get asked—and ask ourselves—lots of goal-oriented questions. It might be in a classroom or in a job interview. Wherever it is—or whatever causes us to identify goals—we find that we are always looking ahead. We vow to lose ten pounds and fit into a cherished pair of pants. We save our pennies for a new couch or a necklace.

Looking ahead can be a good thing; it can motivate us and keep us going forward. On the other hand, becoming too focused on a goal easily makes us lose sight of the journey itself—an important part of any achievement.

As the New Year approaches, we may feel we’ve failed because our hopes or thoughts for the year that just passed didn’t materialize; but if we’ve enjoyed the journey, there won’t be the sting of failure. Reproaches won’t haunt us if we found joy in our day-to-day living.

When I taught parochial middle school there was a home on my daily route to work that was in perpetual construction. At first it was an addition off the back. Then it was a large front porch. One summer it was a paved garden area and a gazebo. Another time it was a garage. This went on for many seasons; for many years. More than a few times, as I would pass the home, I would see the homeowner standing back and admiring his work. It seemed odd to me because the entire project was never done yet you could clearly see by his stance that he had a real sense of pride in what he was seeing.

A few weeks ago, when I drove past that home and saw that yet another new project was underway, I saw it with his eyes—and with a real Christmas epiphany. Here was this home, fifteen years later, still under construction, covered in Christmas lights! The man is much older now—as am I—and is still making choices to work on his house; and yet that work doesn’t seem to be a burden to him. He isn’t in a hurry. He didn’t need his home to be completely finished before adorning it with Christmas lights. It wasn’t about the final project but about the journey.

As this year closes and a new one dawns, the image of this man’s home will remain with me as an important reminder that even while my life often feels “under construction” it is important to step back and be proud of the progress!

Picture: © |

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Our Jewish Roots...Free on Amazon

If you are looking for a great deal this Christmas, you can't beat free!

For a limited time we are offering a few of our titles for free to Amazon Kindle Prime customers. If you've been wanting to read Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide To Fulfillment, now might be the time to get it for yourself or give it this Christmas.

It is currently ranked on Amazon:

#49 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Catholicism > Self Help

Another favorite for the tween or teen boy in your family, All Things Guy: A Guide To Becoming a Man that Matters is also free for Amazon Prime Kindle.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

God the Mother

If you are anywhere near my age (1976 high school graduation) and are a female, you may now be at a point where the aftertaste of radical feminism has started to disappear. You’ve also successfully waded through a culture that embraced new-age thinking and have now arrived at real truths.

Unfortunately, the result of the particular journey that many of us have been on is that we, in direct opposition to the false messages of radical feminism and the new age movement have really lost out on something that I have only recently discovered: God as Mother.


Years ago I wrote my first fiction book titled Elizabeth:A Holy Land Pilgrimage. In the book, Elizabeth’s daughter is named Sophia. At the time I knew no one with that name and it had no special meaning to me. I just knew that Sophia was supposed to be the name of the daughter in the book. The second fiction book I wrote is titled Miriam:Repentance and Redemption in Rome. Sophia, as Elizabeth’s daughter, is also part of the Miriam book.  Again, clueless about the import of Sophia.

After I finished Miriam, I knew—instinctively—that the third and final book was going to be Sophia. Plain and simple. In fact, the story of Sophia has already made itself known to me. From beginning to end it has already taken place in my heart and in my head.  Yet at that point the significance of Sophia was still unknown to me.

All that has since changed.

Sophia has now brought me front and center to the concept of Sophia as Wisdom. Sophia as a Mother, a Spirit, a Companion. A door opened, a word was spoken, and in an instant Sophia was revealed to me. A curtain was pulled back and I was invited to step inside.

Since that moment, I’ve discovered much about Sophia and Her works with God; Her desires to be found, to be welcomed. The more I learn about Sophia and welcome Her into my heart and into the book that is Hers, the more I see that the damages of radical feminism have made us push Her away lest we think we are entering some radical feminist frame of reference for God. Indeed, seeing Her in all Her glory may even feel a bit new-agey to us, so we’ve walked away. Using words such as “Goddess” makes us run; but Sophia isn’t “Goddess” as we would imagine some dark magic use of the word. Nor does Sophia invite us to an alternate spiritual world of new-age.

No, Sophia has been there all along in right relationship with the Father. Solomon sought Her and was handsomely rewarded for doing so; Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen sang Her praises.

Unfortunately, it seems that in our day and age we no longer have the language with which to describe Her; thus we don’t seek Her or know Her. But there She is, throughout Scripture (Wisdom, Proverbs, Exodus, Corinthians, Romans). She seems to have been well-hidden and then further buried as a result of the fears we have to keep all things bad and “feminist” or “new age” at arm’s length.  

And yet She is within each of us; She willingly accompanies us on our journeys.

Sophia is the wisdom of motherhood and sisterhood and womanhood; and while She may seem elusive—She is patiently waiting to be found.

She is the treasure for our age. A safe-haven for those who call out to Her and seek Her guidance. She is the Holy Wisdom that reveals to us the connections between Heaven and Earth; She is order in a chaotic world and light in darkness.

I am excited to write about Her; honored that She beckoned to me.

I invite you to know Her as well; accept the gifts of Holy Wisdom, of Sophia.
(picture copyright Paul-andré Belle-isle



Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Light

Throughout history the word “light” has been used to portray goodness, charity, kindness, and salvation.

Light, after all, removes darkness—whether literally or metaphorically.

People say, “She lit up the room when she entered,” or “He is the light of my life.”

We understand the significance of those phrases.

During the Christmas season—when the amount of actual daylight is at its most limited—we are most fully aware that Christ is the light of the world. It seems rather fitting that in the long hours without light that we contemplate how He dispels the darkness in our lives. We are able to become keenly aware that He conquers the shadows that sometimes seem to overtake us. During the Christmas season we most fully realize that through the light of Christ we find our way to the Father.

A beautiful tradition during Christmastime is to light luminaries. The history behind luminaries is rich and beautiful—and varied. Shepherds marked the way to the Christ child with small fires. Centuries later, the Mexican people would gather around celebratory fires in the town square to sing and give thanks for the Lord’s birth. Elsewhere, small fires would mark the route to church for midnight Mass.

Christmas is the time to remember that, in some way, we each are called to be a light to another sojourner—to be a luminary.

 (image © |



Thursday, December 12, 2013

What Do You Put in the Collection Basket?

What you put in the collection basket says a lot about you and where you are at in your journey.

Some of us put in our 10% tithing without a second thought.

Some of us put in the few “extra” dollars we may have.

Some of us struggle with the need to “give”to the already “rich” church and so put in very little.

I remember once when one of my sons was quite young and had — unbeknownst to me — picked up all his change from his room and put it in the collection basket as it passed. I think it was about 19 cents.

But very few of us realize that when that basket passes, it is an incredible opportunity to give anything and everything to God.

Sure, it is about money and tithing; but money is only the beginning. That collection basket is a chance to empty yourself so that your gifts may be joined to those of Christ’s at the altar and used for God’s kingdom. They will be joined in the consecration and if offered with no strings attached can be appropriately dispensed by God, who sees all.

Remember that Mass transcends time and space and you are joining all the Masses said, at all moments in time, and that your gifts become priceless in the ways they can be given to others if you so freely give them yourself.

The next time the collection basket passes, along with your spare change or your envelope, make a point to put in your joy. God will use it to bless someone else who may need a bit of joy.

The next time the collection basket passes, along with your spare change or your envelope, make a point to put in your praise and awe of the mighty God we serve. God will use it to bless someone who may be struggling with their faith and in need of your beautiful gift of praise and awe.

The next time the collection basket passes, along with your spare change or your envelope, make a point to put in your sorrow, grief or despair. God will divide up those burdens among your fellow worshippers — across time and space — who are asking with a heart full of love to lighten someone else’s burden. Trust that someone’s heart is open to your needs and your load will be lightened or you will begiven courage and strength to carry it. In other words, there is no way you can put your sorrow or your grief or your despair into the basket and have it taken to the altar and it not be changed!

We simply don’t know the ways our offerings may be used; but we can be assured that they will be used in anointed ways. The point is to give everything over at that moment in Mass and trust in God.

Does God need this from us? Of course not!

Does God desire this from us? Of course He does! Just as He freely gave His Son, we, too, can give freely of ourselves gifts that can be blessed at the altar; gifts that can be joined at the foot of the Cross and used in blessed, anointed or even redemptive ways (reflect on redemptive suffering, for instance).

Consider some of the words and phrases said at Mass during the consecration and see your gifts collected in the baskets now placed at the altar being transformed with these words:

Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice…

Father, accept this offering from your whole family…

Bless and approve our offering: make it acceptable to you…

Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel…

Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven…

Let your spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy…

There is so much that we can freely give to God and an ideal time to do this is during Mass—when that collection basket gets handed to each of us. We can fill it with love and kindness and hope and pain and regret. We can ask our guardian angels to accompany it to the altar. We can allow ourselves to be transformed by what we can give at the altar as much as we can be transformed by what we take from the altar. God allows us, in so many ways, to participate in His goodness. Filling the collection basket to the brim is just one incredible way in which we work with God for His kingdom!

So the next time the basket makes its way to you, remember: Nothing is too big or too small to be taken to the altar — it only needs to be given wholly so that it can become holy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Young Adult Books Aren't Just For Young Adults

Young adult books are big sellers…for the over 18 crowd.

This, according to a recent Nielson poll and reported by CBS news.

I’m not surprised by this "new" poll—and you shouldn’t be either.
And I would hazard a guess that the numbers are mostly women—or are even higher if only women were polled. After all, we want more than pornography and vampires. We want to be transported to that place of hope and kindness despite odds. Speak to us about the realities of our lives and remind us of all the great potential we have!

Long ago (okay, about 3 years ago), I reviewed Nancy Carabio Belanger’s “Olivia” books. What I couldn’t get over—and tried to get across in my posted reviews—was how much I enjoyed the books that were written for tweens and teens. Me, a slightly older than middle-aged woman truly loved them. I likened them to Anne of Green Gables: a timeless book that can be read by anyone of any age. Nancy’s books are that good. They take you back to a place filled with possibility and hope. They aren’t sugary sweet and so unrealistic that you gag; rather, they are just realistic enough to draw you in but still allow you to dream and grow.

Nancy’s newest book The Gate is out and I could not put it down when I read it. Again, another winner!

A number of young adult books come to mind that will definitely be enjoyed for the “over 18” crowd and will make excellent Christmas gifts to get and give.

To name a few:

Come see what all the fuss is about!

And enjoy a good book like you did when you were a kid!

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Penny Pincher's Christmas

We’ve got lots of great deals on our books for Christmas!

If you are pinching your pennies, you’ve found the right place to begin your Christmas shopping with presents that entertain and engage!

TheGreen Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years by Rosemary McDunn has been on Amazon’s best-seller list and is a favorite among homeschool families and Catholic classrooms. Right now it is available on Kindle for $2.99 and we know this will become a favorite in your home!

SaintsAlive: New Stories of Old Saints is hagiography at its very best! Endorsed by Catholic Editors and Librarians alike, this is a perfect stocking stuffer for the Kindle at $4.99.

FindingGrace by Laura Pearl and Hiding the Stranger: The Trilogy by Joan L. Kelly both have received the prestigious Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval. Finding Grace is now on Kindle at $4.99. Hiding the Stranger is $2.99!

If you are huge fan of devotionals, you can beat Tending the Temple by best-selling authors Kevin Vost, Peggy Bowes and Shane Kapler. The team that does a monthly spot on Sacred Heart radio about health and wellness Catholic style brings it all together in Tending the Temple now $7.99 on Kindle.

Peggy’s fitness manual that features our beautiful faith, The Rosary Workout, is also $7.99. And Peggy is a gal you really want to invite to speak at your next event. She’s the real deal and has something new and valuable to bring to everyone!

Speaking of fitness, if your son or hubby hasn’t yet read Jared Zimmerer’s TenCommandments of Lifting Weights, now is the time at just $2.99!

There are a lot more deals on our books but we hope this will get you started and on your way to a truly blessed Christmas and coming year.

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, November 15, 2013

5 Easy Tips to De-Stress Christmas

The Christmas season—which ought to be one of peace and good cheer—is often everything other than tranquility and happiness. For many people (women especially), family events, shopping, and fractured relationships bring stress and steal the joy of Christmas.

For a Christian, this really doesn’t have to be the case. It really shouldn’t be the case—and a few tips to take into the Christmas season will help replace angst and strain with harmony and pleasure.

1.     Remember that Christmas is about the celebration of the birth of Christ; see others through His eyes. If you are in the process of forgiving someone, don’t feel you’ve failed if this Christmas you aren’t jumping up and down with joy to see that person. Forgiveness is a process. Take it one step at a time—and be okay with that.

2.     The physiological aspect of stress can be countered by breathing. That’s right—breathe this Christmas season! Breathe deep. Studies show that when we are stressed we don’t breathe deeply and thus only increase the way our bodies are succumbing to stress. Become conscious of your breathing during the Christmas season and make sure to take time to breathe deep and relax.

3.     Drink plenty of water. Water is a great part of staying physically healthy—which is a great way to combat stress. Water washes your body of toxins and keeps your “parts” in good order. Green tea is also a good choice. The point is: make sure that you are staying hydrated as this will help keep you feeling physically well.

4.     Invite the Holy Spirit into your life. Don’t pick up the phone or get in the car without asking the Holy Spirit to be part of whatever it is you are doing. Heading over to your in-law’s or company party? Breathe deep and ask the Holy Spirit to be part of the experience with you. This will allow you to rest in the spirit and see everyone through Christ’s eyes and speak words of love. Inviting the Holy Spirit into whatever you happen to be doing will also help you hear the words of others with kindness and charity. That friend who always seems to throw verbal zingers your way will be heard differently when you listen with the Holy Spirit in you.

5.     Finally, keep Christmas simple. The biggest gift has already been purchased: Your Salvation through Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Use this Christmas season as a time for personal relationships—more reflective of the one you have with Christ or are developing with Christ. The Christmas presents you give shouldn’t be bought in a frenzy or in haste. Let them become more special, more fun this year. Consider making the perfect Christmas basket for your friends and family.

Christmas is about the birth of Christ.

It is a time of peace and goodwill. It is a time of simplicity.

All the Black Friday deals in the world cannot beat the deal of a Savior being born. So as the stores ramp up their promotions and the hype increases everywhere that you are connected, take a step back, breathe deep, and rejoice in the birth of Christ in a purposeful, peaceful way.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Pefect Christmas Basket

As television commercials and store circulars clamor for you time and money this Christmas season, you may be feeling—like so many others—a yearning to get back to basics.

To reclaim Christmas and its meaning.

One way to do just that is to make a commitment to give gifts that matter—gifts from the heart.

A perfect gift to consider for friends, teachers, co-workers, and family this year is a Christmas basket.

A Christmas basket is something that you create with the recipient in mind which means you can make a dozen of them and they will all be a bit different, or you can consider ways in which all your friends and family are similar and make the same basket for a dozen different people.

Here are some easy tips to get you going for the perfect Christmas basket:

ü Make a list of the people for whom you typically shop so that you know how many baskets to purchase. Your baskets can be any size and kind of container (sewing basket, garbage can, pet bed, hat box, utility bucket—you get the idea) so when you take your list to the store, make sure you keep an open mind. Check out stores like TJ Maxx, JoAnn Fabrics, and Big Lots.

ü Include a Christmas movie or two. Maybe one that makes you cry and one that makes you laugh out loud. You can go with classics like George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol or something where the theme just revolves around Christmas time like Family Man or New in Town. Just make sure the movies are age appropriate!

ü If you bake, include some of your homemade goodies. Put them in new plastic containers so that the containers themselves are also gifts. To keep you goodies fresh you may want to purchase some Christmas cellophane bags so that the baked goods aren’t directly in the plastic containers. If you don’t bake, check out some of the amazing regional goodies at stores like HomeGoods or specialty stores where you can get gorgeous cookies from France or pasta from Italy!

ü Everyone loves a good devotional and one of the best you will come across is Tending the Temple by best-selling authors Kevin Vost, Peggy Bowes and Shane Kapler. This devotional combines health and faith and is a great gift to include in your perfect Christmas basket. It is the sort of gift that keeps on giving!

ü Have a Mass offered for the intentions of the recipient of the Christmas basket and include a card that lets her know so. This is a most appreciated gift for everyone!

ü Consider a set of pretty, padded hangers, a few new kitchen towels and oven mitts, a picture frame, or bath salts. If you would like to make bath salts yourself, here is an easy recipe: You will need Epsom salt, Essential oils, such as lavender, or orange and food coloring (certainly optional); you will Mix 1 cup of Epsom salt, ¼  cup sea salt, add 2-3 drops of essential oils, and food coloring to your preference. Put the colored salt in jars.  Decorate the jars with lace, sequences, or beads.

ü Then there’s always a new pair of scissors, a first aid kit, a nifty new level and measuring tape, or an in-a-pinch sewing kit.

As you can see, creating Christmas baskets is a beautiful way to explore a person’s meaning in your life and to show that you care for him or her in a special way because you took the time—which in and of itself is a huge gift nowadays! Besides, it is balm for our spirits to be imaginative and get engaged in creating and giving gifts that come from the heart.





Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Did You Suffer From Post Partum Depression?

I’ve begun writing the third and final installment for my Women’s Christian Inspirational Fiction series. The first title is Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, the second is Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Romeand the third is Sophia: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend.

I’m winding back to the United States with this book. The first takes place in Israel and the second in Rome. The reason I share all this with you is that in this last book, the main character Sophia (who is Elizabeth’s daughter and Miriam’s goddaughter) suffers from post partum depression—a topic that is very personal to me and one that I want to approach as honestly as possible in the book.

My hope is to gather some feedback from different women who have suffered through any of the symptoms of this illness, regardless of the degree. I want to offer Sophia’s experience with PPMD as a ray of hope to women everywhere; the questions for which I am asking feedback on are designed for me to draw knowledge from for the character.

If you would consider emailing me at Cheryl at Bezalel Books dot com. I would be very grateful—and I pray that your feedback will help another woman. And by all means, don’t feel you have to answer all the questions or even follow them precisely; consider them just a guide as I believe others will be blessed by your willingness to help understand this often debilitating disorder.

1.     Were you diagnosed by a medical professional as a post-partum mood disorder sufferer?

2.     If you were, what was the exact diagnosis? (depression, anxiety, psychosis or any other related diagnosis)

3.     If you were not diagnosed by a medical professional, how did you determine your PPMD?

4.     What were you symptoms?

a.     When did they begin?

b.     How long did you suffer PPMD?

5.     If you were to rate your symptoms on a scale from 1-10 with 1 being very mild, 5 being manageable, and 10 being debilitating, how would you rate your symptoms?

6.     Were you given medication—and was it effective?

7.     What resources were you given—and which were most helpful? (support groups, natural remedies, counseling and so on)

8.     Did you suffer any form of PPMD with each childbirth?

a.     Did the illness increase or decrease?

9.     Did your faith play a role in helping you cope?

10.                        Is there anything else you would offer about your PPMD experience?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Being a Fool for Christ

The rich man asked Jesus what was necessary to enjoy eternal life. Apparently the man had been a devout follower of the laws but still questioned what that final “piece” needed to be for his own salvation. I think it is interesting that the guy knew, in his heart, that more was still being asked of him. Unfortunately, the answer saddened the man, for Christ told him that he had to sell all his possessions—and the guy had a lot of stuff!

We don’t know, based upon the reading of the text, if the man did or did not do as Christ instructed. We read that he walked away sad but that doesn’t necessarily translate into disobedience.

I am often sad when I have to “do the right thing” but it doesn’t stop me from doing it.

So let’s give this rich guy the benefit of the doubt and say that he forlornly sold his possessions but then followed Christ. We know, of course, that his sadness would have been fleeting, right? After all, he was now in a position to enjoy eternal rewards with Jesus.

However, in this scenario we are then left with a bigger picture: what did all this rich guy’s friends and family say while he was liquidating?

“Are you crazy? Think how long and hard you worked for all this!”

“Why are you acting so irrational? There must be some other solutions!”

“You are being a fool!”

That, by my estimation, may very well be what Jesus was asking of the rich man—and what He asks of each of us: to be a fool. Which on the face of it sounds ridiculous; but when we contemplate what it means to be a fool for Christ, we can understand the depth of what we have to give up—or how we must be perceived—to be a “fool for Christ.” And then we see that being a fool for Christ takes us to the very heart of humility and selflessness where our ego simply cannot exist. We know in our hearts it is that “something more”—just as the rich man knew that there was something more being asked of him.

Being a fool for Christ often translates into doing things that make us look foolish—that even make us feel stupid or embarrassed. If we have become comfortable in our positions, aren’t risking anything for the Kingdom, and are surrounded by like-minded people, we can’t possibly be fools for Christ. It is when our egos take a hit, when our actions are questioned, that we become the real fools.

Being a fool for Christ means feeling embarrassed at your own passions because you are sharing them where they aren’t understood or even welcome. It puts your ego on the line and exposes you to ridicule and even mockery. Being a fool for Christ means people are saying about you, to you, or even behind your back, “What are you thinking? Who are you kidding? What are doing?”

You see, those questions have no sound, reasonable answers outside of the request Jesus makes of us to be in obedience. I can’t explain why I would write and publish Catholic books when I could be lucratively employed in the secular world—except that Christ has called me to it.

There are no rational answers to those questions, just as there were no sane answers the rich man could have given to his incredulous friends and family.

He was just being a fool for Christ.

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, November 1, 2013

All Souls Day: Why We Pray for the Dead

Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.  ~2 Maccabees 12:46

 November 2nd marks the Commemoration of All Souls; the day in which the earthly faithful are called to pray for the faithful departed in Purgatory.  Often considered connected to Pagan or other ritualistic ceremonies, All Souls Day is, in fact, a practice with roots in the early Church where the names of the faithful departed would often be posted so that church members could pray for each soul by name.

All Souls Day follows on the heels of All Saints Day, November 1st; which itself is traced back to origins as early as the fourth century when St. Basil of Caesarea invited neighboring dioceses to share relics of martyrs and to join in celebrating those whose lives had been given for the Church.  Eventually Pope Urban IV instituted the practice of using All Saints Day as a way to honor all saints, known and unknown, thus acknowledging our limited knowledge of how each person has responded to God’s call upon his or her life.

While All Saints Day commemorates the lives of saints, known and unknown, All Souls Day commemorates the souls of all the faithful departed.  Requiem Masses, or Masses offered for the dead, are celebrated.  Following in the Jewish belief that the just, after death, joined their ancestors, it became a common practice to offer prayers and oblations so that their “sleep” with the Father would be one of peace, thus “eternal rest.”  St. Paul, himself a Jew who would have understood this belief and practice, referred to this when he spoke of those who are asleep in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18).  Indeed, we read of him praying for the dead when he says of Onesiphorus, who has died, May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day (2 Timothy 18). 

Requiem Masses follow a particular format.  For instance, the Celebrant for Requiem Masses wears black vestments as this color sincerely reflects the mourning of the Church proper towards its faithful departed.  If All Souls Day falls on a Sunday it is moved to the next day.  The joyful and intrinsic nature of Sunday as a day of resurrection should not be diminished by the mournful prayers offered for the faithful departed.  Nor should the faithful departed be deprived of the sacrificial nature and benefit of the Requiem Masses. Thus a Sunday All Souls Day becomes a Monday All Souls Day.

At the heart of All Souls Day in the Catholic Church is the belief in Purgatory and the very real likelihood that most of us, even in God’s grace, will leave this earth in such a condition that we are not yet ready to experience the beatific vision.  Catholics follow the Council of Trent’s proclamation which in part states, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar.  The Council of Trent’s declaration on the existence of Purgatory and the nature of the relationship between the faithful living and the faithful departed is, interestingly, a very clear and significant portion of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.  After the Torah portion of Yom Kippur services, Yizkor is said.  Yizkor, which means ‘remember,’ reflects the Jewish belief that a soul is unable to perform mitzvahs, God’s call for His people to perform good deeds for one another, and as such relies on the merit gained through the charitable acts of the living.

So while we do not believe, nor have we ever believed, that by our works we can attain salvation for ourselves or our brethren, we do believe in responding to the call upon us to pray for one another, both living and dead.  We follow St. Paul’s example and understand that it is with humility and honor that we join our sufferings with Christ. 

Consider, also, the second prayer of the Jewish Amidah (morning prayers), or Gevurot, which extols God’s great mercy on the dead, His ability to resurrect, and His mercy upon the dead as they sleep.

You are eternally mighty, my Master, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save.

He sustains the living with kindness, resuscitates the dead with abundant mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the confined, and maintains His faith to those asleep in the dust. Who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout!

And You are faithful to resuscitate the dead. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who resuscitates the dead.

Weaving ourselves back in time, thousands of years before Christ, we are able to find the roots of our practice of praying for the dead.  While we understand and fully embrace the salvation that is only available to us through Jesus Christ, we also understand His call upon our lives to join our meager offerings to His magnificent cross and ask that He consider these offerings valuable for the poor souls of Purgatory.  And so, on this All Souls Day, let us remember our faithful departed and ask that God’s mercy be upon them.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

A gorgeous jacket caught my eye as I was flipping through an issue of a fashion magazine, trying to find the“perfect” haircut—you know, just cute enough to say I am still “fashionable”yet not too cute as to say “I’m 55 years-old trying to look 30.” The jacket was what I would call “car length.” It was covered in an animal print.

I loved it!

At that point, having lost my focus on trying to find a picture of a perfect haircut to take to my stylist, I intently surveyed the different animal print products—from handbags to pants to shoes—each seeming a bit wild and yet quite appealing. Of course at my age I couldn’t fathom donning a full-on animal print ensemble—or maybe I was never at the correct age to wear such an outfit—but there was still something attractive about an animal print accessory, and most especially that coat!

It just seemed “fun.”

Sometimes, as Christian women, we forget that we are called to have fun. In our day-to-day living in which we embrace our roles as wives and mothers and sisters and care-givers, we forget that there ought to be joy in our journey. Often that joy is a quiet one, maybe it settles upon our spirit during Eucharistic Adoration or it may be found in caring for a sick family member or even in serving food to the homeless; but other times joy is that sheer pleasure of being alive. It is that recognition that God made us uniquely female and that we have an ability to experience our world in a very feminine, fun way.

Time spent with our friends tends to reflect who we are: those who have been created different but equal to men. In the space of a lunch together we can laugh, cry, pray and laugh some more. We have the capacity to contemplate the things of the world while being able to lovingly tend to a scraped knee.

Some of us can bake and sew—this gal has not been given those particular talents—while others may be able to organize school plays or board meetings.

Through it all, with everything that rests upon our shoulders, it is good to remember that we are called to have fun.

When my third son was a youngster I remember that he used to skip everywhere he went. I got such a kick out of watching him skipping to his bike, skipping down the hall to his bedroom and skipping through the grocery aisles. For me, seeing him skip around reflected his innate ability to have fun—his great joy at being alive and very much in the moment.

Ah, youth!

Looking at that animal print jacket in the magazine, I was reminded of my son’s skipping; I was reminded that my journey, too, is meant to be fun. As Christian women we have to be cautious to not get too bogged down in our duties as matriarchs wherein the fun of being alive sort of slowly vanishes.

Fun isn’t just for the young but, as they say, for the young at heart.

None of my friends can understand why I am so anxious for cooler temperatures to arrive. But it will all become clear when they see the fun coat I have to wear!

Cheryl Dickow