My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Send Concrete Help to Philippines

Photo courtesy of Nasa/Wikipedia
Typhoon Haiyan as it made landfall over
the Philippines, November 8, 2013.
"Send concrete help," Pope Francis urged thousands of visitors at St. Peter's Square on Sunday, after Typhoon Haiyan left a feared 10,000 people dead across the Philippines. The Holy Father led faithful in prayer for the souls of the dead and survivors struggling without food, water or shelter.

Catholic Relief Services reported that 9.5 million people were impacted, and said its immediate focus is providing basic life-sustaining necessities. I trust this great relief group and have supported their efforts for years.

To get a feel for the scope of this typhoon's impact:

Wall Street Journal covers widespread devastation in the Philippines.
CBS News about one of the deadliest typhoons ever to make landfall.
New York Times Report says region was just recovering from an earthquake that shook the Philippines four weeks ago.

Let's keep our Filippino friends in prayer and send aid to rebuild their nation.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Find a Mission to Love this October

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Majestic and wild -- Lake Pend d'Orielle, Idaho.
A few snowflakes fell today in the Chicago area, but it's nothing like Idaho or Montana!

Weather is extreme in this Northwest Territory, presenting “severe highs and lows,” according to Montanta's Disaster and Emergency Survivor Guide.  “Add to that the high risk for flooding, wildland fires, earthquakes and a variety of other hazards, and you could have a survivor challenge.”

Now rewind to the 1840s, when sheltering from heavy snows and winds slicing through mountain passes or across unprotected plains meant chinking bark between fir logs in your cabin and stirring up the fire. Jesuit missionaries  Fr. Peter-Jean De  Smet, Fr. Adrien Hoecken and Brother Peter McGean suffered through such winters in a cabin near Idaho's Lake Pend d'Orielle.

Early photo of Kalispell Indians on
Lake Pend d'Orielle.
People dream about settling on “lake property.” But this location was not delightful. Here, the missionaries instructed and baptized Kalispell Indians, also known as Flatheads – not because the people manipulated their skulls to be flat, but because another nearby tribe shaped theirs from infancy, to be conical.

Working with the people was rewarding because they were eager to embrace the Catholic Faith. But that location! Even for the wild Northwest, the spot was desolate. Good soil for a garden was scant. Game? Scarce. So in 1854, the missionaries were happy to take the friendly advice of Chief Alexander of the Kalispell tribe, in relocating to Idaho's sister state of Montana, to a spot in the Lower Flathead River area. That town today is called St. Ignatius, home to St. Ignatius Mission.

Fr. Pierre-Jean De Smet
On the Society of Jesus Oregon Province website, Fr. Hoecken’s impressions of their new home are quoted: He wrote that it was “a beautiful region, evidently fertile, uniting a useful as well as pleasing variety of woodland and prairie, lake and river--the whole crowned in the distance by the white summit of the mountains, and sufficiently rich withal in fish and game. I shall never forget the emotion of hope and fear that filled my heart, when for the first time I celebrated Mass in this lovely spot, in the open air, in the presence of a numerous band of Kalispels, who looked up to me, under God, for their temporal and spiritual welfare in this new home.”

The Kalispell wanted priests among them. They were so eager to have Black Robes come teach about Christ, they sent four delegations to the Jesuits pleading for missionaries. So, a beautiful, mutual friendship grew between the missionaries and the people.

There’s a saying: “All things grow with love.” This proved to be the case through those early decades, while Fr. De Smet’s little mission corps labored with the Indians to found a church, and to create Montana’s first saw and flour mills, the first hospital and the first residential schools.
Photo by Loren T. Vine
St. Ignatius Mission in Montana.
When the native peoples were not treated well, the missionaries took it deeply to heart. Fr. Hoecken grieved about the U.S. government breaking treaties. About a meeting he witnessed between a government envoy and the Indians, he later said, “neither side understood 1/10 of what was said.”

Real trouble came because the Native peoples looked to the treaty to reinforce existing friendship, building on those ties with the missionaries. But the officials came to assert claims on Indian land.

It’s proof of God’s grace that the Holy Spirit speaks a universal language. In spite of tensions between white man and Indian, the Faith flowered in the bitterroot Valley. Sisters of Providence came to open a school, and later shifted to Hospital work. Ursuline nuns came to teach and do outreach to the poor. Successes were tempered by trials such as when devastating fires destroyed school structures around the turn of the century.
Fr. Adrian Hoecken

But nothing stopped the missionaries’ walk with the people, through times of crisis and celebration. That process of teaching and learning the Faith continued. The people were open to receive, but operating from a vastly different worldview. On the Society of Jesus website, a little story tells about the 1882 visit of Archbishop Charles J. Seghers to confirm 40 people.

“While examining some Indians for confirmation with the help of Father Cataldo, His Grace noticed . . . an elderly Kalispell, whom he felt sure he had confirmed on a previous occasion. ‘But you, my son, have received the Holy Ghost already,’ said the Archbishop to the Indian. ‘Yes, Great Black Robe,’ answered the Indian; "but I lost Him; He got drowned crossing the river." The poor fellow was far from jesting or being irreverent: he only expressed himself as best he knew.”
Photo by Loren T. Vine
Miraculous murals in St. Ignatius Church.
Tribal people who could neither read nor write, learned salvation history from murals in St. Ignatius Church. Today, travel guides call these 58 murals worthy of European cathedrals. An untrained artist painted them. Brother Joseph Carignano, mission cook and handyman, spent precious spare moments between duties dabbing a brush to the walls. If you can’t visit this church in person, you have to visit virtually online. Within the heart of this remote little town of St. Ignatius, is this hidden store of masterpieces, all singing out praises to God through vibrant colors and scenes.

I’ve visited Montana several times over the years, on mission trips and vacations. Several images from my first trip to St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius; Sacred Heart Church in Arlee, and St. John Berchman Church in Jocko, remain imprinted in my mind. In St. Ignatius, I stepped quietly into church one evening, and saw a circle of men praying up toward the altar. Cursillo retreats changed many lives on reservations across the nation, and these men were experiencing conversion through Cursillo. I remember their quiet intensity in the dimness as they sought God, and the simple welcome in their smiles as they nodded to me. 

I also visited a nearby thrift shop run by a missionary sister and was so happy to find a Native American patterned shirt that I cherished for years. The shop provided a great opportunity for people on a tight budget to dress themselves and their children, and buy needed household goods.

Also, I recall going with a missionary to visit a sick Kalispell elder, and sensing the quiet peace of their prayers as the nun pulled a chair up to the sick bed.

And one of my last days at St. Ignatius, I attended an outdoor celebration where children danced native dances. A wiry, elderly priest sat grinning beneath a rather comical, wide brimmed white hat, perfectly happy to be with his people.
Photo by Paul Frederickson
Sun setting over Flathead Lake, Montana.
Falling in love with the missions and those who live and serve there, has made my life an adventure. Looking at problems in mission territory can be overwhelming: isolation, poverty, an eroding of family values, high unemployment, accompanied by high substance and physical abuse. But missionaries have a way of going into these areas, and loving people right toward God and their best selves. Like anything, sometimes the best outcomes don’t happen. But I’ve seen also seen faithful in mission territories be heroic in facing tough times, surviving, and giving their children better lives.

Learning about our Catholic heritage is a delight. Fr. Pierre de Smet? He’s a hero for the faith. So is Chief Alexander, who proved such a friend in those early years; and that humble cook who proved that, if Providence wills it, godly inspiration can be enough training to create a masterpiece. Also heroes, were those rather rugged looking Cursillistas in church, in plaid shirts and blue jeans, who bowed their heads and prayed for their loved ones and community.

Pope Francis encourages us to a radical love and a mission focus this October. Technology connects us to even the most hidden areas and heroes. Please, do an online search, and find a missionary or a mission area to love and keep in daily prayer.

This blog is adapted from my Missionary Moments podcast for Star Quest Production Network-affiliated Catholic Vitamins "D -- for Delight."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jane Eyre!

Click above to see great Huffington Post article...

Yes, Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books of all time, showing a woman determined to keep her standards high in spite of almost unendurable temptation. One way to find balance in our techie world? Dust off a classic piece of truly great literature, get the teapot brewing, and dig in...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Finding "Shalom" in Chicago

Prayers of young adults in a remote village in 
Kerala, India, reached Chicago this weekend.
Photo of a Keralan houseboat by Wesley Olson
(I podcasted this post for SQPN-affiliated "Catholic Vitamins" show, Vitamin X -- for eXtra5. My "Missionary Moments" piece plays towards the last 1/4 of the hour-long show.)

A couple weeks back, just 25 people had registered for a conference hosted by a Catholic non-profit called Shalom World Ministries. In a grassroots effort, locals told friends and family, notices appeared in parish bulletins, and teams visited prayer groups and parishes across Chicagoland – all with this invitation: "Something incredible is coming to Chicago that will impact the world. Come and see."

On Saturday August 24, 2013, on the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, 700 people, natives of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, gathered in a high school auditorium in Chicago suburban Park Ridge. Flanked by flags of all nations, they spent 12 hours in praise, worship and reflection, led by a team of internationally-known clergy and religious, musicians and lay evangelists called by a new term – techno-evangelists.

Shalom World's new logo features a chalice
within a dove, reflecting openness to the
Holy Spirit and a love for Christ in the

An inspired worship band from Canada called All4Him played, as participants gathered singly, in twos or threes, in families, until the auditorium was packed shoulder-to-shoulder. I was there because I’m a Facebook fan of Catholic singer songwriter Danielle Rose. A Facebook friend of Danielle’s sent me an invitation and some exciting news. Joe Scaria wrote:

“I belong to a new Catholic ministry in USA named Shalom World Ministries. Our mission is to use all sorts of media to evangelize and spread the gospel. Our roots are from India and our television channel 'Shalom TV' is the biggest catholic TV in India…We are launching Shalom TV in English next year beginning in USA and our first regional conferences are starting this year. I request your prayers and support for our ministry. Please consider joining our upcoming conference in Chicago."

I went alone and had those awkward first moments when everyone around seems to know everyone else. But then a nice lady sat next to me. She hailed from Kerela, India, which set us chatting, since I have missionary priest friends from Kerala and Pondicherry. We laughed as I tried reading the many-syllabled name off her name tag and pronouncing the name of her identity and language. The Malayalese from Kerala speak Malayalam.

All4Him out of Canada leads praise and worship 
at the Chicago area Shalom Festival August 24.
My new friend said to call her "Kathy," and explained that her “house name” ended with Amma, an affectionate term for female relatives, often used for a mother or grandma. 

As the day progressed, I learned Shalom World Ministries was rooted in a remote village in Kerala. Young Catholics in prayer received this Holy Spirit message: Global troubles stem from a lack of peace within families and human hearts. The world needs Christ’s peace, spread through every means of modern communication.

This echoes the call of our beloved Pope John Paul the Great, who urged Catholics to not be afraid, to step out into the deep in spreading the light of Christ to the world, using every modern means.

Shalom means peace…and the growth of Shalom World Ministries over the past two decades has been miraculous, with the founding of a publishing house for faith-filled books and Shalom Tidings Magazine, and the launching of Catholic television stations in India and across the world. In 2014, the first English-language Shalom Catholic Charismatic television station offering high definition programming is being launched in North America, with eight production houses in the U.S. and four in Canada. Operating 24/7, the network will be bolstered by prayer teams interceding around the clock before the Blessed Sacrament and receiving prayer intentions from faithful viewers.
In 2014, the first English-language Shalom Catholic charismatic TV station is being launched in North America.
The Vatican and bishops around the world are blessing and praying for this new outreach, which bears the marks of a fresh breath of the Holy spirit. Speakers yesterday included Bishop Francis Kane, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago; Fr.George Kumblumootil, Dean of Theology at St. Charles Seminary in the Archdiocese of Nagpur, India; former volleyball star turned nun Sister Miriam James Heidland, of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity out of Ohio; international model-turned lay-evangelist and media producer Mario St. Francis; and Robert Canton, fondly called “Brother Bob,” a native of the Philippines, who has an international ministry of healing and is Council Member of the Vatican-based International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services , representing English-speaking North America, Central America, and Caribbean countries.

The absolute highlights of this Shalom Festival were the solemn Mass that launched the event, and the healing service that evening, centered around Eucharistic adoration. Hundreds of people dropped to their knees and reached hands toward the Eucharist in a gesture of complete abndonment to God’s Will. The theme throughout the day centered around Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Bishop Kane spoke of Paul’s audacity in spreading this message, when he himself had suffered shipwrecks, stoning, imprisonment -- and how that pointed to a deep, abiding and supernatural trust in God’s workings. Sister Miriam spoke of every person’s desire for greatness as children of an infinitely great God, and how the Church leads us to harmony of intellect, will and emotion. Bob Canton described the gifts of the Holy Spirit just waiting to be unleashed in our lives, and how the key to true healing is forgiveness, of others and ourselves. Fr. Kumblumootil gave a powerful talk about the right and obligation of every Christian to evangelize, and that our spiritual anchor must be Christ in the Eucharist. 

In fact, every speaker highlighted this theme: when we awake each morning, we must first run to the Eucharistic Lord with a childlike faith. Also, to spread peace in the world and reach a state of true forgiveness, we should consider that when someone is hurting us, God is asking us to cooperate with their salvation.

Shalom Festivals are coming to Miami, New York, Houston, Orange and San Jose through September.

In the sweet, uplifting way of the Holy Spirit, encounters through the day form some of my best memories. One Filipino lady named Nieva, which she explained means, “new,” invited me to her Carmelite prayer group. A mother of six in the restoom line, told me a powerful story of converting to the Catholic Church, after dreaming about men in funny hats…who she later learned were bishops. She also described being drawn into a deep love of Jesus through the Blessed Mother. She now feels compelled to share her story, in spite of a fear of public speaking. I took a photo of a young woman in a beautiful Indian Salwar Kameez, who worked with computers, but had turned to writing to share  her story of conversion for the March Shalom Tidings Magazine

At 9:30 PM, I reached my car and sat for ten minutes. I could not drive away, until I walked back in, asked Bob Canton for a final prayer, and then told several Shalom workers of how priests from India had changed my life -- one priest from Pondicherry serving at my parish had asked me to "write for India." Another from Kerala echoed this call, sharing tales of his spirit-filled outreach to the poor in his adopted mission diocese of Visakhapatnam.

Shalom -- an intiative sprung from a hidden group of young adults from that remote village of Kerala, is setting many hearts on fire with love for God. The bishops are doing it and we should too…daily pray for Shalom World Ministries to spread Christ’s peace across the globe.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Finding friendship across the globe

Photo by Marianna Bartholomew

Bridging souls


As gauze
It hovers
India's Godavari River

As sailcloth
Woven by those
To keep it
Into headwind
Through currents
And waves
In skilled hands
Andhra Pradesh, India

As Joseph’s coat
Saffron and indigo
Of India
Red, white, blue
Of America
Scarlet as patriots’
And martyrs’ blood
Snowy as bridal veils
And baptismal gowns
With threads of gold
Peace--made up of threads of
every warp and weave

As tapestry
On one side, complex
Threads of every
Warp and weave
On the other, smooth
As infant hair



As a handshake
Friend’s embrace
Lover’s kiss

As air

By Marianna Robin Bartholomew
For V and ever-green peace

Being friends with a missionary priest in India motivates me to daily prayer for world peace as never before. When political or inter-religious tensions erupt in his state of Andhra Pradesh, I especially plead with heaven.

My friend lives across the Atlantic Ocean and two seas, off the Bay of Bengal. Before we met, I didn’t know this was the largest bay in the world.
My family's friend, Fr. Varghese.
Shown here visiting with
Sr. Mary Prema Pierick,

Superior General of the 
Missionaries of Charity of 

Perspective. My friend offers this to my family and me daily. The world is so much larger than suburban America. Our videochats and online texts keep my husband, children and I on our toes, as we learn to communicate with someone so different and yet similar to ourselves.

Personally, I am led to astonishment at stories of the poor’s resilience and courage, awe at the workings of Providence, dismay at people’s misjudgments and cruelty regarding caste or religious discrimination, and deep laughter at ridiculous daily happenings that cross every cultural divide.

When Fr. V. tells me he killed a cobra in his bathroom or that his cow Gowry escaped, I shudder at the first and am thrilled when the cow is found in deep forest 10 kilometers away, before locals can carve her up for market. When 116.6-degree F. temps hit east central India and more than 100 people died of heatstroke, I prayed for cooling breezes across the continent. Last night, I learned landslides had killed 700 people in northern India. My sympathy is real, and that sense of mortality and immediacy is good for the soul.

I am convinced. Everyone could benefit by nurturing a friend across the globe.

Who is your friend? I’d love to hear stories. Perhaps you've welcomed an exchange student or are supporting a poor widow or schoolchild in Guatamala or Uganda. How much nicer the world would be if we could all bridge cultures in this way. Write letters. Safely connect through a trustworthy organization. But don’t deprive yourself of becoming important to someone across the world.

Peace? I am friends with someone in a “hot spot,” a region of grinding poverty and troubled peace. Oh…may friendship and love overcome every need and divide in this world!

Philippians 4:7 “Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Father Varghese and I coauthor a blog that highlights his people and missions at Drop on by!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

From New Year's to Lenten Resolutions

Good-bye Shire Breakfast,
hello, fasting...(no one could

eat this much in one sitting
anyway, right?)
A couple days before New Year's, my husband and I went out for a "Shire Breakfast." Denny's was featuring a menu with dishes spun off the "Hobbit," the newly-released movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tale. Saturday breakfast Bartholomew-style means heading out into pre-daylight. After 23 years of marriage, my husband has converted me. It's either roll out of bed around 5:30 AM and venture forth into that bleary-eyed world, or lose that breakfast connection with him.

I've been walking about 2 1/2 miles to and from Mass 
in all weather thanks to a New Year's Resolution.
On this particular day, we hid in a corner booth. The waitress chatted with us about "Shire" selections and our favorite Tolkien scenes from his novel, as she plied us with coffee. Continuing the epic flare of our conversation as we tucked away pumpkin pancakes and "Shire sausage," we discussed New Year's Resolutions. At one point, my husband said, "There's no reason why you can't go to daily Mass."

With his work downtown and needing to catch an early train, my husband hasn't chosen this option, but he challenged me.

"But every time I try to do that, I get sick," I protested. After about one week adding Mass to an already tight schedule, I usually find myself battling sore throats, sinus infections, etc.

I walk past this historic house connected 
with author Ernest Hemingway after Mass
on my way to town. A cheerful sight 
each morning!
"Well," he countered. "Maybe it's time you tried again."

After breakfast we headed to Home Depot, a peaceful destination at that hour and season. We rambled along together, until Ed got caught in the mousetrap aisle. An amazing end-of-season sale drew me to houseplants.

One tropical plant as tall as my waist beckoned. The price was ridiculously low. Amidst our winter's deep freeze, wouldn't some jungle-like foliage be welcome? Also, it would nicely remind me of my new connections in India (Pray the News in 2013).

The plant needed a larger pot, threatening to make the whole project too expensive. I lined up several plants in the aisle. Several pots. Crossed my arms. Frowned. A middle-aged woman in the orange Home Depot apron popped around the corner. "Can I help?"

I've been taking good care of my new
umbrella plant.
She joined my search, shuffling pots, checking price tags, climbing on all fours into the back of deep shelving units. She finally found a great deal.

"I'll pot your plant for you," she offered.



Thus began a lengthy process of emptying three new bags of soil into the pot, loosening my plant's root ball, and positioning it absolutely straight and centered, a task she approached like an interior decorator hanging wallpaper. 

There are master chefs and master painters. I was watching a master planter. She poured in several $6-7 bags of soil and tapped the pot gently onto the floor to disperse it gently around the rootball. She repeated the process once, twice, then again. She opened a $6 bag of sphagnum moss. I wondered how Home Depot was making money on this deal. 

"You're potting this for free, right?"

"Oh, yes."

I'm doing well with all my houseplants this winter.
For someone who loves gardening, I have a bad track
record with keeping indoor plants alive. Maybe 2013
will change all that. :)

The result? You judge, but we think our new "umbrella plant" looks great!

Over these past weeks, I've often thought about that Home Depot lady. She was professional but warm. She cheerfully crawled around the floor and dug in dirt to make customers happy. She treated that plant like her own. I hope I treat others with such care and dignity. I wouldn't have gotten the plant without her help, and it has become a nice reminder of a number of things: the impact of treating people well, the gift of cross-continental friendship and -- a reminder of a significant morning.

You see, that Shire Breakfast started me off in a new direction. The New Year's Resolution conversation was a watershed, launching me off like Tolkien's Frodo on a quest -- walking to and attending daily Mass each morning. How have I been doing?

Through January, I attended Mass every Sunday and weekday, taking off Saturdays to recover. Hurray! Now this brisk early-morning walk to Mass is so embedded in my daily schedule, I feel off keel on Saturdays when I miss the opportunity. 

But I can't get cocky.  February hit and I felt my energy dip, as I rolled out of bed just 20 minutes before departure. A few days ago, I started feeling under the weather, fighting off chills just in time for Lent. But I'm determined. I was healthy for six weeks of daily Mass attendance, and feeling great as I shuffled through snow to make that 6:15 AM appointment with God. I'm recognizing people in the pews and giving my own version of the papal wave as we all wish each other peace. 
My mom prayed this novena
when deciding whether or not
to marry my father -- a widow
15 years her senior with four
children, aged 9 and under.
She prayed it again to plead
heaven's aid in conceiving my
older brother.

Keeping in the flow of the liturgical year is so beautiful...noting daily saints and reflecting on the readings being offered in every Catholic church world-wide. But most importantly, receiving the daily Eucharist changes the whole focus of the day. As soon as I post this blog, I'm going to go get more Vitamin C! No, I can't let illness deter me...

As for Lenten Resolutions besides daily Mass? I may be choosing too many! I've added prayers to my routine over the past month, becoming better friends with Sts. Raphael and Jude, and the Blessed Mother (through her 54-day Rosary Novena). I'd like to continue with the prayers (posted below), keep up a daily rosary, go off desserts, and give up clutter in my house. And one more. As I go about my days, may I lavish others with the consideration and joy of a "master planter." 

Prayer to St. Raphael -- Patron of Travelers and Bearers of the Good News

St. Raphael, archangel, you protected young Tobiah as he journeyed to a distant land. Protect all travelers and most especially those who go about near and far preaching the Gospel. Guide and inspire modern apostles who use the communications media to bring the Good News of Christ to many souls. 

You also brought healing and joy to all you met. Help those who bring the Word of God to souls, that they may be as instruments in God's hands to draw many to lives of Christian holiness.

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

© Daughters of St. Paul

Prayer to St. Jude

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Pray for me when I feel helpless and alone. Please make use of that particular privelege given to you, to bring hope and comfort and help where they are needed most. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in my tribulations and sufferings, particularly (here make your request). I promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

From National Shrine of St. Jude/Claretian Missionaries