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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Message to Wayne

Wayne, 8 p.m. Sunday Oct. 21 Mountain Time in the United States, we prayed as you requested. God bless you. Susan Fox

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Welcome Wayne!
By Susan Fox
Folks, here is a comment from Wayne who I met at the National Catholic Register online discussion board. If I publish the comment by the regular means, I can’t answer the question. Please I encourage you to comment on this posting if you have anything to add to my answer. Your insights will be most welcome. Notice on this site you can sign up to become a follower. (Right Hand column below --  just above the Total Pageviews.) This allows me to send you an email directly without knowing your email address.

Hi, its me, your friend wayne.
Heres a quote fom your piece....Jesus said, "Begone Satan: for it is written, "The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve." And Satan left Him.
You were , along with sister tarah, the only 2 who made sense in that NCR site. Now, if you could, help me out with this one. The adore part. Dont the catholics adore hundreds of "saints" and poor old mary? i know the prevailing theory is that these departed ones in turn pray to Jesus for you. The word adore...i dont see any problem with that. But does that quote mean to adore god only? i dont see adore as meaning worship. i adore. I adore Welches white grape peach juice. Glad to talk to you again

Yes, Wayne I adore chocolate, but – you are correct -- that is different than adoring God. It’s too bad we can’t use the Greek language because they have a whole bunch of verbs that mean different kinds of love, and that’s what we are really talking about.

I adore you, too, Wayne, but in that context I am really talking about friendship. I adore my husband, but in that context I am talking about romantic married love. My love for chocolate is self indulgent, though not necessarily bad, whereas friendship and married love involve a certain element of selfless giving. At least that is the goal.

But the love I have for God is totally different. If any of my other loves interfere with the love of God, I have to put them aside and chose God alone. You know Jesus said, any man who has left brothers, sisters, father, mother or children, or lands for My sake and the Gospel, he shall receive a hundredfold now in this life houses, brothers, sisters, mothers and children with persecutions and eternal life in the world to come.  (Mark 10: 29-30)

We do indeed believe we can adore only God and Him alone. It comes from this commandment: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.”
So as they say on Star Trek: THIS IS THE PRIME DIRECTIVE, the essence of the Christian life as Christ has laid it out for us. Our loves are prioritized.

So where does this leave poor Mary? Or poor old St. Anthony? I really love Mary. I really love St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph, St. Peter To Rot, St. Juan Diego, St. Pio.  I love so many saints I can’t list them all. I was tempted to say I adore them, but I adore them the same way I adore you, Wayne – they are my friends. So I do not adore them the same way I adore God, and if I did, I would be committing the sin of idolatry.

The Catholic Church calls this form of friendship veneration. We venerate the saints. For me, it means loving them as my friends in heaven. But the definition of venerate is “to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference.”

So how do we venerate a person in heaven without giving them the regard due to God?  It’s simple. HERE IS THE ANSWER: All devotion to the saints must have as its end Jesus Christ.

That is if you find yourself loving St. Anthony to the exclusion of God (and I know some people who don’t go to Mass but they always pray to St. Anthony), then our love has become disordered. It is idolatry.

But in the Catholic Church we are always running around talking about “True Devotion to Mary.” TRUE Devotion as opposed to FALSE (idolatry) devotion. It’s means that we do not worship her as a goddess, by no means, she is a creature created by God. We go to her instead as a more perfect means to get to Jesus. Jesus is always the goal in any devotion to the saints. Well, why not go directly to Jesus? You can! And you can go to your friends in heaven as well, and end up at the same place, God.

In fact, one of the most frustrating things about the Blessed Virgin Mary is whenever I go to her, I end up with Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit. She just disappears. I can’t get a firm fix on her. I ask St. Anthony to get me a parking space. I find a parking space and I thank God! I forget St. Anthony. And you know what? That makes him very happy because he lived his life loving God with his whole heart. He is one of those Christians, who gave up father, brother, sister, mother, children, lands to serve God. I think he even slept in a tree, which is much more than I do. I sleep in an apartment.

He was one crazy dude (from the world’s point of view), but he loved God more than anything in this world and it was evidenced by his life. He was a Catholic priest, a Franciscan in the time that St. Francis lived. He really embraced poverty just like St. Francis.

Most of the time we Catholics pray to St. Anthony to ask him to find something that is lost. But it almost seems to me sacrilegious because he was such an incredible man. (It’s not sacrilegious however. The saints are very humble.) He was sent to preach to the Waldensians  (early Protestants), and they hid in their houses and refused to listen. He happened to be standing on a bluff next to the sea and all the creatures there came to the top of the water. They seemed to be listening, so St. Anthony began to preach to them and eventually 50 people came out to listen to him along with the sea creatures.

One man didn’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, so St. Anthony made a deal with him. The man had a mule. So St. Anthony said, “Starve the mule for one day and at the end of that time, we’ll offer him food or the opportunity to worship Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.”  The man agreed. St Anthony prayed all night and said Mass on the next morning. The man did not feed his donkey for one day. St. Anthony put Jesus in a gold vessel called a Monstrance. The donkey was put in a pen. Hay was placed on one side of the pen and St. Anthony came with Jesus on the other side of the pen. The donkey did not go to his food. He went to Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist and held by St. Anthony. Then the donkey knelt.

I know that’s impossible! It was a miracle. But the man who owned the donkey returned to the Catholic faith, so I guess God felt the miracle was necessary. (See poem about this below)

One time on my birthday I lost my favorite Brown Scapular (it’s like a Catholic altar call. It’s a rope with a brown cloth and an image of Our Lady on it, worn around the neck, and it means I belong to Jesus, not to the world.)

So I said to St. Anthony, “I hate to ask you to help find my scapular because you were such an incredible miracle worker, but could ya? Would ya?”
Now I don’t hear voices or see visions but somehow I understood that I would find my scapular before the end of the day.   Suddenly I noticed it was 11:30 p.m. on my birthday and I didn’t have my scapular. So I said, “St. Anthony. It’s 11:30 p.m.!” Wayne, I kid you not, I was walking out of my dark bedroom where my husband was sleeping when I said that, and I reached out for the doorknob behind the bedroom door and my scapular was hanging on it! Now, of course, I thanked God! (not poor St. Anthony).

If you wish to know more about St. Anthony there is an article on him on our blog

Or check the labels on the right side for an article called, “St. Anthony of Padua.”

I did mention earlier that Mary is a more perfect means to Jesus, and why is that? Mary is His Mother. Christianity is really about relationships. Our God is Three Persons in a Triune Relationship. Our God is One, but He is also a Community of Persons. If I want to get to Jesus only the Holy Spirit can bring me. I can’t even say His name unless the Holy Spirit allows me to. If I want to reach the Father, only Jesus can bring me. Jesus and The Father send the Spirit. The path of holiness for myself is to understand who am I in relation to God? Who am I in relation to each Person of the Blessed Trinity? Mary was Jesus’ mother. Jesus is the God who said, “Honor Your Father and Mother.” He doesn’t disobey his own commandments. He also gave away his most precious and last possession from the cross – His mother. (He'd given up everything else, including his clothes at that point.) He said to John, “Behold Your Mother.” And to Mary, he said, “Behold your son.” It was his last moments on earth and He was dying. But He gave away His mother. So Jesus felt His mother could help us. He was giving us a short cut to salvation. 

Do you know about short cuts? They have them in computer games. They are called cheat codes. You learn the cheat code and you can win the game faster and easier. In some of the games my son played he never ever would have unlocked the puzzle to get to the next level unless he first searched online for the “cheat codes.”  In giving us His mother, Jesus gave us the “cheat code” to salvation. (Disclaimer: this is my explanation of the Catholic teaching on Mary, not that of the Catholic Church.)

In the Old Testament, when people wanted something from the King, they approached the King’s mother first to sort of soften him up. St. Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote “True Devotion to Mary,” said that when a soul gives himself to Jesus through Mary, it’s like handing a wormy apple to the King’s mother.  Mary slices the apple, cuts out the worms (our gifts are not perfect) and places the apple slices on a gold plate and hands it to Jesus. And Jesus is very pleased with you.

St. Louis Marie de Montfort called devotion to Mary the short, sure and easy way to enter the Kingdom of God. And the veneration we Catholics give to Mary is greater than the veneration we give to all the other saints. But still we realize she is a creature of God, and He made her. But what a creature! I am so grateful to her. When I think about the fact that if she hadn’t told God, “Yes, I’ll be the Mother of Your Son,” then I, Susan Fox, would never, ever have met Jesus. How sad my life would have been without Him.

Now below I share a poem I wrote some years ago about St. Anthony’s miracle:

St. Anthony's Bread

(St. Anthony of Padua converted an unbeliever by working a miracle. He gave a mule a choice between his feed or the Eucharist. The mule had been starved, but chose to kneel in front of the Eucharist instead of eating.)

I am a poor dumb mule,
     starved for a day and given a choice:
my feed or the Food of the Universe.

I knew Him:
He was the Baker who kneaded my life.
He was the King who once lay in the cold before my kind
in the form of a baby.

My knees were not made for this.
I am constructed awkwardly.
But my choice was simple:
      I knelt before the Bread of my life.
      I knelt before my Maker.
(Susan Fox)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION: Satan's strategy in the life of St. Teresa of Avila

by Susan Fox
"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

(This review of the temptations of  St. Teresa of Avila is based on the saint's autobiography. From her temptations, she discovered God's plan for her life -- to be a FRIEND OF THE LORD)

She enjoyed gossip, respected wealth, read trashy novels of chivalry, and took great trouble with her hair and nails.

Worldly honor was important to her and she bestowed her friendship in an ill-advised manner, believing mistakenly that it is a great virtue to be grateful to those who like you.

But once Jesus chose to be her friend, Teresa of Avila changed to become one of the great spiritual mystics of all times.

She single-handedly reformed the Carmelite order against fierce opposition, returning the nuns to the practice of the strict rule of its foundation. She founded 16 reformed convents, and lived to see her discalced reform recognized by Pope Gregory XIII only two years before her death at age 67.

She died Oct. 14, 1582, calling herself a "child of the Church" because she had come to mistrust herself so completely she acted only under obedience to her confessors. She was canonized in 1622, and enjoyed the distinction of being the first woman declared a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church. The honor was bestowed on her by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

But all of that was at the end of a long and bitter struggle with self, the world and Satan, a struggle that characterized Teresa's life, and the lives of all who seek the "narrow gate."

St Teresa of Avila 
The story of this struggle is contained in St. Teresa's autobiography, and it's worth reviewing her temptations because even today over 400 years after her death, Teresa's struggles are frighteningly familiar to those seeking the narrow and sometimes obscure road to glory.
For as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "discernment is required to unmask the lie of temptation, whose object often appears to be good." As Eve found in the garden of Eden, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a "delight to the eye" and desirable. But in reality, the eating of this fruit led to death.

Teresa was born on March 28, 1515 at Avila, Castile, Spain to Alonso Sanchez de Cepeda and his second wife, Beatrice.

Teresa admired her mother, who was beautiful, chaste, without vanity and very devoted to the Blessed Virgin. When Teresa was 12, her mother died. And in her grief she turned to the Mother of Jesus, and asked her to be her Mother also. In later years, she felt this one act of consecration to Mary gave her a special protection during her entire life.

As a young girl, she developed a habit of reading trashy novels of chivalry, and found she wasn't happy unless she had a good book. Later she understood this was a great waste of time, and found her treasure in God's friendship.

The simple words of the Our Father, "and lead us not into temptation" implies a decision of the heart, according to the new Catholic Catechism. Unless we wholeheartedly desire to do God's will, we will never know it. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. . . . No one can serve two masters." (Matt. 6:21,24)

Throughout her life Teresa was plagued with the temptation to care what others thought of her. She learned to enjoy gossip at a young age. And even as a young novice in the Carmelite convent, she engaged in frivolous conversations with visitors. This was strictly speaking against the rules of her order, but was a widely accepted practice. The visits also had the advantage of enhancing her reputation from a worldly point of view.

But God sent her many signals about the danger of bad companionship and the value of good companionship. As a child of 12, she was sent to an Augustinian convent after her mother's death where the friendship of a good nun turned her back from a lifestyle of vanity and worldly honor, which she had been about to embrace.

As a young novice Christ appeared to her in her mind's eye - that is interiorly - and with great sternness warned her about wasting time with visitors. Satan, however, convinced her that unless a vision is in bodily form, it doesn't count. So she
continued to receive visitors in the convent, but one day was frightened when a big ugly toad hopped toward her and a visitor. She eventually learned interior visions or locutions are far more valuable than exterior visions because Satan cannot interfere with these.

Teresa was tempted by false loyalties. She befriended a priest, who had an affectionate relationship with a woman in the convent for several years. She said that he'd lost all honor, but no one had reproved him. Teresa liked him very much, and felt sorry for him. At this time, she felt it was a virtue to be loyal to anyone who liked her.

"I had a very serious fault which led me into great trouble. If I realized that a person liked me, and I liked them, I would grow so fond of them that I would think of them constantly without any intention of offending God. This was such a harmful thing, it was ruining my soul."

God solved this problem by giving her a vision of Himself: "Once I had seen the great beauty of the Lord, I saw no one who by comparison with Him seemed acceptable to me or on whom my thoughts wished to dwell. For if I merely turn the eyes of my mind to the image of Him which I have within my soul I find I have such freedom that from that time forward everything I see appears nauseating to me by comparison."

Teresa's final temptation to misplaced loyalty was severed when a spiritual director told her to abandon certain friendships that were not actually causing her to offend God. Believing this would be an act of ingratitude, she asked him why. He told her to ask God that question and then recite the hymn "Veni Creator." While she was doing so, she was put into rapture, and heard these words: "I will have you converse now, not with men, but with angels."

After that she said she was unable to be friends with anyone except those who loved God and were trying to serve Him. She reported that this gave her such freedom - something she had been unable to achieve for herself despite doing violence to herself to the point where it affected her health.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also faces the great tempter before beginning his public ministry. After fasting 40 days in the desert to prepare Himself for His ministry, Satan appears to Him, and offers Him something good - bread. But He turns it into a test of Jesus' identity: "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread."

Then the devil offers Christ His own Father's protection, but wants Him again to prove who He is by jumping off a building. Finally, Satan offers Jesus the homage of all the kingdoms of the world. The catch is that Jesus must first fall down and worship Satan.

Each temptation appeared on the surface to be a good thing - bread, the Father's protection, the world's homage. But each would take Jesus away from God's plan for His Life. There was to be no short cuts for the Son of God. He was to go the way of the cross. Jesus rejects each temptation, never revealing to Satan who He really is. The third temptation - leading to blatant idolatry - was the last straw.

Jesus said, "Begone Satan: for it is written, "The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve." And Satan left Him.

Teresa similarly sent Satan away once and for all when she abandoned all other forms of friendship except her friendship in prayer with her Lord, when she abandoned all other loyalties except her loyalty to God, and when worldly honor ceased to matter. In short, she ceased to serve "two masters" and put her heartfelt trust into God alone.

Each of us, too, must find our way to obedience to this one basic commandment: "I am the Lord your God, and I will have no other gods before me."

The means by which God weaned Teresa from her false loyalty was by drawing her into intimate friendship with Himself through prayer. Teresa reports that her virtue increased as she spent more time with the Lord in prayer. 

As a beginner, Teresa endured great aridities in prayer and was distracted by evil thoughts. She said at this stage it's important to persevere in prayer solely to please God. She endured these trials for many years with great courage.

But the Lord gives these "tortures" and many other temptations to test "His lovers" to see if they are willing to drink of the same cup He drank and to carry the same cross He bore for our transgressions. Once they persevere through these trials, then He can begin to trust them with His great treasures.

Teresa was given all this, and more. In fact, Teresa often says that the Lord trusted her with "His secrets" of prayer, giving her infused knowledge that allowed her to explain the prayer life to the simple and the learned. "Although He is my Lord, I can talk to Him as my friend," she wrote. And the fruits of her life show that Our Lord could talk to her in the same fashion.

However, Satan recognized this "intimate friendship of prayer" was disturbing his plans for Teresa.

After she was no longer a beginner in prayer, Teresa was tempted by false humility to abandon her friendship with Christ. Seeing her sins, she resolved to stop praying until she had achieved virtue. She went on this way for more than a year, and the result, she says, was she almost lost her soul.

"I do not believe I have ever passed through so grave a peril as when the devil put
this idea into my head under the guise of humility," she wrote.

This was the same principle on which the devil tempted Judas, also identified as a "Friend of the Lord" in Sacred Scripture. Teresa wrote that Satan would have gradually brought her to the same fate of betrayal, suicide and despair. "The worst life I ever led was when I abandoned prayer," she said.

Returning to prayer, Teresa found she still suffered terrible bouts of false humility between her raptures in prayer. She felt evil, and felt like all the evils of the world were caused by her sins. This disquiet and unrest plunged her soul into a state where she had no disposition to prayer or good works. This state of desolation is caused by Satan and leads a soul to despair. Over the centuries, her books have taught many others to ignore desolation and consolation, to simply persevere in prayer regardless of what is taking place in the soul.

Teresa learned the value of trusting in the goodness of God, which is greater than any evil we can do. Because she persevered in prayer, Her own love for God finally overcame her fear and self-loathing.

Teresa also was tempted by what might seem to be prudent concern for her own health. Fears for her health held her back from undertaking penance and impeded her prayer life. She finally overcame the temptation, and her health improved. When Satan would suggest something would ruin her health, she'd respond, "Even if I die, it is of little consequence." She found that silence was a wonderful mortification, and never ruined one's health.

Another temptation Teresa had to face was the desire to do good for others. When she began to experience the benefits of prayer, she desired that everyone live a very spiritual life. It's not wrong to desire this, but it must be done with discretion. For Teresa was preaching the benefits of prayer when she was still poverty stricken in virtue and this taught others that some sins are okay because Teresa did it, and she prayed.

Another way this temptation played out was that she became distressed by the sins and failings of others when she should have kept her focus on Christ and her own faults. This caused her to stop praying and become anxious. It also leads to meddling. Safety lies in not being anxious about anything or anyone. This experience taught Teresa humility: she found her happiness in considering all others greater than herself.

Word of Teresa's great favors in prayer eventually got out through a mistake made by one of her spiritual directors. She was judged and persecuted. But this experience also taught her humility. And best of all, Teresa no longer cared what other people thought of her. Only God's opinion mattered.

"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it." (1Cor 10:13)

"It is by his prayer (lead us not into temptation) that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony," the new Catholic Cathechism states.

"In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own." Jesus prayed for us to the Father: "Keep them in your name." 

Like to read a post on angels and St. Teresa? Read

This story is the fruit of my participation in Disciples of Jesus and Mary (DJM), a Catholic formation program in Prayer, Discernment and Discipleship. We find the pattern of our own relationship with God by studying the lives of the saints and reading Scripture. Teresa self-identified as a Friend of the Lord. Mary identified herself as God's Servant when she said, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word." We all have a unique plan of life, and each plan emphasizes some aspect of the Life of Christ: Suffering Servant, Beloved Son, Child of God, etc. When God the Father will look down upon His saints in heaven, He will see the Face of His Son Jesus. 

Disciples of Jesus and Mary can be found online at http://www.disciplesofjesusandmary.org. They have a contact button. They are in many cities, some in Europe, but if they are not near you they have a satellite program, which can be done online. My husband and I always said we were Daily Mass going Catholics on the road to hell until we joined DJM in 1991. Then we had a complete turn around. Now we are on the road to heaven at last! When I was 13 years old, I read St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. I closed both books and said, "I can't do that." I couldn't really. I didn't have spiritual direction, but then when I was 39, I joined DJM and lo, I now understand both saints, and the Diary of St. Faustina too! It's funny when I joined the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, they put me in charge of the local group in Apache Junction, AZ because they could see I understood the Diary even though I had never read it before. God bless you. Keep pursuing holiness. It's the pearl of great price. Susan Fox

Monday, October 8, 2012

THE BON VIVANT: How to Live the Good Life in a Bad Economy

Or Grace Under Fire: The Role of the Handmaid of the Lord

by Susan Fox

I recently moved to Colorado, and everyone here is concerned that you are working.

“What do you do for a living?” they ask me. I am only 59. Certainly I couldn’t have already retired. But I did retire from a 12-year career as a newspaper reporter in 1991 so I could become a full-time mother, then a home-schooling mother, then a volunteer at Church, and now back to writing.

But it is very tedious to tell people I am a homemaker especially as things work in my home, I rarely do the cleaning. My husband does (and he has the job and is enrolled part time in graduate school.) And the child is grown, and sometimes helps me with the cooking.

So I decided to tell people that I am a “Bon Vivant.” It is French for living “the good life.” Technically, a person who enjoys superb food and drink. That describes me, too, except the drink I drink is Pellegrino and Iced Tea. 

I have degrees in French and Journalism plus two masters in Economics and International Trade and Finance, so I can use my education to describe myself as a “Bon Vivant.” Many people in Colorado struggle to pronounce it like I do. So there must be some advantage to being a “Bon Vivant.” Right?

Well, I thought to myself what really does a Bon Vivant do?
We are in the process of buying a house, and my realtor asked me to go into the back yard and see if the sprinklers were running. Glory be to God. Yes! I’ll run into the back yard to do that -- for that is exactly what a Bon Vivant does!

And the other day I was waiting in line to buy snow tires. Waiting in line for tires is very boring. I said,  “Lord, I’d much rather talk to people.”  So I saw a young man also waiting in line, looking bored. He wore a T-shirt that said, “Beer Security.” I said, “I like your T-shirt, what does it mean?” His eyes lighted up.  He turned into this absolutely gorgeous soul. He was so pleased I noticed him.  That must have been the purpose of my question as the young man didn’t know what “beer security” meant. But that I asked the question produced joy in his heart. It reminded me of the occasion when I yelled a question at President Ronald Reagan in the early years of his Administration when he was surrounded by cheering crowds, and he joyously yelled back, “I can’t hear you!” I did get to interview President Reagan, right? Never mind the question wasn’t exactly answered.

But as to the young man in the tire store, his joy convinced me we’ll be best buddies in heaven, I have added him to my prayer list. That is something a Bon Vivant does. She prays for other people.

So what else does a Bon Vivant do? Well, a Bon Vivant goes to the doctor a lot and fills out a lot of forms describing her numerous illnesses and lists her job as … you guessed it, “Bon Vivant.”

So there is an element of suffering in Bon Vivant’s life as it is very tedious to go to the doctor, arrive on time, find a parking space, sit in the waiting room, and again explain my ailments. But my doctors do not want me to see a psychiatrist because I always tell them I am not depressed. I don’t mind chronic minor pain, and that is all God has given me. I spend my life laughing at my son and husband’s jokes.

A Bon Vivant also spends time enjoying nature. As a full time mother, I raised kittens, baby hamsters and gold fish. I had a medicine cabinet full of fish antibiotics, some of which I ended up taking myself in later years when doctors prescribed it. I really knew how to raise happy hamsters, cats and gold fish. I used to sing, “Bubble Nose, Frisky and Christmas!” And three fat gold fish would come to the top of the tank to touch their nose to the Bon Vivant’s finger.

They were 25-cent gold fish, but they cost me a $1,000 in new tanks and medicine until we sold them some years later for $25 each. It was a big profit, n’est-ce pas? Last summer I took over 500 photographs of baby swallows nesting on our patio ledge. I grew quite attached to the three little buggers, and made a movie from the photos (see it at www.youtube.com, Channel TestisFidelis). But this was really living the good life, as they were wild birds. All I had to do was photograph them. I didn’t clean their cages, didn’t give them $1,000 worth of medicine, and my son cleaned up their doo doo. Plus the movie I made became a living image of Psalm 84. So the Bon Vivant also praises God, and admires his handiwork in nature.

The Bon Vivant also spends money. That is her job. Grocery shopping, taxes, home buying, getting the yard work done, cars maintained and writing the check every Sunday to put in the basket, these are my jobs. But my husband is assigned the task to actually putting the check in the Sunday basket. It is his money after all. He earned it.

Now as a Bon Vivant, I have many weaknesses. I do occasionally complain. I have tried, but never succeeded in becoming the perfect wife or mother. Sometimes I hesitate on the amount when I sign the checks for the Church. I really need a model I can imitate to become a better Bon Vivant. I need someone who didn’t hesitate to love the Lord her God with her whole heart, mind and soul, even with her whole body.

So let me see, whom could I find as the true Bon Vivant in God’s Kingdom? What great saint lived the life of a Bon Vivant?  It has to be somebody who suffered and didn’t complain about it. I want a joyous homemaker, someone who tried to lovingly raise a son. She has to be a person who praises God, gives Him all the credit for what He does in her life. She prays for people, intercedes when they need something, like oh say … wine at a wedding. I want someone who will get excited and do God’s will immediately it is asked of her. She wouldn’t hesitate to run into the backyard and see if the sprinkler is running. Heck, she’d even agree to become the Mother of God if it was His will.

Ah, you guessed it. Mary, Mother of Jesus, was the perfect Bon Vivant.

How does Mary define herself? She didn’t use the words “Bon Vivant.” She said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” It means, “I am his serving girl.” She sees herself as God’s servant ready to do His will at a moment’s notice.

It isn’t the realtor who walks up to Mary and asks her to see if the sprinkler is running in the backyard. It is in fact an angel, who addresses her, “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

Instead of preening at the praise leveled at her by an angelic being, she is troubled, and wonders what sort of greeting this is. Now I don’t know about you, but most people in the Bible greeted by angels or visited by God (like Moses and the burning bush) are afraid. Mary is not. She is a true Bon Vivant. Bon Vivants are courageous. But unlike me, the reason she is not afraid is because she is sinless. Most of us don’t qualify, so we get to be scared when an angelic being approaches us for any reason whatsoever.

The angel doesn’t ask her anything simple like, oh I don’t know, “check the sprinklers in the back yard.” He tells her she will conceive a son in her womb and call Him Jesus. You have to remember this request is coming from God the Father because we learn in the Bible, “God so loved the world, He sent His only Son.” So Mary is being approached by a Divine Person, God the Father, First Person of the Blessed Trinity. This is very important moment, because if she says, “No,” we don’t get Jesus. We don’t get saved. Bad stuff happens.

The angel explains who Jesus is – He is Son of the Most High (code word for Son of God the Father). I’m whispering now.

And her only question is, “How can this be, I have no husband.” So he explains the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her. Voila!  The child will be called holy, the Son of God. Then he gives her a little bit of gossip to help her understand, nothing is impossible with God. In fact, he says, her cousin Elizabeth, who was thought barren, has also conceived a son in her old age.

God so loved the world He gave His only Son. And Mary’s response is astounding! “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word!” That girl knows who she is. She is a servant, a Bon Vivant ready to do anything God asks of her. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!”

So we see Jesus is conceived from a relationship of love between a Divine Person, the Father, and a human person, Mary. The fruit of Mary’s relationship with God is so perfect that it begets by the power of the Holy Spirit the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Hint: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.)

Well that doesn’t often happen in my garden, but I can see this is the perfect relationship for every person to have with God, a relationship of love that begets a willingness to say, “Yes,” even if that only means running into the back yard and checking the sprinklers.

Mary is my model for the Bon Vivant because she praises God and gives him all the credit. Again, Mary is full of charity. She doesn’t lie around and worry because she is pregnant with no human father in a culture where women are stoned to death for that exact circumstance. Instead, she rises and leaves in haste for the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Now Elizabeth was not hoity toity (pretentious, comes from the French haut toit, or high roof from which the pretentious look down on the “lower” classes). Filled with the Holy Spirit, she greets Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Hmmm, I am going to have to consider St. Elizabeth, as another model for the Bon Vivant because that is how any self-respecting Bon Vivant should feel when visited by the Mother of God.  

But now Mary gives praise to God for what He has done for her: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior  … for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” She admits that all generations will call her blessed, but it is all God’s doing. She is just his lowly Bon Vivant. She doesn’t have a degree, work 40 hours a week, earn a wage, support her husband, invent new technology, practice medicine, make gourmet meals every night … she simply lives in God’s love and does what He asks.

Now when it comes time to buy the tires in the tire store, whoops I mean attend a wedding in Cana, Mary is very concerned about the needs of the newly wedded couple. She goes in trust to her Son Jesus, and she says, “They have no wine.”  Those are the actions of a great Bon Vivant. Bon
Vivants notice when people need things and always refer the need to Jesus. They intercede for others.

And then they take Mary's advice, "Do whatever He tells you."

Mary follows her own advice right up to the cross where in suffering she remains steadfast, loving her dying Son.