Slavery to Love: Total Consecration

The chain Lucas wears on his wrist.

I always find it fun when people ask me why I wear a chain around my wrist. It looks like a regular old bracelet and I don’t think those who ask are ready for my response. Usually accompanied by a smile, I say, “It’s a reminder that I am a slave to Love.”

The chain is commonly worn by those who have gone through the Total Consecration. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote the Total Consecration in hope that people would take up true devotion to Mary, insofar as devoting oneself entirely to the will of God. God didn’t need Mary by any means, but choose her to work through to bring Himself into human existence. But, Mary needed to allow God to work through her. So, we get the humble passage in the Bible that is to reverberate in the hearts of those who have consecrated themselves:

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

A complete sacrifice of one’s own will to take up the will of God is what Mary did and those devoted to her must do. Throughout the preparations for the consecration, we are give readings from the Gospels, and different pieces from St. De Montfort’s other works. Each aimed at the Gospel passage from above. The consecration itself is one day but is to be prepared for by 32 days of preparation making a thirty-three days long spiritual retreat. There are different versions of the consecration and can probably be googled but I’ve found it best just to ask someone about it (most priests know of it, if not done it) if you are interested in consecrating yourself which I highly recommend.

The back of the miraculous medal

I recommend Total Consecration because, after having gone through it twice and about to finish up my third time, I find a constant need for a reminder that God presented Himself to man through Mary and that she is a powerful advocate to have praying for myself and others. The preparation readings allow me to deepen my relationship with Christ as well as Mary, and allow a very basic start to the sacrifice of my own will. They aren’t long readings but instead of watching something on Netflix, I read and reflect for the day. It’s a simple sacrifice but is the essential start to the process that leads to the larger sacrifices in life that come in all vocations and walks of life.

So, my response to those who ask about the chain may not make sense by a simple explanation but this sacrifice of my will for the will of God brings forth a lot of peace, joy and grace which is worth more than the comforts of following my own will. Totus tuus, Maria.

Lucas Gerads is a student at St. Cloud State University, and is pursuing a degree in Philosophy and English with an emphasis in Linguistics and Rhetoric. Read more about Lucas on the Meet Our Bloggers page.

Mary Monday: My Journey From Devoted Believer to Spiritual Daughter

My devotion to the Blessed Mother began in high school. Although I am a cradle Catholic and of course learned my Marian prayers at an early age, it wasn’t until I decided to pray the rosary as a Lenten observance that my mere belief in Mary grew into a true devotion. This decision during high school to pray the rosary every day during Lent planted a seed that would eventually grow into a beautiful loving relationship.

I had some phenomenal theology teachers in high school. Fr. Richard Lopez, in particular, is legendary at St. Pius X High School. He did a unit for the seniors that he called, “Staying Catholic Outside the Ghetto.” The unit aimed at preparing us for our first venture outside the Catholic bubble that many of us had been living and learning in. Most of us would go on to non-Catholic colleges and our faith would be tested. The course involved some apologetics and during the semester I learned how to explain the Marian doctrines of the Catholic faith. This course, my education as a whole, and my solid upbringing at home led to me being very comfortable with the Church’s teachings on Mary. I found it easy to differentiate between the ideas of devotion and worship and thus, Mary was never a stumbling block for me in my faith.

During my teen years, I learned how to explain my beliefs about Mary and fell in love with the rosary. However, this was just the beginning of a beautiful and multi-faceted devotion. During college, I studied in Mexico for a summer and was blessed to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I guess you could say I became obsessed. The story of Mary appearing to the indigenous Juan Diego and his courage in taking her message to the bishop spoke to me in a very new way. Seeing and praying before the miracle of her unfading image on Juan Diego’s talma sparked a new love for the Blessed Mother. My devotion was growing stronger.

After college, I began graduate school at the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame means Our Lady. I was studying at a school named for Mother Mary. What a blessing this was! There is a beautiful grotto on campus that is modeled after the grotto at Lourdes. During my time at Notre Dame, I would go to the grotto every evening with a couple of friends. It didn’t matter how many papers we had to write or how many beers we had consumed, we always made that trip to visit Mary, light a candle, and say a prayer. During these nightly visits my devotion to Mary continued to grow stronger and more complex.

As I transitioned into a young adult, I continued trying to learn more and more about Mary. I believed in her. I was devoted to her. I was interested in her. But it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I truly began to have a relationship with her. My foray into motherhood was not as idyllic as I thought it would be. Nursing did not come easy. The roller coaster ride of post-partum emotions was not like the fun kind of roller coaster. And I thought that I might actually die of sleep deprivation. Don’t get me wrong. I was absolutely in love with my sweet little baby girl. But I was in need of some serious emotional and spiritual cheerleading.

I was blessed to have some wonderful friends who were walking that road of new motherhood at the same time and that helped immensely. But something I had not expected was how often I began turning to Mary for comfort. And not just in the form of the rosary or other Marian prayers. I’d be awake in the middle of the night with a baby who was inconsolable and I spoke with Mary. I just started talking to her. I asked for her to pray for me. I asked her to just listen because I knew she could relate. She had born a child. She had nursed a child. She had rocked a child to sleep. I realized that my heavenly friend could probably relate to almost any problem, trial, or joy that I was experiencing as mom. She even expressed her frustration, anxiety, and fear after finding Jesus in the temple when she said, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” It was in my own experience of motherhood that I was able to begin to truly see Mary as my own spiritual mother. Mary had always been a great Saint and an object of devotion, but she became so much more: a shoulder to cry on, a model for my motherhood, and someone with whom to share my greatest moments.

My oldest daughter turns five this year. My newfound personal relationship with Mary has been a guiding light and source of comfort and joy during these five years. This past year in particular has proven quite difficult, but I have found solace in my friendship with Mary, my spiritual mother. She was there with me at the doctor’s office when I received the cancer diagnosis. I begged her to talk to my heavenly Father and plead on my behalf so that I could live and raise my daughters. She was there with me when I learned that I would probably not birth anymore children. In that moment of sadness she whispered in my heart, “Molly, I only birthed one child, but I have countless spiritual children.” Mary was with me in my grief and helped me find hope. As I continue to navigate the often turbulent waters of motherhood, Mary will be with me, guiding me, comforting me, rejoicing with me, and praying for me.

As we wrap up this month dedicated to our Blessed Mother, let’s reflect on our relationship with Mary. How do you relate to this great Saint? Do you allow her to intercede for you? Which of her many titles do you most appreciate?

Molly Powers is not a native Minnesota girl. Rather, she hails from Atlanta, GA and lived in several different states and countries before she landed in Minnesota in 2017. She is a wife and mother of two. Read more about Molly on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

When God Shows You He’s Got You

If you recall I just posted about my grandfather’s sudden passing and how difficult it has been on my whole family (read about it here). Since my last post there have been so many ‘signs’ from God that have literally brought me to tears and I wanted to share my favorite.

The first day I went to Grandpa’s grave on my own was about a week after his passing. It was pretty cold so I kept my car running. As I slowly got back into my car there was a commercial on the radio that you could get a star named after a loved one. My eyes welled with tears as I had never heard a commercial for this on the station I listen to for hours every day. When I got home I immediately looked it up and sure enough— you can name a star. I kind of took this as a sign —I needed to get a star named after Grandpa to give to my dad, Grandma, and uncles for Father’s Day. When I bought the star, I got to choose a name for the star and I could pay extra to pick which constellation it would be a part of. Knowing close to nothing about the galaxy, I chose to have one randomly selected for me.

When I saw the huge envelope in the mailbox I couldn’t wait to see how the certificate turned out. As I scanned the page, I saw the name of the star- “Grandpa Duane Walz;” I saw the coordinates; and then I looked at the bottom of the page as to which constellation it is in- Delphinus.

I instantly broke out in tears. Delphinus is Delphine in Latin, which is my Grandma’s name. What are the chances that Grandpa’s star would be in Grandma’s constellation? And who knew Grandma had a constellation named after her?!

I have a science background, so I naturally had to look up how many constellations there are and from what I have gathered there are 88 constellations that Grandpa’s star could have been a part of, but God knew how much I needed the reassurance that He already has the whole plan written.

It was another reminder that even if I don’t know or understand God’s plans I can trust that He is good and we are never alone.

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

More about Mary

If you’re Roman Catholic, I’m sure you’ve heard it: “You guys are weird – Don’t you ‘worship’ Mary? Aren’t you only supposed to worship God?”

Let’s face it, a lot of Protestants (and Catholics, for that matter) grow-up with some pretty inaccurate notions of Catholicism.  Trying to respond with patience can be a challenge.

“No. Catholics do not ‘worship’ Mary. We revere her as the first Christian – The one whose ‘yes’ opened the way for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Then I get the furrowed borrow and quizzical response, “Yeh, but you pray to her, don’t you?”

(Sigh.) “Yes, but not as God or some deity.  We Catholics believe in intercessory prayer.  When I pray to Mary, I figure I have a pretty powerful advocate in my corner.”

This does not always help.  “Yeh, but can’t we just pray directly to God?  Why do we need a go-between?”  Now I’m warming-up.  “Of course you can pray directly to God – I mean, we’re talking about ‘God’, right?  But we Catholics also believe intercessors like Mary are strong advocates for us and can help strengthen our prayer.  Why would anyone refuse such a powerful blessing?”

Now the arms are folded and the push-back comes, “Well, we don’t believe you need any of that.”

And what a shame that is!  Mary, the Mother of God, the first Christian and the Queen of all Saints (she carries many beautiful titles) knows her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so closely – as only a mother can.  Our love for her is not worship, but profound reverence for one who trusted the Word of God would be fulfilled in her.

Imagine if Mary had told the angel, “Yeh, right.  This whole thing is terrifying me, and you really need to leave right now!”  But she did not.  She said that amazing “yes” that resounds through the ages.

This is one of the most beautiful aspects of our Catholic faith!  Throughout history, God lifts-up our humanity, working through fallible persons to bring about His perfect Kingdom, and magnifying each of them through His power, grace and unconditional love.  They go from ordinary to extraordinary, becoming living examples of the holiness to which we are all called, and to which we can all aspire.  “Hey –  If she was able to do it by the grace of God, so can I!”

Wouldn’t it be so much simpler for God, in all His power and glory, to appear on earth, snap a mighty finger and make everything perfect?  Instead, “He humbled Himself to share in our humanity” through the simple “yes” of a young Jewish woman named Mary.  Talk about your “amazing grace”!

No, we do not “worship” Mary. But in this Month of Mary, we remember her amazing act of faith, all she endured, her shining example, and her constant, loving intercession. We call upon her for aid, especially in these times that know so much darkness and stress.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Those who don’t get it are missing something very special.

Steve Gottwalt is a member of the Church of Saint Peter in Saint Cloud. He and his wife Paula have five children and four grandchildren and live in west Saint Cloud. Read more about Steve on the Meet Our Bloggers page.

A DAY IN THE LIFE: Seminarian Rick Aubol

Seminarian Rick Aubol

Introducing a new monthly series called, “A Day in the Life.” This section will feature a day in the life of Catholic folks from around the diocese. This is the first in the series and features seminarian Rick Aubol, who is studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is scheduled to be ordained as a transitional deacon on June 16 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

From Rick:
This is my first view early in the morning. We wake up very early to pray morning prayer and Mass so we have time for breakfast and walking to class.
Next is of us walking into the chapel for prayer as said above.
Then breakfast.
On the walk to class. This is the market in il Campo de Fiori. Here they sell all sorts of produce and products.
The second is from a different route along one of the main roads through town which goes by San Andrea delle Valle, which is like a mini St. Peter’s.
This is part of the excavated Roman ruins and Trajan’s column with a statue of St. Peter atop it at the bottom of the hill my university sits on.
The gate of my university, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in the city, or the Angelicum for short.
A view inside a classroom.
Place for breaks, the back garden. Beautiful and peaceful, especially in the spring with the orange and then lemon blossoms bloom. Also home to the biggest olive tree I’ve ever seen.
On the way home, Trajan’s column and twin Marian churches.
Back roads way home where we have a community lunch, or pranzo, in Italian.
My somewhat messy room where I often study. The afternoons are our time to get everything done, including meets, apostolates, and homework.
Going into the chapel for vespers. After this dinner, or cena in Italian, is served. Then the night is often free. Guys may watch movies, read, study, hang out, etc. Some go out to eat in the city instead.

Missed Opportunity

OK, so I know it did to be controversial and sell its magazine, but when GQ last week put the Bible on its list of “books not worth reading,” I think it still made a mistake. (You can read the article here: https://www.gq.com/story/21-books-you-dont-have-to-read).

In an attempt to be “cutting edge” with the current trend toward faulting faith and Christianity, for which my defense has been stated, it took a short-sighted, narrow approach. Rather than throwing out the Bible as bad fiction, irrelevant, or divisive, there is potential to find commonality in it.

Jesus Christ is not just an important figure in Christianity. He was Jewish and he is contained in the Muslim faith as a prophet. Abraham is another important figure uniting the three religions.

I have to agree with Tim Swarens at the Indy Star. The Bible also provides an opportunity to understand.

He argues the Bible is important “To understand history: Our nation’s founding document states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Where did those self-evident truths originate? They’re rooted in the biblical concept that all humans are created in God’s image.

I’d argue that the same idea was the inspirational and philosophical bedrock of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher; to truly understand his work and writing, you have to read the book that most inspired him.”

Swarens also makes the point that to understand current events – everything from abortion to the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians – the Bible holds the key. Even understanding why Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are closed on Sundays.

Beyond that, how will we ever understand our neighbors if we dismiss them? So instead of insulting Christians and minimizing what they believe, I think we need to realize the Bible reaches beyond any particular group.

He also complains it is repetitive. Yes, it is. In the NRSV version, love is mentioned 538 times, praise 204 times, and joy 172 times. And I appreciate every one. He argues it is foolish and “is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.” Well, I certainly don’t read as much as I should, but, like other books, words influence and shape thoughts and actions. I sincerely appreciate (and need) the peace the Bible provides, as well as its ability to lift me up on my worst days.

From his comments, it is obvious the GQ author does not understand the difference between reading a book and truly spending time with authors. At a minimum, I believe he has missed an opportunity to encourage others to learn some history and understand current events. At most, he missed an opportunity to change his own life. It’s a shame.

Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Psalm 119:130 “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

A Few (Of My Favorite) Places to Find Mary

Spring is the perfect time to honor Mother Mary and perhaps take a drive on a little adventure, don’t you think? As a child, our family often took Sunday drives to familiar and unfamiliar places. Most times they led to us checking out a well built and beautifully detailed church (Many were left unlocked back then.) and finishing out our journey by locating the nearest Dairy Queen. Now with my own family, we don’t make those same Sunday drives, but we have located a few great spots where we’ve found Mary. I’ll even share our favorite place to pray and honor Blessed Mother Mary at the very end!

  1. Grasshopper/Assumption Chapel, Cold Spring
Image of Mary at Assumption Chapel, commonly called Grasshopper Chapel, in Cold Spring (photo courtesy St. Boniface Church)

This was a common destination for our family when I was younger. Driving up the hill and finding the serene trees and quietness around the chapel was always a treasure. Being there was a prayerful experience, whether inside the cold granite chapel or enjoying a picnic out in the grassy areas. In the summer time, you can even head here for one of the Masses during their annual novena of Masses (watch the Visitor for dates). Read the story about how the chapel came to be and its significance.

  1. Stella Maris Chapel, St. John’s University

Grab your comfy shoes and head out for a walk along The Chapel Trail to find this hidden gem. St. John’s was also a common place where my family headed in my younger years, especially to walk out to the wooden pedestrian bridge that spans the freeway. Just last summer, I took my kids and we met up with my parents and brother’s family for an afternoon trek. With kids ranging from toddlers to teens and a couple of strollers, it made for quite the eventful memory, but it was great to see the renovations and enjoy the woods.

  1. Mary Garden, Sacred Heart Church, Sauk Rapids

Living an hour away from St. Cloud, we only recently discovered this one while on our Holy Thursday Seven Churches visitation tour. Tucked away around the side of the church, following the pleasant path and over the bridge, you’ll find Our Lady of Guadalupe. (I’d like to see this one when in summer bloom.)

  1. Our Lady of the Hills, Millerville

If you’re up for a pleasant country drive to find a 22-foot high Mary beyond the Alexandria area out on a gravel road, this one is for you. The statue was built in 1993 in thanksgiving for answered prayers. The size alone is captivating and kids are impressed with her magnitude in this little hidden away spot. While you’re out driving, you could also make a stop to climb up to Inspiration Peak, the highest point in the area, to gaze out over the land and praise God’s goodness. This makes a great Sunday drive, and family memory worthy outing. Find a bit more and directions here.

  1. Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, Christ the King Church, Browerville

While stopping in to visit the church a couple of summers ago (If you haven’t seen this magnificent church, you really should stop in and pay Jesus a visit in this exceptional place.), we found the rock grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Set in the small wooded area next to the church, it’s a sweet alcove to stop and pray while taking in the enormity of God’s creation in the shadow of the towering church. If you’re following my family’s tradition of ice cream treats along the way, Cherry Grove Market on the edge of town serves up hand dipped ice cream in their little store (closed Sundays).

  1. Mary Garden, Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre

This is our family favorite! Being that we’re just a short 15 mile drive from this peaceful spot (and there’s a DQ in this town as well), it has become a favorite place to stop for a few minutes, to pray an the rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. Set to the side of the church, between it and what used to be a parish house, once you step within the well designed and landscaped garden with climbing greens and statues of the archangels along with Mary, serenity overcomes you. It is well tended and the flowers are always so exquisite that it surely is just a glimpse of heaven.

Whether it be in your home, church, town next door or a Sunday drive away, find a way to encounter Mary this May or this summer, in a new and special way. May she keep you under her mantle of watchful protection.

Sarah Heidelberger is a wife and homeschooling mom of five who keeps her days steady with her planning and organizing skills. Read more about her on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

The joys and sorrows of Mother’s Day

I have the date marked on my calendar.  Not that I need a reminder as the retail businesses and restaurants have been reminding me of Mother’s Day approaching.  And yes, it is the opening weekend of fishing!

Today is Mother’s Day. The day set aside to honor and recognize mothers. On this day we recognize, show our gratitude and bless all the mothers everywhere. The women, who give us life, birth us, raise us and support us in our lives. The women who grace us with the model of sacrifice and care for life, who place their children’s needs before theirs and without limits care for us. We honor those women who support us in our mothering vocation, those aunts and friends who (many without children of their own) support our vocational call to raise our children.

This day of remembrance has taken on many more layers for me in my years.  Mother’s Day can be a challenging day of celebration for some women who have experienced the death of an unborn child, an infant or child or a mom.

I recall many Sundays of Mother’s Day in which “all those who are mothers” were asked to stand for a blessing at Mass.  I recall those years of striving to conceive despite a diagnosis of infertility and the pain of sitting and enduring that blessing to mothers in church.   I recall the first year I too, stood to that invitation, expecting our first child, and yet was so aware of those not standing.

In recent years, I am increasingly mindful of all those moms whose mothers are no longer living in our earthly home and the mixed emotions they have, standing and yet so aware their mother is no longer living on earth.

I recognize that I cannot solve or, “ fix” the pain of these emotions; but I can and will be present in some small way as I am able this year.  The pain of mothers who have lost their child is a place I will recognize and honor, and yet have not known personally.  I just completed mailing cards for Mothers Day.  I have included in my list a few women who I wish to remember and show a bit of compassion and kindness to this year.  I do believe that a mothers love for their deceased or hoped for child never ends.  I will let as many of these moms as I can know that I am thinking of them.   I will use their child’s name when possible to honor the life that was often so anticipated and loved and so very much missed.

This day is part of our society and for the most part, it is a good day.  It also is a good day for me to be mindful of others and aware of the gift of care and compassion to others.  The simplest of acts and words that we offer during this time may be the most loving and supportive moments of many women’s days. I will use this time to reach out and show some care and compassion to those, for whom this day may not be filled with feelings of joy. I know that I cannot fix or take away the negative emotions of this day, but I can be present.  I can reach out with a card or call.   I do not know the pain of losing a burying a child, but I know my heart aches to walk with those that do know this journey.

Just as Jesus did not take away all pain, Jesus modeled for us the gift of presence.  To simply and yet profoundly be with another.  I may not use words but rather my time and presence to support and care for others.  After all, there are times where there are no words but the profound gift of being present with another that may speak volumes.

For all who will joyfully celebrate this Mother’s Day, I wish you joy and gratitude, love and peace. Thank you to those women who have “mothered,” myself and so many others. Thank you to all who support mothers.

May you be blessed and feel the profound gift you are to your children, your grandchildren, your church and our world.

Geralyn Nathe-Evans has been called to the vocations of wife, mom, Lay Ecclesial Minister, nurse and friend. Read more about Geralyn on our Meet Our Bloggers page.

Cocoa Party Cake stirs sweet memories

 

Last week my colleague Dianne Towalski, graphic designer and multimedia reporter at The Visitor, reminisced about the chocolate cake that her mother, Vicky Williams, always baked for her birthday. Vicky shares that special recipe with our readers in honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday and recalls fond memories of her own dear mom.

“This chocolate cake recipe is from a small cookbook that came with a can of Hershey’s Cocoa decades ago,” Vicky said. “I don’t remember when I made it for the first time — it was so long ago. We are all chocolate fans, so my kids usually requested chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for birthdays.

Vicky Williams, right, poses with her mom Margie Arnold in 2010.

“I enjoy baking and like the way the house smells when there’s something in the oven. It smells like home to me,” she continued. “My mom, Margie Arnold, was a great cook and also loved to bake. On Saturdays, when we were growing up, my sister Sandy and I would make two kinds of cookies for the week, while our mom baked coffeecake and cinnamon rolls. Her cinnamon rolls are the standard by which I judge all cinnamon rolls. She also made a great peach cobbler.

“Mom passed away last year,” Vicky said. “She was a lovely woman and we all still miss her so much.”

Happy Mother’s Day to Dianne, Vicky and all mothers everywhere!

Cocoa Party Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Submitted by Vicky Williams

Cake
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk or sour milk*

Frosting
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch pan or three round 8-inch layer pans.

Cream butter and sugar in large mixer bowl. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add alternately with buttermilk to the creamed mixture.

Pour into greased and floured pan/s. Bake at 350°F for 55 to 60 minutes for a rectangular cake (or 30 to 35 minutes for layers) or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Frost when cake is cool. (If making a layer cake, cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove cake from pans to cool completely.)

For the frosting: Mix the cocoa and butter together, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add the milk, a little at a time, until it’s the right consistency.

*To sour milk: Use 2 tbsp. vinegar plus milk to equal 2 cups.

A note from Vicky
I always use butter when baking this cake — it just tastes better. (If you’re going to indulge, you might as well do it right.) I always use all-purpose flour even though the original recipe called for unsifted cake flour. I’ve soured the milk occasionally, but I usually buy buttermilk. It’s good either way. I believe in doing things the easy way, so I usually bake it in a 9×13-inch pan. (Of course, it looks more spectacular as a three-layer cake, so if you want to impress people, that’s the way to go.)

Carol Jessen-Klixbull is a copy editor at The Visitor. She is a former Family and Consumer Science teacher who has a passion for all things “food.”

Lessons from Mary

This blog post is part of a series on Mary during the month of May.

May is one of my favorite months. Not just because the air no longer hurts my face, but because it is the month of Mary. I have always been a huge fan of Our Lady and made a consecration to Jesus through Mary when I was a teenager. The peace I get when I pray to Our Lady is unreal and she is the perfect example of who I am striving to be.

The last couple of weeks have been the hardest weeks of my entire life. Friends have told me how hard it is to lose a grandparent, but I could never have imagined just how hard it really is.

Tricia with her grandpa

I had breakfast with Grandpa that morning on the day he passed away. He was joking around, giving me hugs, acting completely normal. I had no idea the hug he gave me as he left St. Peter’s that morning would be the last hug I would ever get from him. When I got the panicked phone call from my dad that night, I knew something was seriously wrong. I raced out to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and after about 20-30 minutes of CPR we were given the news we were dreading- Grandpa wasn’t going to make it.

Our Lady has really been helping me through this tough time. Not only in bringing me much-needed peace in the moments I begin to realize grandpa is really gone, but also through all of the people we have encountered in these past few weeks. People came out of the woodwork for Grandpa’s wake and funeral. It was so comforting to hear of all the lives he had touched, whether he knew them his whole life, or only met them a couple times. I had never taken part in planning a wake or funeral before, but the workers at Williams-Dingmann seemed to be sent directly from God for our family. Their patience and the small things they did for my family throughout our time with them was so unbelievable. Just one example was that when we arrived at the wake, there were two teddy bears in the casket. Emily then told us that one would stay in the casket with Grandpa and the other was for my sister’s baby who will be born the end of July– Grandpa’s first great-grandchild. Small things like this meant more to us than they will ever know.

Countless people took on the spiritual and physical roles of Mary for my family after my Grandpa’s death. Not only were there a ton of people praying for us, but Masses are being offered for Grandpa’s soul all over the United States. We were also taken care of physically, with people dropping off all kinds of soup, fresh bread, cookie bars, donuts, so many kinds of flowers, and much more. Not to have to worry about what to make for dinner was such a big relief, and each act of kindness toward us reminded us of the tender care that Mary provides for us, through her motherly heart.

This whole experience made me realize how much these ‘motherly’ acts are appreciated and how we especially as women are made to nurture and to be a refuge for others. I encourage you to look at your life and see how you can resemble Mary to someone in your life that needs you, through your tender love and care.

-Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.