If I but touch the hem

When a common theme comes up in your prayer time or the Scriptures, do you hear it? Do you stop to listen and take heed?

I’m certain that such recurring themes are not usually coincidence. Especially not when they fall within a time span of less than one week. When those promptings happen, they tend to stir the heart and get the gearboxes in my mind starting to move.

Consider these recent Scripture passages (emphasis mine):

“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”  Mark 5: 25-34

“When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them,”Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”   Mark 5:38-41

“Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. Mark 6: 56

 Reading these over again kind of makes me appreciate the Gospel of Mark with new fondness. When I sat in the pew on Sunday and Father Sudhansu (a priest in themSauk Centre parish cluster) in his homily spoke the sentence that I had been contemplating for several days, my husband and I did a sideways glance and smiled at one another. Father Sudhansu said,

“Those who are in need of healing want to just touch Jesus.”

 These people in the scriptures lay aside everything in order to be near Jesus, meet him, just touch him. This is what we seek, isn’t it? We walk by faith and sometimes it’s only the thread of hope that we grasp. Our bodies and souls are in varying degrees of a need to be healed. In the darkness of the night, I too feel it.

“Jesus, I need you. There is this area of my life, a relationship, unforgiveness, anger, fear, hurt, despair, that I cannot move away from. I cannot fix on my own. Come near me, Jesus, let me just touch your cloak.”

 As Father Sudhansu also mentioned in his homily, just as Jesus felt power go out from him when he was touched, there is a strength and energy that leaves each of us as we hug another person, “Like 1,000 horsepower of electricity!” While Jesus sees our need for healing and He offers that healing to us, He may also send that healing to us through the embrace of a human touch that we can feel and see, or send us to deliver that healing embrace to another for him.

 Maybe now is the time that Jesus is passing by and saying, “Arise! Your faith has healed you, my child.” Let us ask Jesus for strength to walk forward to a path of healing that draws us closer to Him. Now is the time. Arise, my brothers and sisters!

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.

Word of the Year {Part 2}

This is the second in a series.

Right around the same time that baby Joy entered my world via a computer screen, another face also joined hers. This one was slightly familiar, but only by name and photo. Her name was Mallory. Another Facebook post from a friend led to Mallory’s Caring Bridge site and her story which was just unfolding. I had connected with Mallory’s mom several years prior when both of us were just blogging moms whose paths happened to cross. I met Lori twice in recent years and found her to be a faith filled woman whose smile and kind heart left an imprint. Now her family needed prayers as Mal was diagnosed at Christmas time (2016) with rhabdomyosarcoma, a fairly rare malignant pediatric cancer. After a few initial procedures, an MRI and then a CT scan were ordered, and it was confirmed that a cancerous mass was in Mal’s left nasal cavity.

Feeling inadequate, being limited by miles and connection with the family, our family started to pray. It was all that we knew to do in order to help in some way, just as we were praying for baby Joy at that same time as well. With each Caring Bridge update and photo posted, even from across a screen something still came through in great prominence. Mal’s family motto during her hospitalizations and treatments followed a theme, that of St. Padre Pio: “Pray. Hope. And don’t worry.” Their own persistence in prayer and faith began to lead and deepen my own. While I’d always been prayerful, it became evident early on in our following Mal’s journey that God had more in store. Our family became constant prayer warriors for Mal, along with sending words of encouragement and love as often as we could during the months that followed. We connected deeply with this family whom we barely knew, celebrating the triumphs of cancer treatment and hopeful prognoses, along with the heartbreak of new challenges Mal faced.

Photo taken Oct. 30, when Mallory was visited by Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Through it all, Mallory’s faith never faltered, she never saddened or lost hope in God. And one day as I stared at the screen captivated by the face I saw there, I realized what it was that I was seeing. JOY. As if for the first time, I recognized it. My word for the year wasn’t for my own happiness in what life was going to bring me in 2017. Joy was something I was going to learn. It was being shown and taught to me by following the example of a simple teen whose focus was on Christ while she traveled down an unexpected path. Throughout her suffering, she still shared joy and a smile. She was showing people like me how beautiful life in Christ really is and accepting that He would use her as an instrument for others. From what I’d read over all those months in comments and journal entries, it sounded like young and old alike found joy through Mal’s life and the faith she lived out daily, even before a cancer diagnosis.

Mallory with Sarah’s daughter, Gianna.

In September, our family met up with Mal’s family in Duluth while we were in town for a few days. It was a surreal encounter for all of my family and being able to touch the person and spend time with the family for whom we’d been praying for months. I think I still feel her embrace and playback her gentle smile. While that was both the first and the last time I’d touch her physical body, it will not soon be forgotten. Not two months later, on November 7, Mallory’s earthly fight was over and her eternal life began.

At Mass on the Sunday after Mal passed away, I remembered how much Mal loved Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. After communion I had this overwhelming sense of the joy that Mal was feeling as she beheld the throne of God and the unexplainable magnitude of heaven. It was the first time in days that I caught a glimpse of some meaning behind Mallory’s passing. Her place in heaven was prepared, she was ready and she no longer needed to go through the earthly pain.

Sometimes with joy also comes sorrow. Had I known when JOY was placed on my heart what it truly would mean, I wouldn’t have imagined it quite the way that it ended up. God’s intricate weaving is like that sometimes, creating beauty within a tapestry of sadness that our human minds cannot grasp.

You can read Mallory’s Caring Bridge journal and share in her story at her site by clicking here.

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.

Word of the Year {Part 1}

It’s become a practice of mine over the last several years as one year closes and the new is in view, to think and pray about a word to focus on/intentionally seek out for the upcoming new year. They tend to pop up unexpectedly and yet so perfectly. Three years ago, the resounding word that popped up everywhere that December was FIAT (meaning ‘yes’) and I tried to push it away. The main reason? My primary point of reference for fiat was Mary’s ‘yes’ to the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. The human, tired mom side of me felt that God’s prompting to me with the word fiat couldn’t possibly mean an unexpected ‘yes’ from me to embrace and carry another pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I most definitely were open to having more children. I just don’t know that the realistic side of me was ready to accept it beautifully, but God knew. Looking back, He had already been preparing me and my heart to be open even where I didn’t see it. And guess what? Shortly into that new year of 2015, we found out we were expecting a new little one in September. Oh gosh, how I laughed (and cried)! And you better bet that pregnancy took more ‘yeses’ and being resigned to God’s plan rather than my own “perfect” one. You also should know that fiat turned into a boy that we couldn’t possibly imagine our family without. Fiat definitely was meant to be for 2015.

Fast forward to December of 2016 and I became aware of the word JOY entering around every corner. Brushing it away, assuming it was because it was near Christmas and that word is often used in décor and references everywhere, I continued to seek something different. There was no avoiding it. Even as the first days of 2017 began, joy still found its way. I wondered where I would perhaps find new joy or maybe a different way to be joy-filled each day in my vocation. I most certainly could use a brush up in attitude and true happiness in my life and vocation, so I was up for it.

It didn’t take long for me to learn that joy was to be found in circumstances and two particular people, a toddler and a teen, to stir me to the core.

Within a day or two of solidifying JOY as my word, God put before me the story of a little girl, baby Joy, as I opened my Facebook newsfeed one early morning. I read the horrifying story of a toddler, not much older than my youngest, who was in a coma due to a drowning accident over Christmas (read Joy’s story here). Tears filled my eyes as I read Joy’s story and the urgent request for prayers. Her parents’ faith and humble intentions that she just be given the chance to survive, prodded my own belief in a miracle.

My family and I joined prayer warriors across the globe who heard about baby Joy. My heart connected to Joy’s mother, Kristin, a woman whom I’d never met, but with whose motherly heart I could identify. In the days and weeks that followed, I checked Facebook for any updates as often as I could each day. There was something about being united in prayer, but also witnessing a miracle as it unfolded. Joy had gone from being without a heartbeat for nearly thirty minutes, to coming off of a ventilator and out of a coma, to smiling and laughing. Later in January, Joy left the hospital and I watched the video with tears streaming down my face and cheering her on.

I kept praying for Joy and her family, thinking of them often. I still followed her journey on Facebook and was delighted to read any updates I found (especially this one at National Catholic Register).

I learned a lot about the power of prayer and the impact of a single life in the world. I’ve seen how the smile of a radiant, life-filled toddler who is a walking miracle can draw the family of God together through even the most tragic life events. I also found that what God was teaching me about joy would be a link to deeper, unforeseen relationships to the body of Christ.

This is part one in a series.

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.

Advent Series: Grasping for Meaning

Advent is moving forward with momentum, but I guess that isn’t something new, is it? Once I found out my beloved season would be cut short by a whole week I knew I needed to be intentional this year.
I was heard on several occasions in September and October lamenting to my husband that I was already running out of time. Back then, it was about Christmas gift shopping and that was my focus. I wanted to go back to my old ways from a few years back where most of the gift purchases were complete by the beginning of Advent. I knew that for me, the stores and crowds were a trigger point for stress in years past. I’ve also found that online shopping and having gifts delivered to my door cuts down on overspending as well.

Having the opportunity just to pop in the store only for needed family essentials these last couple of weeks has been helpful in letting myself settle into the season differently. Yes, there still was the decorating and the gift wrapping along with baking, but those things could be taken in stride more easily on days at home that allowed more time to do them.

I also discovered that when I have had to make those quick stops I was more aware of all the “stuff” that surrounded me and sent me into sensory overload. I’ve done most of the errands on solo trips, so it allowed me to notice more without my own children to manage. My eyes saw the overstocked shelves, along with extra displays of “things” to fill stockings and gift bags. My ears heard squabbling siblings, disgruntled parents and bickering spouses disputing gifts and money.

My heart felt sad and heavy. In those overcrowded stores, we were all bombarded with ideas and things and stuff while we whizzed past others in what felt like cart wars to get in to the shortest check out lane. We’re all searching, preoccupied and overwhelmed. What are we looking for? Maybe happiness, joy, peace or satisfaction of some kind.

And we’re all missing it.

We’re preparing. We are once again on a journey to a manger where an infant is born to save us all. Humbly and simply, He was born. We tend to miss the message in the flurry of activity that the post-Thanksgiving weeks bring to our calendars.

How can we make these last days of Advent count? How can we settle in, even for a few moments each day, to discover the true meaning of Advent? Who needs us this Advent? We are surrounded in this world with so many human beings who do not need some-thing, but some-one. How about those elderly who are alone and without family to visit them? The neighbor who is not able to bake on their own any more, but may appreciate the cookies? The family at church who is mourning through their first Christmas without a loved one? Or your own family member whom you struggle most to love?

All is not lost. There’s still time. Where can you spread joy, peace, comfort and love as a gift to the infant Jesus?

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.

Saints in the Ordinary

The first snowfall was right outside my window and I was sitting in my house weighing my options. I had obligations, both to God and to my family on this particular day.

All Saints’ Day tends to be one of my favorite Holy Days and it’s like one of those “Amen” kind of Catholic days. The day where I call to mind all of these amazing and holy men and women who have ran the race and finished well. These holy souls who I call friend, intercessor, confidant and role model.

But this day, I had kids with schedules and commitments, so that meant the handful of Mass options in the area could realistically only come down to one for us. It also meant, like it does on most Holy Days, that I take a shift with all the kids while my husband takes a pew on his own at a different Mass option. The snow was making the little ones even more excitable as they watched it out the window and it was making me more frustrated. I didn’t have time for this! How inconvenient of the weather to ruin my All Saints day.

I readjusted my tarnished halo, bundled up the kids and prayed a prayer for safety as we headed out on the road for the fifteen mile drive to church. The roads were far from ideal and I ended up tailing a truck with a cattle trailer the entire drive. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to speed today any way. (Bless me Father for I have sinned, I may have in the past.) I tried to refocus my heart while feeling anxiety creep in my chest. Scurrying about from home to church, back home again and then in the opposite direction to another activity wasn’t really how I’d wanted to spend my day. We parked in the lot and were accompanied by others who were rushing in to Noon Mass over their lunch time, along with many members of the older generation. We were greeted by the kindly gentlemen ushers as I scanned the seating arrangements. Of course, the good hearted Catholics took up most of the back half of church, allowing no room for a weary mom with five kids to slide in and remain anonymous. I decided that was fine and, after arriving to church with minutes to spare, I most certainly deserved a place in the front third of the church. I settled in and calmed myself as I prepared for Mass to begin. I allowed myself to familiarize myself again with the unsurpassed beauty of this particular church. As the choir sang the Gloria, God nudged me a little reminding me that all of this is why I love my faith, love our rich traditions and respect such things as obligations of Holy Days.

God also allowed for opportunities to grow in my own humility and saintly endeavors during that Mass as the toddler threw his pacifier past the lady on the other end of our pew and into the abyss of the side aisle. Or when the toddler also figured out that the thick rope that held the kneeler also could be played much like a banjo. I tried not to let them bother me while pretending to be Super Mom as the Keeper of the Pew. If only they all knew that secretly in my mind I was certain that my wish to remain inconspicuous during one Mass was once again too lofty a saintly goal. I pressed on, determined to call on the saints and angels to give me peace and serenity in that moment. After all, I had gotten us all to Mass safely and on time and I knew that one way or another God would bless it. The final blessing had come and the final hymn had been sung. We began putting on the winter coats and hats to leave church. I felt an inner sigh regretting that it just didn’t feel as special this time around. I suddenly heard a voice from the gentleman in the pew behind us. I turned, ready to defend, but stopped short.

The man smiled a broad smile, leaned in and said, “You’re doing a marvelous job”.

I smiled back, held back the tears and nearly hugged the sweet older man. He had no idea that on that day my motherly confidence was lacking and, while I was being a dutiful mom and Catholic, I felt anything but saintly.

Never doubt the impact of your simple words to that person in the pew in front of you, the smile you send across the room or the promptings telling you to reach out to someone today. You just may be the saint on earth modeling those in heaven, by just one gesture or word. Choose to make that look and those words ones of encouragement to build up the kingdom of God.

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.

Harvest and Labors of Love

I found myself rather unprepared to flip the calendar to October. I’m not really sure why it came as a surprise, but my September came and went in such a flurry. I suspect that the part of me who loves to relish in the beauty and serenity of crisp fall mornings and brightly displayed foliage, finds October to be bittersweet. While it does happen to hold my birthday, it also brings about the return of earlier evening darkness and more gray days that come along with it. I find myself with thoughts of Christmas gift planning and how to strive toward a more meaningful Advent already coming to the forefront of my mind, even before the dreaded white stuff flies. I guess I’m a glass half empty sort of gal come autumn. The carefree me wants to hold tightly to the days of summer gone by, missed opportunities and bucket list things we just didn’t get around to this year. The practical side of me says that all these things pass and as the leaves turn and drop, there will also be good times to warm ourselves indoors and reconnect as a family again.

This year I’ve found myself ever more aware of harvest and the weather for farmers. While I am not a farmer myself, we live in an area where large farms are the norm and their operations are enormous. What hard work and endless hours they toil and labor! I’m not sure I’ve ever appreciated and marveled at their commitment and tenacity as I have lately. On the blustery days while I’ve sat inside tending to my tasks, they are dodging rain days and missing out on some of their own precious family time. The massive tractors, combines and semis that pass by provide a constant flow of loud traffic by our home these days. Everywhere I drive in our area, another field is being turned over, beans and corn harvested and day or night, equipment is making its path.

While I sat with the weekend before me, I was overwhelmed by my own harvesting and labor yet to be done. There are apples to be turned into applesauce and canned pie filling, many gallons of frozen tomatoes that I stockpiled during picking await becoming spaghetti sauce, soup and tomato sauce and the squash needs to be baked, scooped and frozen. Thankfully, the potatoes sit in the corner of the garage just waiting for consumption and don’t need any immediate attention. I needed to stop myself for a moment and thank God for His bounty this year. Although my garden did seem to lack in the thriving department based on seven mouths to feed, I at least had the land, time and knowledge to grow a garden. Maybe the harvest wasn’t in abundance, but it will be a welcome gift during the winter months when I can go to my freezer or canning cupboard and pull out something that God helped me to grow.

When I actually stopped to think about all of this goodness and thank God for it, despite its potential failure, a small piece of perspective gave me a clearer view. If I consider the hard work of the farmer, rather than details like how the soybean harvest leads to an influx of lady beetles in my home, I find a different view that sees the hard work of the landowner. I come to recognize better that my work is not my own. My work is His work. Together, we share in this labor of love, but we all most likely benefit from it as well.

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.

Finding Peace On The Shore

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ and he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’   Matthew 8:23-27

 As I sat there on the rocks along Lake Superior during a recent family trip to the North Shore, I found an unexpected peace. Amid the occasional shout from one child or another as they found the “perfect” rock or one shaped like a heart, I still found it. The waves slowly lapped against the rocks and I took a deep breath. I began to realize that I had been holding my breath and waiting for relief for quite a while. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another, this summer. While there were so many great days of sweet and blissful memories, there were many others that made my summer seas full of tumult and difficulty. The heaviness in my chest sighed as I sat there with hardly a care in the world, even if it only lasted a short time. I may have found more therapy in those minutes–as I just stopped and listened–than I have in quite a while.

We watched a ship on the horizon making its way to the port. It’s one of our favorite activities every time we visit Duluth, but never has it struck me as profoundly as this time around. I found more symbolism to my recent days and weeks in that ship, the breaking waters, the water hitting the rocks and even in the travel of a single rock ripple than I could have ever searched for. The mightiness of the ship on the waters called to mind the greatness of God, His goodness and His strength even in the great waters of life. My awareness of the calm even as the waves came into shore called to mind that even as the chaos of life swirls around, there is beauty, simplicity and calm even if only on the smallest shore of my life.

Although I may have been carrying around a full load of burdens over recent months, as I tossed even the smallest pebble into the great lake, it brought about a tranquility. The fresh breeze cleansed my soul as I whispered a simple prayer of gratitude for my faith in a God who never left me stranded. As we embark on another changing of seasons and these summer days fade to autumn, may the splendor of God’s creation stir a place within us that reminds us of his faithfulness and fills us with gratitude.

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.

 

Summer Solace In Scripture

Last month, I cracked open my new Bible and journal and grabbed my favorite colored pens. I was about to embark on a newly launched scripture study for Catholic women and, with all my proper tools in hand, I was ready.

I was also spiritually ready. When I purchased the study journal weeks prior to the scripture study beginning date, I had no idea how in need I was to have my dryness and thirst quenched by the Word.

What I knew was that I desired to read more of the bible, to underline, highlight and memorize the passages, but in recent years my life season hadn’t brought me to much scripture beyond the daily readings. I needed to open those pages and prayerfully read the words while my heart and mind were truly ready to hear them.

God knew that in these weeks, while facing life’s summer chaos and busyness along with other life challenges, I would come to rely on the wisdom of His Word and the insight of the ladies who contributed to writing the journal. Every day I’ve added the short scripture passages, reflections to think upon and the short journal time to my morning prayer. I’m happy that I jumped on a Catholic bandwagon of women who led me to the Consider the Lilies scripture study.

All in His due season, things come to fruition. God knew that this six weeks of reading, praying and journaling would be the balm to my soul, the water to wet the dry earth, the restfulness and encouragement for this summer journey.

I just re-read the ‘Welcome’ page at the beginning of the journal this morning. Let me share a bit of it with you:

‘Maybe this is a hard season in your life-you’re overwhelmed by the burdens weighing you down, the crosses He’s asked you to carry. This study is for you…Or maybe you’re in a sweet spot. Life is really rather good right now. You’re not feeling any particular strain…This study is for you, too….In it, you find the words you need to console a friend, to empathize with the people around you who are suffering…This study makes you a better friend to the woman next to you, to the growing child who aches, to the spouse who despairs….This study is for all of us. We’re all in it together.’

 I’ll be sad when these six weeks are over, but I have more confidence in opening up my Bible and finding the right words. I’ll be eager to start the next study set to begin in the fall. I invite you to join me. Maybe you’re looking for a new way to soak in scripture and share the journey with other women. Now may be the time that God has prepared the soil and opened your heart eager for His Word.

Take the next step and explore Take Up & Read whose mission is to “invite women to read, to ponder, and to respond to the word of the Lord”. Hopefully you’ll find yourself encouraged even by reading some of the past daily scriptures from the current study, Consider the Lilies, that I’ve been talking about in this post.

Have you already joined Take Up & Read? How has it blessed you? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

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.

Body And Soul

I recently ran a 5K. This comes from the girl who five years ago thought running was only for athletes. It’s also from the girl who is not competitive, therefore speed is not my goal but finishing the race is my prize.

After my Irish twins (now 5 and 6 years old) arrived in God’s amazing and surprising timing exactly 11.5 months apart, workouts and fitness became an outlet. I quickly found that the body and spirit connection was fueled just as much in prayer as it was in physical activity. Nothing crazy mind you, just moving. It started out with walking and other workouts, but eventually followed with running (aka jogging) if I could fit it in a couple times a week. It wasn’t really about the numbers on the scale, but instead more about feeling healthy and clearing my head.

Fast forward five years and I still stand firm on the belief that just as my day must start with at least some prayer time, it also needs to have some physical activity. To be physically and spiritually healthy is vital to our well-being. Each comes with its own amount of difficulty, especially when it calls on us to reorganize and prioritize our schedule and our lives. Neither activity is really about the exact perfect end or who wins the race. It’s a win-win for you either way. You better bet though that both will be challenging, laden with ups and downs, triumphs and stumbling blocks. Just about when I’m feeling confident, a plateau or a wall hits, and whether that’s with my physical body or my spiritual one, it causes me to stretch and grow.

As I ran the recent race, I found myself grateful for all of those hard workouts when I fought to stay moving. I felt confident in every stride and felt really good the whole race. Nearing the end, I couldn’t help but thank God for the gift of my health and the ability to use my body for good, for myself and for tending to the needs of others. The aches and pains weren’t at the front of my mind, but a spirit of gratitude rose to the surface.

I’ve come to know that the persistence and importance of my prayer life does reap rewards. Like physical activity, when I least want to make time for God is when I need to take the time and do it. Avoiding either makes the return ever more difficult. While neither road to well-being is consistently lined with rainbows and flowers, I know that God desires the best for me in order to serve Him well.

How well are you running the race these days, spiritually or physically? Do you find either to be especially challenging while tending to the daily to-do list, a job, your vocation and caring for the needs of others? You are not alone, my friend. I hope you can find the right way for you to take another step forward in your spiritual and physical health this summer. God may surprise you and do great things after you take that first leap.

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.

Surrounded with Blessing and Supporting in Prayer

With the recent ordination of Father Derek Wiechmann to the priesthood, I took a trip down memory lane. The trip took me back to 2009 when our family started helping host one of the diocesan Vocation Camps in Villard. Our oldest children were six and four at the time. On a whim and as a favor to our friend, Father Gregory Mastey, who was the Vocations Director at the time, we offered to host one of the three day camps. That led to hosting for the next five years. I’d also say that while we were merely helping feed the young men who attended the camp, along with the seminarians and priests who came to help out, our family gained a lot from the camps too. We began to relate to the seminarians who crossed our path during those years. We kept in touch with many of them, if not personally, at least prayerfully. We’d seen several seminarians come and go, but many stayed and continued the journey to priesthood. In the last four years we’ve been honored to see those vocations come to fruition in the sacrament of Holy Orders as we’ve excitedly attended their ordinations at the Cathedral.

The Heidelberger family with Father Derek Wiechmann, center, and Father Gregory Mastery, right.

While looking back through the years we’ve known (now) Father Derek, I felt my heart swell and become so grateful. Not just for Father Derek and his vocation, but for the many priests who have become part of our family circle. Some of them may have been our pastor at some point in our lives, a colleague when I’ve worked for a parish or two. Others entered our circle through an event or the Vocations Camps. Each of them as unique as the homilies they preach each week. Each of them carrying a story of significance that touched us and drew them into our lives.

Some exteriors were a little harder to tap into and the vulnerability of the man in black took longer to reach. Others are natural extroverts who wear a smile, extend a hand and we quickly found common ground on which to stand. We’ve gathered around a table with them and shared a meal in our home, smiled and waved across a crowded room at a diocesan event, prayed with them at Mass or visited them at the current parish they are serving.

One of the vocation camps the Heidelbergers helped host.

These men quickly rise to the top of our prayer list when we pray together each evening as a family. Praying for seminarians and priests has always been important to our family, but as personal connections have been made those prayers even more important. When our children were able to see priests outside of a church or Mass setting, they began learning more about them and started to find out how human they really were. They would hear about their families, ask questions of the priest, share a laugh or a joke and find out seemingly insignificant things like their favorite food or hobbies they enjoy. These turned into fond and fun memories for our kids over the years.

All of these things became reasons why priests are some of our family’s very favorite people.

We never set out to intentionally befriend these men. What we set out to do was to support and pray for seminarians and priests. What we gained is a cloud of witnesses donning black and faithfully, joyfully living out their vocation.

Another photo of campers at a summer vocations camp hosted by the Heidelbergers.

I hope you have a good example or two of a priest whom brings a smile to your face or spiritually challenges you. Continue praying for him and for all priests who need your support and prayers. Consider sending him a note of gratitude or encouragement and let him know you’re praying for him. Do you struggle with getting to know your parish priest or finding a way to connect with him? A great way to start is a smile, outstretched hand, or invitation to a meal. Sometimes it takes a few interactions or invitations, but be gently persistent. It may take him a while to have a clear calendar or perhaps he’s an introvert and encountering parishioners in their home is difficult for him. Prayerfully consider what may be the best way in which to support a priest. I’d say that letting him know you’re praying for him is a very good way to start. Those monthly Serra calendars printed in the Visitor are very useful for this. Pray for the priest of the day and, if he happens to be a priest you know, let him know that day that you are praying for him specifically.

Each of us can help foster and support vocations, whether to priesthood, religious, single or married life, one prayer at a time.

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.