Along time #FanGirl of author, Maria Morera Johnson,
it is my pleasure to share SUPER BLOG TOUR
her amazing new book -Super Girls and Halos.
Wanting to find a fun way to introduceSuper Girls and Halosto you - I decided to share an interview with the author! Maria's answers are inbold- which seemed appropriate given the boldness with which she writes. While her new book can be light in tone. *SHAZAM* It is thoroughly rich in insightful and encouraging content!
Super Girls and Virtues
Maria, can you take us into your thoughts? I am so curious as to how one contemplates the virtues of justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance, and thinks ooh, female superheroes! Saints, I get, but the superheroes connection definitely begs a desire for more explanation.
I get a variation of this question a lot, and to be honest, it wasn’t really that way by design, but the Holy Spirit has a fun way of suddenly turning on the lights for me.
I knew I wanted to talk about the heroines’ strengths, and I knew there were specific character traits I wanted to talk about -- certainly Wonder Woman and Justice. As I started making lists of these attributes, I saw a pattern emerge. Boom!
A SUPER SAINT POSSE
I thought you had exhausted what I refer to as a Saint Posse, in your first book, My Badass Book of Saints. The subheadingMy Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue, hints you have more saintly friends to share with us. While I am aware this new book is not a sequel toBadass, I am wondering, will we met new companions, learn more about those introduced before, or find a mix of new and familiar saintly friends?
There are all new Saints in this book, and I hope I do have a good mix of favorites and new ones. St. Clare of Assisi is paired with Rey fromStar Wars: The Force Awakens. I include St Kateri Tekakwitha and St Mary Magdalne, too. Then, I bring along St. Mary MacKillop, who was teased by a pope for having been excommunicated, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who is one of my new favorites. I hope the book intrigues people and leads them to read more about these and other saints.
Gracious Maria meeting me for a beer in 2014
Super Role Models
As I mentioned in my first question,Super Girls and Halos, includes the Cardinal Virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance). Let’s say I fancy myself a pretty decent person, do I really need to grow in knowledge and understanding of the virtues? What benefit are these virtues to us mere mortals as compared to our superhero friends?
I think that most of us fundamentally want to be good. To that end, we seek role models that demonstrate positive traits that we’d like to emulate. These heroines have qualities that are positive and worthy of emulating, but we really need more than just “being good.” Framing these characters with the cardinal virtues, and showing those virtues in the lives of saints can encourage us to seek more than just being good, but being holy -- seeking and trusting and loving the Lord as the saints demonstrate.
A Super Sales Pitch
Let’s put on our imagination caps – this will be fun! So, I am perusing the books on the shelf of my favorite Catholic Bookstore. I seeSuper Girls and Haloson the shelf. This particular copy of the book has super powers – it can talk! What does it say to entice me to bring it home to read and share with the Bible Babes (aka the faith sharing small group that meets weekly at my home)?
You crack me up...
Ok, what would the book say? It wouldn’t say anything; it would send out a laser beam and grab you right away! I mean, you gotta be a little curious about what the super girls have in common with the saints, don’t you? I think Ave Maria Press is my superpower -- they did a great job with a fun title and cover design!
Who is a SuperGirl Saint in your life? What virtue have they helped you with? This question will be addressed throughout the Blog Tour.
Maria's Response: My Saint SuperGirl is St Clare. In the book, I feature her in the section on Justice — discussing the importance of giving God his due: our worship and praise. Like St Clare, I want to offer my praise and worship unconditionally and with great trust.
For me, the answer is St. Faustina and she's been helping me learn to trust God for a very long time. My time spent reading her diary, considering the circumstances of her life, and contemplating her conversations with Christ, have continually strengthened my own ability to trust God. I call upon her intercession often. She was particularly supportive during the adoption of my little Faithy from China. St. Faustina has helped me live the words given to me by my amazing Spiritual Director, Deacon Jerry Ryan. "If you are going to trust God, then Trust God!"
WHO is Your Super Girl Saint? Share in the Comments Below!
Shortly after completing my54 Day Rosary Novena jaunt around the houseit was time to start another when a stranger gave me her tattered copy ofRosary Novenas to Our Lady. As one who believes in GODCIDENCES (if you ask me there are no coincidences in life especially in spiritual matters), there was no way I was going to ignore this invitation from Our Blessed Mother to spend another month and half in prayer with her! The grace and blessings as I closed on the first 54 days was truly remarkable!!
One of the most miraculous moments came when I went to my bank on November 30 - prepared to beg for leniency with overdrafts I was sure had been incurred after paying an unexpected HUGE house bill and then a creditor unwilling to hold off on their payment for just a few days, withdraw another large amount. On that last day of the month, sure that things were as bleak as they could be, I sat down in the branch manager's office of my small town bank, asking her to pull up the account and assess the damage. As she scrolled and scrolled through the account, her face scrunched with confusion. She found that not only had we NOT bounced any checks but actually had $100 left in the account (*I did briefly wonder who's money we stole or she'd soon discover a bank error).
My Prayer Arsenal
Sometimes Things Work According to Prayer
IT was truly impossible, improbable and the only possible explanation was of that of a miracle!! So, like any respectable citizen sitting in a bank office, I began to cry! I wept and shared all about my rosary prayers, the 4 Fidelity trucks passing as I prayed the Memorare earlier in the month when she and I were on the phone and I learned there was nothing the bank could do to help us over this hurdle.
This miracle may havecome from a place of great trust -but it wasn't the only thing at work that month.
AS a disclaimer:
I am well aware, lots of people trust God and pray, yet things don't work out according to their prayers. That fact is one of my greatest sources of anxiety. However, I am so grateful, truly grateful to God, that this one did. It was not exactly what I would have willed - the LOTTERY might have been more in line -- but having a second chance and no bank charges was certainly an acceptable resolution.
Andblessed is she
who believed that there would be a fulfillment
of what had been spoken to her by the Lord." ~ Luke 1:45
There was much more to this miraculous outcome - much more. At the beginning the month the Sunday Mass Readings focused onthe Widow's Miteand the Widow of Zarephath, who trusted in God's providence so completely. The Widow of Zarephath made Elijah a cake with the remaining ingredientsin her cupboard yet as Elijah promised she and her son (and Elijah too) NEVER went hungry. The Homily reminded us God never forgets you and your anxieties. We are to give of our poverty and from our need not just our access then trust God to bless and provide for us.
I went home that Sunday morning and took the 2 Church related bills from the bottom of the 'to be paid' pile and paid them immediately. I was convicted thatwhat had been spokenwould be fulfilled. I do believe in miracles. I did then and I always will believe in miracles - present today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
I eagerly awoke to see if my new App project, Words with Jesus daily devotional, was finally available through Google Play. [At that point] The iOs version has been out for a few days. Sadly, the Android version [was] still not available, however, that is not the point of today's blog - merely the catalyst.
On the promise from Google that when I logged in on the PlayStore, after waiting several days the glitch holding up the processing of my new App, would be fixed. Therefore, I logged in fully expecting all would be well. It was not. And.... I cried.
Deflated I dragged my discouraged exhausted body upstairs to my office, dropped to my knees and prayed! There in the midst of my anxiety and doubt came the most amazing blessing - an insight and a grace - an answer to my prayer. I sought to know how well I was doing trying to understand the Will of God in my life. My pain, associated with the delay and difficulty, stemmed primarily from wondering if I completely misunderstood God in pursuing the Words with Jesus App project.
[Hindsight Update: Four years later, the App is no longer available on iOs nor did any of the subsequent apps in the series launch. The developer failed to launch the second app and then stopped taking my calls or responding to emails. So it may be safe to say I probably did misinterpret the signs on this one! The good news, my failure to follow the plan didn't stop God from using the experience to teach me LOTS of good things. Such as, discerning the will of God is probably done best with the guidance of another, especially when that person has a background in say, business and finance. AKA my Spiritual Director is not only a Deacon but an Entrepreneur and COULD HAVE definitely saved me lots of money and disappointment, but I digress.]
SCORE! CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME REVIEW THAT I HAD NO IDEA EVEN EXISTED!! ~ Thank you CatholicApps.com
BACK TO THAT TRUST THING
Although I waited nearly a year to roll out the Words with Jesus Apps, nothing has come easy - finding a developer,fundraising, and now the launch have all come with delays and glitches. As I sat staring at the 'error' message alerting me that I had once again been denied access to my Google merchant account, I wondered if the real 'error' message had come in my discerning God's will in this plan from the start.
On my knees I began my morning's prayer in the form of the Rosary. As I began with the first Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation, I began to ponder Mary's Fiat - her yes to God's call to be the Mother of God. There is no indication in the Scriptures that Mary, once 'on-board' - went back and forth in her head or heart wondering if she had gotten the wrong message. While I am not blessed to have an Angel clearly articulate the Will of God to me, I am graced with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through that special grace, that gift from God, I can discern through wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, whether the inspirations on my heart are of God or not.
Mary, clearly understood the plan correctly. In our graced exchanges with God we must trust in the loving mercy and care of God, The Father. Even if my response to what I believe are God's inspirations are off by a mile, He will direct my path and bring good of my desire to please and serve Him.
My perch for most of the Words with Jesus decision making. @Copyright Allison Gingras, 2017
Where Is The Peace in Trusting God?
The actual revelation that brought peace and restored hope came while continuing through the Joyful Mysteries. As I reviewed the life of Mary, vividly illuminated was the plans God has for us sometimes comes with trouble. This is true even for Mary, the Mother of God.
The very birth of her Son, Jesus, would be marked with so many pitfalls and trials it would have been easy to think this CAN NOT BE WHAT GOD WANTED! So many of Mary's joys intertwined with a sorrow -- the birth of her Son, followed a harrowing flight into a foreign land - with a vast number of unknowns. The presentation of Jesus to Simeon in the Temple brought validation of her Son's saving work quickly followed by the prophecy of the piercing of her heart. The joy of finding of the Child Jesus preceded by three days of anxious searching and worry. Mary did not doubt because things were not unfolding as she perhaps anticipated. She trusted so fully in God's love for her instead of being filled with fret and doubt, she pondered and accepted. Surrender and obedience demonstrates great trust.
How Does This Equate?
While launching an Android devotional App is in NO way on the same stratosphere as giving birth to the Son of God, seeing a correlation produced invaluable lessons. Mary's model of trust and hope centered on God's love for her, is what I must cling to when I feel doubt, confusion, or fear seizing my heart. Every day requires some moment of stepping out of the boat into the deep of the unknown and requires us to rely purely on grace of God.
Grace comes as an undeserved yet freely given gift from God that will enable us to hear from God in prayer. Personally, I need to hear things at least 3 times in prayer before acting on them. Trusting God through the eyes of Mary I recognize that sometimes that means going at the first nudge, aware of his promise to make good in all circumstances for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Empowered by this knowledge, I must not look back with "boy, did I miss that up" but like Mary, "do whatever He tells you," with confidence trust.
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My Worry Remedy
This summer, my daughter discoveredThe Andy Griffith Showon Netflix. As I watched a few of the black and white episodes with her, it made me nostalgic for a more simple and peaceful time. As the show progressed into color I noticed the story lines began to reveal the reality of life. There has always been and this side of heaven, there will always be, something to threaten the peace Jesus came to leave us, even in the most idyllic settings.
That does not mean we should wave our anxiety flags in defeat. A faith in Christ comes with hope, as St. Peter declared, “a living hope.” When troublesome times arise, it is easy to become frightened and worried. Jesus counsels us as to the worthlessness of worry when he says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
Worry changes nothing, including the inevitable of a fixed life expectancy. Trust me on this one: I’ve tested it out one too many times! As if Jesus’ words were not clear enough for us to see the frivolousness of a life of fretting, Padre Pio advised, “Pray, hope, do not worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
As someone who struggles daily with anxiety, I find comfort and strength in the many beautiful traditions and devotions of the Catholic faith. When I worry, I tend to be paralyzed by my thoughts. My worries, fears, and concerns can spin round and round on the hamster wheel of my thoughts for hours and days! These are just 5 of the many devotions I have found to break anxiety’s spell on me. Not only do some of these devotions give me healthy and helpful actions, but they also renew my thoughts so I can once again focus on Christ and live in hope.
Once considered the prayer of grandmothers, old-fashioned and even a chore to pray, the Rosary is finally getting the respect it deserves. For a worrier, the familiar prayers offer encouragement and the feel of the beads through my fingers brings comfort. Often, I use my Rosary as a “Spiritual Abacus,” praying each bead for a special intention such as a sick friend, a hope for my child, or in thanksgiving for a blessing! As my wise friend Michael once told me, “Prayer isn’t the least you can do; it is the most you can do.”
SACRED HEART OF JESUS
This devotion won my heart with its 12 Promises. Nothing soothes a worrier’s heart like healing, protective, security-offering promises from God. Those Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus given to us through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are:
(1) “I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
(2) I will establish peace in their homes.
(3) I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
(4) I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
(5) I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
(6) Sinners will find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
(7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
(8) Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
(9) I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored.
10) I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
(11) Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart.
(12) I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.” Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN
Seven years ago, our family was blessed to welcome a little girl via adoption. We were so thrilled when we received her photograph in April and were informed we’d be able to travel and bring her home in 6 to 8 weeks. That quickly expanded to 6 months! The wait was agonizing, often triggering my negative-Nelly thoughts until I would be convinced something would prevent us from becoming her forever family. This is when I discovered the calming effects of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The boys and I made it a habit to pray the Chaplet every day at 3 o’clock during our long wait and received many incredible insights and blessings. By the end of 2009, Faith become a permanent part of our family, as did this special trust-producing prayer.
Time in our quiet chapel with Jesus has done more for overcoming my anxiety than any other remedy I have attempted. No matter how wound up I arrive, Jesus always has a way of straightening me out. Whether I spend my time in quiet contemplative prayer, engaged in spiritual reading, or engrossed in Scripture; this time apart from the busy world always brings me peace. Some of my Adoration visits have been wrought with tears, pleas, groans, and sighs; yet Jesus never leaves me in that knotted state. This ‘foretaste of Heaven’ as St. Teresa of Avila referred to Adoration as always gives me the hope I seek in the most troubling and unsettling of circumstances.
The Miraculous Medal is what is known as aSacramental. “Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” ~ Catechism Catholic Church1667
A Miraculous Medal has been around my neck since 2007 and has been touched uponthe relic of many a Saint. My anxiety always subsides when I reach up and feel the raised imprint of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Saints, and remember she along with many other friends in heaven (my Saint Posse) are bringing my prayer intentions to Jesus.
For nearly 20 years, I have made 10 lists of 10things I want change or accomplish in the upcoming year. Not sure what precipitated this tradition? Maybe it was my love of making lists! That thrill I get from physically crossing an item off my to-do list!
My resolutions are always organized by theme.
10 ways to a healthy me;
10 books to read (probably only one I actually accomplish);
10 decluttering projects to tackle; and
10 Spiritual practices to adopt, etc.
Some Things Never Change
De-cluttering last Summer, I found old journals containing previous years' lists. It was funny (or maybe a little sad) how many items carried from year to year. The lists included such things as:
Last September, I felt a desire to revisit my New Year's Resolutions. As Summer wraps up and the calendar fills with new activity, I want to take a fresh look at my resolutions. The timing is perfect. I enter Autumn refreshed and refocused. As opposed to frazzled in January following the hustle of the holidays.
So, here I am at September, recharged and ready to roll! How about you?
Day One: A Healthier Me
Battling weight and food issues since the age of 9, "10 Ways to Lose Weight" is a constant goal. My first Autumn reset? Renaming this goal to "10 Ways to a Healthy Me." Experiencing another Weight Watchers failure, I had to admit my AD/HD and tracking are incompatible. It is time to wave the white flag on WW. The second Autumn reset is on how I will approach food.
After two years of battling multiple food sensitivities - gluten, dairy and sulfur - I am looking at ways to be mindful of what I eat. Aware I need to work on my portion control issue I went searching for something that better suited me. I discovered Intermittent Fasting (IF). Although many versions of IF exist, I am settling on the 16/8 variation. Which means fasting for 16 hours and consuming food within an 8 hour window each day.
Two months in and I have lost only a few pounds. That may seem discouraging but any month I've not gained weight, I am happy. Adhering to the philosophy that slow progress leads to permanent change. The 16/8 Intermittent Fast serves a dual purpose. It aids my Spiritual Goal to incorporate fasting with my prayer. A daily fast is easier than I expected. The new IF eating plan produces spiritual fruit for me to feast upon. "Fail" days are minimal. I don't feel deprived which positively affects my emotional well-being!
Autumn Reset #3 also covers two resolutions. With the weather cooling down enough for being outside, it is time to resurrect my Rosary Walks. This Autumn there is a bit of a hesitation because two homes were built in my backyard over the Summer. If one neighbor thinks I am nuts, three may be enough to have me committed. Though being a fool for Christ has never been a hindrance before!
The walking assists with my healthy me goal. The Rosary aligns with my daily prayer target. My secondary goal is a 54-Day Rosary Novena for Peace in the world. Our Blessed Mother words to the children of Fatima a 100 years ago continues to encourage me to pray the Rosary. My anxious heart seeks the comfort and hope the Rosary offers regarding the end to the threat of war.
What Autumn Reset toward being a healthier you would you like to implement?