Sunday, July 29, 2012

Death, peace, and my sister

Barbara Janet Cooper Schonert
I just returned from Texas after rushing down one week ago when my sister Barbara called me from the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. As she lie there in bed waiting for answers, she told me that she was at the hospital due to a sudden onset of very serious health issues.

Barbara had previously beat lung cancer and had been in remission. We had been counting our blessings because Barbara was doing so well. Then, suddenly, last week Barbara faced this new set of devastating complications. After a few days and much testing, Barbara was told that she now had acute Leukemia.

I quickly tied up lose ends at home and jumped on a plane to go to Texas to be with my sister. Before leaving I begged many prayers from so many prayer warriors I know, including Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal Burke, Fr. Benedict Groechel, folks at EWTN, the Sisters at EWTN, and many others too, including the Missionaries of Charity Sisters (Mother Teresa's Order).

A Missionary of Charity Sister told me over the phone that she and the other Sisters would be praying for Barbara and us all. We both prayed that the blessed relic of Mother Teresa that Sister said she would send me to bring to my sister would arrive on time. It did.

She also blessed me (over the phone and in a letter) with beautiful poignant words from Mother Teresa to take to my heart and which can speak to all of our hearts.

This photo was taken very soon after I arrived last Sunday evening
This is what the MC Sister shared with me: "Death is nothing except going back to God, where He is and where we belong...Death is the most decisive moment in human life. It is like our Coronation: to die in peace with God."~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

My sister was so happy to receive the relic of Mother Teresa and told her visitors about it. I also gave her a blessed Miraculous medal that I had touched to the medal Blessed Mother Teresa gave me that I always wear. I had previously placed the medal I gave Barbara on Blessed Pope John Paul II's tomb and on Mother Teresa's bed (where she stayed at the convent when visiting her Sisters in Rome). Barbara had me put the blessed Miraculous medal on the chain around her neck. 

Barbara was a dear sister and also my best friend. She was a mother, a daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and caregiver to many. Speaking of being a caregiver, as I sat by her bedside attempting to take care of her, Barbara reminded me (more than once!) to make sure I had something to eat. 

She loved life and her family. She enjoyed inspiring others with her writings. Barbara was a fighter. Her life was not an easy one--she endured much hardship, yet she moved forward in faith.

A beautiful soul!
All throughout her fight with lung cancer she possessed an incredible positive and prayerful outlook. She showed up for her chemo and radiation appointments with a contagious smile and uplifting words. She amazed her doctors. Then, faced with her new devastating illness, she continued on each day with a hopeful heart, questioning doctors, but resigned to God's holy will. 

Barbara and her daughters

Last week was filled with many blessings amid the tears and struggles. I'm very happy I was able to spend some time with Barbara and chat with her in between her naps.

Barbara passed on to her Eternal reward on Friday surrounded by loved ones.

Barbara was and is an inspiration.

I know in my heart that my sister, my best friend, Barbara is at peace. As sorrowful and painful as it was to witness my dear loved one suffer intensely and then leave us all much too quickly, my heart is at peace and I pray for those whose hearts are not at peace. Of course, I am extremely saddened by her passing, but I am thankful for God's peace. Times like this are never easy, but God is always near, granting us graces for the asking.

I love you, Barbara. I always will!

Barbara loved the following quote and posted it on her blog ( some time ago and also on the back cover of one of her books:
                                                                      Be at Peace
"Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; Rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; And when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."~Saint Francis De Sales

I think God must be carrying me in His arms right now. He was carrying me all last week even as I couldn't "stand it."

A Cooper Reunion many years ago--all 8 "kids" are here. It was on the Fourth of July
(hence the American flag shirts). Barbara is in front on left. My brother Gary
on the far right has also gone to his Eternal reward.

Please live each day as it was your last and prepare your hearts and souls for Eternal life. I welcome prayers for Barbara's soul and for her whole family and her friends. 

Thank you, everyone for your prayers. May God bless you all in great abundance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My daughter's volunteer work in Thailand

While I am in Texas to be with my sister in her time of need, my dear daughter, Jessica is gearing up to leave for Thailand very soon to volunteer her time, talents, and heart to provide emergency support for women there on the Thailand/Burma border. 

I'll share her words below and offer a link where you can see more and possibly donate a few bucks to help her reach her goal. Thank you in advance for your prayers and monetary help. God bless you!

Jessica says:
Starting in September, I will be volunteering for about 6 months on the Thailand/Burma border as an American Jewish World Service (AJWS) Volunteer Corps (VC) volunteer. AJWS is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice and dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world, regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship. 
 In Thailand, I will be working with a women's empowerment organization that works to increase young people's access to educational opportunities, as well as to promote positive political activism among women. This organization provides gender and human rights trainings for female victims of rights abuses, provides emergency support for women who have been trafficked, and builds their outreach capacities to help them participate in the political process. 
 AJWS coveres the cost of airfare to and from Thailand, but I am responsible for all living expenses, food, health insurance, visas, transportation, and all other costs. I'm hoping to raise $3,000 to cover the cost of living for 6 months so that I can learn from and work with these inspiring women. I'm hoping to raise enough money by Friday, August 24th.

The link to see more and to donate is here:

Thank you in advance! God bless you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

My sister

My sister is extremely ill. She had overcome a battle with lung cancer and was recently hospitalized due to a critical health situation. After many tests, doctors did not give us hopeful news.

I am jumping on a plane to go see her and be by her side. Please keep her and her family in your prayers, and please, for my journey too. I pray to be the hands and feet of Christ. Thank you so very much for your prayers.

God bless!


Be At Peace

"Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; Rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise, God, whose very own you are, will lead you safely through all things; And when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same understanding Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."
~Saint Francis De Sales

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mother Mary understands our hearts

Recently a woman wrote to me to tell me that a prayer she read in my book A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers really touched her heart and gave her great encouragement while enduring a particularly painful trial.

It's on page 32. I'll post the prayer here and hope it speaks to you as well.

Dear Mother Mary, you toiled away caring for your family and household. In addition you were subjected to many great challenges, being the Mother of Our Savior. You understand the burdens women endure. Please intercede for me now because I am weary from the duties of my life and the contradictions from my culture. I will surrender my stress and fatigue over to you rather than gripe and complain, and I hope that by your grace, you will convert my sufferings into something more worthy to offer to your Glorious Son. 

This book is available along with all of my titles from my website:

Happy feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!

God bless you today and always!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Recent Radio segment

Here's a recent radio post for your listening pleasure:

Enjoy and God bless!


Radio today

Radio today at 12:30 PM Eastern. You can check it out here:
I'll be chatting about motherhood, grace, prayer, God's call to women, my books, and so much more. I hope you can join us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I didn't plan to go back into the Post Office

When I was out today I had to go into the Post Office to mail a couple of parcels. On my way in, I spotted an older woman coming up behind me, dragging a big box. I quickly backed up to get the door for her. She seemed very angry and used the Lord's name in vain, saying, "That other *bleep bleep* guy just walked right past me!" She reminded me right away of whom Mother Teresa would say is "Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor."

I quickly turned the subject to something more positive as I helped her. Then, I realized that perhaps I should also offer to help her carry the cumbersome package to the counter even though I wasn't sure I could actually lift it based on the way she was dragging it. As I asked her if I could help her bring it in, a young man coming through the door just then decided to bring it up to the counter for her.

She said, "Just bring it in and leave it there anywhere, I have other stuff I have to get from the car."

After the kind man brought the large box in, he looked at me (now waiting at the counter) and said, "Does this count as our good Samaritan deeds for today?

I said, "Ah, well, not quite, we have to do more that that" and I smiled. He agreed and smiled back.

I finished my transactions and headed to my car. Once in the car I quickly checked my email on my cell phone and was ready to go home.

As I pulled out of my parking space, I spotted something in my rear view mirror that really made me smile. The guy who helped drag the box in for the woman was now standing at the Post Office door, one hand holding it wide open, the other moving around in animation as he spoke. He was standing on the side, out of the way, and chatting up a storm with the woman he helped. He clearly seemed to be going out of his way to spend some time in conversation with the woman.

As I was heading out of the parking lot, even though I had some cold groceries in the car and it was close to ninety degrees out, I decided to turn right around, park my car again and go back in the Post office! Why? So that I could somehow commend that man. Maybe I'd say something about Mother Teresa and what she would say--I had no idea of what I would say.

As I approached the two in the doorway, a huge smile spread across the man's face. The woman kept on talking. I said "Hello!" to both and then placed my hand gently on the man's shoulder. Quietly and nonchalantly as I was slowly walking through the door, I said, "Now, it does," feeling pretty confident that he would know I was continuing our earlier conversation, answering his question. I pointed towards the sky and said, "More for Heaven" (meaning something like more "good deeds for Heaven."). That may sound a little strange, but I had to sort of speak in code.

I had no doubt he knew exactly what I meant. He was nodding his head and smiling from ear to ear. I walked past them and went in and re-checked my P.O. Box, silently giving praise and glory to God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Surprise on my morning prayer walk!

I love to put on my sneakers and get out early in the morning to walk (actually it's hiking) a mile or two along the curvy picturesque country roads near where I live before I start the day. I revel in the time observing nature all around me and singing songs of praise through my morning prayers. It's a meditative and reflective time for me. It's also healthy. :)

This morning I closed the front door behind me and peered at my flowers growing along the pathway to my house. I love how the morning glories burst open in praise of the morning. Other flowers had bloomed since yesterday so I admired their beauty as well. Suddenly, a beautiful hummingbird with a red belly startled me as it flew straight up in front of me, hesitated a while as his wings fluttered furiously and then off he went darting like a shooting arrow, disappearing into my front yard.

I headed out the driveway and down my usual route. I said a few prayers and started to remind myself what I needed to accomplish as soon as I got back. After checking off my mental to-do list I immersed myself back into the moment so I could enjoy my walk.

God really blessed me this morning! Thank God my head was turned to the left as I passed a small stream just as a great blue heron caught my eye. I could have walked right past him--he was peacefully standing in the water as they do. I froze, carefully getting my cell phone out of my pocket and quickly set it on the photo mode, trying not to make any sudden movements. I wanted to capture that beautiful creature in a photo.

And, I did! A couple of times. I had to zoom in with my iPhone to get the picture. I was then able to take a quick video of him. I'm sorry that I couldn't zoom in for the video, but if you look closely you'll see him fly up majestically into a tree.

Then, I left him alone and continued my walk hoping I might see him again on my way back home or some other time. 

What sort of beauty surrounds you today that you can give thanks to God for? Could it be in the radiance of your child's smile, the sunshine streaming in the windows, a hot cup of tea, an answer to prayer or the hope of one, an empty clothes hamper?

Pause some time today and thank God for all of His blessings--big and small!

God bless your Wednesday!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Keeping the Lord's day holy...

Inspiration for Catholic and Christian parents to keep the Sabbath holy...ENJOY!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Embracing Motherhood: Love, love LOVE my daughter's artwork!

Embracing Motherhood: Love, love LOVE my daughter's artwork!

Embracing Motherhood review


Servant Books: St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2012; $13.99.

When I gave birth to my first child I lived more than 200 miles from my mother. Frequent phone calls were neither part of our tradition nor feasible in my new family’s budget, so I didn’t have many opportunities to ask my mother for advice. I read Dr Spock, but his book was not my gospel.
My best resource was a friend with one child a year older than mine and a second child on the way. She and her husband belonged to our parish and our Christian Family Movement group, so we exchanged not only child-rearing wisdom but also faith.

As I opened the pages of “Embracing Motherhood,” by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, I wondered who today’s busy young mothers go to for advice. Few connect via church groups or neighborhood coffees. Do they find wise women via Facebook or search engines? Does anyone use a printed book anymore for parenting advice?

Who is likely to read “Embracing Motherhood”? After finishing the book’s final pages, I concluded that the typical reader of this book is apt to be a faithful Catholic woman seeking support, encouragement and ideas for raising children in a devout household.

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle liberally cites Pope John Paul II, especially from his writings about the family. In “Familiaris Consortio,” the late Holy Father’s 1981 seminal document on the family, he calls the family a “church in miniature” (“ecclesia domestica”), a domestic church in communion with the diocesan and universal church. John Paul II calls families to “become what you are,” an “intimate community of life and love.”

Throughout his pontificate he exhorted family members to fulfill their fourfold mission, a “specific and original” expression of the church’s mission. Pope John Paul II noted in “Familiaris Consortio” that respect and love for the family includes giving back “its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace.”

While Cooper O’Boyle’s message is predominantly encouraging, and she says her book is not about the perfect family, at times she seems to indicate that being church depends upon parents, especially the mother, carrying out “shoulds,” “oughts” and “musts.”

Given the title, it is obvious that “Embracing Motherhood” has a positive outlook. Its basic concept is excellent, acknowledging that motherhood is not a condition to be endured or perfected but to be embraced, as one embraces a beloved with both arms. Motherhood is a vocation, a sacred calling and a privilege.

Cooper O’Boyle addresses issues important for mothers and explores them from multiple angles. A chapter called “First and Foremost Educator” is a good example. Its 16 pages address parents’ responsibilities to educate their children, contemporary temptations, parental unity, prayerful example, cultural influences and relationships with adult children. As with all the other chapters, this one concludes with a few simple reflection questions and a brief “homespun” prayer.

At times while reading this book I sensed a tone characterized by a comment opening the book’s second chapter. There the author refers to her own domestic church as “an oasis to retreat to from the craziness of the world.” Is not the church “ín” the world rather than apart from it, striving to influence society rather than withdraw from it? So also the domestic church, the family, lives in the world and does not retreat from it.

A sheltering home and caring relationships are essential for family health and children’s well-being, which Cooper O’Boyle emphatically conveys in her book. She also states that she is not advocating a return to “some outdated style of human living” but to “the roots of human development and human happiness.”

Nurturing a family in this world while fostering our children’s ability to deal successfully with the world’s perils is an art, or what Cooper O’Boyle refers to as “power and grace.”


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Aimed at a Mother's Heart

Aimed at a mother's heart
By Karen Edmisten

This beautiful little book is deceptively slim yet bursting with wisdom, original prayers, advice and the encouragement of one who knows.

Donna, a writer and mother of five, also seems to have peeked into my life. How does she know what a transforming vocation motherhood has been for me? In a reflection entitled "A Glimpse into the Future" she writes:

If a woman could get a glimpse at

What her world would be

When she becomes a mother,

She would be presented with the reality

That her innermost desires and life plans

would be altered or put on hold

because she would be inundated with the care of others.

If she was also allowed to glimpse the unending joy

she would receive as a mother,

There would be no pause to consider,

No hesitation, as she embraced the whole package,

Knowing in her heart that her children will become her life's desires.

And, in "The Rosary, One Decade at a Time" I see my life reflected: the ways in which our children change our prayer lives are to be celebrated, not bemoaned, and God understands when we do such things as say a halting Rosary and sprinkle bits of prayer throughout our days and our duties.

With quotations from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (who personally encouraged the author), John Paul the Great (who gave Donna his apostolic blessing), Scripture, and a variety of saints, this book is exactly the sort to keep by the bedside, on the prayer table, or in one's purse for the many times we, as mothers, need a boost, a bit of solace or an inspirational lift.

Finally, the book itself is lovely, with pages of pastels and florals that are calming and beautiful.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle speaks straight to a mother's heart, as she embraces her fellow moms with her uplifting and hopeful message of the salvific beauty of our vocation.


Inspiring words from Archbishop Chaput

Delivered during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, July 4th 2012 by Archbishop Chaput.
Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and the city of our nation’s founding. May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts on the Word of God.
Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”
Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.
We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.
Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.
When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin. Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.
The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further. In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.
This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It’s a statement of fact. Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.
Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” — in other words, you and me. All of us.
And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, reallyrender to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?
Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.
But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Indeed religion” — the RSV version says “godliness” – “with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.” True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.
Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who — having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills — can now play anything she wants.
The same holds true for our lives. We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then — and only then — truly free.
This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.
This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.
I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.
Here’s the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?
Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum - a “new order of the ages,” the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.
And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.
God’s words in today’s first reading are a caution we ignore at our own expense. “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”
Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.

When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.