Sunday, September 24, 2017

Daily Gospel Reflection for September 24, 2017 - 25th Sunday

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Today’s Gospel Reflection from Catholic Mom: Matthew 20:1-16A  September 24, 2017 - 25th Sunday by Meggie K. Daly
In this parable, the vineyard owner offends our modern world’s sense of fairness. Imagine that after a full-day's work in the field, we are the ones who are tired, hot, and sweaty. Why should the workers who have barely worked receive as much pay for their efforts as those of us who have labored all day? What a battle to combat the envy that threatens to stir in our veins!
This envy flows from our implicit expectation that God should operate by the same rules that govern our earthly sense of fairness. But Divine Mercy and Justice do not operate according to man-made rules and laws. Divine Justice cannot be separated from Divine Mercy. Such a separation is only a construct of our limited human minds. And for that, I am forever thankful.
It is the Pharisee in us that measures out what we receive compared to our neighbor gets. The cure for such unhelpful personal comparisons is gratitude. Consider God’s willingness to welcome us home no matter what we have done, when we bring Him honest hearts that admit our failures. Even moments before death, Our Lord is willing to give us the full payment of eternal joy for our life of sinful failures!
“Oh, how beyond comprehension is God’s mercy! Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God.” Diary of St. Faustina (1698)
Oh, how grateful I am that God does not “pay” me according to what I deserve!

Ponder:

Consider a time that you have felt offended or envious because someone received more recognition than you. Can you identify why you felt that way?

Pray:

Heavenly Father, help me to live each day in gratitude for Your many mercies and graces that You shower on me due to Your goodness and not my worthiness. Help me to combat any envy that should arise in me.

Copyright 2017 Meggie K. Daly
Meggie K. Daly blogs at meggieKdaly.blogspot.com. She is the mother of six adult children and three grandchildren. She is the author of Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary which was published in May 2017. She is writing her first novel ever so slowly between her ministry work and teaching part-time at a "local: university She is a retired research scientist.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Inescapable Beauty of Mary's Assumption

Today Catholics all over the world celebrate and remember the day when the Blessed Virgin Mary’s body and soul were “assumed” into heaven—The Assumption. Being conceived without the stain of original sin, Mary escaped the decay of death and now enjoys that perfect unity with God for which we have all been created. The Church calls what we would think of as her death as “dormition” or “falling asleep” at the completion of her earthly life. The Assumption and the Immaculate Conception of Mary are inextricably bound together.  By applying the salvific graces of Christ’s redemption at the moment of her conception, Mary escaped our destiny of death and decay.  For those who may struggle with the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption, remember that God is not bound by space and time as we are—God is God and we are not! 


As my pastor said during his homily at this morning’s Mass, the Blessed Mother, as the Immaculate Conception, gives us plenty of food for thought about the role of suffering in Mary’s life. For example, did Mary experience the pain of childbirth, did she get sick, and so on? We know directly from Scripture of the terrible emotional pain that Mary suffered when losing the child Jesus in the temple and then later witnessing the passion and death of Jesus.  No doubt there were many occasions of confusion and grief for the Blessed Mother. Anyone that has reared a child knows that suffering and pain is part of the motherhood equation.  Given that Mary’s sinless life was still burdened with suffering this should lead us to ask if there is another way to view suffering—a way that does not come naturally for us—a redemptive way of viewing suffering. The Theology of Redemptive Suffering is that great gift of Catholic theology to us.

Today’s feast takes me back to a memory from my past.
The Assumption of Mary by Peter Paul Rubens

The image shown to the left is from page 83 of my book, Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary.  Peter Paul Rubens completed this massive painting in 1626 as the main altarpiece for the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Belgium.  It remains there to this day. The painting took Rubens 15 years from concept to completion. 

During my forties, I spent many weeks at a hotel in Antwerp located on Gorenplats (Green Square) across the from the Cathedral of Our Lady.  Although Mass is still celebrated in the Cathedral, I do not know if the Cathedral remains open as it was years ago affording the opportunity for people to enter at their leisure. (The world was not quite as crazy as it is today.)

The first time I entered the Cathedral, I was still hung over from jet lag. It was a Sunday afternoon and I timed my visit well after any Mass would have been celebrated.  I was not a practicing Catholic or even an avowed Christian at the time.  I knew nothing about the art inside, but I was intrigued by the outer architecture of the cathedral.  

As I stepped inside the cathedral, the only available light streamed through the stained glass windows. Being alone, I walked up to the altar to “take in” the majesty of the 15.8 ft by 10.7 ft Ruben's painting more clearly. Even in the non-optimal late-afternoon light, the beauty of this commanding painting conveyed a labor of love that was both infectious and breathtaking.  How I would love to go back to that cathedral now for the celebration of Mass! 

Ruben uses poetic license in his interpretation of the Assumption as a choir of angels escorts Mary from a would-be-tomb surrounded by the apostles—many of whom are shocked by Mary ascending into heaven.

Awe and appreciation of such exquisite religious art, such as Ruben’s The Assumption of Mary, fails to escape the agnostic, atheist, or non-Christian believer in God. In beauty, we find God—whether we are looking for Him or not.  All that is beautiful pulls us towards the One that is Perfect Beauty.  Our intrinsic love and attraction to beauty are great gifts from our passionate and persistent God who uses all of His creation and our artistic creations to draw us to Himself.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lessons Learned From The Other Half

My husband and I have some shared personality traits, but in most things, he is less outspoken and impulsive, and much more patient than I am.  He recently "flexed" those personality muscles to effect a significant change in the life of our community.

Seven plus years ago, we moved to a small rural town in the Southern U.S.  As an "import" to the South and as a newbie to small town culture, I found life in our new community less than appealing after the initial "honeymoon" period of getting settled in. I fully expected to say good-bye to my professional work life; my techy job skills were not obviously transferable to the agrarian-based economy of the area. Moreover, our county had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.  It was the unspoken social mores that took me by surprise; those I had to discover by missteps over time.

Shortly after we arrived, another married couple relocated to our town. The woman, who was a lawyer and became my friend, was as flabbergasted as I had been to find out that women were not allowed to join the local Rotary Club.  It is not that our local club had rewritten their bylaws to exclude women, but the influential men of the community, a generation older, were dead set against it.  Fears of allowing women to join took form as comments like: "If women are allowed into the club, they will take over!" or  "If women are members, they will do all the work, and the men won't do anything."

Many of the women in the community had no issue with the fact that women could not join the local Rotary Club; they reflected their husband's point of view or accepted it as a fact of life.  The local Rotary Club was (and continues to be) a tremendous asset to the community in more ways than I can recount.  Perhaps the good work that the club performed perpetuated the resistance to allow women to become members of the club.

To set the record straight...I have no issue with male-only organizations or female-only organizations, but I do take issue with a lack of integrity. I wanted the Rotary Club to own their male-only de-facto policy. Eventually, my lawyer-friend and I raised our concerns about the local club's exclusion of women to the highest level of National Rotary leadership.  A small party of local Rotarian leaders made their way to the national headquarters and, predictably, denied that women could not join the local Rotary Club. So that was that.  Nothing had changed.

Now, here comes the twist.  My husband joined this very same Rotary Club shortly after we moved here. It bothered me terribly that my husband belonged to a club, that not only allowed such discrimination but denied that it was occurring. My husband did not stand in my way of reporting the local club for their exclusion of women. Although he never once complained, my husband's life would have been easier had I not initiated the effort to allow women into the Rotary Club.  While he detested the pretense, my husband enjoyed many aspects of being in the club and was not about to relinquish his membership!  He instinctively knew that any man, who nominated a woman for membership, jeopardized his status in the club with the "old guard."

Eventually, I gave up trying to get my husband to leave the club and relegated my discontent to interjecting a few conversational barbs, here and there, when my friends and family came to visit. My lawyer friend relocated to an area where she found a more favorable culture to practice her legal profession as a woman.  This experience of "no women allowed" in the local Rotary Club encapsulated much sadness, disappointment, and loneliness that dogged me for my first five years living in this community.

Time passed...I planted lots of flowers and rose bushes. I started doing things that I enjoyed (like writing and teaching) despite making a minuscule fraction of my previous income.  In short, I adjusted. I am happy to report that I have grown to love my life here.

My husband understood this little town better than I did.  He should have, he grew up here although he had been gone for 25 years. He was taken aback by some of what he observed, too. We both felt as if we had stepped back in time by 20 or 30  years. He opined that once some of the "old guard" became less active in the Rotary Club, and the younger men were in leadership positions, then women would be allowed in. It was just a matter of time and, yes, patient waiting...his strength, my weakness.

Several weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, my husband privately nominated two women to join the local Rotary Club.  He felt that the current Rotary leadership was more receptive towards female membership.  The leadership team's primary concern was how some of the "old guard" might feel towards my husband when they inevitably found out that he had nominated the two women. After a week of deliberation, the leadership team made their momentous decision.

My husband waited until the two women were initiated into the club to share the news.  We were out of town on the big day when the local Rotary Club installed (pinned) their first female members.

This experience got me thinking about voicing injustice when it is clear that change is needed.   When we know that things are not right, we have to make a choice.  Do we rock the boat or do we wait for the currents to take us to the desired destination?  I am not sure that it is an either/or decision. Perhaps it is a both/and with the manner of how we raise our concerns being paramount.

The primary role of each spouse in a marriage is to lead the other spouse to sanctification, destination heaven. Each spouse is the emery board that helps file the rough edges of the other spouse, along with Grace and the Holy Spirit, to more closely conform to the image of Christ thereby reflecting the glory of God. Whether our spouse allows us a model-worthy window into their actualized virtue or an opportunity to deepen our virtue due to challenging circumstances of the marital relationship itself, they are a gift to us!

Suffice it to say, that I am very proud of my husband for his wisdom and patience.  I want to grow in his virtues.  He loves it when I tell him, "You were right!"  So I say here, "Mr. Daly, you were right!"



Friday, May 26, 2017

Daily Gospel Reflection - Catholic Mom

May 26, 2017 - Feastday of St. Philip Neri by Meggie K. Daly

Immediately preceding today’s Gospel passage, Jesus and calls His apostles to trust that better times are coming. Jesus knows that His impending passion and death will break their hearts, shatter their dreams, and will surely leave them confused about how they have spent the last 3 years of their lives.
The apostles do not yet understand that Jesus is birthing the kingdom of God on earth and writing our divine adoption papers with His blood. Only after His resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit will the apostles’ nightmare of the next hours, days, and weeks assemble into the glorious, big picture.
Jesus uses the analogy of childbirth to create a glimpse into the apostles’ future. Four of my children were born completely naturally. I still remember the exhaustion and the pain, despite all the proper breathing and relaxation techniques. I also recall the overpowering joy as I first locked eyes with my newborn baby and gush of maternal hormones that held captive my entire being. Somehow the miracle of life overshadowed the anguish and travail of the birthing process.
It is easy to lose our trust in really bad times. We may face the untimely death of a loved one, a devastating mental or physical illness, the loss of home or job, broken relationships, or just come up empty as we search for meaning in mundane circumstances and monotonous routines. It takes trust to get down on our knees to thank the Lord for the crosses of the day and to muster a childlike trust that tomorrow truly is a brand new day. But that is really what Jesus wants us to do. His Holy Spirit is praying for us when we do not know how and turns our anguish to joy.

Ponder:

What is the area in your life that you find hardest to place in the Lord’s hands and just let go?

Pray:

Holy Spirit, strengthen me to face each day with joy no matter how the day unfolds; Jesus, help me focus on Your Passion when I am overwhelmed; and Father, help me to trust that You have only the best in store for me.
 Copyright 2017 Meggie K. Daly
BY  ON 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Celebrating the Centennial Appearance of Our Lady of Fatima

A year ago at this time, I had no idea that I would be releasing my first book this May in conjunction with the 100 year anniversary of the appearance of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. Moreover, I had no idea that I would be writing a nonfiction book on the Rosary!  I thought that I would be finishing up my much-neglected novel.  But my plans mean nothing—my hands do not belong to me—I am consecrated to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  This means that I am simply an instrument in her hands to do with me as she will.

I am very grateful to ALL the super busy people that took the time to read my book and to the four that have written the endorsements below:


Bead by Bead is an excellent resource for helping us all better appreciate and pray the mysteries of the Rosary." 
-Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC 
Author of 33 Days to Morning Glory

“In this centenary anniversary of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mother at Fatima, Meggie K. Daly has given to the Church and the world a beautiful gift in the form of her book, Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary. Increasingly, numerous Catholics have discovered the Holy Scriptures as an encounter with Christ—Meggie has delivered a book which unites the twin gifts of the Word of God and the Holy Rosary—a beautiful and powerful combination leading to holiness. In our turn, we can respond to Our Lady of the Rosary by praying the Scriptural Rosary, fulfilling our Lady’s request at Fatima by bringing to life the teaching of St. John Paul II, “The Rosary is a Gospel prayer.” 
- John Galten
 National President of Militia Immaculata, USA

"Meggie K. Daly’s Bead by Bead: the Scriptural Rosary is more than just a devotional aide; it provides a brief history of the Rosary in addition to her testimony from rosary skeptic to devotee . She shares the fruit of her experience with the Rosary after discovering the richness of the saints and their devotion to Mary. Meggie K. Daly leads the reader into an experience of the Rosary as a prayer experience rooted in the Scriptures. The pages of the Gospel will certainly come alive for anyone who reads and uses this book." 
- Fr. Edward Looney 
Author of the best-selling rosary devotional A Rosary Litany

"Meggie K. Daly's Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to take their daily recitation of the Rosary to a whole different—and higher—level. Using this book, the reader has at his/her disposal a line of scripture for each bead that will help the reader to reflect more deeply on the mysteries and prayers of the Holy Rosary. Includes background, history, resources and an appendix, as well as the author's journey towards a Scriptural Rosary. Highly recommend!" 
- Ellen Gable Hrkach 
Author, editor, publisher, past president of the Catholic Writers Guild

Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary
is published by Misericordia Publishing

Monday, September 5, 2016

Best Healthy Gluten-Free Bread Recipe

I have been asked for this recipe so many times that I decided to publish it on my blog.  It is a bit off my usual topics, but blogs don't really have hard and fast rules, right?

A Word of Caution
Baking gluten-free in not like baking with wheat flour.  I am a life-long baker and, in many ways, I had to throw out everything I thought that I knew about making homemade breads, cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, muffins, and pastries and go back to first-grade.

If you have a serious health reason for eliminating gluten, going GF is worth the investment of time, energy, and money. And in that case, finding a great bread recipe is critical, at least it was for me! 

Why Is Baking Gluten-Free Challenging? 
In a nutshell...because GF dough seems harder to work with, initially, and it is more expensive to get your kitchen set up properly.  But to be specific...
  1. Gluten is to bakery products what a metal support system is to a skyscraper.  When you toss the gluten out of your dough, it has a v.e.r.y different character.  That lovely shiny stretch is replaced by a gooey substance that is nothing like traditional dough.
  2. A professional stand mixer is a requirement which is much more expensive than a hand mixer.
  3. A digital food scale is a must for weighing out the various flour ingredients.  I use this one but there are many good ones.
  4. A Pullman bread pan will help you be successful.  The higher sides and narrower base to give the bread support as it rises and cooks.
  5. A bevy of flours will be required to achieve the taste and texture of a truly delightful baked product.  That, also, means more kitchen space and a greater dollar investment in flours.
  6. Many of the all-purpose GF flours at the grocery store are horrible tasting.
  7. Not everyone enjoys the slow process of trial and error.  I like experimentation and am disciplined enough to change one ingredient at a time and document what  I did. 
I spent almost 2 years perfecting my healthy GF bread recipe.  I found other bread recipes that were quite yummy but they did not meet the level of healthy that I was seeking.  I was, also, looking for something quick and easy once I got my kitchen stocked and set up.

If you want to bake GF breads, I strongly suggest that you buy Nicole Hunn’s, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: (Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More cookbook.  Hunn's 'Bakes Bread' cookbook really is the starting bible for breads, in my opinion.  If you follow her recipes EXACTLY you will gain much confidence in your ability to bake amazing GF breads.  BTW, her blog is awesome.

Once you graduate to the level of creating your own recipes, you may want these two cookbooks:  The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook and The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2 Cookbook.  It will help you unleash your kitchen chemist because you gain insight into the interactions between the ingredients in GF breads.  The recipes are great, too.

If you want to bake French desserts and heavenly cakes—go directly to Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts without passing go.  Seriously!  Figuring out where to find superfine GF pastry flours is very important.  

Flours for GF Healthy Bread
  • Basic bread flour  - This is a blend of all-purpose GF flour (such as Better Batter), unflavored whey protein powder, and Expandex modified tapioca flour.  To get the exact proportions—buy Nicole’s book.  
    • There are other basic bread flours but the genius of Nicole’s basic bread flour is the addition of protein powder!  I use Now Sport’s Protein isolate—Thank you, Nicole.
    • Better Batter contains white and brown rice flours, tapioca starch, potato starch, xanthan gum, and pectin.  
  • Oat flour - I use old-fashioned whole grain GF oats and grind it in my Vitamix blender.   (You can purchase already ground oat flour.)
  • Ancient Grains (30% each amaranth, millet, and sorghum flours and 10% quinoa flour).
    • I really wanted to use some teff flour, too, because is so healthy.  But the flavor is just too overpowering for me.
First, make a starter that rises for 40-50 minutes in a warm breeze-free area*.  Mix it up really well by hand with a spatula. Then cover the top with plastic wrap secured in place with a rubber band. The mixture will more than double.

Starter Ingredients
  • ½ cup Basic bread flour
  • ½ cup oat flour
  • ½ cup Ancient Grain flour
  • 2 tsp dry instant yeast
  • 1.5-2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 °F)

While the starter is rising, add the following ingredients to the stand mixer bowl, and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly:
  • ¼ cup golden flax seeds (do not grind)
  • ¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup old-fashioned whole grain GF oats
  • 2 tbsp psyllium husk powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum

Right before you are ready to add the starter, add these ingredients into the stand-mixer bowl:
  • 1 cup plain (unsweetened) whole milk yogurt (do not use non-fat)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp molasses (you can use honey but I like molasses better)
  • ½ cup warm water not hot (<110 °F) 
Now add in the starter to the stand mixer bowl.  Pre-mix by hand with a strong spatula just to get everything moist before you turn the mixer loose.  Use the batter attachment NOT the dough hook. (The more air in the dough the better the batter is.)  Run the mixer on 5 or 6 (medium) for 5-6 mins.  Stop once or twice to mix well with the spatula and to redistribute the dough, which will be super sticky.

Have a Pullman bread pan ready (I use butter-flavor canola spray to grease).  Let the bread rise for an hour in a warm breeze free area.  Cover the top with plastic wrap.  Use the spatula to "coax" the mixture into the bread pan.  Wet your fingers to smooth the bread down.  Sprinkle some oats or seeds on top if you desire.  Let it rise* for an hour or until it is just slightly over the top of the pan.
NOTE: I used to use Nicole’s method of scrapper kneading but I found that I really do not need to use that for this recipe.  But if you want a perfectly rounded top on your bread, do knead it using scrapper kneading.  You will need to give it more time to rise if you knead it.  (If I was making cinnamon rolls—for which I use a different dough—it would be a must!)

In her book, Nicole talks about letting the dough rise in the refrigerator for several days to increase the yeast flavor prior to kneading, shaping, and the final rise.  That does indeed work to develop more of a yeast flavor but the bread will not quite rise as high which was more important to me.  You may want to try it both ways.  It will take several hours for the final rise if you go the refrigerator route.

Put into the cold oven so that the pan is in the center of the oven.  Turn the heat to 350 °F.  Set timer for 40 min.  At 40 min take bread out of pan and place on cookie sheet for another 10-15 min.  Have foil ready to cover top of bread when it is the shade of golden brown you like.  I like my crust crunchy but not too brown.  Because ovens vary you will need to figure out what works best for you.  
Let the bread cool for several hours before you cut it into 18-20 slices.  The bread freezes well but I find that if I just store my slices is a zipper freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator it does fine. But I also consume the whole load in 5-6 days by myself.  I love this bread.
Sliced up in a quart freezer bag.  Note the full-size slices.


I really can’t thank Nicole Hunn enough for the education is getting started and all the tricks that she has taught me in her cook books for GF cooking.  Definitely check out her blog: glutenfreeonashoestring.com.
*To create a perfect environment, I first heat a mug of water in my microwave to ~90 seconds on high.  Then I push the mug of hot water to the back of the microwave and place the non-metal covered bowl, containing the starter, in the microwave so that it does not touch the mug.  Then I close the microwave door.  This provides a warm, moist environment for the my starter.  I use this technique for the dough, once shaped and in the pan for the final rise, too.



Another loaf with poppy seeds on top.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

Daily Gospel Reflection for July 29, 2016 - St. Martha

From CatholicMom.com this summer...

Today’s Gospel: Luke 10, 38-42 – St. Martha
“There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
In today’s gospel reading, Martha is overwhelmed with the busyness of her serving tasks and asks Jesus to prompt Mary to help her. Martha has chosen the self-sacrificing task of serving those who are guests in her home. This is a very giving thing of Martha to do. So why does it feel as if Jesus is taking Mary’s side, who sits enraptured at His feet, oblivious to the demanding tasks causing Mary such anxiety? Surely Martha could use some help!
I have pondered this passage for years, especially as a woman, since so much of my life is attending to the needs of others. I believe that Jesus is saying that no matter how busy I am or how hectic my life is, I am still called to make time to spend with Him one-on-one. Spending time at the feet of Jesus, in our time, means one-on-one with him in prayer, worship, and adoration.
As mothers and grandmothers, we are often consumed with the tasks of caring for the needs of others. And that is a beautiful calling. But Christ’s words to Martha make it clear that time with Him is the best thing we can do for ourselves. We need that time to refresh our spirits and rectify our attitudes such that we can to give of ourselves with joyful self-sacrifice. No matter how busy we are, no matter how demanding our daily schedule, Jesus says that the best thing in our lives is building our relationship with Him. From this quality time with Jesus, every other good thing springs forth.

Ponder:

When I help others do I do it joyfully or do I feel sorry for myself? Am I making time with Jesus so that my “love” battery is fully charged?

Pray:

My dear Lord and Savior, give me ears to hear you inviting me to spend one-on-one time with you in prayer, worship, and adoration, no matter how crazy my life gets. Give me a heart of joy that allows me to give to others from the wellspring of my time spent with you.

Copyright 2016 Meggie K. Daly
Maggie K. Daly blogs at themagdaleneletters.blogspot.com. She is the mother of six adult children and three grandchildren. She is writing her first novel ever so slowly between her ministry work and part-time University Math teaching. She is a retired research scientist.
http://catholicmom.com/2016/07/29/daily-gospel-reflection-july-29-2016-st-martha/