God’s Will Be Done

God blesses us with different insights when we read very familiar scripture verses. In a recent Sunday reading, while I have read it many times, something dawned on me which I had never thought of before.

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. . . Lk. 2:2.33

When taking Jesus to the temple for purification, an old man named Simeon approached Mary and Joseph and as he gazed at the baby said, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Lk.2:29-32. Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew that he would live to see the Son of God.

When reading this I thought maybe Mary and Joseph were not only amazed, as the scripture verse above states but perhaps frightened. Two complete strangers approach them in the Temple, Simeon and later Anna and proclaim the baby as the son of God, the long awaited Madonna and ChildMessiah. Did they think that the baby’s identity was a secret and would not be revealed until he was an adult or at least not until he began his ministry.  Did they wonder how many more people know that their precious baby is the Son of God? If these two people in the Temple knew, with how many more people did God share this secret?  How would they be able to protect him?

From the beginning of this pregnancy, Mary and Joseph trusted God. They did not understand but they accepted God’s plan for them and their son. They had absolute trust in God’s will. They knew that their baby would be safe because of their faith in God. Their faith led them to believe that God would provide them with the strength and the wisdom to deal with whatever came their way while raising His son.

Dear Lord, let me place my trust in you just as Mary and Joseph did. Give me a strong faith that will allow me to accept your will and not to worry about things that I have no control over. Reinforce this trust, faith and acceptance of your plan for my life.

Cathy O’Toole

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

            (This year on the Liturgical Calendar the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.  It is a compressed week.)

Last year in 2016 at this time, I was a mess.

My husband and I were running around, trying to find presents for all of our friends and family, baking cookies for the neighbors, visiting with everyone coming back to Cincinnati for the holidays, watching every Christmas movie under the sun, to make it all absolutely perfect…all while I was 3 months pregnant, exhausted and desperate for Frisch’s onion rings.

It was a weird time.

The excitement of the pregnancy made the holiday celebrations even more meaningful than usual as people expressed their joy at the soon-to-be arrival of our little one. But at the same time, my drive to make Christmas “perfect” as I had strived to do for years, made it all that much more difficult. I remember feeling paralyzed as we unearthed the Christmas decorations (multiple mounds of them), and feeling like it was just too much to try and put it all up. But I felt like I had to as I thought, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without XYZ decoration!” And so we did all of the things that would make the season “wonderful” – wrapped all of our presents perfectly, provided the perfect side dishes for all of our family gatherings, created the most perfect card to send out, and put every ornament in a perfect place on the tree. And by January 1, we were drained.

Fast forward to 2017.

Our baby girl is now 6-months old, exploring her world and growing by leaps and bounds each day. It’s an exciting time with LOTS of firsts! But I have to say one of the most surprising things for me as a new mom is that Christmas has felt “different” this year, and not necessarily in the sense I expected. What I EXPECTED was that I would create the “perfect” Christmas for her, she would stare at our Christmas tree ornaments with wide eyes and a smile, be fascinated with a big man in a bright red suit and play with wrapping paper next to me as I meticulously covered each edge and corner of a gift. It would be like a storybook. What I GOT instead was this overwhelming feeling to protect her from the overabundance of it all.

My husband and I both agreed to take a break from putting up our boxes upon boxes of decorations, we put up our tree with a few of our favorite ornaments, displayed our manger scene and decided to make most of our gifts instead of urgently shopping around for presents. Now don’t get me wrong, part of our reasons for making these decisions included sleep deprivation, a tighter budget and unpredictable diaper changes, but let me tell you – finally – the Christmas season feels GOOD. By not emphasizing all the other “stuff” that we typically do, we have found ourselves more immersed in the celebration of Advent not only at mass each week, but also at home. We’re actually taking the time to read our little blue book, use our Advent calendar and are specifically setting aside time for ourselves to spend quality time together as a family. It has inspired us to really embrace the beauty of preparation, the hope it inspires and the ultimate destiny it fulfills – Jesus’ birth, of course, but also our entrance into heaven one day.

While some people would certainly say that the deep joy we are experiencing this season is due to having a new baby – and yes, certainly, there is a lot of joy in that! – I would venture to say that the deep joy we are experiencing is due to taking the time to really reflect on and enjoy what this season is all about with our new baby. It has made me realize that we don’t need all of the stuff to make Advent and Christmas wonderful. We just need each other, our love for one another and the opportunity to spread glad tidings of great joy to the family, friends and community around us.

My husband and I have both decided to continue with our “toned down” Christmas in future years. As it is our job as parents to prepare our daughter, and any other future siblings she may have, the importance of being selfless, giving and loving others, we feel it starts here. What an opportunity to show our daughter and our future children the difference between God’s love and the false allure of the materials of this world. Jesus was born amongst livestock and wrapped in some rags. Why would I ever think that Christmas should be about all the “stuff?” Because truth bomb: all of that stuff doesn’t make us happy. The presents. The cookies. The decorations. The cards. Trying to perfect all of it only made the season miserable, exhausting and overwhelming to me, yet year after year I would do it again. And the one year we decided not to? Well. . .

It’s been a most blessed season.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of God shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was a great multitude of the heavenly host with an angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.  Lk 2: 9-14

Mandy Geyman and Lucy Mandy and Lucy


The Light Shines in the Darkness

When I was driving to work at this time of the year, I would leave my house in the morning in the darkness and return home in the evening in the darkness. During the day, my workspace was not located near a window so I only saw light on the weekends. If it wasn’t for the Christmas season, I would have been in a funk for months. One of the things I appreciate most about retirement is the sunlight during this Advent Season, a gift from God for those of us who are aging.

Oddly though, when I think of Advent I still think of darkness. Even as bothersome as the constant darkness was for me during the week, it is difficult for me to imagine a world without light, without Jesus. There are certainly people who live in the darkness of despair. Who lack hope and fail to see an end to their suffering.

But during Advent, the season before the birth of Christ, although it is dark it is not without hope. In our darkness we anticipate the birth of our Savior who will bring a renewed life to each of us. This tiny baby is the reason we rejoice and are glad. He is the light of the world.

All things came to be through Him,                                single candle

       And without Him nothing came to be.

What came to be through Him was life,

       And this life was the light of the human race,

The light shines in the darkness,

       And the darkness has not overcome it. JN 1: 3-5

Jesus, be with us during our season of darkness. Lift our spirits in anticipation of your birth. Light our lives, fill us with hope and prepare us to follow You always.


Cathy O’Toole  D29BF91F-326B-4778-8E20-A127888D1370.medium


Father, Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit.

There’s a sense of relief that comes from giving up total control. When I’ve been struggling with something for a particularly long time and/or I’ve been anxious about a task, project or uncomfortable situation, the most calming feeling occurs when someone else steps in to say, “I’ll take it from here,” or “All is well – let me help you.” Realizing the burden of the task or thing you’ve been fighting or struggling with is now given to someone else, or shared with that person, provides instant relief.

I can only imagine that sense of relief that Jesus must have experienced as he hung on the cross, dying, and finally uttered these words: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Growing up, I would often envision Jesus’ crucifixion as this terrible occurrence where Jesus remains completely calm and stoic. Unafraid. But now as an adult, I realize that my imaginings were probably not exactly accurate. Jesus was fully human – meaning he experienced every feeling, thought, temptation, physical symptom, and emotion that we face on a daily basis. In other words, there is no way that he wasn’t scared, struggling, anxious, and mentally breaking down throughout the entire ordeal.

It really is remarkable to think about – to envision Jesus hanging on the cross, each hour passing by, as he fights with himself to finally succumb to the inevitable – his death. He knew it had to be done, and he knew he was the only way to our total salvation. Yet I have no doubt he was terrified about what would happen once he finally “gave in,” and gave God total control. Jesus had never died before, he had no idea what the process would be like, if it would be painful, if it would be dark and lonely – he struggled with the same fears and anxieties that we face about death each and every day.

And yet, he let go. He finally let go of his human emotions and fears and allowed God to take total control of the situation. While he preached the importance of this throughout his life, he didn’t just “talk the talk” as they say. When it came to his death, the “big moment,” he followed through, and practiced what he preached. And in this one blip of time with these 8 words, seconds before his death, he proved to us the power of finally giving in to resistance and letting God and faith take over.

Into You Hands I Commend My Spirit.


                                                                                              Mandy GeymanFullSizeRender (2)

I Thirst – Reflection 2

Of the Seven Last Words, this is the shortest, only 2 words. But after reflecting on these two words for some time, I have identified 3 very different meanings to these 2 words.

First, I’ve always thought that this phrase of the Seven Last Words truly demonstrated Jesus’ humanity. He is thirsty. What could be more human? His journey to the cross has taken him several days. He has walked miles from the Upper Room in Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane, across the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem to be sentenced, back across the valley again to be imprisoned and scourged. Then to Jerusalem to be sentenced to death and begin his journey carrying the cross through the city. It was likely hot weather when he began to carry the cross through the dusty city streets, where he was spit upon, taunted, beaten and finally nailed to the cross and raised to hang in humiliation. Is it no wonder he was physically thirsty? So, why did he refuse it when they offered him a drink? For what else could he be thirsting?

Second, at the foot of the cross, there were only 3 people, his mother, Mary Magdalen and John, the disciple he loved. The apostles were hiding in fear for their own lives and the crowds who clamored around him begging for healing were nowhere to be found. In his book, The Seven Last Words, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says it was not earthly water for which Jesus thirsted but for human love. He says, “The Creator cannot live without the creature, the Shepard without sheep, the thirst of Christ’s love without the soul-water of Christians.” He was thirsting for you and I. Sometimes I try to put myself at the foot of the cross. When I heard Christ say, “I thirst” I don’t think I ever thought he meant for me.

As I continued my journey, the third thing I thought was Jeusus was thirsting for his Father. I have been blessed, as many of us have, to be with someone of faith who is nearing their physical death. As they approach the end, they realize the inevitable is nearing and a great peace comes over them. They are closer to God than they have ever been and realize it is very good. During Lent we sing the Psalm, “My soul is yearning for you my Lord, my God.” Hopefully, we realize that what we have worked for our entire life is almost here.

I thirst!

Dear Lord, help me to always dig deeper into your Word to be able to understand the true meaning of your life and death, as well as mine.  D29BF91F-326B-4778-8E20-A127888D1370.medium

Cathy O’Toole

I Thirst

img_0026Water is vitally important to us in our daily lives.  We need it to bathe, give water to our lawns, our pets and to our plants.  Our clothes are made clean using water.  The human body is 60% water.

Whenever I make an appointment to meet with my doctor, he always tells me to be sure to drink plenty of water in order to remain healthy.  The MAYO Clinic advises us to drink 9-13 cups of water every day to help keep hydrated.

Jesus, the Christ, as He was about to die on the cross said, “I thirst!” He wanted water.  The barbaric form of execution by crucifixion resulted in bleeding and dehydration.  I always think that had I been at the foot of His cross, I would have done whatever I could, then and there, to  relieve his thirst and bring him comfort with a drink of water.

When I worked as a hospice nurse frequently I was at the bedside of someone who was actively dying.  The person had no desire or need for food at that point in his life but often would ask for water.  They would take tiny sips of water through a straw or from a teaspoon and found relief.  It could be seen on the person’s face that water had given them some form of comfort.

In the Old Testament in the book of Psalms, David the writer of Psalm 63 tells us his soul it thirsting for God! It is said David wrote this psalm while in the barren desert of Judah, lands parched, lifeless and without water. His source of life, he knew from lived experience, was his God.

My soul is thirsting for my God also.  Not just because of Lent.  I feel today that I too am in a desert.  A desert of crime, murders, racism, misleading TV discourse, angry news reports, uncertainties in our country, my church, the world and my friendships. I thirst also, my sweet Jesus.

I thirst.

Help me to come to You and the Father, not just in this Lenten season but every day of my life.  Let me seek Your fountain of loving waters to refresh my soul, my spirit, myself, now and at the hour of my death.

Marcy Schutte

Marcy Schutte









My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

img_0026Have you ever thought to yourself when things aren’t going the way you think they should, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Recently, I have had multiple health issues, none potentially serious on their own.  This has gone on for several months and by now has completely depleted me of energy, causing me to be tired all the time.  I have had to cancel most things on my schedule because it just seems overwhelming to even consider these functions.

Then, this past weekend as the temperature outside dipped to 20 degrees, my furnace went out and couldn’t be repaired until Monday morning.  And, guess what crossed my mind?  Father, why have you forsaken me?  I felt abandoned.  As soon as I thought that, I was sorrowful that my faith was so weak. Do I really have so little trust in God to even think that?

As I was feeling sorry for myself, I thought about the many people that I work for at Hope Emergency who have so many health issues and I realized how truly blessed I am.  They not only need food to supplement their meager budget but blankets to keep them warm all the time.  The furnace man is likely not coming to them in the next 2 days.  Their health issues will also not likely be settled over time with a few medications and bedrest.  I wonder how I could have ever thought God had forsaken me.

And now during Lent, as I put myself at the foot of the cross and see Jesus raise his head to the heavens and hear Him whisper, “My God, why have you forsaken me”, I realize this may not be a lack of faith but rather the human trait of feeling abandoned.  Even Jesus, the man, reached this point when his suffering became so great, he could take no more!  He thought he had been forgotten by his father. I’ve never thought of Jesus as being weak but rather a man of supreme faith and strength.  Yet, Jesus is saying the same thing that I was thinking.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen noted in his book, The Seven Last Words that, “It was the supreme act of atonement for three classes of people: those who abandon God, those who doubt the presence of God, and those who are indifferent to God.”

My God, never let me reach a point where I feel you have totally abandoned me!

D29BF91F-326B-4778-8E20-A127888D1370.medium                                                                                                             Cathy O’Toole

Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise


Two criminals, guilty and deserving of death, hang beside Jesus. When one mocks and blasphemes our Lord, the other rebukes him responding, “Do you not even fear God?”

He continues, admitting their guilt and the justness of their punishment, and recognizing that “this Man has done nothing wrong.” More amazingly, he recognizes Christ as the Messiah and King when he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

We cannot know the reasons for this remarkable change of heart. Perhaps he was moved by Jesus’ patient suffering, or his request for forgiveness for his tormentors. This man was a career criminal, no follower of Jesus, and had done nothing to merit salvation. But Jesus answers, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” and God’s forgiveness is immediate, and with it the assurance of eternal life.

Every word Jesus speaks in Scripture is important and significant, but none more than these. He teaches us to believe that the mercy of God is always ready to reach out to save a soul, and to generously open the door to heaven to those who repent. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matt 7:7. God’s goal from before creation has been to be with us, and for us to be with Him; this is our destiny as Christians. God’s love exceeds anything we can imagine and His mercy embraces and heals us, if only we ask, as the dying thief does. God’s great and perfect love requires a response: to love Him and each other, and to forgive as He forgives.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to forgive those who hurt us, just as it can be hard to believe that God can forgive us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Real belief in forgiveness is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don’t keep polishing it up.” Lent is the perfect time for “polishing,” as we reflect on Jesus’ dying words.Monica

Monica Clark


Look on me, Lord Jesus Christ, as You looked on the thief on his cross, and on every sinner whom You have ever forgiven. Call me from darkness to my Father’s house; give me a new heart and a place at Your side at the banquet of Your kingdom. Amen  

From the Columban Fathers