Monica E. Smith

Monica E. Smith

Monday, November 18, 2019

Reflection and Gratitude

This time of year always moves me to deeper thinking, because I increasingly tire of the world's decrying anything having to do with God or faith or humility, or even simple thankfulness. And that sentiment explodes with both barrels especially at this time of year. It's all about power and getting what you are "owed". Yes, there are pockets of movements for "random acts of kindness" that might get a few minutes on the news as a "feel-good piece" every once in a while around the holidays, but, in general, the world's mantra is "I want more and I want it now!" (and God help whomever gets in my way). The world views wealth and status as power -- more is more -- and sees humility, want and need as weakness. Add to that the increasing commercialism of Thanksgiving and Christmas especially. Even these have been reduced to nothing more than a list of things to buy or to get done, to check off and then move on to the next holiday without so much as a thought, let alone thankfulness...not much about which to feel joy. Each year the news reports, complete with video, about people waiting in line on Black Friday, or for Christmas sales. The countdown begins and the doors open, and the screaming hordes enter the store, no sign of kindness or gratitude, trying to be first so that they get what they want before anyone else takes it, trampling over people (as if they were not there) and screeching as though they were rabid animals. I sometimes want to scream out with Ebenezer Scrooge about needing to see some "depth of feeling"...! Is this what we have been reduced to?

I receive daily reflections (from, and have for some years now; I love starting my day this way, along with reading a daily Gospel or Bible chapter; the daily reflections are usually very short little blurbs taken from books, prayers, poems, homilies, etc. which I receive in email each morning. Some can be really profound, others just kind of give me a kick in the pants about something, or maybe inspire me to do something, or just to think (Heaven forbid!). I look at these kinds of feelings/moments as nudges from God -- things that I can't stop thinking about, or that I want to do to help someone, or just can't let go of; maybe God really does have an email account...

A recent daily reflection quote was seemingly simple, taken from a book by Matthew Kelly: "We are at our best when we are grateful." It is not that extremely profound, but it stuck with me because I try always to be thankful for the things and people in my life, even though things don't always turn out as I would like them. "Thank you" is the last thing I say to God each night -- for the day, the restful sleep I am about to enjoy, the opportunities that come my way, and especially for my husband, my children and all those I love, or who have come into my life. 

On the same day I read the quote from Matthew Kelly, I also came across an article about "Giving Thanks" written by Fr. Gary Yanus (Vicar General/Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Cleveland). The article is worth the read, and can be found here: Northeast Ohio Catholic magazine; (click on November/December 2019 issue; it will be on page 30). It resonated because it, too, was about being grateful. The article was quite simple, but I feel so much like the author; and, as he reminisced, it reminded me of my childhood, too, and how thankful I still am for my  childhood, my parents and grandparents and entire family, how they never were embarrassed to express their faith, never wavered in expressing their love for me and my siblings or their gratefulness to God for life. It is an example I have tried to follow in my life, with my children and family.

Both the article by Fr. Yanus and the daily reflection by Matthew Kelly reminded me of what is important in life, of where all in life comes from, and that this life is a precious gift, that we should never take it for granted or wish things away (even the difficult times, as these are what help us to grow); the readings reminded me to always be grateful for the opportunities that come my way, and the people who bring them and their love to me. It was good to read something like this. Fr. Yanus spoke of childhood memories with such fondness and love and thanksgiving, I could not help but be moved; because, I too, have a great fondness for the recollections of my childhood, love for my family (then, as a child, and now, as a parent) and gratitude to those who help me realize that being a child of God is a most precious thing for which to be thankful. Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving and holiday season, filled with love, good memories, gratitude, and peace.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day to My Father, the Original Music Man...

Dear Daddy,

I cannot believe it has been 43 years since I last saw you. I love you always, thank you for guiding me in life and faith, I remember still...

Viola d'amore
  (for my father)

His violin rests against a wall
still, lifeless as the skillful hand
that once plucked from it
life's poignant melodies

Shrouded in blackest velvet,
it now pays silent homage
to the man whose life was music—
whose music was life itself

It's undying melody echoes yet
in the deepest chambers of my heart,
and resonates with a love
that death cannot mute

Unfinished Symphony

I hear the music
Long after you have gone,

Though it plays softer, sadder
Than when we were together.

The melody you have written
Echoes far and wide.
It cannot be silenced
By reason of time and distance,
Nor will it ever draw to a close.

Rather, your song will endure
Unfinished unto eternity,
Where we will meet once again

To chant the melody of unity. 


September was cold that year.
As I stood in sorrow
and bid you a silent adieu,
my tears became a stinging reminder
you would not rise with the sun
from this night's slumber.

And in my grief my heart ached
at the thought of you lying still,

How unlike you.
The single red rose was clutched
tightly in my hand and I kissed it
before tossing it gently to where you lay.

The clouds became dark,
and the autumn winds blew stronger
drying any remaining trace of tears.
As I turned and walked away, I thought
How cold September is this year.

I Thought You Long Dead

I thought you long dead
Until I heard your laughter
Among our voices
As we remembered when

I thought you no longer here
Until I saw you
In my mind’s eye

I thought you could no longer touch me
Until your image
Warmed my heart

I thought once more
And felt the life still within you
The unmistakable nearness of your spirit
Your gentle reminder
You would always be with me

Peace, and Happy Father's Day to all fathers, especially my sons, Aaron and Nathanael and my nephew, Adam. To my brother, Dennis. To my brother-in-law, John, to my cousin, Viktor, to all fathers in my family. And Happy Father's Day to my husband, Scott, an unequaled model of faith in God and love of family for my children, who are certainly blessed by God for having the perfect father.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Finding Happiness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember being drawn to Bishop Sheen's television program even as a child. There was just something about the way he spoke--with such love and conviction and understanding and totally without judgment, and as if he was talking directly to me; and there was just something about the words he spoke, that made me want to seek and understand and told me even then, "this is Truth and this is important. Listen.".

In Finding True Happiness, Bishop Sheen reminds us of when we were children, how happy we thought we would be when we had our fill, for instance, of Christmas cakes, our "hands glutted with toys", our eyes open wide and filled with the glow of Christmas lights. But Christmas came and we had overeaten, little by little the lights were taken down, the Christmas toys no longer excited us after a while, and then it was all over. And we began a new list of all the other things we wanted and didn't get that would make us happy. And we lamented at the fact that Christmas "somehow or other did not quite come up to ...expectations." And hasn't it been that way repeatedly since? And further, we think, perhaps, that marriage will make us truly happy, or a need to be well-known, or the perfect house on the perfect street, or the right job, or a big bank account, and on and on. But how many times when we achieve all those things we think will make us happy have we become disillusioned, disappointed, shocked, even so? Bishop Sheen reminds us that these things in and of themselves are not the source of happiness. We are reminded that the reason for our unhappiness is not because we want things "outside" of us, but "due to a want of something inside [us]". We "become so enamored" of the gifts that God has given us, we totally forget there is a Giver, attributing anything good in our lives to our own achievement, born of selfishness and pride.

More and more we remove God from everything. We are the be-all and end-all, and it is "good enough" just to be a good person. We do not believe because we do not understand. And we do not understand because we do not seek understanding, which leads to believing anything and calling "Truth" everything that "sounds good". Bishop Sheen tells us that "because we do not pray or contemplate or love Him, we become vain and proud; but when we know Him better, we feel a deep sense of dependence which tempers our false independence. Pride is the child of ignorance, humility the offspring of knowledge."

But Bishop Sheen also speaks of faith, patience, joy, our own will and more, and explains how all these together play a part in our happiness. And he speaks of contentment, saying it "comes in part from faith--that is, from knowing the purpose of life and being assured that whatever the trials are, they come from the hand of a loving Father." He emphasizes that "what happens to us is not so important, but rather how we react to what happens. Judas and Peter both sinned against the Lord, and He called them both devils. But one became a Saint, because he overcame his weakness with the help of God's grace."

Finding True Happiness could well have been written today--there is nothing obsolete or old-fashioned or trite about it. There is so much of worth in this little volume that it becomes difficult to summarize. It is a good book to keep on hand for reference from time to time, for when life begins to get foggy. I highly recommend it.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Living by Deed and Action

I read a brilliant article the other day on, by Micaiah Bilger:

It made me think (among other things) what it truly means to be a Catholic. It made me upset that the Catholic church doesn't proclaim this, unapologetically, from pulpit to pulpit to the ends of the earth. It made me disgusted that celebrities/public officials/ can dilute Catholicism and dictate to the Church just what they can or cannot do and still call themselves Catholic. It made me both very happy and sad at the same time; sad, because of the recent events which took place regarding Vice President Biden--and the similar things which repeatedly happen in the world today--prompting this article. I felt happy because these things are being named for what they are--despite probable criticism and with no concern of stature or place in society. 

I encourage everyone to read this article in full (as well as Archbishop Charles Chaput's speech). But in a nutshell, Micaiah Bilger was referring to Archbishop Charles Chaput's speech at the University of Notre Dame recently where he was a guest speaker. The Archbishop spoke about the coming presidential election,  about "sex, family and the liberty of the Church", and also strongly reprimanded the university for awarding Vice President Biden with the Laetare Medal, “the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.” It is this topic that inspired me to write this entry today.

Vice President Biden is a public figure. He is a public figure who calls himself "a practicing Catholic".* Yet he is pro-abortion and has even officiated at a civil gay marriage ceremony.  I don't know Vice President Biden, and he may be a very nice person, one who has sacrificed much for his children and family, and may have done some good things in his life; but being a champion of the things he espouses and supports which are in direct opposition to Catholicism and in every way a slap in the face to the very church/faith he says he cherishes, is very noxious, let alone confusing and misleading, to Catholics and most especially those who are learning the faith or know nothing of Catholicism.

Micaiah Bilger makes some wonderful points in his article, and quotes Archbishop Chaput on abortion and "irresponsible" sexual attitudes:

“The truth about our sexuality is that infidelity, promiscuity, sexual confusion and mass pornography create human wreckage.”...What you get is what we have now: a dysfunctional culture of frustrated and wounded people increasingly incapable of permanent commitments, self-sacrifice and sustained intimacy, and unwilling to face the reality of their own problems...As families and religious faith break down, the power of the state grows. Government fills in the spaces left behind by mediating institutions.  The individual is freed from his traditional obligations. But he inherits a harder master in the state. Left to itself...democracy tends toward a kind of soft totalitarianism in which even a person’s most intimate concerns, from his sexual relations to his religious convictions, are swallowed by the political process."

These are things we should be hearing from pulpits and podiums in church and everywhere when one speaks about the Church and about Catholics specifically. It is what our children need to be taught, without apology or embarrassment. What respected Catholic institutions  should not be doing is awarding public officials who embrace an entirely opposing belief. Catholicism is not religion--it is a way of life based fully on the teachings of Jesus Christ. One cannot pick and choose to which practice he will adhere, as if in a cafeteria.

For a Catholic university, especially such a highly regarded and respected institution such as Notre Dame, to honor a Catholic who publicly witnesses against his faith by his words and actions, with this prestigious American Catholic award is confusing, absurd, incredulous and inexcusable. Disappointing? Yes. Sad? Absolutely.


Monica E. Smith

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Happy Mother's Day - Olga Vera Stinich

Olga Vera Stinich passed away March 14, 2005. No mother could ever have been more loved. Her life was one of laughter, love and a deep faith in God; but also one of tears, fear, sadness and frustration. It was not free from stress or anxiety, nor of  disappointment, but it had certainly been a life well-lived. It had been all these things that made her who she was.

From this remarkable woman I learned kindness, gentleness, patience; I also learned of prayer and of God and faith, perseverance, hope and, ultimately, Truth. While the lessons were learned--through her living them--I know that, through my own weakness, I have failed miserably to put them into practice at moments in my own life. But I still try.

My mother remains the woman I most admire and respect, and to whom I most look up to. She is never far from thought, and I speak to her often, asking for her prayers and help. I think, if anyone were to describe me, in time to come, the words I would hold most dear would be "She is like her mother"; for it is to this, I aspire.

Poems for My Mother

Forever Remembered


I don't remember
Doing anything special
To deserve the love
Of my mother;
Yet it is always there,
Constant as she is
In showing she cares.

A day is not enough
To honor her,
Yet a simple card,
A mere token of
My love and gratitude
For the happiness
She has given
To so many over the years
Brings tears
To her bright blue eyes.

Dear lady!
“Stay with me”, my cry.
How do I return
The love you have given?
How do I ever hope
To become half the woman
You are?
Perhaps by sharing
The love and beauty and wisdom
The gentleness
Of your heart, passing it on.
It is only a start,
But in emulating you I know
You will always be with me.

 Bright Eyes
(For My Mother)

Bright Eyes lives with style and grace
And a loving smile upon her face
With sadness veiled she grieves inside
One never knows that she has cried

Her heart has broken many times
Yet she remains the most sublime
Desiring only another’s delight
She remains a loving acolyte

In times of trouble, pain or need
Her help is wholly guaranteed
One need never fear to ask
For she’s up to any task

Bright Eyes’ love is evergreen
Will never exist unseen
Her purpose here is simple and clear:
To her God bring others near 

Magic in My Mother’s Hands

There is magic in my mother’s hands
From whence flows her love
A mighty river whose course runs true

And one drop of that sacred water
Poured on painful wounds
Cleanses and leads me to my healing

   (Letter to My Mother)

It hurts, this missing you.
I had seen the sand slipping through
Your hourglass, but could do nothing
To slow--or stop it.
Then, how could I deny you the peace
Which you now surely possess?

Do you know that it is spring,
That the sun now burns
Hot in the April sky?  I remember you
Could hardly wait for the season to change.
Soon daisies will dance, bowing in the warm breeze,
Awaiting their blessing from a cool morning's dew,
And dandelions will scatter their wispy
Transparent seedlings throughout the earth
Like stars breaking free from a constellation,
Tumbling down for our pure pleasure.

Lovely, how you always saw beauty--
Even in a weed, or the God-likeness in everyone.
How I long to share this beauty with you again,
And even that which is not so beautiful,
For it takes one to appreciate the other.

But until such time, I will remain content
To simply welcome your memory in the spirit
Of Namaste, for in no other has the light of God
Shone so brightly.

*Namaste (nah mah stae) is a Sanskrit word commonly used as a greeting in India
and in the practice of yoga.  It can be translated in many ways.  Literally,
it means, "Not me, you."

Briefly, it means, "The Divine in me honors the Divine in you."

The deeper meaning is often translated as:

"I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells - a place
of peace and light and love.  When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One."

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

The night that sets us free from the sleep of death

Brethren, let us keep watch, for Christ remained in the tomb until this night. It was on this night that the resurrection of his flesh took place. On the cross it was the butt of mockery; today, heaven and earth give it worship. This night already forms part of our Sunday. It was very necessary that Christ should rise in the night because his resurrection has enlightened our darkness… Just as our faith, strengthened by Christ’s resurrection, dispels all sleep, so this night, lightened by our vigils, is filled with brightness. With the Church throughout the earth it causes us to hope we shall never be surprised in the night (Mk 13:33).

Amongst so many peoples whom this feast - kept so solemnly everywhere - gathers together in the name of Christ, the sun has gone down. Yet day has not disappeared; the lights of heaven have taken over from the lights of earth… He who has given us the glory of his name (Ps 28[29]:2) has also illumined this night. He to whom we say “You lighten my darkness” (Ps
18:28) sheds his brightness in our hearts. Just as our dazzled eyes behold these shining torches so our enlightened spirits enable us to see how luminous is this night, this holy night in which our Lord initiated in his own flesh the life that knows neither sleep nor death!

(from Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo (North Africa)and Doctor of the Church (2nd sermon for the Easter Vigil; PLS 2, 549-552 ; Sermon Morin Guelferbytanus 5)

Christ is Risen!
Indeed He is Risen!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In Keeping with the Situation

While the actual "holiday" of Christmas has passed, we are still in the Christmas season; for Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth, and lasts until Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6. (The Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", is rooted in the celebration of Christmastime, from a time in England when Catholics were forced to disguise their beliefs. During the period of 1558 to 1829, Catholics were prohibited from practicing the faith by law. The twelve days of Christmas are actually December 25 through January 6, and not the 12 days before Christmas as many believe.)

After a viewing of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol this year, a question arose regarding the situation in which Scrooge found himself: "Why was it that the chance of reclamation was offered to Scrooge and not also to Marley? Was that "it" for Marley? Why was he not offered the same chance in life as was Scrooge? Did he spend the afterlife in hell, then, with no possibility of eternal salvation? A very interesting question indeed; and I have been thinking about it on and off since the question came to be asked.

First and foremost, I think we have to realize that Dickens was telling a story to offer hope and to teach. Interestingly, this is exactly how Christ taught--through parables. The stories Christ told were not of actual events, but a teaching tool of truths that could easily be understood by anyone (well, perhaps anyone but the ruling class of Israel!). In the same way, Dickens used A Christmas Carol as a teaching tool to explain the many lessons contained within. We sometimes have difficulty in understanding Truth unless hit in the face with it. Dickens did just that in A Christmas Carol. Dickens lived in Victorian England. It was not often a time that was as pretty as the scenes we see on Christmas cards. It was a time when orphan children roamed the streets and non-Christian society despised the poor and treated them atrociously. Living conditions were often unbearable. There were many social inequalities and injustices. There was much suffering and pain during this period in history. Dickens tried to bring all this to light, to expose the situation in his novella, and offer the solution. 

The other thing that came to my mind was that we are never really told, in A Christmas Carol, that "this was it" for Marley, that he had no chance for salvation, and he was stuck for all eternity in this thick fog of doom and pain, unable to free himself. In the big picture, things happen to us all in the ways that are most beneficial to each person, I believe. There is no formula, no blanket remedy that will heal all of us in the same way. And simply because we cannot understand this, or why one has to suffer more than another, does not make it wrong or unfair or unjust. We also need to remember that Dickens was telling the story of one man, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his "sins" and his reclamation, and not Jacob Marley's. Dickens was in actuality using a parable.

We all have the same chance Scrooge and Marley did, while we live on this earth. We have many "spirits" who visit us each day, in the form of friends and family, teachers, the Church, people who enter our lives for no good reason (or so we think), who try to open our minds to Truth, who bless us with their goodness, their knowledge, their kindness. We would be wise to learn from them, before it is too late. Each of us has a purpose, and what we do in life affects others:

"Spirit," said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, "tell me if Tiny Tim will live."

"I see a vacant seat," replied the Ghost, "in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

"No, no," said Scrooge. "Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared."

"If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, "will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." 

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

Christmas marks the celebration of Christ's birth, but it is not to be celebrated on only one day. We can change this world by changing ourselves. We can "live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" We can allow "the Spirits of all Three [to] strive within...". And in so doing, we can say with Ebenezer Scrooge, "Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!"

A most blessed Christmas season to you all, and the happiest of New Years!