Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Martha Lyles

5/14/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Turning things over to our Blessed Mother

Every fire refines, and the one that claimed our house was no exception. We are stronger and wiser now, more grateful, less materialistic. But I would feel ungrateful to God if I complained, so I focus on the many ways He has guarded and sustained us.

Highlights

By Martha Lyles

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/14/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Mothers Day, Martha Lyles, forest fire, Mary, Rosary, Catholic Renewal, catholicrenewal.org


POWAY, CA (Catholic Online) - The thing you need to know about California brushfires is how fast they can move and how high they can reach.

Whenever we smell smoke here in the southwest corner of the country, we're on high alert.
So my husband, Dick, and I were vigilant on that warm October Tuesday back in 2007 when the wind suddenly picked up. We kept smelling smoke and looking outside and then - wham! - there it was, billowing smoke scaling our mountaintop.

Time to pack the cars.

We unplugged the computer and pulled paintings off the wall. We gathered my jewelry and filled suitcases with clothes. 

We didn't take as much as we would have liked - we planned to come back for more - but the electricity was out and the threat of suffocation loomed so we drove away from the brick, Mission-style home where we'd raised our three kids.

Once we unloaded our stuff at my daughter's house and rested a bit we decided to return for another batch of belongings. By then our neighborhood in Poway had been blocked off and the sky was dark. A law enforcement officer wearing a gas mask stopped us. "High Valley is on fire," he said. "We won't let you in."

It was Friday when the mayor called. We were hanging out at the pizza house, the only place still open in town, when he gave us the news: Our house had burned.

The sight was horrifying. The house had burned to the ground. A shell of the southern wall remained, but beyond that, everything had been reduced to piles of ashes and clumps of bricks. Our refrigerator stood six inches tall, a mangled hunk of black. The rest was unrecognizable. I couldn't tell whether I was in the living room or a bedroom. The fire had been relentless.

Our land was destroyed, 40 acres of oaks, palms and eucalyptus stripped and singed. It was almost like we were on the moon - flat, ash, black. Eerie and alien.

Tallying our losses

I was overcome by all we had lost. The love letters Dick and I had written at 19 and 17, when we first imagined a future together.

The sword and cap he wore when he graduated from the Naval Academy. My white silk dress from the captain's ball, our first attempt with a new Singer sewing machine.

Tokens from every milestone of family life that followed: baby books with locks of hair, grade-school report cards, Cabbage Patch dolls, homemade Mother's Day cards, First Communion dresses, college diplomas, wedding pictures.

Christmas ornaments and the ornate Nativity set I had displayed each December. The china doll from my mother's childhood, the envy of all my sisters. The ivory tablecloth my grandma crocheted. Out-of-print copies of the management books Dick had written, published in Chinese and Korean and Vietnamese.

In the midst of this sucker punch came mind-numbing insurance forms. We were asked to list every belonging we had lost. Half way through, I could not continue. I felt sick to my stomach.

Even the formal proof of our identity was gone; we had to apply for new birth certificates and social security cards.

But there was one thing the fire spared: our Marian shrine.

Down in the canyon, we'd placed a two-foot statue of the Blessed Mother inside a stone grotto. The year before my brother James, who is a priest, had come to bless it, sprinkling holy water on the grotto and the oak beside it. Everywhere that holy water had landed was untouched. Not even a smudge of smoke.

I looked at Mary's serene face and upturned palms, and peace filled my lungs. It was as though she was saying, "Here I am, and everything is going to be OK." 

She was right.

The blessings began pouring in, a hundred little kindnesses. Dick and I had never realized the depth of the human heart until the fire stripped us bare.

There are absolutes in life - eternal truths, divine gifts - that no flames can sear. In the fire's wake, these lifted into sharp relief. We held fast to the saints and the sacraments. My love for the Blessed Mother deepened. She is my queen!

'Never left unaided'

It feels fitting to dedicate the month of May to Mary. Every year at this time I re-consecrate myself to her, as St. Louis de Montfort taught. It is a Mother's Day gift to myself.

The rosary is a perfect prayer, and its mysteries form a cradle of comfort. What an enduring gift from Blessed John Paul II one decade ago: the Mysteries of Light that completed the story.  

Mary has never failed me. When my rebellious middle child headed off to college, I knew whom to call on. "OK, Mary, she's out of my hands; I am turning her over to you now!" And sure enough, my daughter found herself at college.

"Never was it known," goes the Memorare prayer to Mary, "that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thine intercession was ever left unaided."

If you truly turn something over to the Blessed Mother, she will always take care of it. That's why Dick and I are entrusting her with the most important endeavor of our careers: the Catholic Renewal Campaign.

We are calling on Catholics across the country - young and old, active and lapsed - to renew our troubled culture with the healing truths of our faith. It's time to stand together and bring our most deeply held values back to the forefront, to create a culture where life wins and hope reigns. Where you can take your kids to the movie theater and find features that won't require a stop at the confessional on the way home. 

Every fire refines, and the one that claimed our house was no exception. We are stronger and wiser now, more grateful, less materialistic. I no longer go on shopping sprees. There's more space in my closet and in my heart.

I still miss the fire's loot. Just the other day, when company arrived, I went to retrieve my serving pieces and - oh my gosh, that tray is gone! It has never been the same.

But I would feel ungrateful to God if I complained, so I focus on the many ways He has guarded and sustained us.

In a way I feel lighter without my silk dress and leather pumps. But I also feel more grounded, tethered to the things that matter most.

-----

Martha Lyles is a longtime religious educator and co-founder of the Catholic Renewal Campaign. Learn more at CatholicRenewal.org. This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Living Faith

Take the Catholic Online Thanksgiving Challenge! Watch

Image of Reaching out to others is precisely the way to show that we are thankful for what we have.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday filled with family and food, often spent on televised parades and football, and naps after lunch. Kids play in the yard or the streets as everybody generally has a good time. However, this is not the case for millions of ... continue reading


Pope says he's willing to speak to Islamic State - says nations are likewise guilty of 'terrorism' Watch

Image of After addressing the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis also told journalists that the threat of terrorism was not the only horror weighing on the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Asked about the possibilities of discussion with Islamic State, Pope Francis said, "I never count anything as lost. Never. Never close the door. It's difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open." The Pontiff went forward to say that ... continue reading


Unborn, terminally ill and elderly are treated as objects in Europe, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of If we uphold the dignity of the person we are acknowledging the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Despite talk of human rights, too many people are treated as objects in Europe: unborn, terminally ill, and the elderly," Pope Francis said. Speaking at the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg, the pontiff said that "We're too tempted to throwaway lives we ... continue reading


Church recognizes six new saints as Pope Francis canonizes in Sunday ceremony, speaking about how we too shall be judged Watch

Image of Indian well-wishers gather at the Vatican for the Canonization ceremony.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has canonized six new saints, two Indians and four Italians, praising their lives as "extraordinary" and reminding us all that we will be judged by how we treat others. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis recognized six new saints on Sunday, ... continue reading


Pope says church must extend help to immigrants, 'so that all may be treated as children of God' Watch

Image of The world must now recognize the advantages of migration. Host countries get new workers to meet production needs,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking to the 300 participants in the Vatican-sponsored World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants, the Pope says that the Catholic Church "is a mother without limits and without borders." He says that the church must welcome and assist all of God's children, ... continue reading


Feast of Christ the King and Advent: What Does it Mean? Watch

Image of The Church really IS the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ. That Body is inseparably joined to the Head. Jesus Christ is alive, he has been raised, and he continues His redemptive mission now through the Church, of which we are members. As we choose to actually live our lives liturgically, not just go through the motions, we can move through life in the flow of the liturgical calendar. We can experience the deeper mystery and meaning of life, now made New in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6,7) Jesus Christ is King! Jesus Christ is meant to become the Lord of our whole lives, and inform the very pattern of how we live them.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

On November 23rd we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Liturgical Church year offers to each of us consider the creature which is called time, receive it as a gift and begin to really live differently. Yet, for ... continue reading


Two bishops dine and dialogue with peace activists

Image of War doesn't decide who is right, just who is left.

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops fall assembly in Baltimore, two bishops decided to forego the military chaplains dinner sponsored by the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Office, and attended instead a simple supper and discussion on peacemaking. On the evening of ... continue reading


'God always forgives, but the earth does not,' Pope warns Watch

Image of The Pope urged the world's leaders to rein in their greed and help the hungry.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A doomsday scenario in which Mother Nature would exact her revenge is possible, even likely, Pope Francis warns. The pontiff was speaking out against the exploitation of natural resources for profit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope urged the world's ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special message: Why Poverty? 'And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain'

Image of When we give our loaves and fishes to Christ, there is no end to the Good that can come from it.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has asked the world to do more to help those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Despite gains made in infrastructure and outpourings of food, too many people with plenty have done too little to help. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - With ... continue reading


How do you raise a good, upstanding child? With daily prayers, weekly church attendance and the knowledge of God Watch

Image of Billy Graham, now 96, has reached out to millions with his joyous words of the truth of God and Jesus Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Billy Graham, the world famous television evangelist and founder and chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has said that the reason the world seems to be in such dire straits is that children are not being raised right. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 20:1-4, 11--21:2
1 Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 84:3, 4, 5-6, 8
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:29-33
29 And he told them a parable, 'Look at the fig tree ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2014 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, 1806. At an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter