Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Martha Lyles

5/14/2012 (4 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 (4 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'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2016
Universal:
Respect for Women: That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed.
Evangelization: Holy Rosary: That families, communities, and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace.



Comments


More Living Faith

WARNING: Exorcist claims demon is targeting families Watch

Image of An exorcist claims a demon continues to attack family members of all ages (Mama/Fandango).

By (CNA/EWTN News)

There's a demon that specializes in attacking the family, said exorcist César Truqui, a priest who participated in a course on exorcism held in Rome last year. Rome, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Truqui warned that everything that is harming the family, including ... continue reading


Vatican liturgy chief calls for priests to face east during Mass Watch

Image of The Vatican's liturgy chief asks priests to celebrate Mass facing east (@Card_R_Sarah/Twitter).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

During an interview, Cardinal Robert Sarah explained the importance of priests facing east during Mass. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In an interview with French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Sarah, who is the prefect of the Congregation for ... continue reading


'It is abuse of anti-conversion laws': 3 Christians arrested for converting Hindus Watch

Image of Three Christians are the latest victims in ongoing Indian persecution (dph).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Rev. V. A. Anthony, of Brethren Assembly Church in Satna, his wife Prabha and one unnamed woman have been arrested in Aber, India after being accused of "forced conversions" and blaspheming against Hinduism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Christian ... continue reading


Like Bartimaeus, We Are Blind: Cry out to Jesus, Lord Help Me to See! Watch

Image of The healing of the Blind man

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The same Jesus who passed by Bartimaeus is alive today. The Good News is that no matter what has happened in our past, Jesus walks into the dusty streets of our lives this day. We simply need the eyes of living faith to see Him and the renewed heart to follow Him ... continue reading


:-D MILLENNIALS REJOICE! New emoji Bible translation is coming! Watch

Image of The Bible has been translated into a less-conventional, more approachable language: emoji (pix11/WPIX-TV).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

In an attempt to make the Bible more interactive and entertaining to millennials, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible has been translated with help from popular emoticons. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to The Memo, the new Bible, marked as ... continue reading


New study reveals Catholics hold highest retention rate - but no one is converting Watch

Image of Catholicism retains believers but is losing the conversion battle (Pinterest).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A new study revealed Welsh and English Catholics hold the highest retention rate of any denomination but maintain the lowest conversion rates. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The report, titled the "Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales," was issued by the ... continue reading


'It's prayer that preserves faith': Pope Francis urges people to pray Watch

Image of Prayer is part of life and should be done more often (Prayer/Wikipedia).

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

For Pope Francis, prayer is neither a "magic wand" used to get what we want nor something casual we do only when we feel like it, but is rather the strength that sustains our faith in difficult moments. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "Jesus says that we need 'to ... continue reading


Benedict XVI to make public appearance? Watch

Image of Rumors of Benedict XVI making a public appearance have begun to circulate (Wordpress).

By Andrea Gagliarducci (CNA/EWTN News)

Former Pope Benedict XVI could appear in public once again on June 29, the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking after the May 20 presentation of a book dedicated to Benedict XVI's pontificate, Archbishop Georg ... continue reading


Making a Difference: A Memorial Day reflection from America's late peace-priest Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

The best way to remember those who have been killed in battle is to work for the day when others will no longer be sent to take their place. Prayerfully reflecting on how to move away from war and war preparation should be central to every Memorial Day.Why do ... continue reading


Pope Francis on the Feast of the Holy Trinity Watch

Image of Pope Francis shares a message about the Holy Trinity (Pinterest).

By Ann Scneible (CNA/EWTN News)

The feast of the Holy Trinity is an invitation for us to commit to enriching our everyday relationships by promoting communion, consolation, and mercy, Pope Francis said during his weekly Sunday Angelus address. Vatican City, Rome (CNA/EWTN News) - "Our being created ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Daily Reading for Wednesday, June 1st, 2016 HD Video
  • WARNING: Exorcist claims demon is targeting families
  • Daily Readings for Saturday, May 28, 2016
  • Advent Prayer HD Video
  • Bl. Margaret Pole: Saint of the Day for Saturday, May 28, 2016
  • Woman diagnosed with 'nightmare bacteria' in US
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: He will never leave you

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jude 1:17, 20-25
17 But remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 11:27-33
27 They came to Jerusalem again, and as Jesus was walking in the Temple, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 28th, 2016 Image

Bl. Margaret Pole
May 28: Martyr of England. She was born Margaret ... Read More