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 October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Abolish death penalty and life imprisonment, Pope Francis declares Watch

Image of The Vatican recently eliminated life imprisonment from its own penal code, Pope Francis noted.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Calling for the abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, Pope Francis soundly denounced what he called a "penal populism." The world's prescribed cure for crime - punishment, should never overtake the pursuit for social justice, he says. LOS ... continue reading


Making a Difference - Newly beatified pope championed justice and peace

Image of Pope Paul VI addresses the UN during his 1965 appeal for peace.

By Tony Magliano

With numerous armed conflicts raging in various parts of the world, and the Vietnam War worsening, Pope Paul VI on Oct. 4, 1965 proclaimed before the U.N. General Assembly: "No more war, war never again. It is peace, peace which must guide the destinies of peoples and ... continue reading


'War does not begin in the battlefield. Wars begin in the heart,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Speaking at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis addressed the topic of war. With the majority of the world engaged in some sort of battle, and it's up to the individual to realize that major conflicts begin with little things. LOS ... continue reading


Finding the Path to Peace Through Forgiveness Watch

Image of For he (Jesus) is our peace, he made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father- St Paul

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

In 1999 I was a part of Project Reconciliation led by a true peacemaker, paralyzed police officer Detective Steven McDonald. This trip was a part of Steven McDonald's mission of preaching peace through forgiveness. It had the goal of helping to heal the wounds ... continue reading


The Parable of the Rich Man: Becoming Rich in What Matters To God

Image of

By Deacon Frederick K. Bartels

What leads to permanent and lasting happiness? As Jesus points out, becoming "rich in what matters to God" is the key. When we place God first, and love our neighbor as another self, we soon begin to experience a perceptible, lasting happiness that is not of this ... continue reading


Pope Paul VI closer to sainthood with beatification by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Paul VI cleaned house, abolishing the pontifical court and simplifying the Curia, the Vatican's administrative arm. Pope Francis is continuing his predecessor's effort to reform to this day.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis cleared the process for sainthood for Pope Paul VI after his beatification over the weekend. Pope Paul VI led the Catholic Church through internal reform during a tumultuous time of social and political change before his death in 1978. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


We Need Courageous Bishops: Ignatius of Antioch is a Model Watch

Image of Ignatius of Antioch - I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

We need Bishops like Ignatius in this new missionary age of the Church. There is a literal assault on marriage and the family in much of the West. Yet, what the Church has to offer on the truth about marriage and the family paves the path to a future of true ... continue reading


Need a chapel? Pope Francis to rent Sistine Chapel for charity Watch

Image of Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity. The decision marks the first time that the chapel has ever been rented out for charity. It will be used for a private concert hosted by Porsche. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has announced ... continue reading


On World Food Day, a reminder of Pope Francis' mission for the Church Watch

Image of It's time to ensure that everybody has enough.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Today is World Food Day and we are all called to do what we can to feed others. This year's World Food Day falls during Pope Francis' 'Week of Action' where all Catholics are called to pray and act to feed the world's hungry. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today, ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The only thing that counts for Jesus is 'faith working through love' Watch

Image of Pope Francis related former Jesuit leader Father Arrupe's lesson in humility in his recent talk.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis reiterated in his morning homily that faith is not about appearances and superficially following Church laws. The Pontiff said that God wants to see a faith that inspires action and is "working in charity" and making sacrifices for others. LOS ... 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, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was 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