Lessons from Our Lady of the Broom

There are times, whether we are teachers, writers, engineers, counselors or chefs, when we have to move past our skills, experience and wisdom, and Our Lady of the Broom John McCoy pick up a broom.

Sometimes, the repetitive sweep, sweep, sweep, is a satisfying meditation that cleans away the dust and crumbs and leaves things refreshingly clean.

Other times, we pick up the broom with a grumbling heart, tired of the mundane, boring task of sweeping – again.

It was in one of those grumbling moments when a conversation with a favorite monsignor came to mind. He shared with me his deep appreciation for Our Lady of the Broom. As I heard, again, the joy and laughter in his voice as he spoke about the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, pushing a broom around the floor of her humble home in Nazareth, I began to smile, as well.

He reminded me that we tend to take ourselves too seriously, think of ourselves too highly, when the everyday blessing of caring for the gift of a home – or a classroom, or an office or a kitchen – is reason to complain. Sweeping, he reminded me, is an exercise in humility, as Mary has modeled for us.

Mary's humility was not a self-effacing weakness but drawn from the strength of self-knowledge and a trust in God's love. 

She possesses the virtue of humility, which as one theologian explains, "is to recognize and acknowledge the truth of who we are and where we stand in relation to God."

Artwork by John McCoy. Our Lady of the Broom.

One thing remains - the love that never fails

No matter how old I get, February is always a time of childhood memories for me, of winters in upstate N.Y. with feet of snow and a mother who dressed me reminiscent of the young son in “The Christmas Story,” stuffed into a snowsuit like Aditya-romansa-5zp0jym2w9M-unsplash sausage into a casing and double wrapped with scarves and gloves, and mittens on top.

My dad wasn’t so tough a clothing task master. With him, there was more chance of bending a joint, and getting frostbite. I think the difference had something to do with a mother’s love.

To be sure, one of the constants in my life growing up was my mother. It was she who always left the light on in the living room window, leading me home with the warm yellow glow on cold winter evenings. I never doubted for a moment that she could move mountains for me if I needed them moved. I’m not proud to admit, I sometimes gave her the opportunity to prove me right.

Yes, she had the “snowsuit” tendency to be overprotective, but in the important times she allowed me to fly, in spite of the pain it caused her. And in all things, she was always there for me when I needed her, perhaps not happy with my choices, but always offering her love, none-the-less.

I remember it was a snowy February morning, close to my mom’s birthday and years after she died, when I first heard the song, “One Thing Remains,” sung by the group Passion. The words seemed to capture the essence of everything she was and everything she gave: “Higher than the mountains that I face, stronger than the power of the grave, constant through the trial and the change, this one thing remains … Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me … and on and on and on it goes … and I never have to be afraid because this one thing remains … your love.”

I had to pull over into a parking lot until I stopped crying.

Since then, the song always brings her to mind, and though I’m older now than she was when she died, I still feel the loss in my heart, a physical ache, but tempered today with gratitude for all she gave me.

I also find myself thinking of Mary who followed Jesus during his years of ministry, right up to his death on the cross where she stood at his feet, held fast to him, in his agony and hers, by a mother’s love. Looking at her, his thoughts could easily have been similar to the words of the song: “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me … And it’s higher than the mountains that I face and it’s stronger than the power of the grave and constant in the trial and the change, this one thing remains. … your love never fails.”

If I’m honest, I’ll admit that sustaining that kind of love requires some emotional and spiritual support. Forty days seems just about right. That’s why, this Lent, I’m spending some time with two women who know how to do it well. This year, Lent will be Mary, mom and me.

Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

Mother of the Eucharist

I love this image of Our Lady of the Eucharist because, unlike so many other images of her, she looks directly at us, inviting us to come to her Son in the Eucharist.                                                                                                                                                                  MotherOfTheEucharist2

"Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is Mary’s Gift to you. Jesus, not satis­fied with having Himself to all mankind in the Incarnation, wished to become united with each of us in a most intimate man­ner by means of the Holy Eucharist, for by an unceasing act of love He gives Himself to us in each Consecration and in each Com­munion.

"Mary’s heart is always conformable to her Son’s will. Hav­ing loved her sinful children so much as to sacrifice for them her only Son in His Passion, she loved them to the end by giving them the Holy Eucharist.

Every day she renews her gift generously, be­cause to each Sacrifice of her Son she gives her consent; each Consecration is her gift to us. Each Communion is a mystery of her love for us and a grace she obtains and bestows on us.

This gift of her heart entitles her to be called the Mother of the Holy Eucharist."  

St. Peter Julian Eymard

Tommy Canning artist

To Mary, for Ukraine and her people

According to a website for post cards, this unique and beautiful painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has always been Under-cover-postcard-postal-ukraine_600x600 considered the main patroness of Ukraine, is the work of artist Oleg Shuplyak. An important element of the painting is the stork, a symbol of revival for the land of the Ukraine and family well-being.

This war has been raging since February but is no longer prominent in the headlines as it was when it first began. Early this month, Pope Francis called all of us to "be builders of peace," and stressed, "I am not forgetting the martyred Ukraine." 

The Holy Father has also shared that, “Russian mystics and the great saints of all the traditions advised, in moments of spiritual turbulence, to shelter beneath the mantle of the Holy Mother of God pronouncing the invocation ‘Sub Tuum Praesidium.'”

Consider adding this prayer to Mary in your daily practice, so none of us forget Ukraine.

We fly to Your patronage, O Virgin Mother of God.

Despise not our prayers in our needs, but deliver us from all dangers,

since you alone are pure and blessed.

O most glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ our God,

accept our prayers and present them to Your Son and our God,

that for the sake of You, He enlighten and save our souls.




Immaculate Heart of Mary OLMC

This painting, Immaculate Heart of Mary OLMC, was completed in 2014 for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in San Immaculate heartDiego by Smith Catholic Art. This image, along with it's companion piece, Sacred Heart of Jesus OLMC, are hoped to inspire strong spiritual devotion.

"In her Memoirs (III, 6), Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: 'Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?'

"Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us."  ~ Pope Francis, 2017 homily speaking of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima

Our Lady of the Smile: A mother's smile can change things

Years ago, I saw a statue of Mary with a title I had never seen before - Our Lady of the Smile.                                                   

It wasn't until recently, after OLoStwo years of struggling through a pandemic and deep distress for many people, that I made the effort to find out how that title was attributed to her.

It seemed now would be the perfect time to have recourse to a source of joy who may help us rediscover our reasons for smiling.

I learned about the life-threatening illness of St. Thérèse of Liseux when she was a child of 10. Her older sister, Marie, fell to her knees in prayer before a statue of Our Lady of Victory which was a treasured belonging of the Martin family. While she prayed for Thérèse's healing, the young saint saw an image of Mary, bright and warm and displaying a facial expression that filled the young child with joy.

From this moment, Thérèse was healed, and a devotion to Our Lady of the Smile (or sometimes Smiles) was born.



A prayer for Our Lady of the Smile

Gentle Mary, My Mother,
I place before you the worries,
hurts and hopes of my heart.
They shrink my soul and I feel heavy and hopeless.
Darkness closes in around me.
I reach out to you, bright Lady of Hope.
Smile on me.
Smile on my loved ones and the intentions I place before you.

(Mention your intentions here...)

Your tender smile works miracles and heals,
as you did with St. Thérèse, the Little Flower.
You are my true Mother.
You show the tender mercy of God.
Smile on me, Blessed Mother,
and all will be well.

(Prayer shared from CatholicDoors.com)

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

Holy Mary, full of the presence of God, during your life you accepted with great humility the holy will of Untier-of-knots-01 the father and the legacy of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and evil never dared to entangle you with its confusion.

Since then you have interceded for all of our difficulties as you did at the wedding feast of Cana. With all simplicity and with patience, you have given us an example of how to untangle the knots in our complicated lives. By being our mother forever you arrange and make clear the path that unites us to Our Lord.

Holy Mary, Mother of God and ours, with your maternal heart, untie the knots that upset our lives. We ask you to receive into your hands (here mention your prayer request) and deliver us from the chains and confusion that restrain us.

Blessed Virgin Mary, through your grace, your intercession and by your example, deliver us from evil, and untie the knots that keep us from being united to God. So that free of all confusion and error, we may find him in all things, keep him in our hearts, and serve him always in our brothers and sisters.

Mother of Good Counsel, pray for us.


A version of Pope Francis’ prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots, to whom he has a great devotion.

More than a prayer, Hail Mary is a relationship

Not all relationships get off to a good start.

That was my relationship with Mary, our Blessed Mother. She was ever virgin, ever holy and, seemingly through religious art, Relationship with mary 6a011571957b46970b01b7c911885f970b ever young – about as far away as possible from whom I saw myself to be as a woman, wife and mother, especially as I got older.

But a friend pointed out to me that my problem was really in not knowing Mary well enough. He advised me to mediate on her life, to learn more about what it was like to be a woman, wife and mother in her culture and time, to imagine her joys and her pains and to think of her as someone who would have a deep empathy for my own struggles.

I made him a promise that I would try, and so, little by little a relationship grew, perhaps not the same kind so many other Catholics might have, but a relationship none-the-less. We didn’t talk much, Mary and I, in the way I often talked to God, but I found that when I was troubled, fearful or in need of prayers for someone I would say “Hail Mary.” Sometimes that is all I would say, other times I would say the entire prayer. It became second nature.

I found a statue of Mary someone had given me as a gift and put it on my kitchen counter.  I put a small votive holder in front of it, and every night I would light a candle, thanking Mary for listening to my prayers and lifting them up to God, and then I would go through the litany of prayers still needed for family members. I still do this every night, and when things get really crazy, during the day, as well. It is a ritual that brings me comfort and settled, for the most part, with peace of mind.

But his past weekend one of my sons was diagnosed with pneumonia, and on top of it, was hit with one crisis after another in the space of 24 hours – a pattern that is frequent in his life, contributing to often overwhelming stress for him, and, subsequently, for me.

I felt like I was coming unraveled and decided he needed a St. Benedict medal to serve as a constant silent prayer for God’s blessing and protection, and for peace, which has been a Benedictine motto for centuries. I was searching on-line for what seemed like an hour for a medal that came with a chain, was affordable and would arrive within two days – since anything could happen in my son’s life within 48 hours.

Then, as we often do in times of extreme stress, I lost my composure and good sense.  I had to get ready for an appointment, couldn’t find what I was looking for and exclaimed out loud, “I need help! Please, someone help me find the medal I want for my son. He needs it.”

A moment later, as I hit the page button one more time, the perfect medal showed up on the screen. It was for a man, on a chain and would be delivered in 48 hours. I burst out in tears when I saw the name of the company which was offering the medal: Hail Mary Gifts.

I realized in that moment what a gift Mary has been to me, and to my son, who is the one most often lifted up in prayer. I realized that through my daily requests to Mary for prayer, I was moving through each day, no matter how difficult, with a renewed sense of hope. I realized that relationships take many forms, and while I do not yet pray the Rosary daily or preach Mary to the crowds, or even to family or friends, the relationship I have with her is still meaningful and fruitful in my life, especially in the absence of my own mother who died so many years ago.

I realize, also, that in the grand scheme of things, especially with so many people experiencing tragedy and profound struggles, wanting a medal for someone is not a cause for divine intervention. But I do believe that God intervenes, whether it is through the saints or angels, other people, or especially through Mary, when he wants us to have faith in his desire to be in a relationship with us.

In his May 10 General Audience, Pope Francis offered some inspiring words on our relationship with Mary: “We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God. Because she teaches us the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems meaningless. She always trusts in the mystery of God, even when He seems to be eclipsed by the evil of the world. In times of difficulty, may Mary, the Mother Jesus has given to us all, always support our steps. May she say to our hearts: ‘Get up. Look ahead. Look to the horizon. For she is the Mother of Hope.’"

Photo by Oliver Pacas on Unsplash

Living like you belong to God

Having recently observed a very contentious exchange between a customer and waitress at a local diner, fueled with great pleasure and precision by Hateface andre-hunter-5otlbgWJlLs-unsplash
the customer, I have to wonder why people feel that being loud, abusive and rude is something of which to be proud.

This woman not only seemed to feel it was acceptable, but gloated that she had put another person in her place in front of a room full of patrons while hurling every profanity in the book.

She didn’t seem to realize that the only person who looked like a fool was her, especially as she was scooping mashed potatoes off her plate with her hands and slamming them down on another plate to make a point. 

Seems like she felt empowered by the increasing bad behavior fostered in society.

I thought of her when I came upon a book entitled, “Living Like You Belong to God.”  Remembering where we come from, and to whom we belong, goes a long way in nurturing decisions and behavior that reflect our noble origins, instead of dragging our human nature through the mud.

For those of us who profess to believe in God, remembering where we came from can help us be a positive influence in the world, instead of an embarrassment.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash.

Enjoying old bread and good strong tea!

I’m a late-comer to the deliciousness of bread pudding, which has an ancient history and was often favored as a means to prevent wasting left-over Bread-pudding-2-620bread. In my home, with six sons, I guess we rarely had any bread left over!

Recently, my husband brought home a piece of bread pudding made by a friend for a get-together at their dance studio and it was wonderful. Then, when the diner we frequent offered bread pudding as a choice of desserts and my husband raved about it, I started to think I should check into making this dessert.

What I discovered in searching for a recipe was that they all use the same, or similar ingredients, but in varying quantities. Some recipes using 6 slices of bread call for 4 eggs, which I used, but others called for 2 eggs.  The quantities of milk and sugar also changed, even when the amount of bread stayed the same, so I’ve decided that trial and error and developing a recipe that works for each cook is the way to go.

I’m posting the recipe, adapted from a variety of others that I decided to use.  Since I am just starting this pudding adventure I am planning to try a variety of breads, including challah, which seems to get rave reviews.  More adventurous cooks, or just those interested in the history of bread pudding, may like to check out this article, “A New Story With Old Bread,” which includes a recipe using coffee porter aged in bourbon and rye whiskey oak casks.

With my recipe, several issues arose that I didn’t expect: the pudding was still very much liquid at the 45 minute mark of baking so I left it in another 20 minutes.  There is often a need to adjust baking time to your unique oven. I also think part of the problem was my choice of bread and the fact that it wasn’t dry enough, which, from what I read, is also the reason for the dramatic fall the pudding took when I removed it from the oven. It has to do with bread moisture levels. There’s an interesting article in the problem here.

I used a buttermilk bread which, while well past the freshness date, had been kept in the refrigerator. It was a heavy bread and still moist, a situation that apparently prevents the bread from soaking up enough of the milk and egg mixture and leads to excessive fall, like a poorly cooked soufflé!

The solution for using fresh or moist bread, according to more experienced bread pudding cooks, is to cube the bread and bake it in the oven for 8-10 minutes before using it in the recipe. This removes excess moisture.

In spite of the fall, the pudding was delicious, and worked well paired with whipped cream or a small scoop of ice cream.

Of course, my accompaniment of choice is a cup of English breakfast tea, which I find is great as an afternoon pick me up because I like a strong cup of tea and this is stronger than most of the common packaged black tea bags. 

So what do I drink for breakfast? Irish breakfast tea! It is generally stronger than English breakfast tea. Check out this article for an introduction to the differences between Irish, English and Scottish tea.

Happy baking!



6 slices dry (stale) bread of any kind

4 eggs

2 cups milk

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbs. melted butter


½ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

½ cup chocolate chips

            ~ ~

  1. Lightly grease an 8 X 8 baking dish.
  2. Cube bread and arrange in the dish distributing evenly. Sprinkle on any optional ingredients, like raisins.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and butter.
  4. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread in the baking dish. Make sure all the bread is well-coated.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. While the oven is heating, let the bread mixture sit for 10-15 minutes to ensure the bread has absorbed the liquid. Cover lightly with aluminum foil, which will stay on for most of baking.
  7. When oven is ready, place the bread pudding on the middle rack and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is set. Remove foil for last 10 minutes to brown the top.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. This may be served warm, or cold, depending on preference, alone or with topping of your choice.


Since I never took a photo of my finished product, I used one I found on-line that looks most like my finished product. I would love to post photo credit and any website attached if anyone recognizes the photo.