Blending our Lenten and Dementia Journey

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

As we enter this Lenten journey may we remember that we may not know where we are going. We don’t know the trials and triumphs ahead us. We are unsure of how we will grow and transform over these 40 days of Lent. And, as Care Partners twisting both the Lenten Journey and the Dementia Journey into one, we are reminded even more deeply of the unknowns that God has set before us and that we care called to something of a great ministry. We have in our hearts a desire to grow, to find the good, the true, and the beautiful along this path, but it can feel lonely as the needs of our day to day creeps further into our plans and we may not be able to keep our Lenten promises regarding prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are not alone on this journey, for the Father always sees us, for Jesus knows our human desires and pain, and the Holy Spirit is guiding us always.

As we receive our ashes we are reminded that from dust we came, and to dust, we shall return. Those living with dementia are often hyper-aware of this fact. We see the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves through this journey. We experience loss far more frequently than others, yet, there is beauty in that, a cause for finding ourselves grateful for the moments we are given, and the gifts we still can give. As part of Lent, we are asked to give alms, to share our time, talent, and treasure. One thing that we can give as care partners, or as individuals with the diagnosis of dementia, is ourselves. We may not have the ability to give as we once did or would like to, but through our selfless giving, this can be by helping our loved ones attend Mass or a service each week during Lent, to sit a moment or two longer, or smiling at the CNA and other care partners who look down, lost, and in need of something to lift their spirit, we are giving what we have.

As we pray, let us not think about doing more, but doing what we can with great devotion. Don’t overload your plate with 3 different daily emails, devotionals, books, and prayer challenges. Find something that is simple that can be done with great love, well. Some ideas may be:

To follow along and pray the rosary with, The Peace with Dementia Rosary by Matthew Estrade,
Read Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Lent or Rediscover Jesus
Sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever
Join the #LentFit Challenge through the Catholify App
Participate in a Marian Consecration through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory
Pray one Our Father together with your family, or loved with dementia after a meal, when you first get up, when you stop by for a visit and take in every word of the prayer together.

Do one act of prayer, and do it with great love, devotion, and intention.

As we Fast we find ourselves in a pattern continual reminders as we long for that which we gave up, are Fasting from. Those living with dementia or over 59 not required to partake in fasting from food, but maybe there is something we all can do? We are called to holiness, to grow closer to God, and what will help us get there? Only you can answer this question, but again, there is no need to be extreme, maybe it is one simple thing that reminds you of the great gift God has given us through his Son, Jesus, and that we are from dust, and to dust, we shall return.

I am praying for you as you walk your Lenten journey, please pray for me. We are a community of sojourners on this Dementia Journey, but we are also a community walking together towards our eternal home. May God bless you, always!

Christmas Day


The time for Christ’s birth has come. The moment we have been preparing for these last 25 days is now. May your hearts radiate with joy on this blessed Christmas day. May you welcome the Christ Child with open arms and hearts seeing Him in those around us. 
Merry Christmas everyone! May you have a beautiful Christmas season, filled with great joy, love, hope, and peace. I will see you all in the New Year.

4th Week of Advent

We have arrived at the fourth and final week of Advent. Although it is a short week, we are still called to continue to prepare our hearts for Christmas. So much goes on during this time of year, and as Christians, we seek to see beyond the gifts and decorations, enjoying them of course, but recognizing the call to prepare the way of the Lord. We must allow not only our eyes to see the beauty of Christ’s coming, but our hearts as well. To see and listen to the great wonder of God’s gift of the Christ child to all of us. If you have prayers left unsaid, preparations of the soul not yet completed, you still have time. Allow the preparations of faith to take precedence over the material. Bring the hope, joy, peace, and love of this season into your final preparations. Christ is near. Come and gather at His manger.

3rd Week of Advent

During Advent, we focus on 4 virtues that Christ brings, Hope, Love, Joy, Peace. On this Gaudete “week” we look towards Joy. We see a special light this week as we light the rose candle. We are finishing up our preparations for the physical beauty and wonder of this season, and continue to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. It is easy to lose patience during this week. For some the excitement is growing, for others, the dread and loneliness intensify. For those feeling the pressure of this time, remember that Mary is with you on this journey, interceding for you and to take time this week to see the light and awe of this time. For those overwhelmed with excitement, remember to still seek moments of stillness and silence. Oh, Come Emmanuel!

2nd Week of Advent 2019

Waiting. Anticipating. Which one are you this Advent season? Are you both? We frequently are told that Advent is a time of waiting, waiting for the Christ Child’s birth, waiting for the second coming of Christ, but are we waiting or anticipating? Waiting is passive, anticipating brings a sense of joy and action. Both are needed in this season of Advent. We need times when we are actively preparing our hearts (and homes) for Christmas, and we need times when we sit in the stillness, which is sometimes impossible to find. As we decorate our homes, and light the 2nd candle on our Advent wreath, praying with our families and church communities we are both actively and quietly looking for Christmas day to arrive, improving ourselves and our relationship with God. This week we are called into action, to seek reconciliation and healing. This is not simply with our Lord, but with each other as well, for when we seek healing with others, we are drawing closer to Christ? How will you seek healing in both the waiting and anticipation of this season?

1st Week of Advent 2019

Advent has begun. Christmas day is drawing near. During these next few weeks, we prepare to celebrate the greatest collaboration between God and Humanity (as Matthew Kelly informs us) through the birth of Jesus, and we prepare for the second coming of Christ. We decorate our homes, we light the candles on our Advent wreath, and we find quiet moments for prayer. It is easy to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but how are we doing preparing for His second coming? How well are we seeking to live in a spirit of forgivingness? How are we finding ways to increase in prayer, trust, and love for Christ Jesus? How well are we working to living in the fullness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? How well are we loving our neighbor, no matter who that neighbor is, or what they believe? Let us walk towards December 25th with a child-like spirit preparing for both the birth and the second coming of Christ.

To Be Grateful, Always

Today, all across this country people are celebrating Thanksgiving. We celebrate with prayer, by watching parades, by preparing foods that carry with them great tradition, and by gathering with loved ones. It is a day that is seen as kicking off the holiday season, and with it comes a range of emotions and experiences. It is a day when we fill our homes with laughter and conversation. It is a day when we feel pain and sadness as we see the emptiness around our table, feeling the loss of those who are no longer with us because of death or rejection. It is a day when we snicker at the materialism of tomorrow (and tonight) or we plan our shopping lists with excitement as we finish that last bite of pie. It is a day of stress and a day of joy. To those who feel the loss through rejection, may you feel the fullness and love of those who are still in your life today. For those who dread the stress and tension of this day, be it from the kitchen or from those that you will sit with at table, may you find a moment of peace to embrace the mess. For those who are separated from your loved ones who could not come home, may you know the love that ties you together. For those who miss loved ones no longer with us, may you feel their spirit fill your heart, knowing they are with you. For those who hate this holiday, may you have the eyes and the heart to see the beauty that is with and in all of us. May all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, being grateful for all that we have and all the opportunities that rest before us. Happy Thanksgiving!

An Unanswered Prayer

As care partners, individuals with dementia, and people of faith, we pray. We pray for miracles of Biblical proportion, and the size of a mustard seed. We pray Novenas, clutch our rosary beads as we say the Chaplet or Mysteries of the Rosary. We pray, and we hope, and we pray some more. What happens when our prayers go unanswered and no amount of increase in prayer seems to give us an answer? As care partners, we seek healing, rest, guidance, and support. We may pray that God takes away our pain, the dementia, the physical trails, the uncertainty of what each second brings, our financial worry, our exhaustion. We seek out new Saints or prayers. We up our attendance at church or try extra hard to not drift off in prayer. We try to find a way to force ourselves to trust in Jesus, wondering if maybe that was the “problem.” Yet, that prayer we feel with such urgency is followed by silence. What do we do?

I don’t have answers for you, I feel and understand your pain. We continue in hope, trusting that something will work out. We continue to pray, to connect with others, to get out of bed and take one more step, and work to find ways to help ourselves and others. Even when running on empty, it is amazing the power of our faith. We march on. We find community. We look to God with tears in our eyes, and we pray. He knows what is in our hearts, and the plan He has for us. He knows the path you have taken, the mistakes made, the trials and triumphs. He knows the path forward.

As people of faith, whatever your faith denomination maybe, I say to you, I am here, but more importantly, God is with you. ALWAYS!

Continue to Pray.

Find community, someone to sit in the pew with, to pray with, to share your emotions and pain with from time to time.

Start Spiritual Direction, someone to help guide your faith and prayer.

Find someone living on the path of dementia, and create a text prayer chain or start a support group.

Pick up a copy of the Peace with Dementia Rosary book mentioned back in the spring.

Find a Catholic Therapist or one that will respect your faith to see regularly, or simply have in your Rolodex.

Contact me, reach out.

We are together on this journey, seeking God in all things and in all moments. When He is silent He has not gone away simply changed the way He is communicating with us.

“Blessed be God in all His design.”

Part of the St. Dymphna Ministry, each week I will post an Advent reflection to help guide us through this season as caregivers, as those living with dementia, and as a community.

Week Four

The shortest day of the year is behind us. Christmas is hours away. Have our Advent preparations nourished us? Nourished our relationship with Christ? Helped us be ready for the coming of our Lord?

Psalm 80: 2ac, 3b, 15-16, 18-19. “Once again, O God, Look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted…” 

We are at the point when we can feel more drained now than when Advent started. We may be ready for Christmas in terms of decorations and gifts, but are we ready in spirit? But, are we rejuvenated, ready for the coming of Christ? Are we empty longing for a moment of rest or full of light? Christmas is a difficult time as we see storybook images in everything from movies, to commercials, to on our friends Facebook and Instagram posts. For some of us this is our first season without a loved one, for others, they still feel the pain of rejection from family and friends, for some the darkness has left them exhausted and worried how we will get those final preparations for Christmas accomplished. God has planted each one of us in a special place and He will protect us. If we turn to Him, He will nourish us. If we refocus this season on Christ and not the perfection we wish to achieve in gifts, food, and decorations we will find rest, peace, and joy. He is already there. He is already here. God is with us. May we not just see Him, but Know Him. There is still time. 

Heavenly Father, knowing that you are with us, may we come to know those we care for this day. May we give them the gift of Hope, being a light to those in darkness. May the time we have left this Advent season transform our hearts and help us see that we have enough time. We have enough time to see and know, to hope and be hope. We have enough time because you care for us. May we recognized your care and with great confidence turn to you each and every day. Amen