It is difficult to say when and where this all began, but certainly an igniting moment was when our oldest daughter and grandsons returned to their home in Spain and our baby, (of six), headed off to the university of Georgia. This was our first “empty nest” in over 35 years.
We immediately left for Minnesota, where cricket led a weeklong retreat or a convent. I traveled into Pennsylvania for one of my last corporate gigs, and returned in the motorhome to carry us to Arkansas. We then spoke to the catholic association of musicians conference at the little portion hermitage with john Michael Talbot.
We have attended this conference several times, but this trip was special and many ways. It was our first relying solely on the motorhome, staying in campgrounds and truck stop parking lots, and receiving tremendous encouragement all along the way. It was that this conference that we made a special connection with Pierce Pettis, an award winning professional songwriter based in Nashville and Alabama. (check out Pierce’s Bio at stable music dot com) we were blessed to be invited to Pierce’s church for a mass saying goodbye to the Sister who had administrated the parish for over a decade
July found us in preparation for what the rest of the year would bring , partly beginning the process of “unstuffing” our lives and making ready to spend longer periods on the road. Jerry also began the process of recording our newest CD,” my favorite picture”, which is a collection of original and other songs we use in our ministry.
September began with our leading the night of prayer and song at Most Holy Trinity parish in Augusta Georgia. We celebrated their with our own “archangel” Father Michael Lubinsky, whose prayerful encouragement has become a constant miracle for us.
Words about Jerry and Cricket Aull are my gratitude to them for coming to Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Augusta, GA September 9,2008 , and offering our community an unforgettable evening of prayer and song and reflections that pierce he mind and heart and soul and spirit with mystical holiness, joy ,and love of God.
Jerry's singing lifts the soul to God in exquisite beauty. He is complemented by the message of Gospel truths and values by Cricket Aull as she focuses us on the mysteries of Christian faith in Jesus to keep us single-minded in His purpose for the honor and glory of God and the sanctification of our lives. What a powerful duo of talent and Christian faithfulness to God's plan for them to sing His praises
always. I am totally recommending your parish to call upon Jerry and Cricket to give you the opportunity to hear and see for yourself the beauty of their calling to our Church."
FR Michael Lubinsky parochial vicar at Most Holy Trinity Church
In the middle of September, we reconnected with many friends in our previous parish of Saint Agnes, in Nashville Indiana.
We were blessed to lead a retreat for the Franciscan fraternity in Hendersonville North Carolina, and stayed in our camper “on the street where Greg lives”.
Autumn brought some beautiful scenery on our trip up to St Louis for Cricket’s high school reunion and reconnection with good friends there. From St. Louis we traveled to the national secular Franciscan convention where Cricket spoke on while Jerry again provided liturgical and workshop music.
Later in October, we were honored to serve the Franciscan fraternities in Chattanooga Tennessee for the day of reflection on [photos etc.] And were the guests of John and Faye Martin. We found at this retreat that we were out of sync with the heating system in a meeting room and were freezing inside while it was gorgeous outside! We celebrated youth and balance of nature by warming up outside in the wonderful Tennessee sun.
Early November took us to Sioux City Iowa, where we were so blessed to serve the Church of the Nativity with the parish mission on harvest.
Father Jerry Fierfeldt and his community held us in their souls from Saturday through the following Thursday. We had camped in this area on our way there, at Graham cracker state park (my name). It went below freezing that night and our heater wouldn’t function, and the win sounded like something out of the wizard of oz. Needless to say, we were the only campers at night, but it was actually quite cozy as we rolled the rest of the way into Sioux City. We did a brief description of the mission at the masses, and Jerry provided music with the parish as liturgical musicians. Monday night was focused on the seeds of harvest, the parable of the sower, and a hearty group of folks braved the first big snow and ice of the season to join us.
It was after this “polar” experience, (at least for us Georgians), that Father Jerry and his dog
Invited us to stay in the guest part of the rectory. It was like being in a mansion compared to the motorhome, but this dog’s enthusiasm and gregariousness is almost as nonstop has his master, Father Jerry. We are dog lovers from way way back, and Father Jerry reminded me of Father Griffin constantly walking across the campus of the University of Notre Dame with his dog when we went to school there.
Nearly all returned under the same conditions for Tuesday night, where our theme focused on the cultivation and the growing of our catholic faith and harvest. This worked well with the examination of conscience, and then our celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. Several priests came from neighboring parishes, and it was so wonderful to visit into the night with so many people for prayer and fellowship.
Father Jerry and several others had recommended that we visit the shrine in Sioux City before we finished our mission. The pictures we’ve included were taken with a lousy camera on a an overcast day but here is a link for better visuals. http://www.trinityheights.com/ We spent several hours roaming the grounds and appreciating the wonderful testament and teaching of our catholic era teach present on this holy ground.
We finished the nativity mission on the theme of harvest, with a wonderful Mass celebrated by Father Andrew-Bao Vo from Vietnam. We always knew that one of the blessings of our itinerant ministry would be the stories that we got to share with people we met. Father Andrew and his family lived for seven years in the jungles of Vietnam after their father was arrested. During that time the family still grew in their catholic faith so much so that this young man this now a wonderful priest in Iowa. By last night of the mission, we felt truly as though we were at the dinner table with wonderful friends and believers, and we look forward to our next visit to the nativity family.
Our trip home allowed me to visit with my sister Mary Pat, who is on staff at boys town research hospital. Many of us I’m sure recall the story of father Flanagan and boys town, symbolized by the beautiful song, “he ain’t heavy father, he’s my brother”; and even though my sister and I are among nine children of a deaf widow, it was transforming to see my sisters' passion and results and dealing with deaf infants, children, and their families.
We were honored later that week to serve of Franciscan retreat outside of Kansas City, and one page of the newsletter below tells that story well.
Morning of Reflection, Saturday, November 15
It was cold and snowy that Saturday morning, but inside the Sanctuary of Hope there was warmth emanating from the words and music of Cricket and Jerry Aull. The Secular Franciscans gathered were treated to a presentation on “Understanding Penance.”
We were told that the official commentary on the Rule of the SFO describes a person who does penance as one turned toward God. We need to be the presence of God to the world. Penance also means that my life can be offered to God in such a way that I help to call forth more of creation, in addition to myself, to loving God wholeheartedly. Everything we do has potential to bring others closer to God.
Penance should be a way of life for the Secular Franciscan. We do this best by following our promises of simplicity (planting the seeds of patience and love), purity (everything done purely for God), and obedience (serving others) as best as possible according to our state in life.
God uses all of our situations in life to bring about a transformation to holiness. God, in loving wisdom, has made the painfully difficult circumstances which work to fashion us into holiness and that also serve to present our beloved Lord to a world that needs to see Him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.” A form of penance is detachment from preferring our own opinions; also detachment from material goods; denial of one’s self. The love and imitation of Christ is present in all penance.
In faith we embrace everything as a gift from God because we trust our gracious and loving Father to take everything we go through and use it for His will and our good.
It is JOY (a) to be freed from a self-focus; (b) to know Christ intimately; (c) to know the great depth of the love of Christ; (d) to realize that all of our sufferings of life and the cross are valuable, redemptive, and used by God’s design to make us holy; (e) to allow the Holy Spirit to take us through all life’s experiences and relationships with love’s pure desire to give of itself.
We must try to remember that God uses our sufferings to transform ourselves AND the world. Think of lifting up someone else rather than myself—love lowliness!!
Cricket and Jerry gave us much to think and pray about. Visit their website at jerryandcricketaull.com to check out their book store and music store.
Let us pray for the Spirit of Penance:
“O seraphic father, St. Francis, I venerate in you the living image of Christ crucified. Your Love transformed your whole life into one long martyrdom. It made you strive by means of severe penances to satisfy the ardor of your desires, until at last it impressed on your body the wounds it had long before engraved deeply in your heart. It thus made you a living crucifix, preaching sweetly to all people the sufferings and love of Jesus. Obtain for me, O holy father, that I too may banish from my heart the spirit of the world; that I may esteem poverty and humiliation above wealth and honor; that I may mortify my passions and advance daily in the knowledge and love of God, until at last, detached from myself, from the world and from all creatures, I may live for God alone, and like you say with my while heart, “My God and my all,” my God, my inheritance and my joy in time and eternity. Amen.” (from Secular Franciscan Companion, Franciscan Herald Press, p. 54)
December began with our celebrating an advent evening of reflection with holy Trinity parish in Peachtree City Georgia. Despite the hurry and flurry of the season, the room was brimming with people fully desiring that graces of advent prayer. (sorry the photo is dark, but you know how candlelight mixes with a cell phone photo!)
Fr. Frank McNamee, now at the Cathedral in Atlanta, worked with us on a wonderful 3 nights of Advent waiting and living in hope and grace. We concluded on Wednesday evening with an Evening of Reconciliation with over 20 priests there, and the choirs helped with the songs of quiet reflection! (more to come!)