Tag Archives: Josephine

Dedication

This Sunday evening, the Solemnity of the Assumption, I will be singing with Voices of St Francis at The Basilian Marian Shrine of Gratitude.

We will be performing sacred music by Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria and others, and will be closing with Biebel’s Ave Maria. There will also be a rosary procession and eucharistic adoration. I dedicate my personal efforts to the memory of my mother-in-law, Josephine, who passed away last Friday.

Here is a gorgeous version of the Biebel sung by Chanticleer. Say a prayer for the repose of her soul as you enjoy this.

For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.

As these words were read from the Gospel of Luke this morning at mass, I could not help but meditate on my mother-in-law Josephine's treasures:  her faith, and her family. With her death only two days past, it was difficult to focus on some of the celebration, but these words rang out.

Her faith permeated her entire life.  She enjoyed beautiful things, but It was very difficult to give her gifts.  There was always someone else who needed things more than she did, and so she would send monetary gifts to the St Joseph orphanage in Lebanon for which she raised money, or would buy gifts for those she perceived to be in more need than she. The things she cherished most were religious articles:  rosaries, holy cards, statues, candles, relics.  She would obtain these when she visited holy places, and then give many of them away to people who needed the comfort. When she came to Toronto last Christmas, she brought a gorgeous statue of Padre Pio which she gave to us.  She was a big fan of his.  I also have rosaries and holy cards that she gave me, that I will always treasure. 

But these items were not her faith.  They were like photographs of dear family members, reminders of saints and prayers and devotions.  She prayed every morning with a candle, saying rosaries for the intentions of her loved ones as well as her own.  She rose very early, starting her day with prayers and then watched the mass on her satellite television feed from Lebanon. When she was here last year, I took her to mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a day that was very important to her.  It was perhaps the second and definitely last time we went to mass together, just the two of us. It was a horrid night, weather-wise, with high winds and heavy snow.  She wanted to get there early so that she could pray before the celebration began.  Although the mass was in English and she didn't understand most of it, the last hymn was Salve Regina which she had sung in procession at Lourdes, and I could tell that she was very happy. Her faith brought her through very difficult times in her life. She was an example to me of a holy, devoted life.

Her family was her other treasure.  She had six children who lived, all of whom have become successful (in the worldly sense, at least), in great part because of her sacrifice of time and what little money they had.  The children went to private Catholic schools in Beirut, and she scrimped and saved the money each Fall for tuition.  She, with a grade six education (forced to leave school by edict of her uncle), supervised homework and made sure that the children were well-fed and dressed on the very small salary of her husband, a clerk at a bank.  She welcomed all comers to their apartment, serving meals and offering a place to sleep to traveler and especially to priests who found themselves without family on feast (or other) days.  A year after the war broke out, against the counsel of her husband, she arranged for passports and travel to take the family to Europe and away from the risks of living on the Green Line.  They started over in Paris, on furniture donated by a Catholic relief society.  She was the first up in the morning, and the last to sleep. Her family was truly her vocation, and she slaved for their benefit.  The result?  Two medical doctors, two doctorates, and two successful business people. I remember being exasperated with my two small boys and then realizing that she was able to manage with four boys, two girls, and very little in the way of financial resources. 

She died on the Feast of the Transfiguration.  Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas writes: 

In the Transfiguration Christ enjoyed for a short while that glorified state which was to be permanently His after His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The splendor of His inward Divinity and of the Beatific Vision of His soul overflowed on His body, and permeated His garments so that Christ stood before Peter, James, and John in a snow-white brightness. The purpose of the Transfiguration was to encourage and strengthen the Apostles who were depressed by their Master's prediction of His own Passion and Death. The Apostles were made to understand that His redeeming work has two phases: The Cross, and glory—that we shall be glorified with Him only if we first suffer with Him. (quoted at catholicculture.org)

By her death on this feast day, we are reminded that her suffering is over and she is heading to her glorification with Our Lord, His Mother, and the saints that she relied on for intercession.   

(Art:  Transfiguration by Raphael (1520)

The Communion of Saints.

My mother-in-law Josephine passed away yesterday morning.  While we knew that she didn’t have a long time to live, having been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, it still came as a shock, a sudden loss, the realization that she is no longer with us physically.  

The telephone woke us up.  She had been staying with her daughter Gemma in Paris while undergoing chemotherapy.  Zou’s brother Tony called…he had been with her when she died.  Despite the exchange in Arabic, I could tell what the call was.  Zouheir sitting on the side of the bed, speaking in low tones, unusual for phone calls with his family.  He lay back down and we talked for a while.

It’s been a crazy summer.  When we learned of his mother’s diagnosis, we went to Paris to spend some time with her as soon as both boys were out of school.  Just before we left, Zou found out that he had kidney stones and so an appointment for an ultrasound was booked when he got back, two weeks later.  He had stones when he was a child, and has a large scar on his flank from the surgery back in Beirut.  As it turns out, the stones are very large and must be removed by surgery, which is booked in September.  Zou has been expending a lot of mental and emotional energy flipping between his mother’s failing health and his own discomfort and upcoming intervention.

Yesterday morning was his first meeting with the surgeon, and so, still struggling with the news and all that he had to do to get to Paris, he headed off for his early morning appointment.  He sent notes to various people at the office, reassigning work for the next week and cancelling the travel to the US that he had on his calendar.  While he was gone, I was very emotional and spent most of my time thinking about her and praying.

We spent the day booking travel, making calls, sending emails, laundry, packing, just sitting.  He got on a flight last night and arrived this morning to see his mom before her body was prepared for travel to Stockholm, where the funeral will be held.  I had a brief email from him saying that he had spent some time with her, that she was surrounded by candles, a rosary, and a photo of Fr. Stephan Nehme, a Maronite Lebanese monk who was recently beatified.

This morning I took Wilson for his early walk, something that Zou usually does.  As we rounded the second corner, the sun, just rising and still low in the sky, hit me full force, shining almost parallel to the ground. I couldn’t really see anything in front of me, such was the intensity of the light in my eyes. I turned off my audiobook and Wilson pulled me to stop.  It was a cool morning, unusual for recent weeks, and the sun warmed me.  I had this strong sense of the presence of Josephine and of being told (her telling me?) that she is fine and that she loves me very much.  I had a sense of peace, and of the power of the communion of saints, the mystical union of the Church Militant (on earth), the Church Penitent (undergoing purification), and the Church Triumphant (in heaven).  No longer an advisor and helper here on earth, she takes on a new role in the Church Triumphant, where I know she will continue to intercede for her children and all those she loves.

John Nava
The Communion of Saints (Tapestry), John Nava

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California 

Copyright 2009 Magnolia Editions

 

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – 13 July 2010

Outside my window…
…the sun is setting.  It’s been cooler the past couple of days with a bit of rain.  Everything feels a little fresher and more focussed.

I am thinking…
…about the future.  I turned 50 last Friday and it feels like a time to think about what I want to do with the next 50.

I am thankful for…
…my Kindle e-reader, a gift from Z that arrived from amazon in the mail today!  I am so excited about it.  I have already downloaded one book and moved a bunch of pdfs that I’ve been wanting to read over from my computer.  It’s so small and light, and I’m excited about always having reading material with me!

From the kitchen…
…we had grilled flank steak with a salad of romaine, cucumber, tomato, avocado, and blue cheese for dinner tonight.  A perfect summer meal.  Accompanied by bread and Ontario cherries.

I am wearing…
….an olive green sport skirt and tank.

I am going…
… to see Miss Saigon at the Four Seaons Centre this Friday night.

I am reading…
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a terrific first novel by Helen Simonson.  Am about two thirds of the way through and wish it would never end.  I love books like that!

I am hoping…
…for continued cool weather this week.

I am hearing…
…the television in another room, where Z is watching Life Unexpected.  Also some strange intermittent beeping from the kitchen, the source of which I cannot determine.

Around the house…
…I still have curtains to hem and a lot of dusting to do.

One of my favorite things…
… is preparing a meal that everyone in the household enjoys and comments (positively) on!  

A few plans for the rest of the week:
I’m getting together with a friend for lunch on Thursday, and then taking Michael to his tuba lesson that evening.  Friday is Miss Saigon.  I also want to get a couple of weeks work done in my genealogy course, and do some photocopying at the North York Central Library for an enquiry that’s come into the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.  And play with my Kindle!

Here’s a picture thought I am sharing:

This is my mother-in-law Josephine taken with all her children when we were in Paris last month.  They are not often all together, so this was a wonderful opportunity.  From left to right (back row):  Marie-Louise, Jean-Louis, Gemma, Tony.  Front:  Zouheir, Jacques, Josephine.

 

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook is brought to us at http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/ .  Head over there to join the fun!

 

 

Thinking about Josephine.

My mother-in-law has not been well, and we’re heading to Paris to see her as soon as Michael finishes his exams mid-June.  Alex has to return after a week to start his summer job, so I’ll fly back with him. Z will stay on for another week with Michael and do some travelling.

When she was here over Christmas, I posted about her and her special relationship with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.    Here’s a repost of something I wrote a number of months ago in her honour.

 

Things I learned from my Mother-in-Law

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In no particular order:

  1. Tabbouleh should have a high parsley to bulgur ratio with NO parsley stems.
  2. Dishwashing soap is the best pre-wash treatment for clothing stains.
  3. It is entirely possible to spend your life raising (and praying for) your children and make a HUGE difference in the world.
  4. It’s always better to have too much food on the table than too little.
  5. Always welcome visitors for a meal or a night, even if it means Ikea mattresses in the living room.
  6. Leftovers are a **good** thing.
  7. Morning prayers are better if you light a candle.
  8. Make your way in the world with confidence, even if you don’t have much education or speak the local language.
  9. Be patient and forbearing with those who annoy you, but speak your mind in matters of faith and morals.
  10. Your freezer is your friend.  Use it to store herbs, tomato paste, leftover lemon juice, old bananas, nuts that you buy in bulk, bulgur.  [It’s REALLY your friend when your MIL visits you and fills it with home cooking.]
  11. Partake of the sacraments as often as you can. It doesn’t matter if the mass is in your language.  You know what’s going on.
  12. There’s always room for a statue of the BVM in your suitcase. And gifts for every friend and relative that you will see on your trip.
  13. If you love something, buy one for (or recommend one to) everyone you meet. Think enamel roasting pans, Swedish lemon pepper seasoning, over-the-sink colanders, Cuisinart food processors.

All this from Josephine, my “mama”.  We communicate in our second language (French), and live an ocean apart, but she has taught me so much over the 26 years I have been married to her son.  And I love her very much.

My mother-in-law and the Immaculate Conception

My mother-in-law, Josephine (“Mama”), arrived from Stockholm on Monday to spend a month with us here in Toronto.  I blogged about her previously, about her wisdom and all that she has taught me in the 26 years I’ve been married to her fourth child, even though we’ve been separated by an ocean most of the time.  She hasn’t visited with us for over three years, although she saw Z when he first moved to Toronto from Atlanta, before the boys and I moved up.

I am refreshing my French, as that is our common language.  She loves to tell stories about the past, and I am enjoying hearing some old ones as well as some new ones.  She is a very devout Catholic, and has experienced the hand of God throughout her life, bringing her safely through many hardships and heartbreaks.

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Her parents were born in Mardin, Turkey (left) in the early part of the last century.  They were part of the forced exodus of Armenians and other Christians from Turkey between 1915 and 1917.  Her mother, Marine, was four years old when her family was expelled from the city and marched south.  Her grandmother was pregnant with her uncle at the time, and gave birth on the road.

Yesterday morning, realizing that it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I asked Mama whether she’d like to go to mass.  We’d already missed the one mass at our parish, so I had found one at another parish close by yesterday evening.  She looked at me and told me that it was very important that she go to mass, not only for the Immaculate Conception but because her mother had been born on that day in 1912, as the bells were ringing for church.  It was for that reason that she was named Marine.  Even more importantly, she died on the same feast day 86 years later.  She said that she had a lot of prayers to say, and that she very much wanted to go to church.  Z had to stay late at work, so we went together, just the two of us.

We arrived a little bit early, and she took out her handful of prayer cards, mostly in Arabic, and began her prayers.  There were 40 or 50 people at mass, mostly women.  The priest began mass with the hymn Ave Maria, and I was overjoyed to hear my mother-in-law join in on the chorus.  She has been to Lourdes a number of times, and told me that it is the song sung during processions there, with everyone singing in their own language.  .  The chorus is Latin, and she sang along with the congregation.  I wish she could have understood the homily, because the priest talked about the gifts that we are all given to assist us with our vocation, just as Mary was given the gift of sinlessness.  Mass ended with Salve Regina, and we headed back home at the beginning of the snow storm that hit us overnight.

This morning, she reported that had prayed another hour and a half at home before bed, and had slept very well, unlike her first night here.  I hope to recount some of the stories she tells me over the next month.  She is a model of holiness, a prayer warrior, a very courageous and funny woman, who has found comfort in her faith throughout her 78 years.

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From left to right:  Josephine’s brother Joseph, Josephine, her paternal grandmother Meme Marro, her mother Marine, her sister Antoinette.

Things I learned from my Mother-in-Law

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In no particular order:

  1. Tabbouleh should have a high parsley to bulgur ratio with NO parsley stems.
  2. Dishwashing soap is the best pre-wash treatment for clothing stains.
  3. It is entirely possible to spend your life raising (and praying for) your children and make a HUGE difference in the world.
  4. It’s always better to have too much food on the table than too little.
  5. Always welcome visitors for a meal or a night, even if it means Ikea mattresses in the living room.
  6. Leftovers are a **good** thing.
  7. Morning prayers are better if you light a candle.
  8. Make your way in the world with confidence, even if you don’t have much education or speak the local language.
  9. Be patient and forbearing with those who annoy you, but speak your mind in matters of faith and morals.
  10. Your freezer is your friend.  Use it to store herbs, tomato paste, leftover lemon juice, old bananas, nuts that you buy in bulk, bulgur.  [It’s REALLY your friend when your MIL visits you and fills it with home cooking.]
  11. Partake of the sacraments as often as you can.  It doesn’t matter if the mass is in your language.  You know what’s going on.
  12. There’s always room for a statue of the BVM in your suitcase. And gifts for every friend and relative that you will see on your trip.
  13. If you love something, buy one for (or recommend one to) everyone you meet. Think enamel roasting pans, Swedish lemon pepper seasoning, over-the-sink colanders, Cuisinart food processors.  
All this from Josephine, my “mama”.  We communicate in our second language (French), and live an ocean apart, but she has taught me so much over the 26 years I have been married to her son.  And I love her very much.

And speaking of my mother-in-law…

My brother-in-law in Sweden recently sent along this photo that he came across while going through some family papers.

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This is a photo of my in-laws wedding. It took place in Harissa, Lebanon in the summer residence of the Syrian Catholic patriarch, in 1949.

The photo was publised in the Osservatore Romano in 1960 in an article written by Zs uncle about the Syrian Catholic Rite. The text in Italian on the photo reads (approximately):

A wedding in the Syrian Rite: the traditional placement of the crowns on the heads of the spouses.

From left to right, the photo depicts Msgr. Karroum (a relative of my mother-in-law), my in-laws Josephine and Georges, and Msgr. Mansourati, my husband’s uncle. The arabic text at the lower corner are notes made by Mgr. Mansourati indicating that the photo came from his book.
[edited to correct year of marriage]