Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 10 -- Blaise Voita, Intercessor for Sick Children

There are so many more things I could say about sweet Blaise, but it's day ten of this little blog project already, so for now let's get down to business here!

Prayer for the Beatification of Blaise Voita

O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the United States of America, did cause to emerge from the desert of Arizona the pure and delicate butterfly, Blaise Voita, we thank You, the favor we begged through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross will now be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence, joy, and faith. Heavenly Father, we ask you to glorify Blaise. May the Church raise her to the honor of the altars for the encouragement of all people, and most especially for children with life-threatening illness and for their families. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for a Sick Child, Asking the Intercession of Blaise
O beloved Blaise, through the power of my most compassionate Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I humbly beseech you to look with love and pity on (name) who is ill at this time. Stir up in him/her the same passion that impelled you to respond with joy and love to all around in the face of your own suffering, a sure knowledge of the Divine presence, and a complete trust in God's providence. Use once again your spirit of compassion and ever-present joy to restore her/him, through your powerful heavenly intercession, to full health if it is God's holy will. I ask this in the Name of Jesus who lives and reigns with the Father in unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


I don't really know much about this, friends, but this is how I think it works: when someone has died whose life was marked by remarkable sanctity and virtue, a person (or group of people) can present their cause for beatification and canonization. I think the process starts out with a Mass (after which the person is declared "Servant of God"), then followed by a period of investigation where witnesses are interviewed about that person's life and anything that the person wrote, or that was written about them, gets examined as well. It all gets sent to Rome, and one authenticated medical miracle has them declared "Blessed" and a second has them declared a "Saint." (The Catholic Church teaches that anyone who dies and goes to heaven is a saint, and through the processes of Beatification and Canonization the Church holds up particular people as universal role models and intercessors for particular causes.)  I think there are some postulators, vice-postulators, a local bishop, and a bunch of theologians thrown in the mix, and the wait is typically five years after a person's death, to look at their life and achievements in a more objective manner. But the Vatican waived the five-year business in the cases of now Blessed Mother Teresa and John Paul II.

I never expected to be calling for someone's canonization (and don't get me wrong -- Coffee Talk is certainly not an official initiation of such a process!), but I do know this: when I was at Blaise's funeral Mass, on the drive home, and in all the days to follow, one thought keeps coming back to me: Santo subito! Sainthood now!

So whether this tenth day of blogging for Blaise is the end of something, the beginning of another, or both, let's all ask for Blaise's intercession. Do you know a child, or children, suffering from a serious illness? Why not ask Blaise to intercede for them from her heavenly home? Pass the prayer on to friends, relatives, neighbors, anyone who needs a special heavenly intercessor for a suffering child. And it doesn't matter if you are not Catholic -- the heavenly communion will intercede for us all, and I believe they are just waiting for us to ask for their help!

Servant of God Blaise Voita, pray for us!

Peace and all good,

P.S. I really have no idea if anyone will take on Blaise's cause in a formal way or how it works, but if anyone has stories of Blaise's holiness or miracles that you believe to have been granted through her intercession, feel free to send them to me for now at CoffeeTalkWithLeslie@gmail.com. And if there are any priests, bishops, theologians, or canonists in the crowd who feel to called to help in this regard, do let me know!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 9 -- Blaise's Travels

In her seven earthly years, Blaise was not able to do a lot of traveling because of her almost constantly perilous physical health. So one of her wonderful nurses (she had many who loved her so dearly!), Rosie, created a "Flat Blaisey" (inspired by Flat Stanley) so that she could 'bring' Blaise along on her trip to New York City! After that, Flat Blaisey traveled to Montana, Florida, and even China!

Blaise's mom, Lisa, said that there were many other requests to take Flat Blaisey as a travel companion, but as real Blaise got increasingly ill, Lisa was not able to send out Flat Blaise to anyone else.

Blaise's story makes me think of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, whose own illness seemed to keep her from the travels and mission she desired:
 In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostles. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your Name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But…one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.
And yet, despite leaving her earthly life at age 24, Therese truly is now a missionary to all continents, and a Doctor of the Church!

Similarly, I see little Blaise just now beginning her mission, her travels to all the ends of the earth. In just this past week, Blaise's story has traveled through the blogosphere to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Philippines, Germany, Ukraine, China, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, Israel, India, and Samoa. And certainly, Blaise knows not even the internet's bounds now!

Blaise, keep us in your heart as your spirit travels the whole world and so far beyond!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 8 -- Blaise's Humor

Even in the midst of her many years of extreme pain and suffering, Blaise had a great sense of humor that brought joy and levity to those around her.

From Blaise's mom, Lisa, in September 2011:
So I sneak back into bed at 2:00 a.m. and nestle up close to Blaise, and I hear, in her deadpan munchkin voice, 'Nice chocolate breath'...BUSTED!

May sweet Blaise help us to always have such joy and humor, even in the face of life's greatest trials!

As always, thanks for stopping, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 7 -- Blaise, Singing Her Heart Out

So many people have shared how touched they have been by Blaise's life and her beautifully painful story, but say that they are at a loss for words in how to respond.

Sometimes we are called just to sit with the mystery and beauty and suffering.

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:11).

At times, this stillness can bring peace, but often it brings us to a profound place of sorrow before peace can be felt. And as we enter into the existential pain of our own human frailty, we sometimes experience a dripping of grace from above, a moment when the Divine breaks through our overwhelming sorrow and brokenness.

From Blaise's mom, Lisa, on May 22, 2012:
Four months today and I miss my girl more fiercely than ever. I was painting in her room yesterday and feeling very sad; I asked her for a sign to let me know she could 'feel' me, and our favorite Black Eyed Peas song came on the radio. She used to shake her little tush to it. I cried...then I shook my booty a little for her...Mazel tov, Blaisey!

"The word mazel literally means “a drip from above.” ... Mazel is the term used in Jewish mysticism to describe the root of the soul. The mystics say that only a ray of our soul actually inhabits our body. The main part of the soul, our mazel, remains above, shining down on us from a distance.

Have you ever experienced a sense of spontaneous intuition, where out of the blue you suddenly feel at peace with yourself and the universe? Or a sudden flash of inspiration that makes you see life in a new light? Occasionally we may receive an extra flux of energy from our soul above. It can happen at any time, but is most common at a time of celebration ... It is especially at these times of joy that we are able to see beyond the mundane and the petty and to sense the deeper truths of life.

When we tell someone Mazel Tov, we are giving them a blessing: May this drip of inspiration from your soul above not dissipate, but rather have a positive and lasting effect, that from this event onwards you should live your life with higher consciousness. You should be aware of the blessings in your life and be ready to receive more and more."

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 6 -- On Suffering, Prayer, and the Risk of Love

Dear Coffee Talkers,

Thank you so much for joining me in this little journey with Blaise Voita (2004-2012). As I mentioned before, my girls and I never had the pleasure of meeting Blaise in person, but we came to know her in a few ways: through updates and pictures from her mom, through correspondence (the girls sent a few sweet pieces of correspondence and little gifts to one another), and most importantly through prayer. I say that the prayer is the most important because that is what actually drew us into the life and experience of Blaise in a profound and life-changing way. Let me explain.

While living in Ohio, I was part of a Catholic mom's group where it was a common practice for us to share prayer requests. One of the other mom's would sometimes mention a little girl named Blaise, a friend of her family's, who was frequently in and out of the hospital with a rare medical condition for which treatment was extremely difficult. I did not know much about her situation, but I did pray for her by name from time to time. When some tragic circumstances in my own family took me and my girls away from Ohio and the mom's group I continued to receive prayer requests for a time, and in summer 2010 something important happened. This is from a note I wrote to Lisa, Blaise's mom in 2011:

Life is much better now for us, thanks be to God, but I wanted to make something good come of all that suffering, and so I asked God if he would accept my sufferings on behalf of others families in crisis. I asked that he would help take me out of some of my unhealthy introspection and selfish misery in those darkest moments, and use my little offering on behalf of other people in need.

It did not take God long to make me aware of other suffering families, and your family (especially Blaise) have become a part of our story since that time.

In the summer of 2010 I decided to make some pilgrimages to many of the local shrines in the Philadelphia area on behalf of those other families in need. I took your Blaise as one of my main intentions to all of the shrines (St. Gianna Molla, St. Katharine Drexel, Miraculous Medal Shrine, Our Lady of Czestachowa), but there was one particular visit I made just for her. I checked my e-mail one day to see a message from Kate [the mutual friend from my mom's group] asking all of to please pray for Blaise -- she was dying. You and your family were saying your goodbyes to her. I looked at the clock, and saw that there should be just enough time (barring the interference of my poor sense of direction) to make it to evening Mass at the shrine of St. John Neumann in Philly. I prayed so hard for Blaise, and for your family. I waited for the next e-mail update. It came. Blaise was alive! And she would be going home soon!

Since then, Blaise has really been a special part of our lives. My girls loved getting the pretty little thank you card and picture from her, and they were so happy to send that rosary to her. (And the story of the rosary -- thank you again. Isn't it amazing when God gives you a little glimpse of what he can do with even our smallest acts of love and kindness?) When we pray, my girls often throw in one of their favorites -- "I pray for Blaise with all my heart!" -- and Patricia Rose (who has quite an astute memory for a 4 1/2 year-old) insists that Blaise came to visit us one day and play with her and Faustina. (Who knows? With God, all things are possible!)

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you so much for letting us be a little part of your lives. You & your Blaise have been a real inspiration to me on a lot of tough days, and even though we've all never met, I feel that through prayer you all have a very real presence in my heart. And it is a presence that has built my strength and trust in the Lord, my gratitude, my willingness to enter in more fully to the mystery of redemptive suffering, even in those moments that seem unbearably dark.
Blaise's life was one that called out for a profound response of love and prayer, and of the very deepest kind, since her life was so obviously fragile from the time before her birth until her death in January. The depth of the prayer and love that she drew from people was so profound because it really required a great deal of risk -- yes, in the good times, it seemed that everyone's love and prayers had sustained Blaise in being, but what about the day that Blaise's earthly life ended? What can we make of prayer then, in the face of such unthinkable tragedy?

Blaise's funeral Mass, which my girls and I were honored to attend, was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. In addition to her brother Damien's letter, Fr. Anthony Sortino, LC (a priest from Blaise's family) helped to make sense of the tremendous suffering of love and risk of prayer that everyone had invested in Blaise's life, and helped everyone to move forward in a new kind of love and prayer. During Blaise's earthly life, Fr. Anthony wisely suggested that it was not only Blaise who needed our love and prayers, but we who needed to be able to love and to pray for her. (To me, Blaise was a very clear example of a child who had literally been loved into being by her family, most especially her mother and her father and brothers who sacrificed everything for her.) We needed to enter into Blaise's story, to become a part of her suffering, so that we might constantly intercede for her that God might ease her burden. And when God finally did ease Blaise's burden by taking her into eternal rest, Fr. Anthony suggested that there might be one thing left that we could do for Blaise from this side of heaven -- we could let Blaise go. We could, in our own hearts and minds, turn Blaise over to her heavenly Father, and let her enter into the fullness of peace. We could see more clearly now the mutual gift of Blaise's life to us and our lives to Blaise, and could now even ask Blaise to intercede for us and our sufferings.

In her short but profoundly beautiful life, Blaise showed us that the way to peace is an acceptance with joy of all that God gives us even in the midst of unthinkable pain and seemingly unbearable suffering. And Blaise showed us that the risk of prayer and of love are ultimately necessary risks of a life worth living. Through this type of prayer and love, we are drawn more deeply into the communion of saints, and I hope that Blaise's prayers will continue to take us all there day by day.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 5 -- Before I Formed You in the Womb, I Knew You

From Blaise's mom, Lisa, four months after Blaise's passing:

Is this NOT Blaise?!? I made this in HIGH SCHOOL and never finished it; I found it recently in my old box of mementos. The hair...the lips...the lashes...she even has a the red mark of irritation on her cheek from her NG tube tape. Good Lord...

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you" (Jeremiah 1:5).

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 4 -- True Freedom

Not too long after Blaise's funeral Mass, her mother Lisa said that it was helping her to sort through some of Blaise's things and give away some mementos. She was gracious and generous enough to send several beautiful things of Blaise's to my girls, who treasure those items very much. One night, my younger daughter decided to wear some of Blaise's beads to a dance recital, and something special happened:

Lisa, my girls and I went to my cousin's girls' dance recital tonight, and Faustina decided to wear the string of special Blaisey beads that you sent to us. I can't really describe the whole experience well in writing, but there was a point during the recital where I felt that your sweet Blaise was present with us in some way, enjoying the recital. As I had that feeling, I even noticed that my girls had moved around a bit to see (one moved over, one sitting on a lap) so that they had one open seat between them -- it struck me as being a seat for Blaise! I don't think I've ever had that kind of feeling before, and it was so moving, beautiful, sad, and uplifting all at once. I keep you in prayer so often, Lisa. Thinking of you as you grieve and heal, and thinking of your sweet girl.

Oh, that's so sweet. It's funny because my nieces--the ones you saw at the service--I can't even describe to you how good they were to Blaise and how much they loved her. They are both dancers and, while it was so painful for Pat and I to see all those healthy dancing girls up there, she loved it. I don't know what went through her mind...she was SO smart and intuitive, but she never talked about her differences. Oh, I miss her so much. Thank you for sharing.

It seems that sweet Blaise, in spite of all of her physical pain and differences (or perhaps because of them), had a special degree of interior peace, joy, and freedom that was not only unusual for a child her age, but even an example to adults.  And I pray now, as she experiences the full freedom of eternal life free from earthly sufferings and constraints, that she will help us all to receive the grace to find that same freedom that comes from a quiet spirit, a peaceful heart, and childlike faith.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 3 -- Of Sleepovers, Wedding Dresses, and Easter Purses

As I mentioned before, my girls prayed every day for their little friend Blaise, and they had a wonderful sleepover party planned out for whenever Blaisey got better. When I told the girls of the sad news of Blaisey's death, they looked so sad and then said, "But what about the sleepover?" I explained that there was going to be a special Mass for Blaise so that her family and friends could say goodbye until they see her again in the next life, and they asked if we could go, which we did. They also decided that they could wait until they get to heaven for the sleepover, where they would have a really big party with Blaise, and they still pray from time to time that Blaisey is having a good time in heaven. What follows is a picture of my girls at the funeral Mass, and a note I sent to Blaise's mom, Lisa, after our return home.

When the girls and I were packing a few things to head out, both of my girls insisted on wearing their fancy white dresses, which they refer to as their wedding dresses. They are flower girl dresses, really, but they both insisted on wearing their 'wedding dresses.' Next, they insisted on bringing their 'Easter purses.' And then on the morning of Blaisey's service, they both insisted that I put their hair in 3 braids (this is not a common hairstyle for them -- haha!). Anyway, you can see all of this in the picture that your friend took of my girls, and it was all so very striking to me -- the wedding dresses, the Easter purses, the 3 braids that are within themselves each a little trinity. Because that Mass for Blaisey, was all of those things -- it was the liturgical moment of celebrating her wedding day, the start of her eternal Easter, her welcoming into the very heart of the Trinity. Oh gosh, I'm crying now even as I type it. The beauty and pain are almost too much to bear, and I can't even imagine how it is for you. I hold you up in prayer each day, and I thank you again for being so generous with your little saint, and with your own journey toward healing and wholeness. Peace be with you and your family during this Triduum and as you prepare to celebrate Easter, Lisa.
 As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 2 -- The Pink Beaded Rosary

Even though they had never met her my girls prayed for Blaise daily, and when a traveling Catholic bookstore came to our parish a couple years ago they picked out a rosary with pretty pink beads to send as a little gift for Blaise to help her feel better. In January 2011 Blaise's mom Lisa sent me this note:

So, I think I told you how much I loved that little rosary and sort of 'stole' it for myself for a little bit. You may have seen that my grandfather died and how dearly I loved him. He was SO special and the cornerstone of my Catholic faith. Whenever we got the chance (which I now regret was not more often, in hindsight of course) we would go pray a rosary with my grandparents. Blaise was always near the top of their list of prayers along with a whole host of other intentions, as they were the parents of ten children and umpteen grandchildren! They were inseparable and one of the things they used to do together was make rosaries. They made me one for my birthday which I now cherish more than ever. It's been missing for a while. I had slipped that pretty pink one you sent Blaise into the case they gave me...always having the intention to pop into the chapel and pray when I had some nurse/free time, but never seeming to make it! When my grandfather died it was a very sad time for our large family who were all very close to him. It was a monumental effort to get help for Blaise on short notice and get to Ohio. I'm so glad I went and SO glad I slipped that rosary into my purse before I left. I held onto it for comfort at the wake. The next morning, before the funeral, they unexpectedly asked if anyone would like to leave a memento in the casket. I think, because no one knew about this, no one had anything with them. I was a little nervous about it, because of all the ten children, just my one aunt slipped up there and I was the only grandchild. I knew I had to leave Blaise's rosary with him! My Grandma was grieving and crying and not paying too much attention and then I saw her eyes move down to something foreign in the casket by my Grandpa's hand. I whispered that is was Blaise's rosary and asked her if it was okay. She started crying fresh tears and said, 'I think that's beautiful.'

You can't imagine how blessed I felt to be able to leave a little bit of Blaise with him. I hate the idea of his body in the ground--I know it's not 'him' and he's rejoicing--but I love the idea of those heavy, crackly beads of Blaise's staying in the ground there for centuries, or however long they will last, in Grandpa's 'spot'.
So, just a short time ago we pulled out our bed because we're getting ready to move. I found my rosary from Grandma and Grandpa! It had slipped from under my pillow and behind my headboard--probably from a night of me trying to pray it, when I only got halfway through the first decade and passed out again! I was so happy and imagined my Grandpa smiling from heaven.

PLEASE do not apologize for not sending Blaise anything else. I've never met you and you've been so kind to my daughter. I wanted to share this story with you because you are one of the pieces of the puzzle of this sad, but amazing story of Blaise. Your one little act of kindness had a huge ripple effect. So many go unnoticed, but I'm so glad to trace this back to you so you know what your little gesture of sending that pretty rosary to Blaise meant to someone like her struggling mother.
God bless you.

All of our small acts of kindness and love have a huge ripple effect. Thanks to Blaise and Lisa for helping us to remember.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 1 -- Dear Blaise

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I'm back by the popular demand of the 3 or more people who asked about my blog, so welcome back to all of my faithful readers! To re-start things here at Coffee Talk, I'm starting a little project I call "Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise." You'll have to stay with me for all ten days to see this bittersweet, but deeply inspiring, story unfold. Sweet little Blaise died in January, but I feel certain that she is praying for all of us struggling folks down here now from her heavenly home. I mean, if anyone is there, Blaise is. My girls and I never had the pleasure of meeting Blaise in person, but the girls were pen pals for a while, and we attended her funeral Mass. It was truly awe-inspiring, and Blaise's sweet mother and brother have given permission for this letter to be shared:

Dear Little Sister,

Nothing I can ever say will ever truly express everything that is in my heart. I have been so filled with conflicting emotions for the past 72 hours that I can barely comprehend or deal with them. I am so, so proud of you. Proud of you for fighting for over seven years. From before you were even out of the womb, you were so full of spirit and fire that nothing could keep you down. The doctors gave you a 20% chance of survival through delivery because they thought your lungs would collapse from the surrounding fluid when it came time for you to use them. But you come out against the odds, yelling and fighting like the warrior you are. Time and time again, you beat the odds, forcing medical professionals with more education than your entire lifetime to eat their words and reconstruct their predictions. In the face of all the doubt and negativity, you pulled through like a champion every time. I know you are with the angels now not because you stopped fighting, but because you knew that we, your loving family were ready to let you go.

At the same time, I am so overcome with sadness that I can hardly face it at times. I have found comfort in the arms of family and friends, but the hole in my heart that your absence has left is more devastating than anything I have ever experienced. People speak about caring for a disabled child as though it is a burden, but I think that I, mom, dad, and Regan needed you far more than you needed us. I want so badly to hold your puffy hand again, to build Legos with you, to sit at the table and draw, and to let you stand on my feet and walk around with me. My heart is in a billion pieces, and while I know it will heal with time, there will always be a little Blaisey-shaped fragment that is missing as long as I walk this earth.

But I know, even though my own pain is great, that your life was an incredible journey that brought you to many people who needed you, and your spirit was a light that filled so many lives. I have heard it from individuals here and there over seven years, but in the days since you went to be with the angels, I have been so amazed by how many people have come forth to celebrate your life and express how much they cared about you. You were such a clever little girl; while you seemed fragile and delicate to those around you, it was through that guise that you commanded such an incredible power to move people and an influence that was more far-reaching than any of us could have imagined. We all thought we were the ones helping you and that you needed us to take care of you. But in drawing people away from themselves and provoking so many acts of love and selflessness, you were the one teaching us how to live and how to be good people.

I know that you taught me more than I could ever learn in any university or any career, and that you challenged me in ways no other person could. I am a perfectionist, and God sent me a little sister with a one-of-a-kind birth defect that no doctor could fix. I learned to see beauty and opportunities to grow from the imperfections in life. I am a control freak, and God sent me a little sister who presented us with a completely unpredictable new crisis or blessing every day. I learned to let go of things I cannot control and accept the things I cannot change. I am incredibly self-conscious at times, and God sent me a little sister who was very noticeably different from the people around her. I learned that it's not really important what other people say behind your back and to embrace my individuality. I am sometimes arrogant and quick to judge others, and God sent me a little sister with a situation that I'm sure made me act selfish, mean, and inconsiderate to those around me at times. Despite all that, I have been blessed with incredible friends, family, teachers, and neighbors who continually rise to the occasion to support me and remind me of the inherent goodness in all people. God sent me to you, Blaise and I am so incredibly grateful that you are my little sister.

I could go on for days about the ways that you have helped me, loved me, and changed me, Blaisey, but today it's not about me. It's about you, and under all my sadness and pain, there is joy. I am so happy for you, happy that your long, hard journey is over. No more pain, no more discomfort, no more fear. You are with the angels now, with Grandma and Grandpa. You have blossomed into the butterfly you were always meant to be, no longer held down by the earthly body that caused you so much grief. I will miss you every day for the rest of my life, but I find peace in knowing that you will always have my back and that you will be waiting for me with open arms and a giant smile on your face, just like you did every time I came home to visit you. My pain is great, but I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite songs--'I mourn for those who never knew you.' Take care of me Blaisey, I'll see you soon.


As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,