Monthly Archives: January 2015

Learning to Live a Virtuous Life

Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues: hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance. – Augustine of Hippo

humility-will-felixTo my readers: Over the next year I will be focusing frequently on the living the virtues of Mary in our everyday lives. As St. Augustine so aptly stated above, it is important for me to start my journey with humility. I have much room for growth and I hope you will enjoy taking this journey with me. May our Blessed Mother guide us and keep us close to her heart, bringing our wishes to serve her Son to his feet that He may make us ever aware of our unique purpose.

My realization of the necessity of the virtue of humility began last year during my preparation for a presentation at the Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference  at Mt. Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, I partook of the process of consecrating myself to Mary. I had purchased the book, 33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael Gaitley,  a few years before, but the upcoming event prompted me to search for it.

Here is another God moment share:  I actually found the book (this is no small feat in our queenship of maryhome that could pass for a public library) and as I flipped through its pages I found a list of Marian feast days on which are appropriate to end the consecration. Surprise, surprise. The conference was the weekend of October 11, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary (of course if you google “Marian Feasts” you will see that virtually every day of the year is a feast day for Mary!)   Not only that, but on the day I found the book, I counted back 33 days from the feast, and found if I started on the next day I would finish on that feast day. Coincidence? I think not. I was just listening carefully to my soul’s message to engage the spiritual powers of Mary while I prepared my talk. Fear (or rather pride) will do that.

Now, each morning begins with a Hail Mary before I get out of bed, with a Rosary from my iPhone app  while I do morning stretches. My friend, Mary, is with me throughout my day and the Hail Mary is an antidote to worries and brain chatter. She refocuses me on her Son, Jesus Christ, and brings me out of my own little world to a more humble state of mind.

My favorite saint, Teresa of Avila, defines humility as living in the truth (“andar en la verdad”). Humility is knowing the truth of yourself, seeing yourself clearly, especially our deeply hidden shadows, many of which we have learned to hide even from ourselves, and presenting them for the difficult, but rewarding process of healing. Our Blessed Mother had no shadows, but she did have trials and tribulations. She handled them with the trust placed in her heart at her Immaculate Conception.

humility-is-a-precursor-of-successThe process of my consecration journey revealed surprise shadows…not happy surprises, but their revelation brought a joy of knowing I am in good hands in transforming them to spaces of light. As we move forward through the month of February, I will share my journey and the steps we can take together in building our foundation for virtuous living.

Hail Mary, full of grace…be with us each moment connecting us with the graces of unconditional mercy your Son offers for our healing.

Ellen Marie Dumer, LCPC, president and founder of Living Your Exceptional Life™, is a pastoral counselor, life success coach, published author, and sought-after speaker. She is a guide and mentor for Catholic/Christian women seeking to harness and cultivate their aspirations for a life based on faith in Christ.

She and her husband, Deacon Gary Dumer, live in Maryland, have 4 children and soon-to-be nine grandchildren. Ellen loves to paint and craft, read, go on long bike rides and walks, garden, and spend fun time with her friends!

Be still and know I am God

Today is day three of a vacation with my husband, Gary, in the Poconos. There is snow on the ground, the air is crisp, and there is a natural stillness and quiet brought by the blanket that has been spread over the hills.

We are happy here at the Crescent Lodge and Country Inn. Right now we are sitting in the dining room with an incredible view and a yummy breakfast prepared by Harry who has worked here for 26 years. On our first night, Jill, got us settled into Devonshire, our own private little getaway with a fireplace, jacuzzi, and a canopy bed…a little piece of heaven and peacefulness…

snowflakeSo, why is it a constant effort to turn off the chatter in my brain? I have looked at every Poconos brochure in the lobby, researching what to do, where to eat, how to have fun. All the while, craving the peace and quiet to do just what I want…to settle in by that fire and read my book for as long as I want. Yesterday God intervened as the Northeaster approached and we had snow all day. I thought to myself, yes, if I could design my own Heaven, this would be it, a book, a cup of tea, a fire, snow blowing outside and my husband to cuddle up with.

BUT, today the weather is clear and the mind chatter is back…so my vacation goal is to learn to live with the chatter as a part of my natural drive and creativity and how to tame it when it is time for relaxation. I am accepting my humanness and examining the good in it, while loving the fact that I can relax with morning and evening prayer, do a little journalling, read some Scripture and spiritual reading and gaze at the gift of my husband for 7 days before reentering the world…hopefully, recharged to serve Him more energetically and creatively. (Oh, yes, I must admit I am going to catch up on Season 4 of Downton Abbey !!)

As for worries about distraction and brain chatter, here is a snippet of the December 10, 2014, post from Word on Fire  ‘St. Thomas explains that our merit rests primarily on our original intention in praying. It isn’t broken by accidental distraction, which no human being can avoid, but only by intentional and willing distraction. This also should give us some relief. We need not worry too much about distractions, as long as we don’t encourage them. We realize something of what the Psalmist says, namely, that God “pours gifts on His beloved while they slumber” (Ps 127:2)’

Thank you St. Thomas Aquinas! Now back to my vacation…may you all be blessed today!

Ellen Marie Dumer, LCPC, president and founder of Living Your Exceptional Life™, is a pastoral counselor, life success coach, published author, and sought-after speaker. She is a guide and mentor for Catholic/Christian women seeking to harness and cultivate their aspirations for a life based on faith in Christ.

She and her husband, Deacon Gary Dumer, live in Maryland, have 4 children and soon-to-be nine grandchildren. Ellen loves to paint and craft, read, go on long bike rides and walks, garden, and spend fun time with her friends!

Respecting Life: Laws and Prayer

One of my most vivid memories of my eighth grade year was learning what an abortion was. I had barely learned what sex was. Even at 13 years old, it sickened me to think that a mother would kill her baby. In small ways, I became involved in the ProLife movement and remained active for many years.

After awhile it became tiresome. Not that I had changed my belief in the sanctity of life. If anything the gift of my four children hardened it into my soul. Over the years, I became aware of the myriad arguments on both sides and came to know women who had experienced it, if not once, but several times, for many reasons.

At first I was ashamed about not showing up for the meetings, the human chains at highway intersections, and the annual March for Life. What would people think? And that is a whole other post…

christ holding a babyBut as my spiritual life was deepening, I became truly aware of  the Presence of the Holy Spirit in my life to a degree that it was an ever present life raft. There was something more vital and life-giving that the Lord was asking me to do. It hit home at a Deacon and wives conference where Helen Alvare was the keynote speaker and the Rachel’s Vineyard organization had an information booth.

At the time I had just finished my Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University. And here was God’s mission opportunity for me in the field of respect for life. During all those “active” years that were very public, I saw the worst aftermath of abortion. The soul-killing regret, shame, and depression of the mothers (AND fathers) that had aborted a child. No one had ever told them about that side effect.

As a licensed counselor, with a specialty in allowing faith in God to guide the healing process, I could sit with these parents and guide them back to a full life with God’s merciful love and full forgiveness.

Today, while we fight over laws about respecting life and abortion, God is present trying to get His message of mercy and love through to us. When we rely on God’s grace we understand that He can heal any situation of life, whether it be helping a woman to see that an unborn child’s life is precious not only now, but for future generations, or assisting a dying person in seeing  the beauty of each moment of their life.

Do we need the public activity in the fight for respecting life? Yes, awareness keeps us on our toes and gives us direction for our prayers. But, it is these prayers and our willingness to speak freely about God’s love for us that will change the hearts of those looking to end lives by their own decision so that there will no longer be any business for the abortion clinics, nor need for measures to end one’s life early. 

May the peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you.

Ellen Marie Dumer, LCPC, president and founder of Living Your Exceptional Life™, is a pastoral counselor, life success coach, published author, and sought-after speaker. She is a guide and mentor for Catholic/Christian women seeking to harness and cultivate their aspirations for a life based on faith in Christ.

She and her husband, Deacon Gary Dumer, live in Maryland, have 4 children and soon-to-be nine grandchildren. Ellen loves to paint and craft, read, go on long bike rides and walks, garden, and spend fun time with her friends!

Glimpse of heaven

gates-of-heavenMany people leave this Earth each day. Unless we know them or see a news article or program, we seldom think about it. That is as it it should be I guess or we would be forever worrying about death and would miss the life that our Lord sent us here to live and enjoy.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Today, our pastor, Fr. Henry Kunkel, of St. Mary of the Assumption in Pylesville, MD lost his mother, Catherine. In a way, many of us lost a spiritual mother today. She was an important presence at our small, rural parish for many years as Father cared for her in the rectory where she made her home, until just a week ago when she went to the hospital.

Psalm 37:4  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Catherine was a spunky woman of Northern Italian heritage (she would want me to make sure you knew she was Northern Italian!) who lived life to its fullest. My fondest memories of her will be of the stories she told of her most treasured saint, St. Frances Cabrini. She relied on her in times of trouble to comfort her and bring the issues to the Lord for resolution. Her room at the rectory included a small shrine to this holy woman. Her stories of  her time in Peru with her husband, Anthony, and Fr. Kunkle and his sister, Karen, were some of her favorite to tell and mine to listen to. She was an inspiration even when poor health kept her to a quieter pace.

Psalm 146:2  “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

I had the honor to spend many hours with her in the past week as she allowed her last moments on Earth to pass. I am so grateful to Father and Karen for granting me this time. Witnessing Father’s tender words of release and love to her brought tears and an even deeper appreciation for the beauty of the relationship between this mother and her son.
Sitting with her as she became less in this world and more in her spiritual being so as to pass into the loving arms of God allowed me much time for thought and prayer. It was as if I could feel the gates of Heaven slowly opening a little more each day as she readied herself so graciously to be held in the arms of the Lord. The presence of God and his angels was palpable.

Ecclesiastes 12:7  “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

I thank you Lord for giving me this spiritual mother here on Earth to guide me. Maybe she and my earthly mother will meet in the heavens…of course after Ms. Catherine is finished chatting with St. Frances Cabrini and her husband, Anthony. Knowing her, probably in that order!

Until we meet again Ms. Catherine…I love you!

Ellen Marie Dumer, LCPC, president and founder of Living Your Exceptional Life™, is a pastoral counselor, life success coach, published author, and sought-after speaker. She is a guide and mentor for Catholic/Christian women seeking to harness and cultivate their aspirations for a life based on faith in Christ.

She and her husband, Deacon Gary Dumer, live in Maryland, have 4 children and soon-to-be nine grandchildren. Ellen loves to paint and craft, read, go on long bike rides and walks, garden, and spend fun time with her friends!