THE WHISTLE BLOWER

My life of 78 years has become a series of whistle blowing. The first whistle blowing happened at the San Francisco Art Institute on Russian Hill in San Francisco. This art school was founded as a fine art institution, not a commercial art school. In the 1970’s I noticed that many of my favorite professors were being fired. A search went out for a new head of the school. The man chosen had an agenda to transform the school of fine art into a commercial art school. I helped to lead the resistance. An all-school assembly was announced. The professors of art were under a gag-rule and kept their silence, in order not to jeopardize their jobs.

In the middle of the meeting, I jumped over the chairs in the auditorium and went to the microphone on the stage. I defended the good professors of art whose jobs were on the line and I defended the philosophy of the school, that of a fine arts institution. Somehow, my few but spirit-filled words gave the art professors courage to stand up and go to the microphone. Eventually, the new president of the school was fired. The school had to buy him off to avoid a law suit.

My next venture took place at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco in 1977. My spiritual director of the time had flown in from Paris to conduct a two-day spiritual retreat. During that weekend, the Sufi teacher announced that he could no longer accept a student, (mureed), who took illegal drugs. The use of grass and other illegal drugs was rampant in the San Francisco Bay Area at that time in the 1970’s. A pro-drug meeting was held that evening somewhere near Silver Street, and the two Sufi orders split. As it turned out, I was the only mureed in San Francisco who stood firm accepting Pir’s edict. Then three mureeds were brought to San Francisco from Upstate New York to open a new Sufi center in the Avenues that was loyal to Pir and his no-drugs edict. In the beginning, I was the only mureed who heard gatha papers there each Thursday evening.

My next battle ground was a few beautiful redwood trees in Nevada City that were going to be cut down in order to build some condos. On one of my four radio shows, I played a tape defending the redwood trees. The upshot was that I was kicked off the air.

March forward to Hayward, California in the year of 1998. The Blessed Mother gave a visionary at our prayer group that we were not to celebrate Halloween. So, I posted the message from heaven on the door of my sixth grade class in a Catholic school. It was ripped off the door and given to the principal by a co-teacher. My plan was to have my sixth graders dress up as their favorite saint and to collect pennies for the poor. That was the beginning of my short-lived Catholic school teaching career. Later in the year, one of my students cheated twice on two different religion tests. I took the evidence to the principal and the councilor. The parents of the girl who had cheated on her test organized the parents in an attempt to get me fired. The stress working under these conditions was so severe that I landed in Kaiser with chest pain. I resigned rather than continue to compromise my health,

Fast forward to the 21st century. I landed a job as a receptionist and secretary to the rector at a very respected religious community in Berkeley, California. I noticed a misuse of money as I sat at my desk. I reported the situation to the acting rector and then the heat was put on by a secular employee to get me fired. Due to the stress, I resigned.

Next, I became an acting member of Wing’s, a Catholic organization for women. It was the time of the first election of Obama. I had participated in the Walk for Life in San Francisco. One of the speakers was an abortion survivor. She walked with a limp and had other health issues. She told us how Obama had voted for abortion as a senator. The custom was to leave the child who survived an abortion on the table, left to die. So, I quoted a lay theologian and his documented views as to why a Catholics could not vote for this young senator from Illinois, nor for any pro-choice candidate. I sent the article I wrote, to all the members of my Wing’s community. During the next meeting, the president took off her jacket and revealed to us a big picture of Obama on her t-shirt. Next, I received a phone call saying that I was under a gag-rule, and was not to use any of the member’s e-mail addresses to send messages. Of course, I left Wing’s.

Then came the time of the campaigning for the election of Clinton or Trump. I had been reading for years messages given to a visionary outside Cleveland, Ohio, at an ecumenical shrine call Holy Love. Messages were received repeatedly about the political situation in the U.S. I sent the most important messages regarding the election to many, many people, including my secular religious order. I got a very strong push-back from three of the people of power in the secular order. From that day on, I had a Scarlet Letter on my back, but this one said, “Trump Supporter”, in the minds of those who apposed Trump.

Then, I read a blog associated with the same order that said if we were Catholic, we had to support the illegal immigrants. I wrote in the comment section that I respectfully disagreed.

Then, I saw an ever growing grabbing for power within this secular order. When I first joined it, the community had a fabulous reputation as the very best community in all the Western States. Quite miraculously, there was very little or no in-fighting and jockeying for power. The presidents and the first spiritual director when I first joined were all pillars of humility.

Now, I am on the firing line again, or at least on a hot seat. I voiced my views to a trusted spiritual director, who forced me to share my message to his successor. The bottom line is that the word got out in the grapevine and now my life, once again, is very uncomfortable. Trusted friends have booted me from my humble assignment, under the direction of those in power.

In the past, whenever I speak out, the upshot is I get the ax or resign. God will help me discern His will for me in this present fiasco.

In the world of politics, whistle blowers are sometimes mysteriously found dead. No, I am not dead, but only suffering from apiritual warfare and a mighty big cold-flu invading our communities.

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BLESSED CLELIA MERLONI

BLESSED CLELIA MERLONI

Today, November 3, 2018, Mother Clelia Merloni was declared Blessed in Rome. She was born in 1861 and died in 1930. She lived with her family in San Remo, Italy and died in Rome. She used her inheritance from her father to found an orphanage. While a member of a religious order, she became seriously ill. She prayed to the Lord and said that if He healed her, she would found her own order. She was healed and founded the order of the Apostles of the Heart of Jesus. There are over 1,000 members throughout the world. At one point, she was band from her own order. She forgave and lived a contemplative life with many sufferings, helping those in need.
A doctor from Brazil was dying from Guillian Barre Syndrome. The intercession of Clelia Merloni was requested for his healing. A relic, (a thread from her habit), was put in a glass of water, which he was given to drink, prior to which he had lost all ability to swallow. He was able to swallow the water. Then, he was able to swallow more liquids. When the doctor arrived the next morning, expecting to find him dead, he was sitting up in bed and talking, totally healed.

In the 1980’s I suffered from Guillian Barre Syndrome, while on a pilgrimage to India. I was hospitalized for a month in New Delhi and later returned to Pennsylvania, then Iowa, then, San Francisco, and finally to Nevada City, CA. Guillian Barre Syndrome has no cure. It is a paralysis of the body. It began on my face and traveled throughout the body. I was completely healed. This occurred before my conversion. I prayed to Hazrat Inayat Khan at three in the morning during a tough night at the hospital. I wrote poetry while in an iron lung. During a Sufi camp outside Santa Barbara, a Southern California initiate of the Sufi Order of the West saw Pir Vilayat Khan healing me with his hands.
Thank you, God for my healing of Guillian Barre Syndrome. Thank you, Blessed Mother, for my conversion which began at the Sufi camp in Mendocino, CA in 1984 when I prayed my first rosary. Blessed Clelia Merloni, please pray for me, for the healing of the arthritis in both knees so that I can walk again normally.
Jesus, King of Mercy, pray for us.
Susanna Maria Ax, ocds

2018 MARIAN CONFERENCE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY CHURCH BRENTWOOD, CALIFORNIA

The inaugural Marian Conference of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Brentwood, California was held October 12-13, 2018. It was an over the top beautiful celebration, on the 101st anniversary of the final apparition of the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal. First of all, Immaculate Heart of Mary is one of the most beautiful parishes in California, and perhaps, in the United States of America. While selling Catholic books as a new convert, at Glad Tidings, some years ago, Father Garcia, the former pastor of IHM, visited our shop every week. Years later, I had the good fortune of traveling to Brentwood and receiving multiple blessings at The Divine Mercy Conference with Fr. Seraphim, MIC, Mark Mallett,and Fr. Jim Sullivan, who heard my confession. It was there that I heard about the monthly Day of Reflection of Fr. Jim Sullivan, that included very inspired Bible teachings, breakfast, and lunch, with Fr. Jim’s homemade Mexican dip. It was there, at my first Bible study with Fr. Jim, that I was told to begin a Divine Mercy cenacle.

This was the first annual Marian Conference in Brentwood, but Marian Conferences were held in Los Vegas, Nevada under the direction of the new pastor in Brentwood, Fr. Quang Minh Dong. Everything was beautiful; everything was perfect; everything was inspiring. The conference opened with the rosary and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the opening mass presided by His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, who formerly was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, having studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, ordained as a priest, and receiving a doctorate in sacred theology magna cum laude at the North American College in Rome. The mass was followed by a talk by Cardinal Levada on “Mary and the Church”.

I stood in a long line for dinner at the food trucks, dining on fabulous fish and gelato!!! Since the line was long, as was the wait, as everything was totally freshly prepared, I was able to meet many of the young people who were waiting to hear the Papa Ninja Sean Bryan.

Father Arturo Bazan led the Benediction and Adoration the next morning with an awesome huge monstrance, along with the praying of the rosary. The Blessed Sacrament inside the huge and beautiful monstrance was flanked by two large statues of angels and six very tall candles sitting on white pedestals. Gorgeous white flowers adorned the altar below the Crucifix, the Tabernacle, the image of The Divine Mercy, and the statue of Our Lady, all around the altar.

At eight a.m., Father Quang Minh Dong, the pastor, said mass along with the Anointing of the Sick. Deacon Steve and Mary Anne Greco gave the morning talk on “Mary and the Family”. The deacon asked us to pray a decade of the rosary daily for each of your children. When their daughter was diagnosed with cancer, the Lord told Steve to turn to Me and ask for more faith and turn to My Mother.

Steve said to Jesus, “I give you my whole heart!” Keep your eyes on God, not the problems in your family. Take time in your daily life for prayer. Expect to hear from God. Take time to praise God. Remember what God has done for you. Thank God for what He has done for you. Thank God ahead of time for healing. Use the many names of God to praise Him. Talk to God about EVERYTHING in your life. Trust in God. When you are going through a difficult situation, tell God that you know that He loves you and that you know He loves your family. Ask the Blessed Mother to inspire you in faith. Ask the Holy Spirit daily for MORE of His Spirit. Pray in the Name of Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. When Mary Anne grumbled to God about all the work at Thanksgiving, He replied, “Either do it for Me or don’t do it!”

After praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel, I stumbled upon The Rosary Rally in the meditation garden, behind the chapel, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima on the 101st anniversary of the final apparition of the Blessed Mother in Fatima. We prayed the rosary in the shade of the trees. Some saw the sun dance afterwards.

Father Alexander Castillo gave us a talk on “Mary and Scriptures, relating all the references of Mary in the Bible and the symbolism. Next, at three p.m., the Hour of Mercy, we prayed the chaplet of The Divine Mercy, followed by a talk by Father Erick Villa.

There was a long line waiting outside in the hot afternoon sun, but I was fortunate enough to receive a second wind, chatting with the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Immaculate. They are a great blessing to this
spirit-filled parish.

My beloved husband took me to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner and drove me back to the parish just in time to see the crowds gathering for the beautiful candlelight procession of multiple statues of the Blessed Mother. At dusk, around the lovely courtyard in front of the church, the Bishop of Oakland, Michael Barber, s.j., blessed the candles and the procession began with the Knights of Columbus, under the patronage of the crescent moon and the rosary, with music and wonder in the city of Brentwood, California, this autumn evening.

The closing mass was said by His Excellency Bishop Michael Barber, s.j.
After the mass, Bishop blessed the seven foot statue of the Blessed Mother from the Philippines in the new and beautiful Marian shrine.

Oh holy town of Brentwood, how still we see thy Light. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Mary, thank you priests, pastor, deacons, nuns, seculars, cardinal, musicians, organizing committee, donors, participants, speakers, and all volunteers who made this such a spectacular holy event. Thank you Jesus. Thank you, Blessed Mother. Amen

THE DAY OF THE LORD

Today is Sunday, the Day of the Lord. The kitchen is filled with the aroma of pork chops cooking on the stove. They will accompany apples, red onions, and pickled cabbage, along with German potato salad for our Sunday dinner. We are feeling the after-glow of an anointed Sunday Sacrament of the Mass at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church in Fremont, California. Fr. Anthony Vazhappilly, the anointed pastor, called down the Holy Spirit in his prayers and in his preaching. The God the Father choir filled us with joy in their singing. We passed by the beautiful white roses as we walked to the church smelling the fragrance of heaven. We thanked Our Lady of Vailankanni at the Shrine next to the church after mass.

This past Sunday and Monday, we attended the very holy Flame of Love conference in Pittsburg, California at the Church of the Good Shepherd. It was years ago, at a retreat outside another Pittsburg, this one in Pennsylvania, that the young men and women attending the retreat received a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was the Feast of St. Padre Pio. His statue and relics were displayed on the altar along with the image of The Divine Mercy and the image of The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Fr. James Blunt, SOLT, an anointed priest from Georgia, blessed us with his anointed preaching and prayers of healing. Mark Mallett, the musician and evangelist from Canada, graced us with his anointed music and teaching. Fr. Jim Sullivan, the author and Catholic priest, heard confessions and spoke about Marian apparitions and the scandal.

The conference was organized by the Flame of Love prayer group, based on the teaching recorded in, “The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – The Spiritual Diary” of Elizabeth Kindelmann, during 1961-1983, in her home in Budapest, Hungary. In a nutshell, Satan is intensifying his efforts to ruin souls. His eternal enemy is the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. She obtained from God the Father, by the merits of the Passion of her Son, Jesus Christ, an outpouring of graces so great as have not existed since the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. She will blind Satan with the Flame of Love, which will burst forth from her Immaculate Heart. For more information, consult this website: http://www.flameoflove.us

Fr. Jim Sullivan, formerly an associate priest in Brentwood, California, announced that his former parish in Brentwood was scheduling a Marian Conference in October. Here are the details to this very important announcement: Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Brentwood, California will host its 2018 Marian Conference on October 12-13. The speakers include Cardinal William Joseph Levada, Bishop Michael Barber, s.j., Fr. Alexander Caslillo, Deacon Steve Greco, and Sean Bryan. It was the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish that hosted the fabulous Divine Mercy conference with Fr. Seraphim and Mark Mallett some years ago. Their conferences are over-the-top fabulous. For more information, access their website: http://www.ihmbrentwood.com/marianconference

May the Lord, in His abundant mercy, bless us. May the intentions of the Blessed Mother prevail. May God and His angels and all His saints help us to transform this earth. Amen. Jesus, I trust in You. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, and spread the effect of the grace of the Flame of Love over all humanity, now and at the time of our death. Amen.

FLAME OF LOVE

A highly recommended two-day event is being held at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg, California on September 23-24, 2018. Sunday, Sept. 23rd, at 5:00 p.m., a healing mass and talk. Monday, Sept. 24th at 7:00 p.m., a Talk of Hope. Participating in this event are Fr. Jim Sullivan, the anointed priest living in Hayward, CA, Mark Mallett, the musician, prophet, and writer living in Canada, and Fr. James Blount, SOLT, the spiritual director of Flame of Love. This is too good to miss. For more information, call 925-250-6817.

Be there or be square!!!

Our Week in the Heartland

We just returned from a one week trip to the Heartland. We drove our Hertz rental car from the Minneapolis airport to Baldwin, Wisconsin. The next morning, we relaxed in the wonderful, huge jacuzzi and swimming pool at the Cobblestone Hotel. Eventually, we drove to the Baldwin Care Center to see my favorite cousin and “adopted” father figure. James was able to speak to him and express his genuine love and gratitude for treating him like a son all these years. I managed to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and sing the last three verses at his bedside the day before he died.

My favorite childhood memory was our trip to Lake Elmo, Minnesota where we visited Uncle Charlie and Tanta Elise on their dairy farm overlooking the lake. Tanta Elise’s father had a bakery in Germany and his daughter was a fabulous baker and cook. The living room in the farm house had a picture window overlooking Lake Elmo, with beautiful house plants, and antique furniture. At four in the afternoon, Uncle Charlie and Cousin Bob came in from the barn for coffee, summer sausage, cheese, crackers, and delicious German coffee cake. No one can make coffee cake like Tanta Elise!!!

When R.T.Ax died, the winter of 1986, I appointed Cousin Bob as my new father figure. R.T. was my hero. I put him on a pedestal. Cousin Bob took his place. When each of his many grandchildren got married, I booked a plane ticket to the Midwest and attended most, if not all, of the Zwald weddings in Wisconsin.

Back in the days when I was a young bride in the sixties, we drove out to their new farm outside Hammond, Wisconsin. We walked outside from the farmhouse to the barn to look at the huge, beautiful milk cows who were listening to music on Cousin Bob’s radio. The temperature was twenty below zero!! There we were: two California transplants, and me, a former Iowa farmer’s daughter turned city slicker!!! Bob told me that his Aunt Lena, my grandmother Ax, loved those huge, big milk cows!

One year, the cousins threw a Zwald family reunion. I was so happy square dancing in the haymow of the barn that my cheeks began to ache from smiling so long and hard!!!

Those were the days, my friend. I thought they would never end.

So, the second to the last trip to Wisconsin was for the wedding of Annette. But before I remember her wedding, I want to recall the day she put me on the huge tractor and told me to back it up!!! As an artist, I can never forget that visit. We arrived at the third farmhouse. Cousin Bob and Mary had moved off the original farm and into another farmhouse a couple miles away. We arrived just in time for making hay. All the cousins, and by this time, there was a hand full of them, were out in the beautiful hay field gathering the bounty of God’s blessings. It was one of the most beautiful sites of my life which I will never forget.

Now, I will recall Jame’s introduction rite into the Zwald family. We drove up to the Zwald farm outside Hammond, Wisconsin from our eighteen acres outside Baldwin, Kansas. Cousin Bob and his grandson, Andrew, (named after Uncle Charlie and Gramma Lena Zwald Ax’s Swiss father, Andrew Zwald), had just gone fishing in Cousin Bob’s little boat. The fish were small and still had their heads on. Jame’s job was to cut off the heads of the big pile of fish while Cousin Mary looked on. Well, James passed the test and became one of the family! We ate the fish for supper and it was delicious.

That was one of many, many fabulous dinners we enjoyed around Mary and Bob’s table out on the farm. You see, this brat, i.e., yours truly, moved from Iowa to San Francisco when she was twenty. I went back to see my Dad and Mother every year, except on the years Dad and Mom came out to California to see me. So, every time I came to visit my parents in Iowa from California, I always flew to Minneapolis and stopped by the Zwald farm before we drove down to Ventura. Each time, Mary would invite one, two, or three of her sons and their wives and we would all sit around the table talking and eating up a storm. Those were the best memories!!! Mary always made her son’s favorite foods. It was a tradition to not have one, but two roasts: one pork and one beef. Then, there would be a fabulous fruit salad, a jello salad, perhaps a cabbage salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, dumplings, green beans with bacon, rolls, ice tea, and dessert. There was always scrambled eggs for breakfast prepared with tiny bits of bacon and toast made by the head of the household!!!

Afterwards, we would do the dishes. Mary would wash and I would dry. I never asked my mother for advise once in my life. But, every time I would do dishes with Mary, I would tell her my current problem, she would give me wise advise, and I would listen to her. She became my mother figure, although I always thought she was too young to be my mother and was really just a good friend.

One time, when I was down to eight dollars in my pocket and jobless, without a husband, Bob and Mary drove into my little farm lane south of Lawrence, Kansas. I had an interview that day at Strong’s Office Supplies to sell art supplies. Mary prayed for me and I got the job. Then, we all sat down to a bowl of split pea soup.

One year, they drove out to California and visited Annalisa, my daughter, and I in our Queen Anne Victorian in Nevada City. I set the table in the garden with the Sierra Nevada foothill trees and boulders. We had candlelight and who knows what we ate.

One year, we flew out to the Midwest to attend Nate’s wedding. The wedding reception was held at Angela’s family farm. The old white farmhouse, lawn, trees, and view were heavenly. James and I danced on the lawn to “The Tennessee Waltz”, my Dad’s favorite song, to the music of an accordian. Big Rich gave us a blessing from heaven while we danced to his favorite music.

Sarah’s wedding was also special. We stayed in Baraboo, Wisconsin and watched Cousin Bob stand outside the church patiently waiting for the arrival of his daughter, Ruth. He was like the father in the story of the Prodical Son.

I liked Tom’s wedding. I even got to go out to the farm where his bride grew up. Cousin Bobby picked me up at the Cobblestone Hotel, after he enjoyed a swim with his grandchildren and we drove out to another wonderful dairy farm. The dairy herd was beautiful. So was the bride.

Amy’s wedding was in Stillwater, a town I remembered from my childhood, when the cousins lived in Lake Elmo. I enjoyed the tour Greg gave us through the town where we saw all the beautiful Victorians.

One year, James and I stayed at the beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast in Hudson, Wisconsin when we went to see the Zwald cousins. It was the Christmas season and the tree and decoration filled the beautiful inn. We also stayed there once in the summer. We walked down to the German restaurant on the main street. Inside, I found a German magazine with a map showing Schwann, Germany, the tiny village where Lena Zwald Ax, Richard Zwald, and Charles Zwald were born and baptized in the Reformed Church in Conweiller. I visited the Herr family in the sixties when I was young and thin. I returned years later with my daughter and two grandchildren.

When Dad and Mom made their first trip to Schwann, Alwina took them upstairs and showed them clothes in the closet that Gramma Lena Ax had sent them during wwii. Some times, they would take our friends, Rosmary Winkler and Hans Moser with them from Switzerland when they would visit our Herr cousin in Germany. Rosmarie visited our farm as an exchange student when I was about eleven. She and Hans spoke in German to the Herr family, translating for Dad. She became very close to Cousin Alwina Herr. They live in an apple orchard near the origianl Winkler farm house where Rosmarie grew up outside Zurich. I also think of Rosmarie as a mother figure. I became good friends with her nephew, Maximillian Winkler. Hans Moser, her husband, did research for Dad and found out that Andrew had a sister and brother who did not marry living on the original farm in the Swiss alps in the Canton of Bern. Andrew Zwald, my Dad’s grandfather, went from Switzerland to the Black Forest in Germany to buy cattle for his boss. After dinner, he said he wanted to meet the cook, as he liked the food. The rest is history. They got married. Had Richard Zwald, Uncle Charlie, and my grandmother, Lena Zwald, and immigrated to Garner, Iowa. Jerry Zwald lives on the home farm in Garner, Iowa, on highway 69 south of Garner on the way to Klemme where I was born. His father’s name was Lloyd. His uncle’s name was Kenneth. The famous rusty tractor that was restored by Cousin Tom and Cousin Bob was found in the grove of Lloyd’s farm. Nate and Tom sat on each side of their Grampa Bob Zwald, age 101, as he drove it in the tractor parade!

The Herr family had about five sons. Frank took us for a ride with a horse-drawn carriage through the Black Forest which is on the edge of the German villages. Jurgen told me that I was related to almost everyone in the village of Schwann, where Gramma Zwald Ax was born, but it would take too long for him to explain all the relatives.

On my first visit to my German cousins, we had also visited the Mercedes factory in Stuttgard. On my first trip to Germany, as we drove by the houses with vegetable gardens and grape vines in the front yard, I felt at home. Also, I felt right at home in the restaurant with built-in wooden benches and country style chairs like I found in Sausalito, California. My first visit, we had cold, fruit soup for lunch. When we arrived at the Cousin Herr home, Alwina prepared pork chops and went to the cellar to open a bottle of German hard liquor.

Years later, when we visited her with my daughter and grandchildren, she served us a wonderful breakfast and had Easter presents for my two grandchildren. We had a five course luncheon at Jorgen’s home cooked by his wife. Then, we had Gramma Alwina’s homemade cake at Martin’s home, followed by the ride through the Black Forest. We ended the visit with a cold supper at Julia’s place. The father gave land to each of his sons. On the land, they each built their own home. Before Jurgen died, he showed me a photo of the house that was built for his newly married daughter.

Jurgen, his daughter, and grandson all visited me at Annalisa’s home near the German border in the Alsace region of France. I prepared a chicken dinner for my German cousins. We gave gifts to the new grandson and to Jacob, my youngest grandson, to celebrate the anniversary of his baptism.

Cousin Bob’s mother, Tanta Elise grew up in Germany, too, and Bob and Mary visited her parent’s home on their trip to Germany where her Dad had a bakery.

One time, when we were visiting Cousin Bob and Mary, there was a huge downpour of rain. Cousin Bob was driving us home in his car. You could not see two feet in front of the car. He kept driving and by the grace of God, we did not go off the road and arrived safely at their farmhouse. When we got home, could hear the sound of water in the house. Cousin Bob opened the cellar door and a huge rush of water was pouring into the basement. His famous words were, “It could have been worse!”

One visit, Mary had to help with the voting in the little white country school down the road. So, Cousin Bob had to babysit Cousin Sue. Much to my delight, he took me to his coffee joint and I got to have breakfast with his farming buddies. It was the ultimate gift from my hero!!! We sat around the booth talking farm talk. Then, I turned to Cousin Bob and said after so many marriages, when he walked me down the aisle and gave me away, it stuck!!!! He turned to me and with a very serious look said that I had no choice when he gave me away!!!!! We had been married in the white, wooden country church that used to stand in a cornfield north of Grampa Bill Hampel’s rented farm in Clear Lake. As a child, I had attended a 4-H meeting in that old school house down the road from Grampa Bill’s wonderful brick farm house. Later, it was moved to the south shores of Clear Lake, Iowa. I wore my grandmother Bessie Hoyt Hampel’s wedding dress that she had sewed, (like Kay Zwald), for her own wedding to Grampa Bill. The flowers came from Aunt Tyke and Mom’s garden. Annalisa sang “Amazing Grace” and the pastor from Immanuel Reformed Church in Klemme, Iowa, where I was baptized, officiated at the wedding. James wore my Berkenstocks, as he forgot his shoes; I wore my neice’s shoes as I forgot mine. We swam in Clear Lake after the wedding reception at the old stone shelter house.

One visit to my Zwald cousins, Cousin Bob took James and I to Lake Elmo, Minnesota, to see the old, beautiful farm overlooking the lake. Then, he took us out for coffee at his favorite place in Lake Elmo, and showed us all the old photographs hanging on the wall of farms and farm equipment.

It was never enough to enjoy a fabulous meal that Mary cooked whenever we visited. I remember one Christmas season when she passed after dinner, a platter of chocolate covered homemade candies better than See’s Candies in California. Cousin Bob always gave us a tour to all the family farms and then to the cheese factory and past the farm that raised elk.

He encouraged us to take the scenic route to Iowa and drew me a map. He always had to draw me a map to go to the family farms, airport, or church. One time, he and Mary took us on a trip down the Mississippi River road and we had lunch at our destination near Tippin. One time, he encouraged us to drive up to Northern Wisconsin, so we camped out at Soda Springs, WI along the lake shore, where Aunt Winnie and Uncle Bob Pritchard had a hotel years ago. We took a great boat ride on Lake Superior and ate smoked salmon. Aunt Winnie and Uncle Bob also owned a farm in Wisconsin that was on the farm tour and open house years later. Bob and Mary knew the current owners.

The sweetest memory was when we came to visit and he and Mary gave up their bed and Amish quilt and let us sleep downstairs in their bed. That visit, Cousin Bob must have known that James was tired. He sat him down in Mary’s recliner chair in the living room after Sunday dinner and covered him with a blanket! It can’t get any better than that!!!! No wonder James loved him like a real father.

I always planned our visits for a Sunday, not to miss going to the Reformed Church with Mary and Bob in Baldwin and having a family Sunday dinner. After my conversion, I would drive over to Hammond for an early mass and then “fly” down to Baldwin to attend church serves with Bob and Mary at their Reformed Church. Stephanie had her wedding in that church.

One year, Bob made James eat a lot of corn on the cob. Cousin Bob said that it was a little late in the season, but to put a lot of butter on it and it would taste good. One year he gave me some sweetcorn seeds that I still have on my altar in California.

So, God told James, (in whatever way He communicates with James), that if he wanted to see Cousin Bob, he had better hurry out to Wisconsin. I had given up all travel due to a problem in both my knees. I did not think I would ever see Iowa nor Wisconsin and my family there again. Somehow, I got the courage to give it a try. We landed in Minneapolis on Monday. We saw Bob on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Friday, we drove down to Forest City, Iowa, as there was no room in the inns in Mason City, Clear Lake, and Garner. We got a call on Friday morning and Irma told us that “Gramps” had died that morning. God bless his soul.

As Merideth Willson wrote in his beautiful song, “May the good Lord bless and keep you, whether near or far away…………….” We love you, Cousin Bob. Thank you for pitch-hitting for us two scallie wags, who needed a loving father.
God bless you, Mary. May the good Lord look after you and all your wonderful children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. You guys are the best. The dirt may be better in Iowa, but my Zwald cousins TAKE THE CAKE!!!! Love always, Sue and Jim.

TRIUMPHANT VICTORY OF THE IMMACULATE HEART

Today is the First Saturday, September 1, 2018. On July 28th, I began the Consecration Preparation for the Triumphant Victory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, (ISBN # 1-882972-20-1.) This was the second time to do this preparation. The first time was during the “reign” of Pope John Paul II, while I was the secretary to the rector at the Jesuit Community at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. A beautiful young student at JSTB gave me the little booklet, witnessed and accepted by Paul Maria Hnilica s.j., Titular Bishop of Rusado on November 1, 1993. (The young student warned me that she experiences spiritual warfare when she does the consecration.)

So, for thirty-three days, plus added days to make up for the days I missed,I have been praying the preparation each evening. When my luggage was inadvertently left in Incline Village, Nevada, I had to wait until UPS delivered the little booklet to our door before I could continue the preparation. So, I decided today would be the day of the consecration, on the First Saturday of September. I planned to attend a special healing mass in Fremont or at least confession and mass in Castro Valley. Instead, I did the whole First Saturday observance at home, following the book used in Houston, Texas at St. Anthony parish.

A few mishaps occurred during the preparation. James jumped down from a chair and injured his tendon while trying to rig up an antenna for me so that I could watch Francis and Friends on a t.v. in my studio. Then today, I weeded the vegetable garden, watered it, and then fell into a rose bush as the old wooden chair I was sitting on broke. Instead of calling 911 and ending up at Eden Hospital with a broken hip, I removed myself from the rosebush, picked myself up off the ground, and turned off the water, totally uninjured, thanks be to God!!!

Prior to my trip to Incline Village, we received a very threatening letter from the local fire department, saying they would put a lien on our house if we did not do substantial fire prevention measures in our garden. James forked out a couple grand to pay Jose to clean up our trees. Then, last night, at 6;30 p.m., we received a second letter from the fire department stating that we did not pass the second inspection. We had seven days to remedy the situation. The notice was dated August 24 and the letter arrived seven days later, the final day of the deadline. Of course, by 6:30 p.m., all the offices were closed. I called and left a message. Then, I called Jose and told him the problem. He said he was three doors down, visiting another client. He came and kindly said he would bring in a crew the next morning to remedy the problem.

So, this morning, a big crew, dressed in bright yellow-orange sweat shirts arrived with their chain saws and big chopping rig. They parked in our neighbor’s driveway, so of course, we thought they had made a mistake. They did not speak English, but assured James that they were not at the wrong address. Soon, Jose’s crew arrived and did another clean-up of the neighbor’s oak tree that spills over our driveway and our holly tree, along with some volunteer trees in the back yard along our neighbor’s fence.

Hot, sweaty, and dirty, I came into the house after falling into the rose bush when the old, wooden chair I was resting in broke, after I had weeded and watered our vegetable garden. I took a much needed shower with rose shampoo from The Fairmont, San Jose, during the STJ500 celebration. I am too tired to go to confession and mass, so will formally do the Consecration For the Triumphant Victory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary tomorrow, The Lord’s Day, on September second. May the Blessed Mother accept my consecration!!!

Love and blessings,

Susanna Maria Ax, ocds

p.s. The Chair of Susanna and the Chair of James became nearly our downfall!!!
May God guide and protect the Chair of Peter!