Learn more about my latest book – All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Available now!

Archives for October 2012

This makes me think… about the role of Christian friendships and community in the Year of Faith

[T]he Year of Faith is a path, an opportunity, that the Christian community offers to the many people who possess a longing for God and a profound desire to meet him again in their lives. It is essential, therefore, that believers recognize the responsibility to provide an authentic companionship of faith, to become a neighbor to those who seek the reasons for and explanations of our Catholic beliefs. These opportunities, provided by the Year of Faith to form authentic friendships in faith, bring to the fore the very question of community. The new evangelization tends to make our sense of personal identity grow in relation to our sense of belonging to the community. A sociological tendency of our time presses us to distinguish between ‘identity’ and; ‘belonging’, as if it were a question of two contradictory realities. There is nothing more dangerous, in my opinion, than this contra-position. A belonging which was without identity could not be defined as belonging; it would remain always bound to a form of living together in society which modified its own coordinates according to the changing of the seasons, without any possibility of impressing upon them a real sense of common feeling and of active participation. From the reciprocal relationship which exists between identity and belonging there arises the possibility of verifying how the new evangelization can be effective and fruitful. Without a strong Catholic identity, by means of which our awareness of our own responsibilities in the world may grow, it will not be possible to understand even the requirement of belonging to the Christian community; on the other hand, without a deep sense of belonging to the Church, it will not be possible to have an identity which is aware of the mission it discharges. Identity and belonging determine our understanding of the permanent formation which applies to Christians in view of an ever more adequate knowledge of the faith, one which corresponds to each one’s own state of life. A knowledge of the contents of the faith which remains linked to the adolescent stage could never allow someone to grow in their identity as a believer, no matter what roles they might occupy in civil society. In the same way, the lack of these contents often impedes people’s own social, political and cultural action in harmony with their belonging to the Church. A fissure between identity and belonging is likely one of the causes which have contributed to the current crisis.

The Year of Faith will attempt to fuse this very rupture between identity and belonging, thus, increasing the faith of believers, who in the face of the daily pressures and challenges of life do not cease to entrust courageously and with conviction their lives to the Lord Jesus.

~Archbishop Fisicheslla of Sydney, Austrailia, “Jesus at the Heart of the New Evangelization”


Related: You might be interested in listening to Among Women 146: “The Power of a Praying Friend”


30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

Bob and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this week. Dang! Has it been that long? It went by so fast! 

My latest column at Patheos is a look back, and a testament to the graces of living the Sacrament of Matrimony these thirty years. It’s one part our experience, one part what we have learned, and one part verifying that God’s plan for marriage is still a viable, and noble, and satisfying enterprise.  Bob and I often joke that we’ve seen it all, done it all… all the having and holding… and all the cycles of better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health… and that we’d do it again. Here’s a small section of a much longer missive…

People ask what makes our love special, or what “works” for us, and we tell them: long before we fell in love with each other, we fell in love with Jesus. There’s an old proverb in Scripture that says, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiates 4: 12). Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a whole book on the subject that it takes three to get married, and we believe it.

We have faith in God, and faith in each other. When we said our marriage vows in the church that crisp fall morning in 1982, we knew we would vow for life… and that what we lacked in our own strength would be made up for by grace.

Talk to any Catholic couple married for a few decades or more and the subject of grace is bound to come up. They may not always use the word itself. It might be their reference to “God only knows” or an indescribable or halting acknowledgement of something that is bigger and grander than they are. But what they will say next is also true: that this love has changed them, made them better, even transformed them.

There is a glue that is stronger than our human love… it is divine grace. Sometimes we think it is just because we were fortunate enough to marry someone better than ourselves — that we lucked out — or discovered someone who believes the best in us despite our frailties, a soul mate. But what we’re really seeing is the truth of the matter: the radiant beauty of God is in our spouse. God magnifies their best human qualities, attracts us to them, and then He give us the privilege of knowing His Love through them. And yes, I’m here to say, in all honestly, that the profound gift of God’s Love made visible in my life, today, has a few wrinkles, some gray, and a few extra pounds.

Just in case you think I’m offering some kind of romanticized view of the love of God and the love between married couples, let me also say that there is a side of grace that is gritty, tough and sturdy under fire. This is the power of the vow; the grace and mercy that flows from the choice – the consent – of the lovers. When we think we cannot hold on any longer, the power of the vow keeps us true.

Read the rest at the Catholic Channel at Patheos. Feel free to subscribe to my columns here.

Mr & Mrs since October 23, 1982. (This photo is from last summer.)

Among Women Podcast 149: Special Edition for Breast Cancer Survivors –        H.O.P.E is our Super Power

Among Women Podcast 149: Special Edition for Breast Cancer Survivors – H.O.P.E is our Super Power

My Mom and me

The new Special Edition of the Among Women podcast is a a departure from our usual format. This week, I’m sharing a talk I gave earlier this month. I was the guest speaker at a breast cancer support group known as the Visions of Hope, in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Visions of Hope is an organization made of up breast cancer survivors with the mission of educating others about the disease and supporting those struggling with it. My talk was held at their “Celebrating Life” luncheon, where my mother, a three-time survivor, is a member. It was good to travel to visit my parents for the occasion, and I thought, since breast cancer will affect one in eight women, a few folks in our audience might appreciate this message.

This was a different kind of presentation for me to make. I’m very comfortable being a catechist and talking about the life in the context of faith. The audience at the luncheon was not a Catholic one per se, but I managed to talk about my faith in the context of my personal life and share some thoughts about the universally known virtue of hope. I might title this talk, “A Recipe for Hope”  or better yet, “H.O.P.E. is our Super Power”. This podcast is a slightly edited version of that talk.

This is breast cancer awareness month and as I mention in the talk, I’m the poster child for breast self-exam. Know your body, ladies! Early detection saves lives. Remember, if you’re over 40, get an annual mammogram.

Listen here.


Physician-Assisted Suicide is Something we can live without! Massachusetts: This is a matter of life and death!

Physician-Assisted Suicide is Something we can live without! Massachusetts: This is a matter of life and death!

Election Day brings the Presidential election, but for folks in Massachusetts, our election on November 6 is, truly, a matter of life and death. On the ballot in Massachusetts, is Question 2 in support of physician-assisted suicide. Here’s the ballot question, and here’s several groups opposing this proposed law:

 Other resources:

3 Reasons to Oppose

The Slippery Slope of Physician-Assisted Suicide by Cardinal Sean O’Malley

The Catholic Church supports life from conception until natural death. This proposed law in Massachusetts is against our pro-life ethics. It undermines our human dignity and it reduces us to being evaluated in terms of our productivity, our health, our usefulness, or our so-called “quality” of life. All life is sacred and we must protect it.

Even if you are not a resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you should be paying attention to this issue… as this assisted suicide initiative will be promoted in other states soon. So get yourself educated on the arguments against it and the Catholic perspectives that can help shape the arguments.

At the risk of sounding punny, physician-assisted suicide is something we can live without. Let’s stand for life!

This makes me think… it’s time to re-read the Documents of Vatican II…

This makes me think… it’s time to re-read the Documents of Vatican II…

[D]uring the [Second Vatican] Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.

If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic approach which Blessed John XXIIIwished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to realize it during this Year of Faith, following the same path of the Church as she continuously endeavours to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. 

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Opening the Year of Faith


New Women Saints for the USA in the Year of Faith

Exciting developments in Rome Sunday as we continue to observe the Year of Faith! Two new women saints from the USA are named among seven new saints.

First, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first woman saint who was a native American. Here’s a brief excerpt from Pope Benedict’s homily announcing her name:

Last year, I profiled Kateri’s life and thoughts in my column at Patheos, and back on Among Women #16, I also shared about her.

The next American woman was St. Marianne Cope,a German-born woman who emigrated to the US as a small child. I also recently profiled her life on Among Women #115. Here’s more from the Pope about her:

The F.U.N. Quotient… leaf blower edition

I live in New England. Leaves fall. And get cleaned up. And fall some more. I am never 15 minutes away from the sounds of a leaf blower. I may go mad.