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Archives for December 2014

Top Post for 2014: Saint-Making Starter Kit: Parents Who Love God and Live It In The Home

Why is this no surprise? It is a topic that also coincided with the most downloaded podcast at Among Women.

The Family. It’s all about the family. For lay Catholics, this is Job One. We must support marriage and the family. (I’ll be going to the World Meeting of Families in Philly come June. Maybe I’ll see you there?)

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My family, Christmas 2014. L to R, Back row: Son-in-love Benjy, daughter & middle child Katie, eldest son Bobby, youngest son Peter. Bottom row, Bob, Brady, and me.

So here’s the top post on The Back Porch from the last year: Saint-Making Starter Kit: Parents Who Love God and Live It In The Home. It’s got links to a study on faith in family life and links by me and others on the subject.

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In other statistical date: The most popular place on this website was not the blog at all. The page that out-distanced any of my blog posts was the book page. I guess I ought to be grateful that folks are still looking for it, so humble thanks to you, dear readers. Let me also again thank the Catholic Press Association for the award given to Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, too. I’m sure that did not hurt my stats much either.

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Then again…

Stats are a funny thing. You learn things like what search engine traffic brings you…. for example, these two posts from 2013 still send this little blog crazy traffic:

4 Magazines for Catholic Women — which really is a bit dated now as only ONE — Catholic Digest is still in PRINT. Verily and Regina are only online. (Verily had a great print product but it was too costly for them to maintain.) And Radiant’s team is on hiatus… (a problem for a small press.) So, today I say: go subscribe to Catholic Digest! Yes, yours truly writes for them.  FWIW, if my blog stats are any indication, editors, many Catholic women are still looking for magazines…

You are the apple of God’s eye — I guess that’s what happens when one of your posts stays in Google’s top 10 for the search of that bible verse. It was a little bitty sharing from my morning prayer and, well, there you are.

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Thank you for reading in 2014. And if you also listen to Among Women, thank you for that too. We’ll talk again soon.

The Top 5 Among Women Podcasts from 2014

The Top 5 Among Women Podcasts from 2014

Here’s a list of the most popular episodes of Among Women from 2014.

1. AW 186 with Leila Marie Lawler: “On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life”

This episode of Among Women looks at keeping good company with Jesus in marriage and family life. After passing my 32nd wedding anniversary, I opined on some of the wisdom I’ve gained from the graces found in the Sacrament of UnknownMatrimony. In keeping with the gift of the home and family life, I’m thrilled to share an extended conversation with author and blogger Leila Marie Lawler about the book she co-wrote with David Clayton, The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the HomeWe discuss making prayer the center of your family life by establishing a home altar, or little oratory, as a place to daily celebrate the liturgical year in our families.

This episode also introduces the inspirations from the little known mystic-saint, St Umilta (or St Humility). Listen. 

 2. AW 185 with Mary Ellen Barrett: “The Life of Ryan”

Maybe one of the most poignant Among Women episodes… where we look at the difficult subject of losing a child to death. My guest, blogger and Long Island Catholic columnist Mary Ellen Barrett, reflects on the fifth anniversary since the30440_409147118913_1842833_n-540x285 death of Ryan, her 14 year old son who died during a camping trip. The search for Ryan, who at first was thought to be lost, went on for many hours. Many, including myself, were glued to the internet for news of him during that time. Listeners familiar with this event will be encouraged by the musings and memories of Mary Ellen, his mother. Those uninitiated will be blessed by the faith of this Long Island family.

Mary Ellen and I celebrate the life of Ryan — his Christian devotion even as a young boy with special needs — as well as the ups and downs that he faced. We discuss the support from near and far for this grieving family, plus offer tips for helping others facing grief. In our saint segment, I look at the life of St Anna Schaffer, whose life offers a witness for how to make our heartaches and pains a path of redemptive suffering. Listen here. 

3. AW 179 with Danielle Bean: “Momnipotent”

This episode is dedicated to mothers — the physical and spiritual mothers in all of us. I start by exploring danielle_beanthe idea of Mary as a mother to us all. Then in our Among Women conversation, I welcome author and editor of Catholic Digest, Danielle Bean, who discusses her new book and study: Momnipotent! The not-so perfect guide to Catholic Motherhood.  This great book is for Moms who are busy raising families. It’s perfect for personal reading or group study!

Listen to this episode of Among Women.

4. AW 181 with Jennifer Fitz:”Spiritual Muscle for Life’s Curves”

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This Among Women podcast finds me conversing with author-blogger Jennifer Fitz. Jennifer shares her life as a blogger-catechist-author and discusses the good work of the Catholic Writers Guild. She also opens her heart describing how her past experience as a competitive cyclist enlightens her faith today as she powers through suffering when it comes.

Also: I unpack seven spiritual weapons found in the writings of St Catherine of Bologna — especially dealing with the spiritual warfare that increased as her faith and love for Christ increased.

Listen.

5. AW 177 with Mary Wallace: “Working Women, Leadership, and the Devotional Life”

She’s back… Mary Wallace, PhD, from Louisiana State University — Mary, for the second year, makes Among Women’s end of year list of “most downloaded” shows. Together we discuss the feminine genius, and the particular leadership mary-300x205strengths of women in the world, and list suggestions for strengthening the devotional life in working women. In this episode, rather than focus on one particular saint, I offer commentary on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament drawn from the writings of several women saints. We’ll explore the thoughts of St Jeanne Jugan, St Therese of Lisieux, St Elizabeth Seton, St Bernadette Soubirous, St Catherine Labore, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Listen now.

Honorable mentions:

AW 177 with Kitty Cleveland: “Winter Chill Gives Way to Blue Skies”

1688392_601752809894102_357447804_n-393x285Who doesn’t love great music? A truly enjoyable podcast spotlighting the release of Kitty Cleveland’s jazz album, plus inspiring conversation about Kitty’s life in Christ. Listen! 

AW 171 with Sr Grace Remington, OCSO: “The Joy of the Incarnation”

This one ranks among the most listened to Among Women podcasts of all time, but since it was released late in December of 2013, many more downloads occurred into 2014. In this episode, I discuss Christmas through the eyes of  Mary, as told by St Ephrem the Syrian, a 4th century Doctor of the Church. Our guest is a cloistered contemplative nun — Sr Grace Remington OCSO, a Cistercian Sister of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, Iowa. Together we discuss the life of a Trappist nun and Sr Grace’s portrait of Mary and Eve (below)… as well as the abbey’s candy-making endeavors! Listen now! 

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Note: The Top 5 Popular Among Women episodes are determined by “most downloaded” in 2014.

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Other “best of” collections…

Best of Among Women 2013

12 Podcasts for Moms

7 Podcasts On Prayer

7 Podcasts About Conversion

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Among Women on iTunes – Subscribe and never miss an episode!

Among Women website – Subscribe and never miss an episode!

SQPN’s post-Christmas Podcast Marathon This Saturday!

SQPN’s post-Christmas Podcast Marathon This Saturday!

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A podcast Marathon? Yes! Among Women listeners and others may enjoy this fun fundraiser for SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network– a day long event hosted by many of the SQPN podcasters and affiliates. Tune in from 8am-8pm Eastern at SQPN.com. Among Women is an affiliate and I’m happy to ask you to kindly support the mission of SQPN.

Details here. 

Sheer Grace: A Savior Who Enters Our Dust So That He May Be Our Glory

Sheer Grace: A Savior Who Enters Our Dust So That He May Be Our Glory

A few of my close friends know that I am immersed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and much of my recent meditation and reflection has been around the my own need for God, and my need for a savior. The word that keeps coming up for me  is what God said to Adam and Eve after they were banished from Eden:

“You are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
Gen 3:19

As a wife and mother… dustiness is daily life. I’ve been chasing down dust and dirt and grime all my life. It comes with the territory. The goal is to eliminate dust, right? But no matter how we try, we simply can’t shake it. Dust we are. Dust we have. Dust we remain!

IMG_4017This Advent, I’ve really come to know and understand that God loves me so much that He enters into our dust. (Last year, it was all about Jesus entering into my chaos.)

That dustiness represents our sin and death, our frailty, our being lost and confused and broken. It is a grace to know one’s sins so we can turn from them.

It is a grace to know we are dust.

But the greater grace is know that God became man… and entered our humanity — on purpose!

The Lord of Glory took on the dustiness of our life. He was born of Mary into a dusty stable, and visited by dusty animals and shepherds who brought their own brand of dust to his bedside. Jesus is well acquainted with dust. He knows and sees and love the dust of me. And you.

St Paul knew this well. He contrasts the dusty man of Genesis, Adam, with the God-man of the Gospel, Jesus Christ who, though born into this dust, was destined to redeem it…

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15: 47-49

I love that this dusty Jesus cared to entered into my dust and will raise it.

As the Church prayed the O Antiphons this week, I was deeply consoled by this prayer…

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creatures you fashioned from the dust.

This is Christmas… it is the coming of the savior who is our redemption, God made man. One of the greatest sermons on this truth comes from the mighty pen of St Augustine. I’ll leave you with his wisdom

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. 

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head.For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

From the Office of Readings, Sermon from St Augustine, (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999)

This Christmas, I pray you and I will know this sheer grace…

From our house to yours…. Merry Christmas!

Give yourself 45 minutes of peace: Christmas caroling with Kings College College

Baking? Wrapping? Cleaning the house for your celebrations? Bookmark this page and prepare your heart for Christmas with this amazing choir’s hymns.

The F.U.N. Quotient… a non-traditional song for Advent- “God with us” by Mercy Me

Got holiday chores and plans? Here’s one that keeps my heart pumping and feet moving as I work out my list, and check it twice….

Mercy Me – God With Us (Official Music Video) from mercymemusic on GodTube.

Who are we
that You would be mindful of us
what do You see
that’s worth looking our way we are
free in ways that we never should be
sweet release from the grip of these chains
like hinges
straining from the weight
my heart no longer can keep from singing.

[chorus]
all that is within me cries for You alone be glorified
Emmanuel God with us
my heart sings a brand new song
the debt is paid these chains are gone
Emmanuel God with us.

Lord You know
our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
still You show a love we cannot afford
like hinges straining from the weight
my heart no longer can keep from singing. [back to chorus]

Such a tiny offering compared to Calvary nevertheless we lay it at your feet. [back to chorus]

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

God Became Man – my latest article at Catholic Digest

Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (CCC, 463)

As Catholics, we profess our belief in the Incarnation in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ “came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

The Incarnation is a unique and singular event. Its truth informs the way we view God and ourselves.

Divine condescension

When Jesus arrived on the earth, he changed the way humanity viewed God. In Jesus, God came down from heaven to earth, without compromising his divinity.

The Incarnation of Christ crowned centuries of divine revelation, God’s slow revealing of himself, making himself known to humanity over time. God’s divine communication was now to be known through the Person of his Son. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Incarnation as “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (CCC, 461).

This is the deepest meaning behind our Christmas celebrations.

[T]he Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (CCC, 464)

This holy condescension of God means that we can never accuse God of being absent or lofty or unreachable or inaccessible. The Incarnation—the taking on of flesh in the Virgin’s womb—is the moment whereby the inexhaustible, inexpressible, invisible, omnipotent, and almighty Holy One takes on human visage. The divinity of God shines through a human person now.

At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (CCC, 479)

Divine dignity

Jesus, coming as a human person, changed the way we view ourselves. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Incarnation raises our own human dignity.

He who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) is himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam he restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as he assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. (Gaudium et Spes, 22)

Humanity now counts the face of God among its own.

Never again may I look at another person, or myself, with disdain or disrespect, for there is an inherent dignity in all.

Read the rest at Catholic Digest.

I’m pleased to be a regular columnist there writing about the beauty and inspiration that comes from the Catechism of the Church. Click here to subscribe to Catholic Digest. 

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This makes me think… Is my identity that of an intentional disciple of Jesus?

Thanks to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for this video of what discipleship can look like in our lives…

The Pink Candle and other Musings – from my Patheos archives…

To the uninitiated, that pink candle at church makes no sense from a decorating point of view. It throws off the symmetry of the other three purple candles in the Advent wreath. Yet, it immediately draws attention.

A common sight in Advent, the pink or rose candle lit on the Third Sunday is a harbinger, a signpost, a little light that stirs the imagination. Something is a little bit different this week . . .

And what are we paying attention to? A respite from purple candles? Um, in a way, yes. But there is a much bigger picture, a broader context than ambience and church décor. Like so many visuals in the Mass, color is just one of the things that corresponds to the liturgical season, always pointing to a deeper truth.

If the purple candles are to remind us of the penitential and preparatory season of Advent, then the pink or rose candle is there to remind us of the soon coming joy of Christmas and the future joy of Christ’s coming again. Therefore, the object of our love and devotion should animate our penance, prayer, and service.

In years gone by, most Catholics learned that the Third Sunday was commonly called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete was translated from the Latin as “rejoice”! Gaudete Sunday gets it name from the opening antiphon and prayers of the Mass that declare: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (“Gaudete in Domino semper”) (Phil 4:4).

This Third Sunday, the Church is harkening to its good news: the Word is made flesh in Jesus, and the Kingdom of Heaven is born in our midst.

The imagery in Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah, recorded centuries before the first coming Christ, hints at this coming joy.

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God . . .

Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you . . .

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; 
they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee (Is 35:1-2, 4, 10).

As always, there is much to meditate on, but the simple phrase that captures my attention as we come to this Sunday with joy is that once-and-future hope that the prophet gives about one day coming back to our true homeland, “crowned with everlasting glory.”

And I wonder if we could envision ourselves on that special Day, would we live any differently than we do now?

After all, rejoicing, as a verb, means it is something that we do.

Why? Because it is something that we Christians are: Joyful.

Or, are we still works in progress in the joy department?

It is here that the Church is giving hints to what our witness ought to be even within a penitential season. While the ransoming of our lives through Christ takes place long before the crowning occurs, such knowledge is a deep well for joy, hope, and the kind of repentance that leads back to joy.

Joy can be our watchword in this season for it reveals the deepest truth about the deepest reality of Christ’s Coming. But even more profoundly, that he has come and will come for me. And you. This joy is personal as well as corporate.

(Read the rest over at Patheos…)