The F.U.N. Quotient…. make it a happy day!

I love this not only because I’ve visited Notre Dame in Paris multiple times, but I’m admiring the folks who braved the cold last winter to do this! Warms the heart! Love all the religious who are spreading their joy, too! H/T to Kathy Schiffer for sharing.

Among Women: On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life

Among Women: On Faith, Grace, and Prayer in Marriage and Family Life

UnknownThis week’s episode of Among Women talks about many things that are close to my heart — marriage and family — and the calling to make Christ the center of those relationship and in our home. I hope you’ll join me as I reflect back on 30+ years of marriage and family life, plus have an inspiring conversation with the woman who is part of the team behind the Like Mother Like Daughter blog, author Leila Marie Lawler. Together we discuss one of my favorite new books of the year, The Little Oratory: A beginner’s guide to praying in the home. 

There’s even a chance to win a signed copy of the book from the authors — hear the details on the podcast! 

Finally, I hope you’ll enjoy a look at the little-known mystic, St Umilta, as I read some of her passionate writings about our faith.

Don’t miss this episode of Among Women!

This makes me think… about prayer as first action…

“[P]rayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence… proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominate counsel is “Do your best and God will do the rest.” When life is divided into “our best” and “God’s rest,” we have turned to prayer as a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage, and confidence in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.”

-Henri Nouwen-
Seeds of Hope

For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

For Bob. God Gave Me You. #tbt

The ultimate “Throw-back Thursday” for you and me.

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October 23, 1982

At 22 I said “I do.” And I’d do it all again.

Ok, we gotta get better at this. This is the last photo I have of us -- from May?? (before I cut off my hair!)

Ok, we gotta get better at this. This is the last photo I have of us — from May?? (before I cut off my hair!)

Love this song!

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From Katie and Benjy’s Wedding, 2013… yeah, life is good.

 I have a little sign that hangs in our kitchen: “Happiness is being married to your best friend.”  Yup.

32 years. And a lifetime warranty.

 

:::

From the archives, at 30.

When our heroes are transformed into Super Heroes. #JP2we

When our heroes are transformed into Super Heroes. #JP2we<3U

Today is feast day of SAINT JOHN PAUL II.

It’s a pretty cool thing when one of your heroes becomes a saint and has their own date on the liturgical calendar.

When I graduated with my Masters in theology in 2008, I grabbed all the photos of Pope John Paul II that I had in my office and bought myself a little present. I had all my favs framed.

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It hangs in our living room. A tribute to a real life hero, now transformed into a real live saint.

He prays for us.

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He calls us to be devoted to the Eucharist.

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He calls us to be devoted to Mary and the Rosary.

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He calls us to join him.

St John Paul II, pray for us!

:::

Just a brief update:

Due to a pressing editorial deadline, I intended to keep this post brief. But I couldn’t help taking time to read Pia di Solenni’s piece referred to at her blog. It says so much of what I tried to convey in my book, thanks to the holy influence of St John Paul in my life.

Elsewhere I’ve written about the impact of this saint on my own life…

My Top Ten Inspirations from St John Paul II

In Thanksgiving to John Paul for his contributions to women

Yeah, there’s more, but you get the point. St John Paul and the feminine genius shaped my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers,  and Sisters-in-Christ

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers, and Sisters-in-Christ

I am a blessed woman and I know it. For much of my life I have not only enjoyed the love and friendship of my husband, Bob, but I have known the wealth of women friends who are devoted to Christ and each other. And let me tell you, Bob himself is grateful that I enjoy such a rich sisterhood, as he benefits from a happy and renewed wife when she comes back from visiting with her friends. Smart man.

We women need good girlfriends in every phase of life. Catholic Christian women need to find other women with whom to share their spiritual journey. This is a subject that is dear to my heart.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.”

-Sirach 6:14-16-

Spiritual friendships are borne not only of kindred spirits, but of the Holy Spirit. My friend, Lisa Hendey, calls them soul sisters. I call them sisters in Christ. My pal Maureen calls her possé the “rosary chicks”. Whatever you name them, all women need to be about reclaiming the gift of female friendship as a priority in our culture today. We need to affirm and uplift the dignity of Christian womanhood, and bring each other before the altar of God. (I can’t speak for the menfolk. Yet, Lord knows, they need their guy-friends too.)

Besides the busyness of my work this month, October afforded me not one but two opportunities to spend some extended time with two of my writerly friends, true sisters in Christ.

Listeners have heard me speak of Maria Johnson before, and many of you may know her from her blog and work with SQPN. Her day job as a college professor brought her north to Boston this month and I greedily invited Bego to extend her stay for a few days so we could make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. 

I do that a lot: Make pilgrimages out of friend visits. It usually comes about because, to be honest, we need it. Modern women are so busy!

Taking mini-retreat days during our friendly visits or taking in a local church or shrine pays rich dividends in our souls and in the life of our friendship. I love the opportunity to pray daily prayers and rosaries, sure. But I also love all the catching up that goes along with the journey — the walks and the car rides. Going to Mass together and making a pilgrimage to a shrine enshrines the friendship as well… offering it a dignity more sublime than a casual visit might.

Of course, as my favorite Long Island pastor used to say, first comes the holy hour… then the happy hour. Joy in Christ has a spillover effect.

[Click on any photo to enlarge.]

A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

After Divine Mercy: A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

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That night outside the Red Lion I took Bego’s picture next to the Great Pumpkin. That ball of light is the pumpkin! (you can kind of see the orange edge of it.) (#camerafail)

Here's one with me in it! This just might be my fav photo of Bego and I-- drinking wine of course and dining al fresco in Boston's North End a couple summer's back.

Here’s one with me in it! This just might be my favorite photo of Bego and I– drinking wine of course (!) — dining al fresco in Boston’s North End a couple summer’s back.

A few years ago on Patheos, author and screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi offered this wisdom in a profound article on how creative types like writers and artists need friendship with those who ‘get them’…

Scripture says he who finds a welcome in a storm “finds a treasure.”

Friendship’s shelter for an artist is a place to retreat amidst the chaos of your creative process to find peace. Friendship’s shelter offers the shade of acceptance when the artist is laboring under the burning heat of criticism or rejection. It is a place where there is the warm light of counsel and perspective when the artist’s soul shivers in the cold darkness of doubt. Friendship is a wall of security against the tearing wind of instability that is the life of the creative person.

The spark of friendship is initially kindled when two people experience what St. Aelred of Rivaulx called the miracle of mutual attraction. In his wonderful twelfth-century work Spiritual Friendship, the Cistercian monk remembered as “the Bernard of the North” wrote that it is already amazing when we meet a person whose personality causes delight in us. When two people experience holy delight in each other—without any motivation of greed or ambition or other unholy need—it borders on the miraculous.

Holy delight means seeing the other person with Divine wisdom, to know her name the way God does. It’s a gift that Adam had and then lost: to know the essential gift and place of each creature. In friendship, we recover it and we are able to see the miracle that is the core in another soul. It is the friend’s gift to still delight when the other really needs a shelter, when her beauty is most obscured by tragedy, or sorrow, or suffering, or, in the artist’s case, by the demands of creativity. A real friend feels tenderness at a condition in which a non-friend would probably feel revulsion. Aelred goes so far as to say that friendship is “the kiss of Christ,” which He mediates through the physical presence of the human friend.

I could not agree more. I’m grateful for the friends who have kept me sane in the writing life in recent years… by offering refuge and camaraderie and counsel. Oh yeah, and they pray intentionally for me. And I for them.

“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
-James 5:16-

I just got back from three speaking events in California that were planned months in advance. When I realized the close proximity of the dates, and the central California locations, I just had to dial up my dearest friend in the Pacific Time Zone, Lisa Hendey. Fortunately for me, by the grace of God — our calendars aligned for a get-together. This, you will see, really was an act of God.

Besides being the founder of CatholicMom.com, Lisa Hendey is an A-list Catholic author and speaker in hot demand, and she’s about to launch her newest book, The Grace of Yes! But the biggest grace for me was her warm hospitality and the opportunity to enjoy her friendship and have her be a guest at one of my Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreats. (She was the paparazzi over here, too.)

It was Lisa’s idea that we escape the cities where I was speaking and head to the coast and to the wine country. She got no resistance from me. But before we departed, I loved praying in the Fresno cathedral of St John the Baptist.  In it, I found the coolest stained glass window of my patron, Patrick… I’m super-sizing it so you can appreciate the details of the wind in his hair and the blowing of the waves…

St Patrick, snake chasin'. Circa late 5th century.

St Patrick, snake chasin’. Circa late 5th century.

But I digress… But the real point here is that not only do we need patron saints, we need patrons in life — little local saints who support the work that we do, but more importantly, the life of faith in us — companions on the journey. I have that in Lisa. She has been such a supportive, generous friend in all the ten years I’ve known her.

And for what’s its worth: I’m so glad we also share a road warrior’s spirit! We put some serious mileage on her car this week.

Lisa and I first headed for Monterey and Carmel where we spent a wonderful afternoon praying in the San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission, where St Junipero Serra – founder of the California Missions — died.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

Entry into the chapel off the courtyard.

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Lisa and I at the mission.

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Momma Mary was there too. (Our Lady of Bethlehem.)

Mission's altar

Mission’s altar

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

St Junipero Serra lies beneath the marble in front of his icon.

Then it was off to the Napa Valley . (Where I long to go back already.) I won’t list all the places we visited. A few may show up on Lisa’s Catholic Tourist blog.  Rest assured, we enjoyed the scenery, the wines, the restaurants, and the local church with Mass and adoration!

We interrupt this blog post for this commercial message…

Napa area Catholics: I’m primed to give a retreat in your area! My contact form is below!

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Napa area vineyards.

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I told you: From holy hour to happy hour — God is good!

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

Once again, capturing images of my friends with giant gourds. Lisa with Great Pumpkin II.

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Wishing I could bring a cask home!

After a week of shared prayer and daily life, it was time to part. This New England woman is sad to put the geographical distance of a whole country between Lisa and myself. Our online friendship dates back to CatholicMom.com 1.0. years. Our in-person visits are treasured. Yet, I’m grateful for all the graces of the sacraments and prayer times we shared this week, the good times we had, the digital detox, and the restorative value of retreating with a trusted friend who loves Jesus and Mary.

I’m home now. I still have the messy desk that I left. But I’m full of gratitude.

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Thank you, WINGS at St John The Baptist, Folsom!

Thank you, WINGS at St John The Baptist, Folsom!

The WINGS team and me: St John the Baptist, Folsom CA

The WINGS team and me: St John the Baptist, Folsom CA

Another Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreat was experienced in the Garden Room of St John the Baptist, Folsom. I am grateful to the WINGS leadership for bringing me out there to pray and share with the women in attendance — including my pal, author Lisa Hendey, who decided to be my ride and wing-woman for the event!

A special shout out to Tricia and Bonnie — Among Women listeners (pictured at the top of the page) who traveled to the event!

Over 1100 women have experienced this retreat. You can too! Invite me to your parish, diocese, or retreat house.

My next event will be at St Joseph’s in Babylon, New York.

In 2015, I’ll be in Southington CT, Billings MT, and Elkhart IN. Stay in touch with future bookings at my speaking page.

This makes me think… about the how Christ’s passion makes us strong in suffering

…Christ came, not only because of our need as a fallen race to be redeemed, but as the firstborn of all creation to teach us how to live. One cannot teach life except by getting a wounded heart, a wounded spirit, not without being bruised… 

We must study to learn how to identify … the bruises of the heart and the spirit with the Passion of Christ., who did not love us without getting bruised in the process. We have those soul-shaking  lines from Holy Scripture, almost too exquisitely acute to bear: “With his stripes we are healed.” (Is 53: 5). His wounds have not healed us of our need of being wounded but of the wound of our self-centeredness. His woulds have called us to come our of self, to be made strong in suffering. This is to identify with the Passion of Christ.

…[and] the responsibility that the Passion of Christ enjoins upon us. We dare not underestimate the strength we have once we have been redeemed in love by Jesus. When we make promises to God, we can disavow the power put into us to observe them faithfully. When we are given by God any circumstance, any work to do, any suffering to sustain, we are also given the power and the strength to do or to suffer it. So when remembering and focusing in our identification with the Passion of the Christ, we need also to make active his own mandate through the inspired word of his apostle, that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). What is lacking in Christ’s Passion in me? It is my own bruises of body, of heart, of spirit, bruises of disappointment, bruises of frustration, bruises of misunderstanding, bruises of ingratitude, bruises perhaps of rejection. Aware of this, remembering, focused, identified, we can truly pray, “Passion of Christ, make me strong!” We dare not pray it unless we are prepared to accept the responsibility of having the strength of the Passion of Jesus given to us. 

… [we] identify our own bruises as making up what is wanting in his Passion. We begin to join our own hesitant refrain to his great theme: “What is not necessary that I suffer this?” Was it not ordained that I should suffer for all the world? Was it not ordained that I suffer for the benefactors who befriend us and for those who think our life a waste? “Passion of Christ, make me strong!” Yes, it is a dangerous prayer. For if I ask to be made strong in this weay, I will be made strong and have to abdicate any further right to say “I can’t.” In this prayer I deliver up to Christ my former right to say “I cannot do it.”

Mother Mary Francis, PCC
Anima Christi