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.

The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

First, a little artsy video… about the beauty of women through the ages…

Now, let’s take a look at real life today… I think this song explains pretty well the mistakes we make about “beauty”…

The solution to a flawed sense of self is to know who we are in God.

YOU are beautiful. Just in case you needed to hear that today. That’s the truth of the feminine genius that St John Paul talked about. 

IMG_2045Mary knew who she was in God. Do we?

Are we grateful for our femininity? There’s a wide spectrum of answers that most women give to that question. But if you are wrestling with that, maybe just find one small way to be grateful for who you are, as a woman, today.

I wrote a whole book on the feminine genius and the beauty of women, but let me leave you with one quote referenced in the last chapter from Fr Donald Calloway, MIC. In it he is talking about how Mary — the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother — is grateful for the gift of being a woman. Below, Fr Calloway reminds us of that… and that one day, as we grow in holiness, grace will deepen our beauty until it imitates hers in heaven.

What Mary has at the beginning, namely, sinlessness, all will have at the end of life if they cooperate with the gift of their embodiedness. Mary shows us to accept the gift of our embodiedness . . . the God-given sex of the body . . . the body is not an obstacle to be overcome but rather, a gift to be lived. Mary delights in her body, especially in . . . femininity. It is precisely in her gift of being a woman, that Mary was fashioned and called by God to be the Theotokos [Mother of God]. . . .

Just think what would have happened if Mary had rebelled against the gift of her feminine body! We would be in a very different situation today.

Indeed, we women ought to revel in the gift of femininity… we are made “in the image of God”! May our souls, our very depths, “magnify the Lord” ! (See Gen 1: 27, and Luke 1:46-47)

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Speaking of Mary: I’d like to see this exhibit coming soon… Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea – coming to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, on view Dec. 5, 2014–April 12, 2015.

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Need more on the beauty of women?

You might like this recent Among Women podcast “Show me, Lord, that I’m beautiful.”

Or this timely post from Jennifer Fitz, “Women Demystified: To Love Her is to Tell Her How Beautiful She Is”

Or find my book.

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I’m hitting the road today… gonna visit some beautiful women in real life in California this week and next. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Banner photo: Woman Bathing in a Stream (Rembrandt)

Among Women 183: Falling in love with the Trinity — and the feminine genius

Among Women 183: Falling in love with the Trinity — and the feminine genius

This latest episode of Among Women features the faith story of Nan Balfour, whose love and faith in God led her to knowing her feminine genius .

Speaker_BalfourTogether we explore the gift of faith and what it means to fall in love with God, and how it changes the way we love and live. Nan Balfour shares pivotal conversion moments in her life — a life of on-going conversion — and how they led her to what she does now. Nan is a leader with the Pilgrim Center of Hope, and the conference coordinator for the Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio coming up Sept 19-20.

In our “Blessed are They” segment, we pray along with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity — whose faith was wrapped up in love of the Holy Trinity.

Don’t miss this episode, and share it with your friends on social media, and put an announcement in your church bulletin for Among Women.

Don’t forget to like Among Women Podcast on Facebook, and leave a positive rating and a review on our iTunes page. Thanks!

For details on upcoming conferences and retreats with me, Pat Gohn, go here. 

 

The MOM podcasts: 12 “Best of” Among Women episodes on Motherhood – Bookmark these!

The MOM podcasts: 12 “Best of” Among Women episodes on Motherhood – Bookmark these!

Mother is another word for LOVE! Motherhood is call to raise saints for heaven. (<–this link has an except from my book.)

I’m pleased to look back to the Among Women archives to bring you some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had the joy of hosting. I hope you’ll be blessed.

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AW 179 Momnipotent with Danielle Bean – Don’t miss this most recent podcast dedicated to the feminine virtues that make Moms great! With author and editor Danielle Bean. Plus I discuss Mary’s spiritual motherhood in our lives. Listen!

AW 119 The Interior Life of Mothers - Make no mistake motherhood matters! Join me for a lively conversation with author Dorothy Pilarski about her book that explores that vital truth. Listen!

AW 71 Small Steps for Catholic Moms – They are the dynamite duo behind the book of the same name: Danielle Bean and Elizabeth Foss. These married women and longtime writers have eight and nine children respectively and give us a glimpse into the meaning of it all. Listen! 

AW 178 New Life in Christ – My guest describes how an unplanned pregnancy in her successful single professional life brought her to her knees and back to the faith. This is a joyous testimony. Listen! 

AW 56: CatholicMOM.com Founder Dishes – Catholic Mom.com founder, author, and social media maven Lisa Hendey takes us through the pages of her first book, The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Listen! 

AW 163 A Name for Eternity – A perfect podcast for mothers and mothers-to-be! Learn all about naming your baby from author Patrice Fagnant MacArthur. Listen!

AW 15o The Rosary and Pregnancy – perfect together! - Hear author Sarah Reinhard’s loving advice from her book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy. Listen!

AW 104: Little Ones in the Domestic Church, Part One, and Part Two – A rare gem for mothers getting their bearings in building up a Catholic home. Blogger Melanie Bettinelli  offers sage advice for starting to share the faith with the very youngest members of the family by creating an environment that naturally communicates the faith over time.  Listen to part one! Then: Listen to part two! 

AW 90 The Icing on the Cake - Got little ones? Need some cool — and simple!– ideas for growing your domestic church at home? Meet blogger Lacy Rabideau whose blog Catholic Icing is a favorite! This podcast offers great Lenten ideas, but make sure you check out her blog year round! Listen! 

AW 160 Mary’s Astonishing Motherhood – I teach a bit on Mary’s life with Joseph and her miraculous pregnancy, then I’m joined by Katherine Coleman who talks about her life’s joys and sorrows as she looks back on raising her autistic son, Matthew, to adulthood. Listen!

AW 121 Each Life is a Masterpiece - Moms of special needs children will be encouraged by the life and writing of Leticia Velasquez as she unpacks the wisdom from her collection of stories found between the pages of A Special Mother is Born. Listen!

AW 5 How to Form a Mothers Prayer Group – I am joined by Colette Crowley and together we both share our experiences in founding mothers prayer groups in our locales. My experience with my Mothers Morning of Prayer was a powerful aid to my spiritual life and my mothering. Don’t miss this very early archive from the early days of Among Women! Listen! 

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This makes me think… all women are called to promote a new feminism, even those who have had abortions

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”. A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

-Pope Saint John Paul II-
The Gospel of Life, 1995, par. 99. [Emphasis mine.]

The F.U.N. Quotient… for the Moms and Dads out there

Moms will love this: A song parody à la “Frozen”…

 

And there’s this one… (Viewer caution: a single use of a swear word, the ‘s’ word.) This is a comedy sketch from a comedian Dad talking about the upside-down-ness of doing simple things with children. Yes, to quote the previous video, he definitely needs to “let it go…”

Women in the Diocese of Springfield Illinois: I’ll be there Sept 13!

Women in the Diocese of Springfield Illinois: I’ll be there Sept 13!

Have you been to a Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious retreat yet? Midwesterners will have there chance when I come to the Diocese of Springfield’s first ever women’s conference — at the beautiful Chiara Center… event details below! Follow and “like” the Facebook page. Plan your escape and come for the weekend! You can’t beat the one-day price or location!!

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See more lovely photos of Chiara Center.