Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

Raising Them for Jesus – 3 influences your kids need today to have faith tomorrow

I’m over at CatholicMom.com this week, sharing a post on parenting…

The young bride-to-be, a good friend’s daughter, sent me a thank you note for my gift and my attendance at her bridal shower. She wrote: “Thank you for being a ‘second mother’ in my life. I am blessed to have grown up with role models of faithful, holy women.” That’s the second time I’ve heard her call me that. The first time was at the shower as she opened the gift. Her mother smiled at the compliment, recognizing how she, too, has been a kind of spiritual mother to some of my children.

Every young Catholic, especially teens, needs to find credible witnesses for the faith. I’m so grateful to the family members and the friends who have helped to spiritually mentor my children – especially in their teenage years on the way to adulthood. Those Catholic friends made the faith real to my children. I’m seeing its effects now as my grown children age into their mid-twenties.

Spiritual mentoring, or other faithful adults whose witness bears an impact, is just one of three important factors that raises the odds for our children having an adult faith.

Three powerful influences help shape the spiritual life in children in a lasting way – the faith practice of their parents, a spiritual mentor or two outside of the family, and a personal encounter with God.

The first is the practice of faith in the daily life of the family. There is no replacement for the genuine faith and devotional practices of a child’s parents in leading the family. The eyes and ears of children are the most sensitive spiritual surveillance systems ever designed. They pick up on authenticity, honesty, and integrity of their parents’ relationship to God and to the teachings of the Church better than we imagine.

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

I’m cooking up something for St Patty’s Day at The Practicing Catholic today

I’m cooking up something for St Patty’s Day at The Practicing Catholic today

soupandstoriesToday I’m sharing a little recipe for St Patrick Cheddar Soup, along with some of my musings about the my favorite prayer of St Patrick, at The Practicing Catholic blog. It’s Soup and Stories: a clever idea that combines favorite soup recipes with the penitential season of Lent. Here’s a taste…

I was born in New York to a mother of Irish descent. I arrived just a few days shy of Saint Patrick’s Day. Thus I am named both for himself and my Godmother.

Some of young Patty’s fondest Catholic memories are childhood visits to the towering Cathedral of St Patrick on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. It always left a powerful impression on me, when compared to our rather plain suburban church.

St Patrick’s Day was also parade day – so it was pretty cool to be named for a saint that was recognized both by the church and the culture at large.

So why not a soup to celebrate the day?

When I had a family of my own, I was happy to have this soup to vary our menu and to call attention to my patron sake, and to tell his story. Since March 17th usually falls within the Lenten season, I found this to be a tasty soup that was somewhat penitential, since it was meatless, yet very nourishing.

Read the whole thing. I hope you’ll join me as well as all the others who are souping’ it up for Lent! Thanks to Lisa and Joel Schmidt for the invitation to participate!

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

Welcome to my chaos, Jesus

It’s been a difficult winter season here. No getting around that. And I’m not just talking about the cold and the snowfall. In some ways, that has added some beauty to the landscape, and frankly, the excuse to cocoon a bit. Just a bit, because I’ve been out straight as they say. To compensate I’ve have to let go of a few things in order to embrace whatever fire is burning in front of me. To that end, I’ve missed writing and working consistently, I’ve missed getting together with friends or experiencing restful downtimes, I’ve missed podcasting, I’ve missed walking, and I’ve missed what I call balance-in-my-life. Even my prayer life — the anchor of each day — has been getting shifted into new times and forms, though that’s not always a bad thing.

My heart has been broken over sadnesses within my family, my friends’ lives, and mounting pressures — some unavoidable and some self-inflicted. Thank God for the menopausal crying jags… they cleanse me when I least expect them! If you know me, you can laugh at that last thing. Being a woman is still a wonderful thing — and it’s a wonder that I can recognize this new me on some days! Haha!

I’m not griping or ranting as if I’m looking for pity or for sympathies. I’m just a beggar who knows where her bread comes from, and I’ve written about in my latest over at Patheos. I had one of those Jesus moments that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time.

Here’s some of that…

All I wanted was a minute’s peace.

No, that’s not accurate. All I wanted was world peace, or something akin in my own little corner of it. At the very least, I wanted the noise in the church to go away. I wanted peace and quiet and escape from all that burdened me.

The Christmas season was ebbing away. I closed my eyes to pray after communion at Mass, to adore the Presence of Jesus in that moment. I attempted to pour out my heart, to break free from my troubles, to lean in and let him restore me with his holy food.

Instead I was remarkably distracted.

Normally, in prayer, I can tune out what’s around me. This day my concentration proved inadequate to the distractions.

The church seemed chaotic. I could not escape the scratchy shuffling of communicants in line to receive. After a New England snowfall, the “snowmelt”—salt and sand that sticks to the bottom of shoes—makes a scraping, gritty contact with the floor tiles in our church.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Even the music distracted me; the cantor, Lord have mercy,was out of sync with the hymn.

Oh geez, I know I am pitiful as I nitpick others—after communion, no less! Lord have mercy… on me.

There’s the distinctive cry of a newborn baby, and a new momma trying all she can to console, to no avail. She’ll figure it out soon enough. She needs to be here as much as we need her to be here with her little one. And their small chaos jolts me back to where I am.

I refocus, this time on the other baby within my line of sight—the Babe in the manger—in all his poverty and humility; Jesus born into our chaos.

 Read it all. 

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Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Reprise: Woman, you are a gift! Respecting women respects life!!

Last year, on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, and the March for Life, I penned this column as a summary of the beauty of womanhood, and her gift of maternity and it was featured in the online version of the Washington Post…

Here it is in its entirety.

Woman, you are a gift!

From the first presentation of woman to man in the Garden of Eden, the gift of who you are is nothing less than “wow!” Your dignity comes from the gift of your being, and the gift of your being created feminine.

Man saw your profound and complementary gifts right away, and rejoiced. In God’s first act of blessing humanity, the creator smiled upon and blessed the union of the first couple, encouraging them be fertile and multiply (Gen 1:28).

Their loving union was a blessed gift to each other, and their offspring, delivered through woman’s maternity, was designed to be a visible sign of that blessing; another gift.

Then sin entered the world. For their failures the woman and man suffered grievous losses, and because we are their progeny, our own pains followed.

Tragically, humanity has habitually lost sight of the true gifts we are to one another, and the treasure of maternity was rarely appreciated as the blessing it is, until Jesus; the savior of all was born of a woman.

In and through Mary, the world heard once more: Woman, you are a gift!

Blessed John Paul II was especially eager to teach that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well-disposed to seeing, comprehending and loving human persons. This is our “feminine genius.” This particular strength of woman bears repeating and rediscovery, as we survey the political rhetoric of the day that tends to degrade maternity, especially as the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade comes to pass.

The late pontiff’s major treatise on women, Mulieris Dignatatem, exults in the dignity and beauty of femininity. The gift of maternity, he wrote is a strength, not a weakness.

There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.

A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’etre illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression — giving birth — denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.

What’s more, a pregnant mother is entrusted with carrying an immortal soul besides her own — a soul that is destined for eternity. That’s why a woman really needs to be aware of the dignity of her feminine creation, and the sublime gift of her maternity, so she can confer that dignity on her child, and upon others through her love of life.

The gift of maternity is inherent in all women. They are predisposed to motherhood by their design. Yet, as we know, not all women bear children. Even if a woman never gives birth, a woman’s life is still inclined toward mothering. All women are entrusted with the call to care for the people within their sphere of influence. This broadens our ideas of maternity beyond gestation and lactation.

A woman’s relationships with others, even though they may not be fruitful biologically, can be fruitful spiritually. Therefore a woman’s life–her feminine genius–is characterized by physical and/or spiritual motherhood.

When the gift of a woman’s fertility and maternity are devalued, they are misinterpreted as liabilities or threats to a woman’s potential happiness, or earning power, or freedom.

Both women and men are crippled when disrespect for any of the gifts of the other are ignored, stifled, abused, or rejected. But women are demeaned when this precious part of them is reduced to a faculty to be managed, rather than a capability to be treasured.

Our beautiful maternity, and the lives and loves that issue forth from it, is why the church continues to stand in defense of chastity and marriage, along with its opposition to the use of contraception, abortion of the unborn and any other threat to human life.

Finally, dear woman, here’s something else the church teaches: If we’ve failed to live up to this teaching on maternity, if we’ve disrespected or abused the beautiful gifts of our womanhood, we can make our way back. The gifts of grace and forgiveness through the sacraments provide that path.

Let us trust that grace. Let us be gentle and generous in dealing with our own failures as regards our sexuality or our maternity. Jesus wants us to be healed, and especially to be healed of wounds related to our sexuality and maternity.

Let us come to him with our brokenness, and the sins against our genius of maternity, no matter how grievous or painful.

Let us come to know this God who came through the womb to save us.

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The On Faith column of the Washington Post has moved to On Faith at Faithstreet.com. Here’s the link for the column above.

 

I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

I have a now-and-again series at Catholic Mom I affectionately call “Tales from the Empty Nest”.  This latest installment talks about the bittersweet heartache of losing my rocking chair…

Here’s an excerpt:

A long time back, almost 27 years ago, my husband bought me a rocking chair. We were expecting our first baby. I was looking forward to refinishing the rocker. It would be one of my household “nesting” projects as we prepared for the new baby. I used a maple stain and a satin finish on the rocker’s wood. The chair was a fixture in our home all through our childrearing years. Over time it rocked a lot of babies and a lot of guests who visited our home. Until recently.

The rocker developed a small split in one of the natural curved seams of its wood. Eventually one of the braces split and the back support broke. Sadly, it rendered the chair unstable and beyond repair.

A little part of my heart broke along with the rocker, as it seemed to signal the end of an era. With our children grown now, and our youngest son is in college, I’m already pretty far from the days of little ones wanting hear a story or waiting to be rocked and held before naptime.

I could not help but notice that the rocker’s demise coincided very closely with my entering menopause… another end of an era where motherhood is concerned.

Both of these changes, the rocker’s demise, and the menopause, have rocked me a bit, if you’ll forgive the obvious pun.

Somehow I thought the rocker would be with me as I aged. I’m going to miss the therapeutic soothing of my rock-a-bye chair, but I miss a more youthful and vigorous body even more. Yet I’m learning to be more comfortable with the woman I am now, and not worry so much about losses or gains. Midlife has its unique challenges, but it also has new blessings to offer me.

Learning to let go is one of the primary tasks of motherhood, and it comes to us in many different ways, even if we do get sentimental about a chair or certain phases of life now and then…

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

Catholic Digest: What the World Needs Now — is Spiritual Mothers like YOU!

Catholic Digest: What the World Needs Now — is Spiritual Mothers like YOU!

So happy to see that Catholic Digest is putting more and more older print articles online! As a longtime lover of periodicals, I have to say, I’m loving the new and improved Catholic Digest! It’s blessing me each month.

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Here’s a little snippet from an article I had in Catholic Digest earlier this fall:

Spiritual motherhood means nurturing the spiritual, moral, emotional, and cultural life in others. Not all women give birth to children, yet all women are called to exercise a spiritual maternity in the world—giving care and nurture to others through their own maternal gift. (And, of course, spiritual mothering should be part of every physical mother’s care!)

To understand spiritual motherhood or spiritual maternity properly, we need to broaden our understanding of the gift of maternity. Growing up I considered maternity limited to nine months of pregnancy. Later in life, I read John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter,Mulieris Dignatatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”) and gained a new perspective.

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way….This entrusting concerns women in a special way—precisely by reason of their femininity—and this in a particular way determines their vocation…. A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting… (par. 30.)

In this section of the document, John Paul describes the universal vocation of all women, not just women who bear children. God entrusts all women, by reason of their femininity—their design—to care for humanity. Maternal care, in a spiritual way, is not limited to childcare, but should be active in all phases of a woman’s life. Spiritual mothering doesn’t smother or infantilize teens or adults but loves and serves them according to the needs of the person one is caring for. It brings a motherly touch to our human relationships, and to our work—especially the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, is a powerful example. Mother Teresa displayed spiritual mothering in action. Her words, actions, and prayers mothered millions—not biologically, but spiritually.

Spiritual mothers in our midst

You might understand spiritual motherhood by answering the question: Who has spiritually mothered you?

Aunt Pat

My earliest memory of my godmother, whose name I bear, is when she took me into “the big city,” New York. As a child back then, it was a big deal. Aunt Pat made a fuss over me, giving me undivided attention. And I felt…special, doted upon, loved. Today Aunt Pat still remembers my birthdays and other occasions. Though separated by geographical distance, I immediately recognize the cards she sends by mail. Her handwriting on the envelopes is an unmistakably Catholic-schoolgirl-script from a bygone era, full of feminine flourishes. The messages inside are always warm and full of prayers. Her correspondence grounds me, and it reminds where I come from. She teaches me that love stretches over time and distance.

Paula

Paula lived in my church community when I  was growing up. A bit older than me, she befriended me in my teens and remained in my life after I married in my twenties. When I became a mother, I went through a time when I felt like I was drowning in the stress of it all. Paula, a prayerful wife and then mother of three, threw me a lifeline by re-introducing me to the Blessed Mother as a friend and guide. I needed to bring Mary out of the church and into my home. Decades later, I still have the prayer book Paula gave me. It helped me ask Mary to intercede for me, through morning sickness, sleepless nights, and a myriad of new mother woes. Paula taught me that prayer is critical to my vocation as a wife and mother.

Eileen

When our family moved to a new town, I met Eileen, another woman with a devotion to the Blessed Mother. With a quick wit and three boys of her own, Eileen’s door was always open, her coffeepot was always on, and she gave great hugs. I soaked up our many friendly conversations and the Rosaries we prayed aloud around her kitchen table. Like the older women described in the New Testament Letter to Titus (see Titus 2:3–4). Her example deepened my devotion to the Rosary and the desire to be that kind of friend to someone else. Eileen taught me the power of welcome and cheerful service.

Judi

I met Judi in the back of the church in 1996. She stayed after Mass to pray, but accidentally overheard my whispered conversation in a nearby pew. I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer and was expressing shock over it to a friend. Before leaving, Judi introduced herself. She had fought the disease years earlier and simply wanted to show me the face of someone who survived it. That was a holy moment for me. She was a godsend. Judi became hope incarnate to me. We stayed in touch and Judi helped me negotiate cancer treatment and recovery. She was a one-woman support group and mentor rolled into one. In time we shared our love of writing, books, and the Bible. Her favorite Gospel story was the Transfiguration when Jesus’ friends momentarily saw him glorified—a glimpse of heaven on earth! I think of her when I pray that Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. Judi was my friend for ten years until her death. She taught me how to suffer well and live joyously at the same time.

Read the rest. 

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My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…

God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 11.39.54 AMFaith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.

We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.

The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.

“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”

Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.

We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)

Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)

Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.

This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).

The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.

Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).

Read the rest at my column on Patheos.

To catch up with the series I wrote on Lumen Fidei, you can find the introduction here, and my earlier articles on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.

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EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!

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Faith’s Eyes See a New Reality… more on Francis’ “Lumen Fidei”

My Patheos series on Pope Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, continues…

All church teaching is based on Scripture, and chapter one of Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei (LF) is no exception; its over-arching theme is from St. John’s First Epistle, “We know and believe the love God has for us” (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Memorize that verse and you’ll have a very good definition of faith in the Christian life. Knowing and believing are the head and heart components of faith.

A powerful secondary theme that chapter one, “We Have Believed in Love,” introduces is that when one has faith one has the basis of understanding reality. That is, the “new eyes” of faith detect and experience God and discern the deepest meanings of life. Several selections from chapter one bear this out as it examines the profound history of faith, beginning with our “father in faith,” Abraham, and finding its completion in God’s Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

Read the entire piece here, and read the introduction to the series here. Subscribe to my column by RSS or email here. 

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10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother! (Read it in Catholic Digest this month!)

10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother! (Read it in Catholic Digest this month!)

Scan 132460001I’ve gushed before about my excitement over Catholic Digest’s new layout and renewal under Danielle Bean’s leadership. Let me say, again, I’m pleased as can be not only to pen the Year of Faith column on one of my favorite subjects — The Catechism! — but this month’s issue features my ode to the spiritual mothers in my life, including my Godmother-Auntie, several good girlfriends that God strategically placed in my life at different times, and Mary! Of course none of these gals replaced my own mother’s holy influence. It just goes to show that the feminine genius is not only inherent in women, but it can flourish with encouragement from others!

Here’s a peak from one of the sidebars, from the Catholic Digest feature: “What the World Needs Now is Spiritual Mothers — like YOU!”:

10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother…

She nurtures others to become who they are meant to be in God’s eyes.

She recognizes, affirms, and protects human dignity.

She performs spiritual and corporal works of mercy with maternal care.

She helps others by her encouraging words and charitable service.

She prays for and with others as an intercessor for them, especially priests.

She practices the arts of friendship and hospitality.

She passes on what she knows as a mentor when asked.

She is a joy catalyst.

She keeps Christ close in her heart by imitating Mary.

She is a woman of holy influence who helps to give birth to saints

Has someone been a spiritual mother in your life? I’d love to hear about it in the combox.

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My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

As the Year of Faith continues, I thought it wise to study and reflect on Francis’ first encyclical specially geared to teach on faith. This encyclical letter was much anticipated and begun by Benedict XVI, and was subsequently completed and released under Francis. It was released at the end of June, just in time for my summer vacation. But I’m back! And happy to share a few quotes from it —  the “greatest hits” imho — that I find there.

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Today, at my column at Patheos, I begin a series reflecting on each of the parts of this wise and easy-to-digest catechesis on faith. As you might expect, the document is filled with scripture. I give you a snippet below of a particular verse that moved me…

One verse from Scripture cited in Lumen Fidei struck me with unusual power, to see it with new eyes.

On the eve of his passion, Jesus assured Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail (Lk 22: 32).”

What a momentous statement.

So often Christians think about the action of our prayers being made to God. Yet in this instance, the Lord and the Light of the World, offers an intentional and personal prayer for an arrogant and blundering fisherman in Peter. The gospels have numerous instances of Jesus at prayer. But in this short verse we get a vision of God who prays for us! Jesus has each of us in mind before we utter a word or thought of the heart.

In this clear intercession – I have prayed for you – Jesus pins hope on Peter’s faith, but it is not fainthearted. Jesus backs it with his power and light. Jesus entrusts this faith, by turn, on the followers to come after Peter, as they too will be transformed by the light of faith.

I now imagine this word of God applying to me. I see Jesus praying for my faith, the virtue infused at my baptism. To assist me in not failing, Jesus has given me brothers and sisters in the church, along with the graces of the sacraments, to insure it. This, indeed, is the faith born of encounter with Jesus: it brightens one’s path, and opens “vast horizons” that lead “beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.” It is a faith that “enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, par 6.)”

Read the whole article at my column, “A Word in Season”, on Patheos.

To subscribe to my column at Patheos via RSS or to get the whole series delivered to your email inbox, go here.

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Photos: Top cover photo: me and a cardboard cut-out of Francis at Catholic Marketing Network, near the Ignatius Press booth.

Mid text: Screen shot from news.va