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Among Women 229: The Friendship Project

Among Women 229: The Friendship Project

Listen to this week’s podcast as we look at one of the prime topics of interest here at Among Women — the spiritual friendships that women ought to cultivate and welcome into their lives. Join me for a lively conversation with authors Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet as we discuss their latest title, The Friendship Project: The Catholic Woman’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-filled Friends.

Plus a look at some of the wisdom of Church Doctor, St. Hildegard of Bingen — including learning something from this new book about her mentor, Jutta.

Listen to Among Women now!

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Among Women 209: Women Leaving the Abortion Industry, with Abby Johnson

Among Women 209: Women Leaving the Abortion Industry, with Abby Johnson

This latest episode of Among Women is poignant and powerful. My guest, Abby Johnson, works in a ministry “And Then There Were None”, dedicated to helping women come out of the abortion industry. Her new book is riveting: The Walls are Talking: Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.23.48 AMFormer Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their StoriesTogether we talk about how our committed friendship and love can help more women say no to abortion and re-start lives outside of the industry.

In our “Blessed are They” segment, I’m happy to be reading an excerpt from Melanie Rigney’s Blessed Are You that profiles the life of St Gianna Beretta Molla. Plus I share about Holy Doors and the Year of Mercy. Listen here to this new episode, or find #209 on iTunes.

Among Women 202: Chastity is for Lovers with Arleen Spenceley

Among Women 202: Chastity is for Lovers with Arleen Spenceley

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.13.08 AMIn this latest episode of Among Women the subject is the virtue of chastity and my guest, Arleen Spenceley, is a writer for the Tampa Bay Times. A few years back, an essay she wrote on being a chaste single adult garnered much discussion in print and went viral online. All this led to her book release Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin. Join us for a discussion of the influence of St John Paul’s thoughts on love between the sexes, and how chastity is a virtue every person must cultivate.

Also in this episode, a look at a Welch saint who rivals St Valentine as a saint for lover, St Dwynden.

Listen and share this episode!

 

Among Women 197: Badass Buddies and Pope Selfies – an interview with Maria Morera Johnson

Among Women 197: Badass Buddies and Pope Selfies – an interview with Maria Morera Johnson

9781594736324.jpg.232xThis Among Women episode is one I’ve been waiting for all year! My friend, author and Catholic Weekend host María Morera Johnson, joins me for the Among Women interview. Maria brings some of the stories behind her new book, including how the book got its name:  My Badass Book of Saints: Courage Women Who Showed Me How to Live. This is one book that I hope many women will read, and a book I especially hope you’ll put in the hands of someone who may never pick up a book of saints otherwise.

In this conversation, my writing buddy and good friend gives us the background on how a word like “badass” got into the book’s title, and her own powerful lessons of how God has helped her  — and a variety of saints and impressive women — persevere under trials and hardships! Not only that, Maria talks about her recent pilgrimage to Cuba and her personal meeting with Pope Francis and other church leaders!

I also profile the life of St Rose of Lima, as told in an excerpt from Maria Johnson’s book.

Plus there’s news about the The Women on the Way Conference, with yours truly, Nov. 21 in Richmond, VA

Listen to the podcast, here!

And finally, this sweet bit of news…

Celebrate Among Women’s 200th Episode, coming Dec 10th!!!
Enter the free drawing by entering your comments below in the comment box, or email your comments and your voice memos to me at amongwomenpodcast@me.com. Comments for entry can also be left at the Among Women podcast facebook page. All names for the drawings must be in by Dec 9, 2015 at 11:59pm Eastern. Winners will be announced on the Dec 10th podcast – Episode 200! I give descriptions of all these book on the podcast.
There are four prize packs possible to win:
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The Feminine Genius Pack!

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The Mary Pack!

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The Saints Pack!

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The Mom/Grandmom Pack!

Our Lady of Charity answers my prayers… she sent Maria Morera Johnson on pilgrimage with the #PopeInCuba

Our Lady of Charity answers my prayers… she sent Maria Morera Johnson on pilgrimage with the #PopeInCuba

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Sisters in Christ, daughters of Mary.

One of the many fruits of my friendship with María Morera Johnson, is not only finding a friend who loves the Blessed Mother and the Rosary, but through her I learned about Mary’s title as Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba. Her full title in Spanish is La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre. 

Good friends teach you about stuff. They share what moves them. I visited María’s extended family in Miami in 2011. Part of that trip included a little pilgrimage to Our Lady of Charity’s shrine there, also known as the Ermita del la Caridad. It is dear to many with Cuban ancestry. When I’m there, I think of the many people in the course of my lifetime who have left their country under difficult circumstances. The shrine looks out to sea from the shoreline. I can only imagine how many prayers and tears have mingled with those waters that fill the 90-mile gap from Florida to Cuba.

I have been very taken with this title of Our Lady of Charity, and her patronage.

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My statue of Our Lady of Charity.

After that Miami visit I had an opportunity to write about the story of Our Lady of Charity. I’ve even been back to Miami two more times to visit the Ermita. I’ve prayed for my friend and her Cuban family members’ intentions both there and before the image of Our Lady of Charity that is in my home — a gift from the Morera family.

Over the years I have prayed that María would one day have a chance to make a pilgrimage to the original El Cobre shrine in Cuba, the country of her birth.

I think Our Lady had that same prayer.

The thing about God’s timing and God’s plan is that it is always so much better than anything we can ever hope for or imagine.

I would have never predicted that such a pilgrimage would include a selfie with the Pope.

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Pope Francis, Maria Morera Johnson, Cuba, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Maria M Johnson.)

María just returned from a pilgrimage to Cuba that coincided with Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to Cuba. It’s her story to tell. And I’m happy to ask you to read it.

Read her second installment about her Cuban journey, complete with the selfie with the Pope, over at Aleteia. Her first installment is here.

You can also follow María Johnson’s blog.

Oh, in other news, María has a book coming out in the next few weeks: My Badass Book of Saints… 

One last thing… you see that little medal María is wearing in the photo above?  I’ve never seen one until I met her. It’s Our Lady of Charity.

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Update from 10.5.2015: An Offering to Our Lady of Charity in Cuba. This post really touched my heart.

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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Among Women 184: Show Me, Lord, That I’m Beautiful

Among Women 184: Show Me, Lord, That I’m Beautiful

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.09.47 PMThis week on Among Women, in our first segment, we look at a miraculous conversion story taken from the life of St Catherine of Siena wrought through the power of prayer. In a similar vein, in our second segment, we meet a modern woman with her own story of transformation.

Life with Jesus Christ has the power to change every aspect of our lives. University of Miami Campus Minister Michelle Ducker candidly shares her life and work in this extended interview. Michelle’s story shows us that when we let Jesus do the heavy lifting, he’ll heal our hearts and minds and bring us joy, truth, and true beauty — the kind that shines from the inside out! Michelle reflects on several years of her life, including her walking away from a modeling career, dealing with illness, and wrestling with body and self-image issues. Today she shares what she has overcome in and through Christ, and how she walks with others so that they may experience friendship in Christ, and discover true beauty and love.

This is an episode you won’t want to miss! Listen!

 

On Spiritual Friendship, from The Christophers

On Spiritual Friendship, from The Christophers

This is a topic that is dear to my heart, and I’m very happy that The Christophers have taken up the subject in one of their newest booklets, written by author Mary De Turris Poust, who coincidentally, also wrote Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship

At his blog, Christopher Close-up, Tony Rossi gives us the text of the booklet, which you can request in a hard copy from The Christophers at the end of that blog post.

Here’s a snippet:

The definition of “friendship” has taken some hits in recent years. After all, we live in a world where social media allows us to “friend” or “unfriend” someone with the click of our computer or smartphone. But that’s precisely why face-to-face and heart-to-heart friendship is needed more than ever. These are the times that call for spiritual friendships, the kinds of bonds that reach to a place deep within our souls, far beyond shared interests, book clubs, and shopping dates.

SpiritualFriendshipSpiritual friendship is not an invention of our modern times. In fact, we can trace it back into the Old Testament. “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure,” we read in Sirach 6:14. We’re not talking about just any good friend here; we’re talking about a friend whose hunger for spiritual connection, whose journey toward God mirrors our own.

Aelred of Rivealux, a Cistercian monk who lived in the 12th century, wrote the original book on spiritual friendship. His collection of letters was meant to help readers discover the beauty of this kind of soul-to-soul relationship. Five centuries later, St. Francis de Sales took up the mantle and wrote extensively about spiritual friendship in his classic “Introduction to the Devout Life.”

“If the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion, and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is! Precious because it comes from God, because it tends to God, because God is the link that binds you, because it will last forever in Him,” wrote St. Francis.

But spiritual friendship is not some remnant of a bygone era. It is alive and well among faithful friends who want to be companions on the spiritual journey through highs and lows, good times and bad, from here to eternity.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this piece, so don’t miss it! I’m also pleased that my book gets mentioned.

Pat Gohn, author of “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood,” talks about the importance of “spiritual motherhood,” those relationships where a woman—whether biological mother or not—nurtures the spiritual life of another. This is just one of the many incarnations of spiritual friendship available to us today.

Gohn says, “As the parent of a child, we freely pour our love and energy into their growth, even though a child is often not capable of a reciprocal giving back. A spiritual mother willingly gives of herself, and lets her love be planted in another person’s life, investing without expectation of a return, yet leaving the results to God, because God is the source of all our goodness in the first place.”

That same spirit is very much at the heart of spiritual friendship—loving without expecting anything in return, offering without strings attached. And it’s something that flies in the face of what our society tells us. In a world where there’s “no free lunch,” spiritual friendship is counter-cultural. It says, yes, you can give and receive this love, this bond, this communion without fear of indebtedness or guilt.

Read the rest here.

This makes me think… about love, friendship, and its imperfections…

My husband said toward the end of his life, ‘Love and friendship are remnants of the earthly paradise.’ In this vale of tears, when we encounter so many difficulties, to have people you can call friends is such a joy, such a comfort, such a gift… We are meant to be united by a bond of love. Friendship implies that you have a clear vision of what the other person is called to be. You see that person with imperfections but you are willing to forget that.

-Alice Von Hildebrand, knighted “Lady Alice” by Pope Francis

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In case you missed it, you might want to read this recent post where I also quote this above.

The powerful light of the family table — a place of belonging and the sign of the domestic church

The powerful light of the family table — a place of belonging and the sign of the domestic church

This article is currently posted at CatholicMom.com. Go there for great content for families!

I grew up with an old saying: “The family that prays together stays together.” And that’s a maxim that I believe in and it’s something my husband Bob and I tried to encourage in every stage of our parenting life. For us, as Catholics, that translated into Sunday Mass, grace at meals, prayers before bedtime, and spontaneous prayers during the day. Not to mention devotions outside of that, like the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or observances in keeping with the Liturgical Year.

Yet, equally important was the family dinner table. Dinner has always been a point of connection, of conversation, of visiting with one another, checking in and talking about the highs and lows of the day. Often what was on the menu was never as important as what was shared around the table. What a gift it is to have someone care enough about you to ask, “how was your day?”  It’s such a simple notion of belonging, but it builds connections and grounds intimacy. And now that Bob and I are quasi-empty nesters, and the daily table is smaller, we still need to offer that gift to one another, and find ways to invite others to join us.

Recently, The Onion posted a social commentary that I feel was right on the mark called, “Lonely Nation Gathers Outside Window of Happy Family Eating Dinner Together.” It was a touching spoof  but I found it achingly painful to think that so many people have gone without this humble social connection, this domesticity, this rootedness. The light from within the home shined out of the windows illuminating the crowd gathered outside in the dark to observe the dinner hour.

There is a small little ritual at our home table for dinner. The person who usually sets the table lights a candle. This is not to dim the lights or to be romantic. It is to remind us of the Light of Christ — as in Jesus is the unseen guest, the One who is present with us. He sees us, hears us, is with us. There is a sanctuary light always on in a Catholic church to remind visitors there of the Holy Guest — Jesus — in the tabernacle. We light our little candle on our table in all seasons to be mindful that He is ever-present.

When each of my children left for college, I told them we would remember them around this table every night… we would see them in this light. For, thanks to the Body of Christ, they are with us, even still. This little candle reminds my mother’s heart that there is a connection, unseen and unheard, and Someone’s eyes and ears are present to my children wherever they are in the world. I feel the same way about our parents, siblings, relatives, and loved ones near and far. They are with us in Christ.

In a larger way, the importance of the Christ connection in our Church is what can and should draw us to Mass on Sundays. The table is set, the candles lit, and the meal is prepared. It’s something we need and truly long for, even when we have to fight the calendar and the current cultural norms to commit to it. At Mass we listen and we converse with Jesus. We tell him about our day, our week, and what’s on our mind and heart. He is present to us, truly present in the Word and in the Eucharist, and He keeps us close at heart after we depart.

I’ve just learned that Pope Francis is calling for a Synod on families. Speculations are varied as to the themes of marriage and family, of divorce and remarriage, that may be discussed there in October 2014. With this announcement, as with The Onion’s “news”, I heard a call for every Catholic home to deepen the bonds of its domestic church, or to begin anew, to organize itself around the table more. This, truly, is one way we can evangelize and spread the good news to one another, in the simple call to be in relationship around the table. On the global scale, I’m glad the Universal Church will be taking up the bigger questions that affect the family. Many of our sisters and brothers are missing at our Sunday table at Mass. Our family that is the Church needs to do more to invite them inside.

Let us pray for how we ought to respond in our homes and in our churches…

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How do you share the light of faith around your table?