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I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

A little proverb in the book of Sirach gets me started…

“Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of wisdom is better than both.”
—Sirach 40:20

Ah, wine and music! Two of my favorite things! Yet the proverb from Sirach offers much to consider as we examine the love of wisdom.

The sound of a cork pop remains a signal to my heart that life is good. The influence from the French side of my family taught me the beauty of wine on the table. I grew up a wine drinker and to this day, it is a joy to shop for wine, to taste new labels, to pair a special vintage with a good meal. Even the delicate nature of wine glasses signals to us that we must handle wine with care, savor its bouquet, and drink temperately. Every glass of wine was years in the making. It ought be respected and consumed with gratitude.

Wine is an occasion waiting to happen; through it we toast the gift of family, we honor friends, and celebrate milestones. For Catholics, we intuit the wisdom of Jesus in bringing us together for the Eucharistic meal whereby he shares his very self under the guise of bread and wine. That knowledge alone elevates our notion of wine as a gift that must be shared with love.

I also grew up a music lover and a musician. For me, music is a way to sing, to dance, and to pray. Music moves us, not only to sing and dance, but it moves the heart.

I’ve seen the right choice of music change someone’s day. I’ve been privileged to choose and sing music at weddings where the memories of those songs will last a lifetime. Music offers a soundtrack to some of the most important moments of our lives. Music is the language of the heart.

Wine plus music equals a celebration! From simplest gathering to the more elaborate events—whether an intimate gathering for two, a party with friends, or a wedding reception—wine and music are complementary sensory gifts that make life better, joyous even!

Yet, Sirach reminds us, even as we find the gifts of wine and music enjoyable and inspiring … “the love of wisdom is better than both.” Why might this be?

Read the rest at the WINE blog.


(WINE = Women In the New Evangelization)

WINE has many events throughout the year, mostly in Minnesota, although its mission is growing.

The 2016 Women’s Conference Feb 6th

The Italy tour – June 2016

Tomorrow is First Saturday! Who’s with me for Saturday #3?  #5FirstSat4Mary

Tomorrow is First Saturday! Who’s with me for Saturday #3? #5FirstSat4Mary


Our backyard shrine, Our Lady of Grace. (Photo by Pat Gohn, 2015, all rights reserved.)

Since September I’ve been on a quest to make the Five First Saturdays devotion. So tomorrow is my third of, Lord-willing, five Saturdays. Today I’m going to confession in advance of the first Saturday because where I’ll be attending the First Saturday Mass in the morning, there will not be confessions available. So my First Saturdays have been a kind of two-step two-day thing. But going to confession is part of the devotion. So I’m off today to do that.

If you don’t know what First Saturday devotion is, read this post from September. It’s part of the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. 

And here’s another post in-between about Saturday #2.

I’ve been garnering some support on Facebook and Twitter from friends and peeps who are joining in this devotion with me. You can use the hashtag #5FirstSat4Mary to share the love. However, you can start any first Saturday. Why not tomorrow? Do it for Mary.

My contribution to Word by Word – Slowing down with the Hail Mary

My contribution to Word by Word – Slowing down with the Hail Mary

9781594716409.jpg.232xI’m a contributor to the new book, Word by Word: Slowing down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard. 

Today, I’m over at CatholicMom.com talking with Sarah about my contribution to the book.

I loved what author Amy Welborn had to said about this book: “Reading Word by Word is like participating in a warm, honest, faith-sharing session among good friends. A marvelous way to enter into more intimate communion with the Blessed Mother, which means, ultimately, gazing more deeply into the face of her Son.” Yes, it is! I recall when Sarah first approached me with this idea — I knew it would be a book someday and I’m glad to see it come to fruition — anything for the Blessed Mother!

Read my thoughts over at Catholic Mom.

You can browse or buy the book here.

Dear St John Paul II… a thanksgiving for your holy influence in my life

Dear St John Paul II… a thanksgiving for your holy influence in my life

Dear St John Paul II,

What a blessing to go to Mass this morning on your feast day! Your life had such a big impact on mine; your holy influence has fueled some of my best prayer practices and my most earnest studies.

Long before you instituted World Youth Days, you struck a chord with me as a youngish youth minister when I accompanied my youth group to Madison Square Garden. You told us: “Look to Christ!” So simple, yet so life-changing. We have so much that distracts us in this age. Only one thing is needed: keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.23.47 PMYour love for the Blessed Mother caught my attention. I had mixed emotions about Mary until I read your advice in Redemptoris Mater about Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. You said it was a way to better live my baptismal promises. That inspired me to say yes to Marian Consecration when I was invited by some local friends to do so. Who knew the timing would be just months before my breast cancer diagnosis? I would need Momma Mary all the more during that time. But you know that ANY TIME is a good time to get closer to Mary.

To this day, I remember my profound shock and joy when the The Catechism of the Catholic Church came out in English in 1994. I have a first edition. Some people laughed that I cared to read it. Yet its teaching grounded my love for Christ and the wisdom of the Church. It’s amazing footnotes and multiple indices sent me back to grad school for my Masters to learn what all that “alphabet soup” meant — all those abbreviations! — all the magisterial teaching and the wisdom of the church doctors and saints continues to thrill and inspire my life and my work. I’m still learning from it, by the way. I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed to write a monthly column in Catholic Digest about it for the last few years.

A happy fallout of learning the Catechism in the 90s is that it put me in touch with the profound theological master, our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Reading you and reading him made me grow to love Christ and the Church all the more.  What a legacy your remarkable friendship has given the world!

Your Theology of the Body renewed my marriage and gave me a path for raising my teens — sharing with them God’s plan for marital love and fidelity to whatever vocation that God gives them.

I remember standing with my Bob and my daughter Katie in St Peter’s Square with you, toward the end of your earthly life. It was our first general audience in 2004. That was a long time since our youthful selves were at the Garden in ’79. But your age and infirmity did not matter, you were still happy to be with us. By then I knew you were a living saint. I yelled out my love and prayers with that crazy throng as you passed by in your Popemobile.

Let me tell you one last thing. When I was a young mom, I stumbled upon your musings about “the feminine genius”, in Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women… Little did I know the impact they would have. Later, those writings, and related homilies, and your encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), would eventually become the basis of my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood.  How can I ever thank you for that? Maybe someday in heaven, right? I’m hoping my work is part of that great thank you. Did you have a hand in my book being recently translated into Polish is advance of the next World Youth Day in Krakow? Either way, I’m crediting your influence.

Speaking of all good things Polish! I have loved the Divine Mercy devotion and St Faustina for years, thanks to you! It has changed my 3 o’clock hour. Not to mention your addition of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. That was brilliant.

Okay I’m rambling here, but you get the point. Thank you, thank you, dear Papa! There’s so much more I could write and gush about. I know you are praying for the universal church, and for your little friend here, who is writing a new manuscript with fear and trembling, and looking to you again for your holy tutelage. What a gift to ask for your intercession!

St John Paul II, pray for us!

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


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.


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

Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

We interrupt all the post-Pope coverage for this reminder… Tomorrow is a first Saturday.

Over the summer I was convicted to attempt to make the Five First Saturdays devotion. Let me just say that, like in most families, Saturdays can be pretty hectic. And on reflection, that’s probably why I need this all the more. It’s a taming of my chaotic heart. This devotions send me to monthly confession — always a good practice. It sends me to Mass to meet the lover of my soul in Holy Communion. And it asks me to pray the Rosary to be in touch with Momma Mary, and the intentions of the day.

In this post I share the precepts of making this devotion, so my purpose here is just to encourage you to join me. You can start your five Saturdays tomorrow. (Or if you are reading this down the line, on the next first Saturday.)

After I posted the invitation to join me in the First Saturdays, a little campaign developed on Twitter and Facebook that asked others to join in, as a kind of encouragement and solidarity with one another. What a blessing that is, so if you want, use the #hashtag  and let’s invite others.


A few notes about this from last month’s experience…

For me, it’s all about conquering the calendar: To make these five mornings a priority. Last month I was going to out of town on the first Saturday, so I had to look up and find a church in the area where I was staying. It also meant I had to restructure my Friday to find a confession time, since I could not rely on that as part of the travel. It afforded me a lovely respite visit to St Joseph the Worker Shrine, one of my favorite haunts over the years. A priest I had never met there before heard my confession and blessed my socks off.

After driving that night to New York, on the next morning, the church my husband and I found for Saturday morning Mass turned out to be a lovely classically hewed-stone church with a “first Saturday” group praying the rosary after Mass, and — bonus! — discovered an eucharistic adoration chapel before we left!

So try it. Ask Momma Mary to help you get this scheduled… to open your calendar and your heart to these prayers and reparation and love of Jesus and Mary. 


My photo from inside the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PA.

Honoring Momma Mary, a new book: Word by Word, edited by Sarah Reinhard

Honoring Momma Mary, a new book: Word by Word, edited by Sarah Reinhard

9781594716409.jpg.232xToday is the feast of the Queenship of Mary, so it’s a great time to share this forthcoming book that honors Momma Mary!

My pal, Sarah Reinhard, is an energetic author and a good ideas person. Her latest brainchild is this forthcoming book, Word by Word. So happy to have been able to add my own itty bitty prayers to the pages of this book! When I contributed to this, I just knew it would make a dandy book of meditations on the Hail Mary! So many good writer friends are in this book. Check it out!

From Ave Maria Press: In Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, popular Catholic author Sarah Reinhard compiled an accessible, profound, and unique meditation on each word of the Hail Mary, one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life. Each of the reflections encourages readers to “slow down” with the Hail Mary and experience previously unseen dimension in the popular devotion, making it come to life in a new way. This unique, formative, and informative exploration of the beloved prayer is a gift to anyone who wants to be continually changed through it—learning to slow down and examine things more closely.

The book is based on a blog series Reinhard facilitated with popular Catholic writers and social media experts, including Lisa M. Hendey, Brandon Vogt, Paula Huston, Kate Wicker, Pat Gohn, Kevin Lowry, Lisa Mladinich, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Fr. Patrick Toner, and Jeff Young.

Order your copy of Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard. Note: This is pre-order time, the book become available in October — the month of the Holy Rosary!

Mary, what wonder woman you are!

Mary, what wonder woman you are!



Happy New Year and Happy Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

When I give retreats to women, based on my book, I love to talk about Mary as our Wonder Woman. She really is!

To hear a recent talk, go here.

For more posts about Mary, go here. 



My favorite Christmas hymn is “What Child is This?” Yet it was only recently that I learned all the words. Some hymnals sell it short.

Here’s the fullest rendition I could find. It’s so powerful as a song-prayer.

What Child is This?

(text by William Chatterton Dix 1837-1898)

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

To love Mary means to be committed to her son. #OurLadyOfGuadalupe


As we now pray the Angelus and remember the Annunciation of the Lord, our eyes too turn spiritually towards the hill of Tepeyac, to the place where the Mother of God, under the title of “the Ever-Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe” has been fervently honoured for centuries as a sign of reconciliation and of God’s infinite goodness towards the world.

True devotion to the Virgin Mary always takes us to Jesus, and “consists neither in sterile nor transitory feelings, nor in an empty credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to recognise the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to filial love towards our Mother and to the imitation of her virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 67).

To love her means being committed to listening to her Son, to venerate the Guadalupana means living in accordance with the words of the blessed fruit of her womb.

I place once again this country, all Latin America and the Caribbean before the gentle gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I entrust all their sons and daughters to the Star of both the original and the new evangelisation; she has inspired with her maternal love their Christian history, has given particular expression to their national achievements, to their communal and social initiatives, to family life, to personal devotion and to the Continental Mission which is now taking place across these noble lands.

In times of trial and sorrow she was invoked by many martyrs who, in crying out “Long live Christ the King and Mary of Guadalupe” bore unyielding witness of fidelity to the Gospel and devotion to the Church. I now ask that her presence in this nation may continue to serve as a summons to defence and respect for human life. May it promote fraternity, setting aside futile acts of revenge and banishing all divisive hatred. May Holy Mary of Guadalupe bless us and obtain for us the abundant graces that, through her intercession, we request from heaven.

Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus reflection at Bicentennial Park, Leon, Mexico
March 25, 2012.

This makes me think… of Our Lady of Fatima

This makes me think… of Our Lady of Fatima

The 13th of October, 1917

We left home quite early, expecting that we would be delayed along the way. Masses of people thronged the roads The rain fell in torrents. My mother, her heart torn with uncertainty as to what was going to happen, and fearing it would the last day of my life, wanted to accompany me.


Image of Our Lady of Fatima

“What do you want of me?”

I want to tell you that chapel is to be built here in my honor. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.

“I have many things to ask you: to cure some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things…”

Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask for forgiveness for their sins.

Looking very sad, Our Lady said:

Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.

Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself.

After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours. Our Lord appeared and blessed the world in the same manner as St Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel. 

Sister Mary Lucia of the Immaculate Heart*

Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs

*Lucia was one of the original three seers who witnessed the events and miracles at Fatima in  1917. She later entered religious life. This section from her memoirs accounts the events of the “Miracle of the Sun”.


The Message of Fatima  is that of the Gospel which emphasizes the following points:

  • permanent conversion
  • prayer, namely the Rosary
  • the sense of collective responsibility, and the practice of reparation.

Learn more here.

Image credit