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Among Women 231: The Time is Now for the Rosary

Among Women 231: The Time is Now for the Rosary

This latest episode of Among Women centers on Mary and the Rosary, as we conclude October, the month of the Rosary.

I’m delighted to welcome my guest, Gretchen Crowe, of OSV, and the editor of a new book, Why the Rosary, Why Now? The book really makes a strong case for taking up the Rosary as a daily devotion, (and as you may know, I’m a fan of that!)

This podcast also shines a light on some of my favorite saints and their perspectives on Mary as a mother, and the power of the Rosary.

Listen to Among Women here, or look for episode 231 on iTunes.



Among Women Espresso Shot #12: My Rosary Story

Among Women Espresso Shot #12: My Rosary Story

In this short Among Women podcast, I offer a look back at my own beginnings with the Rosary, and the impact it had on my life. Listen here. And also check out my other podcasts that talk about different aspects of the Rosary, also found here.


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.


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.


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!


Napa area vineyards.


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.


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.


Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Pray the Rosary… (Resources, and more on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary)

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

I’ll go to Mass. I’ll have breakfast with a friend. Then I’m going to get my stitches out from some oral surgery that took place last week.

And I’ll pray the rosary.

In other words, its a typical day. And the rosary fits my life. It fits in my day anytime… morning, noon, or night. I often pray it in the car, or on my walks. Or with friends.

The Catechism calls the Rosary an “epitome of the Gospel (CCC 971).”

Here’s some of my favorite resources about this prayer that has shaped my life over the last thirty years.


I’ve written about praying the rosary many times. About prayer in groups. About my grandmother’s rosary.

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I’ve got many Among Women podcasts about the rosary — about forming local rosary groups for mothers… plus interviews with several knowledgable guests like Rosary Army’s Jennifer Willits… and author Karen Edmisten with an epic primer on the rosary…  and the rosary and pregnancy with Sarah Reinhard. Plus one of my favorite podcasts of all time — the Among Women listeners sharing what they love about the rosary!


My most favorite book to pray the rosary with is the Scriptural Rosary. 

The best advice about loving the rosary  and Marian devotion comes from the classic books of St Louis de Montfort.


Finally, I’ve learned what St John Paul has long taught: the Rosary conforms us to Christ. Outside of the Mass, it is the most powerful prayer we can pray.

Christian spirituality is distinguished by the disciple’s commitment to become conformed ever more fully to his Master (cf. Rom 8:29; Phil 3:10,12). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism grafts the believer like a branch onto the vine which is Christ (cf. Jn 15:5) and makes him a member of Christ’s mystical Body (cf.1Cor 12:12; Rom 12:5). This initial unity, however, calls for a growing assimilation which will increasingly shape the conduct of the disciple in accordance with the “mind” of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). In the words of the Apostle, we are called “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27).

In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share his deepest feelings. In this regard Blessed Bartolo Longo has written: “Just as two friends, frequently in each other’s company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection”.

In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church, indeed her “pre-eminent and altogether singular member” is at the same time the “Mother of the Church”. As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.

-St John Paul II-
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 15
Emphasis mine]

Go Deeper with God: 7 Among Women “Best of” Podcasts about Prayer

Go Deeper with God: 7 Among Women “Best of” Podcasts about Prayer

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 7.09.47 PMAW 77 A Special Edition on Prayer:  Among Women listeners open up about why prayer is important to them, and the role it plays in their lives. Listen!

AW 143 Growing in Friendship with Jesus and His Queen: A conversation with the dynamic and fun-loving author/blogger/film producer Sr Helena Burns FSP as we break open her book, He Speaks to YouListen!

AW 146 The Power of a Praying Friend: Joined by podcaster/blogger Maria Johnson, my personal friend, we dive into the intentionality of making prayer something we do regularly with our friends. Listen!

AW 93 Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: I’m joined by a panel of guests who describe their experience of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in their local parish. Listen!

AW 94 Ringing Round the Rosary: Author/podcaster Jennifer Willits of the Rosary Army and The Catholics Next Store podcast talks about putting faith in action with the rosary. Plus, I offer the wisdom of the saints with regard to this very powerful Marian prayer. Listen!

 AW 20: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary: Author Karen Edmisten walks us through her faith life and her love of the Rosary and its mysteries as we discuss her book The Rosary: Keeping Company with Jesus and Mary. (Enjoy this very early AW podcast from 2009!) Listen!



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This makes me think… about one of my favorite stories about Mary on her feast day

This makes me think… about one of my favorite stories about Mary on her feast day

The key to understanding Mary is this: We do not start with Mary.

We start with Christ, the Son of the Living God! The less we think of Him, the less we think of her; the more we think of Him, the more we think of her; the more we adore his Divinity, the more we venerate her Motherhood; the less we adore His Divinity, the less reason we have for respecting her . . .

It is on account of Our Divine Lord that Mary receives special attention, and not on account of herself . . . It is her Son who makes her motherhood different.

A Catholic boy from a parochial school was telling a university professor who lived next door about the Blessed Mother. The professor scoffed at the boy, saying: “But there is no difference between her and my mother.” The boy answered: “That’s what you say, but there’s a heck of a lot of difference between the sons.” *

-Bishop Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God-


Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary!!!


*I write about this in Chapter 8 of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

A review of: Real Men Pray the Rosary — A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

A review of: Real Men Pray the Rosary — A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer

1-59471-376-6Just as it is helpful for women to talk to women now and again regarding the spiritual life, the same holds true for men! David N. Calvillo’s book, Real Men Pray the Rosary: A Practical Guide to a Powerful Prayer, is a forthright conversation with men (and us women who sneak a peek) about his own surprise and subsequent delight in discovering the Rosary, otherwise known as a prayer he had almost mistakenly written off as “for old ladies and funerals.”

What comes across in Calvillo’s writing is a likeable, honest, work-in-progress kind of guy who admits his former bias, and now moves ahead with Spirit-filled enthusiasm for the power –capable of doing some heavy lifting when it comes to life’s problems — that comes from prayer, especially the Rosary. Admittedly transformed by his faith, this husband, father, and lawyer by trade, offers deep reverence and appreciation for what he was missing… a real life-changing encounter with Christ. He found it, of all places, sitting in the early morning mist, surrounded by 80 men praying a Rosary outside a Benedictine retreat house…

I wept at the reality of eighty rough-looking men from all walks of life, humbly and sincerely raising their hearts and minds to God… I felt a prayerful happiness, a warm comforting presence.

As weird as it sounds… I felt as though I was praying with everyone who had ever prayed the Rosary. I felt my grandmother Vera praying with me. I felt my mom. I felt the hearts of those eighty men. I felt like I was praying with and to Jesus himself…”

After a healing encounter with Christ on retreat, Calvillo confesses, “The Rosary was the path vividly open for me… and my mom’s previous lessons that I had previously ignored were now front and center.”

The rest of the book is an accessible how-to for Rosary beginners and novices alike, with an unpacking of Rosary’s wisdom gleaned from the Scriptures, the many popes and saints who’ve written extensively about the Rosary through history, and real-life stories of contemporary men who’ve inspired Calvillo’s on-going conversion and his subsequent apostolate from which the book draws its name, Real Men Pray the Rosary (RMPTR).

I enjoyed Calvillo’s personal narration of what’s inspired him as he encountered these truths about the Rosary, especially the idea that prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue, or a “saying” of prayers, but a true entering into them. He captures, also, what has been my longtime experience of the Rosary, that within that prayer is a Mother who wishes to draw us closer to Jesus, like a personal spiritual director or mentor.

The Rosary has a body and a soul. The body of the Rosary is composed of the prayers. Some of those prayers are prayed in groups of ten, called a “decade”. The Rosary invites us to contemplate twenty important points in the life and teachings of Jesus and his mother, Mary. These points make up the Rosary’s soul and are referred to as the Rosary Mysteries. As we pray the Mysteries, we contemplate how the biblical messages apply to our daily lives — therein lies the Rosary’s transformative power…

Pope Leo XIII had described the familiarity of those prayers… over a hundred years ago: “The Rosary… floods the should of those who recite it devoutly with an ever new sweetness of piety, giving them the impression and emotion as if they were hearing the very voice of their most merciful Mother explaining these mysteries to them, and conversing with them at length for their salvation…”

The familiarity evolves into an intimate dialogue with our Blessed Mother. Thus, when one is in the midst of deep prayer in the Rosary, Mary becomes spiritually present to meet us and lead us by the hand through each of those important points of meditation know as the Mysteries. When we pray the Rosary, we are permitted to live those mysteries through her eyes, through her perspective. That is the beauty of the Rosary: to understand and live those twenty salient points in the life and teachings of Jesus and Mary, with Mary’s familiar voice narrating the way.

Besides chapters covering the basics for learning the Rosary, and how a man might meditate on its Mysteries, at the end of each chapter the book offers a  “Tool Box” with practical suggestions for making it all real.

Calvillo offers this advice: “Real men pray for women” and he even hands a chapter over to his wife, Valerie, for insights from a feminine perspective on the being married to a man who prays the Rosary, and ways to encourage other husbands to take up this practice. Valerie Calvillo’s advice is for women to embrace the Rosary, too, and develop Mary’s virtues in their lives.

I have seen firsthand that when women live Mary’s virtues, real men respond. Women can live Mary’s virtues by meeting chauvinism with ardent charity and by meeting intransigence with heroic patience. We can do it by meeting materialism with unceasing prayer and by meeting selfishness with constant self-denial. In short, when we meet our own shortcomings and those of the men in our lives by being a living Mary to them, they will respond, “Ave Maria.”

Like an encouraging personal trainer who wants to pump up one’s spiritual muscles, David Calvillo issues men a challenge to take the Rosary on for 33 days. If after 33 days a man still remains unconvinced of the Rosary’s efficacy and power, David extends a personal offer for a man to get in touch with him through his ministry, Real Men Pray the Rosary.

This is a book I can highly recommend. Give it as a gift for the men in your life, or buy some copies for your parish priests to share with the men in the parish.

Among Women Podcast #150: The Rosary and Pregnancy — Perfect Together!

Among Women Podcast #150: The Rosary and Pregnancy — Perfect Together!


This week’s AW is our 150th episode!!

(Listen here.)

Just how do the rosary and pregnancy go together? Well, they both nurture new life in us, both spiritually and biologically!

This week, our “Blessed are They” segment is a departure from our usual discussions about a woman saint, as we open Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Apostolic Letter of Blessed John Paul II on the Most Holy Rosary, in honor of October, the month dedicated to the Rosary (when this podcast was originally slated to be released. But, given the superstore “Sandy”, our timeline was delayed.)

In our guest segment, I talk with longtime friend of Among Women, Sarah Reinhard, and we share themes from her new book, A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism We talk about how the Blessed Mother assists and inspires a woman during the stages of pregnancy, and in preparation for having a child baptized. See the podcast show notes for how to enter our free drawing to win a copy of Sarah’s book.

Be sure to listen all the way to the end of the podcast to join me in praying for the storm victims in the Northeast. Thanks for your patience in waiting for this episode.


“Mary’s Got This”… my newest favorite phrase and my most recent piece at Catholic Mom

“Mary’s Got This”… my newest favorite phrase and my most recent piece at Catholic Mom

My photo of a pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. For more information about their program, go to: http://www.kofc.org/un/en/service/church/marian/

I’m happy to be over at Catholic Mom today with a little missive about my love for Mary and my little prompt that boosts my confidence in Mary’s intercession… “Mary’s got this.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Worrying is something I’m very good at, but it is not useful or healthy for me. When my courage and confidence is failing or being challenged, I sometimes find myself distracted from concentrating on my work at hand. When this happens, I can say a rosary, asking Mary for her intercession, and then remind myself –Mary’s got this! Calling to mind, St. Pio’s admonition to “pray, and don’t worry”, that little added phrase — “Mary’s got this” — allows me to retreat into a kind of calm knowing; believing that a greater mother’s heart is at work carrying out all the details of my cares behind the scenes. Counting the beads of a rosary lowers my heart rate, and the prayers restore me. I need not be afraid or disturbed. I just need to carry on.


“Mary’s got this” means that I can say “yes” to the needs of the moment, and say “no” to my worrying distraction. I regain my balance and attend to my duties. Knowing my Mother Mary has it covered, I can let it go and be obedient to my tasks at hand. In my minds’ eye, I can hold onto Momma’s hand with one of mine, as I tend to work with the other. Knowing my concerns are linked to heaven, or better yet — carried in the heart of heaven — helps me carry on.

Read the rest over at Catholic Mom.

While we’re on the subject of the Rosary in the month of October, you may enjoy these related posts:

The Beads, by Deacon Greg Kandra at The Deacon’s Bench.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, by Maria Johnson at Another Cup of Coffee.

Confessions of a Rosary Non-Rattler, from my column archives at Patheos.

 *Mary is the Star of the New Evangelization

Among Women Podcast #146: The Power of a Praying Friend

Among Women Podcast #146: The Power of a Praying Friend

With Maria Johnson, dining al fresco in the North End, Boston. 2012.

It’s great to have a friend. It’s even greater to have a friend who not only prays, but joins you in prayer. Check out the latest episode of Among Women as we prepare to welcome the Year of Faith and search for ways to grow in sharing our faith with others. Here’s one idea: pray with your Catholic and Christian friends. My friend, and one of my prayer buddies, Maria Johnson (blogger at Another Cup of Coffee and co-host of SQPN’s Catholic Weekendjoins me for this episode as we explore what praying together looks like and what it has wrought in our lives. I wrote about this idea here in a previous column on Patheos, but this episode exemplifies what it might look like when we put it into practice on a regular basis.

Also, I read selections from St Teresa of Avila whose feast day arrives soon on October 15th. Episode 146 of the Among Women podcast is all about the power of a praying friend.