The F.U.N. Quotient… Catholic geek edition

The F.U.N. Quotient… Catholic geek edition

I’ve had a few days to relax and retreat (and yes, work) while at Chiara Center in Springfield, IL. It’s a lovely place, and the Sisters are very hospitable and this is a very modern facility. I love the Franciscan heritage and the profoundly beautiful St Francis of Assisi church on the property. (Read all about it, with photos. in this PDF.)

My prayer times have been very special. And, well, my Catholic geeky side has been enthralled, much like when I’ve been at other cathedrals, basilicas, or shrines. Thought you’d like to share in the fun.

Of course the oldest things in here, beside the dirt the church is built on, are the relics. Let’s start with the church’s patron, St Francis.

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St Francis of Assisi’s reliquary

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First class relic, bone of the saint.

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Ornate reliquary containing a fragment of the True Cross, with authentication alongside.

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Close up of a splinter from the Cross

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A view from across the grounds.

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Facade of St Francis Assisi Church

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A mosaic of Francis is over the front door “greeting” you as you arrive… it’s Francis depicted as receiving the stigmata. (Don’t know what that is? Go look it up.)

There’s wonderful marbles and stained glass and art all through the church.

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A view from the rear balcony

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Inside the dome.

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The tabernacle, complete with cherubim, reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant.

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Our Lady of Perpetual Help. (Yes that is all marble from several different European countries.) (This is kind of rare to see in the States.)

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St Teresa of Avila

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St Rita of Cascia

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St Rose of Lima

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St Joseph with the child Jesus

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St John the Evangelist, and beloved disciple

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I love this depiction of Martha and Mary of Bethany with Jesus.

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This one stirred me… Jesus in Gethsemane — the agony in the Garden.

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“Ecce Homo” = “Behold the man.” (What Pilate said about Jesus.) (And yes, those eyes are amazing. I never before felt like stained glass was staring at me till I saw this one)

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Entrance to Chiara Center – where tomorrow 100+ women from the Diocese of Springfield will come for our women’s conference together.

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One more of St Francis, from the grounds.

All photos taken by me, Pat Gohn, with my trusty iPhone 4s.

A Veteran Saint in the Making? Fr Emil Kapaun’s cause for Canonization

I first learned of Fr Emil Kapaun when I gave a retreat to the women who were stationed or whose husbands were stationed at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA.  I got a first class tour of the College’s Memorial chapel by Fr. Gregory D’Emma, a longtime Army Chaplain. He was the first person to share with me the life story and military service of Fr Emil Kapaun, whose cause for canonization is being considered.

Chris Stefanik posted this moving tribute video.

Ignatius Press has a book on Fr Kapuan’s life.

My Top Ten Inspirations from the Pontificate of St John Paul II

My Top Ten Inspirations from the Pontificate of St John Paul II

The long pontificate and life of St John Paul will have a lasting impact on the church until Jesus returns. Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 4.23.47 PMGiven his canonization today, I thought I’d share with you some of John Paul’s gifts to the church, and extraordinary accomplishments, that have held meaning for me through the years. He’s been an inspiration to me since I was 18, a college frosh when he was elected. I’m so grateful that in 1979 I was among the youth who greeted him in New York, as I chaperoned a trip to see him. (More on that below.) Decades later in Rome, I was, again, among the throng at a 2004 papal audience alongside my husband and daughter. Both experiences were unforgettable!

Today I woke up at 4am to watch the canonization. This, after giving a women’s retreat at Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, NS, that highlighted our new Saint’s writings and teachings! But I could not miss it “live”. And as I sat there in my bed in my hotel room before I had to catch a plane home, all the fondness for this Saint flooded back to me. It’s not just who he was, but what he wrote and taught that has inspired me and helped to shape me as a Christian.

:::

Here’s my Top Ten List of Inspirations from St John Paul II:

  1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church - This was a monumental achievement, as it was the first update to the Roman Catechism in over 400 years. From my archives: some commentary on catechism trivia.  
  2. His Marian Devotion, especially through his Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, and his writings on Mary, including Redemptoris Mater and Rosarium Virginis Mariae.  The latter gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. I’ve been personally inspired by John Paul’s devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on his life.
  3. The feminine genius, as described in Mulieris Dignitatem and Letter to Women… and other related homilies and writings, such as Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). I truly believe these were the fruit of the Saint’s devotion to Mary, our Mother. These specific works also had a positive influence in my own life, and I tell that story in my book… which I’m giving away in a free drawing here.
  4. The Theology of the Body - a series of papal audiences and teaching given over several years on human love, sexuality, and anthropology. You can find classes in this area of study here. In the US, there is a Congress this summer.
  5. His Apostolic visits to 129 countries around the world — including 7 trips to the United States.
  6. The myriad of saints he canonized.
  7. Restoration of the Sistine Chapel.
  8. His books, outside of his magisterial teaching, that are now read in popular culture, especially Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Love and Responsibility.
  9. The Jubilee Year 2000 (and the years of preparation for the new millennium).
  10. World Youth Days (I never did get to attend one, but I was at a special gathering for youth in Madison Square Garden with JP2 in 1979.)Below is a favorite quote from WYD 2000.

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.

Dear young people, in these noble undertakings you are not alone. With you there are your families, there are your communities, there are your priests and teachers, there are so many of you who in the depths of your hearts never weary of loving Christ and believing in him. In the struggle against sin you are not alone: so many like you are struggling and through the Lord’s grace are winning!

Thank you St John Paul for your holy influence in my life! St John Paul, pray for us!

This makes me think… “discouragement causes souls to be lost”

Humble people persevere in the life of prayer without presumption and without relying on themselves. They don’t consider anything their due, don’t consider themselves able to do anything by their own strength, aren’t surprised to find that they have difficulties, weaknesses, and constant falls, but put up with all these peacefully, without making much of them, because they place all their hope in God and are certain that they will obtain from God’s mercy all that they are powerless to do or merit for themselves.

Humble people are never discouraged because they trust not in themselves but in God. Ultimately, that is what really matters. “It is discouragement that causes souls to be lost,” says Father Libermann. True humility and trust always go hand-in-hand.

For example, we must never let ourselves become discouraged over our lukewarmness or the realization of how little we love God. Beginners in the spiritual life, on reading the lives of the saints or their writings, may sometimes feel downhearted in the face of burning expressions of love for God they find there, so far beyond anything they themselves feel. This is a very common temptation. Let us preserver in good will and trust: God himself will give us the love with which we can love him. Strong, burning love for God does not come naturally. It is infused in our heart by the Holy Spirit, who will be given to us if we ask him with the persistence of the wide in the Gospel. It is not always those who feel the most fervent at the start who go furthest in the spiritual life — far from it, in fact!

- Fr Jacques Philippe, Time for God -

 

 

Wanted: Spiritual Fathers and Mothers – my latest column @PatheosCatholic

Do you have spiritual heroes? I do. They are people who remain dear to my heart. They are men and women who have showed me the way to change my life for the better, and many of them, through their friendly mentoring helped to grow me up in the faith. I could list many names from years gone by beyond my family circle. They were church folk, school folk, older women friends. Somehow they generously took time to love me and encourage me even when I could not offer anything of value in return. They were magnanimous spiritual mothers and fathers to me. I’m fortunate to still know a few today.

I could also list the names of many favorite saints who have inspired me along the way.

I thank God for all of them, the saints, and the good Christians I met who have shepherded me, especially as a teen and younger woman. Somewhere along the way, I started to want to be like them.

If you read my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, you’ll find that I make the case that Christian women are called to grow and mature in such a way as to be able to make disciples through their holy influence in their spheres of life — to be physical and spiritual mothers. Whether single, married, or religious, women are baptized and called to participate in the universal mission of the Church that ignites faith and light and love in others. That we not only come to know, love, and serve Christ ourselves, but that we bring others along to Heaven with us as well.

Yet we live in a society that often demeans parenthood and degrades or ignores the spiritual dimensions that are so necessary to human flourishing. As I wrote in my latest column at Patheos, we need spiritual heroes…

What the world needs now are spiritual heroes. Be they spiritual fathers or spiritual mothers, we need them. The Catholic Church has long known this and has produced spiritual fathers and mothers by the millions. We call them saints.

Besides all the famous names on the heavenly rolls like the Blessed Mother, St Joseph, the Apostles and Martyrs, and the rest, there are millions more –- unnamed and lesser saints — who started their days just like you and me. They got up in the morning and got to work.

Many of us mere mortals, while piously attempting to honor and revere saints, mistakenly see their heroic virtue as beyond our reach. What I’m saying is that many Catholics and others put saints on pedestals in ways that leave us fretting that such sanctity is unattainable for the regular folks, the Joe and Joan Q. Public sitting in the pew.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saints in heaven this very moment are looking at us and praying that we dispatch with this silly notion, and dispel this excuse from the responsibility and, yes, the privilege, each baptized person has to grow in holiness. That is, to try to be a saint.

Let me say this as forthrightly as I can: Get a grip, People of God!

The saints began with the same raw materials we do: A sinful life in need of God and his grace. Fortunately grace is not in short supply, for where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. (Cf. Romans 5: 20)

There’s more, of course.

Go read it. There’s a bodacious mission out there waiting for you.

Among Women 157: Going through the Change… Benedict XVI’s announcement & the Midlife Madres II

Among Women 157: Going through the Change… Benedict XVI’s announcement & the Midlife Madres II

Change happens… it happens in life, and last week, a soon-to-come change was announced for the papacy. Midlife women know all about changes… from the body to the soul! Join me for Among Women this week as I share my first thoughts on Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement to leave the Chair of Peter, as well talk about the changes both joyful and stressful changes that midlife women face, with my guest, Barb Szyszkiewicz, blogger at SFO Mom. Also in this episode, a look at the life of St Agnes of Prague (aka St Agnes of Bohemia).

Download Among Women or find Episode 157 on iTunes.

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

The 7 Best Books for Women by Women (and one Priest) from 2012

(Okay, so that’s really an 8-book list.)

If you listen my podcast, Among Women, you know I have a passion for three things: first, to encourage women to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their Catholic faith; second, to celebrate the beauty and genius of their womanhood; and third, to call women to serve others with love. With those three goals in mind, let me share with you my top picks for great reads from 2012, and the some of the podcasts that highlighted them. These books are grouped by the three aforementioned themes, and not ranked by priority or preference. They are ALL good, that’s why I’m sharing them.

(For the men reading this, you may enjoy these titles too, or give them to the women in your life! That book from Fr Gaitley, 33 days to Morning Glory, is for all, not just for women! Most especially, the books from Helen Alvare, Mary Eberstadt, and Colleen Carroll Campbell, have mass appeal as well.)

 

Books that build your faith:

 

He Speaks to You, by Sr Helena Burns, FSP (Pauline Books and Media) 41Bo2LdjiPL._AA160_

Though released in 2011, I didn’t catch this title until 2012. The publisher describes the book this way, and its spot on: “What is my purpose in life? How do I best utilize my gifts and talents? How does God call upon me as a young Catholic woman? Discerning your vocation can be difficult. But endowed with the spiritual guidance contained within this daily discernment book and Jesus as your lifelong coach, you’ll be on your way to self-discovery rooted in faith.”

So, with that said, JESUS is the “He” in the book title. This is a great book for women in their 20s and 30s… but even though I’m no where near that age category anymore,  I loved, loved this book… for its page-a-day wit and wisdom, and its great suggestions for daily prayer and Christian action. I think it could also be a good fit for women in high school.

This is a book to pray with; it’s a faith-builder for sure. Check it out. Give it as a gift.

Listen to the author — the energetic Sr Helena Burns, who has a spitfire faith-and-media blog named “Hell Burns” — chat with me on Among Women 143.

 

33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr Michael Gaitley MIC (Marian Press) 51SKa-8TITL._AA160_

Though released late in 2011, this book didn’t catch fire until this past year, so like Sr Helena’s book, I’m including it. This book is a four and a half week retreat for your soul. What I love about it is that it is an updating of the tried-and-true Consecration to Jesus through Mary that I’ve been doing for many years. So if you’re ready to entrust yourself to Mary, and become her daughter in a meaningful way, or you want to increase your devotion to the one who is most blessed among women, here’s a good book to help.

(Through the years, I’ve privately used the formula found here by St. Louis de Montfort. Some people have mixed reactions to it, since its a bit “old school” in its language and approach to the daily prayers. I still like it, but that’s me. Blessed John Paul II recommended it, so that was enough for me to trust its efficacy.) However, I also like this new book on Marian consecration and let me tell you why.

I’m grateful for Fr Gaitley’s approach, because I think many more people will consecrate their lives in this way, using this book, with its updated language and friendly sensibilities as a spiritual guide. What’s more, Fr Gaitley introduces Montfort’s method essentially, but then incorporates wisdom from other modern Marian-devoted saints, (beyond the 18th century “classic” notes of St. Louis de Montfort), thus widening and deepening the wisdom pool that he draws from. It’s a beautiful, easy-to-read result. Besides Montfort, Gaitley also explains the Mariology of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed John Paul II.

You can do the consecration using this book on your own, or with a small group. I enjoyed doing it with a small group last Lent, and will renew my consecration later this year, either privately or corporately.

Finally, and this is worth noting: This book does not stand alone; it is part of a new parish-based initiative known as HAPP (Hearts Afire Parish Program) that you can look into.

So go to it. I’m here for conversation on this subject, if you choose to take on the 33 days.

Books that capture the feminine genius, as applied to women’s issues:

 

Breaking Through, edited by Helen Alvare. (Our Sunday Visitor) 41i1YszbbuL._AA160_

For years, I’ve been reading articles and insightful commentary from Helen Alvare on the sexual politics in our culture, law, religion, and family life. Most recently, in light of the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate in relation to Obamacare, she became the co-author of an open letter on women and religious freedom that has thus far attracted over 37,000 women’s signatures, including my own. (See womenspeakforthemselves.com). Breaking Through, grew out of that effort, and contains a series of essays from nine women who take on the myths and media messages that often malign Catholic women today, or that tries to squeeze women into a one-size-fits-all caricature. Topics include:

    • Navigating dating and sexpectations
    • Feminism, freedom and contraception
    • Children versus a “better me”
    • Being Catholic in light of the sexual abuse scandal
    • Faith, psychology and same-sex attraction

 

Adam and Eve and the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolutionby Mary Eberstadt (Ignatius Press) 41IXPzjMADL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

This book has one of my favorite titles of recent memory. But besides its pithy headline, this book has excellent social, religious, and political commentary on its subject matter, which is, what the sexual revolution hath wrought. Critically and intellectually, this is a tour de force, not to mention it is superbly written and researched. In light of the present testimony presented, Eberstadt asks probing questions, as she proceeds to answer them, such as: Is food the new sex? Is pornography the new tobacco?

This book stretched me and forced me to think deeply, as it gave me hope in light of the problems it examines. I agree with NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’ assessment that Eberstadt’s book “is a treasure and a resource and a cultural catechesis.”

(I had hoped to interview Mary Ebestadt on Among Women last fall, but Hurricane Sandy pre-empted us. We’ll see if we can re-book the professor at a later date.)

 

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell (Image Books) 51jyrsFYD+L._AA160_

This well-told memoir from Campbell, a popular journalist and EWTN host, plus a former White House speech-writer, describes her quest for meaning in light of her Catholic faith and contemporary feminism. Her story is woven with wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading about my younger sisters and younger friends, who like me, have waded through much of cultural feminism’s promises and been found wanting.*

Campbell is a masterful writer, and given all the lives of the saints that I’ve profiled over the years on Among Women, you know that I appreciate when someone integrates their saintly wisdom with care and modern application. As for the writing craft, this is probably the most well-written book on this list.

Books that serve others with love:

 

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope, by Karen Edmisten (Servant Books) 41Vt+aDDqrL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_

When something like one in four pregnancies can result in miscarriage, you know this is a sad event in the lives of many women. There is an amazing amount of comfort packed into this little book of 120 pages. Stories, theology, prayers, comfort aids… just good, solid help and a come-alongside attitude to soothe the hurts on multiple levels that accompany miscarriage. Every Catholic family should have this book as a resource. Give it to your parish priests or your parish library. This kind of love-in-action book needs wide distribution.

I highly recommend my two-part conversation with Karen Edmisten about this book. Part one is on Among Women 129, and part two is on Among Women 130. 

 

My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saintsby Dawn Eden (Ave Maria Press) 51G1xpQt1RL._AA160_

Many women, and countless listeners of Among Women, have suffered from sexual abuse and trauma. This podcast featuring my interview with Dawn Eden was in the top three downloads of Among Women in 2012. That alone tells me this book is a needed resource. Of course, I give the author props for utilizing the lives of the saints as source material, but the book is that and more. Eden tells of her own path to recovery as she shares her conversion to Catholicism and through it, her on-going healing from sexual trauma, thanks to the graces of the sacraments and the wisdom of the Faith. I won’t say this is an easy read, given the emotionally-tender content, but it is accessible and practical. Listen to Dawn Eden’s visit on Among Women 140.

 

The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years: The Nuts and Bolts of Staying Sane and Happy While Waiting for Mr. Right,

by Emily Stimpson (Emmaus Road Publishing) 416bhJ+7DWL._AA160_

This common-sense title says it all. With passion, intelligence, wit, and beauty, Emily Stimpson – who also writes for numerous Catholic publications and websites – puts it all together with prayer, excellent facility with theology of the body and the feminine genius in particular, and profound honesty and care for her reader. (Yes, this little book touches all three categories of this blog post.) Stimpson tackles a variety of topics with nerve and verve: vocation, dating, sex, finances, work, depression, and more. You’ll enjoy her candor and stories on Among Women 144.

Note: If you choose to purchase these books through the links provided above, a small portion of your purchase will benefit the ministry of SQPN.

*(If you choose to read my book in the coming year, you’ll see what I mean. I concur with many of Campbell’s conclusions.)
Happy All Saints Day! Discover 29 lesser-known saints you may have never heard of… “stars” from the Among Women archives!

Happy All Saints Day! Discover 29 lesser-known saints you may have never heard of… “stars” from the Among Women archives!

The Among Women podcast profiles the lives of holy women on every show. See how many of these saints and blesseds listed below that you know. Then, why not pick a few that you don’t and download the shows that feature them?

Angela of Foligno

Anna Maria Adorni

Battista Camilla Da Varano

Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro

Cándida María de Jesús Cipitria y Barriola

Blessed Chiara Lucce Badano

Dymphna

Elizabeth of the Trinity

Euphrosyne

Fabiola

Felicity

Gemma of Galgani

Germaine of Pitrac

Gertrude, the Great

Giulia Salzano

Godelieve

Gorgonia

Hildegard

Blessed Jacoba

Josephine Bakhita

Kateri Tekakwitha

Marianne Cope

Nonna 

Olga of Kiev

Pauline Jaricot

Perpetua

Pierina Morosini

Scholastica

Teresa of the Andes

“This, then, is the meaning of today’s Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God’s friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all…”  ~Benedict XVI, homily, All Saints Day, 2006.

New Women Saints for the USA in the Year of Faith

Exciting developments in Rome Sunday as we continue to observe the Year of Faith! Two new women saints from the USA are named among seven new saints.

First, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first woman saint who was a native American. Here’s a brief excerpt from Pope Benedict’s homily announcing her name:

Last year, I profiled Kateri’s life and thoughts in my column at Patheos, and back on Among Women #16, I also shared about her.

The next American woman was St. Marianne Cope,a German-born woman who emigrated to the US as a small child. I also recently profiled her life on Among Women #115. Here’s more from the Pope about her: