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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.

My Year to Write Forewords: 3 great books coming from Melanie Rigney, Lisa Mladinich, and Maria Morera Johnson

My Year to Write Forewords: 3 great books coming from Melanie Rigney, Lisa Mladinich, and Maria Morera Johnson

When the first request came in, I was a bit shocked and humbled. Within a couple weeks two more invitations came in. Last winter, amidst the trials of being cooped up by continual snow storms, God gave me three new assignments in support of other writers with new books.

It is with deep gratitude that I share with you three forthcoming books in which I have been privileged to write the forewords.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.09.42 PMThe first one is new this month. You’ll be hearing more about it here on the blog soon — Melanie Rigney’s Blessed are You: Finding Inspiration from Our Sisters in Faith. The book’s blog tour stops here next week — look for it here on August 27. However the blog tour is currently underway this week, so go visit MelanieRigney.com for a list of where and get clickin’!

This book is a wonderful mash-up of the Beatitudes-meet-saints stories. If you’ve never had a firm grip of what the beatitudes might look like in daily life, this book will help! I’ll brag on it a bit more when the blog tour gets here! Regular listeners of Among Women may remember when Melanie was my guest when her last book about the saints came out.

Get Blessed Are You by Melanie Rigney now!

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The second book I want to share is Lisa Mladinich’s True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of LifeThis book is due out in October, but I had the pleasure of catching up with Lisa at the Catholic Writers Guild conference that paralleled the Catholic Marketing Network show last month in New Jersey. It was great to see an early proof of the book.

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Me with Lisa Mladinich at CMN and a copy of her new book!

Can you say “I’d like to grow old gracefully?” Its something we all ought to aspire to for ourselves and others. I love how Lisa’s new book points us toward the glory of heaven while keeping our feet down to earth. Lisa is also a longtime friend of Among Women and you’ll find two conversation with me that I retrieved from the Among Women archives here and here.  A lot of good things have happened in Lisa’s life since those two recordings, and this new book is just one fine example… pre-order it today! 

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Third, but not least, is Maria Johnson’s My Badass Book of Saint: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live. Yeah, that’s a mouthful to say but its a great story book… you’ll meet gun-toting nuns,  women who worked in the French Resistance,  and the author herself, a first-generation Cuban-American whose family fled Cuba, telling stories of badass women who kept faith first despite oppressive odds. I can’t wait to see this book finally in print.

Maria and I do a lot together as friends and as colleagues but what a joy to be asked to collaborate on this eye-popping title! Look for it this November, but hey – go pre-order it now! 

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Ok, look for more about each of these books in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s one amazing photo that really brought me joy…. two friends with two new books with forewords by moi. They had never met before but they shared their books with each other, and took a photo for the sake of me…. Too funny…

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Maria Johnson (l) with Melanie Rigney (r) both holding each other’s books! (Photographed at the Edel Conference, 2015) (Facebook photo courtesy of Maria Johnson)

For a look at all the books I have contributed to in recent years, go here.

 

This^ is one badass book by María Morera Johnson — literally! Did I mention it’s about saints?!

This^ is one badass book by María Morera Johnson — literally! Did I mention it’s about saints?!

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Yes, that’s really the title… My Badass Book of Saints... and from what I’ve read, the saints in there are pretty badass — but in a you’ll-never-guess-this kind of way! Fun stuff! And good story telling too. The book is due out in November, but let’s get excited and pre-order it NOW! Just cuz we can!

Let’s just say, this takes the idea of the feminine genius in a bold direction and breaks the weak and weird and un-funstereotypes some folks attribute to saints, and women saints in particular.

From the book’s description:

In this edgy, honest, and often audacious book… blogger and popular podcaster Maria Morera Johnson explores the qualities of twenty-four holy women who lived lives of virtue in unexpected and often difficult circumstances.

In My Badass Book of Saints, Johnson shares her experience as a first-generation Cuban-American, educator of at-risk college students, and caregiver for a husband with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Through humorous, empowering, and touching portraits of twenty-four spiritual mentors who inspired her, Johnson shows how their bravery, integrity, selflessness, perseverance, and hope helped her and can help others have courage to reach for a closer connection to God.

She presents remarkable holy women and saints–including the gun-toting Servant of God Sr. Blandina Segal who tried to turn the heart of Billy the Kid, and Nazi resister Irena Sendler who helped smuggle children out of the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II–in a way that brings their vivid personalities to life and helps readers live out the challenges of their lives with virtue and conviction.

My publisher asked me to write the Foreword. Bodaciousness! 

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Confidential to Professor Johnson: Go, BeGo, Go!

Bodaciously toasting Badass...

Bodaciously toasting Badass…

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Related: Check out this archived Among Women podcast with Maria Johnson. 

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.

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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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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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Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

Another feast day for Momma Mary — as Patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe

IMG_0123Our Lady of Guadalupe is among my favorite titles for Mary. And though my circumstances prevent me from sharing very much here, I do have a few things you may like…

My favorite quote from this apparition:

“Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
(Words of Our Lady to Juan Diego)

You can watch a short video reflection about the feast day here — look for today’s date!

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Unrelated to Guadalupe, but now my favorite new Mary-related quote from Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation:

She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. 

(See Evangelii Gaudium, par. 286 )

And in case you don’t get the joke — or more importantly the catechesis — from Francis, see John 2, or the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, or let Dr Ed Sri explain it all for you.

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From my Patheos archives, a cool post by Maria Johnson.

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From the Among Women archives, going back a few years to Among Women 37: my Blessed are They segment features details about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the “Among Women” segment features a little Christmas miracle that took place in a little boy’s life… one of my friend’s who will forever be “God’s Will” to me.

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Photos and video of the Shrine to Mary in Mexico.

Book on the subject.

The F.U.N. Quotient…

The F.U.N. Quotient…

Three very random and unrelated blog posts that made me smile this week…

First, is one that I somehow instigated.

Maria Johnson is my pal and she owns a nice camera and she’s takes it with her on many of her travels. This week she  composed an entire blog post on feral chickens…  and other feral creatures after we exchanged this text where she shared, when talking about how she spent her Sunday afternoon, she was disappointed that husband did not stop to give her time to photograph chickens…

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Me, living in the land of wild turkeys, never heard of such things.

Second, if you like musical posts, you must simply enjoy the entire blog post about an amazing beat box artist from Joseph Susanka.

Third, since I’ve had similar fits of madness over conquering clutter or trying to instill organizational resolve in my homemaking over the years, I relished Jennifer Fulwiler’s latest installment about organizational tips she lives with. Mostly.

 

Still Pouring High Test: Another Cup of Coffee hosts the Blessed, Beautiful, & Bodacious blog tour

Still Pouring High Test: Another Cup of Coffee hosts the Blessed, Beautiful, & Bodacious blog tour

Here’s a little introduction to the book’s blog tour: Ten Bodacious Basic… Ten Minutes at Time:

Another Cup of Coffee is, to me, one of the world’s greatest names for a blog, and I’m happy that the Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious blog tour is parked over there today, courtesy of Maria Morera Johnson*.

Full disclosure: Maria Johnson is my good buddy. We are writing buddies, prayer buddies, and SQPN buddies. Her holy influence really helped me get through the early rough drafts of the manuscript for this book, especially on the days when my confidence sagged, and I wanted to run from the prospect of another chapter, but instead poured another cup of coffee and got down to business.

I’m blessed to know Maria. And blessed to take the occasional road trip with her, but that’s another story. On one outing last summer, she surprised me with matching t-shirts for the book….

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Which eventually led to a whole lot more swag and good clean fun.

Look for today’s installment on the audio blog tour here. 

Tomorrow’s stop on the blog tour: Embracing Motherhood

A schedule for the full blog tour is here.

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*You might appreciate a podcast I recorded with Maria earlier late last year about the power of a praying friend.

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

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

Thanks for a clever jokester and all around new media creative guy Ashley Collins, my gal pals and I ended up in a fun little meme-like photo op. (From left to right: yours truly, Kelly Wahlquist, Maria Johnson, Sarah Reinhard, and the ringleader in getting the photo — Lisa Hendey.)

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.