Learn more about my latest book – All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. Available now!

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.

Pope Francis, Day One -“Among Women”-style: The gifts of Mary, womanhood, and the new evangelization

Last night, when he first met us from the balcony of St Peter’s, the new “Peter” — Pope Francis — told us his plan for today. Job One would be to bring this pontificate to Mary, the Mother of God, the woman who brings us all to Jesus. This kind of holy bow is a profound “yes” to being open and receptive to the Holy Spirit. Then the Holy Father would get down to the rest of the tasks that his schedule would demand.

Why does this matter?

Mary was the one God the Father entrusted to receive and bear God the Son. She brought Jesus into the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, she was the first one to make Jesus present in the world, in the flesh. The Good Pontiff humbly seeks her out as he courageously begins his very high profile mission of bringing Jesus to the world.

Here’s a video of his travels to St Mary Major Basilica…not only does he pray earnestly to Mary for his papacy, but on the way out to go back to the Vatican, the new Pope pauses to bless a pregnant woman.

What a beautiful demonstration of God’s love and blessing for the gift of woman, her maternity, and the new life within in! How many pregnant women today might understand the gift of their maternity through such a public blessing? I can only hope many.

One of the reasons I’ve written my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, is to draw attention to the reverence and awe that the Church has for the gift of womanhood — and to introduce the basic ideas of a woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission that the Church has proclaimed to people like us, the women in the pew. As I’ve recently explained in an article for the Washington Post that is currently at my column at Patheos, despite the negativity that our society often describes of women being enslaved by her maternal gift, rather, a woman herself is blessed by God by the gift of her created being — and being made feminine!

Tragically, humanity has habitually lost sight of the true gifts we are to one another, and the treasure of maternity was rarely appreciated as the blessing it is, until Jesus, the Savior of all, was born of a woman.

In and through Mary, the world heard once more: Woman, you are a gift!

Blessed John Paul II was especially eager to teach that women, by the beauty of their physiology and God-given design, are particularly well-disposed to seeing, comprehending, and loving human persons. This is our “feminine genius.” This particular strength of woman bears repeating and rediscovery as we survey the political rhetoric of the day that tends degrades maternity…

The late pontiff’s major treatise on women, “Mulieris Dignatatem,” exults in the dignity and beauty of femininity. The gift of maternity, he wrote is a strength, not a weakness.

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way—precisely by reason of their femininity. . . .

A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting . . . always and in every way, even in the situations of social discrimination in which she may find herself. This awareness and this fundamental vocation speak to women of the dignity which they receive from God himself, and this makes them “strong” and strengthens their vocation. (Mulieris Dignatatem, par 30)  

There’s no mistaking biology. Womanly bodies are wonderfully made, and purposefully created with an empty space of a womb carried under her heart.

A woman’s womb, her uterus, signals that she is made for something and someone more than herself. This reality touches a woman at her very core—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The womb’s raison d’être illuminates this gift that welcomes and receives the life of a child, sheltering and nurturing it, until finally, a woman gives birth. We even use the expression—giving birth—denoting the gift that it is. The maternal gift ought to be honored and celebrated.

(Read the rest here.)

What’s more, a woman is further dignified by Mary’s maternity, by her bringing forth the Christ to humanity. Mary is “blessed among women”, as we pray in the Hail Mary Prayer; she is “the feminine genius” par excellence. The gift of maternity is magnified in Mary, and the gift of maternity in all women is elevated because of the amazing gift of who Mary is to Christ and to his Church. She brings us to Jesus, while she teaches us that we women, indeed, have a mission to help make disciples in our world through physical and spiritual motherhood.

I was edified to read a wonderful post this morning over at Ignitum Today by Miriam Fightlin Brower that gives more voice to this. Like me, she notes there is something sadly missing from feminist ideology if it discounts the fullness of the womanly gift of maternity. Her article is titled “Liberated from the Women’s Movement.”

Modern feminism is a peculiar ideology. It professes to offer us, as women, all the choices in the world, to determine our own paths and not be hindered by the shackles of patriarchy. Yet, with all the exhortation for choice and empowerment for women, there is one choice that is like Kryptonite to these feminists–the choice of women to celebrate and honor their own nature.

When unwrapping this philosophy, it is impossible to escape the irony. The true enemy of the 1960s and 70s era Women’s Movement is not patriarchy, but none other then Mother Nature herself.

Embedded deep within Modern feminist ideology is a fundamental flaw.

This brand of feminism views equality through the singular lens of sameness–completely unwilling to acknowledge our female biology and psychological and spiritual make-up. Instead of truly celebrating our diversity and uniqueness, it succeeds only in advocating an “equality” which extracts and then promptly discards everything that is most distinctly and most powerfully female.

You really start to wonder: Is this brand of feminism advocating for our advancement or our demise?

The Bible says “by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16). Yet, in a very real way we know modern feminism because it refuses to produce any fruits. Our fertility is deemed a hindrance simply because it doesn’t look like or act like a man’s. In their quest to advance the cause of women, they have somehow managed to make male fertility the gold standard thereby deeming women’s fertility defective; our biology becomes something we are encouraged to mutilate instead of embrace. It has truly become the fulfillment of Bl. John Paul II’s warning in Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) when he wrote, “There is a well-founded fear that if they take this path, women will not “reach fulfillment”, but instead will deform and lose what constitutes their essential richness.”

Unless women allow themselves to be defined by this rigid and confining notion of what it means to be a free and equal woman, completely ignore their biology and pretend to be less than they are, they will not find a seat at the table of modern feminism. It has indeed become the embodiment of that stifling patriarchy it fought so hard to overcome.

Authentic Catholic feminism recognizes the beauty of our distinct nature and celebrates women in their entirety. It rejoices in the awesome power of creation that women have been given rather than apologizing for it. It acknowledges the nurturing aspects of our femininity, the importance that we place on relationships, and our centralness in the world family. We are truly raised up, mind, body and spirit as something beautiful and meaningful to behold.

(Read the whole post.)

As we witness the birth of a new papacy, we are reminded that this becomes a time to renew a deeper call to a new evangelization in our world. With it comes a responsibility to promote human dignity. Such a task must include a new brand of feminism, a new wave of feminism that is paired with the Christian message and a proper anthropology — an understanding of the dignity of women and men in their blessed design. It must be bathed in justice, as it is immersed in an ocean of charity that sees human persons as the invaluable and unique gifts that they are.

A Pope who entrusts himself first to Mary is showing us the path to a holiness that is both consoling as it is courageous. Both Benedict XVI and John Paul II entrusted the new millennium to Mary, calling her the Star of the New Evangelization. Francis knows this.

Likewise, a woman who entrusts herself to Jesus through Mary has found a path to understanding the exquisite dignity she has a person, especially as a feminine person. Women, in a very particular way, hold the fate of humanity, in their hands.

A woman aware of her blessed dignity and her beautiful gifts will naturally become a bodacious evangelist — hers is a most excellent mission to bring the life of Christ into the world, like Mary did.



Image credit: from RomeReports.com

Here’s my tribute to what I will miss about Pope Benedict XVI, and what I’ve learned from him

Here’s my tribute to what I will miss about Pope Benedict XVI, and what I’ve learned from him

From my column at Patheos this week on the intersection of Benedict, the Catechism, and the hope of heaven…

I have a first edition English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in hardcover. Ever since my great awakening to my Catholic faith in my teen years, I’ve been reading about our faith, and taking theology classes when I could. So in 1992, when I heard that the Catholic Church was putting out a new catechism, the theology geek in me bought a copy when the English translation arrived in 1994.

Within the first 70 pages or so, I was hooked. I had no idea who was responsible for what I was reading, but the clarity of the teaching grabbed me.

There were several “teachable moments” where the Catechism affirmed what I already believed, or corrected or challenged my understandings. I’ll share just one instance that blessed me, and came back to bless me again years later, and is blessing me still.

The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. (CCC, par 260)

What? God wants union with his creatures? Up until that point I had I understood that Jesus loved me. I understood that Jesus died for my sins. I understood that those graces had the power to change me and be like Jesus. But my understanding fell short of such a love yielding this kind of a bond as my entering into union with God.

Everything in God’s plan of salvation — another name for the “divine economy” — is moving toward God. Myself included. The Trinity is my destiny and yours.

This woke me up as it gave me pause.

This one sentence kept coming alive in my mind over and over again. It expanded my image of God, my relationship with him and his heaven. For most of my adult life I vaguely acknowledged that, one day, I would die. Yet I never really considered the true hope of heaven, or what it might look like. I was merrily oblivious. Looking back, my rather lame vision of heaven included clouds and angels and what not. God’s heaven was a very distant “place” that didn’t demand my meditation. But I began to ask myself, how can one truly have hope without knowing where the source of hope comes from?

Good catechesis, and the power of the Holy Spirit, has a way of making us dig deeper until we own what we profess to believe.

Two years later, in 1996, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the weight of my own mortality squarely rested across my shoulders. During that time of stress and heartache, what the Catechism had taught me came alive. I remembered that line about entering into the unity of the Trinity. My life, lived well — yoked to Christ — would someday have this potential to be permanently joined to God… to be in union with the Persons of the Trinity for eternity.

Heaven would be all about this relationship!

That one little sentence of truth from the Catechism brought me such hope, and clear direction for the rest of my life! And hope is exactly what one needs, not only when facing a cancer diagnosis, but, really, every single day.

Fast forward, years later, into cancer survivorship…  the same Catechism was still challenging me, and it was a catalyst for my returning to graduate school in my forties. There were thousands of footnotes in the Catechism, and I wanted to know what they all meant! (That thirst eventually led me to seek a Masters in the theology, and I received my diploma in 2008 –- 12 years post-cancer!)

As I poured over Scripture and theology books during those study years, I came to discover the “who’s who” behind the Catechism.  Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – our Pope Benedict XVI  – was the chief architect of the Catechism, at the directive of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism….

(John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, Oct. 11, 1992.)

I felt such a debt of gratitude to Cardinal Ratzinger for the Catechism. It was a monumental work – the first update to the Roman Catechism in over 400 years – plus it took six years to develop, with input from over a thousand bishops from the world over. It would influence future generations for the next century! It certainly had its effect on me.

What’s more, my studies led me to discover Ratzinger as one of the premier theologians of the last two generations — with dozens of books to his name! As I studied eschatology — the study of death and eternal life — I learned how important the actual Risen Body of Jesus is to humanity’s eternal destiny. I came to relish Fr. Ratzinger’s work on the subject. The good professor helped me unpack the beauty of a heavenly union with the Trinity, as he describes how Jesus brings about this union for us.

Heaven’s existence depends on the fact that Jesus Christ, as God, is man, and makes space for human existence in the existence of God himself. One is in heaven when, and to the degree, that one is in Christ. It is by being with Christ that we find the true location of our existence as human beings in God. Heaven is thus, primarily, a personal reality…

(Joseph Ratzinger, Dogmatic Theology, Eschatology, The Catholic University of America, 1988, p. 234.)

Jesus makes a space for us in himself, as we truly become the body of Christ. As I read this text that had preceded the Catechism, I immediately recognized the themes I had read earlier.

Read the rest over at Patheos.

Image courtesy of Thomas McDonald

From my archives: Polycarp — An Unusual Name, A Remarkable Story

From my archives: Polycarp — An Unusual Name, A Remarkable Story

Today is the feast of St Polycarp, bishop and martyr. His story is one of the earliest martyr accounts from the early Church. This is reprinted from my column at Patheos. Subscribe to the column here.


Polycarp is not a fish. He was an amazing Greek Bishop from Smyrna. (Ok, so maybe you knew that already.)

Still, Polycarp is one of the heroes of the early Church and everyone should know his name. Memorialized by the Church for his readiness to die for the faith, in doing so, Polycarp witnessed to what it means to live as a loyal disciple. The liturgical calendar honors his martyrdom on February 23rd for good reason.

Polycarp became a young first-century believer in Jesus Christ, under the tutelage of St. John the Apostle when he ministered in Ephesus. Years later, a very elderly John would ordain Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna at about age 35. He was a young bishop leading a young church south of Ephesus in Smyrna, now the coastal city of Izmir, Turkey.

For fifty years, Polycarp led his church. Along the way he was a friend to Ignatius of Antioch, another Bishop and martyr who perished in Rome. He taught a young Iranaeus, better known as the future Bishop of Lyons, and later, a Father of the Church and saint. For us, Polycarp serves as a link between the nascent church of the apostolic age, and the emerging spread of the Christianity into the second and third centuries despite the religious persecution of the day.Burghers_michael_saintpolycarp

Polycarp’s heroic death is recounted in a famous letter written by an eyewitness. Preserved and revered as one of the great martyrologies of the Church, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, is the earliest one we have, outside of Stephen’s martyrdom recorded in Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7.

Written in the popular epistle style of exhortation and encouragement — think of St. Paul’s many letters — The Martyrdom of Polycarp is a 3700 word treatise on how to die with dignity, without compromising one’s faith, even when under fire, or literally, on fire! A Christian named Marcion dictated the compelling story to a scribe named Evaristus. The letter then circulated to honor Polycarp as it heartened fellow Christians undergoing persecution.

Around the year 155, Polycarp, then in his 80s, knew his persecutors were coming for him. He was prepared in prayer via a dream that envisioned his being burned at the stake. But despite his advanced age, Polycarp didn’t go quietly. No, the Bishop of Smyrna not only predicted his death, but along the way he made sure his executioners knew their own fate… his martyrdom would be a short suffering compared to the torment reserved in the afterlife for those opposed to God and his ways.

At his arrest, Polycarp generously served food and drink to the police who had come for him. He respectfully asked them for the indulgence of an hour of uninterrupted prayer before departing. They complied, and Polycarp rose and prayed in their midst — for two hours!

…and on their consenting, he stood up and prayed, being so full of the grace of God, that for two hours he could not hold his peace, and those that heard were amazed, and many repented that they had come against such a venerable old man.
But when at length he brought his prayer to an end, after remembering all who at any time had come in his way, small and great, high and low, and all the universal Church throughout the world, the hour of departure being come, they seated him on a donkey and brought him into the city, it being a high Sabbath. (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 7:3-8:1.)

Roman officials commonly taunted their Christian captives by calling them atheists, for they did not worship the Roman gods. Within that context, there is an ironic moment prior to his execution whereby Polycarp deadpans the taunt, and with a wave of his hand inverts it and implicates the atheists gathered in the stadium to watch the Christians die…

But as Polycarp entered into the stadium, a voice came to him from heaven; “Be strong, Polycarp, and [be a] man.” And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice…

When then [Polycarp] was brought before him, the proconsul asked whether he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, “Have respect to your age… Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, ‘Away with the atheists.'” Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, “Away with the atheists.”

But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile the Christ,” Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years have I been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” (Martyrdom, 9:1-3.)

Polycarp does not recant; his witness never wavers. (Polycarp does not let “teachable moments” go to waste.)


Find out what happens next, read the rest.


On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I wrote “The Art of the Love Letter” last week to give men —  who think they’d rather show their love instead of talk about it — an insight into the heart of many women for whom the words of love are important. Yes, even long past the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship, there’s nothing like receiving a handwritten testament of the love of one’s mate. I made the case that in Catholic life both words and deeds are important because they reflect the sacramentality of our lives. We are both body and soul, and marriages are both physical and spiritual. Of course, a woman wants her man to demonstrate his love with the things he does, and while some men may balk, I continue to stand by the notion a love letter is a physical demonstration of their love for their wives.

By the same token, there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t compose a love letter to her husband or husband-to-be. So, of course, good women, write away! Just because I wrote my piece from a woman’s point of view, does not mean that woman could not return the favor in kind.

In fact, the point of this whole post, is that marriages need acts of kindness to support the relationships between husbands and wives. I’m happy to report that Frank Weathers at Why I Am a Catholic gives an excellent reply to the invitation to write a love letter for his wife by issuing his own Valentine’s Day challenge to the women…

As Pat Gohn shames us men into drafting epic love letters for our sweeties this year, will us men be rewarded in kind? Here’s an idea, ladies. We’re pretty easy to please… Bacon_Roses

…Think STOMACH! Just give him Bacon Roses.

Do read the rest!

Just today, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernstein: Small Acts, Big Love” that describes that a recent study finds that “small acts of kindness boost marital satisfaction.”  The husband of the first couple cited in the article, Mr. Kline, mentions that he’s not one of those tell-her-I-love-her kind of guys…

Chris Kline doesn’t like to tell his wife of 17 years, Tara, that he loves her. He prefers to show her—by loading her favorite songs on her phone and warming up her car on cold mornings. While she was away on business recently, he surprised her by painting her home office in her favorite colors, Mardi Gras purple and gold.

“Saying ‘I love you’ is just words,” says Mr. Kline, a 42-year-old engineer from Shoemakersville, Pa. “I like to do things that require effort, planning and a little bit of sacrifice. It shows you are putting the other person first.”

Researchers call this “compassionate love”—recognizing a partner’s needs and concerns and putting them ahead of your own. “It’s not just making people feel good,” says Harry T. Reis, a University of Rochester professor of psychology. “It’s a way of communicating to the other person that you understand what they are all about and that you appreciate and care for them.”

Illustrations by Kyle T. Webster

Since 2009, Dr. Reis has been studying 175 newlywed couples from around the U.S., asking how they show their spouses compassion. His findings, not yet published, indicate that people who discover ways to regularly show their spouses this kind of love are happier in their marriages.

Small selfless acts between spouses aren’t just nice—they also are necessary, experts say. When acts of kindness and caregiving disappear, it is an indication the relationship needs help.

You’ll have to read to the end to see if Mr. Kline changes his perspective on using words of love to his wife… but I stand by my advice when it comes to love letters from husbands to wives. There’s a separate side bar that includes “10 Marriage Sweeteners” such as:

“Put your partner’s goals first. Giving your husband the last cupcake is easy. Spending your vacation—again—with his family is hard.

“Go out of your way to ‘be there.’ Pay attention when your partner seems particularly stressed and try to help.”

“Show respect and admiration. Celebrate successes, even little ones. Did your spouse handle a touchy situation well, or make you laugh? Point it out.”

Finally, here’s a video with tips from the article.

Happy Valentine’s Day!




Your heart matters to God, so how has your prayer life been lately? Some gems from the Catechism in my latest column at Patheos

Your heart matters to God, so how has your prayer life been lately? Some gems from the Catechism in my latest column at Patheos

file0001404780822The Year of Faith is a great time to reboot one’s prayer life. Here’s what my column at Patheos offers this week…

Prayer is something all Christians should be “practicing” — both corporately as a Church, and individually — and for a very good reason: the fruit of prayer can be a new heart and a deepening of our love for God.

Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s (CCC) chapter on “The Life of Prayer” opens with these words:

Prayer is the life of the new heart.”(CCC 2697)

(Hm. That makes me ask myself: how “new” and “renewed” is my heart? Or, even more basic: Just what is going on in my heart in the first place?)

The same paragraph states,

“Prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart.”

Again, note the emphasis on the state of the heart.

(Hmmm. This takes me deeper: what are the memories of God in my heart? And do I recall them easily? Just, what is my history with God? Is he first in my heart?)

Prayer reveals the heart’s contents, and determines where God may be leading us.

The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to him, and each believer responds according to his heart’s resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer. (CCC 2699)

Recall Jesus saying, “You did not choose me, I chose you…” (John 15:16) The God who first loved us desires our love in return. And so, if I’m a follower of Christ, I must yield to him in prayer. He leads in ways “pleasing” to him.

(Indeed, what is my heart’s resolve in matters of prayer? Am I willing to be led by God in prayer? Or is prayer something that I lead? Which way is more pleasing to him?)

There’s more: Read it all right here. You can subscribe to receive my columns via email or via an RSS feed here.

It’s all about Jesus. His presence in the Host is the door to the infinite… my latest column at Patheos

IMG_0617Today the optional memorial in the Church calendar is the Holy Name of Jesus. It’s not only the name for Our Lord and Savior, it makes a perfect prayer… “Jesus”.  Here’s my own little homage to Jesus for today… a sampling from my column at Patheos…

When I consider the proximity of Jesus to me personally in the Mass, and in particular when I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, that’s what warms my heart toward his; to know that his heart is first turned toward me, that his heart burns for mine.

When I humbly kneel or sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament elevated in the monstrance, I’m looking into a holy portal to the other side of all we can hope and imagine. The host in the monstrance is, out of its element, in suspended animation. Its bread was consecrated so that it might be consumed and receive by a communicant—to strengthen them with the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. It is destined, still, to be Holy Communion that nourishes and becomes part of its recipient. Yet, for the moment, that purpose is delayed, as the Church in her wisdom “exposes” the Incarnate One on the Altar that we might draw near to the very love that beats for us, from the heart that gave all.

This is why it’s called Adoration.

When we come face to face with heart of this love, we learn what it means to adore. True adoration brings an intimate knowledge we cannot find on our own. In adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we get a foretaste of the infinite, a prolonged visitation of the True Presence outside of the Mass. Within that thin opaque portal, the Host holds all we need to know and can imagine.

I admit I cannot often describe what goes on in those moments of prayer. But in my finite knowledge of the ways of love I fathom it as my heart “seeing” the face of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the hands of Jesus—all the infinite Good that my heart can hold. And I can almost imagine passing through the veil between heaven and earth.

The rest is here.

Subscribe to my column, A Word in Season, and have it delivered to your email or RSS reader.

Here’s a little bonus for the feast day in honor of the Most Holy Name of Jesus… (I’ve long loved this simple song from Margaret Becker.)


Adventing… a microcosm of real life

So, my latest column at Patheos is the requisite nod to the liturgical calendar, but its more about ALL the comings of Christ in my experience… that the season of Advent really lights up an awareness of the sacred found in every day.

Here’s a excerpt:

Advent is not just a liturgical season, it’s a spiritual reality that has been touching, moving, and changing me all my life. In Advent, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming. In this season, I reflect not only on the coming of Christ in history, but Christ’s coming to my own personal history. His presence is tangible in all the advents of my life.

Advent means “coming,” “arrival,” or “appearance.” These all makes sense when I relate “advent” to the coming of Christ. By the miracle of the Incarnation, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. Through that same incarnation, I can understand the Lord’s coming in all the “advents” of my own life.

Let’s start with my conception and being alive in my mother’s womb—my “coming.” My mother was, and is, an active Catholic. During her pregnancy with me, she received communion during Mass. As she “received” the Lord, in some way, so did I. As the Lord touched my mother through those frequent communions, he also touched me. For as a mother is fed, so is her unborn child. All nutrition passes from mother to child. The body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist pumped through my veins even as a tiny baby hidden from the world but known to God and my parents.

The next advent or appearance of Christ was at my baptism. Even if I was not fully aware of my being baptized as an infant, I didn’t need to be. I was baptized into the faith of the Church. Christ’s presence permeated the process of my “becoming.” “In him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28  RSV).”

The rest is here. Subscribe to my columns at Patheos here.

Got Prayer? Here’s some advice on squeezing more prayer breaks into your day…

The Year of Faith is calling us to be more faithful. The three-fold call to know our faith, live our faith, and share our faith is what this year is all about. Here’s one of six suggestions on living our daily call to prayer, from my column at Patheos.

Got prayer? You don’t need a spiritual director to tell you that prayer is important. Prayer is conversation with God. We all need more of that! But, we don’t always make time for it as we should. All I can tell you is that real change and real growth in the spiritual life comes with practice, buoyed by our heart’s desire to come closer to God.

Good habits start with one small step in the right direction. Prayer is no different from the other important disciplines of life. Let me suggest several simple and well-tried practices to increase our prayer time. Don’t attempt them all. Do the one or two that appeal to you. Or maybe, do the one that is the most doable logistically. Then stick with it. Sometimes we’ve got to have small successes first, and be faithful in little things before moving on to bigger ones. Don’t overreach. Just try something.

Start the day differently.

From dieting to exercise to getting things done before children awake, we all know that starting the morning right sets the tone for the day.

  • Go “old school”: As you rise, just kneel down alongside your bed as ask God to enter your day, and to keep you mindful of his presence as you go through your day.
  • Put a bible next to your bed and read a few verses of the psalms, or from the Sermon on the Mount before you rise.
  • Pray Morning Prayer with your coffee using a phone app or a copy of the Magnificat.
  • Tape a “morning offering” prayer to your bathroom mirror and pray it as you dress for the day.

There’s more over at Patheos. 

To subscribe to my column at Patheos via email or RSS, go here. To subscribe to this blog via email, enter your email address in the sidebar. To get the blog’s RSS feed, look to the top of the page.


Among Women Podcast 148: “Coming Home” While on Pilgrimage

Among Women Podcast 148: “Coming Home” While on Pilgrimage

This week the Among Women podcast welcomes Joanne Mc Portland, the blogger at Egregious Twaddle at Patheos. Joanne describes her most recent pilgrimage to the Marian shrines of Portugal, Spain, and France in a fascinating series of blog posts.

Mary with the Infant Jesus,                    St Catherine of Bologna, 15th century.                Source: Wikipedia


Together we talk about the importance of the integration of faith and life, the gift of the experience of walking where Mary and the saints have been, and the many lessons one finds along the pilgrim way.

I also profile a patron saint from the Renaissance, St Catherine of Bologna, a long-time patron of artists and creative people. That’s one of her paintings to the right. Don’t miss this latest episode, or the one released as a special edition last week exploring great resources for the Year of Faith.