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

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

Dear St John Paul II,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St John Paul II, pray for us!

Of Note: a Vatican-based colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman

From Nov 17-19, the Vatican is hosting an international interreligious colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Women. Some details are over at the Italian-based website Humanum. 

From the website:

The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.

Witnesses will draw from
 the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work
 of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.

The Colloquium is sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and
 the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The program will bring together scholars and others from around the world to discuss the complementarity of the sexes, marriage, family, and “the sacramentality of human love according to Saint John Paul II”, otherwise known as the theology of the body, and more.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will be there to talk about next year’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Sister Prudence Allen, a brilliant writer, whose love of the writings of John Paul II and the feminine genius helped to launch Endow,  will also be there.  (Yes, I’d like to be fly on the wall.)

Here’s one of the videos from Humanum.

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Others reporting:

Crux 

Catholic News Service

Religion News Service.

A report out of Utah on Mormon leader attending.

 

The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

The Beauty of Women in Art and in Real Life

First, a little artsy video… about the beauty of women through the ages…

Now, let’s take a look at real life today… I think this song explains pretty well the mistakes we make about “beauty”…

The solution to a flawed sense of self is to know who we are in God.

YOU are beautiful. Just in case you needed to hear that today. That’s the truth of the feminine genius that St John Paul talked about. 

IMG_2045Mary knew who she was in God. Do we?

Are we grateful for our femininity? There’s a wide spectrum of answers that most women give to that question. But if you are wrestling with that, maybe just find one small way to be grateful for who you are, as a woman, today.

I wrote a whole book on the feminine genius and the beauty of women, but let me leave you with one quote referenced in the last chapter from Fr Donald Calloway, MIC. In it he is talking about how Mary — the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother — is grateful for the gift of being a woman. Below, Fr Calloway reminds us of that… and that one day, as we grow in holiness, grace will deepen our beauty until it imitates hers in heaven.

What Mary has at the beginning, namely, sinlessness, all will have at the end of life if they cooperate with the gift of their embodiedness. Mary shows us to accept the gift of our embodiedness . . . the God-given sex of the body . . . the body is not an obstacle to be overcome but rather, a gift to be lived. Mary delights in her body, especially in . . . femininity. It is precisely in her gift of being a woman, that Mary was fashioned and called by God to be the Theotokos [Mother of God]. . . .

Just think what would have happened if Mary had rebelled against the gift of her feminine body! We would be in a very different situation today.

Indeed, we women ought to revel in the gift of femininity… we are made “in the image of God”! May our souls, our very depths, “magnify the Lord” ! (See Gen 1: 27, and Luke 1:46-47)

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Speaking of Mary: I’d like to see this exhibit coming soon… Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea – coming to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, on view Dec. 5, 2014–April 12, 2015.

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Need more on the beauty of women?

You might like this recent Among Women podcast “Show me, Lord, that I’m beautiful.”

Or this timely post from Jennifer Fitz, “Women Demystified: To Love Her is to Tell Her How Beautiful She Is”

Or find my book.

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I’m hitting the road today… gonna visit some beautiful women in real life in California this week and next. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Banner photo: Woman Bathing in a Stream (Rembrandt)

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.

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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!

Among Women 174: Contraception is Contra to Our Happiness

Among Women 174: Contraception is Contra to Our Happiness

166556This most recent edition of Among Women finds us talking in detail about the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception with a moral theologian, Angela Franks, PhD. Dr Franks recently authored Contraception and Catholicism, which I endorsed. She is a wife, mother, and professor at the Theological Institute of the New Evangelization at St John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston. Dr Franks’ expertise and advice on this important subject is both pastoral and consoling. Her teaching is based on the truth that God really does want us to be happy, and that the moral life is always possible for us — with God’s grace!

I’ll also be looking at the life of St Mary of Cerevellon, a 13th century native of Barcelona, Spain and her ministry among slaves and others, earning her the nickname, “Mary of Help.”

Listen to this episode of Among Women.

You might also enjoy a previous episode with Dr Franks from the Among Women archives:  AW 158.

 

 

This makes me think… about “desire, design, and destiny” (to quote Christopher West!)

This makes me think… about “desire, design, and destiny” (to quote Christopher West!)

[T]he Bible begins and ends with marriage– the marriage of Adam and Eve is the high point of the creation story in Genesis, and the marriage of the New Adam and the New Eve, Christ and the Church, is the high point of the story in the book of Revelation. Furthermore… the first human words spoken in the Bible, “This as last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:23), are words of the bridegroom’s desire for his bride? And… the final human words spoken in the Bible are… the words of the Bride’s desire for the coming of her Bridegroom: “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’… ‘Come Lord Jesus'” (Rev. 22:17, 20).

The whole story of our salvation… is framed by the desire of the bridegroom for union with the bride, and the desire of the Bride for union with the Bridegroom. Bring those two desires together to meet in the middle of the story and guess where you are… the “sacred love” of the Song of Songs.

The Song of Songs is first… a duet between passionate human lovers. But it is also, as countless saints attest, an image of the passionate love God has for us and we are meant to have for him… We exist because God wants to make a gift of himself to us, and because God wants to share his own infinite goodness and bliss with us. And that bliss is what we desire at our deepest level…

Being a Christian, then, means learning how to direct eros toward that which truly satisfies: the “nuptial union” of Christ and the Church. In short, these heavenly nuptials are what we long for (desire); they’re what we’re created for (design); and they’re what we’re headed for (destiny). 

– Christopher West, Fill These Hearts, 2013, Image Books. –

 

You can read my review of Christopher West’s new book, Fill These Hearts, on Good Reads.