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I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

A little proverb in the book of Sirach gets me started…

“Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of wisdom is better than both.”
—Sirach 40:20

Ah, wine and music! Two of my favorite things! Yet the proverb from Sirach offers much to consider as we examine the love of wisdom.

The sound of a cork pop remains a signal to my heart that life is good. The influence from the French side of my family taught me the beauty of wine on the table. I grew up a wine drinker and to this day, it is a joy to shop for wine, to taste new labels, to pair a special vintage with a good meal. Even the delicate nature of wine glasses signals to us that we must handle wine with care, savor its bouquet, and drink temperately. Every glass of wine was years in the making. It ought be respected and consumed with gratitude.

Wine is an occasion waiting to happen; through it we toast the gift of family, we honor friends, and celebrate milestones. For Catholics, we intuit the wisdom of Jesus in bringing us together for the Eucharistic meal whereby he shares his very self under the guise of bread and wine. That knowledge alone elevates our notion of wine as a gift that must be shared with love.

I also grew up a music lover and a musician. For me, music is a way to sing, to dance, and to pray. Music moves us, not only to sing and dance, but it moves the heart.

I’ve seen the right choice of music change someone’s day. I’ve been privileged to choose and sing music at weddings where the memories of those songs will last a lifetime. Music offers a soundtrack to some of the most important moments of our lives. Music is the language of the heart.

Wine plus music equals a celebration! From simplest gathering to the more elaborate events—whether an intimate gathering for two, a party with friends, or a wedding reception—wine and music are complementary sensory gifts that make life better, joyous even!

Yet, Sirach reminds us, even as we find the gifts of wine and music enjoyable and inspiring … “the love of wisdom is better than both.” Why might this be?

Read the rest at the WINE blog.

:::

(WINE = Women In the New Evangelization)

WINE has many events throughout the year, mostly in Minnesota, although its mission is growing.

The 2016 Women’s Conference Feb 6th

The Italy tour – June 2016

I’m over at the WINE Blog… talking about the fantastic… the infinite…

I’m over at the WINE Blog… talking about the fantastic… the infinite…

Women In the New Evangelization = that’s WINE!

I’m happy to be contributing to their blog this week!

Catholics believe in the fantastic, the miraculous, and the infinite!

God. Love. Forgiveness. Friendship. Heaven.

Friendship with God of the universe! Joy for eternity!

Truly, this is the stuff of celebration!

I’m a wine drinker – and a wine lover! One of my favorite sounds is the hearing the pop signaling the release of a cork from a bottle. It’s a cue for celebration – sometimes lavish and sometimes simple! Our earthly celebrations bring meaning to life.

All of our family’s most important celebratory moments happen in the context of good meals with wine – sacraments, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, job promotions, engagements, marriages, victories large and small. And there is a prayer of blessing for each occasion! Besides the food and drink, we also discover the blessing in the love of the people gathered there. In these simple earthly rituals we find nourishment and refreshment, and the presence of hope and love.

It is no wonder that Jesus desired to bring us his love in a way that would be a daily reminder of the reality of his true presence – a way to miraculously make his sacrificial love accessible and experiential.

With his friends, at the Last Supper, Jesus offered his very self through the ancient Jewish blessings of bread and wine…

Read it all. 

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In Napa CA, last fall.

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers,  and Sisters-in-Christ

Good for the Soul: On Writerly friends, Pray-ers, and Sisters-in-Christ

I am a blessed woman and I know it. For much of my life I have not only enjoyed the love and friendship of my husband, Bob, but I have known the wealth of women friends who are devoted to Christ and each other. And let me tell you, Bob himself is grateful that I enjoy such a rich sisterhood, as he benefits from a happy and renewed wife when she comes back from visiting with her friends. Smart man.

We women need good girlfriends in every phase of life. Catholic Christian women need to find other women with whom to share their spiritual journey. This is a subject that is dear to my heart.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.

Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.”

Sirach 6:14-16

Spiritual friendships are borne not only of kindred spirits, but of the Holy Spirit. My friend, Lisa Hendey, calls them soul sisters. I call them sisters in Christ. My pal Maureen calls her possé the “rosary chicks”. Whatever you name them, all women need to be about reclaiming the gift of female friendship as a priority in our culture today. We need to affirm and uplift the dignity of Christian womanhood, and bring each other before the altar of God. (I can’t speak for the menfolk. Yet, Lord knows, they need their guy-friends too.)

Besides the busyness of my work this month, October afforded me not one but two opportunities to spend some extended time with two of my writerly friends, true sisters in Christ.

Listeners have heard me speak of Maria Johnson before, and many of you may know her from her blog and work with SQPN. Her day job as a college professor brought her north to Boston this month and I greedily invited Bego to extend her stay for a few days so we could make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. 

I do that a lot: Make pilgrimages out of friend visits. It usually comes about because, to be honest, we need it. Modern women are so busy!

Taking mini-retreat days during our friendly visits or taking in a local church or shrine pays rich dividends in our souls and in the life of our friendship. I love the opportunity to pray daily prayers and rosaries, sure. But I also love all the catching up that goes along with the journey — the walks and the car rides. Going to Mass together and making a pilgrimage to a shrine enshrines the friendship as well… offering it a dignity more sublime than a casual visit might.

Of course, as my favorite Long Island pastor used to say, first comes the holy hour… then the happy hour. Joy in Christ has a spillover effect.

[Click on any photo to enlarge.]

A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

After Divine Mercy: A toast with Maria Johnson at the Red Lion Tavern in Stockbridge MA, Oct 2014.

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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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The F.U.N. Quotient… the happy hour edition

Our daughter and son-in-love got married yesterday. We’re still a wee bit happy about all of this…

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There’s nothing like a little celebration at the end of the week with a little happy hour… so here’s a few random links that you might enjoy…

 margarita photo

wine photo

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