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My Top Three Take-Aways from the Year of Faith… where did you find meaning this year?

My Top Three Take-Aways from the Year of Faith… where did you find meaning this year?

1. Never Forget: The Holy Spirit guides the Church, and the Papacy

Wow! Who could have predicted this? The Catholic news story of the year was not only the Year of Faith but the resignation of the reigning pontiff, and the conclave to elect a new pope!

We also had the first encyclical that was the work of two popes! Lumen Fidei was first drafted by Benedict, but completed by Francis. (You can find my 5 part series on the encyclical here. Here’s the introduction.)

God bless the mission of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and the monastic retirement of Benedict XVI.

Two Popes, praying together. Benedict XVI & Francis.

Two Popes, praying together. Benedict XVI & Francis. In my mind, this is the Catholic photo of the year! 

2. Pray! And Pray More! Stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist!

This Year of Faith offered us many opportunities to pray both with the Church and privately. I loved watching on TV and praying my way through World Youth Day, and I loved this moment at Adoration:

Praying with others, outside of the Sunday Mass is also more of a priority for me now. I was privileged to start and lead The Bible Timeline bible study at my parish, as well as hold rosary meetings in my home. Not to mention I was honored to travel the country giving retreats and talks to women related to my book, Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious.

All those activities are really the fruit of prayer. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, plus staying close to Jesus in the Eucharist and confession are indispensable and continue to be a very strong call in my life. I made an Ignatian-style retreat in April and most recently have been talking to Jesus and my priest about taking steps change my personal schedule to include more breaks for prayer.

By the way – are you a techno geek? This year I noticed that I was praying more “on the go” using apps on my phone like Magnificat, The Divine Mercy, The Rosary Miracle App, and Verse-Wise’s Holy Bible RSV-CE, and more. This is a new side to my prayer, not so much in the way I pray, but in the resources I use.

 3. Spiritual Reading must remain a weekly, if not daily, exercise.

The nature of my writing work requires me to be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a regular way. So, where as many people undertook reading the Catechism this past year, I was already largely doing that. For me this year, I’m renewed my commitment to pray with scripture, as I work my way through much bible reading for the bible study.

I’m also reading Undset’s biography of St Catherine of Siena, and several other saints biographies. As devotee of St Francis, and a graduate of Franciscan University, I’m very interested in getting to Chesterton’s Francis of Assisi next (and find it hard to believe that I’ve missed it all these years!)

Finally, as mentioned above, I really dove into Lumen Fidei.

Now, I’m looking forward to the release of Francis’ new text, Evangelii Gaudium sometime later today.

What was your experience with the Year of Faith?

The Power of the Vow, a blog post at “My Year of Faith”

The Power of the Vow, a blog post at “My Year of Faith”

A few years ago, at the urging of a kindly editor, I began writing a book I want to call The Power of the Vow. Don’t get exited. This is not my next project. I see it more as a work in progress for now, and thus far, the thing hasn’t materialized as a full book yet, but I own the domains anyway.

But having rounded the bend of three decades of marriage and all the having and holding, for bettering or worse, and dealing with lots of sickness amid our good health… well, sometimes the good times and the bad times interfere with the actual production of good intentions, like writing a book, or giving a talk on the subject, and well, one is left with the option of writing a blog post or two or three articles about the power of the vow.

I’m grateful to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for the opportunity to do a guest post on the blog, My Year of Faith. Here’s snippet:

This summer, my husband and I watched our daughter and new son-in-love recite their wedding vows before God and His Church. It was a joy to witness their vows, and sealing them with the gift of rings. Meanwhile, the invisible grace of God entered in. With love’s consummation, you begin to fully understand how grace holds your heart captive to the power of the vow. And when you look at your hands, the ring of love teaches you that you are to lay your life down daily in big and small ways.

“Love one another, as I have loved you,” says our Lord… even unto death. Marriage, like the circle of rings, is an ongoing relationship with many experiences repeated and reappearing over time. More than an accessory, the ring is a blessed sacramental, a dutiful and beautiful reminder of our vowed reality… we are not alone… we will share what comes… we will do this with the help of grace.

We are not alone.

The obvious comfort of one another’s warm body in the bed is a sweet reminder of the vow. Our deepest fire is enkindled from the intimacy that flows from a loving, intentional friendship. Even after thirty years together, it is still good to hear the words, “I love you” and “I’m so glad you’re here.” We can be all about the wine and the roses, and the occasional dinner out. Yet, more often than not, the tangible evidence of “we are not alone” is manifest by how we care for one another when no one is looking, especially when the sufferings of life begin to mount.

Recently I took my husband to the doctor’s office for an exam on his chronic back pain. He was perfectly able to drive and tend to this without me. But I wanted to go. It gave me a little excuse to fuss over him. While it’s true that sometimes you take turns being the one who needs care, and one who is caregiving, it’s best not to keep score.

This same husband saw me through childbirths and multiple surgeries for breast cancer and beyond. He has kept me company in more sterile hospital rooms than I can count. His presence grounds me, and keeps my sanity when life seems out of control. Like the time I needed yet another brain MRI and claustrophobia was preventing my acquiescing. He got permission from the medical team to strip down to modest clothing, without belt buckles or shoes, minus his keys, his watch, coins, or other metallic objects, to stand sentry in the noisy exam room with the giant magnet and squeeze my toes — the only part of my body sticking out of the MRI tube — to reassure me that I was not alone in that hour.

In all these instances, Jesus was always with us, but he was calling us to bring his presence in visible, tangible ways to one another.

Read the rest over here. 



And yes, that photo above really is my daughter and son-in-love.  Here’s the whole photo.

Katie and Benjy Photo courtesy of ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

Katie and Benjy
Photo courtesy of ©Reinaldo Gutierrez Photography www.wix.com/reinaldogallery/professional

A blog post about the wedding is here, and has been the most popular post all month.


Props for the re-tooled Catholic Digest magazine

Props for the re-tooled Catholic Digest magazine

One of my favorite writing assignments during this Year of Faith, besides my columns online, has been the opportunity to write a 12-month series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church for Catholic Digest magazine. These are short 500-word digestible pieces designed to introduce readers to the benefits of becoming more familiar with Catechism, as well as imparting its timeless wisdom.

But more than the shameless promotion of my own writing, I’ve really enjoyed my subscription. Yes, I’m subscribed even though I’m a sometime-contributer — so that says a lot! I was a longtime fan of Faith and Family magazine while it was under the leadership of Danielle Bean, and when I heard she was on her way to become the Editor-in-Chief at CD after Faith and Family left the marketplace

photoI just knew that the Catholic Digest was going to get a deserving make-over both in content and aesthetics. I haven’t been disappointed. Each issue looks better and better.

The latest issue for Feb/Mar 2013 has several good articles on the liturgical season of Lent, plus content on infertility, 20 ways to teach children to pray, how to deal with difficult people, book and movie suggestions, tips for meatless Lenten meals, and ideas for a memorable Easter with your family. There’s even a dedicated section for the men in the family. This month issue’s cover story describes a new made-for-TV Bible series created by Roma Downey and her TV-exec husband.

Let this be one of your family investments for the Year of Faith. Get subscription details here. You can sample some articles that are online under the tabs on the landing page. This might also be a neat gift idea for Easter, birthdays, or Mother’s Day.

Finally, a special stand-alone tribute edition for Pope Benedict is also planned, so you might want to place your order for that as we pass through this history-making abdication of our pope.


This makes me think… about finding hope in the desert of pessimism…

Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the [Second Vatican] Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren – as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith, a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics – as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.

~Benedict XVI, Homily to open the Year of Faith.



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. 

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This makes me think… about the role of Christian friendships and community in the Year of Faith

[T]he Year of Faith is a path, an opportunity, that the Christian community offers to the many people who possess a longing for God and a profound desire to meet him again in their lives. It is essential, therefore, that believers recognize the responsibility to provide an authentic companionship of faith, to become a neighbor to those who seek the reasons for and explanations of our Catholic beliefs. These opportunities, provided by the Year of Faith to form authentic friendships in faith, bring to the fore the very question of community. The new evangelization tends to make our sense of personal identity grow in relation to our sense of belonging to the community. A sociological tendency of our time presses us to distinguish between ‘identity’ and; ‘belonging’, as if it were a question of two contradictory realities. There is nothing more dangerous, in my opinion, than this contra-position. A belonging which was without identity could not be defined as belonging; it would remain always bound to a form of living together in society which modified its own coordinates according to the changing of the seasons, without any possibility of impressing upon them a real sense of common feeling and of active participation. From the reciprocal relationship which exists between identity and belonging there arises the possibility of verifying how the new evangelization can be effective and fruitful. Without a strong Catholic identity, by means of which our awareness of our own responsibilities in the world may grow, it will not be possible to understand even the requirement of belonging to the Christian community; on the other hand, without a deep sense of belonging to the Church, it will not be possible to have an identity which is aware of the mission it discharges. Identity and belonging determine our understanding of the permanent formation which applies to Christians in view of an ever more adequate knowledge of the faith, one which corresponds to each one’s own state of life. A knowledge of the contents of the faith which remains linked to the adolescent stage could never allow someone to grow in their identity as a believer, no matter what roles they might occupy in civil society. In the same way, the lack of these contents often impedes people’s own social, political and cultural action in harmony with their belonging to the Church. A fissure between identity and belonging is likely one of the causes which have contributed to the current crisis.

The Year of Faith will attempt to fuse this very rupture between identity and belonging, thus, increasing the faith of believers, who in the face of the daily pressures and challenges of life do not cease to entrust courageously and with conviction their lives to the Lord Jesus.

~Archbishop Fisicheslla of Sydney, Austrailia, “Jesus at the Heart of the New Evangelization”


Related: You might be interested in listening to Among Women 146: “The Power of a Praying Friend”


This makes me think… it’s time to re-read the Documents of Vatican II…

This makes me think… it’s time to re-read the Documents of Vatican II…

[D]uring the [Second Vatican] Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the “letter” of the Council – that is to its texts – also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.

If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic approach which Blessed John XXIIIwished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to realize it during this Year of Faith, following the same path of the Church as she continuously endeavours to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual “desertification”. In the Council’s time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. 

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, Opening the Year of Faith


New Women Saints for the USA in the Year of Faith

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

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

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

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

This makes me think… about the new evangelization…

This makes me think… about the new evangelization…

A few days before being elected as Pope, Benedict XVI had delivered a lecture at Subiaco on the condition of Europe. In his lucid analysis of the present time, he expressed himself, amongst other things, in these far-sighted words, which constitute a program for the new evangelizers: “What we need at this time of history are people, who, through a faith which is enlightened and lived out in practice, make God credible in this world … We need people who keep their gaze fixed upon God, learning from there what true humanity is. We need people whose intellect is enlightened by the light of God and whose hearts God may open up in such a way that their intellect may speak to the intellect of others and that their hearts may open the hearts of others. Only through people who are touched by God can God return to humanity.” Hence, the new evangelization starts from here: from the credibility of our living as believers and from the conviction that grace acts and transforms to the point of converting the heart. It is a journey which still finds Christians committed to it after two thousand years of history.

Within this context, it is worth recalling a story from the Middle Ages. A poet passed by some work being conducted and saw three workers busy at their work; they were stone cutters. He turned to the first and said: ‘What are you doing, my friend?’ This man, quite indifferently, replied: ‘I am cutting a stone’. He went a little further, saw the second and posed to him the same question, and this man replied, surprised: ‘I am involved in the building of a column’. A bit further ahead, the pilgrim saw the third and to this man also he put the same question; the response, full of enthusiasm, was: ‘I am building a cathedral’. The old meaning is not changed by the new work we are called to construct. There are various workers called into the vineyard of the Lord to bring about the new evangelization; all of them will have some reason to offer to explain their commitment. What I wish for and what I would like to hear is that, in response to the question: ‘What are you doing, my friend?’, each one would be able to reply: ‘I am building a cathedral’. Every believer who, faithful to his baptism, commits himself or herself with effort and with enthusiasm every day to give witness to their own faith offers their original and unique contribution to the construction of their great cathedral in the world of today. It is the Church of our Lord, Jesus, his body and his spouse, the people constantly on the way without ever becoming weary, which proclaims to all that Jesus is risen, has come back to life, and that all who believe in him will share in his own mystery of love, the dawn of a day which is always new and which will never fade.

~Archbishop Fisichella, of Sydney, Australia, Jesus at the Heart of the New Evangelization”

Among Women Podcast 147: Special Edition – Welcome to the Year of Faith

Welcome to the Year of Faith!

This episode of the Among Women podcast is a Special Edition in which I suggest resources for the Year of Faith, and direct you to the many links that are available for our enrichment during this year.

Read my blog post, “Welcome to the Year of Faith!” that is a veritable link-o-rama for good things to explore for the Year of Faith. I’m also going to keep it in the side bar for the coming year.