Friday, June 29, 2012

Who are we fooling?

If I may use the term, one of our young adult Ruah Woods "groupies" sent me this song. She said she found it reminiscent of John Paul II's pre-papal play, "The Jeweler's Shop." How true! As I listened to it, I kept thinking of these lines:

 "I thought then about the wedding rings,
which we both, Stefan and I,
wore on our fingers.
One day, on the way back from work,
passing by the jeweler’s shop,
I thought I might as well
sell this ring of mine.
(Stefan probably would not have noticed –
I had almost ceased to exist for him .
Whether he was unfaithful to me I do not know,
since I took no interest in his life either.
He was indifferent to me.
I suppose after office hours he went to play cards,
and after drinking he would come home quite late,
without saying a word, or with some casual remark,
to which as a rule I replied with silence.)
So this time I decided to go in.

The jeweler examined the workmanship, weighed the
for a long time in his fingers and looked
into my eyes.  For a while he was reading
the date of our wedding
engraved inside the ring.
Again he looked into my eyes, put the ring on the
            scales …
then said, “This ring does not weigh anything,
the needle does not move from zero
and I cannot make it show
even a milligram.
Your husband must be alive –
in which case neither of your rings, taken separately,
will weigh anything – only both together will register.
My jeweler’s scales
have this peculiarity
but man’s entire being and fate .”
Ashamed, I took the ring back
and left the shop without a word
-- I think, though, that he followed me with his eyes.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Need prayer tools for the Fortnight for Freedom?

The USCCB has a page dedicated to prayer resources, including prayer cards, a Litany for Liberty, and daily reflections for this time of June 21-July 4.  You can find them here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quote book

"Necessary emphasis should be placed on the 'genius of women,' not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives.  For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation.  Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts.  They see them independently of various ideological or political systems.  They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them.  In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty -- not merely physical, but above all spiritual -- which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women." -- Bl. John Paul II 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"What Lay People are Looking for From Their Priests," Part V

Here is the final installment of my recent address to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  It is available in its entirety here.

5) We need you to live a life of service rooted in a life of prayer.

Lay people do not – or should not – expect you to be Superman, accomplishing all things at all times with all of your own powers. 

But what we do expect, hope for and pray for are priests who are always receiving from God in prayer.  Only out of the overflow of what you receive can you then give. 

This is closely linked with humility, a virtue that is so necessary for all of the rest.

Humility is also a virtue I have seen modeled quite beautifully by two priests in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the past few weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, Bishop Binzer spoke at Theology on Tap in Cincinnati.  At the conclusion of his talk, he looked at the crowd of young adults and said, “I’m here to serve.”  It was a simple sentence but a profound reality that we all knew was true – our bishop is here to serve.

Only a week or so before, I was present at the priestly ordination at the cathedral.  At the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Schnurr knelt on the floor and asked the new priests for their first blessing.  It was a moving moment that once again captured the reality: our archbishop is here to serve.


Archbishop Schnurr, Bishop Binzer, Fathers … perhaps this gets to the heart of the call of your priesthood, together with the laity of the Church: We are here to serve.

We are here to serve in different ways, in different capacities.  This does not water down the reality that you have been granted an incredible gift of sharing in the ordained priesthood of Christ.

One young woman, a college freshman, responded to my question of what lay people are looking for from their priests and summarized it quite nicely:

I know exactly [what] I want from my parish priest.  I want him to be Jesus.  […]  I want a priest that is authentically in Persona Christi.  On a pilgrimage […] I went to Confession.  I walked in and knelt down,  before beginning the priest just looked at me with complete purity and aw.  I quickly realized His eyes were not his own, but Christ's. My soul filling with joy and peace I soaked in the consoling love of the Father before I began confessing my sins.  Even now almost a year later in times of desolation I am still able to remember something as simple as the way he looked at me and saw the beauty of my soul.  This is the power of a priest who has surrendered all to the person of Christ.”

Yes, like this young person shared – lay people want and need you to be in Persona Christi.  We need you to reflect the love, sacrifice and selflessness of Christ to your parishes and ministries, loving your bride, the Church, always knowing that you are held securely in the Father’s arms.

Fathers, thank you for your lives of service.  Thank you for receiving the Lord’s call and continually saying “yes” to Him.  I pray that God abundantly blesses you as you continue to become more and more like Jesus Christ, giving your lives in service for the Church.

Thank you.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

"What Lay People Are Looking for from Their Priests," Part IV

More from my recent address at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati priestly convocation ...

4.     We need you to be present fathers.

We live with a crisis of fatherhood in our country today.  Many fathers are unknown or later disappear, or are present in the photo album but not at Tuesday night dinner, because the office has taken a greater priority than the family.

Priests are true fathers.  We need you to be fathers.  We need you to be present. 

In one month and a day, I am going to be married.  The priest who prepared Brad and I for marriage is in a religious order living in a different state.  He is a vocations director.  It just so happened that the time that we were most available to meet with him extensively was during April – a month that is filled with meetings, reference calls, psychological evaluations and other activities for a vocations director.  Yet, our priest met with us for an entire weekend, eager to see that we were well prepared for the Sacrament.

At the conclusion of our meetings, we asked if he was familiar with the Rite of Betrothal.  We knew very little about the rite ourselves, but we knew it existed and were interested in becoming “betrothed,” not just “engaged.”  He promised to look into it.

The next day, Father contacted me and asked if we would be available the following evening before my plane departed, for him to celebrate the Rite of Betrothal. 

We entered the chapel, where he spent the next hour, not only celebrating the Rite of Betrothal, but also a private Mass, with a homily and petitions prepared just for Brad and me. 

I cannot begin to tell you how touching it was that a priest who is particularly busy (and I know, all priests are always busy) would spend an hour on a Monday evening praying with one engaged couple and celebrating Mass  for us.  When he said, “This is the Lamb of God,” and held our Lord only inches away from our faces, I knew that Jesus really was loving me in the particular way in which He loves each of us.

This priest was a present father to us – spending hours over a weekend, sharing meals, taking the time to research a now-rare Rite in the Church and celebrating Mass for us.  Father is a vocation director, not a parish priest.  He had no obligation to lead our marriage preparation.  This was a priest whose fatherhood was evident in his interactions with us that weekend.  This was a priest who touched us both with his love of the human person as a unique and unrepeatable gift from God. 

It is rare for us to have a conversation with another person that is not interrupted by a text, a tweet, a facebook update, an e-mail, a cell phone alarm or a phone call.  It is rare to have the undivided attention of another whose eye contact, focus and engagement witnesses to the belief that each person is unique and unrepeatable.

In fact, a study in the United Kingdom last year found that on an average “night out,” adults spend 48 minutes on their smartphone.

It seems that a key component of the New Evangelization is “simply” to be present. 

Easier said than done, certainly, especially with the rigors of parish life.

But we need present fathers.

We need you to engage us in conversation, to remember our names, to ask us about our families, our schooling, our hobbies.

We need you to spend time with families during dinner.

We need you to have conversations without being distracted by non-urgent phone calls, e-mails and texts.

We need you to be interested simply because we have been entrusted to you as your sons and daughters in the faith. 

One of my high school students told me of a priest he knows who calls every one of his parishioners on their birthdays, taking an hour or two of his time each day, but it is a task that he finds important, and therefore finds the time necessary to execute. 

We need you to model fatherhood for men who are striving to be fathers to their families.  And we need you to model fatherhood to all those in your parishes, schools and communities who do not have a present father.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"What Lay People Are Looking for from Their Priests," Part III

The third installment of my recent talk to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati ...

3.     We need you to challenge us with the universal call to holiness.

One of my biggest linguistic pet peeves is when people ask the question, “Do you have a vocation?”  Of course, they mean, is the Lord calling you to the priesthood or to religious life?  But in reality every person has a vocation – first to love, to holiness, and then in a specified way to marriage, to priesthood or to consecrated life.

I wonder how many lay people actually know and understand this.  As lay people, we need to be challenged to live our lives radically united to Christ and His Church.  We need to be encouraged to give ourselves fully.  We need to be challenged to study our faith, to understand our faith, to grow in our faith.  We need to know that much is at stake for ourselves, for our families, for our society in our choice to surrender all to God and receive His call to holiness.  We need to receive ongoing support – challenging and loving support – in our journey with Christ.  We need to see the complementarity between the laity and the priesthood. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


It's still quite surreal to me that an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh that I prayed and counseled in front of for four years is closed.  Praise the Lord!  There are two abortion clinics within a block of each other that Franciscan University of Steubenville students pray in front of three times a week.  I've seen so many young women, sometimes with their mother or boyfriend, walk into those doors.  I wish they had closed years ago, or better yet, never opened.  

The history of the school's Students for Life program is that they prayed in front of a clinic in Steubenville until it closed, then a clinic in Youngstown until it was open only one day per week, and then nearly an hour away in Pittsburgh.  One more abortion clinic to go!!

Read why it closed here.  Let's keep praying for the flourishing of a culture of life.

"What Lay People Are Looking For From Their Priests," Part II

A continuation of my recent address to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati ...

2.     We need you to be dynamic about the faith and the Sacraments.

This point is similar to the first but deals more specifically with the 7 Sacraments of the Church, for which you have such a privileged role with each. 

What a treasure you have been given to baptize children, offer the Mass, stand in the Person of Christ to forgive sins, confirm young adults in the faith, witness the vows of couples who enter the Sacrament of marriage, anoint those who are ill or facing surgery.  And all of this is possible because of your own baptism, your own First Communion and moments of Reconciliation, and the laying on of hands by the bishop to ordain you a priest.

Our Sacramental life is a beautiful reality, and one which we should celebrate.

It seems a great irony that the parishes that offer Confession multiple times per week have long lines of penitents waiting to receive the Sacrament, while the parishes that limit Reconciliation to half an hour before Saturday vigil Mass are the ones with an empty confessional. 

Why is that?  We show the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we give it time, prominence and frequent mention.  When the laity know the gift they have been given, they are more likely to want to receive it.

This is simply one example.  But if you are dynamically passionate about the gift of the Sacraments, the laity will grow to understand what a gift has been entrusted to them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"What Lay People Are Looking For From Their Priests" -- Part I

A couple of weeks ago I had the incredible honor of speaking to the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati during their convocation.  Since they have posted my talk online, I thought I would share it here as well.  I'll divide it into five installments because of the length.  

It is a tremendous honor to have been asked to speak to you today.  Before beginning, I would like to thank you for your life of service, your constant gift of self, your willingness to shepherd, to sacrifice, to offer the laity Christ’s invitation to live in communion with the Catholic Church.  It has been an incredible blessing to be a Catholic since my baptism at 4 months of age, and I am indebted to all of the priests who have witnessed the Lord’s love to me in so many capacities. 

The title given for this presentation, “What Lay People Are Looking For From Their Priests,” is an interesting one.  I expect many of you would like to address your parishes with a similar topic, “What Priests Are Looking For From Their Lay People.”  Certainly, my aim this morning is not to “tell you what to do,” but to share my experiences as a young Catholic woman – as well as the words shared with me in my conversations with many other lay people –  to encourage you and gently challenge you to live to the fullness the gift of your priesthood.  These words can be divided into five main objectives.

1.     We want you to challenge us.

In our current culture, we are often under the illusion that the best way to attract people is to take away all difficulties, and instead to increase every possible comfort. 

In reality, we want to be challenged.  People can find mediocrity anywhere.  They cannot find an authentic challenge very many places.

But one place where we should be able to find a consistent, authentic challenge rooted in truth is in the Catholic Church.

We know that when we are challenged, we are loved.  The bar is not set high for those we do not care about.  We only hold to a high standard those we believe are capable and “worth” being called to something more.  And so, a challenge is attractive.  In some ways, it is a compliment. 

There are many opportunities to shy away from challenge – lovingly holding a high standard for parents who seek baptism for their children; speaking directly to engaged couples about the three C’s – chastity, cohabitation and contraception; expressing the importance of attending Sunday Mass every week; encouraging parents to live their role as the primary educators for the faith …  The list could go on and on. 

These situations may be difficult, but we need you to present the truth in love.  We need you to speak boldly.  We need you to love the Church so strongly that you are able to present the faith with all of the radicality it deserves – as something worth staking our lives upon in response to the radical love of Christ.  Nothing less than precious souls are at stake. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s words resonate here: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Tale of Two Families

Normally I wouldn't post Hollywood gossip stories, but this account of Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu's "secret sister" is worth watching. It depicts a reminder that we are not God and can't determine happiness or worth by external realities. And it's a reminder of the beauty of selflessness and sacrifice, especially within the family.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An interesting take on marriage

I found this article, "Marriage is for Losers" to be quite interesting.  Dr. Kelly Flanagan explains his outlook:

But there is a third kind of marriage. The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all—themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other.  These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

It's an interesting take on marriage as self-sacrifice, and one that is worth reading in entirety.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

What kind of obligation is it?

Campus minister extraordinaire, Kristen Rainey, takes on the topic of Sunday Mass obligation in a recent blog post.  

It was during this time that I started to appreciate and understand the beauty of the Mass. I started seeing the Mass not as an obligation of boring rules, but as an obligation of happiness.  If I want to be truly happy, I need the Mass.  Why?  Because I was made to love and be loved - that is my purpose, and yours, as a human being made in God's image.  And the Mass is where the greatest exchange of love between God and humanity is made present to each of us personally and communally.  God who is Love itself and who loves you perfectly comes to prove his love for you and beseeches you to love him back because your heart was made for nothing less. 

Kristen's reflections include an inspiring story of a 16 year old girl who chose not to  attend the American Legion Girls' State event in Florida because they would not allow her to leave to attend Mass across the street. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Encounters with Bl. John Paul II

A former Swiss Guard recently shared his encounters with Bl. John Paul II, as well as the ways in which his faith was strengthened while serving in the Vatican.  You can read his reflections here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


A few years ago I gave a week-long lecture series in a small town in northern Italy.  The sessions took hours, between time for translation and many, many questions.  One particular evening, someone inquired as to a patron saint for finding one's spouse.  While St. Raphael is considered one patron, I also mentioned that St. Anthony of Padua is a patron for women waiting for a husband.  This hit home for the attendees because Padua was a short drive away.

One young man -- single -- pulled a holy card of St. Anthony out of his shirt pocket and said in a slow, mildly creepy voice, "Antonio!"

And for the rest of the week, whenever I talked about marriage or was asked about dating or discernment, "Antonio" would reappear.

Today is the feast of said, "Antonio."  It's a great day to say a prayer for one's future vocation, and to ask the patron of lost items to help us to find where the Lord is calling us.

Happy feast day! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TOB for Teens essay winner

I'm proud to know the female grand prize winner of the Ascension Press TOB for Teens high school essay competition, Anna Vandegrift.  Anna wrote a wonderful essay, which you can read here.  Here's a start:

Last summer, Anna was part of the Called to be More vocations pilgrimage walk.  This summer, she is sharing a beautiful vision of femininity with the world.  

       “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). In this verse I have found the key to understanding our sexuality. Because men and women were created to become togetherthe image of our Divine Maker, we have desires written in the depths of our hearts, desires which reflect our vocation to love authentically. Moreover, they reflect how, as men and women, we are called to fulfill this vocation in different ways. Men desire challenge and adventure. They desire to pursue, protect, and defend. These desires reflect how men are called as husbands and fathers to love, protect, and defend their wives and families. We as women, on the other hand, possess a caring and nurturing nature. Furthermore, because, as the crown of God’s creation, we are a beautiful mystery and treasure, we desire to be sought and loved. These desires reflect our call as wives and mothers to love and care for our families as well as to receive the love of our husbands by allowing them to pursue, protect, and defend us.

Congratulations, Anna! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eucharistic Movie Moments

Happy Solemnity of Corpus Christi!  Tom Hoopes celebrates with a list of the top 10 "Eucharistic Movie Moments."  His #3, "The Mission," was the first one I thought of.  Take a look at the list here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Imagine beautiful films about the saints

This looks incredible! First, have a look.                                                                                                                                

Now, why is this so important?  One of my communications professors at Franciscan University used to say, "Excellence in artistry, excellence in faith."  Many of our Catholic media presentations do well with the faith, but not with the excellency.  These films look stunning and beautiful and realistic.  We need to see our saints portrayed in this way.  I think this is the why the designers have an all-or-nothing approach.  

There are only 14 more days remaining in this fundraising drive.  Spread the word!  Read more here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"My Peace I Give You"

Dawn Eden's new book, "My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints" keeps popping up all over the place.  I just came across this interview with Dawn about her latest project, which deals especially with the pain of childhood sexual abuse.

OSV: You say that “past pain is an integral part of present joy,” which may be difficult for some people to accept. What is the significance of learning to integrate painful memories? 
Eden: Sorrow in itself isn’t joyful. We need to be clear on that, because atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens have accused the Church of being in love with suffering. But, having experienced pain, we have to believe that we are yet capable of experiencing joy. And when we do experience joy, that past pain is part of it somehow, because it remains part of us. 
We are, in some sense, the product of our experiences. What happened to me in the past remains part of me, whether or not I can consciously remember it, because its effects led to the formation of my present identity. So I have to find a way to come to terms with past pain, if my present life is to have meaning. And the beautiful thing for us, as Catholics, is that the Eucharist shows us the way. The resurrected Christ comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament bearing the wounds he suffered on the cross — only those wounds are now glorified. God could have saved us however he wished, but he chose to save us through suffering… 

Dawn Eden will be speaking in the Cincinnati area next month, and I'll be sure to share more details.  Her book (and talk) are relevant for those who have been sexually abused or who have experienced past trauma, as well as those involved in various ministries, or who have friends or family members who have experienced the tragedy of abuse.  Quite unfortunately, in today's climate, this means it is a book that could be interesting and helpful for just about anyone.    

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"What did you do this weekend?" -- "I got betrothed."

It's the title of my latest post for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's blog, "Being Catholic."

Due to my friends, education and career choices over the years, I am well informed on the odd facts and trivia of our Catholic faith.  St. Drogo is the patron of unattractive people.  St. Catherine of Siena’s tomb in Rome is opened on her feast day every year for people to kneel inside and touch what encases her.  St. Vincent Ferrer’s finger, which he used to point during his preaching, is in a reliquary at the parish named for him in New York City.
 Some of this knowledge is mostly for fun, while other facts of our Church’s wealth of tradition, customs and practices enrich a life in the faith.
When my fiancĂ© and I became engaged in November, we both began discussing the possibility of the Rite of Betrothal.  Having friends who had requested this rite before, I knew of its existence, but neither of us knew what it entailed.
The priest who coordinated our marriage preparation was unfamiliar with betrothal, but after we inquired about it, he did some research and within hours was setting up a time for the next day to begin our betrothal.
As my fiancĂ© and I walked into the large seminary building in another city one April evening, a religious brother met us in the hallway and welcomed us into a small chapel.  Father was waiting for us, having already prepared the chapel for the event – moving two portable kneelers to the front and readying for Mass.

Read the rest here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

World Congress of Families

We took an unexpected blogging hiatus for a few days, and in that time perhaps you have heard the news -- the World Congress of Families will be in Philadelphia in 2015!!  This is wonderful news, as it includes the usual appearance of the Holy Father.  Certainly, our own country is in need of a renewal of family life, and we can only hope that a time dedicated to time and restoration of the family life within our 50 states will rejuvenate a culture of marriage and family here and in the entire world.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Imagine Sisters Movement

Bad Catholic shared this awesome video the other day, and it's worth posting here too. What a beautiful opportunity for young Catholics to catch a glimpse of the joy and peace of religious vocations.