It’s hard for me to believe, but it was 15 years ago today — on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists — that I launched this blog. (You can read my original blog post from this date in 2008 HERE.) So, happy anniversary me! And thank you to all of you who have followed me over the years and who continue to show up here again and again. I am forever grateful. It’s been an amazing journey, and, as you can see, what started as a little blog has grown into a much larger website and endeavor. It’s been a labor of love, one I plan to continue for as many years as I’m able.
When I first launched Not Strictly Spiritual, I did so with a favorite prayer by St. Francis de Sales, whose writings are remarkably relevant to our world today despite his being a 17th century bishop. I used to have this prayer hanging on my bathroom mirror so it was the first thing I would see when I began my day:
Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering,
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.
— St. Francis de Sales
So much has happened over these past 15 years, much of incredibly wonderful, some of it painfully awful. And yet through it all we carry on, trusting the path, trusting our story as it unfolds, trusting that God will carry us, enfold us, shield us, care for us.
As I look out toward the next leg of this journey, I can tell you that I hope to get back to my Life Lines podcast and make that more regular/frequent. I will continue posting my monthly Life Lines column, which runs in The Evangelist, and I will post other spiritual writing as I am able. You’ll also be able to find my upcoming events, which includes four weekend retreats in 2023 (one in the Capital Region, one in Syracuse, one in the Adirondacks, and one in Maryland), plus some single-day events here and there. I’ll be adding more as they are scheduled, so continue to check back on the Events tab at the top of the home page to see what’s coming up. I hope I see you along the way.
Thank you again for joining me in this space and in my Tribe. If you haven’t signed up for the Tribe, which includes receiving an occasional email newsletter from me, you can do so at the Join the Tribe button in the top right corner of this page.
Peace, Love, Blessings, and Every Good Thing,
O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,
Mother of the living,
to you do we entrust the cause of life.
Look down, O Mother,
upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born,
of the poor whose lives are made difficult,
of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,
of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.
Grant that all who believe in your Son
may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.
Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new,
the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives
and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely,
in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love,
to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.
—St. John Paul II
It’s hard to look around at our world and not think we have lost all sense of the sacredness of life. From unborn babies who never get to take a first breath, to people fleeing the indiscriminate bombing of their homeland, to students and concertgoers and restaurant deliverymen gunned down in the street, to elderly people abandoned in nursing homes to die a slow and lonely death.
As much as these stories garner the headlines in the media and perhaps in our own hearts and minds, the reality is that when we widen our view, seeking out beauty even amid the horrors, we begin to notice the small and loving actions taking place around us every day. These mundane miracles remind us that, although we cannot change the world on a grand scale, we can change our world day by day through the power of the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed and that we strive to follow.
Always, everywhere, every day, we are challenged to come back to love, even when it would be easier to hate. We are called to live our lives not to the rhythm of the mob (be it on social media or in the street) but to the steady beat of a heart that knows the only way to piece together this broken but beautiful world is through constant love in the face of sorrow and hatred, anger and violence. Our Blessed Mother did just that. From the moment of the Annunciation, she set her life to the beat of the most sacred rhythm. She trusted and loved; loved and trusted.
And so we entrust ourselves and the cause of life to her today, knowing that our sorrowful mother will give us the courage and strength to keep love always before us, even amid heartbreak and injustice. Dorothy Day, who saw how love could spring up amid brokenness and suffering, taught this truth: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”
This month as we pray for life, let us take a hard-but-tender look at our own hearts and see where God is calling us to an interior revolution that will ripple ever outward to help change our world.
Mary DeTurris Poust, “A Prayer for Life,” from the January 2023 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2023). Used with permission.
Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash
Most of the world moved on from Christmas as soon as the presents were opened and the dinner consumed, but we Catholics savor the season, soaking up every last bit of goodness right through the Feast of the Epiphany and finally the Baptism of the Lord. As we bring the Christmas season to a close, we leapfrog from Jesus in a manger, held by his young mother, to Jesus in a river, beheld by his heavenly Father. It can be a little disorientating as we navigate the spiritual time travel from Jesus’ infancy to the beginning of his ministry before we re-enter Ordinary Time and await the Lenten season only six weeks away.
As we settle into our non-holiday routines, our churches devoid of poinsettias and manger scenes and our homes swept clean of pine needles and tinsel, it would be easy to fall back into spiritual lives stripped of the extra prayer time and devotion we mustered during Advent and Christmas. So often, when these special liturgical seasons end, we take it as a signal that our spiritual life can shift to the back burner for a bit. But Ordinary Time is really the perfect time to use our ordinary and everyday lives to dig deeper into the extraordinary and transcendent gifts always at our disposal. In the post-Christmas season before us, can we look at our mundane tasks and challenges and recognize that Jesus and the Holy Family faced much of the same during the period of his life not narrated by Scripture, the period that probably looked like an ancient version of our contemporary lives?
After all, Mary and Joseph had to face many of the same struggles new parents face, on top of the frightening realities heaped upon them as parents of the Savior. They had to feed and change the infant Jesus, hoping he would take a nap or sleep through the night. They had to teach him to dress himself and say his prayers, take him to temple and tend to him when he was ill or hurt. Joseph worked and taught Jesus a trade; Mary cooked and cleaned and helped raise her son in the Jewish faith. I’m sure there were many days when they wondered how bringing up the Son of God could be so ordinary.
But that is the miracle and gift of the Incarnation. God comes among us as one of us and experiences life in all its messy, glorious, challenging reality. When something in our life upends everything and makes us wonder how we’ll get through, we can turn to a God who has been where we are. It’s incredibly comforting and confounding all at once. We look up to a God who is almighty, as we should, but we can never forget that our God was also one of us, making our entire faith a celebration of the extraordinary that always exists alongside the ordinary.
Ordinary Time gets its name from the numbered — “ordinal” — Sundays and not for its lack of pizazz. While it is not one of the notable liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter), it is still important. In fact, it offers us its own endearing challenge: recognizing the majesty amid the mundane, the divine amid the everyday.
Here’s how the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes this season: “The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time… take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is a time for growth and maturation.”
What does that mean for us? How might we grow and mature in faith in the weeks between the end of Christmas and the start of Lent? As we approach the First Sunday in Ordinary Time on Jan. 15, can we make a plan to seek God not amid twinkling lights or the barren desert but right where we are today, no matter how ordinary?
Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash