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Be still: surrender over striving

When I signed onto Facebook this week, I found a private message from someone who told me that a Life Lines column I had written about surrender eight years ago had been instrumental in helping her “let go and let God” in the midst of her struggle back then, and again even now as she faced new challenges. I have to admit that not only was I humbled, but I went to my own website and tried to find what words I might have written that had made such an impact, because, Lord knows, I could use some advice on how to surrender.

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‘The Chosen’: TV series as prayer

As a child of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I grew up with my share of interesting entertainment options when it came to exploring the life of Jesus. I performed songs from “Godspell” with the folk group at St. Aedan’s parish in Pearl River. I saw Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway with my parish CYO friends. I was a devoted fan of the annual airing of the multi-part TV series “Jesus of Nazareth,” so much so that I later owned my own copy of that series so I could watch it every Lent. So, when I started hearing about a new Jesus series called “The Chosen,” I didn’t pay much attention. What could this latest take on Jesus’ life have to say that all the other shows and movies hadn’t already said through drama, song and sometimes straight up kitsch?

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Confessions of a rosary convert

Rosary-challenged. That’s how I’ve described myself for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong. I have more sets of rosary beads than I can count, tucked away in my nightstand and desk drawers, in multiple purses and hanging on my bedpost. When I’m in a panic, the Rosary spills from my lips without warning. I once embarrassed my daughters by reciting the Rosary at full volume on a crowded plane to Rome when we hit a scary patch of turbulence. I reserve the right, as a Catholic girl named Mary, to call on the Rosary at will, even if the prayer is not in my regular repertoire.

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The journey is the goal

Last week I was working out in a corner of our backyard where I decided to create a meditation garden. The area, which had once been home to a swing set, had become overrun with weeds and was, for the most part, lost space. I came up with the idea for the garden last year when pandemic gave me ample opportunity to work outside.

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The rules we live by

As we round the corner on pandemic and see a faint light at the end of our long Covid tunnel, I’ve found myself stuck—physically, due to some minor injuries and illnesses; mentally, due to months of near-isolation coupled with the long upstate New York winter; spiritually, due to an inability or unwillingness to simply sit with God or at least go through the motions of prayer and hope something sticks.

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Getting past the ‘veil’ of judgment

One of the great joys—and occasional challenges—of being a writer is getting letters from readers via email, social media and even snail mail. Those messages often lift my spirits and encourage me to carry on with my writing when everything else tells me it’s time to pack it in. No matter how often I hear from readers, it is always an unexpected gift when I open up my computer and see a note from a stranger who was touched in some way by something I wrote.

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Remembering the Sisters who guided me on my path

The editor of the Albany diocesan newspaper came into my office recently and asked if I wanted to share a memory of an experience with a religious sister for National Catholic Sisters Week in March. My knee-jerk reaction was, “I don’t have any memories of religious sisters.” Not having gone to Catholic school, religious sisters were not part of my childhood. But then my mind jumped forward a few years and I said, “Wait. I do have a story.”

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Lent: Are you willing to be surprised by God?

Flannery O’Connor, the American Catholic southern gothic writer, once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

That line has always resonated with me, but never more so than when I sit down to write reflections on Scripture readings, verses that can feel so familiar there seems nothing new to uncover. My latest book of reflections, Not by Bread Alone 2021: Daily Reflections for Lent (Liturgical Press), is my third book of Lenten meditations and prayers, and so the challenge is real — but realer still is the truth that lives within Scripture. Old passages can speak new hope to us at any particular moment of our lives if we are willing to open ourselves up to the work and words of the Spirit. Even the familiarity of Lent itself can turn a season of growth into a rote spiritual exercise if we are not prepared to be surprised by God, sometimes in uncomfortable ways.

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You Can’t Fail Lent

The column originally ran on Huffington Post in 2015, but it’s a favorite so here it is one more time, just in time:

Lent is one of those seasons that always begins with the best of intentions and rapidly goes downhill, at least that’s how it usually plays out for me. I plan to pray more, eat less, and find creative ways to make my favorite time in the Church year more meaningful. Unfortunately, the ashes hardly have time to settle into the wrinkles on my forehead before I’m feeling like I’ve already failed.

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You’ve always had the power, my dear, even without the ruby slippers. Time to use it.

With 2020 in our rearview mirror, most of us are hoping for a new year that looks nothing like the old year. As we struggled through past 10 months of pandemic, with one hit after another leaving us hanging on the ropes now and then, we set our eyes on the day when the clock would strike midnight, the calendar would flip, and we would have the chance to level the playing field.

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