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Standing in the desert side by side

Although we’re only one week into our Lenten journey, it feels like we’ve been in this desert for months. At least that’s how it feels to me. Last summer’s revelations about Theodore McCarrick—the now-defrocked cardinal who was also my first bishop-boss and the auxiliary bishop who confirmed my sister as I stood by as her sponsor—sparked renewed anger and disillusionment with our Church. What unfolded next, and continues to unfold day after day as new abuses are revealed like dominoes falling in a never-ending downward spiral, has left many of us bereft, wondering how we continue forward when the ground we once walked on with certainty and trust has become roiling quicksand ready to devour us in one fell swoop.

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Looking for a Lenten guide? Here you go!

Are you looking for a spiritual guide to be your companion through Lent? Look no further. There’s still time to order my latest book of reflections, Not by Bread Alone: Daily Reflections for Lent 2019, from Liturgical Press.

These are not your average Scripture reflections. Wherever I am in my spiritual life at the time I’m writing, that’s what you’ll get. Titles such as “A Spiritual Tattoo,” “Grit and Grace,” Code Blue” and “The Space Between.” Think less heady, more real. In other words, I don’t write like a theologian but like the person who sits next to you in the pew.

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Give marriage the place of importance it deserves

On any given day, you’ll find me and Dennis running the gauntlet of modern family life. If you live it, you know it—or at least your own version of it. Early to rise, lunches to make, school forms to sign, commutes to drive, work to do, more work to do, gymnastic meets to attend, and what’s for dinner again? Read more

Seeking light in winter’s darkness

One of my favorite things about this season of seemingly ever-present physical darkness is the occasional pocket or flash of light. Not just the leftover twinkling Christmas decorations, although that helps, but the “mundane” glimmers that, to put it in artistic terms, create everyday versions of the on-canvas beauty created by artists like Caravaggio through the use of “chiaroscuro”—a technique that contrasts deep darkness and brilliant-but-concentrated light in dramatic fashion. Read more

Fail again, fail better

A willingness to be vulnerable in front of other people is probably one of my best qualities. I know that sounds like a self-deprecating put-down, and for the longest time—most of my life—I would have agreed with you. In a world where the get-ahead motto tends to be, “Never let them see you sweat,” I have always been someone who is inclined to let people in on my weak spots. I tend to share more than self-preservation might recommend, to take personal or professional risks that might seem risky and to let others know, when they are broken or discouraged or doubting, that I’ve been there or worse, sharing the story of some fiasco that is sure to make them feel better about themselves and maybe even give them a laugh. Read more

Soul Seeing: Light, Love, Forgiveness

A few years ago, I was asked to write an essay for the Soul Seeing column that appears regularly in the National Catholic Reporter. That essay turned into a moment for me. What started as an assignment, became a journey, as is so often the case. The essay I turned in back in 2014 was the first in which I explored in writing my lifelong habit of collecting broken sea shells and looked at it from a spiritual perspective. That original essay grew into more writings on the topic and, eventually, into a retreat day I offer: “Broken, Beautiful, and Beloved: Learning to See Ourselves through God’s Eyes.”

Now my original essay is part of this wonderful collection from Orbis Books. I am so honored to have my writing included alongside that of spiritual writers such as James Martin, Richard Rohr, Joyce Rupp, Brian Doyle, and so many others. A special word of thanks to Mike Leach, publisher emeritus of Orbis Books and creator of Soul Seeing, for asking me to write that first essay and for inviting me to be part of this book. It’s a lovely collection, something that would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who’s traveling the spiritual path and looking for a little nourishment along the way.

You can order Soul Seeing directly from Orbis Books or Amazon. You’ll find me on page 179 under the title “Brokenness Lets Us See Where True Beauty Lies.”

And after this, our exile…

Although I have had a lifelong struggle with the Rosary—I’ve always considered myself Rosary-challenged—I started praying this prayer more frequently of late, thanks to the encouragement of Pope Francis. A driving motivation for me in finishing five decades of the Rosary is the chance to end with the Salve, Regina, also known as the Hail, Holy Queen.

I first fell in love with this prayer when I was on retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee near Rochester and listened in awe as the Trappist monks chanted Salve, Regina in the darkened chapel as they faced an icon of Mary with the Christ Child, illuminated by a single candle. Haunting and beautiful, powerful and poetic, this is a prayer I will add onto the end of a silent meditation session, or say whenever I need a random dose of Mary and her intercession. Read more

Hail to the Morning

Hail to the Morning

There will be something,
anguish or elation,
that is peculiar to this day alone.
I rise from sleep and say:
Hail to the morning!
Come down to me, my beautiful unknown.*     —Jessica Powers

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There’s beauty even in the fading…

I stood in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express in Syracuse one recent Saturday morning before dawn, fumbling with my car keys and coffee cup and thinking about the long drive and long day ahead. I wasn’t headed home but instead to a Eucharistic Congress hosted by the Diocese of Albany at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, where more than 4,000 pilgrims would converge on the sacred ground of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the North American martyrs. Read more

Looking for truth at the bottom of the abyss

I didn’t want to go Mass this weekend. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not go to Mass last weekend. I could not. The current scandal and apparent cover-up in our Church had left me numb, spiritually paralyzed. Actually, it had left me professionally numb as well, given the fact that I have devoted most of the past 34 years of my professional life working on behalf of the Church. There was no way I could sit and stand and kneel and sing, worshipping as though life as we knew it could go on as usual. Read more