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Fierce and Fearless at 57

“I’ve done my best work, really, my most important work, from the ages of maybe 57 to now.” That quote is from the poetic writer and musician Patti Smith, 72, in a recent interview with the New York Times.

That quote struck a chord and affirmed what I’ve been feeling as I head into this new stage of life. I turned 57 yesterday, and I can tell you that I believe, God willing, I will be able to say the same as Patti when I reach 72. I believe my most important work is ahead of me. I am talking about in addition to THE most important work of mother and wife, which would be enough if that was my only work in this life.

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Merton in the Mountains: A Silent Retreat

First we’ll get to the details, then the back story. I have stepped in to lead the 26th annual Merton in the Mountains silent retreat at Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, N.Y. — in the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains — Friday to Sunday, Sept. 6 to 8. There are still open spots for this weekend opportunity to step away from the busyness of everyday life and unplug, be still and just listen. As if that’s not enough, we’ll have talks, moving meditations, mindful meals, and the chance (weather permitting) to hike, kayak, or just kick back in an Adirondack chair on one of the many decks and soak in the silence and the boundless natural beauty. It’s only $130, all inclusive (program, accommodations, meals.)

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Life — the daring adventure

When I was working as a reporter for Catholic New York back in the 1980s, I had one of those quote-of-the-day calendars on the desk in my cubicle overlooking Manhattan. All these years later, after multiple cross-country moves, one of those calendar pages remains with me. It was a Helen Keller quote from March 28, 1988, only two weeks before my mother would die at 47 years old in our family room: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

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Build community, start small

I went back to yoga class last month after a long break. Day by day, as I returned to my mat in a room surrounded by people— mostly strangers—of all ages, shapes and sizes, I felt the comfort and love of that community starting to envelop me. It wasn’t by accident that this yoga school has a welcoming feeling; the strengthening of connections, the building of relationships is done with intention.

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The world needs beauty

I was lucky enough to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris about one year ago, when I went to the City of Lights with my daughter, Olivia, on a mother-daughter trip. We stood in the highest towers and looked at the city fanning out below us. We listened as people below erupted in a chorus of cheers when France scored its first goal in the World Cup. We stood beside the great bell and behind the hulking gargoyles. It was a dream come true. Then we watched in horror April 15 when the gorgeous cathedral burned out of control.

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God Alone

For those of you who, like me, may be struggling in our Church these day, I thought I would share my Give Us This Day reflection from two weeks ago.

I don’t know why it always surprises me when I open up the daily Scriptures and find a reading that speaks right to my heart, as though God placed it there just for me. And so it was that at a time when I was struggling with some of the more human elements of Church, the underbelly of faith, I came to today’s reading from Acts. “We must obey God rather than men,” the apostles remind us, even as they faced persecution for “the sake of the name.” While we may not have to deal with direct persecution in our daily lives, we often face revelations and realizations that can be as dangerous to our spiritual lives as the Sanhedrin’s threats were to the apostles’ physical lives. Despair and doubt, if allowed to fester, are destructive forces to be sure.

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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