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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

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

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

McCarrick scandal proves to be a tipping point #timesup #reformthechurch #whoknew

Typically, I post my monthly Life Lines columns here without comment, but there is nothing typical about this column. I wrote it in the wake of the McCarrick abuse revelations. Running up against my deadline — as usual — I knew this one probably needed to be seen by a few extra eyes before it appeared in Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. I am grateful for the encouragement I received to say what I needed to say, even if it is uncomfortable for some. Here it is:

“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord…You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” (Jer 23:1-2) Read more

Shoes tell a story. A love story.

If eyes are the windows to the soul, I think feet may be the doorway to all understanding. That revelation came to me recently when I was in the front pew of my parish church in upstate New York. I was kneeling after Communion and didn’t want to look toward the altar as I prayed because doing so would have felt intrusive to those receiving Communion just a few feet away. So, I looked down at the floor in front of me. Read more

Appreciating the masterpiece that is your life

When we returned from a weeklong family trip to Rome, several friends asked me to name the one monumental moment from the trip, the standout thing that made the visit.

Was it seeing our son, Noah, for the first time since he had left months before to study abroad?

Was it bringing our entire family to the pope’s Easter Mass?

Was it taking Olivia and Chiara to view Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel? Read more

What kind of cage have you built for yourself?

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter, Olivia, to see a production of “Les Miserables” in a beautiful old theater not far from our home. The show had been a favorite of mine back in the 1980s, when I worked in Manhattan and had the chance to see it twice on Broadway, so I was excited to share the experience with Olivia, who has a bit of the Broadway bug. Read more

Seeking Easter hope amid Lenten sorrow

I stood in the upstairs hallway of our home recently, hugging my 12-year-old daughter, who was finally expressing outwardly the fears that must have been churning inside her for a day or so in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. I held her and told her that it was okay to feel sad and scared. I wished I could tell her this was something she didn’t need to fear, but I knew that would be a lie, so I told her, “You’re safe here with us tonight.” Because the truth is I cannot promise her that she will be safe in her school or at the mall or at a concert. Those days are gone, and it stuns me to admit that horrifying fact. Read more