Skip to content

Talking everyday prayer, grief, friendship and more

I had a great time on today’s episode of A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras of Reconciled to You. We covered a lot of bases, including three of my seven books: Everyday Divine, Parenting a Grieving Child, and Walking Together. It was a smorgasbord of my writing with a lot of fun and serious conversation mixed in. Thank you, Allison, for being such a wonderful supporter of Catholic writers and of this Catholic writer in particular.

If you missed the show, you can catch up here. And if you go to Allison’s website, you can catch an entire week of shows devoted to my books — Everyday Divine on Tuesday, Parenting a Grieving Child on Wednesday, and Walking Together on Thursday. Here’s the show:


Start talking: Real communication in a virtual world

Put your hands up and step away from the screen. That’s the Cliff Notes version of Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day. Okay, I may be taking some liberties, but that’s definitely the general idea, and I couldn’t agree more, even if I am terribly addicted to all of my various screens.

The pope’s message and related comments from Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, are spot on, and I’m not just saying that because they affirm what I wrote in my book Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship or in numerous columns and articles on parenting, marriage, and life in general. Read more

Life in My 50s: Learning to risk a little, love a lot

My August Life Lines column, from the most recent issue of Catholic New York:

When I turned 50 last year, I had some vague notions of how I wanted to mark my half-century on earth. A lot of it had to do with visiting friends I haven’t seen in a while, reflecting on where I’ve been and where I’d like to go next, and getting right with God.

But now that I’m closing in on the end of my year, I find that the past few months have ushered in a time of my life that can best be described as “expansion.” Read more

Holy Trinity as model of spiritual friendship

On this Feast of the Holy Trinity, I thought I’d share this excerpt on the ways the Father-Son-Spirit model for us what spiritual friendship and right relationship are all about. This is from Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual FriendshipRead more

Real comfort food feeds the soul, not just the belly

Here’s a reader question that just came in, and I think it’s a good one, something we have to think about if we’re looking to break our food obsessions:

“I’m sure I need to read the book, but I’m wondering how to embrace the fact that food IS comfort on some level, we can’t really separate that from our experience with it. I love the image of Jesus cooking for the disciples on the seashore, when they had been out fishing all night. And in fact He gives HIMSELF to us as food! So it seems counter-intuitive to me to try to minimize the comfort aspect of our relationship with food in the quest for health, as people often do. How do you see this issue?” Read more

Knock, knock…

So the doorbell rings at 7:45 p.m. tonight and sitting on our front porch is a tiny little package from an undisclosed location in Mobile, Alabama. Addressed to me. I open it, and inside is the rooster you see here, with a pig on top of its head. Needless to say, I was somewhat freaked out, assuming some nut job had located me. Not that any of you are nut jobs. With all due respect. Read more

Join me for Theology on Tap tonight!

Attention all New York Capital Region readers:

I’ll be talking about spiritual friendship at Theology on Tap at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Jan. 19) at The Orchard Tavern on North Manning Boulevard in Albany. Please come by, grab a drink, and stay for the short talk and discussion.

The talk is based on my book Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship (Ave Maria Press, 2010).

See you at the Tavern…

An embarrassment of prayer riches

Okay, so here’s the deal. About a week ago, I was in a weird place. Due to a confluence of events, I found myself wondering — seriously — if perhaps I’d said all I had to say, in terms of my Catholic writing. I was thinking maybe it was time to hang it up. I actually suggested to Dennis that perhaps I would go over to Hewitt’s (our local gardening place) and see about a job there, as I have no other skills beyond writing, talking, writing, talking.

So, as I pondered all this and made Dennis absolutely crazy, I prayed. I asked God for some sort of sign that my writing wasn’t in vain, that I was supposed to keep going, that the people in my life aren’t just some figment of my imagination but really, truly have an interest in and care about my work and, well, in me as a person. I even emailed one friend asking for prayers and said that I wished God would write me a letter, spelling it all out in black and white so there would be no mistaking the message. That was last Wednesday and Thursday.

Fast forward to Friday. A letter arrived. From a religious sister I once worked with at my first job in the communications office of the Diocese of Metuchen. I haven’t seen or heard from this sister in about 25 years. She keeps up with my life through my Life Lines column, which runs her diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. Here’s a snippet of what Sister Michaelita wrote: “Your efforts to lead a prayerful life amidst all your responsibilities and the demands that are made upon your time have truly impressed and encouraged me.”

I “encouraged” her? I was somewhat stunned, but so happy to hear from this long, lost person from my past. I really didn’t think anything more of it, beyond deciding to send her a copy of Walking Together.

On Saturday, I opened the mailbox and found a card from a fellow Catholic blogger, someone known for her knack for personal note-writing, but, still. Today? Right now? Fran thanked me for all I do and for my life “as a sign of Christ.” Wow. The card included a quote from St. Francis de Sales (one of my all-time favorites) about entering into silence (one of my most recent quests). Perfect.

I still wasn’t catching on…

No mail Sunday, but then came Monday. Two, count ’em, two personal letters arrived. One was a note from my friend Maureen, which, among other things, offered encouragement as I embark on two big writing projects. The other was from Brother Christian, the Trappist monk I met on retreat last month. “See Jesus and Mary everywhere and adore their wills lovingly, and you will be a saint,” he wrote, in a handwritten card that also included a 1973 clipping about him and his monastic life and a page from a book on St. Therese.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received two email notes from spiritual friends I’d included in my book on friendship — one encouraging me in my work, the other offering prayers as he headed to a five-day hermit retreat where he would be in total silence and solitude.

Now I was getting suspicious. I had prayed for a sign, I had wished for a letter, and suddenly there were letters coming every day. And not just any letters. Letters that offered encouragement, prayers, friendship, inspiration. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by what God was doing for me in the most obvious and concrete ways. So often I whine about not knowing what God wants, never being truly sure if I’m doing His will or my own in disguise. This didn’t leave much room for doubt.

I thought that was the end of it, but Tuesday came along and the phone rang. I almost didn’t pick it up because I didn’t recognize the name, but I went ahead anyway. The woman on the other end had made a Cornerstone retreat with me several years ago, and we see each other once in a while after Mass. She’d never called my house before, so I wasn’t sure what she could possibly want or need.

She called, she said, to let me know how much she enjoys and appreciates my work. She apologized for not getting to a recent talk I gave at my parish and then stressed again the importance of my work. What are the odds? That call was really the icing on the cake. I felt humbled by the embarrassment of riches God was showering down on me. All I could do was say thank you and decide that maybe, just maybe, I am already doing what I’m meant to be doing, struggles and all.

All I can say is “thank you” — to God, for sure, but to all those people who, without even realizing it, gave me the answer I was desperately seeking. Not only the people who sent me letters or made phone calls, but all those friends who constantly but quietly support my work and encourage me on my spiritual journey. You are blessings in my life, each and every one of you.

From Hundred Acre Wood to Deathly Hallows

In the span of about five days, I saw the new Winnie the Pooh movie with my 6-year-old, the Broadway show Wicked with my 11-year-old, and Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the last Harry Potter film, with my 14-year-old. Those are some pretty disparate entertainment choices – the benefit of widely spaced children – but the funny thing is that they’re not really all that different when you strip away the smoke and mirrors. And honey pots.

Okay, Potter’s Lord Voldemort and Pooh Bear’s “Backson” aren’t quite in the same league, but the overarching themes of all three of these productions are the same: the power of love, the importance of friendship, the willingness to confront our worst fears, no matter how terrible, in order to do the right thing. As it turns out, whether you’re in the Hundred Acre Wood or the Forbidden Forest, life still comes down to choices — between darkness and light, good and evil.

As I sat in the theater with Chiara, who was just a few days shy of six, I soaked up her enthusiasm for the beloved Pooh characters as they bounced and rolled and waddled along, doing what they always do – getting confused, helping each other, searching for the one who can protect them from the scary stuff in life, Christopher Robin. And, for a little kid not yet old enough to know real evil, a colorful, horned, cartoon “Backson” can be just as scary as anything J.K. Rowling conjured up.

Even in Wicked, the awesome prequel to the Wizard of Oz, the story of the wicked witch turns out to be a story of friendship, trust betrayed and trust regained, and, of course, doing the right thing even when the right thing gets you exiled, or, worse, melted.

How often do we face choices that have the power to change the course of a life – our own, our children’s, a stranger’s. I’m not talking about life-or-death choices, although those sometimes come along as well. I’m talking about the little choices that can have a big impact: the words we use, the look on our face, the things we do in the course of our day–to-day lives. Do we choose light over darkness? Do we cast someone aside out of mistaken notions of who we think they are or ought to be? Do we let fear keep us from doing what we know is right even if it’s hard? Do we have friends to walk the journey with us? Do we constantly keep an eye out for the One who can comfort us, protect us, guide us onto the right path?

Some things are universal. Whether it’s a quaking Piglet fearfully going out into the unknown to save his friends trapped in a ditch or a stalwart Harry Potter unflinchingly preparing to sacrifice his own life to save his friends and his world, the stories come back around to the same lesson: We are called to walk this path with others, and to give of ourselves – maybe even all of ourselves – for those we care about. And even for those we don’t. Sounds a lot like the Gospel, doesn’t it, with some animation, great music and special effects to drive the point home. I don’t know if my kids got all that, but I sure did.