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A nice surprise in my inbox today

I love it when I open an email only to find an unexpected and wonderful surprise. That’s what happened today when I was sent the link to this review of “Walking Together” by Sarah Reinhard over at just another day of Catholic pondering. Thank you, Sarah.

Here’s what she had to say:

I remember, years ago, being shocked to silence when my boyfriend (who’s now my husband) told me that his best friend was his older brother. He said it so matter-of-factly, in such an “of COURSE he is” way.

I didn’t yet consider any of my siblings friends, and couldn’t quite picture what he meant. Now, many years later, I have a glimpse of it. I’ve become friends with some of my siblings and some of his.

It’s a wonderful thing, this siblings-as-friends experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’ve come to realize, over time, that I have quite a few different kinds of friends. There are friends who are with me for a season, friends who I know through social media, and friends who I have the joy of being related to. There are friends who are more like acquaintances and friends who are more like family.

One of my favorite recent reads, Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship, by Mary DeTurris Poust, which I received as a review copy, has made me consider another kind of friendship that’s essential: spiritual friendship.

And you know what? After reading this, I realized something wonderful: I have a spiritual friend! I do! (Actually, I think I may have more than one, but one came to mind right away.)

This book is a gem of wisdom and insight, especially in an age of digital isolation. We need true spiritual friends now more than ever, when information is instant and feedback is constant. We need to be able to tap into the holy and sacred in other people, and this book will guide you.

You might find yourself nodding and recognizing those spiritual friends who already exist in your life. You might, on the other hand, find yourself longing for a spiritual friend after reading Walking Together.

DeTurris Poust offers suggestions that will strengthen existing friendships and help you take them to the “next level” and perhaps transform what began as “BFF” into “BFF…eternally.” She taps into both the ancient stories of saints and current lives of living Catholics to build what I’ve come to think of as a manual for growing into a better Christian.

I highly recommend this book, whatever your state in life.

Now, go visit Sarah’s blog. She’s got lots of great stuff there. Click HERE.

Can men and women be friends?

I tackle the somewhat controversial subject of whether men and women can be “just friends” on this Christopher Closeup podcast with host Tony Rossi.

Some of you of a certain age may remember this pop culture debate from the “When Harry Met Sally” era, but what I’m talking about isn’t just friendship but spiritual friendship. The short answer is, yes, men and women can have purely platonic but deeply intimate spiritual friendships when they are grounded in God. Curious? Check out the podcast link below.

Click HERE and listen.

First review of 2011

This was a lovely way to start the new year. Thank you to Karen Edmisten for this review:

Walking Together : Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship, by Mary DeTurris Poust, was a Christmas present from Atticus. I read it yesterday and found it so touching and encouraging. If Mary DeTurris Poust did not have such a clear personal understanding of what a spiritual friendship is, she may not have been able to write such a lovely book about it. Interweaving accounts of saintly friendships with her own experiences (including a lovely tribute to her mother, who was also her dear friend), DeTurris Poust has written an uplifting book that will lead you — if you don’t already have such cherished soulmates — to seek out what she describes. Though Mary and I have connected briefly online professionally, Walking Together made me want to invite her over for coffee and get to know her much, much better.

Visit Karen’s wonderful blog and learn more about her books (one on Mary and one on the Rosary) by clicking HERE.

Tune in today for a discussion on friendship

I will be a guest on “In the Heartland with Bishop Pates” of Des Moines at 10 a.m. CT today. You can catch the show live online at, or listen on KWKY 1150 AM in Des Moines and KVSS 102.7 FM in Omaha.

Also, for those of you looking to buy my new book “Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship,” please let me know if you have trouble getting a copy. Word on the street is that smaller bookshops cannot get the books in stock because the larger distributors are back ordered. Folks in New York’s Capital Region should contact me directly and I will get you books in time for Christmas. Other folks can send an email and we can work something out by mail.

Or visit the usual spots, including Amazon, and, of course, my publisher, Ave Maria Press. (B&N and Borders are back ordered at the moment.) And, remember, if all else fails, please contact me directly for signed copies.

UPDATED: Just found out that my book tops the list of Christmas gift suggestions over at The Anchoress. Plus lots of other friends have books on the list. Check it out HERE.

Basking in the afterglow

The re-entry period after my retreat was not as smooth as I would have liked. After 26 hours of prayer and reflection, I was submerged back into the craziness of life with three kids. Within 12 hours of arriving home, I was yelling — in the immortal words of Frank Costanza of Seinfeld fame — SERENITY NOW! I started to wonder if there had been any point to my short retreat from the world.

Then Monday morning arrived and I sensed something different, a kind of peace that rarely feels within my grasp. Deadlines and obligations were pressing in from all sides but I felt blissfully unconcerned by all of it. I listened to the CD of retreat music that each of us was given. I played with Chiara and took her to the library. We made smoothies. I read to Olivia. I smiled.

When I drove through the grocery store parking lot, I let other drivers go ahead of me left and right. Even the snarly kids on skateboards, who always seem to make unsuccessful jumps just as my car approaches, didn’t faze me. Throughout the day, the different things we talked about and prayed about on retreat kept coming back to me. I thought of the one mom who said that she has a pillow on her bed with a Mother Teresa quote sewn into it: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”  Read more

Meeting my new sisters in faith

When I first signed up to attend the Women’s Cornerstone Retreat sponsored by my parish this weekend, I decided it would be a warm-up to a “real” retreat later in the year. I hadn’t been on a retreat since high school, so I thought Cornerstone would be a good way to get my feet wet and maybe connect with some women at the same time. What unfolded during the 26 hours I spent at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham, New York, however, was far beyond my wildest expectations, a gift and a blessing. For the first time since joining my large suburban parish seven years ago, I felt as though I had finally found the small faith community I had been searching for.

Something told me that this weekend was too important to miss. There were many reasons to cancel my retreat reservations, and I briefly considered doing just that, but something deep inside kept pushing me, making me feel as though I had to be at this particular retreat. Now, having met more than 40 other women — my new “Cornerstone Sisters” — I realize that I was, in fact, meant to be at this retreat at this moment in my life. It was amazing, powerful, inspiring, grace-filled, wonderful.

I was humbled and awe-struck by the deep faith and wisdom of the women on this retreat. Ranging in age from 30s to 80s, their obvious hunger to move deeper into their spiritual journey made me want to stand up and shout for joy. I have been struggling to find a way to move forward on my own faith journey despite the busyness and stress of everyday life, and here, right in my own backyard, were dozens of other women who wanted the very same thing.  Read more