Listening to the news is downright depressing. War, gun violence, partisan bickering — it’s enough to make you lose your faith in humanity.
That’s why feel good stories are so important. And I don’t mean sappy soap-opera TV specials; I’m talking about real people doing real things to care for others. Reading about these people is like exhaling. It’s like a shot of sunlight to the soul.
A few weeks back, I read a powerful story in Maryknoll magazine: Detaining God’s Children. It’s about a couple in a parish in El Paso, Texas, who started a ministry to help undocumented children who are found crossing the desert alone. These children often have lost their parents, or are trying to find them after years of separation. Many are exploited by coyotes, the human smugglers who are paid to take them across to the border. When these children are picked up by Border Patrol, they are placed in detention camps, and this is where Norma and Rolando Lujan realized that they could do something to help. The story of their ministry is very worth a read. They are such a moving example of seeing a human need and addressing it, giving comfort to a vulnerable group of children who are often ignored completely.
Mike Leach is a Catholic writer and editor who writes the Soul Seeing column for National Catholic Reporter. His most recent article, called “In Alzheimer’s, there is only the present” made me cry (in a good way). Mike’s wife Vickie has Alzheimer’s, and Mike writes so beautifully about the experience of caring for a beloved spouse even when she no longer remembers large parts of their shared life (and sometimes doesn’t even remember who he is). Even if you don’t know anyone affected by the disease, Mike’s article is a powerful testament to patience, and grace, and love that endures. I am a better person simply for having read it.
When I was a kid, my best friend did not believe all the things that I believed. She belonged to a different faith … and my childhood was all the richer because of it.
I expand on this in my latest article, “Friends of Different Faiths.” Here’s an excerpt:
These days, as an adult who has been on her own journey out of and then back into Catholicism, I’ve been greatly enriched by interactions with people of other faiths. My friends these days come from many different belief systems: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, agnosticism. I don’t choose friends on the basis of their faith, one way or another, but I have found that being around people with different beliefs makes me feel a certain kind of alive. When faith comes up in conversation, there is something to learn from each other. It’s an opportunity to articulate what we believe and why we believe it – a process that can be just as illuminating for the person explaining her beliefs as for the person listening. “Only connect,” wrote E. M. Forster in the book Howard’s End, and it’s a mantra that I’ve always instinctively liked. These conversations are not about trying to convince each other of the truth of what we believe. They are about creating a bridge of understanding where there was formerly open space, building a thoroughfare along which grace can be given and received.
You can read the whole thing at CatholicMom.com.
P.S. Still need a Mother’s Day gift? I know the perfect book!
If you’re a cradle Catholic like I am, you probably grew up seeing pictures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If you’re anything like me, you also used to find them kind of creepy.
But in this — as in so many things! — motherhood has totally changed my perspective.
In honor of today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, here’s an article I wrote two years ago. It explains why this imagery speaks to me in a way I could never have understood when I was a child.
Happy Feast Day!
When I was a kid, I used to gaze at pictures of Mary and admire her pastel prettiness. She looked like a Disney princess, so beautiful and graceful and serene.
But now that I’m an adult (and a mom), I look at her and I see much more than a pretty Disney princess. I see a pretty tough cookie, a resilient woman who can teach me a lot about how to navigate the choppy waters of life. For more, check out my article Our Lady of Uncertain Times.
And Happy Friday!
Here are pictures from a few of the churches I visited on my travels last year.
The red-brick parish in Cooperstown, New York has gorgeous nineteenth-century stained glass (which, by the way, deserves a much more skilled photographer than yours truly.) Naturally, I also adored its Mary shrine.
In Palm Beach, Florida, I went to Mass at this lovely church.
The gardens were beautifully landscaped, and the groundskeeper obviously has a sense of humor.
While in Florida, my father-in-law also showed me this gorgeous church, with its Spanish-style courtyard.
It had a lovely Pieta in the center.
I absolutely adored its covered walkway, with saint shrines all in a row.
All of these places, and others, inspired my most recent article for CatholicMom.com. It’s about going to Mass in a new place, and why I always find that to be such a rich and rewarding experience. There’s just something about that blend of the familiar and the novel … it gets me every time.
There’s an irony about the Christmas season: it celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace, and yet it is capable of bringing out the worst of human pettiness and impatience. Trips to the mall, the grocery store, and the post office turn into excruciating experiences where you fight for a parking space, have to navigate your way through Disneyland-like crowds, and then invariably end up behind the person who is buying fifty small stocking stuffers, each one needing to be wrapped individually in tissue paper.
At times like this, even a Christmas-loving fanatic like me begins to feed her inner Scrooge.
So I like this new column by Mike Leach, author and editor emeritus of Orbis Books. It’s a practical set of ways to keep that Scrooge at bay and to remember to see the good in everyone … something that my friend Mary always did instinctively. And for parents, the article is a great reminder that we really should model kind behavior for our kids. If they see us exhaling obnoxiously in the checkout line behind the little old lady who is moving at glacial slowness, they will likely grow up to do the same. But if they see us smile and wish her a happy holiday season and maybe even offer a hand, then we’ll be making a trying moment into a teachable one.
P.S. Mike wrote a touching guest–post back in September … if you missed it then, check it out!
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the things I already have, not to waste time pining for the things I want.
And it hit me, a few weeks ago, that one of the things I rarely think to be grateful for is the gift of time. My latest column goes into more detail.
A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May it be full of grace and gratitude.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I love the saints. I find it very comforting to know that I have a heavenly posse of wildly diverse people who will always pray for me and my unique little needs. And I want my boys to love the saints just as much as I do.
But I know from personal experience that when you are a kid, it is very easy for the saints to seem — how shall I put this? – really kinda creepy.
I go into detail in my new article Spooky Saints No More: Learning to love, not fear, the people in the stained glass windows.
My special picture of St. Raphael, who is not creepy at all.
It’s hard to write about the anniversary of 9/11. When I let my mind go there, the images of that day are so raw and real, even ten years after the fact. One memory that I can’t forget is going to school and talking about what had just happened with students who were as shell-shocked and horrified as I was. One stricken sophomore girl asked, “Why do they hate us so much?”, and I had no answer for her. I still don’t.
The most I can do is pray for all of the people who died, as well as for all those who lost parents, children, spouses, brothers and sisters, lovers, friends. As Queen Elizabeth said many years ago at a memorial service for 9/11 victims, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” And in a weird way, I find those words comforting. We mourn because we love … and love is always worth the price.
Earlier this week, BustedHalo.com ran my article Safe with him: What we can learn from Father Mychal Judge. Judge was the fire chaplain who was killed at the World Trade Center, and he’s the kind of Catholic I aspire to be. Actually, he’s the kind of human being I aspire to be. On a day that is so full of painful memories, he is a reminder that we can all be agents of healing and love, if we are willing to meet people right where they are.
Flag, by Matthew
Fire up the grill, grab the sunscreen, and put out the flag — one of my favorite holidays is upon us!
In honor of July 4th, U.S. Catholic is running guest blog posts about what it means to be American and Catholic. For me, the two are very similar … and you can find out why here.
And this weekend, Bustedhalo.com is re-running my piece The Reluctant Patriot: How Motherhood Made Me Rethink the Fourth of July. It’s just one more example of the way in which having kids has changed my perspective.
Have a safe and happy holiday!