Category Archives: Articles and columns

What we say and how we say it

14 - 11
From my latest column:

My mom has always been an exclaimer. When she sees a beautiful flower she immediately voices her delight, punctuated with an almost audible exclamation point. “Look at that rose!” she’ll gush, bending in for a sniff. “Gorgeous!”

My dad is also quick to share his enthusiasm for awe-inspiring things. I remember car trips as a teenager where he would play and replay his favorite song from “Les Misérables,” exclaiming at the singer’s ability to hit and sustain a high note. “Listen to that! Amazing!” he’d say every time.

These memories make me smile. They also invite some personal reflection: Now that I’m an adult myself, what inspires me to speak in exclamation points?


You can read the rest at Catholic San Francisco.

Mary and the movements of a parent’s life

Albin Egger-Lienz, Madonna and Child

Albin Egger-Lienz, Madonna and Child

If your default image of Mary is of a woman standing still, arms stretched out like you see in the statues, then you might like my recent column Mary and the movements of a parent’s life.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mary has more than just one pose and one look. Her life as the mother of God involved a wide range of experiences, from the happy to the harrowing. Since becoming a mom myself, I’ve discovered that there is a Mary to correspond to nearly every moment of a parent’s life.

There’s the Mary of the Annunciation, a surprised, probably scared young woman saying “yes” to the unknown. That Mary speaks to my own experience of starting a family. While I was thrilled by the positive pregnancy test, I also knew I was saying yes to something that would challenge and stretch me in ways I could not possibly anticipate. Does Mary understand that combination of excitement and trepidation? Absolutely.

There’s Mary on the road to Bethlehem, hunched over on a donkey and searching for a place to shelter for the night. She’s the Mary who had to roll with the punches, who had to adapt quickly in very trying circumstances. I’ve never had to give birth in a barn, thank goodness, but when a cancelled flight meant I had to spend the entire night in an airport with a nine-month-old, I learned a lesson in How to Cope When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned. (I didn’t handle it with Mary’s aplomb, but I’m learning.)

You can read the rest at Catholic San Francisco.

The Annunciation was just the beginning



This is a statue I bought in 2002 in Lourdes, France.  I’ve always loved it for its simplicity, and for Mary’s posture.  The sign in the shop said that it was called The  Annunciation, and it certainly captures that moment when a young girl from Galilee opened her heart and said, “This wasn’t the future I planned to have, but okay.  I’ll take it.”

But Mary’s life involved more than just one moment of decision.  Her life must have been a constant process of discerning, of adapting, of deciding how to proceed, of listening for the voice of God in confusing moments.

Two months ago, the folks at Charis Ministries — a Jesuit ministry dedicated to helping young adults recognize God in their lives — asked me to write a reflection for their May newsletter.  It’s about Mary and Ignatian spirtuality.  Here’s an excerpt:

If you read the Gospels with an eye for what Mary experienced, it’s clear that even once she’d embraced her vocation, the periods of uncertainty kept on coming.  Time and again, Mary faces situations where there are more questions than answers.   She’s about to give birth, and there is no bed available in town.  Her teenage son is lost for days.  As an adult, her son gathers powerful enemies at every turn.  He is arrested and beaten.  He lies dead in a tomb.

Throughout Mary’s life, she faced many challenges that she could not have predicted when she signed on to the job.  She is a good reminder that identifying your vocation is huge, but the work doesn’t end there.  In the course of living our vocations, we constantly find ourselves doing mini-discernments in situations when there is no obvious answer on how to proceed.

You can read the rest over at the Charis Ministries page.   (And while you’re there, be sure to check out their retreat offerings and other spiritual resources.)

Happy  May!

So … Lent.


Liturgically correct nailpolish








What (if anything) did you choose to do for Lent this year?  And how’s it going?

As for me, I couldn’t decide what to do.  It wasn’t until the day after Ash Wednesday that I thought of the perfect Lenten practice to try.  Several weeks in, I’m happy to report that it’s making me a more engaged mom, wife, teacher, and pray-er.

You can read all about it in my new column Lent and the Path of Most Resistance.

P.S.  Honesty compels me to add that no, I wasn’t thinking of Lent when I chose the purple nailpolish.  But I am considering going gold for Easter ….

Letter to a brand-new Catholic

What would you say to a tiny, just-baptized  Catholic?  What would you want her to know about her new faith?

You can check out my answer over at