Category Archives: Saints

“Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media”

As I shared the other day, I’ve written a couple of articles for The Catholic Post’s last print issue.

One that didn’t make it to The Post website was a story about the terrific First Saturday gathering  covered for The Post the First Saturday gathering, “Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media” last month.

What a fun, lovely evening–I for one am so grateful to people like Marie from “Help Them to Heaven” and the First Saturday team, a group of great women, for organizing the event.  I very much enjoyed the real life time with friends, getting to meet some people I didn’t (including one that I taught when I was briefly a high school teacher!), and just having an all-around enjoyable time.

I’m going to share some photos, as well as a version of the print story.  As I mentioned yesterday, most of the photos I took with my husband’s very nice camera all came out looking like cell phone snaps, and I do promise to learn how to use it better before I use it again.  So be forewarned, but I think the smiles and the fun make up for it.

First, some photos:

Here’s Bonnie Engstrom of A Knotted Life and Lisa Schmidt of The Practicing Catholic (one of the evening’s speakers).  As you can see from the sidebar, I truly consider Lisa an honorary member of the Peoria diocese (along with Sister Helena Burns, the other speaker.  Lisa is just lovely in person.

Here is Lisa with Dianna Kennedy of The Kennedy Adventures.  She is one of a group of bloggers from other states who were hoping to make it to the Authentic Friendship talk.  It was kind of like Behold Conference “lite,” since there won’t be a Behold until 2014.  (Never fear–plans are already underway for the 2104 Behold Conference, and I’m delighted to be part of it).  Unfortunately, the weather was icy Friday night into Saturday morning, so the rest were unable to travel.
Again, Dianna is beautiful and so incredibly much fun to be with.  I’m not sure if it’s her southern accent, her spunky one-liners, or her high energy, but she was like a jolt of java to be around.
Dianna had asked before her trip if any of us local ladies were runners and wanted to run with her.  She’s training for a half-marathon, and so I and another local woman (who is also training for a half), made a plan to run Saturday morning on Grandview Drive.  The icy weather forced us to cancel, but I am definitely taking a rain/ice check on that one, since she would be a great running buddy.  The miles would fly by running with this gal.

 

Here are Bonnie and Marie.
I brought my teen daughter to the evening, and both of us were very excited to see Sister Helena Burns again.  I said, “Let me get a photo!” and my teen, in typical teen fashion, said, “Mom!”  So Sister Helena recommended they pose like this:
Because Moms who take photos are so embarrassing.

 

That’s better!  As you can see, teen is still exasperated by her mom.
Here is the dinner before the First Saturday gathering.

 

Dianna Kennedy and Lisa Schmidt
And Lisa Schmidt again with Marie.  Lisa is very photogenic!
There were also various other photos, including several funny ones of Lisa Schmidt and Sister Helena that inspired laughs on Facebook, but I will let Lisa Schmidt incriminate herself with those.

Finally, here is my article about the evening:

Online relationships offer the opportunity for “deep friendships” and evangelization, two new media experts told a group of Catholic women.

“Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media” was the topic of the February 2 program at St. Philomena Church in Peoria.  The talk was sponsored by the “First Saturday” program, a monthly gathering open to women of all parishes, ages and vocations.  According to Marie Meints, a member of the seven-women team from various Peoria-area parishes, First Saturday focus on fellowship and discussion for women seeking to grow in holiness in everyday life.

More than 60 women gathered for the February 2 talk, from around the central Illinois area and beyond.  About half that number gathered for a pre-talk dinner.

Sister Helena Burns, a Daughter of St. Paul, who is based in Chicago, IL, but travels the country speaking about media literacy, “Theology of the Body,” and online topics, spoke on how the Internet is a vital place for Catholics to be and to find friends.

“I was surprised by the deep friendships you can have in 140 characters,” said Sister Helena, referring to the length of Twitter status updates.

Sister Helena explained how Father James Alberione, founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, told his followers to “use the fastest and latest means” to spread the Gospel message.  In the 21st century, blogs, social media such as Facebook, and other online platforms, is the “fastest” means to reach people and foster friendships.

That doesn’t mean doing things perfectly all the time.

“You’ve got to make some mistakes online,” Sister Helena said, and shared times that she had been too hasty, or too trusting, in her online interactions with others.  Making mistakes is part of the learning process.

Sister Helena argued that while in-person communication is preferred because we are “incarnational,” those we interact with online have “real souls and real bodies.”  She quoted from Benedict XVI’s message for the World Communications Day: “The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young.”

Blessed John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” provides a template not just for married love, but every relationship, including and perhaps especially those online, according to Sister Helena.

“We want to be known at our deepest level, and know others at deeper level,” she said. And intimacy with God promotes deeper relationships with others: “The “realer” God becomes to us, the “realer” other people become to us.”

Lisa Schmidt, from Des Moines, Iowa, who blogs at “The Practicing Catholic,” (www.thepracticingcatholic.com), also spoke at the “Authentic Friendship” program.

Schmidt, who lives with her husband and two small children in Des Moines, Iowa, shared how “spiritual friendships” helped her conquer the loneliness that she felt when she left her career in city management in Iowa to stay home with her then infant daughter.

“And I don’t think I’m alone here, pun intended, in experiencing (this loneliness),” Schmidt said.  She revealed how the online world of Catholic “mommy blogs” helped her find like-minded friends and forge friendships based on “who God is calling you to be.”

Schmidt shared that “ambient intimacy,” the term used to describe the connectedness of the digital age, allows people “to keep in touch with a level of intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.”

“Little by little, our spiritual friendships have the power to become apostolic,” said Schmidt. “A spiritual friend will lead you toward Christ, you then help your friends to be reconciled or converted and to grow in the life of the Church, those friends then go forth and do more of the same. Collectively, we evangelize and sanctify the culture in which we live. Could spiritual friendships be the key to the transformation of our culture?”

At the same time online life can be good for the soul, knowing when to “unplug” and connect in real life is critical.  Sister Helena argued that there are three “sacred places and sacred times” we don’t need “screens,” whether televisions, computers or mobile devices: at church, in the bedroom, and the dinner table.

Sister Helena explained a new tradition to promote real-life intimacy called a “phone stack” used by some young people while eating out.  At the beginning of a meal, all leave their phones stacked in the middle of the table.  The first person to reach for his or her phone pays for the meal.

Scripture offers the secret of what’s so great about friendship, both online and in real life experience, Lisa Schmidt argued, quoting from Sirach 6:16.  “A faithful friend is an elixir of life.”

“What’s an elixir?  It’s a life-saving medicine,” said Schmidt.  “Wow, a spiritual friend is like a life-saving medicine?  What a beautiful gift!”

#PrayforthePope

My husband Joseph and I have just been in shock this morning about the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning.

My first tweet this morning was retweeted a few times, so I’m sharing it here:

Looking for another intention to pray for this Lent? @pontifex resigning and the election of a new Pope is a good start.
— Nancy Piccione (@readingCatholic) February 11, 2013

How interesting, too, that this news breaks on the World Day of the Sick and Our Lady of Lourdes.

From the Holy Father’s letter announcing his resignation:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.”

My husband, with his interest and knowledge of all things Catholic, starting sharing about the last pope to resign.  New Advent has the Catholic Encyclopedia about the last pope to resign, Celestine V.  It’s not unprecedented, but it is really surprising.

We’ve had an interesting discussion here.  On the one hand, as Joseph mentioned, Pope Paul VI spoke about how it was important for people to see the Holy Father die in office.

Consider how Pope John Paul II’s decline and death showed a generation the beauty and nobility of that.  On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI resigning shows that stepping down is also a viable option, and strength and holiness can be shown through that.

This may not seem like the best way to say this, but there are many ways to grow old.   Blessed Pope John Paul II showed us one very public way, and perhaps Benedict XVI is showing us another, quieter way, more suited to his quiet personality.

Here’s a brief article from Vatican Radio (and update, here is Rocco Palma’s first, thorough analysis) detailing some of the specifics: Benedict XVI will not participate in the conclave to elect the new pope (and he is also too old to vote in any case).   He will move to Castel Gandolfo after his resignation becomes effective, and he will live in private apartments at the Vatican.   Joseph and I both thought he might have moved back to Germany to live out his final days there.  We just watched Cardinal Dolan interviewed on the Today Show, and he appears just as surprised as everyone.

Consider, too, that the Holy Father won’t be like a former president.  The media won’t get to interview him and ask how “the new guy” is doing. He will be living a completely private life.

Can we join in prayer as we approach Lent? I will be considering how prayer for Benedict XVI, as well as the new pope, will be part of my Lent.

Any special ideas you have to make this a fruitful Lent in prayer for the Holy Father and his successor?

What Are You Reading for Lent?

Lent is next week, and even though I’ve been allegedly “looking ahead” since right after Christmas, but I feel ill-prepared and not a bit “ready” for Lent, whether in body, or spirit, or in books.

Many books have arrived recently with Lenten themes, and I hope to review some of them, but this will not be happening before Lent, much as I’d like to be able to tell you about them.  They will have to be mid-Lent reading pick-me-ups, so look ahead for that.

Do you have a practice of spiritual reading for Lent?  I usually take out my well-worn copy of St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life, and I will do so again.  I always get something new from it.

Last year, I highly recommended God Will Provide: How God’s Bounty Opened to Saints–And 9 Ways It can Open for You, Too by Patricia Treece, pointing out that the book “brims with wisdom and grace.”  I really love Paraclete Press books–they are always well-produced and just feel good in your hand, both because the size of the books feel “right” and the paper is very… I don’t know, I’m not a book-making expert–but the paper feels heavy and nice.

Here is my Q&A with Patricia  that ran last year.

Also last year, I blogged about the Prayer of St. Ephram. (And my friend Marcia also posted about this ancient prayer last week–well worth a look).   I’ll be printing off copies of this prayer to leave in conspicuous places (bathroom mirrors and such) for us to pray at our house.  Do you have a special prayer to say as a family during Lent?

If you might be looking around for Lenten reading, here are past reviews with some ideas:

2012:  This Lent, Let Mercy Lead

2011:  A Good Spiritual Library is a Hospital for the Soul

Finally, on the Lenten theme, one of my most popular posts is “Do Sundays Count During Lent”?  As I wrote there, I’m definitely in the taking-Sundays-off camp, but I’m always interested in hearing what other people and families do.

Do you have a plan for Lent?  Care to share?  I’d love to get some great ideas.

"Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media" This Saturday, Feb. 3 UPDATED

Shamelessly taking from the blog post about this weekend’s gathering here:

Have you ever questioned the role of friendship in your life?

Why do women have a need for authentic friendship – to be accepted, supported, and loved?

How has social media changed our idea of friendship, perhaps making it more easy to find like-minded friends, or more difficult to deepen new friendships?

How does authentic friendship relate to our femininity?

Please join us for an exciting and pertinent talk on
Authentic Friendship in an Age of Social Media
given by Sister Helena Burns and Lisa Schmidt

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
Doors open at 7:10pm
Event begins at 7:30
Saint Philomena Catholic Church
3300 N Twelve Oaks Dr
Peoria, IL
There is no cost to attend this event,
though a small donation for this special event is very appreciated
——————
I plan to attend this Saturday, and I’ll be doing a book giveaway. I’m especially excited to get to see Sister Helena Burns and Lisa Schmidt again, as well in see in person so many women that I don’t get to see very often.   I hope to see you there, too.
I thought it would be fun to have a Twitter hashtag for the event, and I thought #authenticfriendship  while a little long, could work.  I also thought #firstSaturday could be a good one, too, though also longish. Do you have any Twitter hashtag ideas for the gathering?

UPDATED: Dianna Kennedy, of The Kennedy Adventures, suggested on Facebook the hashtag #1stSat.   Works for me!  Any others?

Q&A With Jeff Grabosky, Author of “Running With God Across America”

As I wrote in my January column for The Catholic Post, I truly enjoyed Jeff Grabosky’s memoir Running With God Across America. And since I became a LIFE Runner myself last year when I ran my second marathon in St. Louis (read about that experience here and here), we are sort of “teammates.”  So grateful to Jeff for being willing to do this Q&A.

Q. Jeff, tell me a little more about yourself, your writing and your running–what you are currently doing.

I have always been a runner and have always loved my faith. I ran my first marathon in college and also received a supplementary degree in Theology while studying at Notre Dame. After graduating and dealing with personal tragedy, I continued running marathons and 100-mile races. My run across America was a way in which God called me to use my passions to bring the message about the power of prayer to others. It was difficult to leave my family, friends, and job to undertake the journey, but I felt an unmistakable call to run for the prayers of others.

After the run was over, I worked with 3rd graders at a Catholic school in Phoenix for a year. While there, I also worked part time at a running specialty store and spent my free time writing the book. I then moved back to Northern Virginia to be near family, where I now working at my previous job as store manager of a specialty running store and also coach runners. Periodically, I give talks about the power of prayer and appear at book signings. I have been so blessed and recently got engaged to a beautiful and holy woman named Mary.

I’m also the race director for the Cross Country Relay for Life, which will correspond with the 40 Days for Life (February 13 to March 24).  We are currently filling 5K segments for the relay, and encourage pro-life groups to sign up.  Visit the LIFE Runners Relay for Life page for more information about that.

Q. I was really impressed with the quality of your writing and narrative in Running with God Across America .  Since you self-published, I am curious what kind of editing help you had.  Have you always considered yourself a good writer, or was this a unique experience to share?

Whenever I would give a talk about my run across America, the first question people always asked me was when the book was coming out. I have never been a big writer, but settled into the project and approached it with the same persistence I do with anything I go after. I must have read through it a dozen times to get it as accurate and readable as possible. I had it read over for spelling and grammar, but that was it. My goal was to tell a simple story and bring people with me on the journey. I wanted the reader to feel what I was feeling at the time and to realize the power of prayer and to hopefully develop a deeper relationship and belief in God in the process.

Q. As I wrote in my review, I found myself envious of two aspects of your run; one pretty serious and one kind of funny.

First, you had so much personal time and space for prayer, and for running, of course.  This time and space helped you have a lot of spiritual and emotional breakthroughs.  Do you miss that aspect of the run, and how have you tried to bring that spirit into your daily life now?

I found that on my journey, the further I stepped back from daily life, the more I was able to concentrate on prayer and on the Lord. Spending so much time each day lost in prayer was an incredible experience that solidified my relationship with Him, especially in the midst of great discomfort. Now that I am back in a much more normal daily routine, I find myself truly missing that time alone with God. In order to incorporate prayer more into my life, I have since started praying the rosary daily. I love searching out new prayers and devotions. I try to go to confession and adoration more often. Essentially, I came to realize just how much I need the Lord in my life and it is my desire to get as close to Him as possible.

Q. The other aspect I envied was the sheer amount of food you needed to eat to keep up your weight!  I know how good food tastes after a long run or lots of exertion, and so you descriptions of some of your more memorable meals stuck with me.  Did you enjoy that aspect either during the run or in your writing?  Do you miss that now that you are living a more normal day-to-day life?

The amount of food I ate during my journey always makes for good stories. People were always shocked at how much I consumed and how quickly I made the food disappear. For the first part of my run, I really looked forward to dinner because it seemed to be the one comfort of the day. Sitting down and eating a good meal always sounded so incredible when I was out on the road and I could not wait for that moment. What I learned was that it was just that – a moment. The moment of enjoyment from dinner was so fleeting and it only sustained me for a very short time. I learned a lesson through that experience of just how fleeting the pleasures of this world really are. It made me focus more on Christ, because He is the only one who will sustain us forever. He will never abandon us or let us down. The experience only helped to deepen my desire for Christ in my life.

Q. You are a Notre Dame grad, and you ran through campus on the run.  What kind of reaction have you had from the Notre Dame community about your run and its goals?

I’ll never forget how the weather was cold and the skies were overcast as I approached the campus of Notre Dame. Just before the Golden Dome came into view, the skies opened and the sun shone down. When I caught site of campus, the dome was glistening and my aches seemed to melt away. It was essentially a 500 mile detour to run through there, but it was well worth it. I loved seeing some of my old roommates still in the area and praying at the Grotto. It was a wonderful experience and the reaction from the Notre Dame community was fantastic. I’ve been told by the Notre Dame community that my journey embodied the Catholic identity Notre Dame was meant to have. The important messages of focusing on prayer, giving glory to the Lord, and encouraging a devotion to the Blessed Mother is something inherent to Notre Dame. I am honored that the run across America for prayer can be associated with my school and I hope it makes the community of Notre Dame proud.

Q.  You wrote at the end of Running with God that you don’t run long distances any longer.  Any plans for a long-distance run in future years? 

Since finishing my run across the country, I have very little motivation or desire to compete in long distance races. In the past year I have run a marathon for fun, paced a friend through 25 miles of an ultra marathon, put in a 100 mile week, and gone out for a 30 mile run on my own. Despite these runs, the amount I have been running has decreased significantly. However, I find my passion for the sport has not diminished, but has been redirected. Through multiple coaching programs at the store I work at, I have been able to help others train for distance races and become more fit. The satisfaction I have in hearing about others finishing races is much greater than any pride I would have from completing a race of my own. I am honored to have the opportunity to help others reach their goals and I hope it is something that I can continue to do in the future.

Q. You are a LIFE Runner, and I just joined the group in to run my second marathon as a LIFE Runner.  Tell me about how you got involved with the group and what you are doing with them now.

If the wheel on my stroller had not broken in St. Louis, then I may not have become involved with the LIFE Runners. It essentially opened up a window of time where I met Pat Castle for breakfast in Alton, IL. He got me involved with the LIFE Runners as our missions were very much aligned. I am so excited to use my passion for running to help the Pro Life cause. We have a very exciting relay planned that goes over 4,000 miles across the country. I am the race director of the relay and also of the 5K we are holding in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, DC. The LIFE Runners do so much for the unborn and also to assist the mothers and children who choose life. I am truly honored to work with such great people and for the cause of protecting the right to life for the most innocent of us.

Q. Any plans for future books?

As of now, I do not have any specific plans for another book. However, I know God works in amazing ways and if I find myself called to something that warrants another book I will gladly oblige.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add or wish I would have asked?

I would just like to add that I am no superstar runner or extraordinary human. The only thing I did was say “yes” to the calling the Lord placed on my heart. He met me where I was at and took care of the rest. Things were not always easy, but I have realized just how beautiful a picture the Lord can paint with our lives if we allow him to use us. Ever since I placed myself in God’s will for His glory, my life has taken on a completely different direction. My life has certainly been difficult and even painful at times, but it has developed into something bigger than I could have ever dreamed of on my own. I will continue to put my trust in the Lord and follow wherever he calls me to go. I am just hoping it does not involve another run across America!

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 26, The Little Flower Edition

Here are my “Little Flower” answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what’s next on your list to read?

As always, I hope you’ll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

Well, if you haven’t figured out why this is called the “Little Flower” edition, it is because today is the feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux.  We love to celebrate this feast at our house, and soon I’ll be making rose-shaped scones in this pan for the scones lovers in our house, as I do every year on this feast.

I’ve actually been reading a ton, but unfortunately cannot seem to get my thoughts out about these many, many books.  So for now, to get my writing juices flowing, I am going to write about previously read books about or by St. Therese that would be really worthwhile to consider on this feast.

What do you like best about them?

There are two books for younger readers that feature St. Therese not so much as a character but as inspiration.  Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio  chronicles Olivia’s fifth grade year and her ups & downs, as she discovers the spirituality of the Little Flower.  Just a wonderful book.  Nancy wrote a sequel to it called Olivia’s Gift, which has a subtle pro-life and modesty theme that is excellent for older girls, and that we also loved at our house.

When Olivia’s Gift was first published, I got the chance to interview Nancy Carabio Belanger, and you can read that Q&A here.  Here is the link to the publisher of these great books.

As far as books about St. Therese and her family, there are many. A lovely, small picture book biography for younger readers is St. Therese of Lisieux and the Little Way of Love by Marie Baudouin-Croix, translated from the French and published by the Daughters of St. Paul.   It should be readily available at most Daughters of St. Paul stores.  When I was searching for a link to this, I see that this author has a biography of Therese’s sister Leonie called Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life.  Leonie was the most troubled of all the sisters, and this book explores her psychological issues and how she overcame them.   That looks fascinating and I plan to try to track that one down to read it.

We have a volume on our shelf, The Little Flower: The Story of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus by popular mid-20th century Catholic author Mary Fabyan Windeatt, but I confess none of us have read that one.  I’d love to know if it is worthwhile.

What do you like least?

When I first read Story of a Soul, I did find it somewhat cloying.  As the Universalis  reflection for St. Therese today says, “The late 19th century was a highly sentimental period, and much of the literature about Thérèse has taken that quality and made it sweeter and sicklier still, to the point where you feel like brushing your teeth after reading every page.”

But the older I get, the more I find her words much more inspiring.  It’s hard to explain, but those who love The Little Flower will understand.  Just a little bit from today’s Office of Readings, which is a selection of Story of a Soul: “Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love.”

I have a friend who loves and gave to me as a gift, I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Charles Arminjon.  I understand it is great, but must confess I have never finished it, though I have started it several times.  Maybe this month would be a good time to finish it.

What’s next on your list to read?

Really, the question here becomes, what are some recently read books to write about or neglect to write about?  Just for a very few, I’ve read the much-hyped novel The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (meh); Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma (really good ideas and reflection from this book); The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings (so hilarious and wonderful); Wealth Watchers by Alice Wood (interesting concept about applying Weight Watchers concepts to financial health) and so many more.  Maybe I will write about them soon, maybe not, but there is always reading going on here.

What are you reading this month? Do you have a favorite St. Therese book?  Share away!

Guest Post: “A Beautiful Life Surrounded by and Knowing Nothing but Love”

I’m humbled today to present a guest post from Teresa Lutz, a local mom, on a book I reviewed this month, Karen Edmisten’s After MiscarriageHere’s my review of that book.

I don’t know whether to say it was coincidental or something else that when I first received my review copy of After Miscarriage, within a few days I learned of three women in my circle of friends and acquaintances suffered stillbirths or miscarriages.  I sent each of the women copies of the book, hoping it would provide comfort and support at some point, either now or in the future. 

Teresa felt ready to share some thoughts about the book with me, and when I asked her if she would guest post about it, she readily agreed.

Teresa is wife to Mike and mom to two beautiful boys.   She is a stay at home mom and works part time as an oncology nurse.

My husband and I were very excited to learn that we would be welcoming our third child into our family.  We were shocked and heartbroken to find out at our 20-week ultrasound that our baby had a fatal neural tube defect called anencephaly.  This meant that very early in my pregnancy her skull had not formed completely and as a result, she would be born with little brain tissue.
Her life expectancy was minutes or hours, if she made it through delivery.  We decided to celebrate the gift of her life while she was still with us and spent the remainder of my pregnancy cherishing every moment.  We were blessed with 36 weeks to love and care for our daughter before she went to Heaven.  Gianna Therese was stillborn on February 19th 2012.
I found Karen Edmisten’s After Miscarriage to be comforting and practical at the same time. It gave both an insight into what other women have experienced after the loss of their babies, but also offered suggestions and information for women who may have recently gone through a miscarriage or stillbirth. The quotes, prayers and Bible passages help to provide perspective and hope to the struggles one might be facing.
I was actually surprised to find that most of the chapters made a lot of sense – I almost felt like I could have written some of them!
For instance, Edmisten even includes a passage from her journal stating that she was dreading going to the dentist and having to explain that her baby had died. I have also been dreading my upcoming dentist appointment.
It didn’t occur to me that other people had experienced those feelings of anxiety when faced with explaining to practical strangers why we are no longer pregnant, yet don’t have a baby, either.
The book was easy to read through, but isn’t one that necessarily needs to be read cover to cover. I was given a different book by my doctor which was in a similar format, but almost too lengthy. I will definitely suggest After Miscarriage to him.
Although the author does touch on both the topics of stillbirth and miscarriage, I could see how some people having gone through a late miscarriage or stillbirth might feel like it doesn’t completely apply to them, especially if they didn’t make it through the first few chapters.
Overall, I found it was a very helpful book – especially as a Catholic mother. At a time like this, it is good to read a book that provides both practical and spiritual comfort.
Nancy again here: I recalled, though I was not able to attend Gianna’s funeral, that several friends shared that the reflection shared by Teresa and her husband at the funeral was beautiful.  Teresa also agreed to share this with Catholic Post readers:
——
Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Gianna Therese had a beautiful life surrounded by and knowing nothing but love.  She was surrounded by love in the womb and we believe was carried directly to the waiting arms of God.  We as Catholic parents, are called by our vocation of marriage, to strive above all else to work toward helping our children arrive in Heaven someday.  The Church and our faith tell us to have confidence in God’s unending love and mercy for even the littlest souls.  How can we not be filled with joy?
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly” – Sam Keen
Gianna was not “perfect” in the worldly sense.  She was not meant to be with us long on this earth and we knew that from early on. Some people have thought that we carried Gianna to term because we don’t believe in abortion, because we are Catholic, or perhaps we weren’t given the option to do otherwise.  While some of these factors might have played a part in our immediate refusal to “terminate”, this is not what it is about.  It is about love!  It was about our child that was given to us as a gift to love and protect! Gianna’s life had value from the moment of conception, just as every life does.
 We do not possess more strength than other people.  It is not because we can cope where others wouldn’t. There was no way to avoid the sad fact that Gianna could not live long after birth, but causing her death earlier would not stop this from happening.  Causing her death would have only taken from us the beautiful experience of knowing and loving her and allowing others to do the same.  We wouldn’t wish away the time we had with Gianna to save us the tremendous pain of losing her.  Was it worth it?  YES!  We had the chance to hold Gianna, to see her and to love her before letting go.  Love your children, and remember that they each have their own unique mission.  Children are always and only a blessing from God – even if they don’t stay very long.
Our daughter’s short life and certain death has prompted some wonderful things.  This is our prayer as a family.  “We gladly offer our baby back to You God, and endure the sorrowful pain of missing the soul we have come to love.  If our offering prompts just one soul to grow closer to You, we offer Gianna with greater joy than the sorrow we are feeling.”
We appreciate the love, support and prayers we have received more than we can ever express with words.  We have felt peace throughout this entire journey and although we are so sad and hurting, we know we are not alone.  May God Bless you all for sharing this journey with us!

Poetry Friday, Beatification Edition: A Poem by John Paul II

I feel honored to be able to share one of my favorite poems from Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, who will be beatified the day after tomorrow.

I had a nice time searching through the several books of JP II poetry I own, for just the right “one.”  I think I might have to post another one later today, there are so many that I like.  This post may end up being Poetry Friday, Part 1, so stay tuned.

This poem is from “The Church,” written at the Basilica of Saint Peter, Autumn 1962, when Wojtyla would have been in Rome for the beginning of Vatican II.

Marble floor


Our feet meet the earth in this place;
there are so many walls, so many colonnades,
yet we are not lost.  If we find
meaning and oneness,
it is the floor that guides us.  It joins the spaces
of this great edifice, and joins
the spaces within us,
who walk aware of our weakness and defeat.
Peter, you are the floor, that others
may walk over you (not knowing
where they go).  You guide their steps
so that spaces can be one in their eyes,
and from them thought is born.
You want to serve their feet that pass
as rock serves the hooves of sheep.
The rock is a gigantic temple floor,
the cross a pasture.

Do Sundays "Count" During Lent?

Do Sundays “count” during Lent?

This issue comes up every year.  Do you do your Lenten penances on Sunday?

I’ve heard varying opinions on this.  Sundays are not counted among the 40 days of Lent, so some people say our Lenten penances should not count on Sundays.  Others think the whole season is penitential, and so therefore we should continue our disciplines.  I read once a commentator say that Jesus didn’t take a break during his 40 days of fasting in the desert.

Here’s a link to a Q&A on Lent from EWTN, and it includes an answer about Sundays.  Basically, there’s no official rule, so you are free to choose.  Here’s also another interesting article from a blogger with the Archdiocese of Washington who offers insight on both celebrating Sunday, and why fish doesn’t count as meat.

Count me in the “celebrate Sunday” camp.  At our house, we tend to mark Sundays as a day of Resurrection, though in a more muted way during Lent.  I might have a piece of chocolate (or not) on Sundays, but usually my husband, who goes meatless for Lent, usually doesn’t eat meat on Sundays in general.

We (actually, me) also tend to celebrate the feast days during Lent.  Just off the top of my head:  St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day (we have two in our immediate family, so we definitely celebrate this one, with savoiardi and usually a special dinner), the Feast of the Annunciation, and I’m sure I could find more.  To me they are not just a little “break” during Lent, but a way to really celebrate those important holidays in the liturgical year.

I’m putting up this question on Sunday, because I know some people take a break from the Internet during Lent, but do check in on Sundays.

So what about you?  Do you “count” the Sundays in Lent?  How is your Lent going after just this first few days?

I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You

Today’s first reading is from Job 1, about all the misfortunes that happened to Job.  Servant after servant came to tell Job of losing everything, and their “line” is, “I alone have escaped to tell you.”  And Job responds with,

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

naked I shall return.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken back.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I am reminded of several random thoughts here that I hope will be somewhat cohesive.

*the lector for daily Mass, coincidentally, happened to be the October featured “Meet a Reader” that will appear in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Post.  You’ll just have to check back later this week to see who it is, but suffice to say she is an excellent lector.  I always think when she is the lector, “Word on Fire,” because she reads in a very deep way (for lack of a better word, not “drahmatic” but moving and heartfelt–it’s hard to let your mind wander during her reading).  You know you are hearing the Word of the Lord.    I had arrived a bit late for Mass (not that that ever happens to me! hmm), so the reading has just started, but I was instantly drawn into the narrative.

*Job, scripture tells us, “committed no sin nor offered any insult to God.”  I think that is more difficult than anything when bad things happen.  Who can say they never complain to God?  I know I am extremely prone to this, for small things and big things.

*A suggestion for your Ipod: (and it happens to be on my running playlist), Blessed Be Your Name is a great song by the CCM band Tree 63, a meditation of sorts on this passage from Job.


*I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You: My Life and Pastimes
is the title of the excellent memoir by Ralph McInerny, who died last year.  He was a personal hero of mine and I wrote about him several times in my blogging life, so I’ve mined one of those old posts to share:

I met him once many years ago, when my husband and I were first married.  McInerny gave a speech at Bradley University, and one of the hosting professors invited us to the after-speech gathering at his house.  I brought along a super chocolate cake.  It was good, with a chocolate-sour cream ganache frosting–now where is that recipe?

McInerny praised it by saying it was the “most chocolatey chocolate cake” he had ever tasted.  My husband, the philosopher in the family (by trade, degree, and temperament), said this was the highest compliment given by a philosopher.  McInerny agreed, and we all had a good laugh.

Several years ago my husband presented a paper at a conference at Notre Dame. I tagged along with the two children we had at the time.   McInerny was one of the organizers, and even though I saw him walking around the conference, I was always too shy to re-introduce myself and tell him how much I admired him.  Usually I am pretty bold about introducing myself to people.  Now I wish I had.

How he discusses writing in I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You is brilliant.    He takes the craft of writing seriously but not too seriously.  He speaks of it being a discipline and work, and the luck/serendipity involved in his success.

He has referred to Anthony Trollope, one of my favorite authors, at least three times in the few chapters I have read.  He and/or his family regularly spent several years, and weeks of others, in Europe.  He is a faithful Catholic family man with a large family.  What’s not to love?