Tag Archives: Twitter

Twitterature (August 2103 edition)

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her literature round-up of short, Twitter-style reviews of recent reads.


I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, and I’m finally getting to it this month.

I’ve been reading so many things, and I thought this will be a good way to cover a lot of those in a shorter way than my “First, What are you Reading?” posts that I try to do on the first of the month. (When I do this on the first of the month, I will use that as my Twitterature link-up, but this summer has been crazy!!!)

I also thought I could share some of what my kids are reading.  I promise to add more books each month, but I’m starting small this month so I don’t run out of time.


The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours by Daria Sockey.

A gentle guide that’s helped me with the “why” and “because” of my renewed commitment to pray Liturgy of the Hours. good way to #prayalways

From the kids: The Redwall series by Brian Jacques

Adventure, courage & humor from good animals of Redwall Abbey. “Never forget friendship and loyalty are more precious than riches.” #welovelongseries

That is it for this month–it’s only a fraction of all we’re reading at our house, but next month I’ll get more of a head start.  Thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy for hosting!


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?

"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?

A WinterJam Primer, or How to Keep Your Hearing, Your Faith, and Your Sanity, and Have a Good Time

Note: In lieu of Worth a Listen (normally appearing here on Wednesday), I’m writing this after the WinterJam just occurred in our area with a concert in Peoria Sunday night.  When I posted occasional updates on Facebook & Twitter from the concert, there were a lot of questions (on FB) about how the concert, how it was, should people bring their small children, etc. This is to answer those questions as well as talk about this great  I’ll re-run this next year as WinterJam makes it way to our area again, so consider this a “primer” on how to encounter WinterJam successfully.

I’m a veteran, having just attended my third WinterJam.  I think I’ve got this “down” now and have a good strategy for attending and making the most of this great concert.

WinterJam, the largest Christian concert series in the world (and largest altogether if Wikipedia is to be believed) is a traveling concert series founded by NewSong and featuring more than a half-dozen Christian contemporary music (CCM) acts.

1.   Here’s your first word:  earplugs.

I mean this as no criticism at all, since I love virtually all the music played at the concert.  If you are not a teen (and maybe if you are), you will be grateful for a good pair of earplugs.  I bought a multi-pack of earplugs to share with fellow parents along with me for the concert.  Happily, WCIC-FM at their merch/swag table gave away free pairs as well.  That was a really sweet touch.

Note to self for next year:  I’m bringing some heavier duty earplugs, as these were not quite enough, especially during certain bands (more on that later).  But do plan on having some kind of ear protection.  Every single musician during the evening I could see was wearing ear protection.  If it’s good enough for TobyMac, it’s good enough for me.

2.  Here are two more  words:  go early.

WinterJam is an unbeatable value at $10 per person, but seating is first come, first serve.  The concert starts at 6 p.m., but doors open at 5 p.m. and you then choose your seats in the Civic Center arena.  There is a “Jam Nation” feature that allows concert-goers to get in early, but you must have a group of at least 10, and then it is $30 per ticket.  This is still an excellent value.  I would have loved to do this in 2013, but I started organizing the WinterJam-interested families I know too late.  After many back and forth e-mails, we couldn’t get to the 10 threshold before my deadline.

As it was, some of our group arrived about an hour and a half before the 5 p.m. doors opening.  We actually would have arrived much earlier, but it was freezing rain most of the day, and I thought we’d have to wait outside.  Turns out the Civic Center opened a large room for people to wait, and there were official looking WinterJam people lining us up and warning us not to jump lines, or we’d have to go to the back.

Around 4:45, they started to let us into the Civic Center arena, and because we had arrived pretty early, we obtained some pretty good seats.  We had not wanted to be on the floor, so our lower bowl seats near the stage were great for us.

Last year when we attended, the weather was much better (Peoria was the last stop on the tour), and we arrived early with a student council group.  What I loved about this was a pre-show concert by two acts not well-known at the time for those waiting in line.  We heard both Group 1 Crew and For King & Country, both vastly more well-known this year.  Here’s a photo from last year:

All around the arena, there are tons of “merch” tables for the various artists, as well as Christian ministries that are part of WinterJam. It’s worthwhile if you are there early to walk around and get to see everything.

3.  Don’t bring the whole family.  Or do.  This is really particular to your family.

The first year we attended WinterJam, our whole family attended, but we only stayed for about the first hour.  It was too much noise for the younger kids in our family (7 and 10 that year), and my husband said, like NewSong sings each year at WinterJam, “This world has nothing for me…” (He does like CCM music, to a point).  So we agreed that I would be the WinterJam designated person, and he would  teach our children to drive.  Fair trade.

A few people have asked about what age ranges would be good for WinterJam.  I’ve seen toddlers happily dancing at WinterJam (not a whole lot of them), but it seems to be best for tweens and teens, and their music-loving grown-ups.  You know your kids. And your grown-ups.

4.  Understand the rhythm of WinterJam.

After going to WinterJam for three years, I can share what is the formula for a WinterJam.  I think it is a good mix.

Pre-show: this would include the time outside, and any pre-show bands.  There was not a pre-show band concert, perhaps because of the weather.

First “half.”  This is like a warm-up for the bigger acts to come.  Each act plays for perhaps four to perhaps six songs.  It’s annoying both when an act you like plays too few songs, and also when a not-so-great band plays more than you’d like.  Either way, these pass quickly.

Sometime in this first half, NewSong plays.  NewSong is a more “mature” group than most of the other WinterJam acts, as I pointed out to a fellow parent along with our group, but those men can sing.  They play a few songs, talk about their vision of starting WinterJam, and promote World Vision, the charity sponsor of the evening.  Throughout the evening, concert-goers are encouraged to adopt a child in a third World country through World Vision.

A young pastor named Nick Hall gives a kind of sermon during this first half.  It’s basically a non-denominational talk about following Jesus.  More on that later…

Then there is an intermission, which is a good time to walk around and check out the merchandise tables, or get a snack.  Some practical matters:  food and drink is something to consider.  I had a big late lunch, and brought along an apple and a bottle of water to have during the intermission. That worked for me, since a concert for me, unlike, say a baseball game, is not a time I want to have arena-type food like nachos or hot dogs.

Second “half”:  After the intermission are the “big” acts–this year it was Matthew West and TobyMac.  They were both well worth the wait.

Sometime during the second half, there is a “love offering” collection taken up to support the ministry of putting on WinterJam. Worthwhile knowing that this takes place and considering what you might do when they pass the bucket.

Finally, be prepared for the night to end super late.

After the concert, there is a big crush as people try to leave.  We ended up staying around a little later because we kept running into people we knew, and chatting about the concert.  After that, we realized most of the “first half” acts were available for autographs, so we got a few autographs and photos.

Our 15-year-old was most excited to meet and say hello to Jamie Grace.  She truly loves (understatement) all of Jamie’s music and especially her sense of style:

We also met OBB, three attractive brothers with a “boy band.” OBB had announced during their concert, “like us on Facebook, because we were homeschooled, and we need all the friends we can get!”  The arena erupted in screams, as you can imagine.  When we met them, I introduced all the teen girls in our group as homeschoolers or former homeschoolers, and it was a fun discussion and an even funnier photo, with one of the girls nearly in tears.

By the time we got back to our minivan and then took several teens along with us back to their vehicles, and then drove home, it was just about midnight.  That is late for a Sunday night (and school the next day), but well worthwhile.  But if you go to a WinterJam, know that it will be a late night, and you won’t be super-productive the next day.

5.  Take the good, leave behind the bad.

Let me start by saying that I am hugely grateful there is a concert series like WinterJam.  The group behind it, NewSong, and the promoters, are sincere Christians truly desiring to put on a good show as well as encourage others to follow Christ.  Putting together this kind of entertaining, hours-long concert, and providing a good value, is no small feat, and I commend them and thank them for this ministry.

At the same time, and being real here, as a Catholic, you’re not going to get the fullness of the Faith at a WinterJam.  Plan to be okay with that.

You might even encounter weak or even truly goofy ideas, and I don’t have time to go into any of them here.  You can use your imagination.  But I consider those a learning opportunity for myself and those who attend with me, as we experience Christianity lived by others.

There is also an “altar call” type of experience where they ask people to turn over their lives to Jesus. 

As I told my teen, thought, I don’t want us to get all triumphalist about it and exhibit spiritual pride, but it’s okay to recognize where the WinterJam theology falls short.  We don’t have to accept it all uncritically, or think we need to become a non-denominational Christian just because they play the coolest music.  How can you leave behind Jesus in the Eucharist?  As St. Peter told Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

As I write this, the thought of a Catholic WinterJam is really intriguing.  Imagine if, instead of the pastor’s sermon in the middle of the concert, we had a short meditation and then a time of Eucharistic Adoration?  Wow.

6.  Don’t expect entirely live music, but do enjoy the live experience.

Now, a lot of this is above my pay grade and understanding of music, concerts and how these things work.  I didn’t follow along to the “controversy” about Beyoncé not singing the national anthem at the Inauguration earlier this month, and I have attended very few concerts in my grown-up days.

But as far as my untrained eyes and ear can tell, “live music” does not necessarily mean live everything.  I’m okay with that…to a point.

One of the reasons I was annoyed with last year’s WinterJam was that we did stay for the last act, which turned out to be a band called Skillet.

Now, Skillet’s music is decidedly not my kind of music, but that’s not what made me annoyed.  What did annoy me was this: I was pretty sure  they were lip-syncing, except for one slower song in which the lead singer talked and sang.  I am virtually certain the musicians were playing air guitar and violin and who knows what other instruments, I don’t even remember, I just recall thinking, “I could air violin better than that.”  (Apologies to all my loyal readers who are also loyal Skillet fans.  Just my take on it).

There were a lot of pyrotechnics along with this act, and I thought, they are probably not doing it live so they can dodge the fire and fireworks and so forth.  We could have easily left before Skillet and gotten home earlier, but we didn’t, and there goes 30 minutes I can’t ever get back.

So there was a little bit of trepidation about this year’s WinterJam.  Would there be truly live music?  I was just interested to watch closely, but also enjoy myself and the music.

Since I’m not an expert or in the music industry (nor do I have time to look this up),  I don’t know what the current standard is these sorts of things.  Is it okay to sing live before piped-in or canned music?  Is it okay to pretend you’re playing an instrument when you’re not?

I thought several of the acts struck a good balance. For instance, Jamie Grace, a great singer and great performer, sang all her songs live.  While she was backed up with music (with no visible musicians, so it was obvious it was piped in), she played a guitar along with her songs.  You could tell she was actually playing along because she made a few little mistakes, and at one point, the guitar was not properly hooked up, so she was fiddling with it.  I even tweeted to her later in the evening thanking her for singing live.

But there was one “hard rock” group, like Skillet last year, called “Red,” that “played” with a lot of pyrotechnics and so forth.  And they also appeared, to my untrained eye, to lip sync every song but one, and not to be actually playing their instruments, just like Skillet last year.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Perhaps the tour organizers required that they lip sync, in order to be sure they could dodge the fireworks?  Part of the contract?

It didn’t bother me that much.  Recall, I had earplugs, and I know nothing of “Red.”  Though, I must say, I began to be intrigued when I learned their last album was called “Until We Have Faces,” thinking they might have named it after C.S. Lewis’ greatest novel, Till We Have Faces, but it turns out the band goes to pains to say they didn’t name the album after that.  Okay, never mind, don’t need to find out any more about this group.

But what if I had been a Red superfan?  Would I have noticed the lip syncing?  Would I have cared? I do think this distracts from the overall experience to experience this kind of “live music.”  Just my middle-aged take on it, but you don’t have to listen to me.

(UPDATED: A dad who was along with our group turned out to really enjoy Red, and their family is listening to a lot of Red music this week.  So perhaps you shouldn’t take my musical opinion here–though I did respond to a Facebook post on this, “I am all astonishment.”)

What was amazing was Matthew West.  He sang every song absolutely live, and I didn’t even pay attention or care whether his back-up band and whether they were playing live or not.  He was riveting as a performer, talked beautifully between his music, showed several videos of the stories behind several of his newer songs.

That is one of the features of WinterJam I really enjoy, and why I tell you to “enjoy the live experience.”  There are various screens and screen-type stage “decorations” (I don’t know what else to call them) of various sizes,  for projecting the lead singer, as well as sometimes song lyrics, as well as other images. For instance, during Matthew West’s song, “Hello My Name Is…,” there was a curved bank of mini-screens above the stage that flashed the words.

I also cannot say enough about TobyMac.  That man can sing and perform like nobody’s business, and he pulls together a terrific assortment of singers and performers alongside him.  I did not hear the name of the female singer who sang next to him, but she was gorgeous as well as an amazing singer, as was Jamie Grace (again), who joined him for several songs.  The songs he sang alone would have been worth the wait, the price and everything else.

There were musicians along with TobyMac, and it was clear sometimes that instruments were being played live.  For instance, several of his songs featured performers walking with marching-band style drums, and you could hear the beat coming from them.  But at one point, one of his crew came up to a guitar player and “air-guitared” next to him, almost a wink-nod that he might not be really playing.  I’m not sure, but I don’t really care, because again, as I’ve said, the singers were all singing live, and performing beautifully.

Here’s one person I’d love to have a live/not live conversation with about WinterJam, and music in general: DJ Maj.  According to his Twitter account @MajPro (he actually followed me! Along with 6,000 other people, but still….): he’s a God Son / Hubby / DJ For Toby Mac / Rhymer / @wepoplive / @VidiMixShow.

At one point in the show, TobyMac announced DJ Maj, and he and the other band members left the stage.  DJ Maj was on a platform high above the stage, and did a “mix” of video and audio.  I have no knowledge of what was “live mixed” or not, but it was engaging and interesting, and worth watching.  No pyrotechnics, either.  Thank you, DJ Maj.

I shot some very grainy and unprofessional cell phone videos of some of my favorite songs.  If I get a chance to upload them, I will share them in future “Worth A Listen” posts.

Have you ever been to a WinterJam or similar concert?  What is your take on attending these kinds of concerts as a Catholic?

Catholic App Spotlight: My Year of Faith

I have been a bad Twitter user in recent weeks (For those of you on Twitter, I’m @ReadingCatholic and I’d love to connect with you there).

I’ve been on Twitter very rarely lately, even with the excellent TweetDeck desktop. Officially, Twitter can be a time-waster, but when I am there I invariably learn some great things from the links people share.  Lately, I’ve been feeling too “busy” and harried with my to-do list, both online and off, to be able to spend any time on Twitter, or figuring out Pinterest, or any of the other social media goals I have.

But last Friday, I was procrastinating/trying to get my writing juices flowing, in the hopes of finishing a post on Advent books, when I decided to spend a few minutes on Twitter, just checking in and tweeting a few things.  I retweeted some great articles shared, and also an article from the last issue of The Catholic Post about my friend Amy Dyke, the new NFP coordinator.

One of the articles I saw tweeted was “Who Is Your St. Andrew?”  It’s well worth a quick read if you have a minute.

The article was posted on a site called “My Year of Faith,” and in exploring that I discovered that it is actually an App called “My Year of Faith” produced by Little iApps.  I’ve written about Confession, one of the first Apps produced by Little iApps, as well as one of their Novena apps here.   I really do use these Apps to aid in my own prayer life, as well as that of my kids.  I’d have to say that  the Universalis App on my iPhone is my most-used App, but I do use fairly often the various Little iApps that I have.

I’ve just downloaded My Year of Faith (a bargain at 99 cents) so I can’t give a review yet, but I like what I see in the iTunes description and since I have found apps by Little iApps to be useful, well-designed and edifying.

Do you know of any other Apps for The Year of Faith? How are you using your phone or tablet to help you live out the Year of Faith?

Q&A With Sister Helena Burns, Author of "He Speaks to You"

As I wrote in my October column, Sister Helena Burns is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author, writing the excellent and deceptively simple daily book for young women, He Speaks to You

Sister Helena, who is often busy at her own blog, Hell Burns, or on Twitter, graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me here.  Thanks, Sister, and thank you for your great book.

Q.  Sister Helena, tell Catholic Post readers more about you, your religious community, and your work.

The Daughters of St. Paul are an international congregation of women religious dedicated to evangelizing with the media. We try to use as many forms of media as possible, and now with the new media, we’re like kids in a candy store. When I was discerning my vocation, I was very drawn to sharing the Faith and helping people in spiritual pain (like I had been), and I thought: “What better way to bring God directly into someone’s heart and mind than through a book, a song, a magazine, a film?” I also loved that the Daughters had a kind of “mixed life”: contemplatives in action. Even though we’re an active order, we have approximately 3 hours of prayer each day, including an Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, which was very important to me. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, www.MediaApostle.com wanted us to “share the fruits of our contemplation in action.”

Q.  You write in the introduction: “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share …basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”   Why do you think this is so important, for young women in particular?

My Sisters and I often meet young women who want to pray more, go deeper with Jesus, but don’t always know how. Often they say: “I pray, but He doesn’t talk back.” We knew that if we could share some of the basics of prayer, of how the spiritual life “works,” we could really help young women not become discouraged, or give up on their interior life. Although each of our relationships with Jesus is unique, still, there are patterns that saints and mystics, spiritual masters and spiritual directors have identified that are universal.

I believe young women in particular need to look to and develop their interior lives because there really is a “war on women” today (but it’s the exact opposite of what the media says it is)! 

Ever since the Sexual Revolution and Women’s Liberation Movement, women have been encouraged to think and act like men interiorly and exteriorly. Women are told to squelch their essential feminine nature (body and soul) because it is “weak, irrational and limiting.” Women’s gifts (the feminine genius) are devalued, most of all by women themselves! But women are naturally “receptive,” (body and soul). We are receptive to men and to new life, but first of all to the Infinite, and we teach men and children how to be receptive to God. 

Women are supposedly “more religious” than men (the world over), but can we say that of our young women today? I’m afraid many (young and older) women’s “radar” is broken today. We don’t know what it means to be a woman. We don’t know our own identity in Christ, in Mary (the New Creation: the New Adam and the New Eve). But our radar can be fixed! It’s IN us. “He Speaks to You” is my little attempt to help “fix women’s radar.”

Q.  How long did it take you to write the book?

Approximately two years, very part time. Which was great because new ideas sprung up all along the way.

Q.  How did you come up with the themes for every month?

We tried to cover the essentials of a ground floor for the building of an “interior castle”!

Q. Was it difficult to write any one part of the book?  I enjoyed in particular the “speaking” quotes beginning each day from Jesus, and I wondered if it would be difficult to write so many.

I’m probably going to have an “extended stay” in Purgatory for putting words in Jesus’ mouth! A priest got it right, though, when he guessed: “Sister, is this how YOU hear Jesus?” Jesus is always comforting and challenging at the same time when He speaks to me, and I think that might be a universal for how He speaks to everyone. 

He also has a sense of humor. I think probably one of our biggest sins is to take the unimportant things too seriously, and the important things not seriously enough. Actually, Jesus’ parts in the book were the easiest to write. I’m REALLY hoping the Holy Spirit had a big hand in that, because I was asking Him to!

Q. Do you have a favorite section of the book?

I think it’s the month of October–dedicated to Our Lady–because the BVM is my BFF. I loved learning about her different titles and apparitions and sharing them in the book.

Q. What do you recommend as one or two good ways for a young woman to make the interior life and prayer a reality in our culture’s busy lifestyles?

Fidelity to daily prayer is essential. Sporadic prayer is like a sporadic relationship. You never really get to know the other person. There is NO other way.

Q.  You are busy with so many projects.  Anything in particular you’d like to share as particularly noteworthy?

We’re doing a 90-minute documentary on the life of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. We’ve finished shooting, laying audio and are now completing the visuals. A rough cut is due January 25, 2013. We’re still fundraising for it and have a pledge of a $10,000 matching grant if we can raise that by December 31! The trailer can be watched (in 10 languages so far) at www.MediaApostle.com  and donations can be made securely on the website. 

GIFTS for donations to the Fr. Alberione Film (from November 1–December 31) are:

$20 donation–Fr. A medal

$50 donation–Fr. A medal and DVD when completed

$500 donation–Fr. A medal, book (biography), and DVD when completed

$1,000 donation–Fr. A medal, book, DVD, and 12″ resin statue.

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

Yes, the question would be:  “If you were to write the same book today, would you do anything differently?” (I wrote it about four years ago.) 

The answer?  Yes. I would make it even more mushy, lovey-dovey with Jesus and stuff it with even MORE Theology of the Body. Women need to go to Jesus FIRST for their love, self-esteem, self-dignity and to feel beautiful. THEN go to your earthling guy. God’s love never changes.

Worth a Listen: Blessed John Paul Autotuned

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise “worth a listen”).  Explanation (of a kind) here.

HT Hell Burns, the blog of Sister Helena Burns.  The maker of this video is asking for suggestions about other videos to autotune, and some of the commenters suggested Cardinal Dolan’s prayer at the end of the Democratic National Convention.

This reminds me a little of a video (I didn’t actually realize it was a video until I Googled it.  I have the audio version in iTunes from way back when BXVI was elected, and a French girl living with us at that time shared it with me).

First, What Are You Reading? Volume 27, The All Saints/Marathon Edition

Happy Feast of All Saints!   Be sure to celebrate in style this great feast of the Church.

I’m interrupting my marathon story (here are Part 1 and Part 2) to post my monthly “what are you reading?” questions, with a focus on a book about someone who probably is a saint, as well as one book about running by a prayerful young man.

The questions, as always, are:

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 or Twitter.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I actually read Jeff Grabosky’s book Running With God Across America back in the summer, but I want to feature it now, because Jeff is a fellow LIFE Runner.  I also plan to do a Q&A with him in the future since he’s agreed to do one.

 I’m also in the midst of Leonie Martin:  A Difficult Life by  Marie Baudouin-Croix.

What do you like best about them?

I most enjoy Jeff Grabosky’s voice and honesty in talking about his spiritual journey in Running With God Across America. 

Leonie Martin: A Difficult Life is quite moving.  I had read before in an article about Leonie that some believe that she, almost more than Therese, deserves formal recognition as a saint.  I’m not sure about that, but reading about her mental health issues and how she worked to overcome them and persist in seeking to fulfill her vocation has brought me to tears on several occasions.

What do you like least?

I am surprised at how much I enjoyed all of Running With God Across America.  I receive a lot of review copies of self-published books, and the vast majority have major issues, whether style, content or grammar/typo issues.  Jeff’s book, while self-published, genuinely reads like a memoir from any major publisher.  I’m not sure if he had a great helpful editors or friends read through it, or just has a gift, or both.  He’s a great writer and the story flows.

Leonie Martin was written in the French, and sometimes the translation  feels a little awkward.  It’s easy to overcome, and certainly worthwhile to know more about this member of the Martin family.

What’s next on your list to read?

I have a huge stack of books that are possibilities for my December column featuring good gift books.  So many great choices, but I’m on the lookout for more.  If you know of any great newer books that would also make great Christmas presents, please comment here or send me a tweet.

Youth Is Wasted on the Young?

Here is my October column that appears in this weekend’s edition of The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback here.

Like many moms, mine loved great maxims born of wisdom and long experience.  Because she had a great sense of humor, these sayings would sometimes morph, Mrs. Maloprop-style, to something like my personal favorite, “We’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.”

One she never changed, but still intoned in her best mock-serious mother-knows-best voice: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

Now that I close in on the half-century mark, I begin to understand what that really means.

Yes, youth is wasted on the young.  All that free time!  All that energy!

I recall saying–more than once–to ungrateful, nap-resistant toddlers:  “I promise you, someday, someone will say to you, ‘why don’t you go take a nap,’ and you will say, ‘Thank you!’ instead of fighting it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my maturity and experience, even as I might covet what the younger me took for granted, like naps or a faster metabolism.

“Youth is wasted on the young” occurred to me as the fall books from Catholic publishers began to arrive, and with more than the usual number for teens and young adults.   I wish I could have had read these when I was 15, 25 or 35 for inspiration, for spiritual growth, or just plain fun.  So youth, don’t waste it, but take advantage of these great books, vetted not just by me but younger readers, to enjoy this fall:

*He Speaks to You by Sister Helena Burns, FSP.  Sister Helena is an expert on media literacy and Theology of the Body, a Catholic new media maven, and a great friend to the Peoria diocese, speaking here often and living in nearby Chicago.  Turns out she’s also a gifted author.

This book is a deceptively simple prayer/reflection book for young women.  Each page corresponds to a day of the year, with Scripture, reflection and action and journaling ideas.  It may sound basic, but He Speaks to You offers substantial, meaty topics in the context of consistent themes that run through an entire month.  For example, “His Will” in April, covers topics like discernment and vocation, and “In His Image” in August, focuses on body image and sexuality.

Sister Helena writes in the introduction, “The sisters and I have long talked about wanting to find a way to share …basic principles of the interior life and how to live them in daily life.”    With the wisdom of the Daughters of St. Paul, mission accomplished.

*Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez.

This is a sweet volume–all from a Catholic perspective–about loving yourself, overcoming setbacks, and recognizing what makes a person unique.  23-year-old Lizzie Velasquez was born with a rare medical syndrome, and she writes candidly about her struggles and how she has used them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Lizzie’s stories, journal and ideas offer a much-needed antidote to our culture’s obsession with perfection and ways to overcome that.

*Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith by Matt Weber.

Matt Weber is a Harvard grad and practicing Catholic–not at all a contradiction.  Fearing the Stigmata is his charmingly earnest and witty take on living as a Catholic young adult in the modern world.

I didn’t include this book simply so young men wouldn’t feel left out, but because it is a genuinely funny and spiritually edifying book.  I found myself laughing out loud at many, many vignettes in the book, from his love of the restaurant Olive Garden, to “nun volleyball,” to “the Dominic Code.”  You have to read Fearing the Stigmata to find out what those mean in the context of our Catholic faith, but you’ll thank me.

Print is Alive and Well: My CPA Midwest Wrap-Up

Last week, I had the great good fortune to attend the Catholic Press Association Midwest Regional Conference, hosted here in Peoria.  The editor of The Catholic Post, Tom Dermody, and his staff at The Catholic Post organized a terrific two-day meeting, and I for one came away with many great ideas and insights.

Regular readers of Reading Catholic will note that I usually refer to Tom as “my editor,” but I started to feel strange about that, as if being “my editor” is his only job, working on polishing my monthly column for the print edition of The Catholic Post and giving me advice about writing and other things.  But however much it may surprise you (she says jokingly), he is actually really busy, whether in putting out a newspaper every two weeks, or organizing regional conferences.

That’s one point of this post: to acknowledge and praise the work of print journalists in Catholic press, and share with my online comrades the amount of work that goes into print publications.  Back before there was an Internet, I worked in newspapers, magazines, and then in media relations during the high-tech days when we used to fax press releases to reporters.

Because I now work primarily online and love so much about it, I had forgotten the intense amount of effort goes into print publications, until I got the chance to be with those print journalists for several days.

My ultimate message for Catholic people active online?  Keep doing it, but at the same time be sure that you are supporting and reading print publications.  If you don’t already subscribe to your diocesan newspaper, please take a moment to do so.  Here’s where you can subscribe to The Catholic Post, for a start.

There are also many worthy national print publications.  Having those “strewn” around the house for kids and adults to find is a way to create a Catholic culture in your house.

One real-life example:  Several months ago, my 11-year-old was delighted to see Pysanky eggs featured on the cover of the beautifully-produced  CNEWA’s magazine One,  since we enjoy doing Pysanky during Lent.   I’m not sure how she would have seen that otherwise; even though the magazine is online, I wouldn’t necessarily have found it or linked it, and she’s not online like we grown-ups are.  Because we give to CNEWA, we get the magazine, and it’s “around” for people in our house to discover.

Now on to the CPA Midwest and some of my snaps from the two-day conference:

Here is Billy Atwell, director of Communications for the Diocese of Venice, Florida, and Penny Wiegert, editor of The Observer, newspaper of the diocese of Rockford, Illinois. Penny is a true force of Catholic media, being a past president of the national Catholic Press Association.  She was great to meet and hear from, as were so many others, from Chicago to downstate Illinois, to St. Louis, to Iowa to Indiana, Florida and Washington, D.C.
Here is Tom Dermody with Sonia Nelson, advertising manager of The Catholic Post.
The general session was “Communicating Across Today’s Generations” by Dominic Perri, a consultant to the USCCB and others.  I don’t have a non-blurry photo of Dominic, but his presentation was very informative about how different generations experience Church life.  What was most helpful in experiencing this firsthand was when Dominic broke us into generational groups each group we answered questions about what we wanted other generations to know about ours, what we wanted to know about other generations.

Here’s a blurry photo of the baby boomers working on their answers.

Later that day I attended two great breakouts–one by Tammi Finch of a local web company, Web Tech Services on social media–I have tons of take-aways from that; and one by Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, on “When Politics and Religion Intersect.” Bob’s talk was both very thorough but rather depressing (sorry, Bob!), since he explains so much of the way things are going from a legislative perspective.  Ultimately, there is hope, because there are good people in Springfield and Washington, D.C. who work for Catholic values and rights.

Before dinner, Monsignor Stanley Deptula, celebrated Mass for the attendees in the St. Thomas More chapel of St. Mary’s Cathedral for the convention-goers.

Monsignor Deptula shared that that day, September 20, was the anniversary of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s ordained in this very cathedral–St. Mary’s Cathedral.

After the Mass and a walk through the cathedral, we boarded a Peoria Charter Coach bus, and Pat Kellogg, who is retired from the diocese, gave us a wonderful short tour of downtown Peoria and Grandview Drive on our way to a terrific dinner at a great local restaurant.  Here’s a kind of dark photo of Pat “touring” us:

The next day’s focus was on Archbishop Sheen, as Monsignor Deptula, executive director of the Sheen Foundation, gave a funny and incisive presentation on “Lessons from a Great Catholic Communicator” about the life of Sheen and the cause for his canonization.  Everyone took copious notes and asked many, many questions during his talk.  Afterwards, Bonnie Engstrom, a nationally prominent blogger in the Peoria diocese whose son’s healing is the “alleged miracle” put forth for Sheen’s beatification, spoke about her family’s experience.

I was tweeting from the conference (@ReadingCatholic on Twitter) because I had my laptop there and it was easy to do so while listening to the speakers.  In fact, tweeting an event is basically a form of taking notes, and is helpful in keeping me focused on what I’m hearing.  I tweeted for the first few minutes of Bonnie’s talk, but stopped.

I had read through Bonnie’s story before on her blog, but had never heard her speak in person about it in detail.  It was amazing, truly so.  I just had to close up my laptop and listen to and soak up all she had to say, and so did everyone else.  Wonderful.  The story of the alleged miracle told by Bonnie is remarkable and beautiful, and should be heard widely.  If you are in the market for a speaker for a Catholic event, please consider contacting Bonnie about it.  She had a room full of experienced journalists enthralled.

Afterwards, while we all snapped photos and talked with Bonnie in front of a photo of her son James Fulton, Tom Dermody (that would be my editor Tom Dermody) said the funniest line of the day, which I did tweet eventually:

“We have to use ‘alleged’ before miracle, but we don’t have to use alleged before ‘adorable.'”

Have you been to a conference lately?  What positive experiences and insights did you come away with?