Listen Up! Catholic Podcasts
Podcasting has been around for 15 years and I have just recently discovered some of the rich Catholic content the platform has to offer.  Better late to the party than never, right? I’ve added a half dozen or so Podcasts to my personal library which I listen to during the many hours of driving I […] The post Listen Up! Catholic Podcasts appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Welcoming Eduardo Verastegui to Boston
Hello and welcome! Last Saturday, I had the joy of ordaining a new Capuchin priest, Brother Akolla, at St. Catherine of Sweden Church in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Cameroonian community, so we were joined by a large number of his Cameroonian relatives and friends for the celebration. I belong to the Pittsburgh Province, and it is always a joy when I can spend the day with our friars, especially around something as joyful as a profession or ordination. By Sunday, which was, of course, Father’s Day, I was back in Boston and we had a Mass for the Hispanic community in the cathedral, during which we had a special blessing for all the fathers and grandfathers present. Then, in the afternoon, I attended the 10th annual Gala Dinner to benefit the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary of Boston. We were so pleased to be joined by our keynote speaker, Eduardo Verástegui. I have been inviting him for a long time to come to Boston, and it was wonderful that he was able to make it on this occasion. He gave just an extraordinary testimony about his own conversion and his commitment to working for evangelization and the Gospel of Life in Hollywood, where so many values that are in conflict with our faith are so prevalent. There, in the midst of an extremely secular and often interreligious atmosphere, he maintains a sense of mission and the presence of God in his life, which makes him ready to risk his economic well-being and his career to be faithful to his vocation as a Catholic. He also talked about making the movie Bella. He said that, after it was released, they received over a thousand letters from women who saw the movie and had been considering abortion, but after seeing the film, were convinced that that was not the path they wanted to take.With Eduardo and rector Father Tony Medeiros Eduardo galvanized such a reaction from the crowd, it was just stunning. As I told the seminarians afterwards, usually the songs they sing at the end of the evening are sort of the highlight, but they were completely eclipsed by the speaker this year. The undisputed highlight of the evening was the very moving testimony of the faith of this young soap opera star-turned-apostle. I invite you to watch his full address. (He begins in Spanish, but very quickly turns to English.) Monday, I was visited by Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of the Diocese of Galle, Sri Lanka, who came to the cathedral accompanied by Father Marc Bishop. He was staying with Father Bishop because he was preaching for the Mission Appeal in his parish. He brought me the gift of this statue of a spear fisherman. We had a very nice visit. During our discussion, he spoke about the terrible bombings that took place on Easter in his country, and he described the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that exists there. However, it was encouraging to hear that, after the terrible bombings, the Buddhist community reached out to them offering help, which was very consoling for Bishop Raymond and his people because they had never had that close relationship with the other religious communities. Then, I went to the Boston College Club in Boston to attend the annual lunch for senior priests of the Archdiocese of Boston sponsored by the Order of Malta. Once again this year we were entertained by Dick Flavin, who was just extraordinary, reciting all of his poetry and stories about the Fenway and the Red Sox. He really is quite the raconteur. I know all the priests there had a wonderful time. Of course, the view of the Boston skyline from the Boston College Club is just stunning, and makes it a wonderful venue for this gathering. We are so grateful to the Order of Malta, particularly Jack Joyce and Jim O’Connor, as well as the Boston College Club, for their efforts in supporting this special event. Tuesday, I met at the cathedral with Mother Olga, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, John Flatley and Jason Jones to discuss the Night 4 Life. The Night 4 Life itself was held on Wednesday. I offered a reflection and benediction, but the evening featured keynote addresses by Jason Jones and Cathy “Ki” Morrissey. Ki Morrissey shared her story of how she became pregnant in college and was encouraged to have an abortion. She chose instead to give birth and place her son for adoption. After being separated, Ki suffered from depression and turned to God to help her through the pain. When her son was 19, he reached out to her. They reunited and were able to have a relationship. Ki said she hopes to change society’s image of birthmothers as cold and uncaring, because the choice to place a child for adoption is really one of love. Jason Jones shared his very compelling story of how, when he was in high school, his girlfriend became pregnant. They had planned to raise the child but, tragically, the girl’s father took her by force to have an abortion. Jason was so distraught by this that he decided that he would spend the rest of his life fighting against abortion. As a young man, he was very much an atheist and only came into the Church much later. Now, he collaborates with Eduardo Verástegui in making films, and it was providential that they both happened to be in Boston in the same week. It was also providential that the Night 4 Life was held during the same week that hearings were held on the ROE Act at the State House. (You can read more about the hearing and the testimony offered by representatives of Massachusetts Catholic conference in our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot.) During the event we also heard from Mayor Koch. It was very edifying to see a political figure who would speak with such conviction about the dignity for human life. Also, Rev. Gene Rivers was there representing the black community. Also on Tuesday, I attended the wake for Phil Crotty at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, who was a member of the Order the Holy Sepulchre, an instructor of Latin at St. John’s Seminary and a longtime supporter of the seminary. I was happy to be there for a short wake service with his friends and relatives. Wednesday morning, I went up to Kennebunkport, Maine to join the seminarians from the Archdiocese of Boston at their annual summer retreat at the Franciscan Guest House. This annual event is a wonderful opportunity for the Boston seminarians from all the different seminaries to come together for a time of prayer, recreation and fellowship. This year, for their recreation, they made a boat trip to Portland to visit the cathedral there. During my visit, I celebrated Mass with them, and then we had a conference afterwards. Wednesday afternoon, I went to South Boston to visit with members of American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, which includes several monasteries in the United States and Latin America. They were holding their General Chapter at St. Anselm’s College, and Father Casey had invited them to come to Boston. We had Vespers together at St. Augustine Chapel, which is the oldest extant Catholic church in Boston. Afterwards, they hosted a lovely barbecue for us at St. Bridget’s. Thursday, we had one of our regular meetings of the Presbyteral Council. Among the items on our agenda was a presentation by Patrick Krisak and Michael Lavigne on different young adult groups in the archdiocese and how priests could encourage an adult ministry in the parishes. It was very encouraging to hear all that is being done to help reach our young adult Catholics. Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Grandma sees me as I am in the present
Interview with the 90-year-old grandma of a sister-in-training: Sassy and direct, Grandma's never been known to hold back her views, so I'd imagined she'd respond to my questions with refreshing frankness. Now, with her memory failing, I'm worried I waited too long. But I want to try.
How do you know if the call is from God or just you?
From A Nun's Life podcasts - In this Random Nun Clip, high school students are livestreaming to talk to two Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco in Tampa, Florida.
Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff
4 minute readDid you know understanding your personal, unique style can help you determine “how” to organize your things and your home? Lisa Lawmaster Hess guides us through a step-by-step process on the ins and outs of how to finally get organized and stay organized in her book: “Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff.” This unique approach not only gives invaluable material advice, but each chapter starts with a Bible verse and ends in a beautiful prayer! Where did you get your inspiration for writing this book? There used to be a show on HGTV called “Mission: Organization” where a professional organizer came in and helped an individual or family turn a disorganized space into an organized one. There were several professional organizers on the show, and my favorites were the ones who worked with the families instead of just imposing what I call Type A Solutions on them. Around this same time, or maybe a little after, I was changing offices at work, and I was less than thrilled about it, so I decided it was a lemons-to-lemonade opportunity. If I had to move (and I did), I figured I might as well make the new office a well-organized space (the old one definitely was NOT). I started reading about organization, but most of what I found stopped short of actually coming up with creative solutions, instead coming up with a lot of “here’s what you should do.” I thought back to “Mission: Organization” and started playing with creative ways to organize, and I started to get really excited. At some point, I decided to turn this into lessons for my students (at that time I was a school counselor in an elementary school building that housed grades 2-5)—after all, why should they have to wait until they were 40-something to discover this stuff? I came up with kid-friendly names for the styles and started running small groups and teaching lessons. After I retired, I brought the lessons to community education groups. So far, kids from 8 to 85 have played around with personal and organizational styles! This book incorporates a lot of traditional organizing principles, but its focus is on building both organizational skills and personal confidence. So many people who struggle with organization feel beaten down—I saw this even in 10-year-olds! I want them to understand that they aren’t hopeless or broken. They just need to find the right organizational fit. The acronym STYLE is genius! How did you come up with this/where did it come from? I’ve used acronyms as a mnemonic since I was trying to learn history in high school, and I’ve seen them quite often in self-help books. When I was conceptualizing this idea, a publishing professional I spoke with suggested that the addition of an acronym would be a good idea, and STYLE was born! It stands for: S – Start with successesT – Take small stepsY – Yes, it has a homeL – Let it goE – Easy upkeep I wanted to make organization approachable for people who’d lost confidence in their ability to organize, so things like Start with Successes and Take Small Steps were really important. So often, people who’ve struggled to get organized have also lost faith in themselves, and re-building confidence is the first step to believing we can get organized when we’ve spent a lifetime believing we can’t. Confidence also sparks motivation and creativity. Have you found there is one personal and organizational style that is more dominant than the others? If so, why do you think this is? That’s a really good question! I honestly don’t know. I’m not aware of a front-runner, although the “cram and jam” organizational style was common in my elementary school students, as was the “I love stuff” personal style. Both of these styles share a too-much-stuff-not-enough-space struggle. What have you found to be the most beneficial thing about the organization process; and conversely, the most difficult? The biggest challenge is the fact that organization is an ongoing process. Life isn’t static; we need to constantly adjust to the flow of things in and out of our homes, and that means that perfection isn’t really possible. The most beneficial thing to me personally about organizing by STYLE is the sense of empowerment (and confidence) I felt when I stopped thinking I had to organize like everyone else. It was incredibly liberating to realize that tools (like binders and file cabinets) should work in our service and not vice versa. If something doesn’t work for me, that’s okay. I just need to find a styles-based tool that does work. If you could give your reader only one piece of advice, what would it be? What do you hope to be the biggest takeaway from the book? Organization is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. When you work within your styles instead of trying to copy what works for someone else, you can create a system that works for you. Find her book now at   Joanne Huestis-Dalrymple is a freelance writer residing just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. She is expecting her 8th child this summer. Joanne runs a Catholic book club for middle school girls and is the head coach for the St. Thomas More Academy swim team. Joanne enjoys reading, writing and going on adventures with her family.
Loss and Legacy
Through death I begin to understand what it means to honour someone else’s legacy. Oxford dictionary tells us that a legacy is “something left or handed down by a predecessor.” The post Loss and Legacy appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
How (Not) To Martha Up Your Life
I knew God was right, I needed to slow down, to listen to His word, to do what he wanted for me and stop worrying about what others thought of me. But in true, human, fallen style, I ignored Him, and fussed and worried and hosted and fretted about work. The post How (Not) To Martha Up Your Life appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Searching for Saints
I bought 20 holy cards Saturday morning. “Do you have St. Thomas More, St. Bernadette or St. Cassian?” I asked the young clerk at the Catholic bookstore. “No,” she replied, but told me to check the gift shop on the other side of the basilica as she rang up my collection of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, … More → The post Searching for Saints appeared first on For Your Marriage.
5 Ways NFP Has Benefited our Marriage
We’ve been practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP) over the course of our 20+ years of being married and are big fans. NFP is a way to cooperate with our bodies and God to engage our sexuality and plan a family. NFP has been a gift in our marriage, and at the same time, it has … More → The post 5 Ways NFP Has Benefited our Marriage appeared first on For Your Marriage.
Nourish My Body, Nourish My Soul
Although what we eat plays an important part in nourishing our body, where we eat and with whom we eat nourishes our soul.  This month we’ll dig into the weeds of our triggers and temptations and be more mindful of the lies and truths we have to choose between in our relationship with food and […] The post Nourish My Body, Nourish My Soul appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families
Boys whose fathers are addicted are more likely to display aggressive behavior than fathers who are not addicted. Conversation tends toward one topic. Inability to give up control. Never sick. The post The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
The USCCB Spring Meeting
Hello and welcome! Last Saturday, we had the joy of ordaining seven transitional deacons at the Cathedral the Holy Cross. These are men who, next year, will be ordained priests. It is always a very happy moment for the Church to be ordaining men to ministry. I was struck that the number of those being ordained was seven, which was the number of the original deacons in the Acts of the Apostles. In my homily, I teased them a little bit about that, saying that there are many things that come in sets of seven — the Seven Wonders of the World, the Magnificent Seven and, of course, the Seven Dwarves — but most importantly there are the seven deacons in the Acts of the Apostles who were ordained to carry on the ministry of mercy and to work to heal divisions in the community. These are still very important functions of our deacons today. Of course, the diaconate represents the servanthood of Jesus Christ, which is manifested in this ministry. The Church has the tradition of ordaining men as deacons before they are ordained priests, but they will always be ordained into this ministry of servanthood, which will perdure in their priesthood, as well. The word deacon means “servant,” and Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served. He is calling us to follow the example that he gave us at the first Eucharist — The Last Supper — in which he washed the feet of the disciples and told us that he was doing this to give us an example of fraternal love and service to one another. Pentecost Sunday, I went to the Madonna Queen Shrine in East Boston to celebrate confirmations for the Brazilian community. It was a very large group of about 150 confirmands. The Mass was also an opportunity for us to welcome the two new Don Orione Fathers who have arrived to minister at the Shrine – Father Antonio, a Brazilian priest who was previously working in the Philippines, and Father Angel who is a Spanish priest and is now stationed at the shrine with responsibility for the Spanish-speaking community. On Monday, we began our annual Spring Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In conjunction with the plenary session, there are also always a number of committee and other meetings that are held either before or during the plenary session. One such meeting that I attended was a meeting of the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center on Monday. The NCBC actually began in Boston and is a national center that has been invaluable in the life of the Church, particularly around questions of medical ethics. The founder and first director of the center, Dr. John Haas, is finishing up his long tenure there. So, this was his last meeting as president. He has given just extraordinary service to the Church in this area that is becoming more and more complex and more and more important in the life of the Church. It was an opportunity for the bishops and the others present to express our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Haas for his tireless work. He has served the Church in so many different ways. At the meeting, we were also introduced to the new president, Dr. Joseph Meaney, who had previously served as Director of International Outreach and Expansion for Human Life International. We were very pleased to welcome him. That day we also had a meeting of the U.S. Bishops’ committee for the Church in Africa. This committee was founded thanks to the efforts of Bishop John Ricard, who is a Josephite. Because of his work on the board of Catholic Relief Services, he became acquainted with the tremendous growth and also the great economic challenges that the Church in Africa faces. So, he asked the conference to begin a special collection for the Church there, very much like the special election for the Church in Latin America and the Church in the Middle East. It is always very encouraging to see the wonderful things that are being done through this collection. On Tuesday, we began the general sessions where the key issue being dealt with was the issue of accountability, transparency and involvement of laypeople in the path forward to resolve challenges in reporting and investigating allegations of misconduct concerning bishops and superiors. There had been great expectation around the November bishops’ meeting, which was frustrated by the postponement in making decisions requested by the Vatican. Then, in January, bishops had the opportunity to gather in Chicago at Mundelein Seminary for a wonderful retreat, which was a chance to reflect more on the issue and to wait for direction from the Holy See that would apply to bishops’ conferences around the world. That document came out recently and was the basis for our deliberations and the decisions that have been made here in Baltimore. I think there was great unity shown among the bishops and resolve to confront this challenge. So, I think the bishops feel very positive about the meeting. For those who want to learn more, I’d like to share with you this question and answer document prepared by the USCCB, which gives a broad overview of our work on this issue: MOVING FORWARD Concrete Steps to Hold Bishops Accountable 1. What happened in Baltimore? The USCCB voted on several proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. We specifically committed to involving and utilizing lay professional experts. We also established a new, independent mechanism for the reporting of such cases. 2. Isn’t the “Metropolitan Model” just bishops policing bishops? While we have seen Metropolitan investigations achieve success in uncovering, publicizing and punishing bishop misconduct multiple times in the past year, the body of bishops agreed in Baltimore that independent lay oversight is crucial. The combination of lay involvement, Metropolitan leadership and the final judgment of the Holy See will ensure that complaints are evaluated thoroughly, and justice is achieved for victims and survivors. 3. How exactly will the laity be involved? We’re building upon the well-established practice of lay expertise in the Church, starting at the very beginning of this process. Laypeople will assist us in informing the public about how to utilize our new reporting mechanism. A lay person will be informed any time a complaint comes through that process. Lay investigators will be identified at the provincial level by Metropolitan Archbishops and will play an active role in investigating individual complaints against bishops. 4. Is this process transparent? What will the public know about credible complaints against individual bishops? Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio includes whistleblower protections that will allow anyone making a complaint to publicize it however they wish. The new Directives require those making a complaint to be given documents describing the process. As noted, the bishops are also committed to lay involvement in both the receiving of complaints against bishops and in any investigations. With these safeguards, the bishops are committed to making the process as transparent as they possibly can. 5. Level with me: Will the policies approved in Baltimore protect people from abuse at the hands of bishops? We’ve achieved a goal stated by USCCB President Cardinal DiNardo throughout the process: We’ve filled the gaps in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and now build upon its success. The Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, the new Directives, the renewed Episcopal Commitments, the third-party reporting system, and the heavy emphasis and reliance on lay expertise in the United States will bring unprecedented accountability throughout the hierarchy of the American Church. The national reporting mechanism may not be ready until next spring, but we already have something in place in the Archdiocese of Boston. When the bishops of the Boston Province realized what the timeframe was for the national program to be launched, they asked to come on board with Boston, so that we can begin this program immediately while we wait for the bishops’ conference to be able to launch the national program.  Of course, the program will involve laypeople in the process. So, we are very happy to welcome them and there will be further announcements about this in the very near future. While the issue of accountability was our primary focus, there were some other items from our meeting that I want to share with you. For example, we also heard a presentation by Bishop Robert Barron on millennials, evangelization and apologetics, in preparation for a more fulsome presentation that he and his group will be presenting at the U.S. Bishops’ meeting in November. There was also a request from Bishop Doerfler of Marquette, Michigan to advance the cause of canonization for Mr. Irving Houle. Mr. Houle was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a veteran, an athlete and a father of a family — he was a man who led a very ordinary, but a very holy life. He is being held up as an example of sanctity in the ordinary circumstances of the life of a Catholic. He is now a Servant of God and with the approval of the bishops’ conference his cause can advance. And, of course, the bishops were also very pleased when it was announced that Father Augustus Tolton, a former slave who became the first black priest in the U.S., was put on the path to sainthood by Pope Francis when, on Wednesday, he signed the decree of recognizing his heroic virtue. We also took a vote on the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. The bishops’ meeting happened to coincide with the birthday of Bishop Robert Reed. So, on Wednesday we had a small birthday party at a local Italian restaurant for him. It was nice of him to plan his birthday in a way that all the Boston bishops could be together for the celebration! Until next week, Cardinal Seán
Build a nonviolent future
Horizons - Last Friday, I joined my co-workers in wearing orange to stand for a future free from gun violence. The next morning, I logged on to social media only to discover that Anika Browne, my own high school classmate, had been killed, a victim of gun and domestic violence.
Fruits of the Spirit: Bearing Fruit and Building the Kingdom
5 minute readGrowing up, I would sit at our cozy kitchen table, my eyes scanning the wallpaper, a smattering of grapes, apples and juicy pears accompanied by the words, “The Fruit of the Spirit is the Love, Joy, Peace….” I didn’t know what “Fruits of the Spirit” actually meant, but it was easy to intuit that these fruits, different as they were from the earthly variety, were considered good and holy. I eventually learned that the Fruits of the Spirit grow from the Gifts of the Spirit, which the Holy Spirit bestows on us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Catechism tells us, “the fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory” (CCC 1832). St. Paul calls out nine of these by name in Galatians 5:22-23, directly after warning against several vices and desires of the flesh. He presents the Fruits of the Spirit as opposing positive attributes, the tools we need to combat the worldly temptation and corruption that stunts our spiritual growth and pulls us into darkness. But are these fruits really as desirable as those depicted in my kitchen so many years ago? Are the efforts needed to grow them worth the labor when held up against the comforts of the world? Let’s look at what our current culture tells us about these fruits and consider where God’s truth fits in: LOVE Our culture is overflowing with messages that say love is all about us. Whether romantic or fraternal, we’re told that love hinges on feelings. It’s about how we feel and how others make us feel; if the good feelings dissipate, we conclude that love has also disappeared. God tells us, and continually shows us, that true love is an action. Not just any action, but a sacrificial action— offered for another and ordered toward their highest good. Their highest good doesn’t revolve around earthly pleasures, but rather their eternal good, what helps save souls. When we focus on loving others with eternity in mind, it purifies our own intentions and souls. JOY Our world’s captivation with happiness borders on obsessive. Academic courses and extensive medical studies have poured countless hours into the goal of maximizing happiness. Society encourages us to do whatever it takes and avoid any challenge or discomfort in our quest to “find happiness.” But happiness still eludes us because it’s confined to earthly constraints; it has always been finite and will always been fleeting. What the world is truly searching for is joy. Joy is a much deeper reality, sourced from Eternal Love, that satisfies the intense longing for the infinite in our hearts. Joy can exist independent of material goods or circumstances. Even in the deepest suffering, joy can be present because it springs from Love. PEACE Society is equally captivated by peace. Peace is marketed as an experience, a workout or a state of being; one in which we must detach ourselves from the world, and, sadly, from ourselves. On the contrary, God tells us that Peace is a person. A relationship. The more we seek relationship with him, the better we understand our one true identity in him. When we start to accept our identity in Christ, Peace begins to live and reign in us, permeating our every action and overflowing to the world. PATIENCE Our world tends to redefine patience as tolerance. It’s seen as a sort of resignation, despondence or euphemism for checking our annoyance. But in traditional Church teaching, the word “longsuffering” is interchangeable with patience, which sheds light on the fullness of this fruit. Patience stems from strength; it involves the ability to invite our Lord in to help us withstand suffering and difficulty in the face of anxiety or temptation. It is the opposite of despair. It is a mark of great humility and trust. KINDNESS Today’s society feeds on competition and flattery. We can subconsciously size up those around us, while also continually comparing ourselves, craving affirmation and admiration. Kindness, on the other hand, looks past appearances and seeks to affirm the inherent good in another. Kindness looks for the face of God in another. Kindness champions others by calling out their gifts and talents, while recognizing that this does not diminish our own gifts and talents. GENEROSITY Generosity gives from an abundance of love, not a poverty of guilt in response to manipulation or demand. Others might cite our “Christian duty” to be generous by equating it with accommodating their every desire. But neither kindness nor generosity involve acting at the expense of our own bodies, minds and souls. Both are rooted in love, which always desires the highest good of souls—perceiving their true needs, corporal and spiritual. When we recognize those needs and are generous with the gifts, talents and abundance God has gifted to us, it often returns to us many times over. FAITHFULNESS Faithfulness is based on contingencies in today’s world. We commit to remaining faithful provided that others act as we’d like, or provided they remain faithful to us. Christ, on the other hand, models true fidelity from his posture of sacrificial love on the cross. Faithfulness finds its source in sacrificial love; it remains committed to our Christian vows to love one another to the end for the sake of souls. GENTLENESS Today’s world confuses gentleness with passivity. Passive people don’t ruffle feathers or rock the boat. Passive people are perceived as weak. But real gentleness is born from genuine strength. It’s seeing another’s vulnerability and fragility, yet rather than wielding power, choosing to let compassion and mercy infuse our actions and interactions. SELF-CONTROL Self-control, or self-discipline, is also often called temperance. It’s the spiritual “impulse control” that combats our current world’s “anything goes” mentality. Self-control helps us recognize the consequences attached to our actions—including those that stretch into eternity—and helps us have greater mastery over our emotions, rather than letting them dictate our decisions. Self-control ultimately allows us to channel our passions into worthy pursuits that glorify God and build his kingdom. The ways of the world will always present us with tempting, and sometimes very convincing, counterfeits to God’s law. But as I discovered in the years between my fruit-filled childhood kitchen and now, those counterfeits always leave us emptier in the end. As St. Paul reminded the Galatians, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Each of these fruits cultivates and builds on the others, and the more we embrace them, the more we can collectively build the eternal kingdom of God’s love for souls.   Megan Hjelmstad writes from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where she’s a wife and mom 24/7 and an Army Reservist in her “spare” time. When not writing, Megan is happily indulging her hobbies as a bibliophile, te a drinker, sleep lover and avid admirer of Colorado’s great outdoors. Learn more by visiting her blog at
To build a nonviolent future, act now
Horizons - Last Friday, I joined my co-workers in wearing orange to stand for a future free from gun violence. The next morning, I logged on to social media only to discover that Anika Browne, my own high school classmate, had been killed, a victim of gun and domestic violence.
Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride
Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the […] The post Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
Dating With Disability
As a person with a disability, I can feel lost. Questions run through my head. What will dating be like? Will anyone ever love me? What is my vocation? Luckily The Catholic Church has always held a universal vocation: The post Dating With Disability appeared first on Catholic Sistas. Catholic Sistas - perspective from the neck
America, the Beautiful
6 minute readE Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. It’s a statement that defines us both as Americans and as Catholics. As Catholics, we are bound together into the body of Christ through the gift of the Eucharist. As Americans, we live in a nation founded upon a creed that holds sacred our dignity, equality and religious freedom. Our nation’s history, diverse peoples and saints have great lessons to teach us. Our shrines stand as testimonies of God’s work throughout this great land and as “tents of meeting” where we can discern the next steps in our journey and encounter God as our traveling companion. Consider taking a pilgrimage closer to home this summer. Immerse yourself in America, the beautiful. Mother Cabrini Shrine GOLDEN, COLORADO A train ride through Colorado’s Rockies inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the famous lines that would become the lyrics to “America, the Beautiful.” Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, an immigrant from Northern Italy, also felt a similar affection for the rugged Colorado landscape. While visiting her orphanage in Denver, Mother Cabrini came across a charming piece of land which she purchased to be a girls’ summer camp. In her maternal care for the orphans, she desired them to have a place where they could relax, explore the outdoors and learn how to care for livestock. The sisters, however, soon discovered a problem. The property didn’t have its own source of water. They had to carry all the water for drinking and cooking uphill from a canyon far below. They were dying of thirst. Bringing the need to Mother Cabrini’s attention, she immediately directed them to lift a rock on the property and start digging. The water flowed. To this day, the spring has never run dry. The beloved camp is now home to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Here, visitors can come and taste the miraculous spring water which has been credited with many healings. Visitors are invited to pray and walk the path up the mountain that Mother Cabrini led the sisters and girls on during her final visit to Colorado. The walk culminates with an impressive 22-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus overlooking the city of Denver. Guests can learn more about Mother Cabrini’s life and work at a museum on site, stop for peaceful prayer in the Rosary and meditation gardens and attend daily Mass in the main chapel. More information: Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament HANCEVILLE, ALABAMA A “yes” to found the first American Catholic cable television network, EWTN, in 1980 was only one in a series of major affirmatives given to God throughout the life of Mother Angelica. On a trip to Colombia in the mid-1990s, Mother heard the voice of Jesus as a young boy asking her to dedicate a shrine to honor the Lord’s true presence in the Holy Eucharist. “How in the world?” she must have thought. The voice persisted, “Build me a temple and I will help those who help you.” Returning home, Mother Angelica resolved to grant the Lord’s request. By providence, she found five families willing to cover the cost of the build. Today, the aptly named Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament draws people of all faiths and backgrounds into an encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The entirety of the 400-acre property propels visitors to the shrine church. Upon entering the gates, visitors are transported into a picturesque medieval Italian village with a Gothic-Romanesque church, a monastery with intriguing arched porticos and even a castle. Standing in the piazza, the buildings stretch their arms to embrace you. A statue of the Divine Christ Child stands patiently waiting to welcome his beloved guests. Within the shrine church, the Blessed Sacrament is elevated in a 7-foot tall monstrance above the altar surrounded by golden angels. Masses, confessions and tours of the John Paul II Eucharistic Center are offered multiple times daily. More information: Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN The mighty Mississippi River (originally named the River of the Immaculate Conception!) stands at the heart of the nation’s history in terms of geography, agriculture, industry and trade. Americans of diverse backgrounds worked on and gained their livelihood from the river. Therefore, it can be no coincidence that the Blessed Mother, who is patroness of all the Americas, arranged for a spiritual heart of worship to be built into the river’s northern bluffs. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe came to be providentially located in La Crosse, Wisconsin by shrine founder Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke upon an inspiration gained at the canonization of St. Juan Diego. The shrine remains today a profound testimony of Mary’s drawing all peoples together under her mantle, directing us to Christ, her Son. Pilgrims begin their visit at the bottom, winding slowly upward toward the shrine church. Stop-offs include a votive candle chapel and devotional areas dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Joseph the Worker. The interior of the shrine church radiates the True Presence of Christ surrounded by Our Lady, the saints and angels. Holy Mass, the Sacrament of Penance and Eucharistic Adoration are offered at various times each day. Be sure to check out the Memorial to the Unborn, a poignant place where families can come to pray and receive spiritual relief. The Memorial includes a columbarium holding the remains of miscarried and stillborn babies, as well as aborted children. A commissioned statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holding three unborn babies of different nationalities overlooks the memorial. More information: Seton Shrine EMMITSBURG, MARYLAND Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born saint. She founded the first congregation of religious sisters in the United States and established the Catholic school system. She was also a mother of five children! At her canonization, Pope St. Paul VI shared, “Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage.” There’s no better place to get to know this powerhouse saint than to visit the place where she lived, prayed and taught. The expansive Seton Shrine complex includes a basilica, museum and two historic homes in which St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived. The basilica church, originally built as a chapel for her sisters, is a vision with glittering mosaic tiles, Italian marble and German stained-glass windows depicting saints. People of all walks of life gather at the shrine to ask for favors of healing through St. Elizabeth’s intercession. In one case, a young girl with leukemia was placed upon the altar where St. Elizabeth’s remains were buried. She experienced a complete healing and often returns to the shrine today. In addition to St. Elizabeth’s life, the legacy of her order, both the Sisters and Daughters of Charity are on display. You won’t want to miss the Civil War Sisters exhibit, which shares personal accounts of how the sisters served during the nearby Battle of Gettysburg. One of the newest features of the shrine is the living history tour, as experienced through the eyes of Elizabeth’s daughter, Catherine. Tours are available on Sundays during the summer beginning on June 2. More information: National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA The mission of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa is to bring people of different nationalities closer “to Jesus Christ through Mary.” In gazing upon her, we become students in Mary’s school of faith to receive God’s dwelling inside of us. Essentially, she teaches us how to be loved by the Lord. Pope St. John Paul II was especially devoted to this image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, commonly known as the “Black Madonna,” that resided in his homeland. During his first visit back to Poland as pope, he repeated the words he had spoken to Mary under this title many times before, Totus Tuus or “Totally Yours.” Honoring the millions of Polish immigrants to the United States, the Pauline Fathers brought a replica of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa to be enshrined here in the 1950s. The shrine includes over 170 acres of property on Beacon Hill overlooking Peace Valley. It is a place of quiet recollection to spend the day and receive Our Lord in the sacraments. If you get hungry during your prayer time, you won’t want to miss the shrine’s cafeteria that serves authentic Polish delights, including babka, sauerkraut and a traditional pierogi. In August, the shrine will be the culmination point of the 32nd Annual Walking Pilgrimage, which stretches 60 miles from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. The pilgrimage is a four-day retreat on the move with open-air Masses and devotions, camping and spiritual refreshment. Over Labor Day weekend, the shrine is also home to the Polish American Festival & County Fair. Come experience entertainment, historical reenactors, Polish food and crafts. More information:
The Wilderness
5 minute readWhat led King David to become a man described as “after God’s own heart?” What made him seek to glorify the God of Israel in everything he did, even when he failed? It was probably a combination of many things. It could have been the royalty for which he was destined or humility that he gained as a shepherd. There is one thing, however, that stands out to me; a secret is revealed to us throughout his many prayers written in the Psalms. “When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have put in place. Who is man that you would keep him in mind, mortal man that you would care for him” (Ps 8: 3-4). It was the wilderness. God speaks always. He is present everywhere, but it is in the beauty of the wilderness that we often are still enough to hear him. Picture it; young David is tending to his sheep. It is evening, and he looks up at a sky filled with stars. There is no artificial noise or light pollution. He beholds the work of a majestic hand. It seizes him. At that moment, David knows to his very core that God is everything. He is creativity. He is beauty itself. And who is David? He is nothing in light of such a God. How could this experience day-after-day while tending to his sheep not propel David to chase after the heart of God? He knew that there was nothing else worthy of the chase. I recently had the pleasure of visiting with Annie Powell, director of Camp Wojtyla in Erie, Colorado, who had similar experiences throughout her childhood. Growing up in the busyness of south Chicago, she and her family would get out to the Rocky Mountains every summer. There in the rugged beauty of God’s natural design, she fell in love with the adventures that awaited her outside of the cities. When she was 15 years old, she decided that she would love God for her whole life and would bring others to him by one day starting a summer camp that was as much an adventure as it was a way to worship the Almighty. The dream became a reality, and now Annie, with her family and her husband Scott, run the camp serving young men and women every summer. Camp Wojtyla is located deep in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. It is 1200 acres of the same sober, wild beauty that captured the heart of David thousands of years ago. There are few modern conveniences. The campers don’t sleep in cabins; they sleep in teepees. In starting Camp Wojtyla, it was the Powells’ desire to remove the veil between the kids and nature as much as possible. The goal is total immersion, connection and harmony with the created world so that each camper is led to the heart of Christ in the way that they see him, themselves, others and nature. The campers attend for a week at a time, and they are separated into gender specific groups. It is an opportunity for young men and young women be themselves completely. Annie told me that she loves watching young women discover how incredible they are. During their time at camp, they are wearing what’s comfortable, not what’s fashionable. The women counselors and campers alike are challenged to go outside their comfort zone, forcing them to learn that they are far more powerful and capable than they thought. “I can’t tell you how many times a young woman told me that there was no way she could hike 15 miles,” Annie said. “At the end of the day, she is blown away that she did, in fact, hike those 15 miles.” It isn’t just the challenges that bring transformation into the hearts of these women. It’s the entire experience. In the brokenness of our world, it is a rare woman that recognizes the beauty that God has placed into her nature. That beauty is too often hidden from her sight, covered with a million sins, lies and insecurities. At camp, young women are sitting before the most beautiful scenes in existence. The colors of the sky melt into each mountain peak as all of creation silently, yet powerfully, cries out to the glory of God. As they look upon this beauty, they are hearing, maybe really hearing for the first time, that they are more beautiful than this. They are digesting the fact that while the scene before them shines a beauty that leaves one breathless, they are the crown of such a scene. Jesus did not die for creation, he died for each of us individually. His passion is to win us back and restore our beauty. Far too often, we either don’t fully believe it, or we refuse God the pleasure of living a life in this truth. The camp setting, teaching and community make it much easier for these women to accept the dignity within them. In my conversation with Annie, she mentioned being surprised at one aspect of the camper’s experience. Sitting around the campfire, sharing stories with each other, one young woman turned to her, “This is the best,” she said. Annie asked, “Are you talking about the hike, the zip line, the rafting? What is the best?” “This, the conversations that we are having,” the young woman responded. “This is the best.” Out of everything she thought Camp Wojtyla could offer, she never would have thought that simple human connection would be one of the most important. Yet for the world we live in, the art of recovering in-person, unplugged friendship is enough to change a life on its own. Each one of us was created for a bold adventure. We are invited to recognize the beauty within our nature and bless the beauty that leads to such a wonderful Creator. To be a good Catholic goes far beyond our Sunday obligation. Jesus did not die so that we would simply go to church. He died so that we could live out the very fullest of our being with him. The monotony of every day can dull this desire inside us or blind us to the reality of our call. As I watched the Camp Wojtyla hype video, I found myself wishing back my school days. “I want to go,” I thought to myself. I want the adventure, but I can’t go; I am too old. I can, however, have the adventure. I can be a woman who seeks after God’s own heart daily and who actively gets out into the beauty of nature to remind myself who God is and who I am. You can too. The summer awaits.Say yes to adventure.Say yes to beauty.Say yes to your creator.   Mallory Smyth speaks around the country on topics such as Catholic worldview, inheritance of faith and the feminine genius. She is currently the Director of Program Growth for ENDOW and writing her first book. Learn more about Camp Wojtyla at Photos by Molli Nava and Danny Anderson Photography
Embracing the Word of God with Lectio Divina
3 minute readTen college students spread out as much as they could in our small one-bedroom apartment. The darkened room, illuminated only by candlelight was still and silent on that August night. My husband’s peaceful voice took us slowly into the moment when Jesus calmed the storm, inviting us to join him on the boat. The presence of Christ was as palpable in that room as the Alabama heat outside. Those of us left behind for summer vacation met each week to pray with Scriptures using a technique called Lectio Divina, and through it, Christ was made incarnate again in our midst. Lectio Divina (or Divine Reading) is an ancient spiritual discipline, which involves a slow, thoughtful reading of and meditation on the Scriptures. This form of prayer dates back to the third and fourth centuries and is primarily associated with the monastic rules of such orders as the Carthusians and the Benedictines. But don’t let that intimidate you! Lectio Divina is easy to do. Just follow these five simple steps: 1. Lectio: We began with a slow, prayerful, deliberate reading (and then re-reading) of a Scripture passage. The passage could be a single verse or an entire story, and it can be done with any book of the Bible. It is recommended for beginners to start with the Gospels and, if possible, to read it aloud. 2. Meditatio: Then we spent time meditating on the passage, with the Holy Spirit as our guide. What word or phrase stuck out to us during the reading? We would focus our attention on that and ponder its meaning for a time. 3. Oratio: We would then invite God into the conversation. We would pray and ask him what he wanted us to learn from the passage. We would ask God to reveal why that particular word or phrase from our meditation stuck out and what he desired us to take away from it. 4. Contemplatio: Next, we took some time for contemplation. Contemplation means to rest in silence, to dwell in the presence of God. We allowed what had been stirred up in our souls during the previous steps to take root. 5. Operatio: Finally, we would respond to the text. As Christians, we should never walk away from reading Scripture unchanged. We discussed what we prayed with as a group and determined where we should go next. Based on Step 3, create “an action plan.” Make some practical resolutions, and commit to incorporating them into your life. As Catholics, we read Scripture at every Mass, but we don’t always take the time to ask God what he wants us to learn from it. We don’t always invite him to show us how it applies to our own lives. We often listen to the lector or the priest reading as if we are hearing stories in a newspaper or history book. But if Jesus is the “Word of God,” then the Word is eternal. It is, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes, “living and effective.” The beauty of Scripture lies not only in its historical context, but in the wisdom it holds for readers even today. God has chosen to reveal important truths about himself through Scripture, and it is there that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ. His prophetic words and loving commandments speak just as much to us today as they did to witnesses over 2,000 years ago, and Lectio Divina is an excellent way to unpack these truths. St. Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic exhortation “Vita Consecrata:” The Word of God is the first source of all Christian spirituality. It gives rise to a personal relationship with the living God and with His saving and sanctifying will. It is for this reason that from the very beginning … lectio divina has been held in the highest regard. By means of it the Word of God is brought to bear on life, on which it projects the light of that wisdom which is a gift of the Spirit. Our Catholic faith takes root in the Word of God. In it is found the story of salvation, which continues today and in which each of us plays a role. Lectio Divina orients us toward our eternal homeland because it reminds us of this sacred call and reinvigorates us in our pursuit of it. By praying with the Scriptures, we drink deeply from the never-ending fount of the spiritual life, and open our hearts to God’s guidance and grace that we need to grow in holiness, to become saints. We encountered Christ on that summer’s evening. He used the words of the Scriptures to speak to the innermost piecesof our hearts and invite us deeper into a relationship with him. And we used Lectio Divina to respond to this divine invitation. Carissa Pluta is a wife, mother, freelance writer and blogger currently living as a missionary in Birmingham, Alabama. You can learn more about her on her blog at