Our [Imperfect] Family Rosary

“Continue to pray the Rosary every day.”
(Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucia)

I don’t think there’s any practicing Catholic out there who would deny the importance of daily recitation of the rosary.  The saints, the Popes, and even the Blessed Mother herself invites us to pray it on a regular basis, promising great spiritual wealth and growth as a result of it.  And, I have no doubt at all that that is true.

childs+hands+holding+rosaryBut, for the vast majority of us, praying the Rosary daily is actually rather challenging.  Or, maybe that’s just me.  I am not sure if it’s that I lack focus or the ability to sit still that long, but when I am attempting to pray it alone (which, let me tell you, happens about 0.1% of the time of my life) or when I am driving (which is more realistic), I easily get distracted.  I do much better when I pray it aloud with other people.

But, the only people I am with on a regular daily basis are these tiny human beings that I call my children.   Which, hey, is GREAT!  Because, praying the FAMILY rosary is possibly an even more beneficial and spiritually efficacious type of prayer than praying it alone.

Maybe efficacious isn’t the right word.  Perhaps saying it’s a source of “great sanctification” is more appropriate.  Especially when your prayer partners are 5, 3, and 20 months old.

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In the Garden of Souls

I recently read the book “Left to Tell” by Immaculée Ilibagiza.  It’s the incredible story of how she survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by hiding in a bathroom with several other women for 3 months.  During this ordeal, she had incredible experiences of the presence of God, of true meditation, and of miracles.  The book was totally wonderful and I couldn’t put it down.  I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours, including me staying up waaaaaay past my mommy bedtime because I just had to know what happened next.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Immaculée Ilibagiza

The book has tremendous insights into forgiveness, trusting in God, and prayer and so many things spoke deeply to me. I was most amazed at how her faith could be so strong and deep and her prayer life so intense in a time when things were more horrible than anything she could’ve imagined in her life or than I could ever imagine having to experience.

I’ve used this book and what I’ve read as a reference point a lot lately.  When things have gotten challenging or difficult for me (which, incidentally, they have a lot lately as I am basically single-parenting for a month while my husband is away working), I try to find all the things in the situation that I can be thankful for.  I try to immerse myself in prayer or at least point my thoughts towards God when I am starting to wallow.  I try to be a woman of faith.

I recently had a really, really, REAAAAALLLLY rough night with my children.  And, being without my husband, it compounded the fact that I had no relief during that night and knew I wouldn’t have any the next day, either.  Anyone who has children can understand what a bad night with kids can be like.  You love your kids more than anything, but you reach a breaking point.  You start begging God to make the crying stop, to have mercy on you, for guardian angels to comfort the kids, to please let you have sleep so that you can parent well the next day.

I was pushed to my limits and beyond and I had a lot of not very friendly words with God  that night. I’m convinced I was wrestling with some demons, too.

But, eventually, the hours passed and the crying stopped and the children rested (though, I didn’t really).  And, as I laid awake with my thoughts, I cried at my weakness and lack of faith.  I thought of Immaculée and how strong she was during something that was truly from the devil and lasted for THREE MONTHS (not just 3 hours).  I thought to myself, “The Lord barely gives me trials in comparison to what Immaculée and so many people suffer.  How could I ever hope to attain heaven when I can’t even make it through a tough night of parenting?”

Suffice it to say, I was disappointed and ashamed of myself.

The next morning, I prayed in thanksgiving for the new day, for my beautiful children and their happy little faces, and I asked God to forgive me for all the unpleasant things I had thought (and, some which I spoke allowed) the night before.  I prayed for the grace to be a better parent and to somehow come to an understanding of how I could ever reach sainthood when my struggles, trials, and life seem so small in comparison to what so many others live through.

And, God in all His mercy and kindness, gave me some words of comfort and a reminder of how we are all called to sainthood.

I love a good flower garden!

I love a good flower garden!

“[Jesus] set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers he created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.  I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.



And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden.  He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but he has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet.  Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.”  (St. Térese of Lisieux)



I will probably never be a rose or a lily in Jesus garden of souls.  I will never, God-willing, have to suffer something like Immaculée did that is so horrendous and agonizing that it must be shared so that others may learn and have their faith deepened.  But, being a less significant “flower” doesn’t make my life or my sufferings any less important to the God who created  and loves me.  He glances down at my small life and hears my prayers.

It comes down to this – God has willed my life and sufferings to be what they are and my perfection, my sainthood lies in being aligned with that reality.  It’s my job, now, to be the best little dandelion or daisy that I can be.  Because, the garden of souls currently growing on the earth would be incomplete without mine, even if it’s not the prettiest or most noticeable one growing there.

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

This little guy loves his dandelion mama!

Naked Prayer

I was just so tired.  Normally I try to pray before I get out of bed because I know I am just so selfish that if I make it to my feet, I will be all about my crap and ignore God.  But I was just so tired, I couldn’t think straight. I decided a nice cool shower would wake me up.  After I stepped in and my head cleared, I was reminded of all the people I promised I would pray for.  I turned my attention from soap and scrubbies, and turned my mind to God in prayer.
I brought to mind my friend who I said I would pray for.  Immediately I was aware that I was naked and praying/thinking about my friend.

Super awkward.

My friend wasn’t standing there. I hadn’t really even brought to mind my friend’s face, but just praying for my friend while I was in a “natural” state was way, way strange. I was overcome with weirdness and quickly turned my attention to a more general intention.

Why was this so weird? Two answers come to mind. First, I don’t normally think about other people when I am naked. Usually, I think about becoming un-naked.  Second, prayer isn’t the same thing as just thinking about someone.  There is a certain intimacy that comes with prayer. When we offer up a friend in prayer, we aren’t just bringing them to our own mind, but we are bringing them to God.  Sharing in God is sharing in the total communion of

Hey, if dancing in his birthday suit was good enough for King David… (2 Sam 6:14-22)

the Trinity. If God himself is relationship, when we bring our friends into that relationship, we too get closer to them through God.

Near the end of my shower I realized I probably shouldn’t be so self-conscious about praying naked. God has seen me naked enumerable times. He loves me even when I am drenched and in the buck. Maybe it wasn’t the deepest, most contemplative prayer of my life, but as Peter Kreeft likes to say, “Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.” (Read more from Dr. Kreeft here)  If we are going to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), then sometimes prayer is going to be awkward and maybe even naked.

Jesus is Sneaky.

I didn’t expect the hand rung bell. I was at a Saturday Evening Mass at a parish in Miacatlan, Mexico.  The Priest had just finished the consecration. We prayed through the Our Father and shared a sign of peace. The Church was mostly a large roof over an open air seating area. Out of the back and around the corner of the far wall came the clanking sound of two hand rung bells. I didn’t know what it was at first. Then I realized; the head communion minister, the two servers, and about 10 other people with banners were processing the Eucharist from the tabernacle to the altar for Communion.

The ministers and honor guard walked slowly and with purpose.  They were careful in their task. Every step and every movement showed the great care and deep respect they held for what they were doing and who they were carrying.  Every couple steps the servers rang these impossibly heavy looking bells. The group was so careful with the Eucharist.  It was as if they were carrying the very body of Jesus Christ (which of course they were).  I was left asking if we are that careful. More importantly I asked, am I that careful with what I carry when I walk out of Church having received Jesus and I am a tabernacle of the Eucharist?

Curiously, this wasn’t the only time I encountered Christ in the Eucharist that trip.  When we stopped by a small chapel in Cuernavaca where the founder of NPH was first pastor, the chapel was open for walk-ins for noontime adoration.  When we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a huge monstrance was exposed in a side chapel and many of us stopped to worship. It seemed everywhere I went Jesus was present in the Eucharist.

Reflecting on a summer of Youth Ministry with the CREW at HNOJ, it became abundantly clear God was near us in the Eucharist. At Christpower, our Mission trip to North Minneapolis in partnership with Church of the Ascension, we had a powerful night of Eucharistic adoration.  At the Steubenville Youth Conference in Rochester, Jesus once again came to our young people in the Eucharist during the large session, and our small groups always seemed to end up by the small Adoration Chapel.

Everywhere we turned Jesus was offering us his very body in the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  I shouldn’t be shocked that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, but I was legitimately amazed all the times that Jesus snuck himself into a day of Youth Ministry when we had no purposeful intention to meeting him the Eucharist.

I guess Jesus is sneaky. 

Besides being sneaky, Jesus is persistent.  I really felt like Jesus was pursuing us all summer. Every event, every day it seemed like Jesus was physically really there. Every corner we turned at each event, Jesus was there. Jesus just wouldn’t leave us alone.  This is closer to reality then I normally think about.  Jesus really is chasing after us.  He really is coming for us.  Jesus won’t let us just wander without coming to find us.

We are the dropped coin, the lost sheep, the prodigal son, and our God is coming for us.

I think we often talk about people “finding God.”  People may say, “Oh he found Jesus.”  But in reality, Jesus is finding us.  And here is the thing, Jesus doesn’t just come in some metaphorical way or some random turn of events or some supernatural sign – no. Jesus is coming for us physically, really, truly, completely in the Eucharist. Jesus is literally physically running down the road to meet us.  Jesus in the Eucharist isn’t a symbol, idea, poem, or myth.  The physical, fleshy God of the universe, incarnate (which means ‘taking on flesh’) in Jesus Christ, has come to find us.  God doesn’t send an angel or a cloud shaped like heart to tell us he loves us and wants to be with us, God comes himself.

No messenger, no poetry, no text message or tweet – the God that breathed the stars has come physically to find you and me.

What are you going to do when he finds you?  How are you going to respond when God Almighty offers his body to you at the next Mass you attend?  What are you going to do the next time you step into that Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at HNOJ?  How will you react the next time you come into the physical present of God?

Tulip Capital of the World

Red Tulips

The often-disputed tulip capital of the world are the Keukenhof Gardens (“kitchen gardens”) situated near Lisse, Netherlands.  The good people of Holland, Michigan hold the title of tulip capital of the USA, but since their town is named after the very country containing Keukenhof, I think it is safe for me to declare once and for all the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens as #1 in tulips. Now you know, whether you wanted to or not.

I bring all this up because on my way into church today I walked past a beautiful bed of multi-colored tulips in full blossom.  As far as I am concerned the front flowerbed at Holy Name of Jesus is as beautiful as anything Keukenhof or Holland, Michigan has to offer.  Long stemmed and big, beautiful blossoms, these flowers were worthy of note.  I couldn’t help but stop and smell the..err..tulips.

I was most struck by the fact that these chromatic creations were all leaning towards the newly risen sun.  Each flower straining and pushing to get closer to that ball of exploding gas which rains radiation, light, and heat down upon our green globe.  I’m no botanical genius, but I guessed this had something to do with photosynthesis and the plants seeking to expose their leaves to the most sunlight possible, but I didn’t really know.

So, I looked it up on the magical interwebs.  The process is called Heliotropism which is how we describe plants turning to face the sun.  According the one website I read, plants follow the sun for better photosynthesis and the warmer flowers may attract more pollinating insects.  What is interesting is that they do this all day long.  These flowering plants will slowly turn their blossoms and leaves all day so as to get the best light as the sun moves across our sky (sorry Copernicus – I meant to say “we rotate while the sun stays still.”).

As Christians we need to be more like Tulips.

No seriously, not photoshopped - Fields of real tulips.

We should be more like these petalled posies not by being heliotropic but by being Christotropic.  I mean this in two ways:

  1. Yearning for the sun: When the sun rises small “motor” cells in the base of the plant enlarge with water in just a certain way to turn and push the tulips to face and ultimately reach for the sun. We need to strain and lean into our God.  We must, from our very base, turn our whole posture to face and take in as much of God’s light as we possibly can.  With our whole being, physically as well as spiritually, we need to turn our life towards Christ.  Christ needs to be the center of all that we do.  We should do this in such a way that others notice.  When I saw the flowers reaching for the sun, I naturally turned my face to the rising sun as well.
  2. From the rising to the setting of the sun: These flowers, and sunflowers like them, not only strain for God at the first moments of sunlight in the morning, but all day long they turn so as to face the heavenly rays of light.  Us too must give each moment, from the rising of the sun to the setting, to God.  Throughout our day, we must learn to turn our attention to God.  Whether we are at school, work, or play, whatever we are doing, we must continuously be attentive to God. As Psalm 113 says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.”

So next time you see some beautiful flowers, let those simple plants remind you to be Christotropic everyday, all day.

Jesus Beat the Devil with a Big Ugly Stick

This middle part of Lent is always the hardest for me.  The strong convictions with which I started on Ash Wednesday have begun to wane.  The new routine of prayer that I’ve tried to establish has been interrupted and intruded upon by my family, my work and my life; I’ve slipped up at least once in my fasting.  I start to wonder if it’s worth it—whether or not I should stick with the resolutions I made at the beginning of the season.  I feel guilty for the ways in which I’ve failed to answer the call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and I try to convince myself that it’s okay.  After all, I’m a good person, I’m loving to my family (most of the time), I give what I can when I remember to, and I’ve already prayed more than most other people have.

The Scripture reading for today (Thursday for the 3rd Week of Lent) seems perfectly tailored for my Lenten halftime slump.  It’s a reminder of an uncomfortable reality—one that is disturbing for many of us today.

We are often not comfortable with talk about demons or the devil.  Many Catholics believe that the devil is a sort of cosmic balancing power or a theoretical being.  The devil has the advantage over us in that he is an invisible powerful spirit.  One of his greatest tricks is convincing so many of us that he doesn’t even exist, a truly clever tactic. The incident with the demon in today’s gospel prompts a debate between Jesus and the crowd that discusses the forces of evil with disturbing levels of detail: naming demons and even discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the devil’s plan of attack against humanity.

Today’s gospel reading helps me acknowledge where my fading desire and conviction at this point in the Lenten season come from.  Jesus’ reminder that the devil and his demons are very real beings that pose a very real threat help me to recognize my temptations to laziness, de-motivation, and lowering of standards for what they are: attacks from evil against the strides toward holiness that my Lenten resolutions are gaining.  The devil is real—and he certainly does not want me to unite myself with the passion and suffering of the Cross, to improve my relationship with God through increased prayer, to weed out my tendencies toward sin through fasting, or to magnify God’s Love in almsgiving.

I know who is going to win this fight...but what about when Jesus tags me in?

The gospel for today also brings me comfort with Jesus’ reminder that he is stronger than the devil and that if I stand with him, I can overcome any attack.  So, instead of lowering my standards and accepting less, I’m going to try to step up my prayer an extra notch during this time of weakness and ask Christ who still has power over demons (and his angels) to help me be strong in the face of temptation so that I can continue to grow in holiness this Lent.

How well have you been living your Lenten commitment?  In what ways have you been tempted to abandon or modify the challenges you set at the beginning of Lent?  How do you recognize the attack of demons, the devil, or evil in your journey to holiness?

I ♥ Being Catholic! (And, Here’s Why…)

I love being Catholic.

But, if you are reading this blog, this shouldn’t be earth shattering information to you.  I’m writing a Catholic blog – a blog that’s pro-God, pro-Catholic Church, pro-life, pro-ministry, pro-family, pro-pro.  So, it should be pretty clear…

I love being Catholic.

I have never really explained why I love being Catholic, though.  And, to be honest, it would probably take years worth of blogs to explain all the things I love about the Catholic church, my Catholic faith, and my Catholic upbringing. Read More