Living the Beatitudes at Home Part 5: Holiness through the Teenage Years

teenageWe have three teenagers in our family right now. This was something I swore would never happen; having been an irritable and defiant teenager myself, I’d always asserted, half-seriously, that I would somehow find a way to have my children skip adolescence altogether and go straight from childhood to adulthood. Instead, I find myself with three teens all at varying degrees of puberty, moodiness, and boundary-testing. I’ve heard not all teenagers go through periods of rebellion, that not all teenage girls get irritable and prickly, and that not all teenage boys do really dumb things. I have friends tell me that they “must have gotten lucky” because their children seemed to have breezed through the high school years with rational decision-making, optimistic enthusiasm, and only positive influences as friends. Continue reading

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Worrier or Warrior?

This seems like a good week to moderate my social media intake if ever there was one. From vicious politics, to scandals in the clergy, to confusion about Church teaching, my feed is full of worrying.

It’s important to understand the situation of the world clearly, but I think Christ was speaking from his intimate knowledge of human nature when he directed us to “let not our hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)  Our brains and our hearts absorb the heaviness of this online inundation of anxiety and become troubled even against our will.

The enemy of our souls wants to immobilize us with worry, in our prayer lives and in our baptismal mission to spread the Gospel. He wants to stop us in our tracks and encourage us to spiral inwards, mesmerized by what causes us anxiety, instead of living our life of prayer, faith, and action with a firm foundation of trust in Our Lord. God tells us,

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

(John 16:33)


“I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

(Mt 16:18-19)


When something is eating at us, we often try to seek more (and more) information and analysis to try to make sense of the confusion around us. At best, we try to understand the full truth of a situation. At worst, we try to keep making our own point loudly, and drown out conflicting views. Both can devolve into worrying and endlessly conversing about things that are out of our control, without our consciously realizing it.  Continue reading

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Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 4: Holiness Amongst the Shadows

shadowsIt is said that the traditional greeting among the people of the Masai tribe of Africa is Kasserian Ingera?, which translates as “And how are the children?” Whether or not this greeting is still used amongst the Masai today, it’s a lesson on priorities: when the children are well taken care of in a community, everything else will fall into place.

U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey expresses a similar sentiment: “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”

This idea – that it’s how we defend the defenseless that ultimately matters – is, according to Pope Francis in Guadete et Exsultate, the basis of the fourth beatitude. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are, in fact, seekers of justice, and true justice “is shown especially in justice towards those who are most vulnerable.” (79)

 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Continue reading

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Tolerance vs. Approval

toleranceTolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. – G. K. Chesterton

I have new neighbors who are instructing me in the fine art of tolerance.

In our quiet little neighborhood in Chicago’s distant suburbs, we’ve been blessed to have wonderful neighborhoods. And I define “wonderful” as meaning they take care of their yards, don’t make much noise, and are friendly.

Our new neighbors break the tradition. The kids are noisy, the dog barks constantly, and there is much loud maintenance too early in the morning.

As a result, I’m learning about tolerance. I’m learning how to let go of what are, in reality, rather petty annoyances. Continue reading

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Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 3: Holiness for the Overly Optimistic


The Beatitudes certainly don’t get any better as you go along. As Christians, we’re called to be poor, meek, and now to mourn (spoiler: it only gets worse).                     

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

I remember the moment I realized that my blind and brazen optimism, which I had up until then considered one of my most positive qualities, had, in fact, become a liability. A friend from out of town had spent the weekend and had a flight to catch early in the morning. I had woken up to make her a coffee and say goodbye before another friend showed up to shuttle her to the airport, but as the time neared for her scheduled pickup, my weekend guest still hadn’t come out of her room. Continue reading

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A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction

peaceThe title caught my attention like a mirror, A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction.  This book, by Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild, with a foreword by Fr. Paul Scalia, draws on wisdom from the world’s greatest thinkers, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Augustine, and applies it to concrete ways to navigate a world saturated with communication chaos.

Fr. Scalia defines the problem in the foreword, “St Augustine famously defined peace as the tranquility of order. We all intuit the truth of that statement… But we live in a schizophrenic culture.  As much as we might want that peace, we still desire the world’s distractions.”

The authors cite political theorist Michael B. Crawford, who states that, “we are losing our ability to act according to settled purposes and ongoing projects, and instead coming under the influence of powerful interests seeking to profit from our loss of self-command. Today we are less settled, and more easily manipulated, more often distracted, and more deeply worried than we were 30 years ago.” Continue reading

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Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 2: Holy Through Sneezes

sneezesThe second Beatitude has always been a tricky one for me. I know that meekness was one of Christ’s greatest virtues: He uses it, and lowliness of heart, to describe Himself in Matthew 11:29. But in today’s culture, the adjective meek isn’t used very often, and when it is, the connotation isn’t positive.

 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Pope Francis, in the third chapter of Gaudete et exsultate, gives us some great advice on how to live out Christ’s meekness in our daily life in a simple and practical way. “If we are constantly upset and impatient with others, we will end up drained and weary.” Instead, he suggests we put up with the faults and limitations of others with tenderness and meekness; this forbearance of the little mistakes and annoyances of our neighbor is what St. Thérèse of Lisieux says leads to “perfect charity.” Continue reading

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The Customers in the Cafe

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, [b]and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ [c]When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ 13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.[d]Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 [e]Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15 [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 [f]Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20:1-16 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

“The Workers in the Vineyard” is a parable I struggled with for many years.

Part of me thought it wasn’t fair; people who worked longer should get paid more.

Part of me thought it was fair; the guy who owned the vineyard wasn’t cheating anyone, he was just being generous. Continue reading

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Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 1: Holy in the Mess

holyI’m currently reading Gaudete et exsultate, Pope Francis’ newest apostolic exhortation, which addresses “the call to holiness in today’s world”. What I like most about his writing is the fresh, simple and pragmatic way he addresses heavy theological topics, like Gnosticism and Pelagianism, or how he takes big, broad ideas like evangelization and virtue and makes them clear and attainable. Continue reading

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What does it mean to have an Immaculate Heart?


Immaculate Heart of Mary by CD Smith

 When you love someone, you want to know them deeply.  You want to know their heart and admire all the good you find in them.

I love the determined heart of my husband, the fiery heart of my 21-year-old son, the kind heart of my 19-year-old son, the generous heart of my 17-year-old daughter, the strong heart of my 15-year-old, the noble heart of my 11-year-old, and the creative heart of my 9-year-old.

Christ has shown me his heart by loving me. His beautiful, strong, sacred, passionate, merciful, holy heart. Continue reading

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