Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 7: Holiness and the Habit of Not Screaming at My Children

childrenA friend and I were walking through a summer market today when we spied a t-shirt that read: “Patience is what you have when there are too many witnesses.” My friend giggled and said, “That’s true!” I smiled. For the past month, we’ve been hosting a friend’s daughter from France; for the entire month of August, she’s stayed in our home, come with us on our errands and our holidays, and basically become a part of the family. Except that, after four weeks with her living in our house, we’re still on our best behavior. I still get frustrated with my children over the state of their bedrooms, but instead of delivering a loud lecture after which I may have to apologize, I simply sigh, make eye contact, and ask them again to clean their rooms. And instead of carrying on a lengthy and heated discussion with my husband about the same thing we’ve been discussing for the past twenty years, I smile politely and choose to shrug off our disagreements, or at least postpone them until we’re alone. Continue reading

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Finding the Center in the Christian Faith


William Butler Yeats

The Second Coming – Williams Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. Continue reading

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The Wounded Bride and the Word of God

Angry, heart-broken and sickened over the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, I have been fairly speechless since the news broke.

I have read the first 50 pages of the report, and I felt like I was punched in the gut by the graphic descriptions of the evil it uncovered. After prayer and reflection, I intend to continue reading the rest of the report. Why?  Because the victims were brave enough to speak, and I feel that as someone who works in the Catholic Church, I should be brave enough to listen to them.  And because if we fall to the more comfortable option of listening to internet commentators instead of the voices contained in the report itself, the truth they speak could be lost in a sea of voices. Continue reading

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Living the Beatitudes at Home – Part 6: Holiness and the Annual Family Intention

intentionSeveral years ago, some new friends we’d met through church invited our family over for supper. On the wall of their home, my husband and I noticed a large sign that read “God, Golf, Disneyworld.” Curious, we asked the couple about it.

It turns out, the sign represented their family’s annual intention. At the beginning of September, they had had a meeting and had decided, as a family, what would be the focus of their year. Together, they had decided that God, golfing together, and finally going on the trip to Disneyworld they had always been dreaming of would be the center of their year. The children created a sign to be hung in their home, and from that moment, every decision they made – individually and as a family – had to lead, in some way, to their agreed upon goals. When the wife was considering going back to work full-time in the Catholic school system, they asked each other “Will this lead us toward our goals of serving God?” Continue reading

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I Don’t Have to Go to Church


St. Michael Catholic Church, Wheaton, IL

It was a strange, unexpected feeling.

The timing was ridiculous. It was August 15, the Feast of the Assumption (and my daughter’s birthday). My wife, mother-in-law, and I were getting ready to attend 7 p.m. Mass on this Holy Day.

Suddenly, as we were heading out the door I had an empty feeling deep inside.  Not exactly in my stomach or my heart…just deep inside.

I didn’t want to go to Mass. Don’t worry, I put on my game face and went and I doubt anyone other than my wife (who reads me clearly all the time) would have known I was troubled. But I was.

Perhaps it should have come as no surprise. As part of my role as a journalist, I had spent much of the day wading through the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on child abuse. It is a horrible narrative of things that never should have been. Continue reading

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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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