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For five months now, I have needed to pick up a bundle of clothing from the cleaners. That’s right, almost half a year ago, I dropped off some dresses for cleaning and then forgot about them for two months. When I finally remembered, I avoided picking them up. I told myself that I was just too busy. I have too many kids to pack into the car, and the errand will have to wait.  

You are probably thinking, Mallory, just go get the clothes. You are being silly. I have told myself the same thing, and I have still not remedied the situation. Why? Because I’m afraid. I don’t want to suffer the embarrassment of picking them up after leaving them there for so long. I don’t want to take the chance of hearing the words, “We gave them away,” which, by now, is a real possibility.

The cleaners are only one example of things I avoid out of fear. I could write this entire blog post about friends I didn’t call, opportunities I passed up, and chances I didn’t take. I could give you a million reasons why I didn’t do these things and convince you that I am just being smart or prudent. But in the end, all of those reasons boil down to one. Fear. Fear of what? Fear of what others will think of me, of failing, or of looking like a fool. I fear getting hurt and not being good enough. I fear many things, and when I let them rule my life, I start hiding and stop living. 

Do you ever feel like you live your life from behind your fears? The more I talk to women, the more I understand that we often make our decisions according to our fears. We tell ourselves that we are using good judgment, and then we stop stepping out in big and small ways. Slowly but surely, we build lives that are predictable, setting boundaries that keep us safe but leave little room for the Holy Spirit to move. We might be comfortable, but we miss out on the abundant life that God offers to us.  

Scripture reveals that an abundant life requires risk. The entire Bible is story after story of God asking someone to take a chance, that person eventually obeying God in faith, and then God performing a miracle. The Christian life is an adventure, not an afternoon coffee break, and it requires that we do some things that make us uncomfortable.

Take Moses, for example. Moses was the man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to the edge of the promised land. But before he was that guy, he was a man on the run for killing an Egyptian. If he returned to Egypt, he could be killed for his crime, a great reason to stay away. Yet, God chose Moses to set His people free. 

In Exodus 3, the Lord appeared to Moses and told him that He had seen the misery of His people and had come to rescue them out of Egypt and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Moses responded to this high call with four excuses. He had good reasons for thinking he was not able to say yes. 

First, he said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Moses was not wrong to raise this objection. After all, he was not a diplomat; he had no political power. He was an outlaw.

How did God respond? He said, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). Who Moses thought he was didn’t matter. The fact that the God of the universe would be with him mattered much more. 

Moses then brought up the second reason he was not the guy to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’” (Exodus 4:1).

Again, Moses’ reason is legitimate. He would sound like a crazy person running into Egypt saying that he heard a message from God. God’s response? He turned Moses’ staff into a snake and reminded him that He is the God of miracles (Exodus 4:2–4). There is no obstacle He can’t overcome. 

Moses again contested, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).

This was Moses’ best argument. He did not have the skills to do what the Lord was asking. God replied, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (Exodus 4:11–12). 

Finally, Moses was out of excuses, and he revealed his fear: “Oh Lord, send I pray, some other person” (Exodus 4:13).

Moses had every reason to be scared. Can you imagine approaching Pharaoh’s throne and asking him to let go of the labor force that had served Egypt for over 400 years? Can you imagine having to convince the Israelites to leave everything they had ever known? Moses could have said no, and who would have blamed him? He would have avoided the risk and the hardship that came from saying yes, but he would also miss seeing God perform incredible wonders. 

And so back to you and me. What scares you? Take a moment to write it down and then answer these two questions: Why are you afraid? What is your fear stopping you from doing? 

Is fear keeping you from being more generous or stepping into leadership? Is it keeping you from having a much-needed conversation or apologizing to a person you have wronged? Avoiding these things may save you from an awkward or embarrassing situation. It might even keep you from pain and hardship, but it will also keep you from seeing God move in the chances you take. 

For clarity’s sake, the Lord is not asking you to be reckless or run into harm’s way with disregard for wisdom and good decision-making. Instead, He asks you to be obedient to Him, even if you have to take risks to do so. He invites you to reject the spirit of fear and embrace the spirit of freedom. 

Years ago, Fr. Mike Schmitz gave a sermon in which he highlighted Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. He said that Piglet was the most courageous character in the children’s story because he was afraid of everything but accomplished great things despite his fear. Courage is not fearlessness; it’s doing something even though we are afraid to do them.

So here is my challenge to you for 2022. Tell the Lord all that you are afraid of and let Him answer you with a mighty, “I will be with you,” or “I am the God of miracles.” Then, do the thing that you are afraid to do even if your voice trembles and your legs shake. Make the phone call even if it’s awkward, risk the embarrassment of putting yourself out there even if you make a fool of yourself, or step up to lead even if you don’t feel qualified. Start small and go from there. As for me, I am starting with a trip to the dry cleaners.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)



This is the time when we all start to think about what we wish we hadn’t eaten over the holidays and other ways we’d like to improve ourselves. Two currents of thought run through our minds. One stream bubbles with excitement over a new challenge. But discouragement flows in the other one, because try as we might, bad habits are hard to kick. Swimming in the discouraging stream leads to self-loathing and negative self-talk. The result? We remain stuck.

God doesn’t want us to be stuck in self-destructive habits. He has not only laid out a plan for healthy human flourishing, He’s given us what we need to live accordingly. In 2 Peter 1:4, Saint Peter writes that because of Jesus, we have “become partakers of the divine nature.” This is the opposite of being stuck with an unaided, flawed human nature. The study notes in my Bible explain that becoming partakers of the divine nature is “a strong expression to describe the transformation of human nature by divine grace.”[1] But how does this happen? And does the Incarnation have anything to do with the transformation we are longing for?

To answer that question, I turned to Saint Athanasius and his little book, On the Incarnation. In it, he asks if it had to be God the Son who became incarnate. Could it not just as well have been God the Father? He then answers his own question, saying that it had to be God the Son, and the reason for that is found in John 1:1–3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made.”

Jesus, the Word of the Father, the Word of God, made the world—everything and everyone in it. Man was given a nature full of grace, immortality, and a paradise to live in. But we know the story. Man threw away this birthright of beauty,[2] and death and corruption entered the world. 

The result was that things became worse and worse. Man’s sin surpassed all limits. It went from bad to worse. This is the truth of what human nature is like without God, as opposed to a utopian view of the world that thinks that if we can just get the right laws, the right political party in power, the right systems, then everything is going to be good again. We are always looking for something to fix this problem of man’s capacity for evil, our insatiable appetite for devising new kinds of sins,[3] but we want the solution to be anything but God. We see this clearly during this current cultural moment. But it’s nothing new. This has always been the case. 

The solution is not to be found in human systems, institutions, politics, or policies. God has always known that we don’t hold the solution in ourselves. And in His goodness, He wasn’t content to sit back and watch us flounder. Athanasius writes, “Man, who was made in God’s image…was disappearing, and the work of God was being undone.”[4] God wasn’t going to let His creation and His children be ruined.

What would God choose to do? We find the answer in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

God decided that the Word who had brought creation into being was to come into that very creation, take on a human body, and re-create it all. The One who made it would restore and renew it. Not from a distance, but from within. 

In some sense, the Word of God has never been far from His creation, because He fills all things that are—as we see in Ephesians 1:23, “the fullness of him fills all in all.” This has always been the case. But with the Incarnation, “He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us.”[5]

He looked at the tremendous amount of suffering we endure.
He looked at His daughters, so desiring to change what was sinful in them, but falling into the same bad habits time and time again.
He looked at our dashed dreams.
He looked at the death of our loved ones.
He looked at the tension and disappointment between spouses who had committed to love each other forever.
He looked at the exhaustion of his people who are just trying so very hard and feel they will never be able to keep up.
He looked at the way disease attacks the bodies of His beloved and wreaks destruction.
He looked at children making self-destructive choices as their parents helplessly looked on. 

God decided that He wasn’t going to just toss us some platitudes or good advice in the face of heartache and the corruption of the good. He was going to step down and come into the very midst of that mess and heartache. He became incarnate so that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

The message—the miracle—of the Incarnation, is that the Word of God has not only come to earth, He has come inside of you. He is with you in your suffering. You are never alone. But that’s not all. He has made you a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). He is in you, just waiting for you to invite Him to recreate you, to renew you, to transform you so that you become just like Him. 

Where are you placing your hope at the start of 2022? Are you counting on the gym membership, new organizational principles, or sheer grit to bring desired change? May this be the year when the reality sinks in that the hope of glory is Christ in you. “The secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.”[6]

With you on the journey,
Lisa

[1] Commentary on 2 Peter 1:4 from The Great Adventure Catholic Bible (Ascension Press).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Saint Athanasius, On The Incarnation, 17.
[4] Athanasius, 19.
[5] Athanasius, 21.
[6] Colossians 1:27, J.B. Phillips Translation

Do you want your life to change?

This was the question that Dynamic Catholic Founder, Matthew Kelly, posed to a packed church parish hall ten years ago. I can’t speak for the other attendees’ responses at the retreat that day, but I can share mine. It was a solid yes.

The solution Kelly offered wasn’t anything that I was expecting and certainly didn’t align with the solutions the world offers. He didn’t tell me to go to therapy, practice mindfulness, walk in the grass barefoot, or lose weight. (Which, for the record, are not bad things. In fact, I’ve done them all.) He simply suggested, “If you want your life to change, go to daily Mass every day for two weeks.” He followed up with, “Some of you will, and some of you won’t.”

As for me? I did.
And he was right.
My life radically and profoundly changed because of the Mass.

But please do not mistake “changed” for “eliminated trial and tribulation.” My active participation in the holy sacrifice does not serve as a magic pill that makes troubles melt away. (If it did, the churches would be filled.) Dare I say, some troubles have seemingly gotten worse. The “change” goes deeper than external and current circumstances. It is an ongoing stretching and pulling of the heart. An interior transformation. It is hard to explain the mystery of it all, but I have narrowed my own experience of how the Mass has changed my life down to three significant, yet super simple points that might help you to better understand; and, if you so desire, can apply to your own life.

1. Start every day with God’s Word. Do you realize that when you reach for your phone before you get out of bed you have just given every voice in your feed permission to shape your heart and steer where you stare? What we allow to daily enter our minds has the power to bring us peace or unrest. Life or death. Scott Hahn said, “If we do not fill our mind with prayer, it will fill itself with anxieties, worries, temptations, resentments, and unwelcome memories.”[1] And maybe you are thinking, I do pray every morning. I do not have to physically go to a church to pray. And you are correct. Sort of. Because…

2. The Mass is an invincible weapon. We are in a daily battle. In the Book of Revelation, we read how “the huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it” (Revelation 12:9). And “when the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child...then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring” (Revelation 12:13, 17). Sweet friends, I don’t mean to alarm you, but we are the offspring. We have an accuser who accuses us “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a terrifying and losing battle!

However, Ephesians 6:13 offers a plan: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” How much armor are you wearing? Because I want to wear the full armor. I want the armor of personal prayer, but I also want the armor of the holy sacrifice of the Mass! The Eucharist! Christ present on the altar in flesh and blood! I cannot rely on my own strength, and so I need to literally consume the strength of Christ. Where do we find this strength? In the Eucharist. The Eucharist strengthens us in charity, preserves us from future mortal sins, and unites us more closely to Christ.[2] And speaking of being united with Christ…

3. The Mass rightly orders our worship. Here’s the truth we don’t want to hear: we are all addicts. Everyone is addicted to something. As the saying goes, “Addiction is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving up one thing for everything.” Jesus is everything, and yet so many worldly addictions compete with Him. What is the one thing that you drop everything (Jesus) for? On the days I skip time with Jesus present at the daily Mass, it is my addiction to self-reliance that has taken God’s place. The moment I start to look at everything piled on my plate and start to imagine all of the things that I will accomplish with that extra hour is the moment I give up everything that Jesus wants to give me. Truly, it’s the work of the enemy. Because there is nothing on my to-do list—not even those things I can do for my children—that will ever be more important than hearing the Mass. I know…every parent reading this thinks I have lost my mind. But hear me out. Our children, no matter their age, are watching us. They see what matters to us and what does not. In his book, Parents of the Saints, author Patrick O’Hearn writes that “these devout parents show us that there is no greater gift a parent can pass on to their sons and daughters than the Holy Eucharist. Other gifts will never satisfy or last—toys will be abandoned, clothes will be outgrown, cars will break down, and sports teams will disappoint, but the Holy Eucharist is the gift that never stops giving and always satisfies.”[3]

Some of you will read this and feel inspired to attend daily Mass. Others will find my suggestion highly inconvenient and logistically unrealistic. Others will think how strict and outdated the rules of the Catholic Church are that, in today’s busy day and age, church attendance is even a requirement. “But the true state of the case is that the law of the Church is so strict because Christ is present in the Mass.”[4] Of course, we know that God is everywhere. “But it is in the Holy Mass alone that He offers Himself to His Father as the Lamb that was slain. How can we forego that sweet and solemn action?”[5]

This Advent, I made a vow to give up my worship of self-reliance and to get back to “the works I did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Namely, worshiping God at daily Holy Mass. And in just one short week, the fruits and rewards are undeniable. The bottom line is that wherever this lands on your heart, I want you to know this: Ten years ago, I wanted my life to change, and it did...because of the Mass.

Do you want your life to change?
If so, go to daily Mass every day for two weeks.
Some of you will and some of you won’t.

I pray that you all will.

[1] Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots (2009), p.91.
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p.352, 1394, 1395, 1396
[3] Patrick O’Hearn, Parents of the Saints:The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints (Tan Books, 2020), p.30-31.
[4] Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (Christian Book Club of America, 1993), p.40.
[5] Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (Christian Book Club of America, 1993), p.40.
Bible Study

I like to think about my death. How’s that for an opening line?

I am not a morbid person. I am not depressed, nor do I want to die. I just know that I will. And so I think about it; the Requiem Mass, followed by a street taco and margarita celebration. I’m even thinking about hiding all the unflattering pictures of myself just to ensure that they don’t make it onto the memory board at the funeral home. Oh...you’ve never thought about that? Well then, what else can I say but...you’re welcome.

You don’t like to talk about death, do you? Most people don’t. We are too afraid of it. We’d prefer to talk about happy things, like pumpkin spiced lattes, our latest trip to Target, or...did I already say pumpkin spiced lattes? But what if I told you that the person who is always thinking about happiness is a fool? What if I argued that a wise person is the one who thinks about death? And what if these words were not my own but from Scripture (Ecclesiastes 7:4)? 

At the risk of being your least favorite blogger, I am going to go on record and say it’s time we prepare to die.

Are you familiar with memento mori? Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “remember you must die.” As baptized Christians, memento mori points to hope—the hope of rising again and to the assurance of eternal life. The Catechism tells us that “the Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and entrance into everlasting life”.[1] Everlasting life is the place, remember, where “he will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). 

No more crying? No more pain? Sign. Me. Up.

And yet, even with the promise of everlasting life, so many of us fear death. Why are we so reluctant to embrace our mortality? Did we forget that Jesus has conquered death and the goal of life is heaven? Angelo Stagnaro, in a blog for the National Catholic Register, says, “Fear about death is the fruit of an unprepared―and perhaps, unrepentant―soul.”[2] And so if you, dear mortal sister, are afraid to die, it begs the question...what are you preparing, if not your soul? And what, exactly, are you preparing for, if not heaven?

A good way to measure what you are preparing for is to look at your calendar, screen time, credit card bill, Amazon cart, nightstand, Netflix history, or bathroom counter. You should also get into the habit of asking yourself good questions, such as, “do I spend more hours obsessing over my weight, wrinkles, child’s college applications, sports, or my own physical health than I do the state of my soul?” Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you the thing in your life that has such an unhealthy grip on you that if asked to let it go, it would physically hurt. Pray for supernatural strength to pour out everything that is not of God; to weed out any desires that take up that space in your heart reserved for Him. This weeding out is the beginning of the spiritual life; it is a preparation for death.

What I love about memento mori is that it is a call to change. Not tomorrow. Not in a couple of weeks. But right now, without delay, for we do not know “neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Like the parable of the ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom, memento mori screams, “don’t forget the oil, sister!” Because remember, the five foolish maidens never made it back in time for the wedding feast. The door was shut, and when they cried out, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” he replied, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12). 

Don’t be that maiden.

Today, we celebrate the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, better known as All Souls Day. We honor them for their faithfulness to God in life, as well as pray for them since they are being purified before entering the all-holy presence of God. “As Revelation 21:27 says of the Heavenly Jerusalem, ‘… nothing unclean shall enter in.’”[3] If the thought of purgatory frightens you, here’s a suggestion: aim for heaven. But even if you fall short, still, there’s no reason to fear. As Father John Riccardo says, “Purgatory is like being on the bus to heaven and it doesn’t turn around (emphasis added).”[4] Don’t worry about the length of the trip, just praise God that you made it on the right bus!

It’s natural to feel afraid of dying because death was not God’s plan for us. We were meant to live forever, if only that apple didn’t look so darn tasty. But that’s just the way the story goes. Sin entered the world, and so death came in. HOWEVER. That’s not how the story ends.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live." (John 11:25)

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

Praying that you choose to remember your death, while living in confidence of the hope of heaven.

 

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), 1020.
[2] Angelo Stagnaro, “Memento Mori—The Gift of Death.” National Catholic Register, November 15, 2018, https://www.ncregister.com/blog/memento-mori-the-gift-of-death.
[3] “Feast of All Souls,” EWTN, accessed October 25, 2021, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/seasons-and-feast-days/all-souls-20378.
[4] Fr. John Riccardo, “Don't Be Afraid of Purgatory,” YouTube video, 2:45, July 1, 2016, https://youtu.be/MJNGAFJvwnI.

Bible Study

I’m not sure I was quite prepared for all that came along with my daughter turning 13. I was a teenage girl once, so I sort of knew what to expect. I was familiar with teenage mood swings, the temper tantrums, the eye rolls, and sarcastic tones; however, I was completely unprepared for her direct arrows of anger that, quite frankly, left me emotionally LEVELED. 

Following a direct shot to my heart one afternoon, tears instantly filled my eyes. I felt my anger rising like water in a flood-driven river—overwhelmingly fast, surging, and nearly uncontrollable. My body shook. Somehow, I refrained from screaming what I wanted to in response to her stinging words that broke my heart.

Trembling, I managed—through clenched teeth—to get the words out, “I’m going to pray.” As quickly as those words left my mouth, I was gone, out the door, in my car, and driving to the perpetual adoration chapel at my parish.

I was shattered. How could my little girl, my precious girl, hurl such cruel words at me? I had made a deal with the Lord years ago when my husband and I were desperate to conceive. If He would answer my prayer to bear a child, then I wouldn’t just make up for what I thought my childhood lacked, but I would be infinitely better—no, I would be THE BEST mother.  And now, according to my daughter, for whom I had prayed to God for, I was so much less than that.

I held it together as I walked into the chapel, and not wanting to offend the other woman already there, silently knelt to pray. Mercifully, she left only a couple of minutes later. Alone in the chapel, I let it all out. Heaving sobs echoed in the small room. Tears streaming and eyes lowered, I wept, “Lord, I am so sorry!” 

My deepest fear had been revealed—I was a failure. And it had been revealed by someone so dear to me. My mind raced as the tears fell. I begged aloud, “What should I do? What should I say? How can I make this right?”  

I couldn’t possibly return home and be the mother she needed me to be! I wasn’t cut out for this! My heart screamed. I ferociously journaled my feelings and all the ways I had not lived up to my promise to the Lord.

And then, just like that, I literally stopped sobbing. The tears just stopped. I looked up from my clenched hands for the first time since I had entered the chapel. I locked my eyes on Jesus in the monstrance. 

“Do not be afraid. I am here,” I wrote in my journal at that very moment.

I kept writing with my prayer to the Lord: “Father, only You will make my heart right. Only You will make her heart right. Soften our hearts toward each other, Lord. Allow her to soak up Your love for her. We are your beloved daughters.” 

I realized then that it was no longer about my failure or my daughter’s anger. It was about Him. Jesus. I couldn’t possibly make this right by myself. I didn’t know what to do by myself. I stopped looking at this problem as being all up to me to figure out. It became less about me or even about my daughter. It became all about Him. “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

In that moment, in front of Jesus, it became less about me and all of the things that I had said or done wrong. 

It became less about my daughter’s words, her hurt feelings, or even my own self-doubt. 

It became all about Him

It became all about His love for my daughter. It became all about Jesus filling my heart with the grace I desperately needed. 

It became all about His grace softening my heart and her heart, so we could open our ears to each other and listen with love instead of shouting with anger. 

It became less about who I was in my own eyes or in my daughter’s eyes. It became all about who I was in His eyes. 

It became all about laying this situation at the foot of His cross and taking my eyes off myself so I could lift them to meet Him. 

When I stopped clenching my hands and beating myself up, I opened my hands to receive His love. I was right where Jesus wanted me to be: in His presence, receiving His love. Author Henri Nouwen writes in his book Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith, “Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell.”[1] In this moment of feeling like a failure as a mother, in my poverty, Jesus lifted my gaze to meet His. He did this so that in my weakness I could receive His love, grace, and strength. And there, in my poverty, revealed for Him to see, I could RECEIVE His blessing and, in turn, bless others.

I’d love to tell you that I left the chapel that night, returned home, and instantly became a perfect mother. I didn’t. I did leave that chapel filled with peace. With God’s grace, I returned home, my anger and hurt feelings replaced with fierce love, open ears, and clarity. Resolving the issue with my daughter took time, patience, firm discipline, and love. And all of that came from the grace God filled me with as I poured out my heart to Him. Without His grace, my anger surely would have won. And when anger wins, we all lose. I am convinced that all of this only happened with God’s grace.  

I will never be a perfect mother. But HE is perfect. I will never love perfectly, but my daughter and I are perfectly loved by Jesus. 

[1] Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: Harper One, 2006).

Now that you have that piece of '90s ear candy stuck in your head...what DO you want? What are you longing for? What precious desire of your heart has not been met yet? That’s a sacred space, I know (unlike the space song lyrics from 30 years ago take up in our heads), but I want you to think about it. For me, it’s many things: I long for the conversion of family members, healing in broken relationships, and jobs for loved ones who are struggling right now, just to name a few. Maybe your desires look different, but we’re all longing for something. And desires in our hearts like these are good

But have you ever been desperate for something? None of us likes to think of ourselves as desperate women, but when we hold our deepest desires so tightly that we cannot hand them over to the Lord and His timing, we become desperate. (And frankly, His timing never seems quick enough, does it? Don’t you wish God worked on Amazon’s delivery schedule sometimes?) 

The line between longing and desperation has one word written on it: fear. Fr. Mike Schmitz says that “desperation is desire that’s driven by fear.”[1] We don’t like to admit when we’re afraid, do we? Remember that unmet desire of your heart—are you afraid it won’t come true? Are you afraid that it might not happen the way you want it to? Have you considered doing—or done—whatever it takes to get what you want?

When we cross the line to desperation and allow fear to take over, we have also lost hope, which can be a scary place to be. When we hold our deepest desire too close, we become like Gollum from Lord of the Rings—he became so obsessed with the ring, which he called “My Precious,” that it changed who he was and how he acted. He was obsessed, desperate, and in the end, miserable. Are you holding something so tightly you can’t let go? What is your “precious”?

God wants us to live in freedom. In order for this to be our experience, we must actively give our desires to the Lord. This means letting go of control (sometimes over and over again) and placing them in God's ever-loving and providential hands. Practically speaking, this looks like trusting in Him, rather than an outcome. It takes a conscious shifting of our gaze from our hands to Him. 

Many times, the reason we don’t give God our longings is because we don’t trust him. Do you trust God to handle your heart's desires? If you’re like me, this can be especially difficult because people and experiences in our lives have caused us to withhold trust from others—even God. Maybe you feel like God has let you down in the past, so why would you trust Him now? Or perhaps you trust that God will take care of other people’s problems, but not yours—yours are just too big. 

I’m here to tell you that God is not indifferent to your story. He is not indifferent to your heart’s desires, your longings, or your fears. He knows what is best for you, what is right for you, and His plan for you is tied up in a beautiful bow that is YOUR story—your particular life that He wants to be involved in and through. Will you allow Him in? 

Let these following verses sink into your heart, sister:

For I know full well the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for your misfortune, plans that will offer you a future filled with hope. When you call out to me and come forth and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, you will find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will allow you to discover me, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:11–14)

Gaze upon the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or store in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of far greater value than they? Can any of you through worrying add a single moment to your span of life?...Your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:26–27, 32–33)

These verses point to a God who loves you, who is trustworthy, and is for you. But He will never force His way into your heart and your life. He waits to be invited in. Do you “see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1)? He waits with open arms for his daughters to turn to Him with their deepest longings in confident trust. 

God knows where lack of trust will lead us and the bondage that inevitably results. St. Ignatius of Loyola described sin as the “unwillingness to trust that what God wants for me is only my deepest happiness.” He is for us, and He wants to protect us from the fallout that results when we try to take matters into our own hands.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). May our trust increase, and may we experience the deep happiness that we were created for.

P.S. If you are struggling to trust the Lord with your heart’s desires, meditate on the Litany of Trust.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4pWWCf6aMM

I just walked from my bedroom, down the stairs, and into my living room to begin writing this blog post, and do you know what I did the entire time? I scrolled through Instagram while walking. Have you ever done that? Or have you ever started scrolling on your phone only to realize that forty-five minutes have passed, your eyes are dry, and your heart is empty? There is no question that the opportunity to scroll over the world through our phones invites addiction and that addiction has real-world effects.  

Don’t worry. This blog post isn't about the dangers of social media. Instead, I want to explore a phrase that enters my mind almost every time I finish scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. It’s a phrase that I think reveals where we have landed in our society, and it comes from the book of Job. 

If you are not familiar with the book of Job, it is a sad story with a critical lesson. Job is a man who is faithful to God and to whom God is faithful. God blesses Job with a fruitful family (ten children), immense prosperity (thousands of livestock), and status (greater than anyone in the east). At the beginning of the book, Satan approaches God and claims that Job is only righteous and blameless because God has blessed him, but he wouldn't be if God removed those blessings. God gives Satan permission to run roughshod over Job’s life. Job loses everything: his family dies, his livestock dies, and he is struck with severe boils all over his body. 

In chapter 38, Job gets the opportunity to approach God with his grievances. His whole life was ruined without any wrongdoing on his part. He has legitimate questions for God about all that had happened to him, and so one would expect God to be compassionate toward Job. Instead, the first words out of God’s mouth are, “Who is this that darkens counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). God questions Job for the next four chapters, asking questions like: 

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

Throughout all the intense questioning, God reveals His unfathomable glory, and Job realizes that his perspective is wrong. Job spends time with God, and in doing so, gains God’s wisdom. Job responds by saying, 

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.” I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2-6)

Every single time I close my social media accounts, I think of God’s words to Job: who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? We have become men and women who are full of words with minimal knowledge—myself included. These words indict our society as we busy ourselves with silly things that have no eternal value. They also indict us personally as we no longer take the time to seek God’s unchanging truth or view our present circumstances from His perspective.

In my own life, I tend to look at my circumstances, someone else’s sufferings, or the news and find endless, seemingly legitimate grievances against God. How can there be so much dysfunction, tragedy, and heartache in the world? How does God not show up when a friend or I so desperately need Him? How does He not simply fix families, or grant fertility, or bless financially, or comfort aching hearts, or stop the evil of oppressive governments around the world? From my view, it seems pretty easy, and yet most of the time, my opinion lacks His wisdom. I forget what 1 Corinthians tells me, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” If I fail to seek God’s wisdom, I’m more likely to misunderstand my circumstances and make bigger messes in my life. 

So what exactly is wisdom? It goes deeper than knowing information or having brilliant intellect. Wisdom is seeing the world from God’s perspective and then applying that perspective to our lives. Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” When we seek wisdom, we seek to know God’s mind and act according to His unchanging truth. We then respond to situations from an eternal perspective. We begin to look at our hopes, dreams, and sufferings from God’s point of view instead of our own. 

The result? We live with less anxiety because we no longer see each success or failure in life as a make-or-break scenario but rather as one more step toward eternity. We live with more hope and less fear, because we know that God is not surprised by tragedy and turmoil. We are nicer to ourselves, because we know that the Lord sees our imperfections and still walks with us to make us holy. We are kinder to others, because we recognize that God loves them more than we ever will and works in their hearts just as He is working in ours. We are also not swayed by popular fads or ideologies, because we know that the spirit of the age is passing but God stays the same.

And so I ask you, where do you land? Are you a woman who is genuinely seeking God’s wisdom, or do you consume information without thought and allow that information to form your understanding of the world? Ladies, in a world that buzzes along a technological surface and exalts human wisdom through popular ideas and one-sentence conclusions, we are called to go deeper. We must seek God’s wisdom, or we will crumble at the first sign of trouble in our lives or unpopularity in our communities. This is hard because the invitation to turn off our brains and consume is only one click away at all times. 

Don’t give in. Bring your questions to the Lord; spend time with Him searching out His ways, and He will give you His wisdom. Don’t know where to start? Pick any one of our Bible studies, dive in, and listen. He will speak. 

Proverbs 8:10–11 says of wisdom, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”

Wisdom is God’s treasure, and He offers it to you. Seek it with all your heart and He will give you His understanding.

 

If God were real, why would He allow so many horrible things to happen?
If God really loved us, why wouldn’t He just step in and fix everything?

Have you been asked these questions before?
Have you ever asked them yourself?
There’s no shame if you’ve questioned His goodness.
Lord knows I have.

As I shared with a beautiful group of women last week, it is because I have been blessed by tragedy that I can view this temporary home of mine with an eternal lens. Yes, you read that correctly. Blessed by tragedy. It is through trial and tribulation that I have learned the all-important lesson: Aside from the way that I respond to suffering, I am in control of nothing. It is this acceptance of God’s will over my own that has brought me deep and profound peace.

Yes. I am one of those Catholics that embraces and praises God for suffering. But honestly, what other choice do we have?

Well, actually, we do have a choice. We can carry our cross or try to escape it. Walk toward God or walk away. And I am here to tell you that walking away doesn’t work. While heading for the back door sounds way more appealing than running headfirst into pain, running away from the cross is not going to make it disappear. Trust me. I have tried.

But what about those of us who feel like God is the one who walked away first? What about those of us who have been on bended knees, faithfully persevering in our loneliness, troubled marriages, and the relentless battle of anxiety, depression, and addiction...and can’t find relief? At what point do we get a pass to tap out—to ring the bell, wave the flag, and say, “Enough is enough, Lord; I am tired of waiting for you to show up and make things better”

If this is where you are, I want you to know that I spent years in this miserable place. I threw tantrums, hosted pity parties, and shook my fists at the heavens. I debated losing hope. I begged to escape. But Jesus does not command us to escape, does He? He asks that we trust. In his book Soundings from St. John of the Cross: The Impact of God, Father Iain Matthew writes:

In the fourth gospel, Jesus shows himself anxious about His disciples’ future suffering. They will be excommunicated, even killed. Jesus knows this, but his anxiety is not that they will suffer—that will happen, and he does not suggest a way of avoiding it. His anxiety is that they may panic, collapse inside, "stumble" in their faith (cf. John 16:1-2). Hence Jesus’ most frequent exhortation is not "Escape" but "Do not be afraid.”  

Choosing to trust when our insides are falling out is not our human tendency. Being obedient to a plan that looks like a recipe for disaster does not come easily. Thank God for the example we have in our Lady. Mary’s only desire in life was to do the will of God. From the Annunciation to the crucifixion, Mary saw everything from an eternal perspective. It was out of blind obedience that she would have said the same words to Jesus on the cross that she said at Cana, “Do whatever He says.” With the help of our Lady, I can embrace what I am called to suffer. I can stand at the foot of the cross because she shows me how.

I am excited to share with you that my new book, Sweet Cross: A Marian Guide to Suffering, has been released. I wrote it with many of you in mind, your names pressed upon my heart. Countless women have courageously reached out and shared their own stories of suffering with me, and it is a privilege to be invited into such a sacred space. You have encouraged me to pick up my cross daily and follow. You have echoed back to me the words of St. Paul: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And I mean, really...is this not the purpose of all that we are asked to carry? Dare I say, the most beautiful shared moments in life are the ones that involve the cross.

If you are struggling to see your tragedy as a blessing, I pray that you will pick up a copy of Sweet Cross. By imitating our Lady’s virtues you will learn to embrace your suffering and see the cross as it truly is: the place where Jesus shows his incredible love for us, and where we are given the opportunity to love Him in return. 

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

With you at the foot of the cross,
Laura
Bible Study

Which side are you on?

A dangerous question to ask in this space, don’t you think? Don’t worry. This post is not about politics or the pandemic. It’s about Christ.

And that’s why we are here, right?

In fact, politics and the pandemic are my least favorite things to talk about. This has nothing to do with how little or how much I care about our country and our health. I care deeply. But I have noticed a trend when it comes to discussing these current events—there is no discussion. Gone are the days of critical thinking, which, as explained by Gabe Lyons, founder of Q Ideas, is the process of thinking carefully about a subject or idea, without allowing feelings or opinion to affect you.[1] Lyons says that critical thinking is essential for believers. And so this is a huge problem. Without the ability to critically think, you are either right or you are an idiot. And the outcome? Division and diversion. Our world, country, communities, churches, ministries, and families are being scattered as quickly as roaches on a kitchen counter at the flick of a light. Our minds are so occupied with things we can’t control that we have lost focus on our mission. It is difficult to get close enough to hear God’s whisper when the world’s continuous (and not always so obvious) message of “we will keep you safe” and “please keep your distance” is on a constant loop running in our ears.

Oh, my friends. The world cannot keep us safe. Only Jesus can keep us safe. 

I learned this lesson the hard way and am all the better for it. It took a school shooting, an addiction, and my incredible gift of co-dependency to acknowledge and accept what none of us want to admit: there is nothing we can do to keep ourselves, or anyone, for that matter, safe. Sure, we can be cautious. And yes, we should always look out for our neighbors. But at the end of the day? We are not in control and safety is not up to us. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 RSV).

Do we believe this?

Because here is the catch: Jesus doesn’t feel very safe, does He? He feels risky and radical. And He is both of these. But we already knew that, didn't we? We have read the Gospels. We know the stories, and better than knowing them, we believe them. In fact, this is precisely what makes us Christians. The true marking of a believer is not safety—it is the cross that we willingly embrace. And ironically? This is where we find our safety. At the foot of the very place we are too terrified to stand. And despite what our circumstances look like, we choose to follow anyway. True believers do not leave Jesus, and those with a resilient faith will choose death for Christ before even considering otherwise. If this sounds too dramatic and far-fetched, just look at our Christian brothers and sisters in Afghanistan today. Right now. Dying for the faith. Obedient to death.[2] Would we do the same?

As we are called to weather one storm after the other, I had a thought. It happened just a few days before Hurricane Henri hit. I pulled into the grocery store parking lot on a Thursday morning and was shocked to find it packed. When I walked into the store, masked people rushed through the aisles frantically. I literally panicked thinking, “Thanksgiving is not this weekend, is it?” (I mean, really—does anybody know what day, month, or year it is anymore?) Thankfully, I ran into a friend who informed me that not only are we still in the month of August but that there was a hurricane expected to hit in a couple of days. The people were preparing.

As I found myself, once again, staring at shelves long cleared of bottled water, ice, and toilet paper, all to the quiet hum of “stay safe” and “keep your distance,” I thought: What would the world look like if we prepared our souls for heaven with the same urgency? 

What if the message whispered into our ears constantly was Jesus saves...Come closer...Arm yourself with the rosary?
What if we followed Christ as closely as we followed the latest news and statistics?
What if we shared our faith on social media more than we shared the latest political meme?
What if, in times of looming disaster, we ran to the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Adoration Chapel, and our rosary before the grocery stores and gas stations?
What if we cared for our souls more than we cared for our comfort?
What if we lived out 1 Thessalonians 5? (Yes, I am encouraging you to open your Bible.)

Living as a true believer, fully committed to Christ, does not mean we are irresponsible or selfish. It means we are obedient. Looking out for each other and loving our neighbor goes beyond our preference to mask or not mask, vaccinate or not vaccinate. As St. Thomas Aquinas instructs, “love is willing the good of the other; seeking what is best for the other.” And that greater good has nothing to do with their safety on earth but everything to do with getting them safely to heaven. Souls are at stake, and as Jesus’s disciples, we have been commissioned to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). 

Are we doing this?

Because this is our goal. And this, my friends, is our call. And no, it is not easy. In a culture where feelings drive what people believe is objectively true, preparing for the journey ahead is going to require way more than a few gallons of water and some spare hand sanitizer. The call to choose Jesus is everything, and it will come with a cost. I suppose the question to ask is, is Christ worth it to you? Is dying for the truth worth it? Because you were and still are worth everything to Him, down to the very last drop of His blood. Our King and Savior humbled and emptied Himself as He was arrested, questioned, tortured, killed, and left utterly naked to hang on a cross. What looked like the world’s greatest defeat turned out to be our greatest victory, for it purchased for us eternal peace and security with God. This is why we are alive today. Not so that we can save our lives on earth, but so that we can lose our lives for heaven.[3] 

I fear this message is unpopular and so has gotten lost and drowned out by the secular world. As we appear to grow more divided and distracted by the minute, might I suggest that we make this the message we hear and believe? There is freedom and healing when we turn away from the world and choose blind obedience to Christ; when we resist the enemy’s temptation to divide and divert, and instead, cling all the more to Christ and the safety of the cross.

So, again, I ask. Which side are you on?

I pray that it’s Christ’s.

With love,
Laura

[1] https://qideas.org/qmoments/our-need-for-critical-thinking/
[2] https://www.spreaker.com/user/jennieallen/s8-ep25-bonus-fc3
[3] Matthew 10:39
Bible Study

We are in full transition mode in my home. Gone are the days of relaxed schedules, chlorine-smelling hair, hands stained with sidewalk chalk, and flip flops all over my entryway. Our dining room table is full of uniform kilts and pants that need to be hemmed, piles of school supplies, and rolls and rolls of contact paper just waiting to be opened.

With this transition in our home, a burst of excited energy enters my heart. The start of the school year brings with it the fall launch of the Walking with Purpose program at my parish. I have missed this community.  

I have missed the warm and welcoming smiles. I have missed walking into a room and feeling confident that the women meeting me there are rooted in the love of Christ. There have been many lessons learned in these past 18 months of lockdown procedures, virtual school, remote work, and live-streamed Mass. But one is ever present in my heart as summer comes to a close: nothing can replace the joy found in a fellowship of women that come together from all seasons of life and faith journeys to bear witness to the Word of God. 

What I think I have missed the most is the order and organization my spiritual life takes on when I am around these women. How we desperately need the fellowship of like-minded women running the race of life together!

We find ourselves in a world that is broken and fallen, and it is all too easy to be consumed by the world’s empty promises. This world easily invites us to forget about ordering our life toward Christ, and instead pushes us down an alluring rabbit hole of individualism, self-absorption, and pleasure. Do what you want to do, it whispers, when you want to do it, and how you want to do it. And no matter what it’s okay, because it’s your truth. Our world has forgotten that there is one truth, there is one authority. We have forgotten what our Catechism beautifully reminds us, “The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and idolatry of the world.”[1]

When we get caught in the rabbit hole of worldliness, we need our community to reach out to us and lead us back to relationship and unity with our Lord. Scott Hahn masterfully tells us in his book, It is Right and Just, that “it is in recognizing and living out the truth of the uniqueness of our relationship with God that we bring ourselves into right order with Him and all of creation.”[2]

Right order. This is what WWP does for me and for thousands of women across this country. This community of women believers—standing together, praying together, and yes, breaking bread together (in the form of casseroles, cookies, and other sweet and savory treats)—helps me to rightly order everything. My WWP community reminds me of our early Church forefathers and mothers. They too found themselves in a world saturated with false idols, corruption, fear, anxiety, and persecution. They knew just how vital and necessary building a community was to combat the pressures of the world around them. They ran their race together. 

They lived together, ordering their daily lives around prayer, worship, and caring for each other. They lived counter to the culture they were immersed in and bore witness to the belief in a purpose higher than themselves—to give glory to God. “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). They lived for the good of the community, not seeking individual pleasure. “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to the breaking of bread in their homes” (Acts 2:46). Did you catch the order of what they did? Worship first. They worshiped together, praising God, grateful for His presence among them. The order was God first, community second. 

“There was not a needy person among them because each person shared their possessions for the good of the community” (Acts 4:34). They lived by the two greatest commandments spoken by Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). The commitment to the authority of Jesus Christ and confidence in His Word and promises led them to live life differently

Each Christian made the choice to order their lives around the Lord. And the joy that followed this choice and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phillipians 4:7) was seen in their faces and appealed to those around them. Thus, the early Church exploded and spread rapidly amidst a pagan and morally destructive culture. How we need a similar explosion of truth today! 

Where can we light the match of truth? How can we fan the flame of faith and hope? 

Through community, sisters.

The noise of the world is LOUD. And the sway of worldliness is so strong. But we have something stronger. We have the might of the heavens in our corner. Communities of faith, like Walking with Purpose, encourage us to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). 

Communities of faith offer us what the world cannot—hope. Hope that it is not all up to us. Hope that we are not alone in our suffering. Hope that we are seen and loved just as we are. A drop of hope goes a long way to soften a heart that has been hardened by the brokenness of the world. Softened hearts allow space for movements of grace. And grace changes everything. Grace—this free and undeserved gift from God—helps us to live a life rightly ordered to Christ. 

Sisters, it is time to remember that we too are counted in the commissioning of Christ, to “go out and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 18:19). It is time to act with the gift of grace and, through the choices we make (big and small), model the love of Jesus Christ to others.

[1] Catholic Church, “Life In Christ,” Catechism of the Catholic Church (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995), 2097.
[2] Hahn, S. & McGinley, B. (2020) It is Right and Just: Why the Future of Civilization Depends on True Religion. Emmaus Road Publishing.

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