Fearlessly Faithful

I had the awesome privilege to hang with some 400 Catholic women a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland for their First Annual Cleveland Catholic Women’s Conference called Fearlessly Faithful.

I knew several women who were part of the team that brought this conference together and being from the CLE, I was excited to support it, even before I knew who was going to be there, where it would be held, and who would be speaking.

It was well worth the 2 hour and 45 minute drive for some sisterhood time, a time of rest and to be fed spiritually, and to hear from some amazing speakers.

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The day was emceed by Brooke Taylor, who has an awesome podcast called Good Things Radio. She’s a speaker, writer, radio personality and super Mom. I love listening to her show as she interviews guests from all different states of life – religious, ordained, single, married, husbands and wives, authors, etc. She’s been hosting pilgrimages to the Holy Land for a couple of years and hosts a women’s retreat called Arise, which I am very stoked to attend for the first time next year in June. (Ladies, if you’re interested, I think there are still some spots left —> Click here to read more about it and purchase a ticket).

The first speaker of the day was Mary Bielski whom I did NOT manage to get a photo opp with nor did I get a chance to speak with her to meet her, but, alas, it’s a #FirstWorldCatholicProblem.  I had heard her name from some of my Theology of the Body friends years ago as a popular national speaker and youth minister. So I was really excited to hear what she had to say.  Her talk was called Fearlessly His and it was all about our identity. It wasn’t your typical, “Hey ladies, you’re a beloved daughter of God, dontchaknow?” She went deep, she got personal, she got raw and it was really good to dive deep into these waters.

She also talked about the Model of Identity, which is SO needed today in our culture which is clearly having an identity crisis. This 3 step model looks like this:

  1. Relationship – We come to know each other in an interpersonal relationship. We don’t look inward to “find ourselves,” we look up.
  2. Identity – Jesus received His identity from the Father. We received our identity from Him.
  3. Mission – He was sent to live it out right after His Father identified Him as His beloved Son. We are sent on mission as well.

Mary pointed out that today, in our culture, the model is reversed:

  1. We move/take action
  2. We declare our identity
  3. We try to form relationships

Another way to say it is: “I do, I have, I am.”

It’s very much an American thing to identity someone by what they do for a living instead of who they ARE; a beloved child of God.

The Good news is that we have been rescued, we’ve been adopted and we have the power that comes from the Father to rebuke the lies that the world feeds us.

She also said something that was very similar to something I had recently read in my Women’s bible study and that was this:

Jesus didn’t come to make bad women better. He came to make dead women fully alive again. 

I think I want to put that on a t-shirt.

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The second speaker was Fr. Pat Schultz and there’s no need to even try to summarize his awesome talk entitled Fearlessly Forgiven and Restored because he recorded it (YAY for technology!) and you can listen to it here:

Fr. Pat’s talk was similar to Mary’s in that he really wanted us to know that God is saying to us: “You are a beauty to be revealed.” We were encouraged to expose and silence the voice of the accuser, to unleash love no matter our state in life, to nurture life and live out our feminine genius whenever possible. Beautiful and inspiring! I would encourage you to explore Fr. Pat’s Vimeo channel to hear his homilies and other talks as well. They are stellar.

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The final talk was from Laura Mary Phelps. I did miss the first part of her talk, entitled Fearlessly Sent, but I did manage to catch the bulk of it. She had encouraged us to check out one of my FAVORITE books called “Into Your Hands Father”  by Wilfred Stinnison. It’s all about doing the will of the Father and how to know IF you are doing that, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to discern if we’re really doing what God the Father wills for us or following our own selfish desires. I have half of that book highlighted – it’s THAT good.

I also loved her point about suffering and how it’s not written in the Bible anywhere, “This too shall pass.” That’s something we say to one another in difficult and challenging times of trial and suffering, but it’s not really…true.

An actual scripture to cling to is 2 Corinthians 4:17 which says:

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” which Laura “translated” into: “The suffering you’re in now is necessary to get you to the place of awesomeness that’s coming.” 

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In between speakers was what I considered probably the BEST part of any Catholic Conference and that’s Adoration and Confession as well as Praise and Worship.  I think 17 priests from around the diocese made themselves available to over 400 women who wanted confession, while we were divided into groups to sit in front of Jesus while the lovely and talented Taylor Tripodi blessed us with her beautiful voice and musical gifts.

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To wrap up, I wanted to share this I Declare card that I received at a Holy Hour for women at my parish over a year ago and I’ve kept it in my Bible ever since and refer to it daily. It’s from the women’s Bible study Walking With Purpose and the image is from the chapel in Magdala of the hemorrhaging woman called “Encounter.”

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Those declaration statements are so powerful when we not only pray with them, but we need to actually believe them and take hold of them in order to live these truths out in our daily lives. Because speaking from experience, we have a lot of women (and men) believing the lies. The lies of “You’re not good enough, you’re afraid, you’re weak, you’re not pretty enough, you’ll never belong…” etc.

These declarative statements are the antidote to those lies. I would encourage any woman struggling with her identity to pray with these often.

When we trust in God’s providence, when we believe that God is a good Father, and when we are receptive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us about the truth of our identity in Christ, that’s when we can live truly Fearlessly Faithful.

Until next time…be blessed!

Longing For Some “Magnificent Desolation”

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A few weeks ago marked the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 and landing on moon. I caught a few ads for some documentaries in the days leading up to it but it wasn’t until someone Tweeted out this link that I went from “Oh that’s interesting,” to “Oh my gosh I’m obsessed with this and I must get my hands on anything to do with the moon and the space program!!!”

The creator of this amazing website, Apollo 11 in Real Time is my new favorite person. His name is Ben Feist he created this website (not sure how long it took him but it had to be quite some time) that allows you to enter into the mission at any point. From an article and interview with him:

The website replays NASA’s Apollo 11 mission as it happened, second by second. The coverage begins 20 hours from the launch, which took place on July 16, 1969, and continues until just after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins stepped aboard the USS Hornet recovery ship on July 24. It does so using all of, and only the media from the mission — photos, film footage, television broadcasts and more — all synchronized to Ground Elapsed Time, the mission’s master clock.

“If you want to see a certain photo, for example, the whole experience jumps to the moment the photo is being taken. If you’d like to research one of the lunar samples you can find it at the moment the sample container is being filled,” Feist described.

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So after texting my family and telling some friends about this amazing website, thinking this is literally the coolest thing I’ve seen ever, I found this gem of a podcast on YouTube called “Apollo 11: What We Saw” hosted by Bill Whittle. It’s 4 parts at an hour each, but worth every minute. Bill takes you through the entire history of this mission but also includes all the science-y stuff that makes it all possible.

With this video series coupled with the real-time website, I came away with a new appreciation for the entire space program. I don’t know if people born long after we landed on the moon can truly grasp just how momentous this feat was until you really learn about the amount of resources, the amount of people (400,000!) and the courage it takes to fly a rocket into space, not quite knowing if this is all going to work!

And the fact that it DID and the entire world was watching. And WE, the United States, we did it first. That’s what Buzz (or perhaps Neil or Michael, can’t recall which) said in an interview – that people came up to him and said, “WE did it!” Not “You did it,” but WE meaning the country.

Sidenote: I had no idea Michael Collins didn’t land on the moon. He was in the ship that was to take them back after Buzz and Neil left the surface. He said he was okay with that, just chillin and orbiting around the moon.

From Wikipedia: Since he would be the active participant in the rendezvous with the LM, Collins compiled a book of 18 different rendezvous schemes for various scenarios including ones where the LM did not land, or it launched too early or too late. This book ran for 117 pages.

The sheer amount of intelligence and smarts to land on the moon is just incredible when you stop to think about it.

And that’s what I did that entire anniversary weekend to the point where I think I became (and still am) a bit obsessed with it. I think it’s because it contains something for everyone: History, nostalgia, adventure, rockets, fire, outer space, the unknown, exploration, team work, and most of all just plain FUN!

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong, uttered the phrase “Magnificent desolation” to describe the lunar surface. And when you hear them both describing the feel and the look of the surface, and then you see the photos and video that they took, it’s like you are really there with them. No wonder Cronkite choked up on camera when he saw them land and was speechless.

Maybe it’s just being connected to this point in history that I wasn’t alive for and that no one except these two men got to experience that explains this obsession, this longing to see what they saw and to be there. And to see the Earth from their viewpoint too. Can you imagine? Looking at EARTH from such a distance.

I would guess that this is the most prime example of that expression:

“The pictures don’t do it justice. You just had to be there.”

In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied to look out my window on a clear night and stare up at that beautiful magnificent desolation from down here until the day comes when I’ll be able to see ALL that God created.

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Doing the will of the Father – St. Cyprian

I read this in the Liturgy of the Hours that I pray every morning and came across this last week. I wanted to share it for several reasons:

  1. If I blog about it, that means I can easily refer back to it. It certainly beats writing this on post-it notes
  2. It’s a long “checklist” that I’m pretty sure I’m not doing 100% but would like to.
  3. I’ve been wanting to write about something for a few weeks that would strike the heart of everyone, not just a select few and this appears to be something we can all strive for.

So here goes!

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The following is from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr.

All Christ did, all he taught, was the will of God. 

  • Humility in our daily lives
  • an unwavering faith
  • a moral sense of modesty in conversation
  • justice in acts
  • mercy in deed
  • discipline
  • refusal to harm others
  • a readiness to suffer harm
  • peaceableness with our brothers
  • a whole-hearted love of the Lord
  • loving in him what is of the Father
  • fearing him because he is God
  • preferring nothing to him who preferred nothing to us
  • clinging tenaciously to his love
  • standing by his cross with loyalty and courage whenever there is any conflict involving his honor and his name
  • manifesting in our speech the constancy of our profession and under torture confidence for the fight
  • and in dying the endurance for which we will be crowned

This is what it means to wish to be a coheir with Christ, to keep God’s command; this is what it means to do the will of the Father.”

St. Cyprian, pray for us!

Debating Abortion…200 Characters At A Time

So anyone who follows me on good ol’ Twitter can see that I occasionally will engage with abortion supporters in an effort to have a fruitful dialogue. I have learned to pick and choose my battles carefully, not bothering to really engage or tweet at someone who is clearly just trying to stoke the flames. I do try to see if there’s some logic behind someone’s response to the most divisive issue of our day.

With all of the heartbeat bills and restrictions being passed in various states lately, the conversations are dissolving into shouting matches, but I do find that there’s hope for a resolution to this. And I’ll be the first to admit that Twitter is not the best place to have this debate but honestly, sometimes you can really have great conversations in 200 characters or less. (For those who aren’t familiar with Twitter, you only have about 240 characters to make your point before you have to keep replying. It’s not like a comment box on Facebook or an email where the characters are limitless).

What follows is NOT one of the fruitful dialogues, unfortunately. But what I just wanted to give readers was a glimpse into what, as far as I can tell, rational, sane people are saying about abortion. In case you didn’t know, the days of “safe, legal, and rare” are LONG GONE. Abortion is now being touted as on demand, plentiful and good.

So in this thread, I responded to a young woman named Lynne (I blocked out her screen name even though her profile is public) who said something about “children should only be born if they are wanted.” Notice how she never uses the word “mother” or “female” or “woman” when referring to pregnancy. This is not by accident. Pro-aborts and the left carefully construct their terms so they never acknowledge the sexual difference. Thus, they use the phrase “pregnant person.”

The sexual difference is being erased, folks!

Anyways, I responded with a question:

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Lynne had responded that she didn’t believe my last sentence was truthful about men not leaving before abortion and contraception came on the scene. I then tried to help her understand that contraception turns women into objects for use because you are erasing your fertility. I admit I could have done a better job explaining this but the fact remains, that before the Pill, if you had an affair, you took a risk that your indiscretion would be found out if the woman became pregnant.  With the Pill, people could have consequence-free sex, which led to an increase in infidelity and divorce. And when birth control fails, as it frequently does, it leads to an unplanned pregnancy, which leads to – duh – abortion.

Lynne didn’t respond to this and just called me a crazy person because I didn’t believe in contraception and in her mind, “contraception prevents abortions.” I then sent her this study from the pro-abortion research arm of Planned Parenthood, Guttmacher, that proves that contraception does not prevent abortions as much as one is led to believe. She didn’t reply. Pesky facts. 😉

In a separate thread Lynne had said that babies shouldn’t be born unless they can be “properly taken care of.”  She responds by saying she is a social worker so she considers herself an expert in this.

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Her comment about people believing the lie that “abortion is awful” struck me in particular. So I decided to define what an abortion is to her. To which Lynn retweeted my definition and took it upon herself to “shout her abortion.”

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I was going to exit the conversation at this point, but the fact that she is trying to promote abortion as being “great” needed a response:

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Thus ended our Twitter “conversation.”

This is just one encounter and no, I don’t sit there for hours wasting time “tweeting” to people who clearly are not going change their mind. It’s really not about that. It’s about planting a seed here and there. Because if she truly is post-abortive (yes, people do LIE on social media so it’s entirely possible she tweeted “Abortion is great” to get a reaction), she is in need of mercy and healing, which is why I sent her the Project Rachel Twitter handle. She also deserves to be told the truth.

And just look at her sad response about her parents “shouldn’t have been able to reproduce.” She isn’t the first pro-abortion person to say something along those lines. I wanted to be able to at least plant a seed that plenty of women regret their abortions. But, as you can see, she called those testimonials “bull****.”

Sadly, the abortion debate is only getting more and more volatile. This little twitter conversation between myself and Lynne is extremely TAME compared to the absolute hatred and evil coming out of people’s mouths (or keyboards in this case).

Case in point: I came close to tears watching this encounter at a pro-abortion rally in D.C. The woman screaming is in desperate need of healing. You can see it and hear it in her voice as she lashes out at the young woman holding a pro-life sign in front of her. My heart breaks for her:

Abortion supporters lash out at pro-lifers at #StopTheBans protests

The final video in that article is the one that truly breaks my heart. Her reaction to just scream vulgarity is NOT A NORMAL response. I want to find this woman and hug her. She is in so much pain. But she’s clearly not in a place to hear the truth.

So now for some good news.

An actress on a show I used to watch called “The Good Place” recently tweeted about how great her abortion was. She then proceeded to give her opinion on foster homes and how “cruel” that situation is. Well, that didn’t go over too well with the adoption/adoptee’s on Twitter who responded with their inspiring stories of choosing life:

The people whose lives you suggest aren’t worth living? They can hear you.

And finally, a really great thread initiated by a supporter of abortion.

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She was clearly expecting crickets to her tweet, but was ratio’d* badly as you can see. *Ratio’d means the replies, in this case 13,500, far outnumbered the amount of Retweets, in this case 1,500.

The common misconception among pro-abortionists is that anyone who is pro-life is “really only pro-birth. Once the baby is born they don’t care!” This is the typical go-to response from pro-abortion people. I’ve gotten it several times. But what this woman didn’t expect were the onslaught of responses from pro-lifers, which you can read about in this article:

Pro-lifers really do care about single moms, and it shows

So this is just a little peek into Twitter and the abortion debate today. As volatile and divisive as it is getting out there, I remain very hopeful that Roe is going to be overturned and the decision goes back to the states. While making abortion illegal will not stop it from happening, the day is coming, and I believe it’s coming very soon, when abortion will be unthinkable.

Pray for Lynne, pray for that woman in the video, pray for scales to fall off the eyes of all people who have been duped into believing the lie that abortion is good.

Ask the Lord to forgive them. They know not what they do.

Note: I am compiling a list of pro-life resources, books and articles on the facts of abortion for my blog. In the meantime, both websites listed above Live Action and Secular Pro Life are great starting points.

Behold, The Lamb of God: Easter Vigil 2019

On April 20, 1986, I made my first Communion as a second-grader at my home parish in Parma, Ohio at St. Anthony of Padua.

Thirty-three years later, here at my new hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church I was blessed to attend our Easter Vigil and was honored to be a sponsor to an engaged couple. I also witnessed 31 other individuals (yes 33 people entered the Catholic Church at our parish; God is so good!) enter into full communion of the Catholic Church, after spending the past 8 months meeting every week for their RCIA classes.

This was only my second Easter Vigil and it was absolutely hands down, one of the most amazing experiences EVER. 

The choir, the music, the decor, the baptisms, the readings, the rituals, the prayers, the homily, the candles, the fire, the crowd, the incense. As one of our  teenage candidates said, “It didn’t feel like 4 hours.”

As soon as it was over I wanted to start it all over again! And as our pastor said to the newly initiated – They know more being Catholic than anyone else – because they made a point to learn, to ask questions, to seek the answers and it led them to the fullness of Truth.

33 years after making my first communion, I have a much deeper appreciation for our faith, due in large part to the friends I’ve made here who are converts, as well as taking the initiative to learn and study and ask questions. It’s been remarkable living here and attending this awesome parish for the past 21 months.

OLGC records everything so luckily, I’ve been able to re-live the entire Holy Week all over again. You can watch the Vigil in it’s entirety here, but before you click, allow me to share what I think, are some of the more moving and particularly special moments of the night:

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy
Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy of this?
He is

 

I’m still on a high from it all. I think when you witness such a grand event, when you truly start to “get it,” and understand what Jesus did on that cross, it brings you to tears.

As it should.

Happy Easter Season everyone!

Theology on Tap – Lansing Diocese – The Catholic Church and Feminism

I recently gave a talk on the topic of the Church and Feminism in the Diocese of Lansing for their Theology on Tap Young Adult group. We adjusted the title to “Can You Be Pro-Woman and Catholic? Yes.” 

Recall that Theology on Tap talks take place at bars, so the environment is not one where you really want to “teach” as much as just “share” some knowledge. In other words, you can only go so deep with folks. Even though I’m pretty comfortable talking to groups at bars, I much prefer a classroom setting to get into the nitty gritty. But overall, the feedback was very good and everyone really enjoyed the Q&A afterwards (not recorded).

The beauty of recording these is that I get to edit those rambling bits out. Click this link (if you’re reading this in your email) or click the link below if you’re reading this post in your web browser.

However, if you really enjoy watching me from the side, (what a screenshot, right?) and you like my ramblings, go ahead and watch some of it below here:

Happy Easter everyone!