A few years ago, I was asked to write an essay for the Soul Seeing column that appears regularly in the National Catholic Reporter. That essay turned into a moment for me. What started as an assignment, became a journey, as is so often the case. The essay I turned in back in 2014 was the first in which I explored in writing my lifelong habit of collecting broken sea shells and looked at it from a spiritual perspective. That original essay grew into more writings on the topic and, eventually, into a retreat day I offer: “Broken, Beautiful, and Beloved: Learning to See Ourselves through God’s Eyes.”
Now my original essay is part of this wonderful collection from Orbis Books. I am so honored to have my writing included alongside that of spiritual writers such as James Martin, Richard Rohr, Joyce Rupp, Brian Doyle, and so many others. A special word of thanks to Mike Leach, publisher emeritus of Orbis Books and creator of Soul Seeing, for asking me to write that first essay and for inviting me to be part of this book. It’s a lovely collection, something that would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone who’s traveling the spiritual path and looking for a little nourishment along the way.
You can order Soul Seeing directly from Orbis Books or Amazon. You’ll find me on page 179 under the title “Brokenness Lets Us See Where True Beauty Lies.”
Although I have had a lifelong struggle with the Rosary—I’ve always considered myself Rosary-challenged—I started praying this prayer more frequently of late, thanks to the encouragement of Pope Francis. A driving motivation for me in finishing five decades of the Rosary is the chance to end with the Salve, Regina, also known as the Hail, Holy Queen.
I first fell in love with this prayer when I was on retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee near Rochester and listened in awe as the Trappist monks chanted Salve, Regina in the darkened chapel as they faced an icon of Mary with the Christ Child, illuminated by a single candle. Haunting and beautiful, powerful and poetic, this is a prayer I will add onto the end of a silent meditation session, or say whenever I need a random dose of Mary and her intercession. Read more
Hail to the Morning
There will be something,
anguish or elation,
that is peculiar to this day alone.
I rise from sleep and say:
Hail to the morning!
Come down to me, my beautiful unknown.* —Jessica Powers
I stood in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Express in Syracuse one recent Saturday morning before dawn, fumbling with my car keys and coffee cup and thinking about the long drive and long day ahead. I wasn’t headed home but instead to a Eucharistic Congress hosted by the Diocese of Albany at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, where more than 4,000 pilgrims would converge on the sacred ground of St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the North American martyrs. Read more
I didn’t want to go Mass this weekend. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not go to Mass last weekend. I could not. The current scandal and apparent cover-up in our Church had left me numb, spiritually paralyzed. Actually, it had left me professionally numb as well, given the fact that I have devoted most of the past 34 years of my professional life working on behalf of the Church. There was no way I could sit and stand and kneel and sing, worshipping as though life as we knew it could go on as usual. Read more
Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 17 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that time. Our world has changed. My family has changed. And yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world right now. Here’s wishing all of you, all of us a future of peace — peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet. Read more
For the past few weeks, and especially in recent days, I have been hearing from readers of my monthly Life Lines column, from colleagues working for the Church, from friends and acquaintances, many coming to me with tears in their eyes, anger in their voices, and determination on their faces. Last month I wrote about casting light on the darkness of one scandal; now things have gone from bad to worse with the news out of Pennsylvania. The question I posed then has swelled to an agonizing cry now: How much more? Read more
This week our diocese held its fourth annual Concert for Vocations, which has become a favorite among the faithful. More than 600 people turned out at St. Pius X Church in Loudonville for performances by Bishop Scharfenberger, clergy, religious, seminarians, and lay people. Yours truly was among them. I brought the honky tonk. What a great night. I have so many talented co-workers! Here’s my performance of Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Read more
My annual tribute to the baby I lost 20 years ago today, the baby I call Grace:
For the past few days I’ve been looking at the numbers on the calendar, growing more and more introspective as we inched closer to August 6. It was 20 years ago today that I learned the baby I was carrying, my second baby, had died 11 weeks into my pregnancy. Read more
Typically, I post my monthly Life Lines columns here without comment, but there is nothing typical about this column. I wrote it in the wake of the McCarrick abuse revelations. Running up against my deadline — as usual — I knew this one probably needed to be seen by a few extra eyes before it appeared in Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. I am grateful for the encouragement I received to say what I needed to say, even if it is uncomfortable for some. Here it is:
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord…You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” (Jer 23:1-2) Read more