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Seeking light in winter’s darkness

One of my favorite things about this season of seemingly ever-present physical darkness is the occasional pocket or flash of light. Not just the leftover twinkling Christmas decorations, although that helps, but the “mundane” glimmers that, to put it in artistic terms, create everyday versions of the on-canvas beauty created by artists like Caravaggio through the use of “chiaroscuro”—a technique that contrasts deep darkness and brilliant-but-concentrated light in dramatic fashion. Read more

Fail again, fail better

A willingness to be vulnerable in front of other people is probably one of my best qualities. I know that sounds like a self-deprecating put-down, and for the longest time—most of my life—I would have agreed with you. In a world where the get-ahead motto tends to be, “Never let them see you sweat,” I have always been someone who is inclined to let people in on my weak spots. I tend to share more than self-preservation might recommend, to take personal or professional risks that might seem risky and to let others know, when they are broken or discouraged or doubting, that I’ve been there or worse, sharing the story of some fiasco that is sure to make them feel better about themselves and maybe even give them a laugh. Read more

Soul Seeing: Light, Love, Forgiveness

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.”

And after this, our exile…

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

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

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There’s beauty even in the fading…

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

Looking for truth at the bottom of the abyss

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

9/11: Remembering like it was yesterday

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

Hanging by a thread: What we need our priests and bishops to know right now

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

On a lighter note…

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