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My Mighty Girl: Happy birthday, Chiara

When I sat down to write this birthday post for my baby, Chiara Elizabeth, who turned nine today, I found myself unable to get started. Every time I wrote something, I’d shake my head, delete, and stare at the blank space again. Nothing felt quite right, and I wondered, Why? Read more

Learning to be a beginner. Again and again.

Last night a friend invited me to join her at the nearby Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna for vespers sung in the spirit of Taize, a prayer style that uses repetitive, meditative singing. Although I was familiar with Taize, an ecumenical order that came out of France, I don’t think I had ever really experienced true Taize-style prayer. As with anything new, when we arrived at the chapel with its beautiful mural (pictured here) by Tomie de Paola, I wondered what it would be like. Would I know what to do? What if I didn’t know the songs? Would I just have to sit there and listen rather than participate, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a different thing. Read more

Setting life to a sacred rhythm

Lessons from the  monastics via Everyday Divine:

Start to look at the “life-rhythm” of your day. Is it totally out of balance, with most of your time spent running from one stressful moment to another? Or do you have a peaceful “refrain” that keeps the melody of your life from turning dissonant? Actively work toward bringing balance into your daily life by making prayer the thing you constantly come back to for refreshment, rest, and renewal.  Read more

Manic Monday: Rocking the Bronx. And Syracuse.

How is it possible we have already hit mid-July? I would find that totally unbelievable except for the fact that I’m looking out at my yard as I write this, and it is clearly mid-July out there. It’s like a jungle, with plants run amok and weeds the size of small trees. This is what happens when summer starts to get away from me, and it almost always does. (It just so happens that as I was looking out at my jungle yard, Cari Donaldson posted this wonderful essay  about this very thing. Please go read it when you’re done here.) With everything on our calendar for the coming week (including another trip to NYC with my sister and brother and our families), I suspect things aren’t going to get any tidier any time soon.

Before we get on with the rest of Manic Monday, just take a look at that beautiful July sunset over the Stewart’s Shop near our house. Don’t forget to look for God’s beauty in unexpected places — like when you’re at a gas pump a mile from home.  Anyway, away we go with the rest of Manic Monday…

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In the footsteps of St. Benedict…

In honor of the Feast of St. Benedict, I thought I would re-post my Time Union reflection on my trip to the Monastery of St. Benedict in Subiaco, Italy, four years ago. 

With a breathtaking valley stretching out below and an ancient monastery clinging to the cliffs above, Subiaco, Italy, feels as though it is a world away from the chaotic streets of Rome, only 40 miles to its west. And, in a sense, it is.

Steeped in history that stretches back to the Roman Empire and the earliest centuries of the Roman Catholic Church, Subiaco is a place out of time, giving visitors a chance to step into the very same cloisters, caves and gardens that were once home to ancient saints and medieval monks. Read more

Everyday Divine: a chapel on wheels

When I returned from my first silent retreat several years ago, I realized that my automatic response upon getting into the car was to turn up the radio. Loud. I wasn’t listening to anything spiritual, mostly the classic rock channel on my satellite radio. The experience of silence on retreat prompted me to give it a try while driving. Instead of singing all the way to and from my daughter’s preschool, I turned off the radio and allowed myself to sink into the quiet of my little makeshift chapel on wheels. Read more

I should have known… An Ode to Olivia

I should have know you would turn out to be a determined, amazing, strong, daring girl…

…when you burst into the world in record time (less than 30 minutes in the hospital) and at a whopping 10 pounds and immediately demanded to be nursed.

You were ready for this world since before you were born. Read more

Wednesday Wisdom: Be moldable but immovable

“And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:26

The majestic Adirondack Mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean are both easily reachable from my home, so this line from the Gospel and the fuller Gospel story (Matthew 7:21-29) elicit some powerful imagery for me. In an instant I am on the beach, where the shoreline constantly changes because of gentle winds or powerful storms. With the crash of even the smallest wave, sand gives way beneath your feet and you can lose your balance.

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What’s so bad about rose-colored glasses?

“Your mission today, should you decide to accept it, is to start looking at your world through rose-colored glasses. Rather than focus on the crabgrass that’s ruining your lawn, marvel at the intricate beauty of the lowly dandelion. Instead of furrowing your brow in frustration when bees arrive on your picnic scene, focus on their awesome ability to gather nectar from the flowers in your yard and turn it into the golden honey that sweetens your tea.” — Everyday Divine, Chapter 6 Read more

A kernel of contemplation buried within the chaos

When I wrote my last book, Everyday Divine: A Catholic Guide to Active Spirituality, my original plan was to develop some videos and other helpful tools to help readers and pray-ers put the written suggestions into prayer practice. This is a book about discovering the divine in the everyday, about praying not in the quiet of a chapel (although that’s necessary too), but in the chaos of household chores. It’s a book about finding God in the mundane moments of commuting to work, shopping for food, waiting in a doctor’s office, whatever often seems to pull us away from peace and serenity but actually has buried within it the kernel of contemplation. Read more