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Seeking the divine? Just look up.

I am not in the regular rotation when it comes to walking our rescue dog, Jake, especially at night. Dennis and Olivia handle most of the dog-walking duties in our household. But one recent Saturday night, with Dennis out of town with Chiara for a gymnastics competition and Olivia already one walk in for the day, I leashed up our pup and headed out into the cold, black night. Before I even stepped off the porch, I wanted to be done and back inside with a hot cup of tea warming my hands. I tugged at Jake’s leash and impatiently tried to move him along as he lingered too long, sniffing at twigs and snow mounds, street posts and trash cans. Then, as we rounded the corner, I finally lifted my gaze from the snow-covered asphalt and found myself face to face with Orion the Hunter overhead in the winter sky. Read more

With every step, say, “Jesus”

I was recently sitting in a log-cabin chapel on a beautiful lake in the lower Adirondack Mountains when the woman next to me offered a prayer intention during Mass: “For all those in the process of dying.” Although I had a dear friend who would die that very night and for whom we had been praying throughout the weekend retreat, I heard those words not only in relation to my dying friend but in relation to myself and to all those around me, because we are all in the process of dying. Read more

The art of life, and the life of art

When I was young, I bought into the notion that I was not good at art, that we were not good at art, as if it were possible to classify an entire gene pool as bad at any particular thing. But the truth is that I was writing songs and my own version of poetry long before I hit high school. And although I didn’t think of it as such at the time, it was art, even if it was not the still-life-on-canvas type of art we might imagine when we hear the word. Read more

Spiritual lessons at 65 miles per hour

I was driving to Rochester last week to give a talk to the local chapter of Magnificat, and I decided to make the trip into a mini-retreat of sorts. I brought along a recording by renowned theologian and writer Henri Nouwen called “The Spirituality of Waiting.” It wasn’t a new talk for me, but I decided it was time for a refresher, since waiting is not one of my strong suits. Read more

9/11: Remembering like it was yesterday

Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 15 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

Abundance over scarcity: trusting God to provide

This Life Lines column was originally intended to be my last. It was 15 years ago this month that I wrote my first column for Catholic New York, and this seemed like a nice tidy way to bring things to a close. Plus, as you may recall from last month’s column on humility, I thought I had nothing left to say. Then a few things happened to make me rethink that plan. Read more

Holding my breath and letting go

My latest Life Lines column, running in the current issue of Catholic New York:

Fourteen years ago this month, I wrote my very first Life Lines column. It focused on my then-4-year-old son, Noah, and a summer nature program we had attended together and how in his own little way Noah was forcing me out of my comfort zone and teaching me new things about myself and the world around me.

This is what I wrote back then: Read more

Beauty of Mass transforms the most unlikely places

My August Life Lines column, inspired by the renovations at St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Delmar:

My parish church in upstate New York is undergoing major renovations and reconstruction this summer. And so last weekend we filed into the school gymnasium for Sunday Mass, where metal folding chairs and raised basketball hoops brought back fond memories of my childhood Mass experiences at St. Aedan’s parish in Pearl River. Read more

The soul finds what the soul needs

I always say that every book I write, every retreat I lead, every workshop I present takes me to the next place I need to go on my spiritual journey. I never seem to realize that going in because I’m a little thick, and God needs to get my attention, and not always subtly. But I recognize it in hindsight, so I guess that’s something. Read more

Lessons on letting go from a laptop labyrinth

My latest Life Lines column:

I was at the tail end of a silent weekend retreat a few weeks ago when I began reaching my silent prayer saturation point. Although the Dominican Retreat Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., was the perfect place for a spiritual respite, I’m used to taking my doses of silence in the summer when long walks on quiet paths or the rhythmic paddling of a kayak across a perfectly still lake help ease the what-should-I-do-now syndrome that sometimes sets in for me. Silence is not my natural habitat, so I need all the outside help I can get. Read more