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A not-so-hidden gem in Albany: City Beer Hall

For the past few years, whenever we would go to Sunday Mass at Historic St. Mary’s in downtown Albany  (The church is a destination in itself, if you’ve never been there.), we’d drive past The City Beer Hall on the way home and say, “We have to try that some day.” Something about the 1903 building with the “Beer Hall” in lights on the roof spoke to us. It looked like it just had to be good. But, as with many things we say we’d like to do, we never got around to it. Until yesterday. Dennis and I spent Easter Monday downtown — first with a walk along the Hudson in the Corning Preserve and later with a walk over the highway, into Albany and onward to the Beer Hall.  Read more

Finding God amid the scaffolding and noise

I realized yesterday that I’m a bit like a homing pigeon when it comes to visiting New York. No matter where I am in Manhattan, I always end up back at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is like home base for me. Back when I was a reporter for Catholic New York, I used to cover Cardinal John O’Connor’s Sunday Masses there with regularity, along with lots of other events, from the unusual (Andy Warhol’s memorial Mass complete with Liza Minelli and Grace Jones) to the the sublime (meeting Mother Teresa after a Mass marking the anniversary of Cardinal Terence Cooke’s death.) Read more

Italy 2014: Order coffee like an Italian

So you’re going to Italy and you want to know how to order a coffee. Okay, well, first things first. If you ask for coffee, “un caffé,” you will get an espresso. It will be “short” and dark and may have a lovely golden rim around it. If you want something more akin to what you drink at home, you could ask or caffé americano or caffé lungo, and they’ll water down your espresso, but why would you want to do that? Caffé macchiato is an espresso “stained” with a little milk. Read more

Italy alert: We are now under the one-year countdown to the most amazing pilgrimage

One year from now we will be just back from the most amazing pilgrimage, a 13-day food and faith tour of Italy that will take us from Montecatini, Florence, Siena, and Assisi to Rome, Naples, Salerno, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. There’s still plenty of time to save up some money and vacation days and join us for a wonderful weaving of spirituality, sightseeing, and one fabulous meal and hotel after another. You can find the full itinerary HERE. Read more

Lessons from Brother Sun

So much happens on silent retreat, even though nothing at all seems to be happening. No talking, no reading, no writing, no casual eye contact. Doesn’t sound like much could be happening, does it? But, let me tell you, there is so much energy and movement and chatter going on under the surface, it’s hard to contain it. At one point on the first day, as I let go of everything that was going on in my head and heart, my interior was actually shaking, almost like I was shivering, but I wasn’t cold. Just a flood of feelings and emotions and questions that came rising up to the surface after being pushed down day after day by the normal events of life. Read more

Into great silence, Adirondack-style

I am so honored and humbled by the many, many prayer requests that have come pouring in from friends on Facebook. I asked people to send me their special intentions so I can carry them with me on silent retreat this weekend, and I now have three full pages — and I’ll be adding to the list right up until I leave at 3 p.m. in case you want to email me or leave an intention in the comment section before then. What a beautiful thing, to have people trust me with their worries and needs. I promise I’ll honor all of them. Although I’m not supposed to read on this silent retreat, I will make an exception for my prayer list so I don’t forget or miss anyone. Read more

Come with me to Italy and feed your body and soul

Dear Fellow Adventurer,

For most of my adult life, I dreamed of going to Italy. I wanted to pray in St. Peter’s Basilica. I wanted to know the country of my grandfather’s birth. I wanted to eat the delicious food that had inspired so many family meals when I was growing up. Three years ago, when I stepped onto the streets of Rome for the first time, I cried from the sheer joy of being there, and I knew right then that I’d have to return some day soon. Italy had captured my heart! Read more

The grass is always greener. Except when it’s not.

For the past few years, Dennis and I have seriously talked about wanting to move away from here. Here being New York’s Capital Region. The bloom is off the rose, I guess, or, as I always seem to say for no apparent reason, the rose is off the bloom. I think it has something to do with our weekly drives to church in downtown Albany every Sunday. Read more

Solitude and small-town friendliness in Manhattan

When I visited Manhattan a few weeks ago, I emerged from Penn Station, stepped out onto the street, took a big, deep breath of bus fumes mixed with subway steam mixed with street-cart hot dogs, and immediately texted Dennis this message: “I love New York.” And I do. Whenever I go back, I remember why and just how much, so much that Dennis and I have said more than once that if we had the money — and the ability to retire ever, which isn’t going to happen — Manhattan would be our retirement destination of choice. Read more

Pitching a tent on sacred ground

I’m not much of a camper. I chalk it up to traumatic Girl Scout experiences as a kid — think rain, mud, latrine duty, French toast cooked over a coffee can. But as I write this column, I am simultaneously washing my winter sleeping bag in anticipation of a weekend camping retreat at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y., with Noah’s Boy Scout troop. And I’m actually looking forward to it. Read more