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My two favorite Chiaras

To celebrate the Feast of St. Clare, I’m doing a Flashback Monday post (I know, it doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?) to something I wrote three years ago today. (Ages have been updated so it makes sense today.)

When I became pregnant with my youngest, I immediately honed in on the name “Chiara.” At the time, I will admit, it had nothing to do with the most famous Chiara, St. Clare of Assisi, or, as they say in Italy, Santa Chiara di Assisi, whose feast day is today.

No, my fascination with this beautiful name started in college, when I was on a trip to China and spent three weeks traveling with a young woman named Chiara, who was part of our university group. The name struck me as the most beautiful name I’d ever heard, but that may have had something to do with my being named Mary. As they sing in the old-time classic, “there is something there that sounds so square.” Chiara (the name, not the person) was about as opposite of “square” as I could imagine. Read more

Are we willing to be marked as Christians?

For weeks now I have been feeling helpless, hopeless, in a constant state of incredulity tinged with despair. So much so I have been completely unable to write about it. No words could express what I was feeling. How, I kept wondering, how was it possible that Christians in Mosul were being killed — their homes marked, their property stolen, their lives threatened, tortured, taken as they tried to flee the insane wrath of the Muslim extremists known as ISIS while the world looked away? Where were our leaders, where was the public outcry, or at the very least celebrities tweeting selfies as they held up signs with appropriate hashtags, perhaps #stopISIS or #savethechristians? Why was there silence in the face of genocide, religious cleansing, what was clearly — at least to those of us willing to watch — the earliest signs of a potential Christian holocaust? Read more

Prescription for a better marriage: Start dating

My most recent Life Lines column: 

About eight or nine years ago, my aunt gave me a lovely picnic basket backpack, complete with cloth napkins, plastic wine glasses, everything you’d need for a romantic al fresco meal in a park or on a beach. And every year since then I have considered donating it to a school garage sale because, quite frankly, romantic picnics just weren’t on our “to do” list.

But something stopped me from throwing that backpack into the Hefty bags along with old puzzles and board games bound for the bargain bin. I had a tiny glimmer of hope that some day we would dust off that backpack and take it for a spin. Read more

Why would you refuse to dance with grace?

Okay, I’ll admit that when I first saw this clip, I was drawn in by the Hafiz poem, one of my favorites. Because when I grow up, I want to be the sage who has to duck her head when the moon is low. But then I kept watching, and I have to tell you that this video is so good from top to bottom it gives me goosebumps.

“I feel so badly for those people who would come to this party that is Christianity and refuse to dance with grace,” says Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On Warrior (a great book, by the way).

Five minutes is all it takes. Watch it, and then decide to dance. (And you can read the full Hafiz poem under the YouTube link below.)

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What’s holding you back? #FindIggy

They had me at St. Ignatius bobblehead.

Head over to Find Your Inner Iggy to see how you might win some grand prizes today, the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. The founder of the Jesuits is the inspiration for this fun-yet-serious campaign to help people find God at work in their lives today. In much the same way that St. Ignatius discovered God in unlikely places in his life almost 500 years ago. Read more

Manic Monday: On the road again

As Olivia pointed out on the long drive home from a weekend with cousins at the Jersey Shore, we’ve had three mini-vacations this summer, with the big one yet to come. A weekend trip to the Bronx Zoo two weeks ago, a weekend with Cousins in NYC last weekend, and a weekend at Grandpa and Grandma’s near Long Beach Island, N.J. The minivan is getting a workout. This week we’re hanging out at home for a change, but that doesn’t mean dull and boring. Unfortunately. Between work and Chiara’s Bible camp and her just-over horseback riding birthday party, I’m kind of longing for one day to just sit still and do nothing. Here’s how Manic Monday looks this week:  Read more

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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