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Making others in our own image

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

Someone saw a photo of me with my son, Noah, on Facebook recently and told me that he could tell from the subtlest look on my face that I was annoyed with my teenager. I knew without question that I wasn’t mad when that photo was taken. In fact, I was in a great mood that day, but I guess the camera captured me at the exact wrong moment, when something made my expression look less than happy. Read more

Never forget. Remembering like it was yesterday.

Yesterday a friend asked people if we could remember where we were at that horrible moment 12 years ago today. I was putting laundry away in the top drawer of my bedroom dresser when the phone rang. My father-in-law called to tell me to turn on the television. It feels like it was just yesterday, and it feels like a lifetime ago, but that morning is etched on my heart, as it is for most of us. Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote 12 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that horrible morning, and yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world today. 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

Getting past the Church’s gatekeepers. Who’s minding the store?

My June Life Lines column. It must have struck a chord because I am receiving tons of private emails from total strangers who all have experienced this in one way or another. A rare time when I wish people couldn’t relate to my column. Here you go:

Almost 25 years ago, a woman in my family—lifelong Catholic, former folk group singer, fixture at her home parish—walked into a new church in her new town with her boyfriend. They wanted to get married and, although he wasn’t Catholic, her boyfriend had been married before. So they were interested in seeking information about annulment. Simple enough, right? At least at that early stage. Read more

Learning to be a spiritual storm chaser

My May Life Lines column, currently running in the latest issue of Catholic New York, just in time for Pentecost:

I reluctantly went for a walk today, not because I wanted exercise but because I needed to get outside of my own head, and walking has a way of taking me to that particular interior destination. As I wandered through the neighborhood, the wind was whipping up, bending branches of the mighty oaks and pines and maples towering overhead, and for the briefest moment I felt as though the Spirit was blowing right through me. Read more

Chase away ‘monsters’ of anxiety with light of Christ

My current Life Lines column from Catholic New York:

What is it about the darkness that makes normal things seem a little scarier and scary things seem downright unbearable? Maybe it has something to do with childhood memories of things that go bump in the night, of partially open closet doors that hide all sorts of imaginary monsters just waiting to catch us unaware. Maybe it has to do with the deep connection we make between darkness and evil in our faith and in our world. Whatever it is, I found myself lying awake one night recently, the creaks of our older house drowned out by the much louder and demanding “monsters” in my head. Read more

The perfect time to take a spiritual inventory

My most recent Life Lines column, running in Catholic New York and The Catholic Spirit this month: 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to approach my prayer life – my spiritual habits or “skills” – from an unrealistic place. While I easily recognize the need to practice or work out in order to keep up my basic guitar skills or my jogging endurance, I expect to settle down to prayer and reap immediate rewards with little or no effort. Or I allow myself to fall into a prayer rut that ends up leaving me on autopilot, until the words I say have about as much meaning and feeling behind them as reading a recipe out loud. 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

Here’s something to talk about over dinner

Just realized I never posted my September Life Lines column. Here you go…

We were sitting at the dinner table the other night, passing bowls of pasta and salad back and forth, when the kids asked if we could pull a card from “The Meal Box” (Loyola Press), a deck of 52 cards with questions designed to prompt interesting dinner conversation among family members. I had originally used it as part of a product review I was writing, but it ended up being a hit with the kids, so it stuck. And it sure beats fighting over who didn’t empty the cat litter and who didn’t put away toys in between bites of food. Read more

Remembering like it was yesterday

Here’s the Life Lines column I wrote just about 11 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that horrible morning, and yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world today. 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.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Noah plopped down on the floor next to me the other day and asked me to read one of his favorite books, “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed,” by Mercer Mayer. As we turned the pages and followed the little boy on his quest to capture the elusive alligator that kept him up at night, I had an eerie feeling that the story was an allegory for what I’d been feeling since that terrible morning a few days before.

The night after the World Trade Center attack, I lay awake in my bed staring at the ceiling, filled with a sense of dread that I could not quite put my finger on. I was scared, but not by the images of horror that had flashed before my eyes for hours that day. Instead my fears seemed frivolous, not at all unlike the little boy’s alligator: Had I left the dryer on in the basement? Was the window over the kitchen sink still open? Were the kids’ pajamas warm enough? I felt a childlike fear of the dark, of things no one else can see, things we parents usually try to hush with a goodnight kiss and a night-light.

When morning finally arrived, I realized that my sleeplessness wasn’t really about what might go wrong within my four walls. It was about what had gone wrong in our world. Long after I had wiped away the tears of sadness that fell as I watched the World Trade Center collapse over and over again on television’s seemingly endless loop of horror, I fought back tears of a different kind — as I rocked Olivia to sleep for her nap, as I kissed Noah good-bye at preschool, as I hugged my husband, Dennis, at the end of a long day. Those were tears borne of fear, tears for tomorrow, tears for a world we don’t yet know. And I didn’t like how they felt.

Despite the fact that I have spent almost two years writing a book on how to help children deal with grief, the events of the past weeks left me in the unusual position of struggling for words. On the day of the attack, when Noah, asked if “bad people” might knock down our house, I reassured him that they would not. When he made a logical leap – at least for a 4-year-old – and worried that they might knock down his grandmother’s apartment building in New York City, I told him he was safe, that no one was going to hurt him or the people he loved. All the while I found myself wondering if I was telling him a lie.

But that kind of thinking leads to hopelessness, and when we lose hope, we leave a void just waiting to be filled by fear and despair and alligators of every kind. Through stories on television and in newspapers, I had seen unbelievable hopefulness in the face of utter destruction. How could I not believe in the power of the human spirit and the ultimate goodness of humanity and a better world for our children?

That night, as a soft rain fell, our house seemed wrapped in a comforting quiet that was interrupted only by the reassuring hum of the dishwasher. With Noah and Olivia asleep in their rooms, I lay down and looked up. For the first time in days I didn’t notice the enveloping darkness but saw instead the tiny glowing stars that dot our bedroom ceiling, a “gift” left behind by the previous owners. As I finally closed my eyes to sleep, I whispered a prayer of hope, a prayer for a world where the only thing our children have to fear are the imaginary monsters hiding under their beds.

Copyright 2001, Mary DeTurris Poust