Going to let it speak for itself…
In this year of turmoil, I have been feasting on Catholic podcasts. I remember listening to my very first podcast after I gave birth to my first child and needed some kind of entertainment while I was dancing around the kitchen trying to soothe a newborn. My expert mom friend suggested podcasts and of course, Serial. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and not having my eyes fixed on a screen and even being able to wash dishes while listening. Woohoo! But as soon as I went back to work, podcasts died with it. Then a few years later when I gave birth to my second and I was on maternity leave again…sure enough the second season of Serial was available! Anyone listen to S-Town? Wow, that was heavy. While having similar striking moments of imagining Adnan Syed still in prison, this story was finite. Life was ended and there was no turning back. I spent my entire relationship with that podcast removing wallpaper and painting a hallway, but I’ll never forget the depression and quirkiness of John B. McLemore when I walk down the hall….
So podcasts are great!!!!! 🙂 I had a rocky start to be sure, but once I started my new job this summer at the Archdiocese I decided I needed something to pass the time during my commute. I asked a friend for some podcast suggestions and was introduced to Catching Foxes. You must immediately put on your ear buds and listen to Catching Foxes.
The hosts are two hysterical guys that also went to Franciscan University and have been involved in ministry/church work since graduation. Having that in common certainly drew me to the podcast, but ultimately when McCarrick and all hell broke loose this podcast saved my faith and fidelity to the Church. The hosts, Luke and Gomer, termed what we have all experienced as “The Summer of Scandal“. Their raw, emotional, and often border-line inappropriate hashing out of the headlines and the repeated atrocities that we have experienced has been healing for me. After a few months, I decided to start supporting them on Patreon. I am so grateful for these men that study the faith, are faithful to the teachings of the Church, and want to build the kingdom even in this mess.
I also have tested a few other podcasts out that have been inspirational at times. However, nothing comes close to Catching Foxes…but I will list my favorites below:
- Among the Lilies – hosted by Cameron Fradd (married to Matt who runs the anti-porn ministry) and contains real talk for women
- Catholic Creatives – as long as you aren’t bothered by “Like…um….ya know….” millennial speech, you will enjoy this!
- The Catholic Feminist – while I don’t agree with the host’s soap-boxing at times, I have loved many of her guests and they are worth a listen!
I have truly felt that Catholic podcasting has brought the faith alive for me recently. I can’t find great conversation like this at my local parish….or at least not on a daily basis. Smart, talented faithful Catholics are creating wonderful content and this is where I have found it!
Over the holiday weekend, I read Henri Nouwen’s short piece entitled, “The Spirituality of Fundraising”. A friend of mine suggested the book when she was in town a few months ago. She works for Mobile Loaves and Fishes which serves the homeless in Austin, Texas. She shared with me that their success did not result from events or major mailings, but rather through building relationships with members of the community and simply sharing the story of their vision and mission. It was lovely hearing her speak about her ministry and the passion behind the project. While I haven’t yet written a check, I am planning to visit the Village in Austin in the summer of 2020. And that’s exactly how she got me…when she said, “You should come visit sometime and meet the people we serve.”
I was invited to participate in the vision. I was invited to see it for myself. I was invited to belong to a community of generous people.
Powerful stuff. But even more powerful was the conviction I received from reading “The Spirituality of Fundraising”. The paradigm must shift in fundraising for the church. Written by a Catholic priest who died in 2006, his work poignantly states the obvious: no one is motivated to be generous without knowing your clear vision and mission.
As Fr. Nouwen said, “Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” He also made it clear that fundraising is a MINISTRY. It’s not another business tactic or sterile, automated transaction. Fundraising for the Lord is “as spiritual as giving a sermon, entering a time of prayer, visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry!’
That was certainly encouraging to me. As a theology major and evangelist at heart, I always desire my so-called ‘job’ to ultimately help bring people to heaven. The invitation to give of your first-fruits is a Gospel based message of allowing God to be the king of your heart. As St. Paul says, “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity” (2 Cor. 9: 11).
Fundraising is not a response to a crisis.
Nouwen can be pegged as a prophet for this statement. IF your organization has already been floundering prior to the 2018 crisis of clergy sexual abuse, I highly doubt you will be able to flourish in the near future. Nouwen related the story of a friend who once told him, “If you never want to be fooled, you will never give your money.” That certainly is true as you can gather from unhappy tax payers, those who pull their funds from organizations without transparency, or those who leave a school or parish all together because of disappointment. We all know someone who has made this decision or even might have done so ourselves. Nouwen continued to examine this, “The reason for the taboo is that money has something to do with that intimate place in our heart where we need security, and we do not want to reveal our need or give away our security to someone who, maybe only accidentally, might betray us.”
The book was challenging. It challenged me and my attachment to money and material things. My attachment to the securities of life such as a home, a car, a job, a 401K, etc. How pressured are we in American society to be SECURE in finances? To control our future, to control our daily choices in order to reach the potential of the American dream? Is the American dream to go to heaven? Nope. Wealth, prosperity, long-life, ultimately cheating death!
“Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.” (Matt 6:19-20)
Read the book. It’s only about 60 pages long. I will share more of my reflections in another post. Still feeling challenged and soaking in the wisdom!
Remember when I said “Drain the Swamp”. The swamp got worse.
I have waves of sadness on a regular basis for my church. Sadness for the future of the church, sadness for my colleagues who work in the vineyard, sadness for those who live in sin and are blind. So much sadness. When everything broke in the Summer of Scandal, the following post from a freelance Catholic writer spoke to me:
I’ve been up most of the night with an unsettled newborn, so I’ve had lots of time for reading last night’s bombshell, as well as praying and thinking about it. But honestly, I’m not that shocked.
When I returned to the Catholic Church, 18 years ago, it was with full knowledge of her history of scandal: of 16-year-old popes, evil popes, and anti-popes; of episcopal sees bought and sold, papal armies raised, and murders plotted (and actual murders committed) within the Vatican; of orgies in the papal summer palace, papal mistresses, and Curia prostitutes. None of that stopped me from believing in the truth of the Church’s claims, and the current scandals aren’t stopping me either.
In a fallen world, where Satan is always at work, this is to be expected. Not tolerated. But expected. Much as we like to think we’re so much wiser and more enlightened than our brothers and sisters in the sixth century or tenth century or fourteenth century, we’re not. So, the same awful sins are going to be committed, again and again and again, inside and outside the Church, because human beings are inside and outside the Church.
Fortunately, our faith isn’t in human beings. It is in Jesus Christ, who has already overcome our sin with his mercy and love, and who keeps raising up saints to show us that, with grace, so much more than this is possible. I grieve for those whose faith will be damaged by these revelations. And yet I don’t grieve the release of this letter. In some ways, it’s almost refreshing to read it because it makes sense of so much of the last 60 years. It explains why the truth so often hasn’t been proclaimed, why the lay faithful have so often been marginalized, and why the Church has been such a horrible witness in a world that desperately needs more from it.
If you’ve ever been confused about why you felt more Catholic than your priest or bishop or the pope for that matter, this is why. And only by bringing this all into the light can any of that change. Sin is always bad news. But the unmasking of sin is not bad news. It’s the first step towards cleansing the temple and restoring it. It’s time for the cleansing to begin. ~ Emily Stimpson Chapman, August 26, 2018
We all crave a relationship with Christ. Enjoy this song from artist Lauren Daigle. I was thrilled to see her perform on Dancing with the Stars Finale last night. We all want Jesus, even the rich and famous who seem to “have it all”.
Do you feel just a little bit sick every day? Am I the only one who feels pangs of awkwardness, fear, and distress? So much has been thrown at us in such a short amount of time. As American Catholics, and for me as a woman, the past few months have been emotionally difficult.
I also wonder if everyone else was listening to the Kavanaugh hearing on Thursday with acute attention like I was. What a roller coaster of emotions: sympathy, anger, distrust, and utter confusion. When are we going to catch a break? Then the next day, Archbishop Vigano released another statement.
While I do not feel qualified to comment on the current state of affairs in the church or in American society, I can only share four real examples of things that took place recently that were hard decisions I made.
Reported an Incident
Recently I was visiting a Catholic parish/school campus for a meeting. As I was getting in my car in the parking lot, I saw a school student leave the building around approximately 2:30pm (prior to dismissal). He was walking towards the parking lot with a man that I assumed to be his father. I saw the man grab the boy’s backpack and violently throw it into the trunk of the car. He then aggressively pushed the boy so much so that the boy staggered back. I couldn’t hear the precise words, but the man was yelling at the boy. The boy began to run back towards the school entrance. The man yelled to the boy (again I could not hear what he said) and the boy turned back towards the car, got in, and the car sped off in a fury.
My heart was pounding so hard. It all happened so fast and I remember toying in my head with the decision to run towards them and intervene or to take a picture of the car license plate…..it was so sudden, so shocking, and I was just dumbstruck. While I didn’t move quickly enough to catch them, I composed myself to call the office after the car pulled off. I reported everything to the school administration including a description of the boy and the man. I knew they would have a sign out sheet to indicate who just exited the building.
Maybe I should have done more, maybe I misinterpreted the situation, but at the end of the day I know now, “If you see something, say something.” I can only trust that the school investigated the matter and followed proper procedures to ensure the boy’s safety.
Called a friend, Reached out to someone suffering
In light of all that took place recently, I felt great trepidation when I asked myself the question, “Am I a part of the problem? What have I covered up?” Having been a campus minister and religion teacher in my career, I recently spent many hours trying to remember various events and conversations. I scoured over memories and asked God to reveal anything I might be missing or overlooking. Is there anything I don’t want to face?
In fact, I did remember two conversations. While I will not share the details of them, I will share the hard decisions I made to revisit them. I called a friend and asked him to please report to the police and to the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection something that he had shared with me a few years ago. After speaking with him, I realized that I did not clearly remember the details of the story and it involved something of a different nature; however, he was grateful that I reached out and that I shared with him the appropriate reporting structure of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature in a church setting.
Then, I also remembered a time when a woman shared a very difficult story with me. The incident caused her pain and distress. While I do not know the validity of the story and it did not include any criminal behavior, I was brought back to that moment of her tears and her suffering. I was only 22 at the time and did not know the breadth of counseling services available or support opportunities. I was only a shoulder to cry on that day, but now I am so grateful that the recent events have brought to light the options that can be found for those in need. I find it imperative to educate oneself on those services and to also be bold in sharing them with others. But what can I do ten years later? Well, I reached out to her. I casually tried to connect and let her know I was thinking of her recently, said a prayer for her, and asked how she was doing….what was she up to these days….etc.
Maybe I should have done more, maybe I misinterpreted the situation, but at the end of the day I know now “Boys will be boys” is no longer an accepted statement in our society. We are better than that, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We need to embrace chastity because it leads to joy instead of pain and suffering.
Went to Confession
I also have been struck with the ugliness of my own sin. I want to be holy. I want to honor my Lord and Savior. So, I went to confession this week. That might not seem like such a bold move, but I don’t go often enough. And when I do, it is ALWAYS a release of guilt, baggage, and bad habits. It was so helpful to me to talk to a priest behind a confessional screen so that I had the anonymity to share my fear and anger. I was so grateful to be able to cry and be vulnerable about my lack of trust in so many people. To be able to voice those feelings out loud, to be able to face my own failings, and to then hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins.” Wow, what a gift.
I pray that we all will continue with boldness and a newness of resolve to be the best generation of Catholics, to be saints!
Why am I Catholic?
Why do I work for the Catholic Church?
Why do I send my children to Catholic school?
Why did I start this Catholic Excellence online platform?
I’ve been asking myself these questions over the past month. As The Summer of Scandal (as dubbed by the Catching Foxes podcast) has erupted, I have hit a low point. It’s unbelievable the timing of my career change and this truth coming to light. Raising money for the Catholic Church is not going well these days….and probably won’t be for a long time.
Did I jump on a sinking ship? Or did God intentionally place me in a difficult situation for a purpose? Ultimately, what does He want from me?
Being saturated with media coverage and opinions from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, it is downright depressing, sobering, and panicking to come to terms with the truth.
But what is the truth? I believe in the following:
- Archbishop McCarrick is just the first layer of the rotten onion.
- There are a lot more criminals like him out there who were never discovered and may still be in ministry.
- I am uncomfortable with Pope Francis’ response to the scandal.
- I hope that every state conducts a grand jury investigation.
- It’s going to be really ugly moving forward as a Church.
The more and more I have been trying to place blame or trying to find a solution…I can’t. I keep looking inward and getting disgusted with my own sin and the culture that surrounds us that is permissive of these crimes, silence, cover-ups etc. I do believe that culture is changing; however, if we don’t continue to feel bothered and betrayed, then things might fall back into normal patterns. And I don’t want that to happen! I don’t want an Archbishop McCarrick lurking in places of power. I want to trust my shepherds, but I also am not naive to the depths of sin.
Prayer has been my starting point. But it is not the end. I must take action, and so should you. I signed the Catholic Women’s Forum petition to Pope Francis found here. I am intentionally contacting other faithful Catholic men and women and seeking community in a time where we need it for the sake of our children and our own salvation. I am attending the Humanae Vitae conference hosted by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on October 13th. Registration and Schedule can be found here.
When you ask how did we get here? I think the answer to that was predicted by Blessed Pope Paul VI when he wrote Humane Vitae 50 years ago.
Why am I Catholic? Because I believe in Catholic Excellence and I am choosing to surround myself with it, and in turn to BURN THE ROT.
Since I started making this list, the Archdiocese now has a news link with a more extensive running list found here.
I am grateful to Archbishop Lori for initiating this day of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My family will be fasting from meat on that day and I plan to attend Mass in the morning followed by a Holy Hour in the evening. Please make a point to sacrifice and pray on Friday. Ask God for answers on how we can reform the church. We must NOT be silent.
All I can say is…..get together in prayer and fasting. Here are some local opportunities. I’ll update when I find more:
|Parish||Address||Time and Date|
|St. Isaac Jogues||9215 Old Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21234||Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:00 pm through October 18|
|St. Joseph Fullerton||8420 Belair Rd, Baltimore, MD 21236||September 7th from 7-8pm|
|St. Agnes and William of York||5422 Old Frederick Road
Baltimore, MD 21229
|September 7th from 9am-7pm|
|Our Lady of Perpetual Help||4795 Ilchester Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21043||August 30th and September 7th all day|
|Holy Family Randallstown||9531 Liberty Road, Randallstown, MD 21133||September 6th and September 7th|
|St. Philip Neri||6405 S. Orchard Road, Linthicum Heights, MD, 21090||Every Monday at 7:30pm|
|St. Mark Fallston
|2407 Laurel Brook Road, Fallston, MD 21047||September 2nd during 9am Mass with Archbishop Lori
|Immaculate Conception Towson
|200 Ware Avenue,
Towson, Maryland 21204
|Monday night Novena
|Church of the Nativity
|20 E. Ridgely Road, Timonium, MD 21093||Saturdays Adoration especially the weekend of September 15-16 instead of the 50th anniversary event
|St. John Severna Park||689 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park, MD 21146||September 6th at 7pm through September 7th Adoration ending with 7pm Mass|
Thanks to all these priests and parish staff members for planning these important gatherings. The people of God, the Church, need healing and answers. I strongly recommend watching the two videos below from Bishop Barron and Father Mike Schmitz.
I just finished reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s new book One Beautiful Dream.
Do you love reading a book that makes you laugh, cry, and feel like you could conquer the world once you finish it? Then this is it! As a Catholic working mother, this book spoke directly to my heart and the inner struggle to balance work and life. I’ve always felt like I could be Wonder Woman – the woman who can do it all. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have both my career and my family life. Why in Catholic circles are moms shamed for going to work? Why in worldly circles are women shamed for wanting to be a mother? Why are they RIDICULED if they want more than two kids??
Jennifer’s book breaks the glass ceiling for me and so many other women. She is a mother of six. Yes SIX children, with the same husband. I’d love for her husband to write a book next so I could read his POV! The lessons that Jennifer shares from her own lived experiences are incredible and relevant to anyone trying to discern God’s will for their life. Here are a few of my favorites:
- More people = More fun Jennifer refused to believe the culture of death that says that one’s freedom is taken away from having a large family. She also realized over time that inviting more and more relationships into your life was generous and rewarding. For example, the positive interaction with her extended family was important to her success and happiness as well as neighbors, other families at church etc. Each of these played like a symphony in her beautiful dream. When I think about parishes and schools, I think about the many impediments to creating fellowship and more people, more fun. The teachers saying their class sizes are TOO BIG which then in turn declines enrollment. The pastor saying there is NO SPACE for coffee and donuts after Mass which then causes everyone to head straight to their cars and not meet one another. Or from personal experience, when the usher reminds you that you are LATE to Mass and can’t sit in the choir loft because the sound of your baby carries through the church. This mentality of less people = less problems is a cancer to our society and to our church. Time for a reset!
- Be good at not having it all When you accept a culture of life mentality, that often brings with it a tighter budget. Jennifer spoke about choosing the smaller house, the used cars etc. and doing it with great joy! The story about her broken car door and climbing out her driver side window and toppling onto her lawn while the neighbors watched was definitely one of those Laugh Out Loud moments!! But Jennifer was careful to say that while you can’t have it all, you have to be GOOD at it and the same goes for a parish or school. For example, a non-profit institution does not have the expendable income of a Fortune 500 company. So what can you do? The Dollar Store is your best friend! Buy a bunch of black picture frames and print some shots of happy, smiling parishioners and students. This can brighten up your office/hallway in a jiffy. And do you know what people love? Gratitude! Affirmation! The Dollar Store also sells greeting cards, often with spiritual themes. A hand-written note from a school/parish leader goes a lot farther than a glossy perfectly designed brochure. Just skip Target.
- The Resistance is Real This is more true than we want to admit. Jennifer spoke about The Resistance holding women back from fulfilling their dreams and their God-given potential. This resistance is felt in so many veins – culturally, personally, and ultimately spiritually. The devil wants nothing more than for us to go to hell. The devil wants nothing more than for us to FAIL. As we are all reeling from the abuse of clerical power and sexual offenses being revealed in the church, Bishop Barron recently wrote about the McCarrick Mess and says nothing more than this is the devil’s great accomplishment against the American Church. Do not be fooled when you feel burnt out, or there is a struggle of relationships that is tearing down your parish/school program…this is the work of the evil one. However, he can be renounced. I’ve recently been praying the St. Michael prayer with my 3 year old daughter before bed, and I have to admit I felt a little strange the first time saying it. I was thinking this is some intense stuff for her….”all the evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” But let’s be real if we don’t address it and call it out by name, we will be deceived. St. Michael, pray for us.
- Intimate service to others Jennifer was visiting her doctor’s office when the nurse asked her if she was ‘done’ having kids. Jennifer said she didn’t know how to answer the question saying, “I thought that intimate service to others was only something you do for a few years when the kids are young. Now I saw it as the very foundation of a rich, fulfilling life.” So good. I agree with her 100% because I thought the same thing. I thought I would regain my freedom once my kids grow up and are in school full-time. When we brought our oldest home from the hospital, I remember rocking her while she was screaming inconsolably and thinking, “She’ll be in high school soon, right? And this will all be over.” What a new mom I was! Another Wonder Woman and hero of mine, Helen Alvare, said in a podcast with Leah Darrow recently that the secret for her balance of work and motherhood was that she took the more demanding job when her children were young. Then, when they were school-age she found a more flexible career so that she could be more present to them in those coming of age years of conscience formation. She found it to be so important to be the one to pick her children up from school and be the one who answered their questions and heard their reactions. Whoa. I had never, ever heard this before. This intimate service to others is a life-long gift and one to be embraced. The mission of the Church is to serve the human person from womb to the tomb, literally, from infant baptism to the rite of burial. It is beautiful to see a parish and a Catholic school in intimate service to others in all aspects of their lives. We see the greatest parent satisfaction and testimonials after a family has been cared for in a time of need. Spiritual bouquets, meal trains, prayer chains are all intimate means of serving others. When the pastor stands at the back of Mass and asks how your chemo treatments are coming along, this is intimate service. When the principal throws a bridal/baby shower for an employee, this is intimate service. Accompaniment is what we are all yearning for, and no one does it better than the Church! And women, break that glass ceiling!
Marking the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, now is a time to celebrate the beauty of our bodies! I believe that God imprinted a guide in our bodies to fertility and the dignity that we have as humans to unite with Him in the gift of the creation of life.
I strongly recommend sifting through the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Fertility Awareness page. There are many resources available including videos showcasing the different methods of Natural Family Planning. Join in the movement and go natural! This is a healthy lifestyle and a beautiful one. I am honored to have been featured in the video discussing the Sympto-Hormonal Method. Watch below and share your thoughts with me!
It seems that everywhere we turn, there is another scandal erupting that involves the Catholic Church. Most recently, the uncovering of the abuse at the hands of Cardinal McCarrick is rocking our Greater MD/DC area. Yesterday, I read an article about a bishop in PA who is removing the names of every bishop since 1947 from buildings because they failed to root out child sexual abuse. Bold move.
And just this morning, I read an article detailing the abuse experienced by a former college roommate of mine who was raped by a priest in a most grotesque and spiritually invasive manner. I was shocked and disgusted all at the same time. Turning to prayer, I opened up my Magnificat and who would have thought that today is St. John Vianney’s feast day. This patron saint of priests said himself, “Ah, my brethren, how small is the number of those who get to heaven, for it only consists of those, who, without ceasing, courageously fight the devil and his servants and who despise the world and its ridicule!”
All difficult pills to swallow. It hurts when the abuse starts to creep closer and closer to home. I’m choosing to reflect and hold onto this vision…..
A priest friend of mine told me once that in our lifetime there would no longer be local Catholic churches in every neighborhood. There would no longer be a cafeteria option of which parish or school fits your personality, your lifestyle choices, or even your ethnicity. Instead, the Catholics will become scarce. The Church will be pruned. And what will result is a group of BELIEVERS. These are not cultural Catholics. They are not coming to Mass out of obligation. Instead, they are worshipping out of pure faith, pure trust in Christ, and pure abandonment.
He said to me, “Wouldn’t you rather go to Mass in Ravens stadium with one good priest saying the holy liturgy, surrounded by thousands of believers who have traveled for many miles to worship the one, true God?”
My answer is YES!
The priesthood is being pruned. The Church is being pruned. Drain the swamp! At the same time, I need to be willing to be cleansed myself as do all lay Catholics. Be ready to put your faith to the test, even in the deepest and most intimate places. Ultimately, are your desires God’s desires?
Recently, Father Michael White pastor of Church of the Nativity and my first employer tweeted out an article entitled, “Church Attendance is Dying.” He chose to highlight a line from the article that says,
“In the future church only the engaged will attend because only the engaged will remain.”
My response is “BRING IT ON!”
Just in a meeting this week with a local pastor and business manager, old baggage was brought up about the closure of a local high school and the sadness and difficulty surrounding that decision. And the pastor’s bold and unapologetic response was, “You do know that school had decades of sexual abuse covered up. At some point, the Lord stops blessing a place ridden with evil.” AMEN! Damn straight!!
The boldness of the Holy Spirit is required today such as the bishop of Harrisburg, my former college roommate, and this local pastor who all made a bold move with the grace of the Holy Spirit to shed light on evil. Choosing the truth over secrecy and deception. Let us all be inspired to do the same.