Healed

But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. — Isaiah 53:5

Almost two weeks ago I shared an image of Jesus I see in my mind, most often in Adoration, in which the scars from His scourging are revealed to me. And as you may have seen, last Thursday I left to make a silent retreat. The weekend was peaceful, profound, and, I believe, fruitful; I will be sharing bits and pieces of it over the next many days, I’m sure.

One particularly impactful reflection began as we prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and came to a beautiful conclusion early this morning. As we prayed, I meditated on scourging and crucifixion, and as usual, wondered what must happen to people to harden them enough to inflict such suffering on another human being. I can almost imagine it in the abstract—that people could be cruel enough to flay someone ragged and nail him to a cross to die. But when the scene becomes specific—how could this person put his hand to the whip or the hammer and make that person weep and bleed—I struggle to comprehend the inhumanity.

Could I do it? Never…

And then I thought about those around me, whom I profess to love and then lash with my tongue and pierce with my glance. The suffering I inflict out of comfort and convenience by looking away, tuning out, remaining ignorant and silent and comfortable. Continue reading

We’ll Always Have Poland

Poland Family

Last Sunday we were blessed to host a party of sorts. What started as my attempt repay the “Poland daughters” who took me out to dinner for my birthday last fall  turned into a mini-World Youth Day reunion, with many of the teens and a couple of the adults from our trip to Krakow a year ago.

We visited, prayed together, and shared a meal: grilled kielbasa and pierogies, pasta and sauce and salad, cookies and root beer floats. We shared our favorite memories and laughed and laughed. We talked about future plans—many of my Poland daughters are starting college this year. And I think we all longed to go back to visit the Motherland.

The next morning I thought I should re-share the post I wrote after the pilgrimage—only to realize I never wrote a recap. I thought about doing a standard Top-10 list, but no matter how I counted or grouped things together, I had too much to share.

So I’ll keep this to three moments that stand out to me above the others. Continue reading

Book Break: Praying with Padre Pio

PrayingWith PioYesterday morning I finished Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti’s little book Praying With Padre Pio—a wonderful, simple introduction to the life and spirituality of one of our great 20th-century saints. As I mentioned in the past week, I’m increasingly drawn (or pointed) to St. Pio as an example and intercessor in my own life. A Capuchin monk, priest, mystic, and stigmatist from southern Italy, St. Pio has been the subject of numerous books and biographies; this one breaks his life and spiritual advice into fifteen meditations on topics of particular interest or importance to his practice of the Catholic Christian faith, such as suffering, the Eucharist, Mary, and joy in the Lord.

The book opens with a brief overview of St. Pio’s life before diving into the meditations. Each meditation opens with a one- or two-sentence summary of the topic at hand and an opening prayer. Next follows a brief biographical account of how this particular topic played out in the saint’s life. The book then presents a single question for the reader to reflect on, comparing and contrasting his or her own experience to that of St. Pio’s.

Next, the book shares Padre Pio’s own words on the topic, gleaned from letters, journals, and biographical accounts, followed by three to five reflections, from which the reader is encouraged to choose one. These exercises range from journaling to meditation to resolving to act in a way that underscores the lesson of the day. Finally, the book shares a few relevant scripture passages to reflect on and offers a closing prayer, often in St. Pio’s own words.

I read one meditation a day for the past fifteen days and found the book informative, enjoyable,  challenging, and inspiring. Every day I took something new from St. Pio’s life and spiritual practices that could be adopted to my own—and nearly every day, the topic providentially aligned with the daily scripture readings and other spiritual reading and writing I’m doing these days. This was truly an inspired find; if you are interested, it’s at the parish lending library. (I returned it yesterday, so look in the returns bin!)

Dust Bunnies and Mud Bubbles

“A puddle repeats infinity, and is full of light; nevertheless, if analyzed objectively, a puddle is a piece of dirty water spread very thin on mud.” ― G.K. ChestertonManalive

Scripture tells us that God took a bit of dust from the earth, shaped a man, and breathed life into him. The breath of God—spiritus—brings the unliving to life.*

I have seen what this windy world conjures when its breath stirs the dead earth: dust bunnies and mud bubbles. Continue reading

More Than Meets the Eye

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. — the Nicene Creed, emphasis mine

Each time we pray the Creed at Mass, we acknowledge—in fact, we profess our sincere belief—that there is more to this world than meets the eye. We believe in saints and angels, heaven and hell, the devil and his minions. We believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ—body, blood, soul, and divinity—in the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the power of prayer and redemptive suffering.

Practicing Catholics proclaim this belief in the invisible world and spiritual realities at least once a week. But do we live daily as if we believe heaven is for real? Continue reading