Friday, October 29, 2010

Talking spiritual friendship on Son Rise Morning Show

If you missed my interview on Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick, have no fear. It's right here on podcast. Zoom ahead to the 2:13 mark, if you want to go right to Brian's interview with me about my new book.

Click HERE to listen in.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding soul friends for the spiritual journey

In this age of Facebook and Twitter, when we can have hundreds, even thousands of "friends," many people still feel isolated or lonely. We may have more virtual friendships than we can count, but nothing that dips below the surface to touch the soul. Spiritual friendship offers something more, the possibility of connecting with true soul mates who journey with us on our path toward God. It's not some newfangled notion, but rather an ancient tradition with scriptural roots.

Interested in learning more? Check out my story, "How to Develop Spiritual Friendships," in the November 7 issue of OSV by clicking HERE.

You can also catch me talking about this topic and my new book, "Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship," on the following radio and cable shows on Friday, Oct. 29:
8:30 a.m. ET, Spirit Radio, KVSS 102.7 FM, Omaha/Lincoln region

10:40 a.m., Everyday Faith Live!, Telecare-TV on Cablevision or Verizon FIOS, New York Metro area. You can also watch the show live online by clicking HERE.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

You can't make this stuff up

Take a good look at the photo above. This is a perfect statement on my life at this point. Or a good indication of why my sanity seems to be in constant peril. Let me give you the back story...

I decided to take a deep breath and head into Olivia's room for a bit of de-cluttering today. We needed to move summer clothes out and winter clothes in, but it's not nearly so simple with my beloved 10-year-old middle child. She is a collector, a pack rat extraordinaire. I dare any other 10-year-old to top her. And just so you know I'm not exaggerating, let me take you through just one drawer in her bedroom. That is where I discovered the items above. I'll introduce you.

On the left we have her collection of "whistling acorns," and, trust me, she practices her acorn whistling all the time. Next we have "Spoonella." Yes, that is a plastic spoon with a pipe cleaner wrapped around it. You might not be able to see her little eyes and nose, but they're there. Next in our crazy lineup is my personal favorite: Pinkie. When I pulled this little gem out of the drawer and started to toss it into the trash bag because it is the broken heel off a plastic dress-up shoe, Olivia screamed. It's a dog. She turned a broken shoe into a dog and will not part with it. Need I say more? Why, yes. I do need to say more.

Bringing up the rear in our photo is the balloon she got at a gymnastics birthday party one year ago. Apparently she's holding onto this one to see just how small it will get. That, too, was saved from the trash heap. And, what I wasn't able to photograph for fearing of ruining furniture was the oozing bag of "goop" brought home from school last year. This mix of water, glue and who knows what else was seeping out of its sandwich bag and onto everything around it. That I threw away, despite the arguments.

So there you have it. I could go on and on...the shoe box full of "fossils," the Hello Kitty tin of tags saved off clothing (she bequeathed this to Chiara today), the endless stacks of journals with one page written in each -- the one to save the pandas, the one to save the earth, the one to document nature, the one to catalog fairies, the one for her detective "business."

Despite my frustration over the disaster that is her room, this kid makes me smile and smile. Just writing this post and thinking about her wide-eyed face as she described Spoonella makes me happy. And Spoonella isn't the only one of her kind. She has family somewhere among Olivia's friends. Did I ever have an imagination this amazing? I don't think so. How I wish I could go back to that magical place if only for a day.

Go ahead, open a drawer. You never know what kind of treasures you might find.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Judging a candidate by her clothes. What year is it again?

Show of hands, please? Who here votes for a candidate based on what he or she is wearing? Didn't think so. You can put your hands down.

Why -- WHY? -- does the NY Times feel the need to devote a giant feature story in today's Style section to what the candidates -- wait, let me correct that -- what the FEMALE candidates are wearing on the campaign trail this season? Have we really not moved forward at all? Are women still going to be judged on their hair, their glasses, their pant suits, or lack therof?

Apparently we have not made one inch of progress when it comes to judging women candidates based on what they say or do. We're all still back in the high school lunch room, checking out the cool girls and wishing we could be like them, or risking a date to the prom -- or the general election -- if we're not.

First of all, why is there a story about this at all? And when will the feature on the fashion sense of male candidates be making its way to print. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't eventually show up given what I'm sure will be the outrage the Times will hear from fed-up female readers.) Second, are they saying it's impossible for someone to look like Sarah Palin but think like Hillary Clinton, and vice versa. Do we still think someone has to look like a man to think like a man, and why do we want someone to look and think like a man? Look what that's gotten us so far. But I digress...

A clip from the story, with the voice of reason coming from the editor of Vogue:

Indeed, there is much to suggest that women who aspire to office continue to dress defensively. Frightened, even terrified, of committing a wardrobe gaffe on national airwaves, most adhere to a rigid, patently dated style that has all the allure of a milk carton.

The prevailing look, modeled on corporate executives, with an occasional nod to the astringent style of female news anchors, is anathema to professional style-watchers. When, during her presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton declined an invitation to appear in Vogue magazine for fear, her handlers said, of appearing “too feminine,” Anna Wintour fired off a scathing editor’s letter.

“The notion that a contemporary woman must look mannish in order to be taken seriously is frankly dismaying,” Ms. Wintour chided. “I do think Americans have moved on from the power suit mentality. Political campaigns that do not recognize this are making a serious misjudgment.”

Thank you, Anna Wintour, for saying what needs to be said. Is anyone listening? Are any man-tailored suits being packed into Hefty bags and put out by the curb?

I just don't get it. Then again, when I was managing editor of Catholic New York, my work "uniform" of choice was this: Pier One dresses imported from India, men's black cowboy boots transported from Texas, and a vintage military jacket purchased at the closest second-hand shop. That might explain why I'm not a CEO -- or a politician. Or why I've chosen to work in my basement where it's always casual Friday.

I'm voting for the first person to show up in a tie-dye skirt and a fringed leather jacket. I happen to have one you can borrow if you're running for office.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Remembering the North American Martyrs

By Mary DeTurris Poust

One of my favorite places in upstate New York, just 45 minutes from my home, is the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, whose feast we celebrate today. Those three crosses in the photo above mark the entrance to the shrine with the names of three martyrs: Jesuit missionaries Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil and Jean La Lande.

The shrine in Auriesville, which is also the birthplace of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, is not just a beautiful location in the Mohawk Valley but a truly sacred spot, steeped in the history and blood of the martyrs who suffered there. You can walk the ravine and read St. Isaac Jogues' own words explaining the prolonged torture and terrifying death St. Rene Goupil suffered at the hands of the Iroquois. It was a hatchet blow to the head while Rene Goupil was teaching the Sign of the Cross to children that finally sealed his fate in 1642. Isaac Jogues didn't fare any better, having survived years of torture and enslavement and having his fingers chewed or burned off. He was killed and decapitated in 1646.

The other Jesuits martyred in North America are Antony Daniel, Charles Garnier, Noel Chabanel, Gabriel Lalemant, and John de Brebeuf.

I didn't really know much about Jean de Brebeuf until I read Jesuit Father James Martin's post over on America magazine's In All Things blog today. From Father Martin's wonderful (if a bit gruesome) post:

Jean's first journey to the Huron homeland, 800 miles from Quebec, was grueling. Jean tied his shoes around his neck, hiked up his cassock and climbed into the bark canoe. This passage, from Donnelly's biography, Jean de Br├ębeuf, first published in 1975, made a lasting impression on me when I read it as a novice:
On a journey the Indians spoke little, saving their energy for paddling their average of ten leagues, about thirty miles a day. Squatted on their haunches, immobile for hours on end, except for the swing of their arms and shoulders wielding the paddle, they generally had no small talk. Rising at dawn the Hurons heated water into which they dropped a portion of coarsely pounded corn….[After] their scanty meal, the Hurons launched the canoes and began another day of silent travel. In the evening, when the light began to fail the Indians, making camp for the night, ate their [corn meal] and stretched out on the bare ground to sleep. The swarms of mosquitoes, deer flies, and other insects…seemed not to bother the Indians….Then at dawn the whole painful process began again.
Read the full post HERE, and, if you can, make a pilgrimage to the shrine. I have posted multiple times about Auriesville because once you've been there, it stays with you and you want to go back. I've even had the opportunity to camp in a tent on the shrine grounds during a Boy Scout retreat. You can read about my previous visits by clicking HERE, or by clicking on the "Auriesville" tag below. I'll leave you with a few parting images of the shrine from my most recent visit:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My conversation with Archbishop Dolan

You can tune into my conversation with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on the Catholic Channel (Sirius 159 and XM 117) today at 1 p.m. EST. We'll be talking about my newest book, "Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship" (Ave Maria Press).

The show will be repeated at 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, and at 9 a.m and 6 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A saint for all seasons

In honor of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I thought I'd re-run a column I wrote about one of my favorite saints:

Out in my perennial garden, nestled among the stonecrop and candytuft, stands a well-worn clay statue of St. Francis of Assisi made by an artisan in Mexico. The unusual characteristics of the statue make it a conversation piece as well as a spiritual touchstone that helps keep me centered as I dig and weed and plant.

Of course, I’m not alone. Drive down any street and you’re likely to find St. Francis peeking out from both well-manicured lawns and wildflower gardens run amuck. He is just as likely to share a garden with a statue of Buddha as he is to share one with a statue of the Blessed Mother. He is a saint of the people – all people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His broad appeal is fascinating, but at the same time it begs the question: Do those of us who plant St. Francis in our gardens really know what the medieval saint was all about?

Today Francis’ concerns are often compartmentalized by well-meaning folks who want to claim him for their own. And who can blame them? He is certainly a challenging but endearing saint for the ages.

Environmentalists tune into Francis’ love for creation, his “Canticle of Brother Sun,” his diligence in protecting trees and even “brother” fire, and find in him a kindred spirit. Animal lovers hear stories of him preaching to birds and taming a wolf and see in Francis the kind of saint who has rightly earned his status as patron of animals. His popularity comes into full view every year at this time, when adults and children alike line up outside churches with everything from goldfish swimming in glass bowls to German shepherds straining at leather leashes just for a chance to get their pets a blessing on Francis’ feast day.

Peace activists, interreligious leaders, social justice organizers -- the St. Francis fan club goes on and on. It seems everyone can find a piece of Francis to suit their cause. But, if you put all of those individual causes into the Gospel context that was at the heart of Francis’ rule and spirituality, you come away with a very different picture of our lovable saint, one that is not so easily shaped and molded by the latest trends or causes.

Would those St. Francis lawn statues be as popular if we really stopped to reflect on what they stand for? Francis’ life was one centered on his love of Christ, his commitment to a radical living out of the Gospel, and his “marriage” to the bride he dubbed “Lady Poverty”? The path that St. Francis chose was not an easy one. He was ridiculed and mocked as a madman during his own lifetime for what appeared to be an extreme response to his conversion experience.

He renounced his family’s fortune, fasted for days on end, heard the Lord speak to him from a cross in San Damiano, bore the stigmata. He lived and died for Christ. It would be a disservice to him and all he stood for to try to slip a politically correct mask over the spiritually devout saint who did not do anything halfway.

Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly weave Francis’ difficult and often uncomfortable lessons into my exceedingly comfortable existence. How do those of us with warm homes and busy jobs and nice clothes make St. Francis into something more than a decoration or a mascot? It’s not easy, but maybe, just maybe, seeing St. Francis from the kitchen window as we wash dishes or raking leaves from around his feet as we clean the yard will call us back to our spiritual center and remind us that what we do here on this earth cannot be separated from what we long for in heaven.