Friday, April 29, 2011

This was our wedding day first

Happy anniversary to us. Sixteen years ago today, Dennis and I were married at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the Bronx. And what a lovely day it was. Windy, but lovely. Seems like yesterday. Then I look at our three beautiful children and remember it's been quite a few years since that photo above was taken at our reception.

We went for unconventional. Because we are unconventional. I remember, as I walked across the street from my apartment to the church, an old lady pointing toward me and saying, "That's the bride?!?" She assumed I was a bridesmaid because I was in a wine-colored velvet dress. Like I said, unconventional.

The Mass was truly the centerpiece of our wedding day. We walked each other down the aisle, and carefully chose every reading, wrote every prayer of the faithful, picked every song. It was everything we wanted it to be. And then we followed it up with a kick-butt Italian dinner at Spoto's, a Throggs Neck restaurant. The royal wedding's got nothing on us. I'll put our day up to theirs any time.

So I look back with so many fond memories, but I look forward, too -- to everything that's still ahead. I married my best friend, who also happened to be my colleague in the Catholic press. What a combo. I have been blessed.

Happy 16th anniversary, Dennis. I love you. As the plaque in our entry says, "Grow old with me. The best is yet to be." Here's our wedding song, "Emotionally Yours," by Bob Dylan:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday: Waiting in the shadows

I've been awake since 4:30 a.m., which seems appropriate somehow on this day of watching and waiting. The rain is coming down. The sun has not made an appearance. It is as if the world is weeping and holding its breath all at once, waiting for an answer.

At this point in the season, past the Lenten promises -- too many of them unfulfilled -- to fast and pray and serve, I always identify with Peter, locked away, afraid, ashamed, alone. Every year I want Lent to be "perfect." I want to make Good Friday better than perfect. I want to do justice to the day, as if that's even possible. And, as if on cue, every year I fail miserably. Good Friday always ends up being the exact opposite of what I had hoped for. Of course, that's nobody's fault but my own.

Then I remember Peter, and I can't help but be comforted. He doubted, denied, ran away, and yet Jesus saw fit to call him the "rock," the one who would go on to lead his church, or, at that point, his band of disciples. Maybe, just maybe then, Jesus sees some shred of worth beneath my many failings, behind my own doubts and fears.

This Lent certainly did not turn out the way I imagined it would. My plans to set aside certain times for silence and prayer were waylaid by sick children and my own bout with a brief illness. For weeks on end, we seemed to have one virus after another at our house, keeping us down -- both physically and spiritually. Rather than hang on for dear life to what I wanted, however, I began to realize that perhaps my "sacrifice" for the season was to let go of my plans, even the plans to pray more, and accept what was right there in front of me -- my children in need of a mom to read to them, comfort them, make them snacks, or just snuggle on the couch in the middle of the afternoon. In some ways, my Lenten plans were far more selfish than the Lenten reality I was handed. I wanted to lock myself away in silence. Instead I had to give up my quiet time and make time for someone else, and isn't that what I should have been doing in the first place?

So today, as I sip coffee in the silence of early morning, while everyone else is sleeping, I'm focusing on the fact that things often are not as they appear -- as the earliest disciples learned after what at first seemed like defeat on the cross. My Lent wasn't really a failure; it was simply different than what I wanted it to be initially. Perhaps then, my Good Friday wasn't a failure either. Perhaps it was simply another -- albeit bumpier -- path to the same Truth.

On this Holy Saturday, I am waiting in shadows of my own making, like Peter, longing to be set free.

"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." -- John 8:31-32

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: Seven Last Words

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, N.Y.

Father forgive them, they know not what they do...
We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?

Today you will be with me in Paradise.
The “good thief” has always been a favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.

Woman, behold your son...
At last a comfort in the midst of all this misery. God gives us a mother for all time. He reminds us that his mother is our mother, who, with a mother’s unconditional love, will open her arms to us when we are desperate, when we are hurting, when we are searching for peace and a way back to the Father.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Despair, despair. If Jesus can feel despair, what hope is there for me? Then again, Jesus’ moment of despair reminds me of his humanness and that gives me hope even in this dark moment. God became man, walked on earth, suffered torture and death beyond our comprehension. My God is fully human and fully divine. My God knows what it means to live this earthly life, and so my God knows my small sufferings and heartaches and will not turn His back on me.

I thirst.
The wretched physical anguish of the Crucifixion is coming to bear. It is almost too much for us to take. Jesus, water poured out for the world, thirsts. And yet in the midst of this suffering, we remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, the woman to whom he first revealed his identity: “...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:14)

It is finished.
Jesus has completed his mission of redemption. Darkness descends, the earth shakes, the temple curtain tears in two. We see Jesus’ anguish near its end. We should be reduced to trembling at the enormity of his suffering, his gift to us. Unlike his followers who were plunged into fear and despair at this moment, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what is coming. We know that his Crucifixion was cause for our salvation. His death a victory. His earthly end our eternal beginning.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
Jesus is going back to the Father, back to where he started before time began, but he will not leave us orphans. We patiently wait to celebrate his Resurrection, to rejoice in our unearned windfall. We wait, pray, watch, listen -- hopeful, trusting, faithful. We begin our vigil now, waiting for the darkness to turn to light.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday: Anything But Normal

Today I'm guest blogging over at Sarah Reinhard's blog, I'll start you here...

By Mary DeTurris Poust
My teenage son came home from school last week and reported that he took his younger Catholic school “buddy” across the street to our parish church to walk him through the Stations of the Cross. After they were done and were getting ready to leave the church, Noah had a strong desire to stay – and not just because he likes missing class. It was something he had never felt before, he said, something comforting that made him want to kneel down in the midday silence.
I know that feeling. I’ve been in our church when it’s semi-dark and completely empty. It feels deeply spiritual and powerfully peaceful. It feels like home.
It’s really not surprising that it would feel that way. After all, ours is a faith that centers on a shared meal, a spiritual version of the kitchen table, a sense of home even among strangers, even in a foreign land, wherever Jesus is present in the tabernacle.

Holy Thursday drives that point home for me. I can easily allow myself to slip back in time and imagine Jesus and the Apostles gathered in the home of a friend...Continue reading HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In the footsteps of St. Benedict...

My story on Subicao, Italy, running in the Albany Times Union today:

By Mary DeTurris Poust

With a breathtaking valley stretching out below and an ancient monastery clinging to the cliffs above, Subiaco, Italy, feels as though it is a world away from the chaotic streets of Rome, only 40 miles to its west. And, in a sense, it is.

Steeped in history that stretches back to the Roman Empire and the earliest centuries of the Roman Catholic Church, Subiaco is a place out of time, giving visitors a chance to step into the very same cloisters, caves and gardens that were once home to ancient saints and medieval monks.

During the hour ride by tour bus, past fields lined with cypress trees and tiny villages dotted with red-tiled roofs, the hustle and bustle of Roman life seemed to fade with each passing mile. Finally, in what can best be described as the white-knuckle portion of the trip, the bus wound its way up a narrow mountain road to what has become a spiritual pilgrimage spot for Christians and a treasure trove of artifacts for history buffs and art lovers.

Although today Subiaco is known as the birthplace of Western monasticism, thanks to St. Benedict of Nursia -- who spent three years living in a cave there before starting 13 monasteries -- it was first home to the Aequi people, who were defeated by the Romans in 304 B.C. The Roman Empire took advantage of the nearby Anio River and built aqueducts to bring water to Rome, but it was the Emperor Nero who left his mark on the place. He built a villa there and created three artificial lakes, giving the area its name Subiacus, "below the lakes," which became Subiaco.

Tour guides like to point out the ruins of Nero's villa and the irony that the one-time home of this brutal persecutor of Christians would become the fertile ground in which the seeds of the great monastic orders of the Christian faith would be planted. Regardless of why you visit -- for the history or the spirituality -- Subiaco is a place of mystery and silence, natural beauty and artistic significance.

Continue reading HERE.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Response to NY Times story on changes to Mass

My post from OSV Daily Take today:

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the new translation of the Roman Missal in yesterday's edition. The story, "For New Mass, Closer to Latin, Critics Voice Plain Objection," included many negative reactions to the changes that are coming in Advent.

Today the Times is running my Letter to the Editor in response to that story. I wrote not only as a lifelong Catholic but as an author who focused on the changes in my newest book, "The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass." Initially, I didn't like the idea of the new language. My attitude was one of "leave my Mass alone." But as I researched and wrote, I came to love many of the changes.

Will there be some confusion and frustration when the new language is rolled out? You bet. Is this an opportunity for renewal and education? Absolutely. We need to take the positive aspect of what's coming and run with it.

You can read the original Times story HERE. You can read my letter HERE.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A book that became a spiritual journey

Here's my latest Life Lines column from the April 7 issue of Catholic New York:

Growing up in a traditional Catholic household — one where my mother strictly adhered to Church teaching and even added a few rules of her own (Thanksgiving was a holy day of obligation at our house) — I entered adulthood with a fairly substantial repertoire of Catholic devotions under my belt.

Grace Before Meals. Check. Monday night novena. Check. Stations of the Cross. Check. Rosary, litanies, Triduum services. Check, check, check. Ours was a life marked by the rhythm of the Church year, and I grew to love the passing spiritual seasons in much the same way I looked forward to autumn and spring.

So when I decided to write my latest book, “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” I had the basics down. But as I explored and researched, I realized how much more there was to learn and love in the beautiful treasury of Catholic prayers and devotions. Chapter by chapter, as I plumbed the depths of prayer methods that were often hauntingly familiar and sometimes refreshingly new, I found myself awed by the many and varied ways Catholics try to connect with God. Whether we like to pray out loud or in silence, with music or in motion, alone or in a crowd, there truly is something for everyone.

It’s a blessing to do a job that rotates around worship. Spiritual exercise is built into my day. Even when I am not actually praying, I am often writing a prayer or writing about prayer. This latest book, however, allowed me to enter into that world full time for several months, sitting before my computer with the words of the saints and the poetry of prayer filling my ears and my heart almost around the clock. From the desert-style prayer of silence and fasting to the fullness of the Rosary and popular novenas, I basked in the glow of Divine conversation.

Perhaps the best part of this particular writing job, which ultimately became a spiritual journey, was the time I spent writing about the Mass, including the new translation of the Roman Missal that will become the norm for Catholics in just a few months. I went from my initial aversion to changes that seemed foreign to my ears to a real appreciation for some of the changes that will take us back to our scriptural roots. Although the official translation will not be in place until Advent, I already hear the words of the new translation echoing silently in my head as I pray at Mass each Sunday.

In some ways, writing this book on prayer was like going on a pilgrimage. I traveled from one sacred place to another—the Novena to the Sacred Heart one day, the Jesus Prayer the day after, contemplation the next. And just like any pilgrim, there were days when the journey wore me out, when I wondered if I wanted to go on. Then I would reach my destination and feel renewed by a prayer practice that calmed my frazzled nerves and made my weary spirit soar.

My pilgrim heart struggled with some prayer methods while others felt as natural as breathing, but every prayer took me one step further down my spiritual path and left me hungry for more. My hope is that my book will do the same for every reader, from the most devoted Catholic to those who may have only a passing familiarity with our prayers and devotions.

Our faith is rich in ancient traditions that can be adapted to modern lives, giving deeper meaning and spiritual rhythm to even the most mundane moments of our days. When we lace our lives with prayer, whether it’s private or communal, recited from memory, spoken spontaneously, or perhaps not spoken at all, we experience transformation—in our hearts, in our homes, in our world.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tune in to Archbishop Dolan's show today

I'll be talking about my newest book, "The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and Mass," with Archbishop Timothy Dolan on his weekly radio show, A Conversation with the Archbishop, today, April 7, at 1 p.m. EST. Tune in to The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159/XM 117.

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

This was my third time on the archbishop's show, which manages to be funny, informative, uplifting and spiritually nourishing all at once. To give you a clue, I get to talk about everything from the Liturgy of the Hours and the Last Supper to the New York Yankees- Boston Red Sox rivalry. Where else can you find that on Catholic radio?

Of course, there's lots more to the show than just my segment, so be sure to stay for the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review says my book could be a 'textbook' for Catholics. Cool.

I just came across this amazing review of my latest book, "The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass." I have to say, it's my new favorite review. Check it out.

Blogger BobZ says this:

To title a book ”The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass” takes either courage or hubris. This new Alpha paperback by Mary DeTurris Poust lives up to its name.

Just over 300 pages and just $16.95, it could be a textbook for those on the journey to enter the Catholic Church, but even cradle Catholics will find it valuable when looking for a spiritual refresher course or a source of comfort in time of need.

What I liked best about this prayer guide was that it wasn’t dogmatic. It was authoritative without being authoritarian, often a lost trait in Catholic life in the 21st Century...

...She solidly explains why Catholic prayer is different, and goes on to take a closer look at basic Catholic prayers and prayer life. None of it is ideologically slanted; it’s not liberal, it’s not conservative, it’s just Catholic. And it’s extremely education oriented. Throughout there are pull-outs labeled “Definition,” “Prayer practice,” “Wisdom for the Journey,” and “Misc.” that add knowledge, flavor, and practical ideas to try, plus quotes from the famous and note-so-famous that bring a topic to life and make it real for anyone who sits in a church pew.

...Six full chapters explain the greatest Catholic prayer, the Mass. This portion of “The Essential Guide” is so well done, taking readers from the historical perspective through the gestures and postures, explaining the three basic parts of the Mass and the prayers in each, and helping readers understand the “why” behind the words and actions of the Eucharistic Liturgy.

This is an up-to-date primer on the Mass that explains what the coming changes to the liturgy will entail and why the church is making the changes."

Read the full review HERE.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In case you missed my live cable interview...

I was on Everyday Faith Live! this morning on Telecare TV via Skype. (Isn't technology amazing?) If you didn't catch the show live, you can watch it here. My segment is about 14 minutes into the program. I talk about my newest book, The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass," about prayer in general and about the new language of the Mass. Check it out if you have a few minutes.

Meatless Fridays: What are you serving tonight?

From my post over at OSV Daily Take today:

It's Friday. Time for another meatless meal. Are you in need of some new ideas, something other than pizza or fish? I have just the thing. Or several things, actually.

First, there are soups of all kinds, including lots of meatless soups perfect for Fridays, over at 40 Days of Soup, a special Lenten site from Ave Maria Press. Today's soup is a tomato lentil. For each day of Lent, there's another recipe, always with a reflection on the side and sometimes with a video. Check it out HERE.

I have a couple of vegan recipes of my own posted on this blog. Because Olivia and I are vegetarian, we aim to make Fridays vegan, so no seafood or dairy either. The first recipe is a pasta and lentil dish. It's amazing. You can find that recipe HERE. I've got a second pasta recipe with broccoli rabe, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and cannellini beans posted HERE. has also posted a whole series of meatless meal ideas, from soups and stews to casseroles and salads. Lots of good stuff that you'll want to whip up long after Lent is over. Click HERE for that.

If you think the focus on Lenten meals is limited to Catholic websites, think again. Rachael Ray of Food Network fame has a whole page dedicated to Lent and meatless meals. She even includes information on the reasons and rules behind fasting and abstinence. Click HERE for recipes that include falafel burgers, "leeky" linguini with shrimp, New England pasta bake and more.

Do you have a favorite meatless meal website to share? Or a favorite recipe of your own? We're always looking for new ideas.