Take a Walk and Breathe

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that understood how to dwell in outdoor space. We lived in a small town in the middle of farm country; most people had big yards, many of them filled with flowers, vegetable gardens, trees, swing sets, treehouses, and pets. I can remember sitting in our backyard with my parents, and all we did was watch the various birds that flitted in the trees and visited the […]

What Was God Calling Me to Do?

“Uh, Mom?” my son said, motioning towards the window of our parked car. Outside the window, uncomfortably close, stood a slight woman, her face lined with age. I rolled down the window. With nary an introduction, the words starting pouring out. Decades ago, she had come from deep in the South. She had worked in the circus, had been a barn hand, a stage hand, a waitress, and a house cleaner. She wanted to know […]

Finding God at the Shrine of St. Gianna

A key concept of Ignatian spirituality is finding God in all things. Learning to find God in the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the uplifting and the painful is indeed an important part of deepening our relationship with Jesus. However, every once in a while, it seems like God flashes a spotlight on his presence, painting the most glorious picture right before our eyes such that we simply couldn’t miss God […]

Unstylish

She is unstylish in the best sense of the word. She walks into the store with a bag too big and bulky to be tucked neatly under her arm. Her slacks have smudges on both knees from some task that required bending them. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, the cut that the population of women who cannot afford to go to the beauty shop every six weeks wears. The only jewelry she […]

Springtime Scents

We’re somewhere in the middle of spring, which here in Chicago means temperatures jumping from winter-like lows to summer-like highs. The changing of seasons (even all within the same calendar season of spring) makes me more aware of my senses, particularly the sense of smell. Freshly mown grass and flowering plants are just two of the more obvious scents spring brings to my nose. Some people love these smells. I’m a little less enthused about […]

Grief in the Easter Season

A few weeks ago, partway through the Easter Octave, my stepfather unexpectedly passed away. The news of his passing initially felt like an impossible interruption of joy, contrary to everything that I had been experiencing at Easter. My stepdad married my mom when I was only five, and so essentially raised my younger brother and me. I am no expert on how to mourn a parent. I have never done it before, nor have I […]

When to Sing Alleluia

“From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption let ‘Alleluia’ be said both in the Psalms and in the responsories.” —from The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 15. Last fall, my students and I read the Rule of St. Benedict, and I invited them to rewrite a chapter or two to suit their secular community of college students, an assignment they took up with verve. Chapter 15—when to sing the Alleluia—became a chapter on when it […]

What Happened in the Tomb?

Did you ever wonder what exactly happened in the tomb after Jesus was buried? The mystery of Jesus fully human and fully divine tangles my brain like a shroud; I can’t get my mind wrapped around it. I’m puzzled by the few details the Gospels provide after the Resurrection. We’re told that the disciples found “the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place […]

Finding God in Our Past

If you want to embark on an interesting exercise, write the story of your life. Write it quickly, without thinking about it much. And write only for about 15 or 20 minutes. This will force you to hit the highlights only—the events that are most important to you. Then, go back and read your story, and ask at each turn, Where was God in this event, or this conversation, or this internal experience? The fact […]

Hope Is an Art

True art requires inspiration, vision, practice, imagination, and patience. Something inspires the idea, which leads to a vision of what the painting or story will become. The artist works at the vision, practicing her craft on good days and bad. She allows her imagination to take hold of the vision and keep her process vibrant. And she understands that the work is finished when it’s time; she cannot force it to conform to her schedule. […]

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