The Return Home

That Christmas, when we were in love, he gave me a watercolor he’d done some years before of the Holy Family’s return from Egypt. He explained that, while he was painting it, he knew it was to be given away, but he didn’t then know to whom. As he painted, he was thinking about what it would be like to be really at home, to be in the place where you belong for all time. […]

The Shepherd Girl’s Experience

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). I try to imagine night in an ancient land and myself in it, millennia before the mechanical hum of machines and motors entered the world. I try to think of the most natural quiet I have ever known, maybe after a fresh nighttime snow. Maybe the expectant hush that falls over the crowd as the houselights […]

Simply Advent: Simple Celebrations

We’re approaching the end of Advent, and even though you probably have your Christmas plans set, here are a few ideas for simple celebrations. First, consider making some adjustments to grand-scale plans, and then, savor the here and now. Make a Few Adjustments Is there a simple way to celebrate Advent and Christmas? Every time I consider inviting people over, this machine turns on in my head, and it churns out these huge events with […]

Gratitude and Solidarity

Last week I was in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to learn about the damage wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. These two category 5 storms devastated the islands, leaving them entirely denuded of foliage and causing massive structural damage to buildings and infrastructure. Yet in light of the disasters that affected Texas, Puerto Rico, California, and Mexico—to name only those in our hemisphere—many have forgotten the USVI, and some are feeling abandoned. I was […]

Jesus Asked Me to Pray He Gets a Home

I blasted out of my office with a broken heart and crestfallen face. I needed a break to calm my agitated spirit. As I took off down the street, a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk said something to me. I stopped and bent closer. “I’m sorry; I didn’t hear you,” I said. He asked if I had any prayer needs, because he would pray for me. Have you ever had a homeless person offer […]

Simply Advent: Simple Practices

We continue trying to keep things simple this Advent with suggestions for simple practices this season. Linger with the Nativity Story This seems simple enough, but why not be quite intentional about taking in, once more, the story of Jesus’ birth? Read it in Scripture. Read a children’s book version of the story. Watch a film about it, such as The Nativity Story or Jesus of Nazareth (first part). Read about it in poetry form. […]

How Do We Wait?

Advent is a time of awaiting the Lord. But there are many ways in which we can wait. Zechariah awaited the fulfillment of the angel’s words with confusion and doubt. Yet the Lord delivered on his promise. Elizabeth awaited expectantly and greeted Mary with hope. And the infant leapt in her womb. Mary awaited faithfully, pondering and trusting in the angel’s reassurance not to be afraid. And the Lord was with her and within her. […]

Men and Women of Hope

It seems like most of us have a friend or family member who, despite having lousy luck at times, is nearly always smiling and is constantly giving of him or herself, even when he or she is the one who could really use a little help. I am blessed to count a few of these kind souls as my friends. But what makes these people so sweet and generous despite whatever life throws at them? […]

Simply Advent: Simple Encouragements

This week, plan to make a single phone call. Just one call, to one person you care about. The purpose? To express your appreciation and concern. The person you call could be a family member, someone from church, a person in your neighborhood, a coworker, a friend you don’t see often enough, or someone else you know through a shared interest or organization. You will call to say, essentially two things: I appreciate you and […]

Hope Opens New Horizons

On December 7, 2016, Pope Francis began a catechetical series on Christian hope. He opened with the following words: It is very important, because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints, but hope does not! We have such need, in these times which appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented at the evil and violence which surrounds us, at the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters. We need hope! We feel disoriented and […]

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