My friend Kit Kleck is rather an inspired mom, if you ask me.  She’s a common sense organizer type.  It would be a piece of cake to give you multiple examples of her simple genius, butStAug my favorite today is this quarterly service project she has coordinated for the junior high kids at St. Louis de Montfort for the past couple of years.  There has been bell ringing for the Salvation Army, feeding the homeless downtown, collection of clothing, etc.

Her inspiration for this ongoing project is the Corporal Works of Mercy:

•To feed the hungry;

•To give drink to the thirsty;

•To clothe the naked;

•To harbor the harborless;

•To visit the sick;

•To ransom the captive;

•To bury the dead.

The idea here is that the children (and their families too) will have the opportunity to practically experience going outside oneself in service of another.  Mercy used in this context is said by St. Thomas Aquinas to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s suffering.

Kit put me in charge of the 3rd quarter project, and with the help of my good friend, Julia Mattei, I elected to use my moment in charge to organize a trip to St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged, on 86th St. in Indianapolis, which is operated by the amazing Little Sisters of the Poor.  It’s Lent, I reasoned, and one way to give alms is to share our time.

The uncomplicated opportunity was playing BINGO, talking to, and serving treats to the nursing home residents – and if you’ve ever done it you know it is just a darn good way to spend an afternoon.

Here’s a little peak at our experience with the SLDM  7th graders and about 40 St. Augustine’s residents this past weekend.

My new best friend, who would prefer that I call him “Vincenzo Giuseppi”, told me as I suggested he might want to cover “B 6” (if he has any chance to beat Adele at the next table over),  “You are outgoing and fun.  This is the best time I’ve had in a long while!”

As we began, the kids were timid and quiet.  They had obviously not spent much time in a room full of seniors.  The residents weren’t so sure about us and our squirrely crew either!  However, it didn’t take long before I started hearing kids saying things like “Yes, I agree, chocolate chip cookies are definitely the best” or “You have 3 brothers?  Me too!”

The charming activities director with the Peruvian accent was brilliantly accommodating.  She allowed the kids to assist the residents, call out winning numbers, and run the numbers board………generally just take over the day’s event.

I brought along my 2nd grader who plopped himself down between two charming Bingo- loving old gals who paid so much attention to his every silly word that he said (beaming) “I was like a celebrity Mom.  They loved me!!”

As we were leaving, “Vincenzo” insisted we wait until he made a quick trip to his room.  When he returned, he handed me two puzzles.  They must be 1000 piece puzzles, put together and glued in place.  Obviously, these were treasures.  The larger of the two was a Christmas puzzle.  He whispered to me it was a personal favorite because it’s of Rockefeller Center in NY, and although he likes to joke that he is old Italian mafia, the truth is that his last name is Bennett, and he is from NY.

A Christmas picture, huh?  How appropriate, I can’t help thinking.  Vincenzo?  You and your friends brought Jesus to life for us on Saturday.

That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it?  You do something “to be nice” and what happens is that you end up being the one to whom the gift was given.  I know this.  Sometimes, I just forget.  In this case, the gift is mine applies literally and figuratively.

When we try to be the face of Jesus, we can be certain then that we will find Him and our gift inevitably is joy.

“…Amen, I say to you, what you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40)


Lent: A Little Morbid?

LentYesterday, I was chatting it up with the CVS store clerk as I waited for the pharmacist.  I remarked about her truly cute haircut and bemoaned my own overly gray “situation”.  The sweet young gal said “Nobody will even notice your bad hair day because we are all thinking about your dirty forehead.”

I began to giggle at her honesty and I said, “Ashes?”  She truly looked at me like I needed to put down the crack pipe.  It was then I explained, “It’s Ash Wednesday.  Today’s the start of Lent.  It’s a Catholic thing.”


It wasn’t the most impressive evangelization effort, that’s for sure.

We find ourselves in the midst of those 40 days which began with us each being literally marked as sinners.  To dust we shall return.   If that seems a wee bit morbid, well, I think that’s the point.

Shouldn’t we be interiorly restless as it relates to the fundamental question of sin—especially as it speaks to eternity?  How likely are we to use our freedom to choose God if our minds are focused on the question of our own salvation?

“Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”  (Mt. 7:13)


Lent is an excellent time to reflect on the reality of our own mortality and ask to be filled plentifully with grace, loving Him enough to repent for sins large and small.

Bishop Fulton Sheen said “Conscience tells us when we do wrong so we feel on the inside as if we have broken a bone.  The bone hurts because it is not where it ought to be.”

In this increasingly secular world, it’s easy to forget about salvation and focus on what is of this earth, what is finite.  During Lent, the Church wisely suggests we take a pause from those things which cause us to drown out that voice of God within.

I know what some of them are for me and what I am going to work on.  What about you?

“Seek eagerly after love.  Set your hearts on spiritual gifts.”  (1 Cor 14:1)

I move that we all embrace the austerities of Lent, find our way to a confessional, and pray for properly formed consciences, through which (with our cooperation) the Holy Spirit will encourage us after each mistake to turn towards our God and walk in His light once more.


Oh, and don’t forget to use some of that prayer time to ask the Holy Spirit to be powerfully present for our Cardinals too as they choose our new Pope!


News Flash: God is NOT a Bully

“Souls do not wish to be bullied, but gently brought back; such is the nature of man.”

 –St.  Francis de Sales

After carpool dropoff this morning, I made a trek to Northside Radiology.  Being an expert, I had worn the sports bra and a pair of pants without a zipper.  All this would save time and a little naked humiliation I reasoned as I carefully chose my wardrobe this morning.  Once there, I shed all my gear that coulFinal-Analysis-poem-Anyway-mother-teresad possibly contain metal, and I found myself once again laying down on the X-ray table.  As I did the “breathe in…now hold it” routine, I was pondering about how long the doctor’s appointment would last because after that I needed to get to the lab to draw 2 blood samples today for the endocrinologist, Dr. Baker.  On my mind, too, were my in-laws and my own parents who have had more than their share of waiting rooms over the last year.  I wish things had been easier for them all.  It’s easy to take good health for granted.

The X-ray tech waved goodbye, and within just a few minutes I was inside the office of my urologist, Dr. Dave Hollensbe.  The doc is a good Catholic guy and terrific at what he does.  He has a dry and sarcastic sense of humor.  Hollensbe strikes me as rather a smart ass, if I’m completely honest.  Since most the men in my family share that trait, I feel right at home with him.  I have gotten to know him better than many docs I’ve seen over the years because he’s performed 3 or 4 kidney stone procedures on me.   I have a special gift for churning out stones.  Try not to be too jealous.

We chatted and he gave me some input and a question to ask the other specialist when I see her next week.   As we were finishing up the doctor said to me, “Are you okay?  You seem agitated.”

The truth is I was agitated, and perhaps even a bit despondent.  However, I was really surprised to be called out.  I thought I was cloaking those feelings with cheerfulness pretty well.  Clearly I was not.   I could defend myself by giving you a few decent sounding reasons why I woke up on the wrong side of the pillow.  I will spare you.

The truth is I should be living in joyful awareness of God–instead of dragging my cross behind me so everyone can choke on the dust.

Mother Teresa said this, “When I see someone sad I always think, she is refusing something to Jesus.”  It was in giving Jesus whatever He asked that she found her deepest and lasting joy. She said, “Cheerfulness is a sign of a generous and mortified person who forgetting all things, even herself, tries to please God in all she does for souls…for God loves a cheerful giver.”

I want to live in joy.  So rather than depending on something to change so that I can be joyful, I choose joy right now.  Greeting others warmly, speaking encouragement and affirmation, my own joy will increase as I share positivity and focus on positivity.  This is not new news.  Oftentimes, I simply forget.

Have you ever read the book of Job?  I hadn’t until this week.  It’s worth a look if you aren’t familiar– or even if you are.  This poor guy’s life went from incredibly abundant to complete depravity nearly overnight.  He lost everyone and everything.  Knowing his own righteousness, he cried out to God in long pathetic speeches.  The Lord ultimately replied, “Will one who argues with the Almighty be corrected?  Let him who would instruct God give answer!”  The Lord seems to challenge Job to play God.  When Job realizes what he has done and to whom he has been railing, he says to God, “I have spoken but did not understand; things too marvelous for me, which I did not know…therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes.”

The message I hear is the one Mother Teresa shares which is:   God loves us and wants us to trust His will for us will always be an expression of that perfect love, however impossible it is for us to comprehend His marvelous designs.

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice.” (Ps 32:11).

Thanks, God, for gently bringing me back to reality today through the good Doc.  I wasn’t giving the world my best this morning.

I am issuing a challenge to myself and to anyone else out there who might feel called.  Do something today to share joy, INTENTIONALLY, with another.  It’s an act that really is also a prayer– something beautiful for God.  It’s really all between you and Him anyway.  Then, repeat tomorrow.