This Makes Me the Dog

I know Ann, I gotta go because I am at the grocery now, but I don’t know what she’s thinking letting her daughter go to that school next year with all those backward, elitist Catholics!

Several years back, I overhead these disquieting and decidedly unchristian words spoken in a local grocery store.  During the last few weeks, the memory of that morning continue to find their way to my mind and heart as I take in giant ladles full of moral relativism and anti-Catholic sentiment. 

Back then, I spoke up (albeit not in the moment) about why it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

At the time I heard them, I said nothing and simply turned away. It felt like a very personal blow all the same. To be fair, I arrived at the grocery store in a bit of a bad head space, not unlike the one I’m in now. Therefore, the longer I thought about it, the more annoyed I became with this stranger. To call me BUGGED would have been considerably inadequate at the time.

I watched a similar encounter between two friends just this past week (over six years later) that has me similarly riled.  One can choose silence as a response to uneducated attacks on the Lord of life, or the state of the world. Or, we can speak up.   My head is right in the middle of the muck coming across my Twitter feed and TV and I am certain many of you are right here with me.  Allow me to share what I know to be right and good about our collective Christian community by using the example of my own parish as I begin.

I’m an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, at which the 13,000 sq. ft. Merciful Help Center is located.  Jayne Slaton, the amazing woman who runs the operation, would literally be the last person on earth to say, “Hey, look over here!  We’re amazing!”  Truth be told, THEY ARE.  The center houses a large food pantry, the Trinity Free Clinic, and serves thousands annually. They meet the needs of marginalized people from all walks of life every single day. Their network of volunteers from doctors and dentists to retirees, as well as housewives and their children, is astounding. 

Above: Food packages prepared by Merciful Help Center Volunteers is ready for delivery to Hamilton County families in need of assistance.

Guess what? I know you good Catholic people with your sleeves rolled up all over your own community, and I know you don’t really give a rip how much “credit” you get for who you help. Largely, you simply want to be the hands and face of Christ to those around you. You inspire me. You make me want to be more and do more!  You are literally EVERYWHERE.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 17,000 parishes that serve a large and diverse population just here in the United States.  The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services in the world.  Catholic Charities, for instance, serves over 10 million individuals annually.  Some of its more well-known partner organizations include Habitat for Humanity as well as Catholic Charities Disaster Relief. In short, they work hard to reduce poverty and provide emergency relief throughout the US and well beyond. It’s hardly an insignificant contribution.

To understand the social services impact of the Catholic Church, though, I think, one needs to understand that our country is home to a vast network of Catholic hospitals and health systems, and that the University system in our country was largely a Catholic invention, and that our thousands of parishes ALL contain ministries similar to the ones I mentioned at mine.  Each contributes in its own way and within its own capacities to combat hunger, domestic abuse and poverty.  They provide resources to families struggling with elder care needs, children in foster care, to pregnant mothers, those in mental health crisis, and so much more. 

The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them in underdeveloped and poverty-stricken areas. 

Now, add up the smaller scale charitable works of the Catholic parishes I mentioned, and be sure not to leave out those undertaken by individual religious orders like the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans, and many others I’m forgetting. 

You see, we Catholics know that Jesus was never indifferent to the sufferings of others or the dignity of life.  So, when someone yells “You Catholics don’t even support [insert social concern here], so we know you don’t really care about life”, they are just ill-informed.  I’ve heard it said this way. A dog barks if his master is being attacked.  I guess this makes me the dog.  If hunger were easy to fix, or abuse, or poverty…then they would be solved already.  Georgetown professor J. Brennan recently stated it this way on his May 3, 2022 post on social media.  It says, “I am against Russians killing Ukrainians, but I might for all sorts of reasons oppose the US government aid to Ukraine.  I don’t think my neighbor should murder his kids and yet that doesn’t mean I believe I am obligated to feed his kids.”  This particular academic admits he sides against Catholics on many issues but acknowledges that some in his camp misunderstand some of the pertinent issues at hand.  What I’m trying to say is, the argument is not only an invalid one, the premise is also completely false. 

There are more nuanced conversations and smarter arguments out there for why being authentically Catholic and proudly so gives great glory to God.  Pope Benedict XVI called us “an expert in humanity.”  I quite agree.

To those in who cry out in anger, who are suffering, or who are searching, I offer the following invitation in all sincerity.

When you are down on your luck, come find us. We are literally EVERYWHERE. We’ve got nuns that will help care for your Uncle Henry who needs a hand up, priests who will tend to his spiritual needs, and pastoral associates who will help his daughter find a counselor and a great gal named Jayne who will get her a bag of groceries.

We’ve got Universities who help underprivileged young people get a college education who couldn’t otherwise afford one—and college students filled with so much heart they are building houses for people on the weekends and tutoring students in your local public school for free.

We’ve got hospitals. We’ve got grade school kids making PB&J’s who will pass one to you to take along for the road after you leave the food pantry. We’ve got HS kids taking their day off after finals to come rake your leaves. We have thousands of those little old “church ladies” and countless Catholic prayer groups who will pray for you– and if you need help with food for your brother’s funeral–we’ve got your back.

Stop in and see us.  Find out who we really are.

When you call us names or tell us we’re backwards, we’re human. It makes us sad. When you think it’s okay to disrespect our beliefs, and especially where it relates to ending the lives of the most vulnerable, it makes our hearts weep. Broken hearted people don’t always think straight or articulate well. For those times when we have failed, we ask your forgiveness. We will work on our behavior. It doesn’t change the fact that we are right here and we want to help—no matter who you are or where you live.

Catholic friends, when did disagreeing become something that must express itself venomously? WE, as a group, need to do a better job understanding that people weren’t exactly a big fan of Jesus either (and we are CLEARLY NOT HIM), and rest in the Lord. That’s all. The anger and defensive posture are unbecoming.

As my youngest son often says, “We’re a good family.” Like all good families, we are full of flaws. But don’t be led astray. Our church is born of Christ Himself, and it’s okay to be proud to be Catholic.

With God’s help, we’ll keep trying to respect one another and do better. We must.

If I have the chance to talk sometime directly to the heart of folks like the woman I overhead at the grocery a few years back, or the one filled with venom this week? I would say this. “I’m worried about some of you guys. Some of you don’t see how BELOVED YOU ARE. Hey you! Yes, you! God loves you. He’s better at loving than any human being could ever be, and He sees everything amazing about you.”

My faithful friends, if you know that, really KNOW THAT, in your heart, then you are blessed beyond words. I’m asking you to please join me in prayer for our country? It’s full of angry people who do and say evil things which means they don’t know God loves them.  It breaks my heart. I’ve been there. It’s a really crappy place to be. Let’s ask God to use us to be His face and His hands to show them what love looks like.

When you feel worn out or lack the courage to speak life and be a proud Catholic, remember these words spoken by St. (Pope) John Paul II, “Never tire of firmly speaking in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination.  Christ is with you:  Be Not Afraid!” 

Curious Minds Wonder about Catholic Education

Celebrating Catholic Schools Week 2022 with a Long-Winded Open Notes Tribute

As a freshman in high school, I received a phone call from a mom with whom I was somewhat familiar.  I didn’t really know her daughter, but her name was Dawn, and she was a year younger than me. The family was contemplating a move to my Catholic high school.  They had a lot of questions and pre-conceived notions and worries about Catholic schools, yet they were drawn.  Some were correct, by the way, and some of their assumptions and concerns were utterly without merit.  It was the first time I received such an inquiry, but the next year, a similar call followed from a long-time family friend.  That trend has continued almost non-stop throughout my life.  I was 15 then, and I’m 50 now.  That’s a lot of years of clarifying, explaining, and offering my two cents.

Pandemic experiences have rendered many folks a touch fragile. Worries about our children, their mental health, and the quality of the education they are receiving are absolute reasonable, in my view.  This has led to me to many more conversations than usual on this topic.  Here are some recent parent questions I thought were especially interesting, and the answers I have shared.  These are merely one gal’s personal perspective, mind you.  However, as this year’s Catholic Schools Week has largely been spent snowed in, it seemed a good way to honor both the phenomenal educators and the faith tradition I hold dear to share these in a more open format. 

Q.  How much time do the kids spend on religion classes, mass and stuff like that?  I guess I’m worried they won’t get all the skills they need.

A. You’re not asking the real question. You already know the education is solid or you wouldn’t be considering a move. What you’re asking yourself is, “How Catholic is it?” There are other options if what you want is a private education. Do you want a faith-based education for your child? Do you want them in an atmosphere that is saturated with the Catholic faith all day long, everyday? Kindness, charity, service, prayer, faith formation and intentional discipleship are at the heart of Catholic schools. Also, you should show up for one of those masses you’re worried about. They will cleanse your soul and renew your spirit with a wholesomeness you had forgotten existed. Have you ever heard or seen 750 kids singing worship music, at the top of their lungs like they’re at a rock concert? You have to see it to believe it, but it will melt your heart.

Student section fun at the football game this fall.

Q. I’ve heard Catholic Schools are just really over the top with rules and I wonder if my son will be frustrated?

A.  Heck yes, your son will be frustrated at times.  He maybe won’t like having to wear khakis with a belt, and he definitely won’t like the no hoodie rule, and he’ll be annoyed that he’s required to do 30 hours of community service.  But do you know what you’ll like?  The same guy who sent him to detention because he didn’t have a belt on is likely to also be the guy who notices he needs a little extra love because he’s struggling with self-doubt, or a family situation.  His guidance counselor will know his name and will ask him how football season is going for him when she spots him in the hall.  The music teacher will notice he’s great with younger students and share that with the Campus minister one afternoon and before you know it he will be helping to lead a retreat group, or tutoring a struggling freshman in math.  Catholic schools are big on accountability and bigger on love.  Students and teachers in this kind of environment are encouraged and empowered to express their care and concern for one another in a way they simply cannot do in other schools.  The public schools in our area are phenomenal in many ways, but in a school that has winter break instead of Christmas break, Christian community isn’t part of the equation. Here, everywhere they turn they will find prayerful support.  Faith is alive in the hallways.  So, are there a lot of rules?  Sure there are.  He’ll live.  He’ll learn.  He’ll grow.

Q. What is your favorite thing about the Catholic School experience?

A. The community of faith-filled people!  Let me explain.  My mom is an incredible, caring human being. She was an amazing grade schoolteacher—a Golden Apple Award winner!!  I know she made a huge difference in the lives of her public school students and I am so proud of her.  That said, she never took her class to the chapel and skipped math class for the day because one of her 4th graders had a mom who was terminally ill and the youngster needed to be prayerfully supported.  Here’s another example.  My son and his high school tennis team gathered a couple hundred others and after school one day last fall, they prayed the rosary together at the grotto for their tennis coach who was in Boston to remove cancer from his brain.  The friends that surrounded my children throughout their school experiences were amazing kids and had families who were like-minded.  We knew they were safe in each other’s care.  Many of those folks remain our closest friends to this day.  That Christian community is one of our greatest blessings! 

Q.  What is your least favorite thing about the Catholic School experience?

A.  It’s expensive.  It’s also PRICELESS.

LET US THANK ALL THOSE WHO TEACH IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS.  EDUCATING IS AN ACT OF LOVE; IT IS LIKE GIVING LIFE.  – Pope Francis

I hope in these questions and answers you will hear authenticity and genuine gratitude for my Catholic faith and the amazing gift of Catholic education in my own life and that of my children.  Its value is inestimable. If you’ve played a part in the Catholic School experience of our family as a teacher, pastor, administrator, or friend…THANK YOU! We love you.

Lastly.  The fine print.

I was asked (in a grocery store checkout line) to “qualify myself” on the matter of Catholic education.  So, for the sake of a stranger named Scott, any anyone else who cares to know, here’s my resume.

I am the product of 12 years of Catholic school.  I attended grade school (1st-8th grades) at St. Lawrence Catholic School, followed by 4 years at Central Catholic High School—all in Lafayette, Indiana.  My husband, Tom and I met in high school.  He attended grade school at nearby St. Mary’s and middle school at St. Boniface in downtown Lafayette, before I met him at LCC.  We have three sons, ages 24, 22, and 17.  Next year when our youngest, Zach, graduates from Guerin Catholic High School, that will conclude 40 (individual) school years of tuition payments. Whew!  St. Louis de Montfort Catholic School in Fishers, IN graced our family with 24 of those blessed school years, twelve will have occurred at Guerin Catholic, and four were logged by Nick (our oldest) at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Nick now lives in Cincy and works for Fifth Third Bank. Drew, who is 22, graduated early from Purdue University and will finish his master’s degree in May before starting his career with a local accounting firm in Indianapolis. Zach, 17, will be a senior at Guerin Catholic in the fall of 2022. Someday, I’m hoping they bring me armloads of grandchildren to babysit, but for today, I’ll settle for someone to help me shovel the snow out of the driveway. Be safe out there, everyone! –ST

Mad for…Pat

The holy man was the whole man, the man of integrity, who not only tried to change the world, but live in it as it was. –Dorothy Day

A couple months back, I was on a long walk with my friend, Catherine. We’ve not been friends all that long, honestly, but I treasure her for her authenticity and her stunningly beautiful heart. As fate would have it, we encountered a bike accident on the Monon trail that day, and in this case, an older gentleman was clearly injured. His pants were ripped and he was bleeding. We stopped to talk to him and we noticed the bleeding was rather significant. When he shared that he was on blood thinners and had some other medical issues, we strongly urged him to allow us to call for help. We were on foot and not that close to our cars. He was adamant that he didn’t want us to call for an ambulance, so Catherine decided to call her husband Pat.

Pat Murphy, on the far right, with his beautiful family.

Pat Murphy, I’ve learned from observation, is a very hard-working and compassionate man. Within minutes, he arrived in his rather badass pickup truck and saved the day. He had brought along some basic first aid essentials and then tossed the man’s bike into the back of his truck and drove him home, making sure he’d done all he could to assist. Let me add for a moment that Pat is a busy attorney. I’m fairly certain he didn’t have “Good Samaritan” on his schedule for the day, but that day he dropped everything to be the love to a stranger. Kindness and love always make a difference. Pat probably thought he was just doing a good deed and that it was not a big deal. Oh, how far from the truth he would be!

An integrity-filled father of 4, Pat and his wife are high school sweethearts from Champaign, Illinois. He’s the youngest of four siblings, and a man of faith who is ALWAYS willing to pitch in. For instance, just this past Sunday as we were setting up for our first of four Sunday speakers at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (part of our Respect Life Month activities), we noticed that some of the folks who ordered meals didn’t order a drink. Pat immediately offered to go out in the rain and run to the grocery for a couple cases of water, just so that we’d be able to make sure everyone was comfortable and satisfied. It’s a little thing, but it’s the exact kind of selflessness I see Pat display over and over. I could fill this page with several similar stories. Rarely, (I pray) do I overlook someone who inspires a ripple of kindness in their wake, because Pat and folks like him always remind me that the things that matter the most cost virtually nothing but mean everything. He’s a quick-witted smart aleck who I’ve noticed leaves the world a little better than he found it. THAT combo is my favorite kind of human, and honestly…and it makes me want to be like Pat!

What struck me about Pat’s little grocery run was his positivity. He didn’t come back even a skosh snarky about the last minute fire drill. Instead, he gushed about the rainbow in the sky he’d seen on this journey and how it felt like a “God hug”. To me, Pat’s sense of humor, his willingness to join in and help, his work ethic, and his obvious love of his family make him the perfect guy on whom to bestow the illustrious Mad for “Person of the Week” award.

Don’t let it go to your head, Murphy.

Mad for…Dick Atha

Remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, look forward to the future with confidence. -St. John Paul II

Day 54 of 365: Dick Atha

https://www.jconline.com/story/sports/2019/02/21/former-educator-nba-player-dick-atha-best-known-benton-central-icon/2919867002/

My Dad was once, many moons ago, a student teacher at Benton Central High School in Benton County, Indiana. It was there that he met the now legendary figure, Dick Atha. My own experience with Atha is somewhat limited, but his grandsons Nathan Bohn and Mason Atha are the same age as my oldest son, Nick, who played on various baseball and basketball teams with these two over the years. In fact, Nathan and my oldest remain good friends and are roommates at Xavier University in Cincy.

Mr. Atha is a doting grandfather who enthusiastically cheered on his grandsons in numerous games we both attended over the past several years, and my own Dad, being the same kind of very proud grandpa happened to be present at some of these functions as well. A storyteller extraordinaire, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how much of what my Dad continued to share about this Atha character were true.

Well, today, a few days after it’s initial printing, I happened upon this phenomenal article about my Dad’s old pal, Dick Atha. It verifies everything Dad ever shared about this high quality, character filled man. I already deeply admired him for the integrity and compassion he instilled in his daughter, Mary (Atha) Bohn, my friend. It was also evident in our brief interactions that this is a genuine man filled with goodness and joy.

So today, I wanted a few more folks to see this great article written by my hometown newspaper, the Lafayette Journal & Courier. It celebrates the rich contributions made to his community and beyond by a truly terrific human. Click on the link above. It’s worth your time!

Thank you, Mr. Atha, for your heroic witness of what it means to spend your life in enthusiastic service to the young people of your community. We all can learn a lesson from your fire, constancy, and passion!

Mad for…Mollie

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor: 3:18)

Day 53 of 365: Mollie Smith

By now, most of you know that I am BIG on honoring the birthdays of folks I know and even those I don’t know as well. Birthdays should be a festival, I think! This week, it’s Mollie Smith’s festival. Her birthday was earlier in the week, and I’ve chosen today to tell you a little about her fabulousness.

I read this inspiring entry in a spiritual book recently and the chapter was titled, “God loves your family resemblance.” This immediately made me think of the Smith family, because their glorious clan is so recognizable, and they are a family who loves and serves the Lord with enthusiasm. I credit their mom (an amazing convert to the Catholic faith, by the way). She’s as fine a Christian woman as I have ever encountered. I mean, Adam’s okay too…ha?! It’s just this THIS WEEK, I am celebrating his bride.

Here are some of the highlights from that chapter I mentioned. I hope when you read it, it will give you a more clear picture of the type of mother and kind, compassionate woman I believe her to be, because these words make me think of Mollie….and Carly, Kolbe, Simon, Lily, Sadie, Wyatt, Luke and little Ella too. I’ve been watching them from a distance for some time, and this is a family that inspires in me a firm desire to love the Lord in the same joyful way they do– its seems to me to be born of the deep faithfulness they all share.

Do you giggle like your mom? Or chuckle and chortle like your dad? Do you remind everyone of your Great-Aunt Ruth? We tend to look and act like the people we’re related to– those whom we love. So…are you as kind as the King? Do you love like your Lord? Do you give like Jesus? Having your mom’s eyes or your dad’s smile is great, but when it comes to your heart, God is hoping it looks a lot like His. Because He just loves to see your family resemblance. (Tama Fortner)

Mollie, I know you are proud of your stunning family, and you should be. Jesus surely sees the family resemblance with your clan. The Lord is smiling down on you and sees your perseverance, your endurance, your kindness, the YES you have proclaimed just like Our Blessed Mother, and so do I. Thank you for the witness of faith you have shown me through every encounter I have ever had with you or any of your children. You are impressive, birthday girl!! HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY, MOLLIE!

Mad for…Fr. Richard

Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. -St. Therese of Lisieux

Day 52 of 365: Fr. Richard Doerr

Feb. 21, 2019– About 10 years ago, one of my holiest friends noticed I was in a dark place. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that she insisted I should meet her friend, Fr. Richard Doerr. Spiritually and otherwise, I was just a hot mess. Like he does all week long, year after year, with countless folks who seek him out or who are sent to him against their will, he used his considerable pastoral gifts to help me find the Lord.

Priests have long been targets of the enemy of enemies. After all, these good guys, (and I promise you most of them are just that), live their lives in heroic service to others. My friend, Fr. Richard, is such a man. He won’t care for this birthday tribute one bit, but I’m stubborn and unreasonable so I’m offering it here all the same. Sorry for your luck, Padre.As a diocesan priest, he’s the pastor of a parish of over 4,000 families. That’s north of 14,000 souls who are in his care, folks. He’s a Purdue grad and so am I, therefore I will offer you this comparison with which to judge the enormity of the task he’s been assigned. Have you ever attended a basketball game at Purdue’s Mackey Arena? The number of souls he’s tasked with guiding towards the Lord is roughly equal to a sell out crowd at Mackey. Think about that the next time he doesn’t respond to your message in the time frame you’d prefer.

He carries burdens too heavy for his people to bear alone. He consoles every day, and despite the incredible work load, he carries the secret grief, the tragic loss, the family crises, and the painful failures. The needy and the poor know the parish he leads is a place of refuge. He’s pastorally gifted, and he seems to exist in a calm, rational state despite frequent episodes without a reasonable amount of sleep. You see, if someone in his flock truly needs him, the hour doesn’t matter. He goes where he is called. His cross is very heavy, and he bears it with love. Sometimes, he’s maddeningly spent. Always, he’s prayerful, and mindful of the grace and beauty of the life he lives.

Because authenticity is my favorite quality in humans, I’ll offer that he’s a genuine and very real guy who has been known to curse when a good cuss word is just the best option available, and he’s got a wicked, sarcastic and hilarious sense of humor which often carries him through the day. That sense of humor definitely makes his homilies accessible and memorable. He can be both joyfully irreverent and shockingly compassionate.

Don’t forget, though, he’s a human being. He’s got his own family, including a mother, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews on whom he dotes. Just like the rest of us, he’s needed to take mom to her doctor’s appointment or babysit for the little ones now and then. He needs and tries to take the time to be present for his own family. People forget that humanity and expect too much sometimes. It pleases me that he does an excellent job of looking after his physical health and he somehow manages to squeeze in workouts most days of the week.

All my people know I love this guy, and so does he. Keeping quiet isn’t a strength area for me. If I love you, I say so. Here’s the deal. This guy stuck with me when any other mere mortal would have told me to hit the road. I am nothing if not needy and persistent. He attempted to buy himself some oxygen by shoving spiritual books in my direction. I read them ALL. I was a sponge and I cried out for more. I fell in love with the saints, whom I had largely not yet met. I learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which I can only pray while singing aloud or in my mind, because it played on an endless loop on a CD he gave me. I was captivated by it’s beauty. He introduced me to Caravaggio’s art, which left me breathless. I’m not even going to tell you about the whole Taize prayer service he insisted I attend. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, I was moved to tears. You should find one and go. Talk about ridiculous!

When I take myself and my sins too seriously in confession, he says things like “Get off the cross, we need the wood, Shelly.” He makes me laugh at myself and he texts me stupid memes now and then when he’s had a long week or he sensed the same from me. He presides at reverent, beautiful masses and he sings like an angel. In short, he has been the most selfless shepherd I can ever imagine encountering. I realize his vocation calls for him to often be “in persona Christi”… but this guy? It’s like my husband says. He’s not messing around. Fr. Richard wants us to know and love the Lord. He spends himself entirely in the effort. I am but one of his 14,000. The number of people who have told me similar tales of their own powerful conversion which God orchestrated through this particular instrument would make your head spin.

Frequently, with his extra large heart on full display, he asks me for my prayers for parishioners who are suffering. It’s my deep honor to offer them. Today, I’d like to ask you to pray for him. It’s his birthday, and he does a stunning job keeping Christ in the lives of the people in his care. Please join me in asking God to grant him the same in his own. His life is one worth celebrating in a BIG way. Pray for your priest too– again and again. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FR. RICHARD!

Today’s Prayer for Priests, Offered for Fr. Richard Doerr:

O Jesus, our great High Priest, hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Fr. Richard. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.

In his loneliness, comfort him in his sorrows, strengthen him in his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much. Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength, and especially help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.

Amen.

Mad for…Colleen

Oh God, you are my God- it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water. I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you! (Psalm 63: 1-4)

Day 49 of 365.

If you take the time to notice the life being led by Colleen Ward, you’ll see a pattern of thanksgiving. She clearly believes, by her conspicuous witness, that our good and gracious God meant for us to not only thank Him for the graces He’s shared which enrich our lives, but also to thank others responsible for the small blessings that make our journey more pleasant.

I met Colleen many years ago when I was a working girl in a corporate communications job. In my role, I counted heavily on the expertise and legwork of a local PR firm, Coles PR, where Colleen was employed at the time. I’ll be candid. As clients go, I was a first class, high maintenance PIA. I look back on that time and roll my eyes at my ridiculousness. Colleen, then as now, was the definition of class, impressive work ethic, and kindness. She was and is now– bright, talented, professional and flat out impressive. Guerin Catholic High School made an incredibly far-sighted and positive move when they snagged her for her communications role several years ago. I know very few people whose integrity matches that of Colleen. She’s a positive, sunny, character-filled gift from the Lord.

Sometimes, folks need a meaningful expression of how they are valued. An expression of authentic gratitude to a world filled with folks who need to know that they matter is no small thing. I’ve seen Colleen express just these kinds of meaningful sentiments to and about lots of folks. The most impactful for me in terms of learning from her witness, though, are the public expressions of appreciation she continues to share about her family members.

EVERY SINGLE TIME, it reminds me of the St. (Mother) Teresa quote, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

Colleen is sunny, funny and self-deprecating. She lives her life in service to others, but spends herself quietly. Her lack of volume, however, should not be construed as a lack of strength. She is a fierce, capable woman of God. I notice and admire her most for loving her family lavishly, unconditionally, and maybe sometimes even foolishly– which is just the way God loves us. The way she praises the Lord with her life is inspiring. Today, on your special day, I want to turn the tables and thank you, Colleen, for being a powerful witness to me and many. If we all loved our families and those around us as you do, WOW would the world be transformed!

TODAY, YOUR LIFE DEFINITELY DESERVES TO BE CELEBRATED!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, COLLEEN WARD!!!

Mad for…Christian

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. –Martin Luther King, Jr.

My oldest son, Nick, when he was in kindergarten, came home day after day telling me about his friend, Christian. When I happened upon this mysterious little guy’s mom at a school “movie night” I immediately introduced myself and told her that I sure as heck hoped she’d heard the name “Nick” at her house, because my kid was crazy about her son. When she assured me this was not new information to her, I just recall saying “Well, THANK GOD!” The two boys (and their mothers) became fast and lasting friends.

Meet Christian Daniels. When I first met this smart, earnest, and polite little sports lover, I knew immediately he was a high quality human being. It was obvious even at age 5. Seriously, CD just entered the world a kind, articulate little guy and these facts remain unchanged, as does his lifelong love for U of L sports teams.

Quick-witted, big-hearted and unflappable, Christian has always been both a hard worker and a high achieving student. He’s a natural leader, a quality which has been evident throughout his life. In grade school he was the point guard on the basketball team and the QB on the football field. In high school, he was captain of the basketball team (AND he was an IHSAA State Champion), and now he’s the top dog at his fraternity at Miami of Ohio. His peers have always respected him, because, quite frankly, he’s a respectable guy. It’s that simple.

Christian is faithful, a man of integrity, mature and self-confident. He has a positive attitude, and he’s a gentleman. He’s true to his word. If he tells you that he is going to do something, you can count on it. He has a high moral compass and he’s an honest and compassionate friend with a terrific sense of humor. I could not ask for a better young man to have in my house eating those pancakes he learned to cut LIKE A BEAST in my very own kitchen! (Ha? See what I did there CD?)

As a big brother, there just isn’t a finer example. Who else do you know at age 19 who makes extra trips to and from school so he can coach his little brother’s CYO team? I wish I could adequately describe to you the pure joy and pride on Malcolm’s face because his big brother was on that bench with him, coaching his team. That selflessness on CD’s part and for the benefit of all those little SLDM Cardinals will never be forgotten by his little brother, who truly worships him.

Last week, I got a beautiful note from CD. In it, he spent considerable time thanking me for the kindnesses shown to him over the years. It was classic Christian in tone, just positive and upbeat, brightening my day and spreading happiness, because he can. He looks for the good in others, and in a world filled with so many people who don’t take the time to do the same, Christian SHINES.

Happy 21st Birthday to you, CD! My life and the lives of all the Thieme family are so much richer because of your presence. What inspires me about you is the way your character shines, no matter the circumstances. The quote (above) that you shared with me in your note made me smile. You said it was one of your favorites, and I can see why. It fits you perfectly. LOVE YOU, KID.

Mad for…Michele

He who watches over you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:3)

So today, I’ve decided to talk less and post more photos than normal. To say that it’s been a long few years for my friend, Michele Maginot, would be a colossal understatement. Today marks the 4th birthday in a row that she has endured without her youngest daughter, Jen. The beautiful and utterly kind Jen would be 19 years old today.

My fellow Boilermaker fan with the most hilarious dry sense of humor, Michele is also the most patient person around. How do I know this? It’s her beagles. Dear God in heaven, someone please explain to me how seemingly reasonable people like Michele seem to love their beagles despite all the destruction they leave in their wake!? Ha?

Jen’s been much talked about for her kindness, and I know she’s in heaven today watching over her thoughtful, funny mama, as well as her Dad, Paul and her brother Greg and sis, Alli. Jen’s defining quality, I always thought, was a rather impressive reflection on the quiet grace and kindness she learned by the witness of her terrific mom.

Michele, by the grace of God and many, many prayers offered, you’re still standing. I know you’re tired, I know the tank sometimes feels empty, and you might be running on fumes….but you’re still running. You’re allowed to slip away and find a quiet place, for a moment, an hour, a day. Just remember when you do it to rest your weary head on the shoulder of the One who never sleeps and who never ceases to watch over you because HE LOVES YOU. You are the beloved daughter of the most high God. So you just put your head in His lap today.

Michele and Jen
Alli, Jen, and Greg
Paul and Michele

You, my dear friend, are a family of 5. For now and forever. Therefore, I’ve posted pictures which reflect that. So today, my prayer for you is that God rains down grace for you so that you find the strength to take a deep breath, say a prayer and take the next step. God loves the way you keep calm and trust on, how you reach out to help others. He loves the way you keep going. YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO ME for your positivity, strength and selflessness. I hope you feel the hug I’m trying to send you. I love you. Happy Heavenly Birthday to your girl. She sees you, and she’s SO PROUD.

Mad for…Ann

“To help children, boys and girls, young men, women and adults to know and love the Lord ever more is one of the most beautiful educational adventures…” (Pope Francis)

Day 41 of 365.

One of her several recent notes read, “I wanted you to know that yesterday you were my special intention at mass and communion. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you.” Meet Ann Kalmey. She’s the mother of one of my most dear friends on the planet, Lisa, as well as two more grown children, Lee Ann and Doug. She’s a grandmother to a whole slew of accomplished and amazing young people. I really know her just a little, from a sprinkling of moments together over the years, and yet this fact is utterly unsurprising.

You and I, all of us actually, we sometimes wish for a better world, a better way, an improved life in one way or another. Standing between the ideal and reality are mountainous obstacles, colossal challenges….and we think I’m only one person!! What can I possibly do? Let me tell you what you can do! You can BE LIKE ANN!

Ann and her incredibly fun-loving and intelligent husband raised their beautiful family with a strong base of faithfulness as it’s core. Ann spent much of her professional career as a principal at St. Margaret Mary Catholic School near Louisville, KY. Because Ann is an unbelievably articulate and very strong woman, I know without a doubt that the staff of teachers she led and the students under her care were both well educated in the faith and unconditionally and compassionately supported. “Without confidence and love, there can be no true education” said St. John Bosco. I quite agree. What an amazing way Ann has served the Lord with her life and vocation!

In more recent years, Ann also FOUGHT THE BEAST….and she WON! I am confident she has met many other obstacles in her life besides breast cancer with similar fire and persistence. Her formidable strength and faithfulness as well as an overflowing helping of compassion are to me, her defining qualities.

Here’s the thing Ann reminded me of in recent days with her persistent and thoughtful reaching out. God can do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. On our own our little efforts might be little in our minds eye, but when we live our lives with Christ at the center, we aren’t on our own– we are souls magnifying the Lord! We needn’t ever think “I can only do so much!”

Thank you, Ann, for being an encouraging face of the Lord to all in your path. Your daughter, Lisa, is a fierce and unbelievably loving and faithful woman because of the love of her mother. I couldn’t do life without her, and this week I realize how fortunate I am that through her, I’ve been able to get to know her spectacular sparkplug of a mother….and snag a scoop of your fabulousness in my life too!