Mad for…Fr. Haan

O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host. Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in the tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything. Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is. -St. John Vianney

Day 22 of 365.

Fr. Thomas Haan is a young priest from my hometown of Lafayette. He grew up in a farm family, which I am sure helps to account for his work ethic and natural humility. Like many young men from the Hoosier state, Fr. Haan was a talented basketball player and football player in high school. In fact, he was a gifted athlete who set some impressive records as a quarterback at my alma mater, Lafayette Central Catholic. He also went on to Purdue University where he was a member of the football team there.

That’s kind of a nifty and unique background for priest, but it’s not why I’ve chosen to highlight him today. You see, what makes Fr. Thomas Haan truly sensational in my book is that I believe he gives us all a pretty swell witness of what it means to live as a courageous and holy man. Accessible and reverent, Fr. Haan is an amazingly self-possessed and passionate guy who clearly loves the Lord.

In his role as the chaplain at St. Theodore Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, he preaches the faith to young people without even a hint of condescension. Some of those homilies are just incredibly challenging and they always call all within earshot to live in the world but not be of it. He asks us all to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another. He gets away with some bold and extremely demanding calls to holiness which enter into the interior of the listener because his authenticity and personal witness is clear for all to see. Also, he’s just a cool guy. That definitely helps when you’re dealing with teenagers everyday.

This fall, for instance, after my middle son, Drew had barely begun his freshman year in college, he and his high school buddies were back home for fall break. As 18 year old boys will do, a few of them decided to meet up at GCHS and play some pick up basketball. This was a fantastic crew of recent grads and they were thrilled to have the chance to go get sweaty with the buddies they hadn’t seen in a couple months. As Drew tells it, Fr. Haan walked into the gym with a scowl on his face and called out loudly, “Hey, do you guys have permission to use this gym?” They stopped and looked up at him and hollered back, “Uh, no, we don’t Father…” at which point Fr. Haan grinned widely and replied “PERMISSION GRANTED”. They all got a big laugh out his teasing, and it gave them the sense that they are loved and always welcome. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Everyday kindness matters.

In short, Fr. Haan is one of the good guys. With him, young people (and their parents too) know he truly loves Jesus and feel that he cares, therefore his witness of faith bears fruit and begins to spread– even when he tasks us with the challenging work of being a disciple of Christ.

THANK YOU, Fr. Haan, for all you do each day!


Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of our priests. Through them we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people. Grant them the wisdom, understanding and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your kingdom. Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace. We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.

Mad for…Rex

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. -Johann Sebastian Bach

Day 14 of 365

Meet Rex Rund. Conspicuously faithful and hugely talented, Rex is the Director of Music and Liturgy at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana.

For the sake of transparency, it’s only fair for me to share that I have only very briefly ever spoken to Rex. Here’s the thing, though. Wow, has our good and gracious God spoken to me through this man! Music has a way of reaching us interiorly, and Rex knows how to tap in. He’s an accomplished musician to be sure. His singing voice is elegant and engaging. What makes him estimable, though, is that he is a man giving his very best effort for the sake of the Lord. Every. Single. Day.

This guy is a liturgy crackerjack. He’s considerably beyond mere proficiency when it comes to understanding the solemn, ritual and sacramental significance of the Catholic Mass. The liturgy and it’s communal response to the sacred, is in my view, utterly enhanced by his loving musical direction at this parish.

Let me say this in a less formal way. At OLMC, people sing. It fills the sanctuary and my heart swells. I am certain I’m not the only one. Hearts are moved because the music is beautiful and chosen thoughtfully, and we all want in.

Rex, thanks for all the extra elbow grease. Your energy and effort every day is clearly aimed at glorifying the Lord, and it inspires me to want the same in my own life. I’m grateful!

Mad for…Katie

Day 7 of 365


Meet Katie Conway.  I’ve chosen to post this stunning photo of her, because I want to still be on speaking terms with her.  My other choice was a snapshot from a weekend we once spent together with a group of fantastic gals.  We were buried in a couple feet of snow about this time of year, in South Haven, Michigan and Katie never took off her winter hat.  As God is my witness, she wore that thing everywhere we went and also inside the house.  She wore it drinking wine and getting a pedicure and while we screamed and chased a bat out of the living room.  She looked slightly less glam than in the photo of her here.  Because she radiates love of the Lord in her face and from the center of her being, she pulled off this look with aplomb.  She’s as self-possessed, poised and genuine as anyone I have ever met.

Katie is the person whose witness most strongly convicted me of the idea that being a Jesus girl is the only way to roll.  I wanted a scoop of what she had.  Her faith penetrates ever fiber of her being, and it defines her entirely.  She’s one of those people by whom I measure others.  What I mean is this.  If someone were to tell me they just didn’t care for Katie, I would immediately know that the poor soul was lost.

A loving, affectionate, joyful mother of 4, Katie is also the wife of a pretty handsome guy named Brian who probably thinks it’s entirely possible to have too many religious items in one’s home?  Ha!!  Lets just say she is a collector of beautiful things.  Katie is a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic woman and a presenter at a women’s ministry called “Awaken to the B.E.S.T.” which is held at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana.

Awaken offers spiritual and scripture based opportunities for women who desire to deepen and share their Catholic faith in God.  I might be the last woman in Hamilton County to not have attended this VERY SUCCESSFUL program.  It’s a dynamic spirituality group for women-  innovative and original.  Visit if you want to know more.

It surprises me NOT AT ALL that Katie was instrumental in this ministry’s formation and ongoing success.

Thanks, sweet friend, for teaching me about being a Jesus girl.  I love you.


Kooky Aunt Helen

In loving memory of my peculiar, imprudent, silly and utterly amazing great aunt Helen Lammers…

On left, my photo from inside San Luigi dei Francesi, “The Calling of St. Matthew”

Allow me to introduce you to my Aunt Helen. To merely describe her as a colorful figure in my childhood would do her a tragic disservice. Aunt Helen always wore a wig and whatever was trending in the juniors department at Kmart. I recall quite a few long, bold fish necklaces paired with stirrup pants, big sweaters and those plastic shoes we called “jellies” on her feet. Her gifts at the holidays were always my favorite, despite being the least expensive of all the offerings, because they were so obnoxiously wrapped, one inside the other. The unwrapping lasted a long time…which I found incredibly fun! Inside, there would inevitably be some vibrating or glow in the dark plastic trinket mostly likely purchased at Spencer gifts.

If you could hum her a few bars, she could play absolutely any song you wished on her piano. She rarely, if ever, used sheet music. She liked us to sing along with her to songs like “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, and she always insisted I sing it in an octave a little higher than my alto voice wanted to go. “It sounds prettier,” she’d whisper. She wrote a little song about me as a small girl, the chorus of which included my entire proper name, which somehow rhymed the way she sang it. Phonetically, it sounded like “ME-SHEL-LIN DIE-Q-ZIN… is a very pretty girl.” There were verses too, but I don’t remember them now. I do, however, remember that chorus and how she made me feel when she sang that song.

Aunt Helen was the sister of my grandmother, Pauline. That made her my great aunt, in reality. She had one beloved son who had long since moved to Florida when I was coming of age, and he was unmarried. That made my sister, Robin and myself her adopted grandchildren. Since Mom was a young student at Purdue when she married my Dad, Aunt Helen was a frequent babysitter. I spent a lot of time at her little house on 27th Street, just a block from Columbian Park and with a backyard that virtually backed into the front door of the old Home Hospital. We made tents out of the sheets she hung from her clothesline in the backyard and spent whole afternoons pretending to hold an imaginary circus, making a palace for our dolls, or trying on her closet full of high heels. It didn’t matter that we were without a swimsuit. If it was hot and we wanted to run through her sprinkler, she just told us not to worry about a silly problem like swimsuits and she let us run through in our underwear. We’d break pieces of bread and toss them back into their bread bags and take them to the park to feed the ducks. The larger, more aggressive among the flock terrified me not just a little, and my running from them made Aunt Helen cackle with delight on many occasions.

As I grew older, we remained close. She was my confirmation sponsor. When Tom and I were in high school and then in college, we would stop in to visit my Aunt Helen (and Uncle Charlie) to play euchre. It was always girls vs. boys and I really have no recollection of who won or who lost. I just remember my quirky Uncle Charlie always slow playing his 1 beer and 3 oreos, which by the way, was the same pace at which he played euchre. We always left there smiling and feeling like it was time well spent. I loved Tom for all the hands of cards he played with me and my grandparents as well as Aunt Helen and Uncle Charlie.

When she passed away down in Florida, where she went to live with her son Johnny at the end of her life, I recall feeling robbed of the opportunity to properly mourn someone I loved so deeply. All those years later, I honestly still feel that way. Here’s the utterly inappropriate and yet awesome gift Aunt Helen gave me. I knew I was her favorite. She was embarrassingly open about the fact that she liked me just a little better than everyone else, and in fact it got her into some trouble with my grandmother as well as my parents. “Helen, you can’t ask the girls what they want for dinner and then ALWAYS make what Shelly asks for,” my grandmother would scold. As a parent myself, I know I would be vocal about this kind of favoritism when it comes to my boys. It was wrong….oh so wrong….B-U-T….I always felt beloved by her.

When I was in Rome very recently, I found myself in the very front left corner of a church called “San Luigi dei Francesi” which translates “The Church of St. Louis of the French” and it is not far from Piazza Navona. One of the side chapels in this beautiful church contains some spectacular paintings by the baroque master Caravaggio. This includes a world renowned canvas of “The Calling of St. Matthew”, the seeing of which rather took my breath away. It has long been a painting I consider a favorite for spiritual reasons I don’t think I can convey adequately here. To look up, though, and see it in person felt a whole lot like being that 8 year-old girl who knew she was Aunt Helen’s favorite. In that instant, a certain feeling of belovedness which often eludes me, just washed over me.

For just a moment, I nearly drowned in it.

Writing about a moment of divine intimacy, or of spiritual consolation is often said to be a poor idea, as it’s very giving away can serve to minimize or trollop on the moment which was perhaps meant to be a private gift between one soul and it’s Creator, among other reasons.

Here’s the reason I’m doing it anyway. The thing that had long prevented me from growing closer to God was a disordered view of myself. Like A LOT of people I know, I had been Matthew with my head on the table. I am quick to believe all criticism and remember all failure, and loathe to believe in my goodness. I long felt like Matthew with his head on the table saying “not me, Lord.” He was a hated tax collector, he was all things unworthy. Yet there was Jesus pointing at him saying, “Come follow me.”

We think we are so darn smart, but our self-knowledge and ingenuity are utterly insufficient, and they certainly won’t effectuate union with God. What we really need is a supernatural faith. We need a faith that understands God loves His children more than we love ours. We need to know that we are worthy, our lives priceless, simply because WE ARE HIS.

If you are reading my words today, I want you to know something. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE WORTHY.

This summer, my cousin took his life and that of his family. This fall, a young college senior named Evan, who was the very picture of goodness, took his life. Last week, the nephew of a church friend, a young man named JJ, the only child of his parents, took his life. In the last year alone, my pastor has buried 5 of his parishioners after the same tragedy. Folks, this must stop.

I’m not quite sure how but we must help and it must begin with being unafraid to love others. That means EVERYONE. ALWAYS. You and I maybe aren’t mental health professionals. We are just regular people like my Aunt Helen. What can we do about it, right? I mean who are we to solve such a big problem? I’m not sure.

However, I do know this. Aunt Helen was divorced at a young age, a thing about which she never spoke. She liked her cocktails a little too much. She thought iodine and baby oil was the nectar of the Gods and should be slathered upon the human body whenever the sun peaked out. She seemed to believe pimento cheese and fried chicken were both food groups unto themselves. Also, in her quirky and ordinary life, she was the face of Christ to me. Despite her flaws, God used her to teach me that I am beloved. She was a person who seemed to see the butterfly wings I couldn’t spot because they were behind me. So, when God came close to remind me, I remembered the feeling as I gazed at the beauty of the Caravaggio painting and He drew me in.

I left there thinking about how very much I love Him, and that I can do more for the Lord.

The beautiful senses God has given us can help us grow in holiness. I feel His love at mass, in the Eucharist and when Tom kisses me gently on the forehead. I feel it when a friend sends me a sweet card or when the sun sets over Lake Michigan—and apparently in the corners of dusty old churches in Rome I discover with Mom.

This week, we celebrated the feast day of one of my favorites, St. Theresa of Avila. She said this. “The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and do that which best stirs you to love.”

I don’t know how to fix so many problems I see in this world, but I think it starts there.


Too Much to Lose

Author’s note: I was asked by a friend who is a recent convert to the faith to share my take on the Catholic Church in all her messiness. I’m just one Jesus girl who loves the Lord and who cannot imagine life without the Eucharist, and therefore her Church family, and this is my take. Whatever you read in this, know one thing for sure. You are loved beyond all measure by God. Always. -ST

“Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.” –Archbishop Fulton Sheen

When I was an 8 year-old at St. Lawrence Catholic School, I remember a morning filled with genuine heart ache—and a few tears too. You see, nearly every member of my fairly large class had some important role to play in the all-school mass being organized by Miss Mecklenburg’s 3rd grade class. I did not. Cue the pathetic meltdown. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, been a little too emotional for my own good, and the truth is, the Lord used this amazing teacher to help draw me to Himself that year. It wasn’t about “I’m a better reader” or “that’s not fair” for me on that sad little morning. It’s a moment I’ve never forgotten (almost 40 years later) because that little girl was just authentically sad about not being able to do something special for Jesus that day. I wasn’t worried about what any of my classmates thought of me, I was just this innocent child who wanted to show the Lord she loved Him. The truth is, it never occurred to me that my ridiculous sniffling might cause my teacher or my classmates to disapprove or think less of me. Eight year olds don’t think like that. With children this age, the one thing you can you can almost always be assured of is authenticity. In good news, I’ve since come to realize that Jesus can see our hearts, even if we don’t get picked to bring up the gifts at mass.

To this housewife from Indiana, therein lies the critical disconnect in this current crisis in my beloved Church. When we forget that in the end, it’s all between us and our Lord, we are lost.

In all walks of life, at all ages and stages, our humanity inevitably oozes forth. When you’re eight, it’s transparent. Unfortunately, as we age, we often lose the ability to be truly genuine. That means that on the edges of the humanity continuum, there are some childlike (genuine) souls who pour out their lives working to be the face of Jesus, and others become more wicked or manipulative and end up reminding us more of Judas.

Miss Mecklenburg? She was the former. She noticed my pained face and pulled me aside. She promised another role, another day. I knew in that moment, because of her kindness, that God had something else in mind for me (and the fact that it involved me getting a brand new green velvet dress for Christmas mass was pretty cool too). She also taught us about satan that year. In fact, she is the only teacher I can remember in 12 years of Catholic school, bringing up the topic of evil in such a courageous way. She encouraged us, when we encountered the diabolical (my word, not hers) in our lives, to speak the name of Jesus, aloud, repeating it if we must. “He will flee if you do that.” I recall that conversation scaring me, as I had not considered the presence of darkness in that way. However, she loved us enough to speak truth, in love. I have always used her sage advice.

Unfortunately, on the other end of the spectrum, far from everyday heroes like my 3rd grade teacher—across all walks of life– are folks who violate all goodness and commit acts which I would characterize as gravely depraved. Turn on CNN. The profound lack of moral integrity exists in all types of folks including parents, teachers, coaches, police officers, doctors, priests, bishops…and the list goes on. This article is not really about the fact that there are deeply disturbed criminals among us. You already know that if you ever watch the news. A neglectful mother doesn’t make us all neglectful, a careless doctor doesn’t make them all careless, and an abusive priest doesn’t make them all abusers, obviously.

The challenge for me is, what about the rest of us, and what about people in positions of moral authority who fail to lead? What is our collective responsibility? There are (I would argue, otherwise decent) folks who overlooked the misdeeds of Dr. Larry Nasser. There are fellow officers of the law who performed their own roles lawfully but who noticed their co-worker’s propensity for violence or racism and said little. There are shepherds in our church who turned a blind eye to abusive clerics at all levels.

“Cry out! Cry out with a thousand tongues! This world is rotten because of silence.” –St. Catherine of Siena

When we avoid all controversy, choose the path of least resistance, and work to keep from offending everyone, it sets us up for a lukewarm life. We all want to be in the inner ring, so to speak. If we who are essentially good reveal the content of our hearts, we fear we will lose approval, acceptance, or prestige. When we have too much to lose, we tend to compromise, lest we lose our upward mobility, our power, or whatever it is we are valuing more than truth.

Our religious leaders are a lot like many of us in that way. We all want an invitation to the party. We feel we have too much to lose to make a stink. Have you ever had a close friend or family member you knew needed honesty, but whom you feared losing even if you lovingly tried to point out a serious concern? Did you go ahead and speak the truth or did you decide it wasn’t your place?

When our Bishops have this mindset, though, it’s a huge problem. Their failure to act on their moral authority in a holy way undermines the life of the Church. Discretion seems to be the word they love more than they should. It’s probably partly what landed them in pink hats, actually.  We are to be impressed when they speak like elite academics. The problem is that when they are insulated from genuine communication with the laity, when they insist on formal letters from the priests in their diocese who have urgent issues to discuss, when they are long on administrative skills and short on pastoral experience, when they are positioning themselves instead of shepherding real people, it gets us precisely here.

I don’t want a confessor who assures me “it’s ok” when I commit a serious sin. I want mercy and forgiveness to be sure, but also I need fraternal correction. I’m looking for Christ in that interaction.  I have a holy, courageous priest and other friends willing to do that in my life.

Guess what? Our leaders need the same. Some of them have forgotten who they are and to whom they ultimately belong. I’m not suggesting our priests and bishops start sending out their cell phone numbers to everyone. You know what though? That would be standing alongside your flock, huh? Right now, a little more authenticity and courageous leadership would sure be a breath of fresh air.

I’ll leave it to the most holy, clever and creative of the bunch to find a way to be the salt and the light and show us the path forward. However, we must demand honest and courageous shepherds! Indignation and righteous anger have a place at the table right now for us who sit in the pews. In the midst of this diabolical masterpiece unleashed on us by the devil himself, though, I vote we cry out every day like I was taught in 3rd grade and call upon our Savior by name. Let’s just keep crying out to the Lord. Why over complicate things? Pray! I read once that even Pope John XXIII, now a canonized saint, would pray before bedtime in a childlike manner and say, “Oh Lord, I’m going to bed. It’s your church. Take care of it!”

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of it’s dignity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” –Hilare Belloc 


ABOVE:  Bl. Stanley Rother

Because a funny Irish priest once told my mom, “Ye gots to leave ‘em with a wee bit of hope”, let me give you a shining example of a saintly shepherd by whom I find myself inspired. Oklahoma native, Stanley Rother, became a priest who eventually served the poor in Guatemala. A dangerous civil war broke out and all religious were targets. He was urged to leave. He defiantly refused. On July 28, 1981, he was attacked and killed in his rectory. Shortly before he died, he explained why he was staying with his people, despite the incredible courage and fidelity it must have taken to stay with his flock and lead at an impossible time. He said, “A shepherd doesn’t run at the first sign of danger.”

Amen to that. To all you holy priests and bishops out there, I stand with you. You are heroes who bring us the sacraments, without which, we cannot live. I urge you to remember this is no time for weakness and I want you to know of my daily prayers for you. Thank you for all you do each day. Truly, I love you amazing men!

To those who have been abused and victimized by evil people, my prayers are for your healing and for justice.

Bl. Staney Rother, first martyr born in the United States, PRAY FOR US!

Footnote:  For those in the area, Fr. Don Wolf, the cousin of Bl. Stanley Rother, will be coming to give a first person account of his holy and inspiring life on Oct. 23 at 7pm at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Carmel, Indiana.  It’s a free event, and all are welcome.   

Be Like Will.

Ummm…Drew?  Did I hear the doorbell ring at 11:30 last night?

Yeah, Mom.  You did.   All you need to know is that Oby is an amazing friend!  I gotta go!!

Ok, then.  Have a great day, D!

The above conversation was one of those “I’ve got no time and I am running late so make it quick, Mom” moments.  Every mother of an 18 year old knows what I’m saying.  In this case, my middle kid had gotten very little sleep.  He had played his basketball game and gotten home about 10pm the previous evening.  He arrived home starving, so I shoved a sandwich and some apple slices at him.  Then, he hustled upstairs to work on homework.  I knew he would be up until all hours.  His academic load is significant— by his own choice.  He’s a bright kid and a hard worker but I do worry about him.  It’s a mom thing.  Is he getting enough sleep?  Is the insane IB homework load just too much?  Would it be better for him to have more time for just being a goofy kid?  You get it.  All of us who have kids constantly have this little interior chatter.

This particular day stands out to me, because as the day wore on, I learned more details about the late night visit of one Will Oberndorfer.  It was a God wink.

Apparently, in the new world of electronic everything, there are online quizzes and apps you must have operational, plus midnight deadlines for assignments….all sorts of things I cannot imagine as I compare my son’s academic experience to my own.  I don’t even pretend to understand any of it, and I am truly thankful to God that I was born in 1971.  Pencils, paper and dogs that ate homework were all actual things back in the day.  I digress.  Anyway, on Tuesday night after Drew had his sandwich and a shower, he began his homework marathon later than normal.  It was pushing 11pm.  Shortly after plopping down at his desk, Drew realized that there was a glitch causing his computer to be unable to run some application he needed in order to successfully complete a required quiz by midnight.  He texted his friends—the other crazy young people who are also up half the night, every night, trying to finish their own work.  He was wondering if any of them knew a way to fix the computer issue.  None did.  His friend Oby offered to let Drew come over to his house and use his working computer.  Drew didn’t want to bother his buddy so late.  He then just thanked his friends anyway deciding he would have to just take the zero this time.  He would take his computer into the Guerin Catholic IT folks in the morning for a technical assist.

Then, the doorbell rang.  It was 11:30pm.

I don’t want you to take the zero.

There was Oby.  He had an operational computer for Drew to borrow to take the quiz.

Was it just a small act of kindness?  Yes.  Did it feel small to Drew?  No.

This week, God used a terrific teenager named Will Oberndorfer to remind me, again, how we can all effect positive change in this crazy, wonderful, and sometimes breathtakingly desperate world.  It’s done one kind act at a time, right in the place where you live.  Simply put:  BE THE FRIEND EVERYONE WISHES THEY HAD.

If we’re all working to be the face and hands of Christ, pretty soon it’s going to be incredibly difficult to go anywhere and NOT see how much we are ALL deeply loved by our truly awesome God.

Atta boy, Oby!  You are the REAL DEAL, kid.

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.  –Mother Teresa

A Nation Gone Under?

When my oldest son was about four years old, another little guy in his preschool class spilled his snack and juice all over Nick’s lap.  The sweet teacher in this lovely Episcopal school was not too impressed when he screamed a four letter expletive that starts with the letter “s” in response.  I received her admonishment with not a small amount of humiliation.  Now, don’t get all “Judgey McJudgerson” on me.  Clearly, this was behavior he learned from his father.  Duh.

We all have moments of being ashamed of ourselves or feeling lost.  I clearly have little desire to share with you some of my less humorous moments of humiliation and failure, but you can trust me to give you a wrong number if you want to verify some of the finer points of this story with one Tom Thieme.  Ha?

A much more disturbing parenting story came to me courtesy of a friend this week.  Actually, I heard it from two separate gals who shared it out of deep concern for our young people.  It involved a local young man, too young to even have a driver’s permit, who was maliciously bullying a fellow student through social media.  His words, intended for a relatively small audience, were nevertheless egregiously offensive and disgusting beyond anything I have ever seen written.  The family of the kiddo who made the offensive remarks is described to me as “very nice, good people.”  Not surprisingly, the intended victim here was largely regarded by other students as being in a state of great struggle.  My stomach was in knots.

After hearing this story, and one similar to it, during the same week that I turn on the television and see little aside from coverage of the most deadly mass shooting in America’s history, I have some thoughts to share with anyone who cares to hear them.  I hope you’ll keep reading.

“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

— John Adams, American patriot, 2nd President of the United States

Friends, if you’ve read my words before, you’ll know that I’m much more interested in laughing at life and sharing my “God sightings” than burdening any of you with my political views or lecturing anyone.  I realize that I am a sinner before God and I am interested in judging exactly NO ONE.  Therefore, I hope you will consider my thoughts here with that in mind.

Something is wrong with our country.  What’s wrong has a name.

It’s called secularism.  People are learning to live comfortably without God.

If you think you can stop reading now because ‘I’m not part of the problem”, I’d invite you to continue listening anyway.  It’s one of the most sincere forms of respect, a small act of caring.  I’d be glad to return the favor.

I feel called to echo a simple message that has been spoken by many learned and impressive folks over the last 200+ years in this country.  It feels like an important and worthy message to review today, and however inarticulately I might manage to do so, it bears repeating.

Intending to serve as a guide for his successors, in 1796, George Washington shared a farewell address that was essentially a condemnation of political parties.  That seems remarkably prophetic 221 years later, huh?  It’s a great speech.  Google it if you’re so inclined.  It’s what ELSE he said that really got my attention.

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Translation?  The government is powerless to contend successfully with a people who lack religion, and therefore, morality.

Great statesman, Abraham Lincoln warned, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next….Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

George Washington and John Adams sound like bright gentlemen who were way ahead of their time in this regard to my ears.  Who else had some like-minded words?

In 1982, Ronald Reagan said, “We can’t have it both ways.  We can’t expect God to protect us in a crisis and just leave Him over there on the shelf in our day-to-day living.  I wonder if sometimes He isn’t waiting for us to wake up, He isn’t maybe running out of patience.”

Then, in 1984 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Reagan continued further.  He declared, “America needs God more than God needs America.  If we ever forget that we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD, then we will be a Nation gone under.”

I watch the news and YET AGAIN find myself wincing and looking for the remote.  For the love of God, where are Chip and JoJo when I need them, I mutter silently. 

Here’s my concern. You can only come back to something you knew.  When we are on our second or third generation of being “unchurched”, there is nothing to come back to for many people when life, inevitably, throws them a curveball.  Personalized “google friendly” spirituality doesn’t help anyone build a relationship; it doesn’t speak to the emptiness even successful people feel.  Folks are doing their best.  Church or no church, Americans are largely intelligent, and grace is at work in them.  Common grace isn’t reserved for church going people.  Many of these families have been living for a generation or two with very little organized religion.  I’ve asked some questions.  I hear they’ve tried church, even a little, but left.  Maybe they go to church occasionally.  They might be Catholic in name, for example, but not in practice. They might be generous with their friends and in their community.  In the quiet of their hearts, though, there is a God-sized hole they truly may know little to nothing about.  Yet.

The kiddo I told you about earlier with the expanded vocabulary and not enough Jesus in his heart?  He was excused from his school for bullying.  My kneejerk reaction was “Good!  That’s ridiculous and cruel behavior and he deserves it!”  That interior failure of mine (demonizing a child, for goodness sakes) demonstrates how clearly I am part of the problem.  I’m working out how to pray for him and his hurting family without casting stones in my heart.  When I do that, I will love the way Jesus does.

There is no overnight solution or legislation that can be passed which will fix what is wrong with America.  Finger-wagging and judgmental blaming will not convert the hearts of people, but will only feed the demons of hatred.

My Christian friends, I propose the following as a solution.

  1. We must pray, acknowledging before God that we are a field hospital full of wounded people who don’t know what to do, but He does, and invoke His help for our nation and for the whole world.
  2. We must do a better job following Jesus, authentically, and BE THE LIGHT every single day.

Fellow parents?  We can’t act surprised when our children grow up to be confused and empty.  Do you hear me standing on some sort of moral high ground?  Then you hear me wrong.  I am not a superior Christian.  I need to work harder to put down my damn cell phone, look my own children in the eye and have all the difficult conversations.  I’m a Catholic Christian so I need to live that and love it and be transparent.  When I show up at mass, every single week, I show my children what it means to be part of a community who prays together.  I hope that shows my sons the way and they pass it along to the grandchildren I am hoping God blesses me with one day.  I’ve discussed with them that it matters that their possible future union, should God call them to married life, be entered into before God.  My measure of success as a mom to three testosterone filled goofballs is not keeping them safe.  I should try to do that too, of course.  My real task, though, is to direct them to Christ during this small window of precious time where their souls are entrusted to me.  Then, I need to pray like mad that God takes that mustard seed, makes a mountain out of it—and that you and your family do the same.

Each one of us is pitted and scarred by things that have been done to us, and things we have done to ourselves and others.  Leaders in our nation and at pulpits in our churches who are equally wounded humans say and do things which are certainly not of God— this should be of no surprise nor should it shake us from our mission.

We can be the sunshine, or we can be the darkness. Neither of those adjectives describes a political party.  I’m with Jesus.

In closing, allow me to pray for all who are reading.

Most loving Father, help all your children to know that we are your beloved sons and daughters.  Help us to know in our hearts You are love itself, that this necessarily means we are each loved infinitely more by You than even the most loving person here on Earth. Thank you, God for loving me.  Help me to know that Your grace is sufficient, no matter how dark the circumstances may appear.  Keep our hearts fixed on You that we may walk by the way of your righteousness through our time here and into eternity.  In Jesus name.  Amen









I’m Not a Project

“Of myself, O Lord, I am not able to entertain a good thought.”  — Mother Angelica

I’m a big fan of Mother Angelica.  If you’ve never heard of her, try Google.  She was a very accomplished woman, but what I liked about her most was her sense of humor and her very honest and conversational style in prayer.  For Mother, she felt prayer was primarily an unceasing daily conversation with the Divine.  She undoubtedly did it more eloquently than I do, but my prayer style is similar.  In that vain, here’s a very recent text exchange between myself and a pal.  In fact, I quickly considered her words divinely inspired in my day.

J:  Btw, you are NOT a project. You are someone’s he’s helping just like everyone else!  No more of that kind of talk outta you!

Me:  Ok, fair enough.  Clearly, I like to think of myself as extra special.

We were talking about a trainer I have been visiting, at her strong encouragement.  He’s helping me get moving again, and the bum knee I’ve been dragging behind me for a year is already seeing some improvement.  It’s a healthy and terrific choice, which Jen’s right, I should be celebrating.  When I said I was “extra special”, I was really kind of making fun of myself.  My terrific friend hadn’t really realized what she was doing, but she had engaged in a holy act of fraternal correction.


She called me out on my BS.  She hit the hammer on the head so hard, without even knowing it, that it made me laugh aloud.  We’ve all got our flaws and this is certainly chief among mine.  I have this way of interiorly making any mistakes or sinful behavior on my own part THE GREATEST.  In my mind, I am the champion at being terrible.  Way to go, Shelly!  You win!!  You’re the worst ever in the history of horrible!?  Ha?

Choosing to invest in me is a really, really big deal in my head and heart.  It’s exceptionally difficult.  I am super proud of myself for seeking out help here and going for it.   Blink an eye writing a check for my high school kid to go workout with his basketball guy or to send my little man to some sports camp or whatever?  Nope.  I am also always genuinely thrilled for my hubby when he decides to go play a round of golf and blow off some steam.  It’s so good for them.  Doing the same for me?  The guilt makes my stomach hurt.  Even a single word from another human which might suggest selfish motivations makes me cringe and re-consider.

Seeing more clearly this week, it’s been revealed that many of my choices and thought processes have been not of God.  What I feel like God IS SAYING?  Get over yourself, Shelly.  Write the check, and do the work, and let’s keep talking.

Sharing this lays me a little bare.  Here’s the thing.  I think a lot of women have this interior chatter which is similarly unhelpful.   Their particular issue or need might be different from mine, but for whatever reason, we aren’t worth it, or we don’t deserve it, or we just plain stink.  To God though?  We are His.  Simple as that.  When I love His daughter as I should, I am loving Him.

The same goes for you.

Love your neighbor as yourself?  The Golden Rule has long made me squeamish.  I actually had a close friend tell me it should be amended to read Love yourself as your neighbor.  The thing is, we can’t really do what God wants us to do with that mindset.  She’s the one who made me realize I’m not the only goofball out there and it’s probably past the moment for the “challenge flag”.

Gals.  You’re amazing and beloved.  Mothers are always going to be a target of the king of lies.  Stop listening.  I can’t stop from thinking today and praying about all those young people in Manchester, England.  The face of evil wants to break the hearts of their mothers with their pre-mature deaths, and he wants to keep the beautiful young people from growing up to love the next generation in the same way they were loved.

Ladies, we are raising beautiful souls.  It’s the most important work in the world.   The devil is real and he wants us to fail.  From the middle of Indiana or the south side of Chicago or wherever we are,  in our little lives, we have to understand who we are in Christ.  We are His eyes, hands, heart.  We have to pray with love and know we are clothed with dignity and strength.

My wise and honest friend Jen and the depressing saga on the news today have reminded me that Jesus is the Lord of the universe and evil does NOT have the last word.

Prayer for Confidence in the Future

Lord, fear of the future fills my soul and I realize how little I trust You.  Your Power created the universe and Your providence takes care of the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, and the tiniest insect.  How much more will You take care of me?  Tell me, my dearest friend and guide, what prevents me from possessing that love which chases out what is unholy and that confidence which overcomes every obstacle?  Never let me forget that I am here to do Your will and that You stand by me no matter what happens because You love me.  Amen.


P.S.  Lord, if you could keep me from coming to blows with the nocturnal college kid?  Yeah, that would be great too.  Peace out.

If you think I’m bad with God…

If you think I’m bad with God, imagine me without him. – Evelyn Waugh


The durges of the day hung in my head.

These 40 days of Lent, O Lord, with you we fast and pray, teach us to discipline our wills and follow Lord, your way.

Whatever.  How many more times will I have to listen to that dreadful thing?  Or there’s this cheerful Catholic ditty.  NOT.

We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do.  We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew.

I mean, SERIOUSLY?  I didn’t know if I could do 40– scratch that– 46 days of Lent.  The 4o thing is actually a lie.  Do the math.

A harmless and uninformed CVS clerk quizzed me about the “dirt” on my forehead last year on Ash Wednesday.  She’d never heard of Lent and I’m not sure I did a great job encouraging her curiosity with my arm full of bandaids, hairspray, Excedrin and fairly inarticulate babbling about Catholicism while I dug for my Visa with the durges still playing in my head.


As Lent approaches this year, I find myself recalling this morning a year ago and that moment with the CVS clerk.  I am in bed with the flu.  There’s nothing like a great battle to keep a glass of sprite down to clear one’s mind of all that doesn’t really matter.

Time for some soul searching.  Stay with me.  I’ll eventually make a point?

So busy have I been, it occurs to me, so wrapped up in my carpool runs and basketball games that when my good friend called a couple weeks ago asking me to take her downtown to IU Methodist for a doctor’s appointment—I asked her to keep looking.

This is a dear friend who has suffered so much over the last two decades from illness that it has at times made me wonder why God is so cruel.  I simply cannot do her history justice here in a few words.  So that one can grasp the gravity– we’re talking multiple bone marrow transplants, brain surgery, skin cancer and that’s just for starters.  She’s gracefully endured emotional and physical suffering that is staggering by anyone’s estimate.  She’s grateful for every blessing—a holy woman of God.

Even after she said, “It’s okay, Shelly, you were just my first call, but I need to tell you something soon” it didn’t faze me.  I was wrapped up in myself.  Face of Christ?  Not so much.

Good and gracious God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 

Why on earth didn’t I just say yes?

As a Catholic Christian, I know I need my savior.  I go to mass because I realize that I am a sinner.  There’s no self-hatred in that.  It’s just truth.  If we understand what it means to believe in the incarnation, then we know we are in need of redemption.

Purification and enlightenment.  That’s what Lent is intended to be about.  Absolutely, I should make more loving, less selfish choices with those I adore (see above).  BUT ITS MORE THAN THAT.  What can I do to help me grow closer to Jesus, to be more like him in my life?  What is in my life that can’t remain if I truly desire an intimate relationship with Christ?

God is love.  That’s all he’s got in his bag, says one of my favorite theologians, Bishop Robert Barron.  He points out that God doesn’t only love those who love him back.  His sun rises and sets for the just and the unjust.  When we love, we participate in the holiness of God.  Simple as that.

Love is not a sentimental feeling.  It’s an act of the will.  True love is to will the good of the other, to break out of the deep pit of my own self-regard.  If you “love” hoping to get something in return, that is not love at all.  Love those who are not going to return the favor.  If you love those who are not likely to love you in return, then you have tested the integrity of your love.

Let me explain my Lenten thoughts another way.  Here is some pain shared by some of the people in my life in recent days.  For each person below who spoke to me of their frustration and hurt, the folks they were discussing set off their personal “JAS”.

I really hate myself sometimes.   

The school didn’t welcome my son.   

The coach lacks integrity.   

His employer dismissed him without cause after decades of loyal service.   

I’ve been bullied and disrespected but no one even cares.

My family rejected me.   

My friends left me out.   

Our grown children take advantage of us.   

My husband says cruel things.   

I am unappreciated.

So, it’s all about prayer, fasting and almsgiving at this time of the year, right?  Priests are really reliable when it comes to those three words during Lent. The goal there is purification and redemption, acts designed to make us holy as God is holy.

In other words…our little sun?  We need to make it shine on the people who slather us in awesome sauce AND those who make us want to activate our Jackass Alert System.  (The fact that I have invented this acronym should tell you a lot about the work I still have to do.)  Our call is so completely counter cultural.

Lent is a good time to be intentional in our quest for holiness.  The path of love is not the path of indirect self-interest.  My job for 40 days (and beyond) is to make my sun shine on the good and bad alike.  If I am going to be like God, my bag needs to be full of love.

Praying for my enemies and all who set off my internal JAS, fasting from things that pull me away from God (social media?), giving my time and resources to bring light to others—all of these are better choices for me than giving up diet coke for lent this year.

If the spirit of God dwells in me, reminds Bishop Barron, then my mind, body, sexuality, friendship, private life, public life, entertainment should be turned toward love.  What’s love?  Willing the good of the other.

Imagine what our Facebook and Twitter feeds, our television news programs, our families would look like if all of us who profess to be Christians tried this for the next 40 days?

Instead of hiding it, I place my sinfulness this lent before God.  It’s all yours, Jesus.  Nothing will I leave out.  My dream is to be holy. Draw me closer, Lord.

Sometimes we have the dream but we are not ourselves ready for the dream.  We have to grow to meet it.  –Louis L’Amour

P.S.  Here’s a link to a nice lenten prep video from a priest who makes me smile.  I hope you enjoy it!



Pollyanna Week

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. –St. Basil the Great 

When my son was 10, he and his friend Jake came running to me declaring with enthusiasm that they had decided what they were going to do with their lives.

One cannot overstate the absolute “squirreliness” of the bright light that was Jake at this particular age.  I braced myself for the split second between the door slamming behind them both and the beginning of his loud declaration.  ‘WE’RE GOING TO BE PRIESTS, MRS. THIEME!!”

“Well, that’s a noble thought, gentlemen. What makes….”

“It’s the PERFECT JOB!” They both chimed spontaneously. “Your house is totally free, and there are no girls living with you, and you work ONE DAY A WEEK!  We’re going to be priests together and play Xbox all day long.  It will be awesome!!”

“That does sound pretty sweet.  Why don’t you fellas go outside and play in traffic a while, huh?”

THWAAAP! With that slam of the screen door, the silly ying-yangs were back outside getting muddy.

It’s funny how memories come flooding back to your mind from time to time.  This gem was called forth this week, almost against my will, as I picked up a skinny vanilla latte yesterday.  I went inside the coffee shop on this particular afternoon because the line of cars was wrapped around the building.  There was my mistake, I scolded myself interiorly.  Interacting with the world face to face PRIOR to the caffeine is just not always an idea laced with wisdom.

“Those guys are a joke.” said a woman within earshot just behind me.

“What parish are you again?”

“I hate priests. I really do.  What cush life.  They work like 2 days a week……………..”

And so there I stood thinking, “Well, now, she shouldn’t do that.  I should tell her that…” Let it go.

That was the instant the old Jake and Drew life of priesthood and Xbox entered my mind, and I began to giggle. It just struck me funny that the shade these gals were throwing on the priesthood (which is chock full of hardworking guys I just love) was essentially the same ridiculous view shared by Jake and Drew’s childish babble years ago at age 10.  God just gets me, I smiled.  The giggle happened audibly.  Like, out loud just a little.  Here I was trying to LET IT GO and now I’ve gone and done it, I thought, as I saw the glare behind me.

“Umm, excuse me?  Did we say something funny?” Her tone was in the snarky genre.

“Well, yes.  You kind of did, but I don’t think it was on purpose.  Hi, I’m Shelly by the way. I’ve just paid for your coffee.”

“Oh. Oh.  Well…”

“You’re welcome.”

Is there a point to my rambling?  Well, yes, there is.

I had just come from confession.   At said confession, I had basically shared with my favorite confessor about how the world needs less of my opinion and more of my holiness.  So, to follow up that decade of the rosary I had just said as a penance with a smart mouthed defense of my view of what an amazing gift authentic priestly life is for all of Starbucks to hear—in my never quiet voice—well it just seemed ill-timed.

What the world needs from me is optimism and sunshine as well as reassurance and comfort.  Jesus girls should be about His good news.  You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  Whatever I say should be constructive and life building.  That includes to myself, by the way.

No more pity parties when things don’t go my way or when things get tough. You know what happens in a pity party?  Satan brings the chips! I have to get up and do what I have to do and thank the good Lord for the day.  If I’m beginning to feel resentful or angry or whatever, I’ve got to heed the wise words of Carrie Fisher.

“Resentment is like drinking poison….and hoping the other person will die.”

Princess Leia was wiser than you thought, huh?  Same.  An “evil” priest gave me that jewel too—via text on a day when I was in fact drinking that poison.  It made me stop and smile just like my gracious God in the coffee shop.  He’s right here beside me, a fact He shows me constantly…so what more could I want?

It doesn’t pay to even dab in negativity.

Pope Francis quite agrees with me.  It’s true.  He said this week that “news may be good or bad, true or false.  The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it’s up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds.  Our minds are always grinding, but it is up to use to choose what to feed them.”

He acknowledged that naïve optimism isn’t necessarily called for either—meaning we shouldn’t be blind to evil.  He simply proposed that “all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent” which happens interiorly to us all.

Exuding positivity requires humility.  I have to admit, I missed the feeling of superiority I occasionally get from using a cynical comment or some puncturing humor with the cranky anti-priest gals at the coffee shop.  A willingness to choose sunshine requires modesty—and I realize that maybe makes me sound slightly mawkish.  The thing is this.  I want to be a lot more like one of those joyous people who draws me in when I am around them. You know them and so do I.  Are they not THE BEST??

A prayer attributed to St. Augustine includes the line “shield your joyous ones”.

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Jesus Christ

Rest your weary ones; bless your dying ones;

Soothe your suffering ones; pity your afflicted ones;

Shield your joyous ones.

And all for your love’s sake.

I read it years ago and wondered why the heck St. A worried about the joyous ones?  It’s easy to be heavy.  It’s hard to be light.  That’s why.

Are there joyous people in your life who buoy your spirits and can be counted on to cushion your anxiety?  Maybe now’s the time to make an effort to use your good cheer to support them.  Play the “glad game” and call it “Pollyanna week”.  Be their sunshine.

I’m brand new today.  CLEAN SLATE.  Yeah me!   I’m not going to dwell on little hurts and irritations.   I can’t be who God means me to be if am making snide comments and unleashing my opinion on all.

I’m calling a Pollyanna week.  There will be positivity, optimism, and listening.  I’m going to be grateful for all that’s going on in my life, and for the gift of faith and be at peace.  Less me, more God.

Who’s with me?

Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

 -St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta

Peace out, folks!



P.S.  When her friend lingered in the coffee shop, sweet gal #2 stopped me in the parking lot.  She said, “We weren’t being very charitable earlier.  Thank you for the coffee.”

You get more flies with honey.  It’s true.