On Not Taking it Personally When our Kids Fail

Historically, I have struggled when the young people in my care make poor choices. I have tended to take their decisions personally, and to see those moments as a failure on my part, thinking that their choices reflect badly on me.

As a parent, this has caused me to turn inward on myself, ruminating on how I am failing my kids and students, because, obviously, if I weren’t, they would be perfect little saints.

Even writing that sentence, I have to smile. Because removed from the heat of the moment, I can see how silly it is to think that. But in the moment itself, that is exactly the kind of thinking I have tended to engage in. If my children or students choose poorly, then, to me, that means I am somehow failing as a parent or teacher.

However, in doing this, I make my place in the grand scheme of things distorted, larger than life, out of proportion. As if me doing everything right (an impossible task) will somehow result in the people in my care doing everything right as well.


When I set myself back down in my proper place amongst the bigger picture, and zoom out even a little bit, I can gain a better perspective.

For example, it isn’t God’s fault that we choose to sin. It isn’t a bad reflection on God, and it doesn’t mean that God is anything less than a good, good Father to us.

In fact, our ability to choose is a reflection of His goodness to us.

Those opportunities to choose—even if we choose wrongly, are chances to learn and carve away those parts of ourselves that are not yet fully conformed to love. It allows us to choose love in the first place. We need to see the difference between where we are now and where we have the potential to be so we know how to orient ourselves moving forward. Our failures are a beautiful opportunity to learn and to move closer to Him.

The same applies to me and my relationships with my children and students. As a person entrusted with young people both in my home and in my classroom, I am learning to view these opportunities as a gift. When they make poor choices, I can get a good look at areas where my children and students have an opportunity to grow in character and holiness. And I have the honor of helping to guide them on that path.

Click to tweet:
Our failures are a beautiful opportunity to learn and to move closer to Him. #catholicmom

Those moments have, in some ways, very little to do with me at all, other than the fact that they are opportunities for me to step up in my role as one who guides young people, and to help them turn back to love. To grow their virtue muscles. To help them see the difference between who they are today and who they can be, and to spur them forward. To encourage them. To help light the way.

When I view things like that, I put myself in my proper place. I put their choices in their proper place. And I can even rejoice at this thing called Free Will, and the opportunity it offers us to be sanctified throughout our lives so, when the time comes, we will be ready to meet God, Love itself, with arms wide open.

And so, in the end, it isn’t a poor reflection on me when the youth in my care make the wrong choice. In fact, it is an honor to be present, and to be ever at the ready to help.


Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Mom

Carving Time For Rest

As an introvert mom to four and Catholic school teacher, I know two things to be true. I love working with youth and being a mom. I also know that I am often overstimulated, and that in order to do my job and my parenting well, I need to set aside regular time to rest.

Easier said than done in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, but when I don’t rest, many of my less-than-amazing traits shine through. The impatience, the feeling overwhelmed, the irritability. The need has always been there, but rest has looked different at different phases of life for me. There hasn’t been a magic rest recipe that has worked well all the time. There have been times when I have tried to rigidly schedule rest, but I found that certain days I need certain things more than others, and sometimes the scheduled “rest” didn’t match what I needed at all, and therefore it felt more like a burden than anything else.


So I let go of the rigidity, and recently, here is what I’ve done that I’ve found helpful. And I hope some of you may find it helpful, too.

I started by making a list of things that recharge me. Things that, for me, constitute as rest. Some items on the list were a hot bath, reading a book, enjoying a nice glass of wine with my husband, writing or creating something, taking a walk, prayer, journaling, just sitting in a quiet space, taking a nap, doing a workout, and so on.

And then, rather than sticking to some regimented schedule of predetermined rest activities, I allow myself the freedom to choose what would best help me in that given moment. I do this by taking care to be mindful throughout the week of how I’m feeling. Am I overstimulated? Maybe I need to let my husband take care of making dinner so I can go enjoy a quiet bath when he gets home from work. Am I low energy? Some days, I might cure feeling tired with an energetic workout. Others, I may shut my eyes for a little while for a nap.

I’ve learned that right now a lot of my rest involves accepting the introvert inside me and stepping away from people for a little while, whatever that looks like. When I do that, I’m much better for everyone when I return.

One thing that remains relatively constant is setting aside regular time to pray. This often happens early in the morning, before the rest of the house has stirred. It’s not natural for me to get up at 5:00 AM, or even 5:30, but it is the best chance I have at quiet before the day begins for everyone else in my home. I do this four or five times per week, and it acts as an anchor to my days.

Click to tweet:
It can be very easy for us moms to push aside our need for rest, to put the needs of others above our own. #CatholicMom

It can be very easy for us moms to push aside our need for rest, to put the needs of others above our own. I often smile when I think that even God rested, and I feel the value of rest in my soul when I see how much better I am for those I love and serve when I prioritize resting too.

Rest will not look the same for every person, and it probably won’t look the same every day, but if we can take time to recognize the things that recharge us, and allow ourselves to take the time when needed, then I trust that we are better equipped to live our calling in whatever phase of life God has us in today.


(Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Mom)

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The First Day I Chose to Go to Mass

This December marks the five year anniversary of the first time I ever went to Mass by choice.

I had been to Catholic Masses before…as a baby, for my own baptism and that of my brother. I had been to funeral Masses. A few weddings. I had begrudgingly and awkwardly joined JP’s very devout family at Mass when we visited them so as not to cause ripples.

But there was something very different about the first time I decided I wanted to go to Mass, the first time I chose it for myself.

The Pre-Conditions

First of all, the conditions to led me, a once anti-Catholic evangelical, to seek out a Catholic Mass in the first place.

I had gone from a very fervent young Christian, to a disillusioned young adult inside the walls of various Protestant churches over a number of years. I was struggling to reshape the faith of my childhood into something with the depth required for my adult experiences. My own journey of faith began as a strong believer when I was a child and teen, but transitioned to a life as a near-agnostic in my early 20’s. That shift called into serious question the Protestant doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” because my own experience proved that one can start out with true belief but deny it later on. Our foray through a variety of denominations brought me to doubt individual interpretation of Scriptiure- if it’s that clear, why do all these churches disagree on issues both big and small? I grew weary of the hyper-emotional structure of worship, and the expectation that I developed equating a good church service with feeling emotionally fulfilled.

To top it off, no one could tell me what the early Church looked like, just as I was beginning to suspect that the Americanized version of Protestant Christianity wasn’t it. I wasn’t sure if what I was looking for even existed, and if it didn’t, I didn’t think I could remain in good conscience a sola-scriptura, once-saved-always-saved, American Protestant for much longer. Or, if this was all that Christianity was, I didn’t know if I would remain a Christian at all.

Cue me, sitting on my sofa, realizing that among these and many other things, I was possibly starting to think like…gulp…a Catholic. I hungered for a connection to the history of my faith. I wanted something deeper than an emotionally-driven experience could offer. I wanted sound theological depth.

I didn’t really know how to bring this up to JP because I had persuaded him away from actively practicing his Catholic faith early in our marriage. But I sprung the question on him one snowy night in downtown Racine while we were out at dinner. I asked, simply: “Do you want to go to Mass?” Shocked, JP shared with me that he had been praying for our unity in private, and had himself felt like he was being led back to the Catholic Church.

We got home from dinner and I sent a message to one of my friends, who I suspected might be Catholic:

The Mass Itself

Two days later, on December 6th, JP and I led our (then) two children through the doors of St. Lucy Parish in Racine, Wisconsin for the 10:30 Mass. Even though I had been to Masses here and there, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do throughout the different components. But, on that Sunday, my experience in a Catholic church that early Sunday in December was markedly different from any Mass I had been to before.

I had chosen to be there. And, at last, my heart was open to what I might find.

I don’t remember a ton of specifics, other than the distinct feeling that if what I was looking for existed anywhere at all, it likely existed here. The very Church I had sometimes ignored and other times argued against, certain that it was filled with irrelivant, extranneous, anti-Biblical teachings, now might just be my only chance to remain in the Christian faith.

I do remember that there were many families with young children sitting altogether in the pews, which impacted me because at the church we went to a the time, we sent our kids to Sunday School in different rooms. I remember that there wasn’t any sense at all that this service was designed to cater to me, another marked contrast to the hip coffee-house, welcoming committees of the Protestant churches we had recently attended. The music was traditional. The components themselves were somewhat foreign, and yet oddly familiar too. I caught in them some echoes of the fragments that Protestant churches have held onto- Scripture readings, an act of contritian, Communion. But here, inside the Catholic Mass, they weren’t fragments of some lost, greater whole. I remember trying to piece together how it was I grew to be so anti-Catholic in the first place, when it was clear I knew so little about it.

The Aftermath

My friend met us after Mass and, after expressing my continued interest, she helped us get connected with RCIA at St. Lucy’s. We enrolled immediately. Inside the walls of that little RCIA room, I asked every question my heart had been wrestling through, knownig that I had to leave everything on the table. Based on what I had seen in multiple Christian churches over nearly 30 years, if the answers couldn’t be found in the Catholic Church, then they probably couldn’t be answered by anyone, and the Christian faith was a sham. One week later, we attended my last church service at the Protestant Church we had been a part of. I have many friends who love Jesus who remain Evangelical, but I could no longer look at it the same way as I once had.

And the rest, as they say, is history. That early December night, where the snow fell like wisps of cotton outside the restaurant window, when I asked JP if he wanted to go to Mass, was less than four months away from the day I’d stand in front of a full Cathedral in St. Paul Minnesota. Easter Vigil, 2016, when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.

Protestant churches do a really good job of making new guests feel welcome. They greet you, connect you with a small group, offer you donuts and coffee. They give you great concert-quality music and an inspiring message. My first intentional visit to a Catholic Mass didn’t contain any of those things to the same extent I had been used to before. But I didn’t need any of that to be drawn in to the Catholic Church, at least not once my heart was open to it. The Mass drew me in, not with bells and whistles and trends and the promise of friendship with other people like me. It drew me in with beauty, and history, and, above all, rock-solid Truth.


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The Inescapable Beauty of Hope

Breathing Hope

So much of my life is framed by hope. I hope the kids will sleep well, I hope the weather will be nice, I hope I’ll have time to drink my coffee. Hope, hope, hope. Little things like that. And big things, too. I hope I’ll be a published author some day. I hope my kids will grow up to be kind, good adults. I hope JP and I will live long lives and be able to see our children’s children grow.

But there is also a deeper hope than this. And it is also part of my every breath. It is something that brings me such joy, even when things don’t go as I hope on a small scale, or even big.

And it is the hope that there is something more than just the physical world we encounter during our short time on this earth.

A Crutch of Hope

For example, I have to hope that this intense love I feel for my children and my husband is more than just biochemistry for biochemistry’s sake. I have to hope that humanity is an echo of God, and familial love is an echo of heaven. I have to hope that my attraction to beauty and harmony comes from something deep and vast. And that my anger at injustice comes from a connection to an ultimate source of Good.

Some people may say I’m weak for leaning on a crutch like that. But I’m okay with going through my life on a crutch of hope. A few years ago, when JP and I were figuring out the worldview by which we would live our lives, I experimented to see if I could find meaning dissociated from a higher power. And maybe some people can. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to a place where I could believe we didn’t have souls, and that there was no ultimate source of Good, and there was no point, and never would be for our existence, and then along those lines still believe my life had value, or that it mattered how I treat others, or that justice of any kind was important other than to further survival in a segment of our species so we could live long enough to be burned up by the sun.

If I lost that hope, I couldn’t find a way to justify, other than a desire to procreate, why I would have brought three more meaningless souls into the world. But if there is hope, then procreation is co-creating with the Ultimate Creator, who is also the ultimate source of Good. My children, like all of humanity, carry souls and are stamped with the image of the Creator.

So, for these and many reasons, I actively, and with great intention, chose hope.

My True North

Hope in something more is my True North. It is the direction by which everything else in my life is set. It’s how I frame my own minutes spent on this earth. It’s how I frame my actions towards other people. It is at the very foundation of the value and dignity I believe every human inherently carries by virtue that they exist.

It is this same hope that underlies my belief that there is still a chance my aunt, who we lost to suicide in February, has found or is finding peace and healing. That her story doesn’t end with ultimate despair. That all our stories don’t just end.

I choose to believe that Aslan will defeat the White Witch. That Good will defeat Evil. That wrongs done on this earth will be made right in a way that will more than atone for the suffering people faced.

Once I decided to live a life believing something bigger than us out there, I also chose to believe that higher power is all Good, is all Love, and is all Truth. That next step helps me to further frame how I build my life.

If There Is…

Because if there is Good, then it matters that I learn what is Good, and that I choose Good over its opposite.

Because if there is Love, then it matters that I learn what is Love, and that I live a life built around willing the good of those whose lives cross paths with mine.

If there is Truth, then it matters that I learn what is Truth. That I sift through my own personal biases and preferences, and even my own selfishness in order to recognize Truth and assent to it.

A Life Well-Lived

I hope to look back on my life one day, and have peace that it was well-lived. Lived for others, lived in the promise of something more, something beyond, something that is the source of all Good and all Love and all Truth.

It gives me great peace to hope we are all a small part of something bigger, something ultimately Good. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks I’m foolish for leaning on a crutch. That person doesn’t have to answer for the minutes of my life, or for how I choose to experience my existence. But in the name of hope, I will always hope that all those I encounter are able to find their peace. The compass by which they can walk this journey of life.

And that, in a nutshell, is why and how I have chosen to frame my life through a lens of hope.



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What’s The Deal with Catholic Guilt?

I think we’ve all seen or heard someone make a joke about “Catholic Guilt” at one point or another.

This article explores what Catholic Guilt is, really. And if it’s actually funny. Or, on the other hand, if it a misrepresentation of something meant for our good.

What is Sin?

It’s important to get on the same page about sin before we even attempt to talk about this issue. Let’s turn to the Catechism to get our definition.

1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.125 

(emphasis mine)

Using this definition, I often break down the idea of sin to conclude it is any time where I choose to serve myself rather than another. It’s desiring my perceived good over my actual good. It’s refusing to love. And in refusing love, I am refusing God because God is Love itself.

Sin wounds my relationship with God, because I’m actively rejecting Him. It hurts my soul. It makes me sick.

When I think about sin now, I think about any one of us, if we gave in freely to our own passions, distorted from God’s good intent, might even find ourselves on earth in our own sort of personal hell.

Sin is serious business. But, thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.

My Protestant Practice

Before becoming Catholic, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ways I rejected  or blocked God (Love) out of my life. Some of the churches I attended would have a moment for such reflections. But it was usually just that, a moment. And, to be honest, in those moments I most often thought “meh- I think I’m doing pretty good, comparatively speaking.” I shake my head at my past self now. And I’m still not exactly sure who I was comparing myself to… those convicted of crimes against humanity? The people in pews beside me, as some sort of holiness version of keeping up with the Joneses? Just the general sense that, in the grand scale of humanity, I was doing okay?

And then the service would move on and I would move on and I continue along my merry way. I knew I could ask God for forgiveness, but as someone who had come from a Once Saved, Always Saved tradition (for much of my life), I didn’t have an ingrained sense that my confession mattered. I had ‘invited Jesus into my heart’ as a child. And if you are Once Saved, Always Saved, then the moment you say that prayer, it’s a done deal.

Now, you can read more about how I learned that perspective didn’t fit with my actual life experience in my Coming Home Network conversion story by clicking here, but suffice it to say, I had accepted Jesus as a child, then possibly crossed over into rejecting Him as a young adult before I made my way back through the Catholic Church.

I learned through that journey that my choices do matter. They have eternal impact. And yes, everything good I do is by the grace of God, but I’m not an automaton. God can work through me to show his love and healing to this world, but He needs my yes to do it.

And so I’d better pay attention to the areas in my life where I’m letting Love in, and also to the areas in my life where I’m not.


The Value in Examining Our Conscience

I worry about the fading of the concept of confession in general as the trees of Christian separation continue to branch farther and farther away from their historical roots. And I have personally found immense value in examining my conscience on a regular basis, followed by a good Confession.

But first, what is an Examination of Conscience?

An Examination of Conscience is a beautiful exercise we do as Catholics, where we take stock of our lives and our heart. We spend time praying about and thinking about the areas where we are letting God (Love) lead the way, and the areas where we are turning from Him (Love) and choosing to serve ourselves first. We take an honest look at where we are being selfish, or prideful, or fearful, or careless, or impatient, or any number of things.

There are many ways to examine our conscience. Click here for a link to some excellent resources that walk you straight through the entire process.

But we don’t just leave it there when we’re done. We aren’t meant to just acknowledge our shortcomings and sit around feeling bad about ourselves. We know we have the ability to make a change. We can grow in virtue and holiness. We can turn our “No” to God, into a resounding “Yes.”

Once we have examined ourselves, we are ready to make a Confession.

Confession: A Healing Sacrament

It’s no secret how much I love Confession.

Confession is so many things. But one thing it is not. It is not a rote recital of our wrongs just for the sake of checking an item off a list.

It is a Healing Sacrament. And for good reason.

When we go to Confession, we sit before a Priest, who is standing in place of Jesus for us. We share with him those struggles we identified in ourselves. And we receive, not only God’s forgiveness to us, but we also receive penance, our medicine to help heal the wounds created by our sin.

We leave Confession with the Grace of God to continue to say yes to Him. And if and when we fail, we know Confession is always there, to help us right our path. To help us to learn to love others better than we could on our own. To help sanctify us, and to flood us with God’s Amazing Grace so we can effectively live as His hands and feet.

Back to Catholic Guilt

Nothing about the Catholic Church desires for us to hobble around, eternally burdened by our shortcomings. And long story short, anyone who has been haunted by Catholic Guilt in their life, has taken these beautiful practices meant for our own good, for our own healing, and for whatever reason, allowed them to become distorted.

When I’m carrying some burdens inside my heart, I might know it’s time to go to Confession. So I just set up a time and go. I know I want to let as much of God (Love) into my life as possible, and if I can be honest with myself about when I’m not doing that, then I can experience healing and let His Grace help me make different choices.

There’s a huge difference between the conviction we need to make something right, and then doing something to heal what we’ve broken, and the notion of “Catholic Guilt.” Guilt, when left to its own devices and void of the connection to healing, can turn us inward and makes us focus dangerously on ourselves. And when we focus on ourselves, we are entering a realm that is unhealthy for our souls. We are entering the realm of sin. 

So, no, Catholic Guilt isn’t funny. It’s actually probably a sign that someone has experienced pain in some form or another inside the Church, and have not yet found their way to the healing. If we know people who struggle with this, or who have left the Church because of it, it is so vital that we live Grace in our own lives. Forgiveness in our own lives. The joy of healing in our own lives.

We have the opportunity to be an example to those who misunderstand our faith, to those who are seeking, and to those who might be confused. Let us be an example of the Church’s beauty as we seek, more and more each and every day, to choose Love.



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10 Tips for Those Entering The Catholic Church This Easter

Two years ago this Easter Vigil, I entered the Catholic Church. Here are 10 things I found helpful when approaching my own Confirmation. I hope they are helpful to any of you out there who will be Confirmed this year! Several of the items on this list are helpful for us all to remember, no matter how many years we have been a part of the Catholic faith.

1. Go to Confession

This is a good idea for anyone as we come up to Easter. Let us make sure we are turning towards God in our lives, with our choices and our heart, so we are ready to receive Him and celebrate the joys of Easter Sunday. Let us bring our struggles before God, and let him help us change. Let us get right with our God.

2. Go to as Many Services as You Can

The days leading up to Easter Sunday can be a profoundly spiritual experience for someone entering the Catholic Church. If you can attend the Triduum services, that is amazing. It helps put our faith into context as we approach this most significant celebration. It gives you time to pray, to connect with God, and to prepare your heart.

3. Look Around

When you stand in front of the congregation on Easter Vigil in the moments after you are anointed with oil and confirmed into the Catholic Church, take a moment to look around you. Take a moment to appreciate that you are in full union with the Church established by Jesus himself 2,000 years ago. The Church that has remained connected to its history and its source through apostolic succession. You are connected, in the most powerful way on earth, to the roots of your Christian faith.

4. Take Pictures

I am so thankful to have pictures from the night of my Confirmation. I can just see the joy on my face. It takes me right back there, right back to that moment when I knew I was finally, and fully home- as much as I am going to be before heaven. Whatever your path to get here, it’s worth recording and remembering and celebrating. It’s a hugely significant moment in your life. Document it.

Yay Catholic!!!

5. Reflect

When my own Confirmation approached, I took some time to look back and was so, so thankful for all the bits and pieces along the way that led me to find peace, and Truth, and such a firm foundation. So, take some time. What was your path like to get here? Was it smooth, difficult? Did you wrestle through doubts or did you walk a path of peace? Where do you see God’s hand leading you? Who were the people who helped you along the way? How would you tell your story? However you got here, it’s beautiful. It’s amazing. Give it the weight it deserves, and be sure to give thanks.

6. Get Connected with Other Converts

One of the things that helped me the most,both when things were good and when things were difficult in my transition to the Catholic Church, was being connected with other converts. Regardless of how similar or different our backgrounds were, I found I had so much in common with those who walked the path before I did, in so many ways. This gave me encouragement and strength. It still does to this day. This connection can take many forms. I read stories of converts in books like Journey’s Home. I joined the Coming Home Network, which provides resources, articles, and community online and in print for those of us making our way back to Rome. Watch Journey Home episodes on EWTN. Keep an eye open for other converts in your parish. We all share a common bond. Let’s continue to walk alongside each other even after Confirmation.

7. Go Big

One of the most fun things for me around the time of my Confirmation was getting caught up on my Catholic “Swag.” I was so excited to receive some Rosaries. We got a Mary statue for our backyard. Bought some books on the Saints. Put up a legitimate crucifix in our home. Holy water font. Had things blessed by a priest. I gotta be honest, the weeks leading up to Easter still get me excited and I just bought this Nerdy Catholic Tee (not making fun of it- that’s what the company is called!)

mockup-57853159.jpgMy lovely, but cradle Catholic husband asked me what on earth that meant. When we become Catholic, we call it Crossing the Tiber. And this shirt is awesome. So, if you are feeling inspired, add some of those items to your own life and home. They are tools to help us keep our faith in our hearts and minds at all times. They are tools to help us reflect, remember and pray. And, at least in my case at the time, I had some serious catching up to do.

8. Study up on Easter Vigil

Friends, if you have never been to an Easter Vigil service before. It is amazing and beautiful and symbolic and The. Best. It is also long. It will help so much if you can take some time to understand what is happening and why at each part of the service. Here’s a primer on the USCCB website. I found I was able to embrace the beauty of the Catholic Church once I understood what it was. You will be able to get the most out of the service if you do too.

9. Be Patient

If you are already connected to your parish community- great! If you don’t yet feel connected, I encourage you to keep pressing on. Sometimes it takes time to get to know people in a Catholic parish. This is a huge, global church. Depending on the background you are coming from, and depending on the parish you attend, many things might be different from what you’re used to. There might not be an active home/small group structure, there might not be donuts and coffee after Mass. But there will be people there that you will connect with. It might just take some more time. Two years in, JP and I have found some very dear friends in our parish, and in the Catholic community in our town. We recognize people at Mass on Sunday and stay for a bit and chat. It didn’t happen overnight, but somewhere between year 1 and year 2 we got there. We weren’t feeling lonely anymore. Not only do I now know I’m spiritually home, but going to Mass actually feels like home in the way of the fact that our parish family is there with us too. Be patient. Connection will come.

10. Celebrate!

Whether you will be alone with your sponsor at Mass on Easter vigil, or if there will be pews filled with people who have come alongside you on that day, Confirmation is something to celebrate. Celebrate in whatever way is right for you. A dinner before Mass, some time in Adoration, taking a walk, announcing it to the world. Stay true to yourself, but celebrate. Celebrate the beauty of Easter, the beauty of our faith, and the beauty of crossing the bridge into full unity with the Catholic Church.


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Morning Air Interview: “Being Gift in a Take World”

Hello friends!

Lorelei was interviewed this week for Relevant Radio’s Morning Air program about her recent article: “Being Gift in a Take World.”

Check it out by clicking here! She’s the first guest right at the beginning of the show.


-JP and Lorelei

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Lorelei’s Guest Appearance on the Catholic Vitamins Podcast!

Hello This Catholic Family Friends!

Lorelei was recently interviewed by the podcast Catholic Vitamins. She was able to speak with Deacon Tom and his wife Dee and share her story home to the Catholic Church. Deacon Tom and Dee are a wonderful couple, and it was a pleasure to get to know each other a bit and share about being Elated in her conversion to the Catholic faith.

Check out the link here!


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Being “Gift” In A “Take” World

The Disease of What’s Best for Me

There is a disease rampant in our world today. A disease called “What’s Best for Me.”

Entertainment programs are filled with tips on how to make our lives better. How to get the best deal. How to make ourselves look good. How to advance in our careers. How to make more money. How to improve our existence.

And we absorb that culture, particularly if we live in a part of the world where we are saturated with it. Unless we actively counteract the messages we receive, they absorb into us, and we end up reflecting the approach of the world instead of the approach of our faith. Unlike what we see and read and hear every day, happiness isn’t found in improving our lives and seeking our benefit. The Catholic Church teaches that happiness is found in seeking to improve the lives of others, through a sacrificial donation of self.

To Will the Good of Another

At the core of this question is the idea of love.

To love, according to the Catholic Church, is to “will the good of another.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766). That’s it. It sounds so simple.

If we are married, love is to will the good of our spouse. If we are parents, to love is to will their good too. Whatever phase of life, to love is to will the good of those we encounter.

It rings so true when we hear it, but it’s so different from the culture we live in! And it is less easy to apply to our relationships each and every day than it seems. But if we live our faith, if we put our energies into absorbing the truths the Catholic Church teaches, living as gift becomes more and more natural, more and more a part of how we function and view the world. Our lives become all the more beautiful for it.

Being Gift in Choosing Life

Our parish Knights of Columbus just distributed baby bottles for us to collect change in, and that will go towards Right to Life causes. The tragedy of abortion is great in our world, and this is another example of where so many have bought into the lie of What’s Best for Me so much, that they are willing to support the legal right to end a human life.

The reality is that women have this awesome opportunity to live our lives as gift in a way unique from men. We give our bodies as a sacrifice to grow and nurture life. And pregnancy and raising children is, indeed, a big sacrifice.

But we have an amazing example of bodily donation as gift for another in Jesus.

Jesus lived as the ultimate and perfect self-gift. His own words, which we hear at each and every Mass, are: “This is my body, given for you.” He gave his whole self for us, and it’s a beautiful parallel to what happens when a woman sets aside her own comfort to bring life into the world.

“This is my body” is such a popular phrase in pro-choice culture. But they distort the beautiful meaning of the phrase. Those who fight for legal abortion say, “This is my body, and I get to do what I want with it. No one has the right to stop me.” Jesus says, “This is my body, and I am going to give of myself fully to turn the power of sin on its head and to heal the world.”

There is a clear winner between the two uses of that phrase. In goodness, in beauty, and in the truth of what our bodies are meant to be.

Living as Gift is life-giving. Living for self is life-taking, sometimes in the very real and literal sense in issues like abortion. But also, in the sense that each time we choose self over another, we take the essence of life – truth, beauty, love, from those we wound with our sin.

Living as Gift within Marriage

I spent more years than I’m proud of watching the popular TV show, The Bachelor.

That show sends the message that love is meant to make us feel good. That it’s exciting and thrilling. There is the unspoken belief that love will be like that forever. Like a fairy tale, it will make me feel good forever.

It sets up extremely unrealistic, unhealthy expectations. Nothing about even the concept of that show is willing the good of the other – one person dating upwards of 20 men or women at one time is not good for anyone involved. That’s one of the reasons I won’t watch the show anymore.

It’s distorted. It’s sending a lie about love. It perpetuates a belief that I can do what’s best for me, no matter how many people get hurt in the process.

If we understand what the Church teaches about love and Catholic marriage, the idea of Gift is one of the keys to living a marriage that stands as witness to God’s love for humanity. This occurs when the husband and wife are living as Gift to each other in all areas of the marriage.

When we encounter any situation with our spouse, and we ask the question “Am I doing this for his/her good?” we are letting God into our decision with our spouse. Before we say that sharp word, before we lose our patience, before we assume the worst, we can think about our partner’s good.

This applies in a special and beautiful way to our sexuality, too. Catholic teaching on sexuality isn’t meant to be repressive, and it isn’t without reason. The things we are not allowed to use/do in Catholic marriage – contraception, climax without intercourse, pornography, etc., are all forms of believing the “What’s Best for Me” lie. Contraception says “I’m going to give myself to you, but I’m not going to give myself fully.” Climax without intercourse says “I’m going to take from you, rather than give myself to you.” And pornography says “I’m going to take pleasure without giving anything at all.”

But when we live as Gift, when we respect the whole person of our spouse, including our fertility, when we give mutually and fully to each other, each and every time, that is where the beauty lies. The joy of sex isn’t in finding the best way to feel good for ourselves. It’s in mutually seeking the good of the other in an all-encompassing and powerful way. A way that mirrors the life of the Trinity and foreshadows heaven.

A Disease of Humanity and the Cure

Reaching for goals and working to improve are all positive things. But when those things are distorted, and we start pursuing our own betterment even when it is to the detriment of others, then we do have a problem. When we seek our own comfort first, or own best first, when we forget to be Gift to those around us, then we have become sick.

If we live with a What’s Best for Me mindset, we will never be as happy as we could be. We will never have the peace we could have. We will never find the joy. We weren’t meant to be satisfied with the things of this world. We were meant to be satisfied with God. It follows that living life as God intended will bring us the greatest true fulfillment.

The ultimate way we can serve God is by living our lives as a gift in gratitude to our Creator. All of the above examples help to lead us in that direction. The realization that our lives are, ultimately, not our own, that each and every day is a gift from God helps us release any false control we have tried to cling to. None of this is ours. Life is gift from God. It’s meant to be lived as Gift to God and others.

The Me First disease is more than just an American problem. It’s a humanity problem. A result of original sin, when Adam and Eve were the first to believe the lie that eating the fruit was what was best for them and their own personal goals and advancement.

But the Church gives us this beautiful remedy to the sickness. The remedy for the poison that is What’s Best for Me is a firm commitment to What’s Best for You, to living life as Gift. It turns selfishness to selflessness, greed to generosity, and taking to giving. Living life as gift reverses the darkness of sin and let’s God’s light shine through. That is a powerful witness to a world that has absorbed a dangerous lie.

For more information on living life as “Gift,” please see John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or check out Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.

Note: This article was originally published on Catholic Stand.

What’s The Purpose of Penance?

When a Catholic goes to Confession, several things happen. We come with contrition and confess our sins. We receive the absolution. Then, the Priest assigns us our penance. But while we may know what to expect, it’s also immensely important to understand why we are doing these things.

I’ve written extensively about why I absolutely Love Confession, but I haven’t written in-depth about penance and its purpose and value. This post is an attempt to do just that.

What is Sin?

At its core, sin is turning away from God. It’s an active decision on our part. It’s us saying “No, God, I won’t do things your way. I know better than you.” Sin can happen in big ways (mortal sin, which breaks our relationship with God) and in small ways (venial sin, which wounds it).

All sin is sickness for our souls.

What is Penance?

Penance is something for the confessor to do after Confession ends, on their own, and hopefully as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a prayer or a series of prayers. Sometimes it’s something related to an issue the confessor struggles with. It could look many different ways, and could take varying amounts of time. Some of my personal favorite penances have been ones that directly related to an area where I struggle.

But, regardless of what penance looks like it is always, always, a way to repair the harm that sin has caused in our lives.

It is meant to help us turn our hearts back to God. Just as our sin was an active choice turning away from God, penance is an active choice turning back to God.

Do I have to do penance to be forgiven?

This is something that is often misunderstood, even by Catholics. Once the Priest offers absolution during Confession, we are forgiven. The grace is there because of Jesus. Not because of anything we can do. So, no, penance is not required for forgiveness to occur.

But then, if we’re already forgiven, why do we need it?

Medicine For The Soul

Just as sin wounds (or breaks) our relationship with God and makes our souls sick, penance is medicine that helps us turn our hearts back towards our Creator. Confession removes that sin from our shoulders. Penance helps us move towards a more holy future.

As such, whether our penance is prayer, or something specific to an area we struggle, we should not approach penance with the attitude of simply ‘checking something off a list.’

If we do penance with a disengaged heart, the purpose of penance isn’t served. Penance is a way to turn our hearts back to God, it’s a prescription for healing, and, much like any other medication, it’s up to us to use it. If we’ve gone to Confession with a truly contrite heart, it follows that we would want to continue on that path of obedience and progression towards holiness by following through on our penance as soon as possible, and by using that as a springboard to help spur us on towards a closer walk with God.

It’s a beautiful medicine we are offered, and it is to the benefit of our souls to take it.




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