General

I LOVE watching the Olympics and I LOVE reading about public figures and their Catholic faith.

So when I heard that Katie Ledecky says a Hail Mary or two before every race, I wondered who else competing in Rio is Catholic.  Here are a few I found with my preliminary search tonight:

Katie Ledecky (Swimming) 

  • Gold in 400m Freestyle on Sunday
  • Godfather is a Jesuit priest
  • “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me.” 
  • Catholic School educated
  • “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”  (Catholic Standard)

Sydney McLaughlin – Track and Field

  • Youngest U.S. Olympian to compete for track and field in the Olympics since 1980. She was only 16 years old when she qualified, but turned 17 2 days ago on 8-6-2016
  •  “My Wildwood Catholic teachers, coaches and classmates taught me what it meant to have faith, to work for ideals, and to use that work to make the world a little better.” (Epic Pew)
  • Competes in the 400m hurdles

Kelly Murphy – Volleyball

  • attended Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Illinois

Joe Maloy – triathlete

  • graduated from Wildwood Catholic HS in Wildwood, NJ – the school held a blue & white day in his honor
  • “My Wildwood Catholic teachers, coaches and classmates taught me what it meant to have faith, to work for ideals, and to use that work to make the world a little better.” 
  • On Facebook, he left current Wildwood Catholic high school students with “homework.” “Remember to say ‘thank you.’ No one ever accomplishes anything great alone.”

Usain Bolt (Jamaica) – Track and Field

  • the “fastest man on earth”
  • his middle name is “St. Leo” – named after Great Leo the pope from 440 to 461
  • crosses himself and says a silent prayer before each race

Juan Martín del Potro (Argentina) – Tennis

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Fr. Gary at St. Lawrence in Milbank, SD always has a great homily. But his opening line this week struck me dumb, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

He stated:
 "You will be the only bible many people in your life will ever read. What verse will you be?"

I'm going to go off on bit of a side note here: I'm not good in crowds. Just the idea of networking frightens me. So calls from the pulpit to evangelize don't necessarily fall on deaf ears, just very shy ears. The soul is willing, but the nerves are weak.

Back to Father Gary:

His point was that we don't need to be out there lecturing on our faith - attempting to convert everyone we meet - we just need to be true examples of our faith. Hence the question of the bible verse. 

I've picked a few below, but I'm curious as to what your picks would be. Comment below to add to the conversation.

1. On our love for my family:
"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19
What it means to me: The love I have for my family is a gift. Be grateful to God for all the love I'm able to give and receive.

2. On treating those against whom I have a grievance:
"As the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do." Col 3:13
What it means to me: To that guy who decided to light off fireworks right in front of our car last night - I forgive you. It's a whole lot easier to sleep at night without a collection of grudges from the day piling up next to my pillow. 

3. On treating both friends and strangers: 
"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31
What it means to me: Empathy and sympathy - before I paint someone with a broad stroke or judge them - surround them in love, take a breath, and put yourself in their shoes.

4. On work:
"Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others" Col 3:23
What it means to me: There are days... and there are days, as my mother says. Sometimes work is a real grind and it's hard to get through. However, if I am able to bring my mind back around to "why" I work and the differences that I make, it's easier to change my attitude. And if that fails, offering my work up to God and doing my best for Him brings perspective.

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One of the most difficult classes I took in college was Honors Religion. One concept that we discussed for weeks was “the numinous” – holy spaces – or more specifically – What is it about certain spaces that give them an aura of “holy”?

This discussion has stuck with me and gets dug up in my brain every time I encounter a place that rings the bell of “numinous” just so. Blue Cloud Abbey outside of Marvin, SD was one of those places.

Blue Cloud was founded in 1950 by a group of 40 Benedictine monks.

The monastery was a self-sustaining community with the mission of ministering to Native American tribes. Over the years, the brothers also successfully managed a popular retreat center for groups and individuals.

So a few years ago when the monks were shuttering the Abbey and relocating to different monasteries across the United States, it came as a particularly devastating blow.

Not only had we spent every Christmas Eve night well into Christmas morning (about 1:30 AM) at Blue Cloud, but we had seen the innards of the Abbey and the handiwork of the monks.

The Abbey had a smell to it, and sound quality that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. The long stone hall with the beautiful stained glass held my attention through hours of masses even as a very small child. The long lines of monks processing in before mass and singing hymns that echoed off the walls made of solid, massive, smooth stones – the effect was something so holy, and so tranquil that it has stayed with me all these years.

After Sunday Mass, we would all file down to the large dining room in the basement. I was mesmerized by the honey dippers in wooden bowls of honey – from bees on the grounds of the abbey and cared for by bee-keeping monks. We helped ourselves to cookies and juice, and while the adults talked we went exploring. We rolled down the grassy hills, stared in awe at the native art, and perused the gift shop at length until we knew the inventory by heart.

When I was older I discovered a treasury of fabrics and notions in a workroom where priests’ vestments were made by the monks. They kept cattle and gardens. The grounds were vast and supported the monks in their ministry.

So when news came that the monks could no longer support themselves and care for the grounds due to their aging population, the fact that they were selling Blue Cloud Abbey came as devastating news.

After what felt like years on the market (perhaps it was) a group of Catholic families banded together to buy the Abbey.

What a relief! They have methodically and painstakingly restored little bits of the Abbey at a time. And while the church has been decommissioned, the space maintains it’s numinous quality. The beautiful stained glass has been retained.

And while they are not allowed to call the facility Blue Cloud Abbey, The Abbey of the Hills has become a retreat center, concert hall, outdoor recreation center and so much more.

I am so proud of my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Rausch, and the other people who breathed life back into the Abbey. I am so grateful for the sacrifices they have made to do it.

So if for any reason you are in northeast South Dakota, or your looking for an excuse or a retreat, please consider visiting the Abbey of the Hills.

What about you? What is a numinous space in your life that has somehow gone through a transformation, but retained its holy quality?

Enrich your prayer life with a deep selection of Chaplets. This encyclopedia book lists over 170 chaplets and Rosaries with prayers.

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The school year for us is filled with a routine. Ours revolves around school and school activities. Our daughters are involved in a variety of activities ranging from theater to basketball to show choir. Needless to say, most of our weeknights are action-packed and many of the Saturdays are filled as well. During these busy months we try to always keep one constant – our Sunday morning mass at St. Therese Church. It may seem crazy at times, but during those crazy times it’s always nice to have our Sundays set aside for faith and family.

Then comes summer. (Cue Olaf’s In Summer!)

The summer months come along and structure is thrown out the window. There are family vacations, weddings, reunions, camps, etc, etc. Unfortunately during this time it’s easy to fall out of any type of routine.

Maybe you’re camping and are a long ways from a church. Maybe you were out late catching up with your high school classmates you haven’t seen in 20 years, so you miss another service.

Unfortunately, our routine gets broken up and we lose track of our Sundays. One week gets added to another and all of the sudden we’re done with summer and back to school.

We’ve tried to break that trend here. It doesn’t matter if we’re on a family trip or out with our former classmates, we have consciously tried to get to our Sunday Masses. We definitely don’t get to our home church each week, but then we get some variety. We go to our hometown church and then get to find some new churches that we may have never been too when we’re on a trip.

So here’s a few things we do to keep us on track:

  1. Sign up as a lector, server, usher, cantor etc. This is a time of year when your parish ESPECIALLY needs you. Families are flung to the winds and volunteers are scarce.
  2. Find a “backup” local Mass time. For us it’s the Sunday evening 6:00 service at another Catholic church a bit down the road.
  3. Plan for a nap. After a long night out on Saturday, that alarm clock is my worst enemy. It’s painful to wake up after a short night of sleep. However, since I know I have brunch and a nap waiting for me, keeping a date with an early Mass time becomes exponentially easier. Added bonus is that the earlier Masses seem (to me) to be quieter and more reflective than later times.
  4. Before leaving for vacation, make a list of churches with their addresses and mass times. And do it for multiple churches because plans change. I had a training in Vegas and one session ran late, so my planned Mass time was a no-go. Luckily I had the mass times and addresses for 2 different churches handy.

And finally, don’t stress out if you get a mass time wrong. I once checked Mass times online for the Cathedral in Austin (beautiful, btw). Unfortunately the posted times were wrong or I read them wrong and we walked in right before the Our Father. A priest friend of mine later assured me that one is able to receive communion if they have properly prepared their heart and mind.

What are some of the ways that you make sure you don’t miss a single Sunday in the summer time?

Our Lady of Grace Visor Clip

Our Lady of Grace Visor Clip

Keep an image of your favorite saint clipped to your visor to keep your faith top-of-mind when you travel. Shop our vast selection of visor clips to find the perfect one.

Auto rosaries with magnet clasps

Auto rosaries with magnet clasps

Our Auto Rosaries with magnetic clasps make it easy to put your rosary around your rear-view mirror, and to retrieve it when you want to use it. Magnet is quite strong.

 

 

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My husband will confirm that I’m not the most outgoing person. I get nervous in rooms full of strangers. The idea of introducing myself to people and starting a conversation from scratch gives me the heeby-jeebies. (Oddly, I love public speaking… but that’s beside the point.)

Pentecost is this Sunday and when I place myself in the position of the apostles in that house where the Holy Spirit filled them, those same feelings creep over me. I recognize that we are all called to evangelize… and that scares me. I think of all the ways that I am not following this call.

The Pentecost was a huge beginning for the apostles. Speaking in tongues they left for foreign lands to evangelize. Holy cow! Seriously! The transformation from timidity to strength and and faith was immediate. The gift of fortitude helped them to follow this calling.

[The seven gifts] make the soul capable of taking in the special lights and inspirations He sends in a much higher way than what is had in ordinary graces. We do not notice much of any effects from these Gifts until we have advanced rather far in the spiritual life, for great docility and purity of heart are needed. (EWTN)

It’s good to remind myself of these gifts. In case you need a refresher as well:

  1. Wisdom – desire to contemplate God and good things from Him
  2. Understanding – allows us to understand our Catholic faith
  3. Knowledge – guides us through life and helps understand God
  4. Counsel – guides what actions we should take
  5. Fortitude – strength to follow through through Counsel
  6. Piety – desire to worship and serve God
  7. Fear of the Lord – desire not to sin or offend God, acknowledge our dependence on Him

The trick is, that once these gifts are given to us, we need use them and hone them. In order for these gifts to be at their full potential in our lives, we need to keep growing in our spiritual lives.

And that’s where it gets tricky for me. When I’m feeling short on fortitude, it’s my own doing. I’m reminded of my need for the God in my life and all the ways I’m failing to abide in Him.

That’s why Pentecost makes me nervous. I could be doing SO MUCH BETTER.

This week I’m praying for counsel and fortitude. It is sometimes a long leap between the “should do” from Counsel to the “do it” of fortitude.

What gift of the Holy Spirit do you most identify with? Which do you wish was stronger? Comment below.

Novena to the Holy Spirit

Seven Swans Swimming Ornament (Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

Holy Spirit Chaplet

Continue reading Why Pentecost makes me nervous

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Ok, so this isn’t a true ode in terms of all the lyrical stanza, and it really doesn’t do justice to my mother.

I love my Mom. And I know that’s not a unique thing to say, but there are those who have life circumstances where that’s not an easy or true statement for them.

I am so blessed with my Mom. Thanking God for that gift every day doesn’t seem like enough. How is it that I can live my life in a way that shows Him how grateful I am for this blessing of a mother such as mine?

The earliest memory I have of my Mom is being outside in the garden with a red bandana holding her hair back while she worked. My mom is not one to sit around. Always “doing”, and doing something for the betterment of her family.

Because of her I had a childhood full of discovery and love. I was given room to make mistakes and test my limits. Sure, there were times when I wrapped up a sandwich and sweater, tied it up in a hobo bandana at the end of a stick and “ran away” (went and sat in the woods), but I always returned home, because that’s where the love was.

Mom embodies so many values and characteristics that I admire and want to wrap into my own life. The first of these that stand out is her grit and determination to make the world a better place whether it wants it or not. Fighting against tides of indifference and outright scorn, she has fought for as long as I can remember for her community and family.

And it’s all done out of love. You don’t make the sacrifices my mother has made without deep love. And that’s what sacrifice is – love. And all of these sacrifices were done so that we (her kids) could become the best possible version of ourselves, and follow God’s plan.

My mom and Our Mother Mary share some of these same things. I bet you can find some of these in your own mother.

Our Mother Mary made many painful sacrifices for her son. At the wedding of Cana she knew that by asking Jesus to perform a miracle she was asking him to begin his ministry, and knowing who her son was and what the prophets had said, she knew his ministry would not end in a ripe old age and natural death. She knew pain was coming.

However, she had a job to do as well. God had a plan. From the moment she said “Yes” to Him thirty years before that, she consciously became a target. She was pregnant, and not by her husband. Imagine the social implications that meant for her. Think of the fear she experienced when fleeing to Egypt with her husband and infant son. The panic when Jesus was lost for three days when he was hanging out in the temple in Jerusalem after everyone else had gone home, and the utter sorrow a the Passion. (Lectio Devina is a great way to place yourself inside scripture and prayerfully explore the personal experiences in the bible)

And today as the Mother of the World, she continues her love for us by turning our eyes toward her Son. She wants us to love Him, to see what He has done for us, and to follow Him and to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

I strive to be like my mothers. All the good things they are, the strong, determined, make-this-world-better-come-what-may drive, and turn my eyes to what they should be focused on.

And for them I am eternally grateful.

 

 

 

Header image is photo of the Innocence plaque shown here.

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Praying to win the lottery… or not.

Like every other American over the age of 18 as the Powerball is stretching far past the billion dollar mark, I found myself daydreaming about what winning such a windfall would mean for me, my family, my business and quiet life here in South Dakota.

The thought process starts with the basic math… the lump sum less 40% federal tax, less at least 10% tithing (20% tithing to assuage a bit of my Catholic guilt and maybe get on God’s good side so He’d consider me when it came time for the drawing), a large lump for family, leaving us with more money than we would ever be able to (responsibly) spend in a lifetime.

Of course I dream of the impact it could have on our community… feed the hungry, elevate our schools to the mythical ivory halls of learning, wipe out parish debts. Then to thoughts of how it would benefit our parents and siblings and their families…

Then something dark started to creep in. What if they spent it wrong? What if I didn’t like how they spent it or they ended up destroying their own lives with it like so many lottery winners before? (Already it's me vs. them and "them" is people who are more precious to me than anything in the world... this line of thinking isn't going to end where I thought it would.)

Of course I am too smart to let that happen to me because my judgement is perfect and under no scenario would I ever become a penniless has-been.

But then what? What of all those other friends and a bit-more-distant relatives who I love dearly? The line needs to be drawn, somewhere, right?

I read an article featuring a lottery winner who won $30 million, and somewhere it talked about how he found out who his real friends were.

That phrase stuck with me – “real friends”.

I don’t think being a “real friend” has anything to do with it. As I think of my small circle of truly close friends, it’s difficult to predict how I would respond if one of them were to suddenly happen upon millions of dollars. I’d like to assume that I would be ecstatically overjoyed for them - without any jealousy or feelings of entitlement, but I don’t think that’s how it would go in my heart and head.

So I can’t expect from them what I wouldn’t be able to do myself. ALL my friendships would shift in ways I can't predict.

As for family, no matter what amount we gave, a bit of me would always be paranoid that someone resented the amount they received.

What about my marriage? We have a solid marriage with a rock solid foundation… but $1.4 billion strong?

And finally … my girls. Would we be able to deny them their every whim? How would we ensure they’d learn the value of hard work?

And I’m sure there are piles of troubles that I didn’t think of (or didn’t want to even bring up). But this is plenty. So much is on the line already, what more convincing do I need that $1.4 billion has no place in my life.

How many of you have spent a bit of prayer on asking for God to give you the chance to prove what a great person you would be if you won the grotesquely large jackpot? I will sheepishly admit to this too.

But the more I reflect and pray on what I’m REALLY asking for, the less appealing the jackpot becomes. Loss of priceless friends and family?

How about just a million bucks instead? I could totally live with that.

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She was born blind, without any pupils in her eyes. But at seven years old, through the intercession of her Confessor, Padre Pio, she was then able to see — even without pupils. Her name is Gemma di Giorgio.

On October 13, 1917, as tens of thousands gathered near Fatima in Portugal, a phenomenal occurrence of the sun happened, coinciding with an apparition of Our Lady to three children.

He was once a persecutor of believers, but one day, had an encounter with Jesus that changed the course of his life. He then became the apostle to the Gentiles.

These three stories have one thing in common: they all are miracles. Miracles take on different forms — from signs and wonders in nature, to physical healings, to inner transformations. They supersede the natural realm, and thus are deemed supernatural.

The word “miracle” comes from the Latin word “miraculum,” from “mirari” which means “to wonder.” Miracles are “wonders performed by supernatural power as signs of some special mission or gift and explicitly ascribed to God” (Catholic Encyclopedia).

So what makes something a miracle?

Biblical Scholar John Paul Meier maintains that there are three basic parts that comprise a miracle, namely: 1) It must be an unusual event that can be observed by others; 2) It cannot be explained on a natural level; 3) It appears to be the result of an act of God.

Miracles may come directly through God’s immediate action, or through creatures as means or instruments. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is an example of the former, while St Peter being delivered from prison through the aid of an angel is an example of the latter.

Today, miracles — especially physical healings — help in determining whether someone can be considered for sainthood. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is responsible for this, requiring a verification process where the potential miracle has to be instant, complete and without scientific explanation, as well as attributed to the candidate’s intercession.

They then turn over their findings to the Consulta Medica, a board of doctors who scrutinize the reports. Upon declaration that there is no scientific explanation for the cure, a panel of cardinals and priests will come together to verify whether the healing took place because of the candidate’s intercession. Once proven, the incident is declared a miracle.

More than anything else, miracles are signs of God’s presence. They are not just meant for the individual’s welfare; rather, on a larger scale and greater purpose, they are meant to lead people to salvation.

Sources:

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The song Hallelujah is one of my all time favorite songs. I first heard it on Jeff Buckley’s album Grace years ago. Since then, I have heard many variations of it performed by a variety of artists from Lenard Cohen (the original writer) to Justin Timberlake, to A-Capella groups and even in the movie Shrek.

However, I just found this version from the group Cloverton. They change up the lyrics (which always had a very spiritual feel to it) to tell the story of Christ’s birth.

Here is their version:

Here is my favorite version from Jeff Buckley

Have a wonderful Christmas season everyone.

-Travis

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Being a convert to Catholicism I have learned a lot over the past 14 years and even more these past few months of owning Discount Catholic Products. However, one of the things that I’ve always understood is the importance that the Pope has in the Catholic Faith. He is not just the leader of the one billion plus Catholics, but is seen as one of the moral leaders of the world.

While I took an interest in the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I was even more intrigued a year ago Continue reading Celebrating One Year of Pope Francis

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