Jesse Manibusan in Milford, CT!

Wonderful news for Connecticut people! Jesse Manibusan (composer of "Open My Eyes") will be joining the choir at my home parish in Milford, CT for two concerts at the end of October. Jesse is well-known in the world of Catholic liturgical music and has a natural rapport with audiences. Bonus: he connects with young people. My five-year-old loves the St. Ann choir as much as I do, so we're planning to grab a seat on the front row! Hope to see you there! 

See details on the poster below about dates, times, location and tickets ($12 advance; $15 at door).

And here's a nice video of Jesse talking about his new song "Hold Onto Love," which he will sing with the choir at the upcoming concerts.

Jesse Manibusan 2017.jpg

God & Storms: Does God protect us?

This blog post was originally published in October 2014. It seemed appropriate to repost it in the midst of this historic hurricane season, as we continue to pray for all those facing storms.

How would you answer the question, "Does God protect us?"

* * * * *

Do you ever pray about the weather?  “Pray for good weather this Sunday for the church picnic.”  While there’s certainly nothing wrong with praying for this sort of thing, it may create legitimate questions in our minds:  If God would arrange good weather for our church picnic, why wouldn’t he arrange for hurricanes to avoid heavily populated areas, or for monsoons to stop before they become devastating floods, or for rain to fall on drought-stricken farms? Why not redirect a polar vortex or subdue a tsunami?

Can God control the weather?  Of course.  But does he?

In this way, earth’s storms are not unlike the storms of life.  We can and we should pray about the difficulties and devastations we face.  We must always communicate with, and lean on and believe in, our loving and powerful God.  But we are well aware that he does not always intervene when it comes to “bad weather.”  Could God control every aspect of our lives, create a wall around us, protecting us from every bad thing?  Perhaps.  But does he?  He most certainly does not.

Perhaps it comes down to a question of how God protects us.  There are times in life when we feel miraculously protected – walking away from a car accident, being thrown from a horse and standing up good as new.  But for the most part, we get tossed around by life with scars to show for it – there are injuries, illnesses, heartbreaks, sleeplessness, stress and death – for all of God’s children.  The rain falls on everyone, and some even seem to get more than their fair share.  God does not always shield us from these things.  And yet he remains our powerful protector.  He protects not with a power that interferes with each event, but a power that gathers us in, and pulls us near, and makes and keeps promises about being with us.  It is a power that may strike us as a bit too subtle at times, and yet as time passes, we recognize how awesome, and how essential, and how real it actually is.

As a parent, I do not want my children to suffer, and I am naturally tempted to smooth their paths in whatever way I can.  But even more than I may want an easy life for them, I want a great life for them.  I want them to be great.  And the fact is that great people have suffered. They have experienced the storms of life without always bailing out into the nearest shelter. They have learned the most important things by being brought down low.  Storms transformed them and made them strong, wise, clearheaded and serene.  Wounded?  Yes, that too.  But we can be wounded and still be great.  It is much harder to be utterly unscathed and be anything more than mediocre.

God allows bad weather – really bad weather – and he allows life’s storms.  Sometimes the storms are so bad that our wounds don’t heal.  For those times we may simply have to surrender:  “Lord, I know you may not change this storm, but you are always willing to change me.  So if you must, make me great!”

Hurricane Harvey makes destructive landfall on the coast of Texas on Aug. 25, 2017. Image credit NOAA/RAMMB.

Hurricane Harvey makes destructive landfall on the coast of Texas on Aug. 25, 2017. Image credit NOAA/RAMMB.

Gospel Commentary in Catechist Magazine...and other stuff you might like

If you are looking for brief, informative commentary on the Sunday Gospels, you might consider subscribing to Catechist magazine! My role at Catechist is to write commentary and reflection for every Sunday Gospel (September through May). The commentary helps catechists better understand and share the weekly Gospel with their students, but it can also be used by individuals or faith-sharing groups as a resource for reflecting on the Sunday Gospels together. If you would like to see an example, you can view September’s “The Sunday Gospel” feature from Catechist magazine by clicking here. It's a great time to become a new subscriber -- this year Catechist is celebrating 50 years of helping catechists and catechetical leaders in their ministry, and they've made some exciting changes to their magazine and website. Click here to visit Catechist magazine's new website!

And since I don’t “advertise” too often...

...just a reminder that my books That Mighty Heart and In Every Life are available on, and my new book Lent: Season of Transformation, part of a new series by Little Rock Scripture Study, is available for pre-order on (release date is October 15, 2017).

And while I’m at it, here are a few recently published books that I highly recommend...

The Spirituality of Saint Paul: A Call to Imitation by Frank Matera, Paulist Press. Fr. Matera’s latest book is a readable and very helpful book on St. Paul's spirituality. It will help you wrap your mind around some major themes in Paul's letters and then reflect on how they apply to your life. Fr. Matera writes of seeking a Pauline spirituality in his own life. This book is no doubt the fruit of both his outstanding scholarship and his lived experience.

At Play in the Lion’s Den: A Biography and Memoir of Daniel Berrigan by Jim Forest, Orbis Books. Jim Forest, biographer extraordinaire, has given us the story of the inimitable Fr. Dan Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and activist of the 20th century. Jim has done his research but also has the priceless advantage of having been a friend of Dan’s and a fellow peacemaker through the years. The cover of this book alone tells a story, along with quotes such as this one from Dan Berrigan: “If you want to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood.”

Written for Our Instruction: Theological and Spiritual Riches in Romans by Thomas Stegman, S.J., Paulist Press. Fr. Tom Stegman, Dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, is a proven scholar whose head is not "in the clouds." That’s why I like him and his work. I look forward to reading this book about St. Paul’s monumental letter to the Romans. It’s guaranteed to be 128 pages of solid commentary and insight.

Click on the titles below for more information!

"Why do clothes have to match?"

You all may recall my daughter Siobhan's Stations of the Cross, written when she was twelve. I hope you will enjoy this story about a much younger Siobhan, originally published in Liguorian Magazine. As you will see, she's been inspiring me to "dig deep" from a young age! 

* * * * *

There are moments in every parent’s life when the balance of power is suddenly upended and the child deftly gains the upper hand. These moments are disorienting, unnerving and inevitable.

I experienced such a moment when, as a young mother, my daughter asked me a simple question, then calmly watched me fumble around for an answer. 

I remember where we were. I was standing in front of the closet of my daughter, Siobhan, in our old house on Stable Court. Siobhan was probably around six years old at the time, and I was trying to help her choose an outfit for the day. The process was not going smoothly. She rejected my adorable choices, and I vetoed her strange ones. We could agree on tops but not bottoms. Bottoms but not tops. Arms were crossed. Teeth were clenched. Lines were drawn.

And that’s when she asked me: “Mommy, why do clothes have to match?” 

It still makes me feel weak, just thinking about it. The question has no answer.

But I desperately wanted to find one. I looked at Siobhan in that moment, and I saw stretching out before me years of unmatched clothes, rebellious outfits, strange fashion, and plaids with polka-dots. Instead I wanted her to look like a walking Gap ad. 

Siobhan waited patiently as the seconds ticked by with me saying feeble things like “um” and “well.” She knew exactly what was happening. I was realizing that all the answers I could think of were worse than any mismatched outfit: 

“So you will look like everyone else.” 

“Because that’s how other people expect you to look.” 

“Because that’s what I like.” 

My answers were weak and lame, so lame I couldn’t speak them. I sighed in defeat. “I don’t know, Siobhan. There isn’t a good reason.” My head rested momentarily in my hands as the weight of this reality sunk in. Siobhan was gracious in victory, and a new era of creative fashion began. 

Letting go of my young daughter’s wardrobe choices was a simple but far-reaching parental lesson. We have no real control over our children. Control is an unfulfilling and ultimately frustrating mirage that we create. After all, our children are human. They are free.

This is how God made us, and he certainly does not try to control us. There is both beauty and danger in our freedom. We can wear polka dots with plaids or try other wild things. God does not create a mirage of control for himself. He has always wanted us to be fully human and totally free. Every morning we stand in a wardrobe full of choices. What we choose – kindness, forgiveness, humility, love, anger, unkindness, self-righteousness, hate – is completely up to us. 

God wants us to choose for ourselves, and in doing so, to find and put on the most beautiful things.

* * * * *

Republished with permission from Liguorian Magazine, where this piece originally ran under the title “Plaids with Polka-Dots,” July-August 2017.

Siobhan: Imaginative, independent, adorable and free. March 2010.

Siobhan: Imaginative, independent, adorable and free. March 2010.

The Antidote to Fear

Dear Friends,

The link below is an invitation to something short and simple. It is 10 minutes of the NPR radio show This American Life. During these 10 minutes, actor Tom Wright reads a list of fears written by a developmentally disabled man named Michael Bernard Loggins.

When you listen to this list of fears, even though Michael Bernard Loggins' fears might be completely different than your own, a commonality will form between you and Michael. There will be a bond between you and this person whom you’ve never met. The bond is a common humanity in which we all have fears. Some of his fears will make you smile. Some will make you fearful too. You might even feel like you want to take some of his fears away.

After posting my last blog, I realized that in writing about fear, I never once mentioned love. There is really only one antidote to fear – the deepest kind of human fear about ourselves and others – and it is love. St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “Love alone creates.” Love alone creates peace. Love alone rebuilds and heals. Love alone restores life.

Love is the balm of Gilead, the balm to soothe every fear, spoken or unspoken, listed or unlisted. May love be the balm of this nation as we take a long hard look at fear that has devolved into hate.

I hope you will take 10 minutes to listen to the piece linked below. Fear will not have the last word, as long as we have each other.


Click here to listen to the excerpt of This American Life.

Note: This American Life typically runs several stories (or "acts") on the same theme in each show. This Michael Bernard Loggins piece is sandwiched in the middle of Show 234 entitled “Say Anything,” so you will listen to the "second act" (from about 33:00 to 44:00). Just click the play arrow under the picture of people talking, and the show will automatically start in the right spot.

My husband and my daughter, 2011.

My husband and my daughter, 2011.