Obstacles Along the Way


In the third grade, my personal relationship with each member of the Holy Trinity really began to blossom and take shape. To say we were “besties” was an understatement; they were my ALL. Yes, at the tender age of 9, I was beginning to understand that Christ truly was “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) This was, by far, the toughest year of my life, and in turn also became one of the most memorable. The crosses handed to me that year left me on the verge of despair with no other option than to lay all my hurt and brokenness before the Lord. In this daily submission, the Lord carried me through that difficult year and the ones to follow.

As the years passed, I continued to mature in my faith. My desire to study the Catholic faith was obvious to all around me. Earning the superlative “most likely to become a nun,” it was no surprise that I ended up at a Catholic University studying Theology/Religious Studies. This major was a perfect fit, providing me the knowledge and space to really own these teachings. With my zeal for the Lord and the knowledge I was gaining, I was on fire! Then… Sister came along.

This Sister was one of the faculty members within the Theology/Religious Studies department, yet I had never taken a class with her. She was also my advisor, with whom I had only met with a couple of times. In the fall semester of my junior year, she stopped me in the hallway, handed me a quotation, and told me that I needed to hear this message. She also said I should consider taking her Women of the Church course as an elective. The quote was from a book entitled ‘A Return to Love’ by Marianne Williamson although it is often misattributed to Nelson Mandela.


“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”


What a powerful and encouraging message! Then I remembered what she had said, “it was a message that I needed to hear.” To put it lightly, I was steaming. First off, this Sister really didn’t know me. Who was she to say, “I need to hear this”? She obviously didn’t know I was “besties” with the Trinity, nor did she know sainthood was “my thing.” What nerve she had giving this to me with such certainty. With that, I crumbled it up and tossed it in the trash.

Over the next couple of weeks, those words haunted me as if they had been etched in my brain. In the silence, I would hear them repeat over and over again. The thing is, as much as I hated to admit it, this Sister knew me much better than I knew myself. I am not sure if this quote was meant to encourage and uplift me, but what it actually did was give me clarity. I was on fire and ready to take on the world, but there were obstacles that I was more than happy to ignore. This experience gave me insight into some of the demons I would have to battle along the way. My journey would have me battle pride, fear, and self-doubt daily, even to this day! While I will never have all the answers, I have learned a great deal along the way.

The starting point for me is the practice of metanoia, which is Greek for “change of heart” or, as we would call it, conversion. Both John the Baptist and Jesus would call us to this as they proclaimed, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). Here, John the Baptist and Jesus were urging the people to have a change of actions, mind, and heart. The beauty of our faith is that we aren’t expected to have this change over night. There isn’t a moment in the day where I feel as if I have this pride thing taken care of for good. At least that is not my experience. It is a daily call to metanoia, a daily change of heart that leaves us utterly dependent upon the grace of God and draws us closer to Him in the process.



Swinging for the Fences


Since I was a young girl there has always been this great desire, a longing that continues to grow. It is a desire that God has placed in my heart, as there is no other explanation for it. This desire is to be a saint.  I have always considered that there are two levels of saints so to speak. There are the little “s” saints and the big “S” saints. My favorite little “s” saint? My father, who passed away when I was 9, has been one I call to on almost a daily basis to intercede on my behalf. I have no confirmation that he is in Heaven but I deeply trust, between God’s mercy and my prayers, He is enjoying the Heavenly banquet and hopefully saving me a seat! Then there are the “S” saints, these are the ones canonized by the Catholic Church. They have been officially recognized and held up as examples of holiness. To pick a favorite in this category is nearly impossible. I have come to love many of them and each one speaks to my heart in a unique and particular way; as is true of any good friend.

To better understand where I am coming from, you have to know that when it comes to this dream I am swinging for the fences. No little “s” here. I am full steam ahead for the big “S” and have been from day one. Crazy right? The nuns that taught me in elementary school sure thought I was off my rocker. I will never forget an experience I had in first grade with one Sister in particular. She gave us a typical writing project entitled, “what I want to be when I grow-up”. Draw a picture and then below write one or two sentences regarding the theme, easy enough. Apparently not, mine got handed back to me with her comment that is engraved in my mind. “You need to pick something that you can actually be like a teacher, doctor, or lawyer. You cannot be a saint.” I would like to personally thank that nun for igniting a fire in me that I believe truly marked the beginning of my faith journey.

As I recall this memory, I am still in awe of the gifts God imparts to His children…Literally! As a first grader, I had no great knowledge of Scripture, encyclicals, or the vast writing of the saints. Honestly, I don’t know if I even know what my working definition of a saint was at that time. I am guessing it was something basic like, “a friend of God’s who does good things”. Yet, at that young age, there was something I was certain of.  By the pure grace of God, I was convicted that holiness was not only something I could achieve even further it was something God desired for me.

After years of study, I am far more learned on this topic and have the goods to back it up. Where is that Sister now?  In all seriousness, it is a message that has not been heard by many but has been spelled out for all of us.

Saint Paul tells us…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (Ephesians 1: 3-5)

Beautiful right? Did you catch what St. Paul said? God will provide us with every spiritual blessing needed to live a life of holiness.  In order to receive these spiritual blessings one must be receptive to them. The receptivity comes in living a Christ-centered life; a life that is focused on God’s will, not my own. When we can start asking, “Lord, how can I serve you today?” not only will He answer, but He will give us the graces and means to answer that call.

    One of the principal documents coming out of the Second Vatican Council entitled Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations) provides great clarity on “this call”. Chapter 5 cuts right to the heart of the matter with the title alone, “Universal Call to Holiness”…

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.

The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.                                                    (Lumen Gentium 40,41)

Please do not overlook Lumen Gentium, as this brought much clarity to the lay people about their role in the Church. That Sr. I had in first grade wasn’t too far off in her thinking. Up until Vatican II, it was widely thought that holiness/sainthood was meant strictly for clergy and the religious. Pope Paul VI, clearly states that regardless of our class and vocation in life, there is one call.  The call to holiness which is a direct invitation from God meant for ALL. Thank you Pope Paul VI for supporting my convictions, if only I could have pulled out Lumen Gentium years ago and reeducated that Sister!

In future blogs, I will continue to speak on this “universal call to holiness”.  For now, I would love to know where you are with this?  Is this news to you?  Are you already on board?  Do you agree with Sr. Smash my dreams from the first grade?  Before we move onto Sr. Build Me Up, I had  in college… please discuss!

March Madness

The dreaded month is here again…March in CNY. By this time of year, I am over the snow and sub zero temperatures a Syracuse winter brings. I often tell my husband we should try for a March baby so we would have something wonderful to look forward to in March. Until that baby comes, the only things I have to get me through are SU basketball and Lent.

Lent doesn’t just carry me through this time of year; it is my favorite liturgical season. Every Ash Wednesday I am eager to begin another forty-day journey with the Lord. Yet, I know there are some who just do not share that enthusiasm with me and for all those people, this one is for you…

Lent, like Advent, is a season of preparation. We take these forty-days to prepare ourselves to enter into the Paschal Mystery with our Lord and Savior. To enter in, we must be present at the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, the foot of the cross, and the empty tomb. We cannot separate these events, picking where we would like to be present, as they are integral in bringing us to the joy of the Resurrection. Lent is also known to be a season of fasting, repentance, and prayer. I suppose when you see those three words it is hard to get real excited about one day of these, let alone forty-one days. Then again, if you delve into the real value of these three practices you just might.

Most people are aware of the traditional fast regarding no meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent. The merit of this practice has gotten lost in the fish- frys and shrimp dinners. There are two beautiful fruits that result from fasting, solidarity and humility.

In allowing our body to experience “the pangs of hunger” we are uniting ourselves with our brothers and sister who daily go without. By no means are we experiencing the fullness of the “hunger pangs” of our brothers and sisters but our consciousness bears the fruit of solidarity, which should motivate us to be active participants on their behalf. Examples of these acts could be intercessory prayer, donations to our local food pantries, or time spent preparing/serving meals at our local soup kitchens.

Is there value to self-denial? Do people actually do it by choice? These are questions you won’t hear often or at all in this culture of instant gratification. In fact, many people have moved from giving something up for Lent to doing something for Lent. I understand the reasoning behind it but please hear me out before you do away with this practice. I know you are thinking, “but what good does giving up chocolate do?” To abstain from a favorite food or beverage, t.v. program, video game, etc. is a simple offering you present to the Lord daily. Trite and insignificant as it might seem, it is YOUR offering. It is you, by an act of your own free will, denying yourself a pleasure for the sake of being united with Christ on the cross. My husband gave up coffee the past two years and each year at the end he was amazed that he did not break the fast. For him, it was a sincere sacrifice to go without the extra pick me up that coffee gives him when he is fading. Fasting is such a simple sacrifice we can offer the Lord and within such a sacrifice we acquire humility.

Repentance is probably the toughest of the three for most people. The dictionary defines repentance as having sincere remorse or regret about one’s wrongdoing or sin. No one likes to sit and reflect on the poor choices they have made or the times they have fallen into sin. The shame and guilt it brings makes us uncomfortable. Yet, this call to repentance does not allow or ask us to be consumed by shame or guilt. Instead these healthy reactions should motivate an individual towards the sacrament of Reconciliation where they can express sincere remorse and be freed of their sin. Even better, the Lord receives your guilt and shame and replaces it with mercy and peace.

Prayer is vital for the journey. How do we journey with the Lord if we do not know Him? How do we know where to go to next? What is the Lord asking of us? We need to create a space where we can cry out to Him and He can answer our plea. Prayer is time carved out for us to deepen our relationship with our God that we may come to know Him better. It is a place where our hearts and minds are illuminated by union with Christ, our Redeemer. If it is a half hour or the five minutes before you set your feet on the floor in the morning, give Him your time and attention and prepare to be amazed!

Lastly, I would like to get back to the point about the importance of doing rather than giving up. When you are an active participant in the Lenten practices; you ARE doing. In aligning your will to the will of the Father’s, you gain virtue and grace.  Where virtue and grace are present, fruitful acts are plentiful. Without the virtue and grace from God, the acts cannot bear fruit. We cannot give what we do not have; therefore Lent is a most beautiful time of dying to self, again and again, so that through the Paschal Mystery we may be made anew. Is it comfortable? No, but then again…