The Priest Who Loved Me, Part III (The Love Project, Day 32)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the past two days, I’ve paid tribute to two priests who greatly influenced my early journey as a Catholic. Both were warm and welcoming, each of them treating me like a daughter — despite the fact that they each of them were pastors of large parishes, with thousands of other souls entrusted to their care.

Soon after Craig and I received our children on our first foster-care assignment, we decided to start going to church at another parish. It was much closer to our home, and had a mother’s program — something I was in desperate need of, given that I had become a mother to three children overnight.

Our first week at Mass, we sat near the front, where Father had a bird’s eye view of three-year-old Christopher squawking for Cheerios and his older sister kicking the pew in front of us every minute on the minute. We had just settled nervously into the homily when Sarah suddenly … required an immediate change of clothing, forcing me to climb over four other people with all three children (since the older two refused to be left with my husband, even momentarily). It was not my proudest moment.

We returned just as it was time for the consecration, and (rather smoothly, I thought), I timed our arrival so we could cut in line just behind my husband as we approached to receive the Eucharist. “The Body of Christ,” Father intoned to me, placing the host in my outstretched hand (the other was holding the baby), and reaching down to trace the sign of the cross on Christopher’s forehead … “Oooof!”

Christopher had punched Father in the breadbasket.

“Brat,” I heard someone behind me mutter. Mortified, I hustled everyone back to the pew and prayed for strength. After church, Craig and I went to explain ourselves to Father — I couldn’t help but notice he kept a healthy distance between himself and our foster son. “I’m so sorry, Father,” I began. “Christopher is our new foster son. He’s just learning that when a man reaches out to him, it can be with kindness. He’s been hurt too many times.”

Father’s face was a study. I would later learn that this particular priest was not very comfortable with small children or crying women. But today, he rose to the challenge. Getting down on one knee, he held out a hand to my son, who gave him a tentative high-five. “I hope I see you again real soon, buddy.”

And every week thereafter, Father had a kind word for us — even when Christopher’s three-year-old hands patted the front of his vestments in an awkward place, trying to get the elderly cleric’s attention. He’d just ruffle our foster son’s head, and chortle, “How are ya doing, buddy?”

Sometimes love shows itself not in sentimentality, but in simple tolerance.

Today’s Love in Action: Have you ever had an embarrassing moment in church? How did your pastor respond?

“You are mine…” (The Love Project, Day 13)

catholic crossDo you ever wonder if God is taking a day off, or tending to someone’s needs on the far side of the universe?

Ever feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine about this, and she suggested I read Isaiah 42.

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit . . .

She reminded me that this week’s Gospel, the story of the baptism of Jesus, is primarily about Jesus’ identity. Before he could go off and begin his public ministry, he had to be established in that identity as God’s Son.

It’s the same with us. Before we can do anything, we must first be. In particular, we must be secure in our identity as a child of God.

But what do you do when the circumstances of your life have conspired against you, and you feel as far from God as you could possibly be?

What do you do when … you feel angry with God? What then?

First, you tell him how you feel. If you don’t, the distance increases.
Next, you acknowledge the mystery of suffering: God has not caused your pain — rather, he identifies with it.
Then, you wait with expectation.

“When we are angry with God, he comes to us not in great and mighty ways — that would be too scary. Instead, he comes to us in the still, small voice. In small ways.”

For me, it was in the gleeful chortle of a twelve-month-old baby, a little bundle of love that met me at the door each day when I came to pick up my daughter. Oh, how I came to love that little kid, who showed me the great affection God has for us.

Then, finally, until the smoke clears . . . you just keep finding reasons to thank him. Because thanksgiving is the surest way to trust.

Today’s Love in Action: What passage of Scripture do you turn to most often, when you feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

Mommy Love: Guest Post from Sarah Reinhard (The Love Project, Day 11)

Sarah ReinhardToday’s guest post is from one of my favorite “mommy bloggers,” Sarah Reinhard, who is also celebrating her birthday today — happy day, sweetie! And thanks for sharing a snippet from your newest brainchild — a wonderful resource for pregnant moms.

I had a few years of enjoying young children in the form of younger siblings and nieces and nephews before I was married and started having my own. I thought I was ready for the reality of children saying the darndest things.

Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the hilarity—and heartbreak—I have experienced as a mom. From my children’s mouths I’ve heard tender expressions of love but also explosions of anger. They’ve made observations that have lifted my spirits and others that have cut me to the quick.

When Mary and Joseph find Jesus after three days of searching for him (see Lk 2:42–51), they must have had some heat in their words to him. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but maybe worry is, to some extent, a natural reaction of parents to the experience of losing a child in a crowd or a store.

What I learn from this mystery is how the story continues with him going home and being obedient, even in the face of what seems to be a smart-aleck remark from Jesus—”Didn’t you know where I’d be?” This seems like it would be a prime time to uphold parental authority, but in the silence, I find a lesson in humility.

Jesus was in the Temple all along, though his parents didn’t know it and had to search for him. Their inability to find him didn’t change where he was the entire time.

In the Temple, Jesus was listening and asking questions much like a typical twelve-year-old. Yet he was anything but typical. I find comfort, though, in the idea that he wasn’t born with all the knowledge he needed. In this way, his humanity is expressed in this mystery, as is the quandary of his parents: do they punish him after this or are they so glad to find him that they just let him off the hook?

In this mystery, we can find ourselves at Jesus’s feet, asking for the guidance to be the kind of parent he’s calling us to be. Though it’s early in the journey of parenting this particular child, we don’t have to wait to ask to be able to cooperate with the graces God sends our way in our parenting journey.

This excerpt is from A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, by Sarah Reinhard and is used with the author’s permission. Find out more about Sarah and her writing at

Mother’s Helper: Guest Post by Allie O. Williams

“Look what we found!” exclaimed our son, Rob. As the oldest & tallest he was the default spokesman, thrusting a muddy mitt in my face, his fist clutching a clay encrusted hunk of plastic. “It’s Mary and I found it,” cried our littlest neighbor Maggie firmly asserting her role. “But it was in our yard,” hollered our daughter, Elizabeth.

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Catholic Newletter for Thoughtful Women of Faith

The other day Kristen West McGuire got in touch with me about an online magazine she’s created for women who are interested in cultivating a deeper spiritual life. “Secretum Meum Mihi” (My Secret is Mine) was the response of St. Edith Stein, when asked why she converted to Catholicism (from Judaism).

A convert to Catholicism (like me), Kristen has a heart for women who believe in God and want to understand why Catholics believe what we do … or are confused about how to live out the teachings of the Church in everyday life. Not every article will appeal to everyone … but a lot of good stuff nonetheless.

I encourage you to check it out!