Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Feast Day St. Joseph!

I haven't been writing much during Lent, but I couldn't let this day go by without at least a short post.

Today is the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Joseph.  As I posted earlier, every Wednesday, I pray what a friend dubbed "9-1-1 Prayers to St. Joseph," and they have brought many blessings to my family. 

St. Joseph recently answered a fervent prayer through his intercession in a very big way, so I felt compelled to buy a new statue in his honor.  When I brought this up to my non-Catholic husband, he remarked that he's  not a huge fan of saint statues.  I asked if maybe a painting would be a better idea, and he agreed he would be in favor of that.  I've been searching high and low for a painting that would appeal to my family and have come up rather empty-handed.  I am not a fan of the "ancient old man" representation of St. Joseph so often found in art these days nor do I like the rather saccharine images of a younger St. Joseph I've found in Catholic bookstores.

I finally came across the image above of St. Joseph and a teenage (?) Jesus on Facebook and found it very compelling.  The scene somehow reminds me of my own husband and teenage son working together.  Unfortunately, I can't find out the name of the painting or the artist despite searching all over the internet.  If anyone knows, please email me at  

FYI, I recently posted a column at entitled The Weighted Vest: Improve Your Fitness, Posture, Bone Health …and Spiritual Life! in case you're interested.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Cool "God Moment"

I've been wanting to write about this, but time has just gotten away from me.  A few weeks ago, I flew out to LA for a press junket for the movie "The Vow."  These junkets are a lot of fun as the studio flies us out, puts us up in a nice hotel and arranges interviews with the cast, directors and screenwriters.

 When I hailed a cab at LAX for a ride to the hotel, I realized that I was low on cash and asked the driver if he would take a credit card.  He reluctantly agreed.  When we reached the hotel, he ran my card and I asked him to add a tip.  He was unable to do this as the card had already processed, and all I had was a few $1's and a $5.  I needed the $1's to tip the bellman who had already grabbed my bag from the trunk and was waiting for me at the curb.  $5 was a measly tip, so I pulled out my checkbook.  The driver stopped me, telling me that he had no way to cash a check and didn't have a bank account.  I gave him the $5 and asked his name.  He told me it was Tom, and I told him I would pray for him and that somehow he would get the rest of the tip from me because God would work it out.

I'm sure he rolled his eyes and thought, "Yeah, sure!" but he smiled and said, "It's okay." 

I knew that I would have to give some money away (I was thinking $10 would do it) to a needy person, and I said a quick prayer:  "Dear Lord, please put someone in my path today who needs money and then somehow let that money get back to Tom."

Hours later, I was out walking near my hotel having completely forgotten about the incident.  I wanted to buy some fruit from a stand on the street and realized I was out of cash.  I ducked into a nearby bank and hit the ATM.  As I walked back toward the hotel, I passed a small park where a middle age man was lying on a bench.  He asked, "Excuse me, but can you spare a dollar?"  I opened my wallet and had nothing but $20's from the ATM.  As I started to look for change, it hit me-- this was the person I had asked God to put in my path.  As I said, I was thinking $10, but God had a more generous tip in mind for Tom.  I gave the homeless man $20 and told him to pray for me and for a cab driver named Tom.  He probably thought I was crazy, but happily took the cash.

As I walked on, I prayed that the homeless man would use the money to better his life and not waste it on alcohol or drugs.

Although I never found out, I am certain that later that day Tom mysteriously received $20.  I hope he realized that it was his tip and that God does indeed work in mysterious ways!


The Vow is actually a pretty cute movie. I wrote a feature (not the title I submitted...) and a review on Catholic Exchange if you'd like to learn more.

I will be on Catholic TV's "This is the Day" tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10:30 am eastern.  I'll be interviewed by phone as I'm not able to travel to Massachusetts for a live interview.  You can watch live at this link.  It will be rebroadcast on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Thursday at  midnight and 3:30 p.m.  The show will also be available to watch online anytime at the same link a day or two after it airs.

I just updated my website.  Check it out, if you have time and let me know what you think:

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fabric of Time

After daily Mass today (and Stations of the Cross afterward), I drove up to a little town in the mountains to check out a furniture outlet that's only open on Friday afternoons.  I've been asking St. Joseph to find me a nice kitchen table for a fabulous price, and I may have found it today.  I just have to get my husband's approval and wait for their upcoming Valentine's Day sale.  (Wouldn't it be wonderful if furniture stores had a St. Joseph's feast day sale?  It seems so obvious...)

I also discovered a terrific rails-to-trails path to get in some exercise.  Since I keep workout clothes and shoes in my car, I changed and headed toward the trail.  It was perfect-- the crushed gravel surface was easy on my knees as I alternated walking and running, and the scenery was breathtaking.  

The path followed a river, and most of the countryside was unspoiled and beautiful.  (An interesting side note:  The river is the second oldest in the world-- the Nile River is the oldest-- and is ironically called the New River.)  As I traversed the path, I prayed the Rosary, using the prayers to time my running and walking intervals as I meditated on the Sorrowful Mysteries.  It has been a while since I've done any serious running, and I definitely was not up to running the full 4 1/2 miles of the trail segment.

After my Rosary, I started thinking about the people who rode the train when the trail still had tracks.  I imagined ladies in sunbonnets and prairie dresses and men in hats and boots looking out the window at the beautiful scenery.  These people are all dead and buried, their lives on earth most likely never recorded and their fates unknown.  It got me thinking about how God has put me into this time and place.  He planned my existence for all eternity, and my every decision and action is woven into the fabric of time.  In this life, I do not know what consequences these actions  may bring and whom they may affect, but I pray constantly that the Holy Spirit will guide me in the way that best fits God's plan.  

I so often fall, reminding me of the three times Jesus fell during the Stations of the Cross I had just prayed.  I try to pray the Stations every Friday because the brief reflection on the Passion of Our Lord helps remind me that I have an impact on others, and that I want that impact to lead them closer to Christ and not farther away.  

If you don't currently pray the Stations, I'd like to give you some encouragement, in the form of 14 promises given by Jesus to a Spaniard religious named Brother Estanislas nearly 100 years ago.  I remember these promises when I'm temped to run out after Mass.  The Stations take just a few minutes to pray (or an hour or more if you really get into it), and the benefits and blessings certainly make the effort worthwhile.
  1. I will grant everything that is asked of Me with faith, when making The Way of the Cross.
  2. I promise Eternal Life to those who pray from time to time, The Way of the Cross.
  3. I will follow them everywhere in life and I will help them, especially at the hour of death.
  4. Even if they have more sins than the blades of grass in the fields and the grains of sand in the sea, all of them will be erased by The Way of the Cross. (Note: This promise does not eliminate the obligation to confess all mortal sins, and this, before we can receive Holy Communion.)
  5. Those who pray The Way of the Cross often will have a special glory in Heaven.
  6. I will deliver them from Purgatory, indeed if they go there at all, the first Tuesday or Friday after their death.
  7. I will bless them at each Way of the Cross, and My blessing will follow them everywhere on earth and, after their death, in Heaven for all Eternity.
  8. At the hour of death I will not permit the devil to tempt them; I will lift all power from him in order that they will repose tranquilly in My Arms.
  9. If they pray it with true love, I will make of each one of them a living Ciborium in which it will please Me to pour My grace.
  10. I will fix My Eyes on those who pray The Way of the Cross often; My hands will always be open to protect them.
  11. As I am nailed to the Cross, so also will I always be with those who honor Me in making The Way of the Cross frequently.
  12. They will never be able to separate themselves from Me, for I will give them the grace never again to commit a Mortal sin.
  13. At the hour of death I will console them with My Presence and we will go together to Heaven. Death will be sweet to all those who have honored Me during their lives by praying The Way of the Cross.
  14. My soul will be a protective shield for them, and will always help them, whenever they have recourse.  

"Next to the Mass, The Way of the Cross is the most beneficial of all devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory." A poor souls to a privileged nun. "Make the Stations of the Cross everyday". Our Lord to Sr. Josefa Menendez. 

As a little bonus for today, I'll share one of my favorite recipes for Fridays (which we try to keep meatless)-- Tuna Casserole.  I was never a big fan of tuna casserole until I tried this version.  I've tweaked it over the years, and it's a family favorite in regular rotation.  My daughter insists on crescent rolls, but I usually buy the mini roll, which only has four rolls.  Since there are four of us, we each get one with no temptation to have another.  Since the casserole is only about 250 calories per serving and packed with protein, a crescent roll isn't a bad indulgence.

Tuna Casserole

Olive oil 
1/2 box farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
Red bell pepper, diced
Green bell pepper, diced
A few stalks celery, diced (optional)
A few green onions, diced
2 cans low-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 large (12 oz) can Bumblebee solid white albacore, packed in water
1 cup fat free evaporated milk
salt and pepper
3/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (not the green can!)

Boil the pasta according to package directions and drain.  Meanwhile, saute the peppers, celery and onion in a little olive oil until soft.  Stir in tuna, soup and evaporated milk, stirring until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.  (You might want to add more evaporated milk if you prefer a thinner sauce.)  Pour the pasta into a greased 9" x 13" pan, then stir in sauce, mixing until combined.  (I like to just mix in the pan vs. getting a bowl dirty, or you could use the pasta pot.)  Top with Parmesan.  Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  Makes about 6 servings and great as leftovers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miscellaneous topics

First of all, I'd like to ask your prayers for a talk I'm doing this weekend at a women's conference.  Please pray for the women who will be attending and that the Holy Spirit will use me as an instrument to enrich their physical and spiritual lives (and safe travels for all of us).

I'm not blogging too much this week as I'll be spending a lot of time preparing for the talk, but I have a few links to post for articles I've written recently.

First of all, I'm eager to shed a few holiday indulgence pounds, so I shared some of the strategies I use as a fitness expert in an article on Catholic Lane.  As motivation, I plan to get back into doing triathlons this year and found a good one to train for in May.  I'll post my training plan when I finish designing it.  This week, I'm setting a goal of some type of workout every day, even if it's only 10 minutes.

Today, I had some extra time and went for a 5-mile walk.  Our new house is out in the country, so it was fun to walk along the road and see cows grazing and a very protective mother goat who bleated loudly until I was safely out of sight. 

When I came home, I got out my dumbbells and worked my biceps, triceps and abs.  The weight workout only took 10 minutes, so it's handy to have a few dumbbells at home.  For a bench, I use a stability ball.  I picked one up at Ross Dress for Less for a mere $12, including the pump.  This particular stability ball is rather ingenious.  It's called a "Stay Ball" because it's weighted with sand and doesn't roll away (a rather frustrating problem, if you've owned one or used one in a gym).  The sand also adds weight to the ball (2 pounds) which makes it useful for resistance exercises.  Another great feature is that the ball is covered with little bumps which help prevent you from falling off and provide extra traction for push-ups and other exercises.  An exercise chart is also included and is well done.  I was lucky to find it at Ross for such a great price, but I did find it online at several sites, including Wal-Mart ($19.77). The lowest price is $13.99 at, but shipping is about $6.  You might be better off using Wal-Mart's free ship-to-store feature.

I have another article out this week on Catholic Exchange.  It's a review of the film There Be Dragons, now out on DVD.  The movie is a fictionalized account of the life of St. Josemaria Escriva, with an interesting subplot about the Spanish Civil War.  If you leave a comment on the article, you can enter a contest to win a free DVD.

If you haven't seen the movie War Horse yet, it's worth seeing.  I was able to attend the press junket in New York City last month, so I wrote up a feature on the movie as well as a review on Catholic Exchange.  I also posted an interview with young star Jeremy Irvine on Catholic Lane.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year and Thanks for Your Patience!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone is enjoying a very blessed Christmas season and New Year.  I'm especially thankful because we have finally moved into our new house.  I owe St. Joseph, the patron saint of our home, a big debt of gratitude for all the blessings he has brought us.

Honestly, I feel like I should have started a blog on painting a house because that's where all my writing time has gone the last six months.  I have literally spent at least 2 hours most days since July painting and priming walls, trim, baseboard, doors, windowsills, etc..  You would not believe the amount of primer and paint that goes into a house! 

I look at all that time spent painting as a blessing.  First of all, I helped to contribute to cost savings in our new home.  More importantly though, I discovered Ave Maria Radio.  I needed something to listen to during those long hours painting and realized that my new Droid smartphone could also be used as a radio.  At first, I listened to favorite songs from my teen years but quickly became tired of them.  I thought it would be more beneficial to listen to something spiritually uplifting, so I searched for Catholic radio apps. 

At random, I chose Ave Maria Radio and was quickly hooked.  (If you have a smartphone, you can download the app.  If not, you can also listen online at the link above.)  Since I painted in the morning, I caught the tail end of the Son Rise Morning Show (7:00 - 8:00 am eastern) which has been a favorite of mine as my friend and co-author Matt Swaim is the producer.  I've been a guest on the show several times, and I'll be promoting my new book, Tending the Temple this year on the show, along with my co-authors, Kevin Vost and Shane Kapler.

Next up is Teresa Tomeo's excellent program (8:00-10:00 am).  She always has interesting guests and is passionately pro-life.  Following Teresa is Food for the Journey and Fire on the Earth (10:00 -10:30), both solid programs.  Christian Classics (10:30 - 10:45) can be dry at times but can also be quite good.  Stay tuned though because Stories from the Heart (10:45-11:00) is ALWAYS wonderful.  The host, Sandra McDevitt, finds the most wonderful stories and reads them aloud.  I'm always spellbound by this program.  I don't know where she finds these stories, but God bless for what she does.

The best program on Ave Maria Radio, hands down, is a show called Christ is the Answer (11:00-12:00), hosted by Fr. John Riccardo.  If every parish had a priest like Fr. Riccardo, then Catholics would quickly be in the vast majority in this nation.  He is in his mid-40's, works out every day and is one of the holiest and most inspiring priests I have ever heard.  His unique brand of down-to-earth, optimistic, orthodox preaching makes me feel like Mary of Bethany, at the feet of Jesus, ignoring all the housework and listening with rapt attention to every word.  If you can't catch his show, then download one of the many podcasts.  I especially enjoyed the Theology of the Body series.  (If you listen to this series, scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to the oldest podcasts first.)  The Catholicism for Cradle Catholics series was also really, really good but honestly, anything he says is worth listening to.

May 2012 be a blessed year for all of us and our nation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stand for Life

It's been a crazy day, but I want to make a quick plug for a Life Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.  If you live in North Carolina, this would be a great event to attend.  There are some inspiring guest speakers, and the home page for the event offers a challenge:

Are you concerned where this country is headed in regard to Life issues?
Learn more about the issues and how you can get involved in your community.
Learn how you can be on the front lines in this battle now raging in our country!

If you don't live in North Carolina or can't attend the event, do try to participate in the upcoming 40 Days for Life campaign.  It runs from September 28 - November 6.  Check out the 40 Days for Life website for more information and to find the nearest prayer vigil in your area.  If you're lucky enough not to have an abortion center nearby, then please pray the Rosary for life as often as you can during the campaign.  Of course, you can also start praying today!

Every morning, I pray for the baby in danger of abortion whom I have "spiritually adopted."  I name each baby and pray for 9 months that he or she will be spared from abortion.  I am now on my 7th baby.  It takes just a minute every morning, and you will probably never know the outcome of your prayers until you meet the babies in heaven, but I think it's worth the small effort.  Learn more at this site.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Joy in the Joyful Mysteries

I haven't written many posts on my Rosary reflections lately, because unfortunately there hasn't been anything to write.  Summers always throw my prayer routine for a loop with the jumbled schedules and everyone at home or being shuttled off to camps, friends' houses, etc.  I still try to pray the Rosary as often as possible, but I am easily distracted or have to fit my Rosary in one decade at a time throughout the day. 

Sometimes praying the Rosary can almost seem like a chore, despite the fact that it is my favorite prayer.  I feel so limited by my human faults and shortcomings.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me put aside distractions and focus on the mysteries, but meditation is definitely a skill that requires a lot of patience and practice.  These periods of spiritual dryness are frustrating, but I know that it's important to continue to pray, even when it feels mechanical and meaningless.

School started last week, so I am getting back to my Rosary Workout routine.  Yesterday, I went for an early morning bike ride.  The sun was warm, and the cool air held the promise of autumn days ahead.  Although I usually pray the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, I decided to pray the Joyful ones instead as I had prayed the Glorious on Monday in honor of the feast of the Assumption.  (Since I'm a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, I have pledged to pray all 15 traditional decades each week, as a minimum.)

As I pedaled, I tried to find some aspect of the mysteries to focus on in order to facilitate meditation.  The Joyful Mysteries are bittersweet as each event leads Jesus and Mary closer to Calvary, yet a thought came to me to focus on only the joy in each of the mysteries:

During the Annunciation, I pondered the joy of the Angel Gabriel, offering the young virgin the opportunity to become the mother of the Messiah,  Then there is the joy of Mary, humbly accepting God's will.  The microscopic Baby Jesus no doubt felt joy at experiencing the very genesis of human life.  All heaven rejoices at Mary's fiat ("yes"), and Christians to this very day are joyful that the gates of heaven have been opened as a result of this turning point in human history.

At the Visitation, Elizabeth is not only filled with the Holy Spirit but also with a great joy: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).  Of course, John the Baptist literally leaps for joy in his mother's womb, overcome by the presence of the Savior.  Mary bursts forth in song with her joyful canticle, the Magnificat.  Tiny baby Jesus must feel joy at being brought out into the world for the first time, His presence mighty even from the womb.  The angels and all of heaven rejoice at the sanctification of John the Baptist, the "voice crying in the wilderness" who will prepare the way for Savior. All generations hence fulfill Elizabeth's prophecy as we pray the Hail Mary, rejoicing that Mary,"blessed among women," shares her joy as she leads us closer to her Divine Son.

The Nativity is a joyful scene in a humble setting-- the Holy Family, together at last, experiencing one other through human senses.  Mary and Joseph joyfully and reverently hold the infant Christ, looking upon his perfect little face, listening to the mewing cries of the newborn babe and breathing in that wonderful baby scent.  The infant Jesus finally experiences the world He created through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin of a human being.  He sees His mother Mary, from whom He took his flesh and blood and His foster father, Joseph, the man who would teach Him about human work.  Meanwhile, the angels joyfully announce the birth of the Savior to the dumbfounded shepherds, who dutifully make their way toward the meager stable, stunned by the joy that such a tiny baby could stir up feelings of awe and wonder.  The wise men later follow the star, filled with joy and curiosity at the amazing signs in the heavens.

At the Presentation, Mary and Joseph joyfully bring their Divine Son to His Father's house for the first time.  There, Simeon declares his joy at the fulfillment of the prophecy that he would see the Messiah before his death.  His canticle, or song of joy, is recalled daily in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Anna the Prophetess also recognizes the Messiah and joyfully proclaims His arrival to anyone who would listen.  Heaven rejoices at the humble obedience of the Holy Family, and baby Jesus might have experienced the joy of seeing the beauty of that ancient temple through human eyes.  Today, we rejoice that Jesus was brought out into the world, experiencing human emotions, weaknesses and limitations, a "man like us in all things but sin."

Finally, the Finding of the Child Jesus reminds me of Dolly Parton's line in the movie Steel Magnolias, "My favorite emotion is laughter through tears."  Perhaps that is what Mary and Joseph experienced when they finally found Jesus in what they now realized was the most obvious place-- His Father's house.  Frantic with worry just moments earlier, they no doubt wept with joy at finding their beloved Son.  Young Jesus might have found joy in becoming a man in the eyes of the Jewish culture, now able to go about His Father's business.  Those who listened attentively must have felt a deep joy in hearing this young man's passion for the Scriptures.  Heaven too was joyful watching the "Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  We find joy in our lives today when, like Mary and Joseph, we finally find Jesus after a long period of searching.