Figurines Hugging
Action, Calling, Love
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Give Some Love

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You know how timing is everything?

One night last week I was working on Sacrament prep with my younger son, Max.  The lesson, “God Loves Us,” asked him to identify some of the ways different people in his life help and love him.  Then, it asked him to identify some of the ways he offers help and love to others.  It was a good, simple 2nd Grade exercise, but it didn’t make that explicit connection back to the lesson title.  So we talked about it:

“Do you see what’s happening here?  God expresses his love for us through other people.  When you feel loved by someone, they’re helping God out by delivering that love.  When you offer love and help to others, you’re helping God out by delivering that love.  Sometimes God tugs on your heart and fills you with love, or care, or concern for someone… and you have a choice to either help God out and give some love or just ignore it.  Did you know that’s how God works?”

Max scrunched up his face as he thought for a moment, and then smiled and said, “Well, I didn’t know it, but it makes a lot of sense.”

It turns out that our Sacrament prep conversation occurred on the evening of St. Teresa of Avila’s Feast Day.  The prayer attributed to St. Teresa, “Christ Has No Body But Yours,” touches upon this theme of God relying upon us to help and love others.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Making that connection between the idea of God’s love for us and our role in making that happen is important at any age.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and later that night, instead of making the kids’ lunches, I sat on the floor of my office and packed up 70 copies of Continuing the Journey to ship out to 35 different parishes in the Houston area.  (Yay book sales!)  So I went to bed promising to do lunches in the morning, even though I know that’s never a good idea. When I awoke with a viscous head cold, I decided to sleep in a little later, drop the kids at school, and then make and deliver those lunches by 11:30. Plenty of time!

Except before I went over to school, I stopped at the Post Office.  Turns out it takes a lot longer to mail 35 packages than I expected.  Turns out that I really should have either pre-paid or made an appointment.

All this to say that I was a little late in delivering the lunches… so late that I needed to walk them up to the boys’ classroom.  When I entered, I saw that my 8 year old son, Alex was sitting next to his teacher (never a good sign), who tells me, “We’re working on calming down.”

I take one look at Alex’s face and see the swollen, puffy red splotches around his eyes.  It was one of those “one-too-many-things-went-wrong” situations, but all he could focus on was this little plastic shoe lace lock thing that broke.

“Honey, I’m about to run some errands; do you want me to stop at Academy and pick you up a new shoe lace thing?”

A very sad, but relieved “Yeah…” came out.

“Actually, Alex, would you want to come with me?”  (I look at his teacher and she nods in agreement.)  “You could eat your lunch in the car, take some time to calm down, and you can come back to school later.”

“Okay.”  And he put his little hand in mine as we walked out.

We have an expression in our male-dominated, engineer-brain, intense-personality house, which is simply “I need some love.”  Whether a person is sad or frustrated or feeling down or lonely or simply feeling cuddley, “I need some love is a request that is always honored.  It’s a stop-what-you’re-doing and be fully present to a full-body hug.  Thus far it has also involved the boys crawling into my lap.  This expression gets adapted to question form: “Do you need some love?” as well as a statement that accompanies a bear hug: “I just want to give you some love.”

So as we walked out of the school building towards the car, I picked him up into a bear hug so I could give him some love.  We got into the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“Alex, I want you to know that if you’re ever having a difficult day, it’s always ok to call me and tell me that you just need some love.  I will always do my best to be there for you.”

This made him cry even more, so I pulled the car over, he climbed into the front seat, and I just gave him some more love.

“Aside from your shoe, can you tell me some of the other things that happened to make it such a frustrating day?”

Alex is not the most verbally expressive kid, so I only got a few garbled pieces in a very high pitched voice, but one tidbit stood out.  When he had started to get emotional at school, one of the younger children in their mixed aged class called Alex a cry-baby, and then denied doing so when confronted.  Alex was most upset by the injustice of it all: Together, the students had created, agreed to, and and signed a Class Constitution that explicitly stated they are to show compassion to one another (not make fun of each other).

He was too upset to talk about it any more, so I gave some love and we went about running errands, fixing shoe lace locks, and stopping by a Starbucks to pick up a kid-hot-chocolate (which is a super-small serving at a kid-friendly “warm-chocolate” temperature).

Later in the afternoon, I told him about why I was so late to drop off the lunches–it took a lot longer to mail 35 packages than I thought.  But instead of the Post Office being a thorn, it turned out to be my rose.  If it wasn’t for this unexpected delay, I wouldn’t have been so late in dropping off the lunches that I needed to walk into his classroom at that moment and see him.  I wouldn’t have been there at exactly the right moment to give some love.

“You know Alex, last night when Max and I did Sacrament prep, we talked about something that relates to this.  You know that God loves us, right?  Well, the way God helps us experience that love is through one another.  God knew you really needed some love today, so He took advantage of my delay and put me in the right place at the right time.  God sent you love through me.  God gave me the opportunity to love you, and of course I said yes!

That’s how God works.  When someone is upset or in need of help (or could just use some love), God tugs at your heart and asks you to help.  You have three choices:

  1. You can ignore it, which kinda hurts God’s feelings.
  2. You can be mean to the person, which really hurts God’s feelings.
  3. Or you can give love, which really helps God out.

And that’s the thing that’s so upsetting about [your younger classmate].  He saw that you were upset and instead of offering love or compassion, he chose to be hurtful.

I hope that the next time you see someone who is upset, you’ll remember how important it is to offer love.”

The reality is that this dynamic of giving and needing love presents itself to us every day.  Sometimes it’s obvious: your child is visibly upset and you have a unique opportunity to respond.  Sometimes it’s more subtle: a friend crosses your mind while you shower and you find yourself suddenly filled with gratitude for their presence in your life.

It’s at these times–both the obvious and the subtle–that God is tugging on our hearts and asking us to help Him shower His people with love.


  • How do we respond to this tug?  By ignoring it? By lashing out against it? Or by offering love?


Free hugs by Hien Nguyen licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Book
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My Book – Continuing the Journey is Available for Purchase!

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Continuing the Journey is officially available for purchase on Amazon!

Book PileSpecial Pricing is available for bulk orders of 10+ or 25+ on my book page.

Though I initially wrote Continuing the Journey to be a resource for folks who have attended a retreat and were looking to continue that retreat experience, ultimately it became a resource for all adults who are looking to learn, reflect upon, and grow in their faith. Regardless of where they may find themselves on their faith journey.

For those that haven’t gotten a copy yet, it has 28 chapters on a variety of topics:

  • each is short and includes reflection questions.
  • It is easy to understand, and it will really make you think.
  • It is educational and catechetical, referencing both Scripture and Tradition.
  • It is evangelizing because it gets you excited about living out your faith
  • It is great for independent study and journaling or a book club/faith sharing group discussion.

Find out more information and order
your copy on the book page!

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Rose in the garden
Prayer
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“The Rose”

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For the longest time, our family dinner conversation was…painfully boring, and not for a lack of trying.  We ate dinner together as a family regularly, but we have young kids who were neither contributing to the conversation nor responding to unending questions: “How was your day?”  “What did you work on?”  “Who did you sit with at lunch?”  “What did you do in P.E.?”  To be honest, my husband wasn’t a lot better: “Fine… Had a never-ending meeting for [acronym-laced-NASA-project].”

We wanted our family dinner time to be an experience of community.  Sometimes fun and joyful.  Sometimes serious.  Often something in-between.  Really, we just wanted more quality in our time together.  And it just wasn’t happening.


  • Can you relate?  When it comes to cultivating quality conversations with your loved ones, what are your successes?  What are your struggles?


When I shared my frustration about what felt like a missed-opportunity with my dear friend Heidi, she shared an approach to dinner-time conversation called “The Rose.”  It is prayerful, it is diverse, it is easy to do, and it enriches the whole experience of dinner-time conversation.  Did I mention it’s prayerful?

Heidi learned from Sara, who learned it from a family retreat…  It is so simple and so powerful that I wrote about it in Chapter 10 “Prayer as Conversation,” in my new book Continuing the Journey.  And it is in this rich tradition of passing on fantastic ideas that I share it with you.



Painting of Rose, bud, thorn, and roots

“The Rose” is a loose adaptation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen.

At the dinner table, one person leads by being the first to share their “rose,” and then invites everyone else to follow suit.  The reflection continues with each person’s “bud,” “thorn,” and “root.”

  • Rose – the parts of your day that you are thankful for
  • Bud – something you are looking forward to in the coming days or weeks
  • Thorn – a difficult part of your day (that you might ask God’s help with)
  • Root – someone or something you are hoping and praying for

We conclude our dinner-time conversation by saying, “Thank you for our rose, bless our bud, hear our root, and help us with our thorn.”  (Continuing the Journey page 43)

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Article, Questions, Scripture
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Have You Ever Wondered: Why the Different Bibles?

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Did you know that Catholics use a slightly different Bible than other Christian denominations? Have you ever wondered why?


My 8 year old son (mini-Bill Nye the Science Guy) made his First Holy Communion in May, and has been obsessed with what the differences are, and why there are differences.

When your kid suddenly becomes obsessed with a facet of faith, you do your best to respond in kind.  The explanation–which is wrapped up in Church history–is actually quite interesting.


Alex and Fr. Wencil at 1st Communion

Why the Differences?

A brief recap Jewish history to get some context:  

  • Around 1280 BC, Moses led the Chosen people to the Promised Land
  • King David reigned around 1000 BC
  • In 721 BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians
  • In 586 BC the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians  

As each kingdom fell, the Jews were exiled and scattered–or dispersed (“diaspora”)–around the region.  In the Diaspora following the fall of the Southern Kingdom, many Jews settled in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was immersed in Greek language and culture.  After about fifty years, the Persian Ruler, Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, but a whole generation had been born and raised while living in foreign lands, many of whom chose to stay.  As time passed and more Diaspora Jews spoke Greek, there was a desire to have a copy of the Jewish Sacred Scriptures translated into the Greek language.

Legend has it that 72 scholars set out to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek.  The Greek word for seventy is “septuaginta,” which is why this translation is known as the Septuagint [sep-tue-ah-jint].  It was completed around 100 BC and was widely used by Jews outside of Jerusalem.

So then the New Testament came to be:

  • The life, ministry, parables, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus happened around 30-33AD.
  • The Letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude were written to various Christian communities in the years that followed the Resurrection.
  • These Letters were so profoundly powerful that they got passed around from community to community while the stories of Jesus were told and retold orally.
  • Eventually the Gospels were written down and passed around as well.
  • Since most people spoke and wrote in Greek, the Gospels and Letters were also composed in Greek.

Although the New Testament itself was written in Greek, since Jesus and the Apostles lived and traveled in and around Jerusalem and Judea, they probably did not use the Septuagint when they read from scrolls.  They probably used scrolls written in Hebrew and Aramaic.  Which brings us to the next part of the story…

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Article, Evangelization, Faith, Liturgy
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A Bad Homily is a Missed Opportunity

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We have all sat through bad homilies.  Too many of them.  Too often.

In “Connecting Sermons to Life,” Margery Eagan is spot-on in her criticism of the disconnect between what’s happening in the world and most priests’ homilies at mass.  Between ISIS, Ebola, air strikes in Iraq, climate change, Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, Ferguson, and the NFL’s mess with domestic violence, there’s a lot going on in the world.  The Church needs to help Christians process all of this from a faith perspective.

It matters when a priest acknowledges the overload of worldwide suffering, then reminds us that light always emerges from the darkness.

I could not agree more with this part of Eagan’s criticism.

However, Eagan stepped over a liturgical line by concluding that bad homilies mean that Mass is abig bust.”

Uninspiring Sunday sermons, described as “boring,” “irrelevant,” and “poorly prepared” [are a big reason why many Catholics no longer go to Church]. In other words, the Mass — the main contact many Catholics have with their faith — was a big bust.

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