Friday, May 08, 2015

Mary, Motherhood and the Family of God

Below is the latest post by the awesome Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT 

Mary, Motherhood and the Family of God

Mary's motherhood, like motherhood in general, was lived out quietly behind the scenes. St. Pope John Paul II pointed out that "History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men's achievements, when in fact its better part is most often molded by women's determined and persevering action for good." (Papal Message On Women's Conference to Mrs. Gertrude Mongella. May, 1995)

Mary achieved more than any other human being. This was done in the most intimate way in the context of Her Divine Motherhood, a role which God asked her to live, and which She joyfully assented to! She continues to bring souls to life in grace and to love saints into being, so essential and eternal is Her motherhood to who She is.

But just as God took His own flesh from the body of Mary, so every child comes into this world through the body of a woman. Every conception is a kind of annunciation, God asking permission of the woman to bring a new life into the world because His creative love has delighted in the thought of that particular and unique little one. He "entrusts the human person to her in a special way" (JPII) and asks every woman's immediate care and participation in the formation of the life He gives. Just as He sent His own Son to be His ultimate gift to a world dying from sin, so He sends every child to be a gift to a world in desperate need of His goodness.

Some are meant to show the face of Christ's mercy, others His compassion. Some will be teachers in His likeness, others will bring his miracles into people's lives. Others will spend and consume themselves to heal and unite us all into one Family of Our Father.

Every mother wants greatness for her child. That greatness will be measured by the part they play in the greatest drama ever, the drama of redemption, the battle for souls, the battle for the brothers and sisters of our own particular age. The call on every life is to participate in redeeming its own age. Every gift of Christ made incarnate in the lives of those born into this world is meant to serve this.

It should be no surprise then that the attack on family is so strong today. We have an enemy who fights ferociously to keep us from living the image and likeness of God, especially as mothers and fathers. He hates the reflection of the Incarnation in every newborn child. And he despises the communion of Trinitarian love that each family is called to live.

Mothers have a particular answer to this which is seen most clearly in the life of our Blessed Mother at the foot of the Cross. In Christ, all the joys and sufferings, sorrows and glories of motherhood are taken up into His own Mystery and become redemptive. Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it this way:

“The pains which a woman bears in labor help to expiate the sins of mankind, and draw their meaning from the Agony of Christ on the Cross. Mothers are, therefore, not only co-creators with God; they are co-redeemers with Christ in the flesh.” (Three to Get Married)

There is likewise a Eucharistic reflection which St. John Chrysostom notes: "As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life."

If we are to imitate Christ and become one with him in all things, Motherhood is truly a privileged place where, with Christ, a woman can fully say: "This is my body which is given up for you." The tragedy today is that so many women are saying instead: "This is my body and I will not give it up for you." They have not seen nor understood the greatness of their calling.

The work of pointing the way and leading people to the kingdom that is not of this world, is not an easy work. It requires death to self. But God takes even the most insignificant daily realities and makes them fruitful in this work. Mary did for Jesus everyday what all mothers do for their children, dressing them, washing them, feeding them, teaching them. It is hidden work but has immeasurable value.

Mothers know this better than others. They not only live out the Paschal Mystery in their own flesh and spirit, but they also live it out for and with their children. Their boundless love bleeds redeeming grace into the lives of their sons and daughters. Mary is the most profound example of this. But it is clearly seen in the lives of women like St. Monica, St. Gianna Molla, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and countless mothers whose lives will never be known to anyone outside of their immediate circles, until they get to heaven that is, where they will be honored and esteemed for their deep and faithful participation in the creation of God's own Family.

Human motherhood, along with human fatherhood, comes directly from the hand of God. Both are, in fact, a reflection of and participation in God's own Fatherhood which is Divine. When God created man He considered what would be the human expression of the life He Himself lives. His answer was Family, and family constituted as mother, father and children.

In the simplicity of God, our life on earth is meant to be about what our life in heaven will be like. The real stars in heaven will be mothers, for without their "yes" to our existence, none of us would have a chance of going there. But the supreme star will be our Queen, our Mother Mary whose "yes" to God's love gave us our Savior and Redeemer, the chance to once again call God our Father, and the gift that every heart longs for: to live in the perfect family forever.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

"Cinderella" and the Marriage to the King

Great explanation by Fr. Robert Barron of the fairy tale "Cinderella" and why it speaks so powerfully to our hearts.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Overcoming The Lies and Tasting the Resurrection

Below is a powerful and honest piece originally posted on written by my friend @heatherkhym

Perhaps we have all felt this way at times and we all long to taste the Resurrection.

Great job, Heather.

Your Real 

I could see it coming from 1000 miles away. The place I could end up if I wasn’t careful. The place so many strong ones have gone before….never to return.  When I suddenly found myself questioning the things I thought I was most certain about, honestly, it freaked me out.  My daily prayer became, “God, please save me…from myself.”
I’ve been Catholic my whole life, and at 14 had an encounter with God that was so real and deep it forever changed the course of my life.  I knew He was real, and out of hundreds of people in the room that night, He saw me, chose me, and came for little old me.  Only He knew my story, a shy, broken girl who was paralyzed by fear.  He knew how much I needed Him and He rescued me from the dark and brought me into the light. 
I’ve been working in lay ministry in the Church for 21 years now and my faith has been a constant.  I have seen both tragedies and miracles and when hardships in life came, I was anchored in my trust of the One who could see me and who loved me.  So, how did I get here, to the point of questioning almost everything?
I think we all know those voices in our head that are at war against the voice of God and His plan for us.  They are like tapes replaying familiar songs full of twisted lies.  Things like… “you are never going to be good enough, you will always end up disappointed, you are unloveable, you can’t trust anyone, you are so ugly, you don’t really matter, you will never be safe.” Oh, so familiar.  
The problem with the tape is that it sounds so damn true!  In moments that you are aching or crying out, the enemy’s whispers lies that are chillingly “true” and the voice of God fades fast.  Usually we get so intoxicated with the lie and soon find ourselves a broken mess on the floor, taken out by the enemy again, wondering, “how did I get here???”. 
In the midst of this recurring battle, something I’ve realized is that precisely in those moments, when the enemy begins to whisper, I have a choice.  I’m back in the garden of Eden with two trees to choose from, life or death.  The lies have no power on their own, but if I choose to agree with them, well….then the assault begins.  
The enemy always fights dirty and lately he has come on strong, with an unrelenting assault on my heart.  The uncanny life events coupled with his violent, persistent lies led me into a place where I was questioning everything from my calling, to being loveable, to wondering if there is even a place for me in my beloved Church.  It all seemed so true….and isn’t that the story of humanity?  The beloved turning from the Lover to trust the evil one who has no love for her and seeks only to destroy her.  I was beginning to agree with the lies and was drowning in doubt. I was losing myself. 
I struggled to speak truth to my weary heart. Honestly at times I just couldn’t do it, so like a parent making their child take their medicine, I force fed myself inspiring podcasts, books, and worship music letting them speak the truth over my life that I desperately needed.  Over a few months, I prayed, I fumed, I cried, I ranted, I ached, and finally conceded to the fact that I could not do it alone.  In my blindness and self reliance, I couldn’t see my desperate need for reinforcements.   I have no idea why it still takes me so long to realize my need to reach out to someone who can help.  
I called a close priest friend. A dear, trusted priest friend who knows me well and who recalled God’s story over my life, reminded me of truth of who I was and threw down some major spiritual warfare. Finally something broke and my head was lifted out of the choking waves.  This well loved psalm came to mind:
Psalm 18
He reached down from on high and seized me;
drew me out of the deep waters.
He rescued me from my mighty enemy,
from foes too powerful for me.
They attacked me on my day of distress,
but the Lord was my support.
He set me free in the open;
he rescued me because he loves me.
The breakthrough wasn’t anything earth shattering. But, I could finally breathe again and the screeching static separating God’s voice from my ears lifted. The veil got thin and Christ was suddenly close and whispering for me to come away with Him again.
A few days later on a family trip to Tennessee, I went to the Nashville Dominicans’ motherhouse with my family.  Its a beautiful place filled with beautiful, joyful sisters.  Within a few minutes of my arrival, my eyes welled up with tears. I could feel it, my nostalgic soul waking.  Something sacred was happening, God was coming close again.  
That place was so saturated in prayer and peace. The stillness, the smell of stone and incense, the stained glass.  I realized how homesick I had been for this.  It wasn’t the convent, it was the mysterious passing through the veil from the worldly into the sacred, where the truth, beauty and goodness of God quickly calms the restless heart.  I stood breathing it in, remembering how much I have missed the secret place and the aroma of heaven.  This is the challenge and the gift, to have this place in my heart that always remains, where the lies have no power and the encounter with God is happening, where His truth is the song over my life.  The funny thing is, I could have had it all along, but my choices to agree with the lies and ugly patterns of thought created solitude and separation from the One my heart was so longing to be with.  The lies aren’t gone, they are being whispered to me daily, but the difference is that I have clarity to see and agree with the truth instead.  It is my choice and I’m choosing to stay close Jesus.
As I’m approaching Holy Week, my prayer for myself and for all of us is that the power of the resurrection would become a deeper reality in all of the dead places in us, the lost ones, the broken ones, the ones filled with lies and that we begin to truly live as children of our faithful and loving Father.  Here’s a worship song by one of my favourite worship leaders called “Christ the Rock”.  It’sa been a good reminder to me.
Heather lives in Canada with her hunky husband, and raises three beautiful amazing talented children, and a cute pup. She is passionate about ministry, music, family, and good coffee. She loves God, and lives to serve him First. She loves long walks on the beach and has great hair… -joyful mysteries.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Passing Look At Football

Below is a great article by Sr. Anne Marie Walsh as Super Bowl Sunday draws near...

A Passing Look At Football 

This is a hard article to write because I love football.  

I come from a family of nine:  Mom, Dad, 6 brothers and myself.  From late August through January,  the Sunday family ritual always included football.  Packers football. No question.  We all went to Mass together, and when we came home, Dad gave Mom a break by feeding all of us ham and rolls from the local bakery.  

Then, we settled in front of the TV for time together, united in one and the same desire for a good game and a win for our team.  It was something we were all a part of.   As a girl, I was not excluded.   A fan is a fan after all!  We loved being able to throw ourselves into the game with Dad.   And he enjoyed teaching us all he knew.  As a result, I can talk football with the best of them.  Every game links me back to the feels, smells, tastes and high excitement of Sunday afternoons growing up.

So what is the problem?  It is difficult to admit but my observation is that football today (which I still watch and enjoy) has become a kind of liturgy of the secular culture.  And unfortunately, it is the only "liturgy" many people participate in on a weekend.  

Humor me for a minute and consider the typical game.  There is a communal gathering, most often on a Sunday. People arrive hours ahead of time, prepared to celebrate.  They are willing to sit in open air stadiums, through rain, sleet, snow and even subzero temps, hoping  to participate in their teams' victory.   The Game begins with an entrance procession in which the specially vested (uniformed) enter the sanctuary (I mean arena).  An opening hymn (National Anthem) is sung.  The seating of the congregation (fans/crowd) takes place, and the beginning of long commentaries (or mini homilies) on the game play starts.  The crowd has the "appropriate" responses, before, during and after.  And, of course, there is special football food and drink.  The homage paid is evidenced by the offering of incredible amounts of time, money and attention on both sides of the ball, by the Management, and by the fans.  All elements of Liturgy, but without the Divine.  Interesting.

I find myself wondering about these players today.  There are many I admire, who 
acknowledge God for their gifts and express gratitude for His help.  (I do wonder if they're given time on Game Day for worship.)  But there are also many I've had to mentally "unfriend" after learning about the lack of integrity in their personal lives.  This is not because I am any better than anyone out there.  I have my sins too.  But at the same time being gifted doesn't give anyone the right to behave like a jerk, especially as a public figure who has a part in shaping the attitudes of youth. No free passes here.

Disinhibition is a growing contemporary phenomenon that is alive and well in the world of sports.  Fame nowadays seems to give stars license to do and say almost anything they feel like, with little repercussion.  It can bring out the worst, just as it does on the internet, where there seems to be hardly a filter left.  (Witness the commentary after any article or post.  It is 90 % negative, filled with incivility and vitriol.  It is embarrassing to see the level that people regress to when there is no moderating influence on them.)

Personally, I prefer to see character, not beast mode, on display.  It is mortifying to see grown men behave with vulgarity and crudeness, braggadocio and temper tantrums, gifted or not.  Ego can be an ugly thing to watch.  And were it not for penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct, who knows how far it would go? 

When I discover I have been duped by a public  persona I am always disappointed and it causes me to back up. Public image does not make the man.  And being gifted can create a lot of illusions we eagerly buy into.  In our minds we can form one-sided, sentimental relationships with our favorite players (Hollywood star, musician, etc.), all based in fantasy.  We idolize people who don't actually exist because we've made them up in our minds.  In a similar way, women complain about being loved just for their bodies and not known for who they really are.  So it is good to "unfriend" these kinds of ghosts.

Mind you, football, like most everything, has always had it's bad guys.  And nobody who knows the game wants it regulated into a tea party.  But really, when increasing violence becomes the objective, and winning at all costs is the only motivation, (witness Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate, etc.) then something is wrong.  The game is on the dangerous road to the Roman coliseum.  No joke.

I find myself wondering about us too.  It is a strange enmeshment.  Our own identities become wrapped up with our teams.  We're no longer merely fans.  When we say we're going to the Super Bowl we mean it personally.  And we sometimes take it personally when
our teams don't do well, as if they have directly failed us and altered our lives forever.  It must be a great weight for particular players to realize that thousands, perhaps even millions, are vicariously living out their own desires for success and excellence through them.  

Fantasy of course, in the world of the football money changers is now big business too.  And money does  drive the game.  But it's worth remembering that the coin of Caesar is not the currency of heaven.  And Hollywood stars, sports heroes and any famous person, will not find entrance there based on their popularity, or performance in their field.  They may be known the world-over, yet still hear The Lord say:  "Depart from Me.  I never knew you." One of my favorite quarterbacks recently said he doesn't think God "cares a whole lot about the outcome (of a game).  He cares about the people involved."  -A Rodgers, SI wire.  I agree.  As Jesus said: "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his soul."  Mark 8:36. The measure of success in this world is hardly the measure of success in the next.

So, is there room for football on a Sunday?  I hope so.  With a few cautions.   Like anything we enjoy, there is a temptation to go overboard and to give inordinate amounts of attention to what we love until before we know it we're in a kind of bondage to it.   

It's good to remember that worship and recreation/ entertainment, are different things.  And it's good to remember, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen pointed out that “If you do not worship God, you worship something, and nine times out of ten it will be yourself."   (Sports can definitely become a vehicle for the vicarious worship of oneself, even as a spectator.)   Archbishop Sheen reminded us, " we have a duty to worship God, not because He will be imperfect and unhappy if we do not, but because we will be imperfect and unhappy.”  He also wisely noted that  "All these externalizations are signs that we are trying to escape God and the cultivation of the soul".  So, first things first.  

In the meantime it is helpful to understand that our attraction to physical and moral excellence touches on our yearning for the transcendent, which will only be completely realized in Christ.  He is the fullness of all excellence! That is why excellence is exciting to see in any area.  Sports is no exception.  Pope John Paul II expresses this beautifully:

"...every sport, at both the amateur and competitive level, requires basic human qualities such as rigorous preparation, continual training, awareness of one’s personal limits, fair competition, acceptance of precise rules, respect for one’s opponent and a sense of solidarity and unselfishness. Without these qualities, sport would be reduced to mere effort and to a questionable, soulless demonstration of physical strength.

“When sports are played and understood in the right way, they are an extraordinary expression of a person’s best inner energies and of his ability to overcome difficulties, to set goals to be reached through sacrifice, generosity and determination in facing the difficulties of competition.”

All lessons  to be learned and disciplines to be cultivated in facing the  ever present challenges and battles that need to be won in our own lives!  

Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT 

I Will Follow

Check out this incredible new vocations video produced by Ascension Press! God is still calling heroic men to follow Him to the priesthood. Know of any? Watch it and pass it on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Man, Woman and the Meaning of Life

I am absolutely loving this incredible video series on man, woman and marriage that debuted this week at Humanum, an international colloquium in Rome.

This series is visually captivating and deeply substantive. So beautiful!

Here is the trailer that introduces the series of six short documentaries. Check out the rest on the Humanum youtube page.

Watch, learn and share.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Loved As I Am

I am delighted to announce the November 3rd release of my first book, Loved As I Am.

Read a sample here and buy it at

Thank you!

Auto-correct Humanity?


Synods and Such

Twitter and the blogosphere has been abuzz regarding the report released Monday by the participants of Synod on the Family. It was a gut-check for a lot of Catholics while others hailed the "revolutionary" language of the document regarding marriage, same-sex attraction and birth control.

Fr. Robert Barron posted one of the best responses to the document that I have seen. I appreciate his honest, historical perspective on what seems like a daunting synodal direction.

Let us continue to pray and fast for all those who are participating in the Synod. Dealing with crises is never easy- where it be the topics of Christology, salvation or what it means to be human. I think we would all like a tidy discussion on these matters with a swift, orthodox consensus. However, even from the beginning of Christianity, it has never been a tidy affair. From the beginning we see things like weakness, betrayal, deceit and cowardice. And I think if we are honest, we see those things in ourselves at times. We ALL need the grace of God who gives us every good thing.

Yet, in all of our "crooked lines", God makes a pathway. Let us continue to allow God to purify our motives and sentiments. May He embolden us to speak the truth with love, even when it's hard.