In the Desert with Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel – Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay 

During this time of being largely homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have had to field complaints of, “Mom, I’m bored!” from restless children. The adults in the family have probably experienced some cabin fever as well. With no family gatherings, sporting events, and other of the usual forms of daily activity and entertainment, it has taken some getting used to the “new normal” for many of us. You could say the experience has seemed somewhat like being in a desert – barren, desolate, and empty at times. Some of us may feel like we’ve been stranded in this dry, arid desert without much comfort. Many would consider time in a desert as being fruitless because of the isolation and lack of activity; however, it depends on how you look at it.

With the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel approaching on July 16, we are reminded of those religious around the world who have devoted themselves to a life of prayer and sacrifice in the “desert” of Carmel. They have given up many of the pleasures and comforts of the world in order to follow God more closely and to hear his voice. The first Carmelites were hermits on Mount Carmel beginning in the 12th and into the 13th Centuries. They dwelt on the mountain, inspired by the Old Testament Prophet Elijah, who prayed, fasted, and witnessed to God by performing a miracle before the worshipers of the false god Baal. Elijah and the early hermits on Mount Carmel were willing to leave the world and sacrifice everything in pursuit of holiness and union with God. Elijah proclaimed in  1 Kings 19:10, “With zeal I have been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.” Carmelites today continue in the spirit and tradition of Elijah as they intercede for the world through prayer, fasting, and sacrifice.

Though we as lay people are not called to the vows and lifestyle of Carmelites, we can learn from their simple and sacrificial way of life. With many of our activities cancelled and having to spend much more time at home because of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to use this time to deepen our faith and prayer life. Even five or ten minutes a day is a good place to start. Some methods of prayer we can incorporate into our daily routine at home include reciting the Rosary alone or with family or friends, reading and reflecting on the daily readings and other spiritual reading, or reciting the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy at three o’clock in honor of the hour that Jesus died. Being in the “desert” of this pandemic is an ideal place to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, which often comes to us when we slow down and allow ourselves to experience silence and solitude.

Now more than ever the world needs saints, and we are all called to strive to attain this goal. Whether our days are spent at a desk, working with our hands in manual labor, or at home raising children, or whatever our vocation entails, each of us is called and is capable of becoming the person God wants us to be. This time of pandemic is not a waste of time. Rather, we can offer up any suffering, anxiety, or inconveniences which it has caused us as a sacrifice to Jesus, and we can use the experience wisely by growing in holiness and deepening our prayer life, and especially by calling on our Mother of Mount Carmel to help us.

The Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel begins on July 8 and ends on the feast day, July 16. One way to join in the novena is to receive email reminders from Pray More Novenas by signing up here. Let’s beg Our Mother the Queen of Carmel to intercede for us with God for our individual and collective needs and petitions by praying the novena together.

God Bless You!

George Floyd and the Greatest Commandment

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

We probably all thought the year 2020 would be forever remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic alone; however, the focus was shifted on May 25, 2020, with the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, caught on video, by a police officer while three other officers stood nearby. Protests, followed by nights of looting, burning, and violence, ensued in cities across the nation. Cries of racism and police brutality have been met with impassioned reactions from all sides. How are we, as Christians, called to respond to the situation which has developed in our nation?

Today’s gospel message can help us to know where to begin when faced with issues such as racism and how to address it. We are all called to follow the ‘greatest commandment,’ which Jesus made clear when questioned by the one of the scribes. In response to the scribe’s request to know the “first of all the commandments,” Jesus responded:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

In all our undertakings, Jesus declares, we are to love God and others. To be fruitful and productive, compassion and understanding must preface any attempts at dialogue and discussion about racism. Each side must humbly admit its mistakes and imperfections in order to work toward a peaceful resolution to differences and prejudices.

There are inadequacies on both sides of the race issue. White Americans must admit that there are vestiges of racism still present within our society. There is more that we can do to create opportunities and help break cycles of poverty and dysfunction which unfortunately exist in many African American communities. Loving others as Jesus instructs us to involves attentively listening to the grievances of these communities and working toward solutions to remedy the problems which exist within them. If each of us examines our own heart, we may find traces of prejudice and lack of charity and understanding toward our brothers and sisters of color that we have overlooked or not acknowledged.

There are problems on the side of the protesters as well. Certainly, racism exists in certain individuals and groups; however, the solution to the problem is not to react with violence or lawlessness, but with love and forgiveness. It is necessary to peacefully call attention to the problem, but to do so in a lawful and appropriate manner, respecting God’s laws and civil authority.

African-American conservative commentator and political activist Candace Owens, in a recent YouTube video, expressed her passionate disappointment in the Black community for “demand[ing] support and justice for the people in our community that are up to no good.” While reiterating that the actions of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are inexcusable and that they should face justice, Owens also rejected the attempt to elevate Floyd to a “martyr for black America,” citing his criminal record from the past and the evidence that he had not fully reformed at the time of his arrest. Owens urges African-Americans, instead, to work toward personal accountability and to improve the situation through peaceful means.

Beginning with humility, we can move toward loving one another and forgiving past transgressions. Loving God and loving neighbor can only sincerely occur when preceded and accompanied by faith and prayer. The path to a greater, more peaceful world begins in the heart of each individual. When we allow ourselves to be changed and transformed by God through prayer and the sacraments, then we can proceed to go out and change the world around us for the better.

“Why Are You Afraid? Have You No Faith?” – Pope Francis’ Message to the World

Christ in the Storm
Heinrich Jansen
Danish, 1625-1667

During his extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing delivered today, March 27, Pope Francis stood facing a nearly-empty St. Peter’s Square, indicative of the strange and unprecedented situation we find our world in during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our streets and businesses are, similarly, largely vacant, void of life and activity, as we have retreated to our homes to try and stifle the spread of the deadly virus. 

The Holy Father, however, offered hope to the world during the period of scripture, petition, and adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as prayers before a miraculous crucifix and an act of entrusting the world to the care and protection of our Blessed Mother.  The hour of prayer concluded with the Urbi et Orbi blessing, Latin for ‘to the city and the world,’ which is ordinarily given only at Christmas and Easter and upon the election of a new pope as his first blessing.  The blessing carried with it the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence for the faithful who participated by viewing the service through the media or online. 

The Holy Father compared the anxiety that many are experiencing about the virus to the disciples’ fear in the fourth chapter of St. Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was asleep in the boat as a storm came up, frightening them and causing them to worry and doubt.  “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other,” he said.  The analogy of the boat brings to mind the Church, separated by distance, but unified in mind and spirit and united in prayer and petition for an end to the pandemic and for peace and health for all.  In this time of uncertainty, we are like the disciples, fearful and afraid, and we are apart, yet together in the Body of Christ.  He is our head, guiding and steering this vessel, the Church, even during the turbulent storms of life when they come. 

Perhaps the most significant and resounding line in the gospel passage is Jesus’ question to his disciples that he addresses to us as well, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).  The Holy Father emphasized these words and how Jesus directs them to us, in the situation we face today.  He continued, “Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation,” Pope Francis declared. The Holy Father’s words should call us to repentance and encourage us to recognize the ways we have failed to follow the gospel values in our own lives. During this period of Lent, when we are facing a global pandemic which affects us all, we are given the opportunity to humbly admit our faults and failings and allow our hearts to be converted and recommitted to Jesus. We remember the words of Psalm 51, a psalm of repentance, which declares, “a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn,” and we have hope that the Lord will hear our prayers if they are offered humbly and sincerely.  Pope Francis reminded us that this is “a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

The Holy Father encouraged us to “invite Jesus into the boats of our lives,” and to “hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.”  He reminded us that, “Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”

He also emphasized the call to have hope in these desperate and often desolate times and to remember the Easter promise that, “He is risen and is living by our side.” He concluded his remarks with these words of petition:

“Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet. 5:7).

COVID-19: In the Desert with Jesus

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Because of the current situation of the COVID 19 global pandemic, we find ourselves in unique and uncharted territory. Schools and activities are cancelled and we are called to stay home as much as possible and avoid social gatherings, or, as it is called, to practice “social distancing.” For some, this may feel new and strange. For others, it is a way of life. Many religious monks and nuns live secluded and isolated lives, separate and sheltered from the noise and chaos of the rest of the world. For those who have experienced this type of life, you know that it can lead to immense peace and oneness with God, and that those who live cloistered or monastic lives often are some of the happiest and most content people.

We can look at this temporary situation of imposed isolation and seclusion as a great blessing and a means to deepen our own spiritual lives and our relationships with God and our families. Free from the distractions of unnecessary gatherings and activities, we can focus our attention inward and get in touch with God speaking in our hearts. For those of us lay people who ordinarily live, work, and play in the world, it is often difficult to “hear” God speaking in our hearts because his voice is drowned out by the noise and chatter around us. The blessing of the situation we find ourselves in now is that the unnecessary and extraneous activity has been taken away, and we find ourselves in a sort of a “desert” in our homes where there is more peace and silence. If we use this time wisely, spending time in prayer and reflection, we can learn to listen more fully to God and grow in love for him.

Deserts are hot, dry, and sparse and can be very uncomfortable. The circumstances we are in now may be uncomfortable and inconvenient to some. It may feel boring or empty to some without the entertainment and activities that we are used to. However, we should remember that Jesus himself spent 40 days in the desert, where he fasted and was tempted by the devil. We can unite our own sacrifices and prayers during this time with his, and offer them to the Father for ourselves and for all those who are or will be directly affected by the coronavirus. As Catholics, we are familiar with the phrase “offer it up” and now is a perfect time to do just that for the good of the Church, the world, and those affected by this pandemic.

Remembering that we are, indeed, in the middle of Lent, we are provided with a perfect opportunity to use this time as a sort of “retreat” and make some time each day for prayer and spiritual reading or reflection. We can engage in spiritual reading to learn more about our faith and to give us food for reflection. Praying the Rosary as a family and viewing the Mass which is being streamed for us by many sources online, along with making a spiritual communion, are ways we can maintain our devotion and even grow in our faith during this time. By making efforts to grow in the faith, we learn to recognize the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and we come to know Jesus more fully.

Being in the desert can be very productive, as God can prune away our faults and sins and change our hearts during this time. The experience can be a great blessing if we imitate Jesus and continue to fast and pray throughout this period. If we continue to endeavor to pray, fast, and give alms throughout this Lent, we will experience the Easter joy in our homes and hearts, and hopefully we will be able to celebrate once again the Eucharist on Easter Sunday in our communities. Let’s pray that this virus will be subdued and that by Easter we can gather together again in thanksgiving and joy.

Corona Confusion? Don’t Forget to Stop and Smell the Flowers

Everyone I know is tying to make sense of the corona hysteria and see how we can all make the best of it. In the confusion of the situation we are currently facing, how can we avoid fear and panic and, instead, maintain peace and tranquility? I think that we have two choices of how we can react to this unusual and uncertain situation. We can either view it as an inconvenient burden and complain and be upset about it, or we can see it as an opportunity to grow in love of God and charity for one another. I am certain that adopting the second attitude will be the most positive and peace-filled choice. What are some ways we can make the best of the corona situation and even see the good in it and draw out some positives from it?

  1. Slow down and unplug. If we are constantly immersing ourselves in media reports and messages and continually engaged in the social media frenzy of corona-related jokes and opinions, we are tempted to get caught up in the noise and confusion, which can lead to anger or fear. Instead, I am trying to remember not to overdo the exposure to news and social media, and, instead, to remember to spend time doing things I enjoy and that help my family and I to remain calm and happy. My children are helping me to remember this, as, after school today my oldest daughter noticed some wildflowers growing on the school campus and asked if she and her sister could spend a few minutes picking them before going home. She literally reminded me that we have to stop and smell the flowers in order to not get sucked into feelings of apprehension about what is going on around us. We must continue to live our lives and have peace and confidence that “this too shall pass.”
  2. Spend quality time with family. With all of the cancellations of school, sporting events, and other public gatherings, the hidden blessing is the extra time we are given to spend with our children. Rather than see these changes as an inconvenience, it would be helpful to look on the bright side and see the additional precious moments we can enjoy with them. I have always believed that many of us are living our lives too fast, running here and there engaged in too many activities and missing out on the simple times of just enjoying our children and time spent at home, playing board or card games, preparing meals together, and just conversing with them. Now is a perfect time, as we will all be a little less busy in the coming days and weeks.
  3. Take time for prayer. If not so much for ourselves, many people who have contracted or will contract the illness need our prayer support now. Remembering that we, after all, are in the season of Lent, we can see this as an opportunity to carry the Cross with Jesus and to offer up our inconveniences (like toilet paper shortages!) and difficulties as Lenten sacrifices. As of now, our churches are still open and Masses are still being said. We can continue to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, and go to Adoration if possible.
  4. Thank God for the blessings in life. Right now, if we are healthy, we should give thanks to God for the gift of good health. If we are always remembering that this life is temporary, we will never be surprised when confronted with our mortality in situations like this, and we will be ready for whatever comes our way and won’t succumb to fear and panic. A good question to remember is, “What if you woke up with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” Being grateful leads to happiness in any situation and can help us live more joyful and healthy lives.
  5. Be good stewards of the gifts God has given us and nurture them: health, well-being, family, friends. Since God has been so generous to us in this country, we should take care of our bodies, our homes, and our environment and do our best to preserve them. Like the wise servant in the gospel Parable of the Talents who increased the five talents given to him by his master, we should also be prudent and careful to use our abilities to serve God and build up his Kingdom.
  6. Help others who may not be as fortunate. Maybe someone you know is sick now, or maybe they will become ill with this virus and will need care or resources. Although many are advocating “social distancing,” we should continue to look out for and reach out to one another, especially in difficult times like this. We are called to live in community, and must pull together, especially now.

St. Teresa’s Bookmark contains wonderfully consoling and fitting words for us today:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.

A Time to Dance – Celebrating the Carnival Season

Image by Hannah Alkadi from Pixabay 

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens… A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)

The Church orders these times, or seasons, for us through the ebb and flow of the liturgical year. The Church year contains periods of ordinary time interspersed with the penitential seasons of Advent and Lenten fasting and festive celebratory feasts, most notably Christmas and Easter.

As Lent approaches, many Catholics celebrate the Carnival season beginning with Epiphany, which occurs on January 6, also known as “Twelfth Night,” as it is the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Carnival season, with its festive-colored beads, parades, and rich foods, continues for several weeks until Mardi Gras Day, or “Fat Tuesday,” which is the eve of Ash Wednesday. During carnival, which, translated, means “farewell to meat,” early Catholic Christians used up all of the rich foods in the home, such as meat, eggs, milk, and fat, to prepare for the Lenten fast, which was considerably more austere at the time. Although Mardi Gras has, in places, become more wordly and secular, the intent of the feasting and celebration of the season is to rejoice and, in a sense, “live it up” for time to prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for the rigor of Lenten fasting and abstinence. From the festive parades to the elaborate balls and rich foods, Mardi Gras is about celebration. However, the feasting has traditionally ended at midnight, as the costumes are put away and the revelers awake on Ash Wednesday to enter into the more somber and pious period of the Lenten season.

Mardi Gras has its origins in 17th and 18th Century Europe and made its way across the Atlantic with French settlers. Although New Orleans is notorious for its Mardi Gras festivities, many claim the celebration of the feast was actually held first in Mobile, Alabama. In 1702, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville established the settlement of Mobile, or “Fort Louis de la Louisiane” as it was originally named, and Mardi Gras was celebrated in the new colony the very next year. However, some say the very first American Mardi Gras took place a few years earlier on March 3, 1699, when Bienville and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville reached a spot near New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day and named it “La Pointe du Mardy Gras.” It is said that New Orleans followed suit after its founding, also by Bienville, in 1718. Mardi Gras has since evolved into the energetic and elaborate festivities which occur today in New Orleans, Mobile, and the surrounding areas, and it has since migrated to other parts of the country as well.

The rich symbolism of Mardi Gras can help us to remain focused on Christ as we enjoy this period of feasting and merrymaking. The season is surrounded by visible signs of Christianity, which serve to strengthen our devotion during this time. At Epiphany, many indulge in King Cake, which commemorates the coming of the three Wise Men to the newborn Infant Jesus after his birth. The Mardi Gras colors themselves – purple, green, and gold – represent the characteristics of justice, faith, and power, respectively. In the center of the King Cake can often be found a plastic baby, signifying the Christ Child. With it, we are reminded to continue to rejoice at the birth of our Savior, as we transition to the more ascetical practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving that we will begin to undertake during the upcoming forty days of Lent.

Many people have a renewed interest in reviving the original Catholic purpose and practice of the celebration of the Mardi Gras, or Carnival, season. It should be a time that families and communities gather to experience friendship and fellowship in a joyful and wholesome manner, in anticipation of the more prayerful and penitential time of Lent. It is necessary to have times of rejoicing and celebrating to balance the hardships and trials that we all face in life. St. John Paul II remarked that, “God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us.” We should recapture the rhythm of the liturgical year by fully engaging in and enjoying our festive seasons, as well as participate in the sacrifice of the penitential ones.

Mardi Gras is an excellent time to come together as a family or community and enjoy the gift of life that we have been given. If your geographical area happens not to host parades or festivities for this season, you can create your own by baking your own King Cake or pancakes, which is another traditional Mardi Gras indulgence. Families with children can create their own Mardi Gras masks, decorated with traditional colors of purple, green, and gold, or can dress up in costumes to commemorate the day. The idea is to revel in the day, preparing for the change in seasons which occurs at midnight before Ash Wednesday.

In an article from Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family, Maria Von Trapp comments that “It should be our noble right and duty to bring up our children in such a way that they become conscious of high tide and low tide, that they learn that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4). The rhythm of nature as it manifests itself in the four seasons, in day and night, in the individual’s heartbeat and breathing—this rhythm we should learn to recognize and to treat with more reverence.”

Maria Von Trapp is encouraging us, as Catholics, to recognize and respect the times and seasons of the Church year, and to observe the feasts and seasons within the family, so that we can live out our Faith and enter into the rhythm of the liturgical year. In this way, we are participating in and becoming the kingdom of God on earth. Mardi Gras should never be reduced to just a time to “party.” If we only celebrate Mardi Gras without Ash Wednesday and Lent, the celebration becomes meaningless and loses its value and the satisfaction that is meant to be experienced from it. We may have “fun,” but will we truly experience the deep joy that comes when we comprehend the essence and significance of the feast that we are celebrating?

Worrying and the Laundry

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

If you are like me, managing all of the tasks and difficulties of each day can lead to tension and stress. I am usually not the calm, collected one of the family, and I often turn to family members for advice and help when I am overwhelmed with stress. 

My husband has a unique talent of coming up with appropriate and descriptive analogies. When there is a problem or a situation he wants to explain, he is always quick to create an analogy that puts everything into perspective and helps me to understand the situation better. Recently I presented him with a number of pressing problems I was dealing with. In typical overreactive fashion, I had become overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. He calls this lumping everything into one giant catastrophe the “snowball.” 

He asked me what the first thing I do when attempting to wash clothes is. I responded that when I tackle the laundry, the first thing I do is to sort the clothes. I started to see where he was going with this. When overwhelmed and anxious over life’s worries and problems, the best thing to do is to sort them out – to make a list of them and examine each one, one at a time, and come up with a course of action or a solution for each one individually. In this way, rather than become frustrated and hopeless about the enormity of the collective mess of difficulties, I can break it down into smaller, more manageable problems. 

This skill of compartmentalizing problems definitely doesn’t come naturally to me. I tend to become overly emotional and overwhelmed when life gets stressful. This lesson of listing problems and solving them individually has helped me to manage my stress and become calmer and more productive over time.

Following the laundry analogy, another step I take before washing the clothes is to find the really tough stains and pretreat them with stain remover. Prioritizing the more urgent problems is the next step in the problem-solving strategy. After making a list of tasks or problems, we can prioritize the ones that need immediate attention and set to work solving them first. Then we can move on to the less urgent needs of our families. The more difficult problems often require more time and effort, like the tougher stains. 

Scripture tells us to “have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 4:6-7) This is not always easy to do. We often worry when we feel out of control of a situation. Jesus repeatedly offered his disciples peace and told them to be not afraid. He offers us the same peace and freedom from fear if only we learn to trust in him and to give up trying to control every aspect of our lives. As St. Pio of Pietrelcina advises us, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

Jesus never promised that the vocation of motherhood would be without challenges and problems. However, he did promise to remain with us and help us through any difficulties that arise. He gives us our husbands to help and guide us in our journey as mothers. I am thankful that my husband always provides me with a helpful analogy, or even a hug and a kind word, when I need one. I know with his help, and the help of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, and the saints, I can sort through all of the difficulties of family life and conquer any challenges that arise. 

Making Time for Play Time

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

Our family attended the One Faith One Family Conference held near Mobile, our hometown, this past weekend. It was a wonderful day to be together, enjoying each others’ company and learning more about how to strengthen our family life while growing in our faith as well. The speakers were Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak, popular speakers and hosts of More2Life Radio. Dr. Greg Popcak is also the founder and Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute.

One of the subjects of their talks that most impressed me was the need to incorporate adequate play and recreation time together into family life. I realized that at this phase in our family’s life, we have put relaxation and play time on the back burner. We are so focused on prayer, work, and study, that we often forget to relax and have down time. Our society in general is often overly fixated on the end results of success and achievement and fails to remember the importance of the journey. Even in sports, there is so much focus on training kids to become winners that we lose sight of the fact that they are still kids, and these are games that should be fun for them and help them to learn teamwork, camaraderie, and good sportsmanship.

In their talk, the Popcaks emphasized the value of family play time as a mechanism to help teach a healthy relationship to fun. Life is not all work; even in monastic communities there is scheduled time for recreation and relaxation. Families need to rediscover the art of “wasting time together,” according to Dr. Greg and Lisa, and recapture the fellowship and companionship that flourishes when they enjoy games, play, and other recreative activities.

The whole conference had an emphasis on play time as necessary for family life, with the title of the conference being “The Family that Plays Together Stays Together.” One of the contents of the parting gift bag that we received was a simple deck of cards, which has provided lots of fun for our youngest daughter and me, as we have been challenging each other in card games since the weekend. Last night, we all settled into an impromptu family game night, complete with popcorn, which was a welcome respite from the daily grind and much needed as the children prepare to return to school next week.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that Sundays are an ideal time to retreat from the usual activities of the day and enjoy play:

Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2184)

Whether it is playing board games, going for a walk or a bike ride, or just enjoying each others’ company, let’s remember to make time for family play time this and every week.

A New Path

I am so blessed and honored to begin writing for in August! In addition to my column at Patheos Catholic, I will be contributing articles to the Catholic mothers’ website. I have enjoyed articles, tips and ideas from the site over the years and can’t wait to become a contributor. is an excellent source of wisdom from women who desire to live out their vocation as mothers by leading their families to Jesus and, ultimately, to heaven.

Now that two-thirds of my children have entered a new phase of life, that of the teenage years, I can look back over the past fifteen years of motherhood and see the victories and defeats, the triumphs and the challenges. I have learned so much from other, more experienced mothers who have helped me along the way. I hope I can share some of what I have learned with others.

The road of motherhood is not an easy road. It is paved with sacrifice and sometimes anxiety and hardship, but it is a most joyful and rewarding path to take in life and one I am so blessed and thankful to be on. I have certainly not done it perfectly so far and will not be a faultless parent in the future. I only know that I have tried to give 100% to my husband and three daughters over the years and continue to put forth that effort each day.

Leading us on the road is Our Blessed Mother, who was the perfect mom and who intercedes for all of us mothers in our needs and struggles. By entrusting our families to her loving care, we can have confidence that we have the protection and care of the greatest mother ever, one who is so close to her Son Jesus in heaven that she is the most powerful intercessor with him for all of our needs and desires. When we give her our cares and worries, she brings them to Jesus and obtains blessings and favors for us in line with his will.

Each of us have managed to make it this far in this unpredictable quest called motherhood. With the help of Jesus and Mary and all of the saints, and under the guidance of our Mother the Church, we can complete our mission of getting to heaven and bringing our families with us. All it takes is faith, hope, and a whole lot of love.