Media influence, the Catholic family, and Fr. John A. Hardon

Peske_Playing_ChildrenStill buried in books and assignments as I finish the last two weeks of the parish nursing course I’m taking but I just had to take a break and write a post based on a recent discussion with the kids in my First Communion classes.

It’s over at Catholic Insight if you’d like to read it.



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Back to School

parish nursing booksEach day when I go to work, I have the privilege of sharing in the lives of many people at a time when they are most vulnerable. My patients (and sometimes their families) share with me their struggles, suffering, questions about life and death, as well as their joys and their hopes.

As a registered nurse, my responsibility is to care for the whole person – body and soul. With many years of experience, I am competent in the providing physical care but I am mindful that my ability to provide spiritual care is lacking. When the body is sick, the soul also suffers and most people whom I encounter are in need of spiritual care.

For a long time now I have been discerning the next stage in my calling as a nurse. I have been researching the role and scope of practice of parish nurses and have finally decided to take a leap of faith and pursue certification in parish nursing ministry.

What is a parish nurse?

According to the Foundations of Parish Nursing program given through the Institute for Catholic Formation at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario, Canada, a parish nurse is:

“a specially trained registered nurse who is called to ministry and affirmed by a faith community to promote health, healing, and wholeness among its members. Recognizing the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit, parish nurses promote wellness through health education, advocacy, and spiritual support. They work to link the needs of those they serve to resources in the greater community, health care system, and their community of faith. Parish nurse ministry is designed to involve individuals of all ages, families, and congregations as active partners in their personal health.”

For the next month I am taking an online course towards my goal, the first course over the next couple of years. It’s going to be a busy month with family, work, teaching Catechism classes, and studying taking up my time. Therefore, blogging here and at Catholic Insight will probably be non-existent.

If you think of it, please say a little prayer for me that I will listen to the Lord and follow His Will in this new adventure. See you in a month!


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Reparation to the Sacred Heart: a prayer for troubled times

Batoni_sacred_heartIt is understandable to feel concern, uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety in these troubled times. Jesus, it seems, is asleep as our little boat continues to be tossed amidst the storms that rage within the Catholic Church and throughout the world.

My short reflection and an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is over on my blog at Catholic Insight.

Painting: Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pompeo Batoni, 1767. In the public domain.

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Giving the Best of Ourselves

Posted at Catholic Insight

helping handOur parish just finished Bundle Sunday Weekend, our annual Fall round-up of gently used clothing and small appliances that are collected and donated to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. With six of my eight children still living at home, Bundle Sunday is an event at our house. About two weeks before the collection date, I instruct my husband and children to take everything that doesn’t fit or that they no longer want to wear and put them into designated oversized green garbage bags. We easily fill seven bags.

I often don’t check the quality of the clothing in the bags. When we hand them over to the St. Vincent de Paul volunteers I feel some uneasiness because I wonder how  many of our donated items are in such poor condition that no one should wear them.  And sometimes I keep items of clothing that know I will no longer wear just because they are still in good condition and I don’t want to part with them. Do you do the same thing?

Recently, the Sunday homily was about giving Caesar what belongs to Caesar and giving God what belongs to God. We give God ourselves because we belong to Him. But like the worn out, damaged clothing we give away although no one should wear them, how often do we give God our second best? How often do we rush through our prayers or begrudgingly give our time and ability. And like the unused items we can’t part with, how often do we give only from our surplus and say no when we can say yes?

When I reluctantly share my time and gifts, I feel a sense of dissatisfaction, as if I should have done better and given more of myself. But when I give 100% of myself, even to the point of exhaustion, I have a sense of joy and gratitude that I was given the gift of making a difference in the life of another person.

Jesus admonished us: “give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)

Life is for sharing and giving, for loving and squeezing out every last drop of the time and gifts that God has given us. In other words, life is about a complete sacrifice of ourselves wherever God has placed us, doing all things well for love of Him.  It isn’t for keeping the very best for ourselves, or holding back and sharing only that which we don’t need or want.

And so for today and every day, be a generous giver. “May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.” (St. Teresa of Avila)

Photo: Helping Hands by Anita Patterson. Under a MorgueFile license.

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Bl. Pope Paul VI’s Message to Women

Below is the full text of Bl. Pope Paul VI’s message to women as part of the  speeches and messages at the close of the Second Vatican Council,  December 8, 1965. You can read the entire text of the closing speeches and messages here.

pope paul viTO WOMEN

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

You women have always had as your lot the protection of the home, the love of beginnings and an understanding of cradles. You are present in the mystery of a life beginning. You offer consolation in the departure of death. Our technology runs the risk of becoming inhuman. Reconcile men with life and above all, we beseech you, watch carefully over the future of our race. Hold back the hand of man who, in a moment of folly, might attempt to destroy human civilization.

Wives, mothers of families, the first educators of the human race in the intimacy of the family circle, pass on to your sons and your daughters the traditions of your fathers at the same time that you prepare them for an unsearchable future. Always remember that by her children a mother belongs to that future which perhaps she will not see.

And you, women living alone, realize what you can accomplish through your dedicated vocation. Society is appealing to you on all sides. Not even families can live without the help of those who have no families. Especially you, consecrated virgins, in a world where egoism and the search for pleasure would become law, be the guardians of purity, unselfishness and piety. Jesus who has given to conjugal love all its plenitudes, has also exalted the renouncement of human love when this is for the sake of divine love and for the service of all.

Lastly, women in trial, who stand upright at the foot of the cross like Mary, you who so often in history have given to men the strength to battle unto the very end and to give witness to the point of martyrdom, aid them now still once more to retain courage in their great undertakings, while at the same time maintaining patience and an esteem for humble beginnings.

Women, you do know how to make truth sweet, tender and accessible, make it your task to bring the spirit of this council into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. Women of the entire universe, whether Christian or non-believing, you to whom life is entrusted at this grave moment in history, it is for you to save the peace of the world.


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Eight suggestions for surviving the Synod hype

wedding ringsAre you overwhelmed by all the media coverage of the Synod? I am. While being informed about the events in Rome is necessary and even a duty of responsible Catholics, it is too easy to get swept along by all the commentaries, opinion pieces, and social media bickering.

On the Catholic Insight website, I wrote about my strategy for maintaining calm and reason while the Synod hype swirls around me. Here it is if you’d like to read it.


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St. Teresa of Avila’s Last Vision


The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini, Basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.

“I saw an angel close by me, on my left side, in bodily form. He was not large, but small of stature and most beautiful – his face burning, as if he were one of the highest angels, who seem to be all of fire. I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.”

Source: Sackville-West, V. (1973) The Eagle and the Dove: A study in contrasts Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Therese of Lisieux. London: Quarter Books Limited.

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Even in darkness, life has purpose

Posted at Catholic Insight

An_Old_Woman_Praying_-_Nicolaes_Maes“Every night when I go to bed I ask God to not wake me up anymore,” she confided.

I studied her tired face for a moment and then asked, “What makes you feel that way?”

“When I was young,” she began, ” I had my children and I looked after them. Then they got married and had their own children and I looked after them. Then my husband had a stroke and was in a wheelchair and I looked after him for fourteen years. Now, nobody needs me anymore. I don’t have a purpose. I don’t have any more reason to live. I have so many aches and pains. Look at my legs. They are so swollen again today.”

She is a very generous woman, often buying little bags of candy for the children of her parish and asking Father to hand them out. When I visit her, she insists on giving me a little something from her pantry: a small bagel, perhaps a cookie, maybe even a bit of candy for my children. I don’t dare refuse because I know how important it is for her to show that she cares for me.

Her tiny apartment is modest but comfortable, clean and tidy. The crucifix given to her at her husband’s funeral hangs against a narrow wall. On her low bookshelf stands a humble statue of Our Lady gazing up at her crucified Son on His cross. Her bible and prayer book are neatly arranged on her coffee table.

“Well,” I began slowly. “God obviously still has work for you to do here since you still wake up each day. I think you have a great purpose. Maybe you can’t do the things you did when you were younger but I know you pray. Prayer is important. You can pray for your family. You can pray for the world. You can pray for those who don’t know how to pray. That’s such great work.”

“Oh, nurse!” she exclaimed. “I never thought of that! I pray all the time.”

“That’s right,” I encouraged her. “Look at Pope Benedict. In the eyes of the world, he is nothing but a frail old man hidden away somewhere waiting to die. But he’s doing God’s  work by his prayers. He’s praying for all of us. That’s his purpose. And look at the saints who suffered from painful illnesses: St. Therese, St. Bernadette, St. John-Paul. And there are so many others. They offered up their suffering to save souls. Their pain and their illness had great meaning and purpose.”

By now, a smile seemed to melt away the lines on her face. “That’s true! I can offer my pains. Oh, yes! That’s prayer, too!”

Often we think that in order to live a purposeful life, we must be productive and very busy doing things. When illness or advanced age force us to slow down and we are no longer active, we can lose our sense of purpose, our sense of belonging, and life loses its meaning.

But God gives great meaning to our lives because He blesses each moment as an opportunity to be part of His great plan and to do His Will on earth. In a homily, St. Josemaria Escriva said that “[o]rdinary life is something of great value.  All the ways of the earth can be an opportunity to meet Christ, who calls us to identify ourselves with Him and carry out His divine mission – right where he finds us.” And for many people, God finds us in places of uncertainty and struggling.

Our call is to trust in His providence and pray always to know His Will in any given time, in every trial, in the greatest sufferings, in the darkest, loneliest night. And our call is also to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who have lost their sense of purpose, and for whom the struggle is sometimes too great and too dark.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote a beautiful prayer on the purpose of our lives:

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by name.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have a mission – I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next……….I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.  My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.  He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me – He still knows what He is about.

Painting: An Old Woman Praying by Nicolaes Maes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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St. Gianna and Pietro Molla: model for the Synod on the Family

The Journey of our Love

Guerriero, E. (2014). The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.

This past summer I wrote a book review of The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla, for the October issue of Catholic Insight (magazine). The book, a compilation of 70 letters, cards and notes written to each other by Saint Gianna and Pietro Molla, gives us a sometimes intimate look into the lives of these two holy people.

Through their letters, Saint Gianna and Pietro show us that a modern sacramental marriage can thrive when the Holy Eucharist, prayer, action, and sacrifice are at the centre. The bishops at the Synod on the Family ought to examine the marriage of Saint Gianna and Pietro and guide Catholic married couples to strive toward the same ideals they held dear.

This week, my article at Catholic Insight reflects on what Saint Gianna and Pietro teach us about the sacrament of marriage. I invite you to read it here.


Guerriero, E. (2014). The Journey of Our Love: The Letters of Saint Gianna Beretta and Pietro Molla. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.










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Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face

“On the day of her religious profession she prayed that no soul be damned today. She saw herself as a Bride of Christ and a Mother of Souls. Indeed she had entered Carmel to save souls and to pray for priests. Though she died at only twenty-four, her spiritual legacy continues to enlighten the Church.”  Read the rest of the homily for today’s Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux on the Priest Blog at Catholic Insight.


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