Moving Forward in Ordinary Time

rosary in hand_red“Ordinary Time is not a stagnant or unimportant season; like all other seasons in the Church year, it is an ordered time for growth and a time to strengthen one’s spiritual life and be Christ to one’s neighbor, making Ordinary Time more extraordinary.”

Read more from my recent feature in the RegisterMaking Ordinary Time Extraordinary: How to Prioritize Prayer, Joy, and Works of Mercy Year-Round.

Giving Makes Us Grow

green tree2“Giving can stretch us out of our comfort zones, but in that stretching, we inch ourselves closer to becoming spiritual leaders after God’s own heart. Give a little, and then a little more, until you feel some discomfort. Where there is pain, there is generally some eternal gain.”

Read more of my article: Tithing: Making Time, Talent, and Treasure Servants to Your Spiritual Leadership.

Your Most Solemn Obligation

familyWithout question, parents are the primary influence on the faith lives of their children. Study after study shows that when parents are strong spiritual leaders, and when fathers—yes, dads in particular—teach and witness the faith to their children, the kids are far more likely to grow up and live faithful lives themselves.

What kind of role do you want the Catholic faith to play in the lives of your grown children? That’s the kind of role that faith should be playing in your life right now. You are the primary educators of your children—not the pastor, not the youth minister, not the Sunday school catechist, Confirmation coordinator or Catholic school theology teacher. You and your spouse have the privilege and the responsibility to teach your children about their Christian faith, which also requires that you continually learn about it yourself…

Read more of this article here.

Father’s Day Book Giveaway!

In anticipation of Father’s Day coming June 21, I’m giving away two great books perfect for Father’s Day gifts by popular Catholic authors. These books will help you or a man you love learn how to integrate faith and work and how to find personal and professional satisfaction. Enter to win these books for yourself or for the husband, father, or grandfather in your life…

fathers_day_book_giveawayThe Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work by Randy Hain

“The Catholic Briefcase helps Catholics integrate their faith with their jobs through practical tips, relevant examples, and the inspirational stories of others who have successfully learned how to bring their Catholic identity with them to work. This book provides tips and ideas for finding time for prayer and reflection throughout the day and explores ways to make business decisions through the filter of Catholic teaching. Being a “light for Christ” is ultimately the best way to share your faith with others as they will be drawn to you by your good example and joy. The Catholic Briefcase helps the reader evaluate where they have been in their business life and where being a “light for Christ” can take them. The practical nature of the content gives the reader a roadmap to a deeper faith in an area (the workplace) they have likely ignored in the past.” To find more books by Randy Hain, visit RandyHain.com.

Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction by Matthew Kelly

“One of the major issues in our lives today is work-life balance. Everyone wants it; no one has it. But Matthew Kelly believes that work- life balance was a mistake from the start. Because we don’t really want balance. We want satisfaction. Kelly lays out the system he uses with his clients, his team, and himself to find deep, long-term satisfaction both personally and professionally. He introduces us to the three philosophies of our age that are dragging us down. He shows us how to cultivate the energy that will give us enough battery power for everything we need and want to do. And finally, in five clear steps, he shows us how to use his Personal & Professional Satisfaction System to establish and honor our biggest priorities, even if we spend a lot more time on some of the lesser ones.” To find more books by Matthew Kelly, visit DynamicCatholic.com.

*This giveaway is open to residents of the contiguous United States only. One winner will receive both books.*

St. Joseph, pray for husbands and fathers–and all men–to become more humble, sacrificial, prayerful, courageous, and holy like you.

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“Running Toward Fulfillment”: My Interview with Dr. Popcak, Author of “Broken Gods”

As I told Dr. Greg Popcak prior to our interview, I excitedly devoured my copy of Broken Gods: Hope, Healing and the 7 Longings of the Human Heart (Image Books) the same night I received the book from the publisher. I already consider myself a fan of Dr. Popcak’s books and my husband and I have read many of the ones pertaining to marriage and parenting. This book was refreshing different, but equally impactful and thought-provoking.

COL_profile_Broken_Gods-200x302In Dr. Popcak’s own words, “Broken Gods walks readers through this process [of becoming ‘perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect’] step-by-step so they can stop running from their sins and start running toward their ultimate destiny.”

The book is as beautiful as it is practical.

“Readers will learn to love the parts of themselves they like the least and discover how to allow God to transform those broken parts into both occasions for hope and the engines of their ultimate perfection in Christ.”

Read more of my interview with Dr. Popcak here: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/running-toward-fulfillment/#ixzz3c0gRgGef

Pentecost Idea: Which Gift of the Holy Spirit Will You Get?

Looking for a easy, last-minute idea to celebrate Pentecost with your family this Sunday? On seven different strips of red paper (red is the liturgical color for the feast day), write down each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 10.51.24 AMWisdom
Understanding
Counsel
Fortitude
Knowledge
Piety
Fear of the Lord

Put the strips of paper in a box, bag, or hat. At the end of your Sunday family meal, have each family member pick a strip of paper out of the box. Then, that person works and prays for God to increase in them that particular gift of the Spirit until Pentecost comes again.

This is an easy and powerful way to keep the spirit of Pentecost and the working of the Holy Spirit alive in your personal and family prayer life throughout the year.

Here is a great article on The Gifts of the Holy Spirit for you to read as a family (with older children) or as a couple, before or after choosing your gifts. If you have younger children, this short article on How to Talk to Your Children About the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirt is easier to understand and explain.

You can also begin or end your activity with this Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Customize the activity for your family, given the ages and number of your children. (You can always double up on certain gifts if you have a large family!) You can even do this activity by and for yourself. I’ll be working on making my “Holy Spirit gift box” this weekend, in addition to baking our Pentecost cake. Happy Solemnity of Pentecost and Happy Birthday, Church!

Siblings Moving Hand in Hand Toward Holiness

st-therese-of-lisieuxMy recent feature in the National Catholic Register, Sibling-Inspired Sanctity, was inspired by Pope Francis’ recent reminder: “Having a brother, a sister who loves you is priceless.” Not only am I indescribably blessed to have two sisters, a sister-in-law, and a brother-in-law who love me, but my siblings encourage me, by word and by example, to grow in faith and to continue to pursue the ministry work to which God has called me.

Reflecting on the relationships of the siblings in this article made me ask myself, “Am I intentionally leading my siblings toward Christ?” Perhaps, like me, you have noticed that sometimes the hardest people to love, to learn from, and to inspire are your own family members. Regardless of the closeness of our relationship with our siblings, we have the immense privilege of helping them on their journey toward heaven. Sometimes we do that by their side, while other times we may only be able to help them grow in holiness from a distance, through prayer.

Hopefully, through the intercession and inspiration of St. Therese and Leonie Martin, you might do something this week to inspire one of your siblings toward sanctity, or thank them for inspiring you.

The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide

lentIn the event that you find yourself still deciding what to do for Lent on this Shrove Tuesday, this resource guide from the National Catholic Register should help. It’s separated by category (Lent in your email inbox, Lent for families, etc.), so you’re likely to find something well-tailored to helping you grow closer to Christ and the mystery of His Passion and Death this Lenten season.

“Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” – Pope Francis

“Time spent with the sick is holy time”

aelishwphotography_flowers

aelishwphotography.com

So many of us are touched by the pain of mental health deterioration in some way. As a little girl, I remember my grandmother once repeatedly telling me how much she loved the ice cream sundae I made for her, not realizing until later that she had expressed her gratitude at least three times within five minutes. Though she was embarrassed, I recall loving her all the more in that moment, while simultaneously being frustrated that sickness can be so debilitating to experience and to witness. My grandmother was one of the most grace-fillled and beautiful women I’ve ever known, and I am thankful that even today, many years after her passing, I can relish not only the good memories we had, but also the faith in Christ and in His Church that we shared.

If you or someone you love is in a battle with declining mental health, I hope my recent article in the National Catholic Register on Caring for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s brings you some help and consolation.

“Time spent with the sick is holy time.” -Pope Francis

Finer Things Night: Our Favorite Family Date

Since my husband and I have only been married three years, there are few long-running traditions in our house yet, with this fabulous monthly exception. I look forward to the 14th of every month. It’s like a breath of fresh air, and a unique change of pace during an otherwise normal week or month.

I leave little reminders on the fridge or on bathroom mirrors to remind us to plan for FTN.

I leave little notes on the fridge or on the bathroom mirror to remind us to plan.

Allow me to introduce you to one of our favorite in-home date experiences. We call it Finer Things Night.

The name derives from the exclusive group of coworkers in the show, The Office, who call themselves The Finer Things Club and meet once a month to discuss books, listen to classical music, enjoy fine food, and appreciate culture “in a very civilized way.” As they say in the show, “There is no paper, no plastic, and no work talk allowed.”

So the hubby and I hijacked the sitcom’s infamous club name, but the desire to start Finer Things Night, and the date of the month we chose to schedule it on, was an effort to celebrate our anniversary date every month of the year. Our anniversary being on April 14th, we wanted the 14th of every month to be a mini-celebration of our continued love and fidelity for one another and a chance to enjoy not only each other’s presence, but to soak in some of the finer things in life together, disconnecting from technology most of these finer evenings and embracing high culture “in a very civilized way.” We also just wanted an excuse to have a little extra fun on a random weeknight.

Some things I love about Finer Things Night:

  • They require intentionality on our part, but not a burdensome amount of
    A FTN menu and a little decor

    A FTN menu and a little decor

    planning or execution. When we first started doing this, the hard part was remembering to plan something and then dividing responsibilities, but neither of those tasks were actually that difficult once we got the hang of it. I usually type up a “menu” for the night, which describes our meal for the evening (preferably something slightly fancier than we may normally eat on a week night) and the “finer” activity. I cook, set the table and the ambiance—like candles and flower petals (or flowers that Ray brings me), cloth napkins and wine glasses, for example—and

    We get a little fancier than usual on our FTN. (Picture: homemade chocolate raspberry cake…with a secretly healthy spin. Shh. Don’t tell my husband.)

    Ray plans and executes the activity. Neither of us spends more than a few hours planning (if that), but the small time investment is so worth it. We also try to get a little dressed up, even though we’re staying in.

  • Everyone can be involved. This is more of a family date night than a couple one, though it can be either. We love to engage our son in the activities, since we want him to appreciate culture anyway. Because he is the ultimate reminder of our love for one another, it makes sense that he’s an integral part of our evening festivities, too. Since he is only 14 months old now, his involvement is likely to grow as time goes on. Currently, he sometimes falls asleep before the activity starts.
  • It reminds us to celebrate our marriage every month. In the middle of hectic family life and work, we are forced to stop and think, “Gosh I am happy to be married to this man/woman,” and to spend a little extra time in thanksgiving for our marriage when we come to God in prayer that night.
  • We learn something new and interesting. From listening to and
    From classical music studies to tea tasting, FTN is full of culture and learning.

    From classical music studies to tea tasting, FTN is full of culture and learning.

    studying the history of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to learning the process for harvesting, brewing, and tasting tea, we always go to sleep that night with a sense of unexpected appreciation for whatever we have learned or experienced.

  • It’s fun. Sometimes, it just feels so good to break up the monotony of an ordinary evening with fancy food, good conversation, and a little class and culture.
  • It’s flexible. If Finer Things Night falls on a weekend night, we may go out to eat and do our activity out of the house. If it’s a Holy Day, Mass is our “finer
    FTN table setting...I even did a "bishop's hat" napkin fold (after almost giving up)!

    A FTN table setting. I even did a “bishop’s hat” cloth napkin fold (like I said, fancy!), pictured by an appetizer platter of spruced up prosciutto deviled eggs with sesame seeds.

    activity” (the finest activity, really).

I can’t say enough great things about our monthly Finer Things Night tradition. I hope it continues for a long, long time. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.

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