My thoughts on the Synod

16 Oct

There has been much ink spilled — good and bad, astute and sloppy — on the Synod these days.  Part of me feels like we’re back in 1963 and relying on Xavier Rynne to tell us what the Church teaches. But I don’t remember 1963, so I can’t feel like that.  And with modern technology and the speed of communication, it’s Xavier Rynne on steroids.

I’ve spent some time over the past few days trying to read a variety of opinions from a variety of sources. I won’t share them all, but I’ll link to some of my favorites.  There are twenty more blog posts for every one of these I post. But no one can read everything.  Before I post links, I’ll tell you three things I know for sure about all of this, then I’ll add my opinion to the cacophony.  Here we go.

1. The Synod is not an official teaching body of the Church. It is a group of bishops coming together to discuss the issues that face the Church in society today.  No matter what some bishop says in a press conference or even whatever they might write in a document, they don’t have the power to change Church teaching.  Sorry.

2. This Synod is not going to produce any official document.  Even the document they’re going to publish at the end of this week is simply a working document to go into the Synod next year.  The Church is an ocean liner, not a speed boat.  Always has been.  Do you realize how long it took for us to put into words what we believe about the person of Christ?  Whatever the effect of this Synod, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

3. Everyone is going to ignore #1 and #2, and our dilemma as a Church is how to continue to function in 2014 like we did in the 15th century.  The Church has always refined Her teaching (not changed, but developed and figured out how to express the teaching of Christ adequately in limited human terms) through discussion and dispute.  It’s how we did it at Nicaea and it’s how we did it at Vatican II.  People argue.  People defend their beliefs.  People bring up points and get shot down. For Pete’s sake, St Thomas Aquinas argued with himself.  It all gets sorted out through the gift and protection of the Holy Spirit. That being said, in 2014, people don’t want to wait for the conclusion of arguments.  And in 2014, we have the ability to almost instantaneously hear every word of every argument.  I don’t think that’s a good thing.  But it looks like we have to figure out how to deal with 2014 the hard way.

My opinion (take it or leave it)… Full disclosure — my approach to some of the issues discussed by the Synod has changed in the past five years.  That may sound radical to some of you.  I don’t say my beliefs changed.  They haven’t.  I believe what the Church teaches in regards to marriage, sexuality, and family life. And I believe it with all my heart.  That being said, over the past six years I’ve worked with a lot of people.  I’ve encountered the human heart.  Fresh out of grad school, I was armed with the Catechism and the Summa and I was ready to beat Church teaching into every soul and mind.  Now I’m still armed with those treasures, but I’m ready to propose it.  Just as God does.  I’ve encountered a weak and frail humanity that needs love and care and healing.  It needs the Truth.  But it is too wounded to be beaten further.  It needs to be loved.

Does that mean we don’t preach the Truth?  No.  And one of the weaknesses of the relatio was its failure to preach the Truth and beauty of Church teaching with clarity.

Does that mean we change Church teaching to suit the needs of society?  No.  Church teaching is beautiful and wise and true.  We can’t change what Christ Himself taught.  As soon as we do, we cease to be the kingdom of heaven.

But does that mean we need to find ways to bring that Truth to the wounded people in our world?  To teach them in ways they can understand, that will not shut them down but open them up to the richness of the Word Incarnate- Who desires to love them in their brokenness?  Yes.

We are broken.  We are wounded.  All of us. And those who walk around and pretend like the human heart is understandable and that life is full of black and white situations are probably the most broken and wounded of all.

The only thing that will heal us is Truth. So how do we give that Truth?  How do we proclaim that Truth?  How do we live that Truth?

I have to admit, when I heard the Gospel yesterday, and heard the condemnation of the scribes by Jesus, I wondered how often I have been guilty of the same sin: “And he said, ‘Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.’”

All the times I have judged people- thought I knew their hearts, thought I knew the state of their souls, gossiped about their sins, judged their intentions, judged their desires and assumed the worst…  I have failed to love them in their brokenness, failed to help them carry their burdens. God, forgive me.

A quick link-up:

Reports of the Working Groups – if you read the relatio (and if you did, you’re probably in the 1%), you might want to read this — the feedback from the working groups about it.  This link wil take you directly to the three English groups and their thoughts

Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod – Father Barron is always a good read. Thank you for your measured response and sanity, Father.

The Great Catholic Cave-In that Wasn’t – George Weigel points out what we should all know by now – secular media usually gets it wrong

Synod report: Is there a seismic shift in Catholic approach to marriage? – Are we ignoring what Africa wants to share?

PewSpective: My Favorite Sins – a beautiful reflection from a lay woman about relatio and real, every day living

Synod of Bishops 2014: The Drama is Back – John Allen is my go-to, even though I don’t always agree with him.  but you shouldn’t just read people you always agree with…

Maronite Synod Delgate: Family Issues Facing Catholics are not all Universal – a good reminder that it’s not just all about the West

I’m sure there are several I missed — I read a lot yesterday. But there’s a start for you.

words I’m living by

8 Oct

Fear not, little flock, for it is your-2

Let the Music Play

6 Oct

Have you ever had a song that could be the lead song on the soundtrack of a certain moment in your life?  I should start writing them down, because I have so many.  They come on my Pandora station and I am immediately taken back to a certain moment — I can smell the smells, feel in the pit of my stomach the same emotions, good or bad.  When I heard Nickel Creek live this summer, as soon as they began playing songs from their title album, I was taken back to a summer of fun at my friend Annie’s new apartment — long before her four girls, when her husband was still a lovesick college boy with unrequited love for her, when we spent hours sitting on her roof, laughing, singing, writing short stories, goofing off without cares in the world.

Accidentally in Love immediately takes me back to my graduation dance at Christendom, when that boy that I had waited for two years to ask me to dance gave me one of the greatest swing dances of my college career.  That song comes on and I’m a girl on the verge of leaving everything she’s loved for the past four years, already an emotional mess, and that boy comes through the crowd with hand outstretched.  It’s crystal clear, like the closing scene in the movie of my senior year…  minus that happy ending of the boy asking to marry me at the end.  Haha!

This morning I turned on Delta Rae’s If I Loved You, and I was back at their live show at 12th and Porter, wincing at every word of the song as it unraveled in front of me, wishing that my life wasn’t quite so movie-like at times.

If I loved you, life would be easy /
There’d be no truth that I’d be scared of

Yes, that would be lovely, I thought as I stood there with a boy I didn’t love.

But I don’t love you, not like you need it /
I don’t love you, good as you are

Stomach roll.  Why is life so strange?  You are so good… everyone’s going to think I’m crazy when I break it off…

But I don’t love you, much as I want to /
I don’t love you, no, it would be a lie /
And you deserve love, you’re better than a good day /
And you’ll find it, but just not in my eyes

Thank you, Delta Rae.

Good and bad memories, ones that never disappear, thanks to some lyrics and instruments. What will the song from this summer be?  Will it be one of the songs that I’ve had on repeat these days — or will it be one that will surprise me? All I know is that I’ll be sitting in a coffeeshop five years from now and I’ll be brought back to the summer of 2014, the crazy happy times of short-notice cookouts and road trips, the heart wrenching moments when I knelt in the chapel and asked God why He created the human heart the way He did, the strange in-between weeks of transitions and new jobs, the laughs, the tensions, the tears, the annoyances and the joys…

And I’ll be glad that we have the gift of music.

Here’s to the future soundtrack of 2014.

Breaking news

29 Sep

I mentioned before that while the blog has been quiet this summer, my life hasn’t. I suppose at the time it sounded like it was busy with eating and traveling and hanging out with friends and goofing off.  And it has been that, but it’s also been busy with other important things.

Like an exciting new development in my professional life. Read all about it here…

Joan Watson hired to revitalize adult education in the diocese

It feels good to share it!

what’s in a hug?

25 Sep

I’m not supposed to be blogging right now, but since I’m supposed to be writing somewhere else and I’m hitting complete writer’s block, I thought I might as well begin to have words flow from my typing fingers somehow.  So I thought I would come here to muse about hugs.

Yes, hugs.

I was never an overly physical-touch person growing up.  Then I went to Franciscan, where everyone hugged everyone.  So my “get away from me, why are you touching me,” tendencies mellowed a little.  Hug friends when you see them, hug at the sign of peace, hug goodbye.  Hug here, hug there.

But do I really want to hug at the sign of peace?  I began thinking about it when the Congregation for Worship responded to questions about the sign of peace (mostly its placement in the liturgy) with a call for a more “restrained” approach to it.  Let’s remember that Jesus is up there on the altar, and maybe there’s a different time and place to walk across church to greet your second cousin and ask them to go to breakfast after Mass.  We don’t need songs about the sign of peace or some big production.  Turn to your neighbor, shake their hand, move on. They also indicated that “familiar and worldly gestures of greeting” should be replaced with “other, more appropriate gestures.”  Hm. Hugs?

So while I haven’t stopped hugging completely, I have wondered if I should go back to only sticking my hand out (or nodding, because let’s face it, sometimes I don’t even want to shake people’s hands).  Just to clarify, I don’t hug everyone at the sign of peace. That would be creepy.  I just hug my good friends and only if there has been some indication that is what they would do, too. Because there’s the awkwardness of “does she want to hug? Or am I going to go in for the hug and she’s going to stick out her hand and we’re going to feel dumb?”   So there’s about five of you girls out there, tops.  But still.  Should I go back to hand-shaking?

Then there’s the hugs of greeting between friends.  There are some people in my circle of friends who always hug, coming and/or going.  It’s the way they say “hey, it’s really good to see you.”  And I almost didn’t write this blog post because I don’t want any of them to read it and stop hugging.  Because I’m not criticizing them or necessarily want them to stop greeting me with a hug.

But at the same time… what’s in a hug?  Especially a hug between a guy and a girl.  For these guys, it’s a sign of friendship. There’s nothing romantic in it (at least, I hope there isn’t, because they’re hugging everyone).  Yet physical touch affects different temperaments different ways.  And to most single girls, a really nice hug by a really nice guy — even a guy she isn’t romantically attached to — can affect that little single heart.  I can say this pretty honestly, because two of the best huggers in my circle of friends are not guys I’m romantically attracted to (or can ever see myself being romantically attracted to, honestly — with no offense to them) and yet I really like their hugs.  They’re strong, warm, and loving.  No strings attached.  Just some nice physical touch.

But is that good?  Is that healthy?  In our world today that gives physical displays of affection — and MORE — out like candy, should we be more reserved in the way we touch people of the opposite sex?

I was flipping through the channels the other day and found a marathon of 19 Kids and Counting.  I haven’t watched the show in years, but found myself getting sucked in because they were talking about the courtships and engagements of Jill and Jessa.  The Duggars, most of you know, are notorious for their rather strict rules concerning relationships with the opposite sex, including things like chaperones on dates and not kissing until the wedding.  While I’m not advocating that (although it doesn’t seem to affect their love life later…), they mentioned that they only give “side hugs,” and it got me thinking again.

Okay, just that phrase – side hug – makes me laugh.  But it made me think about the hugs that are passed around right and left in our circle of friends.  A hug should be an intimate exchange — unless it’s one of those awkward hugs where you stand about three feet away from each other and pat each other on the shoulder.  The Duggars described them as “chest to chest contact,” which kind of makes me squirm, but is true.  Especially with the good huggers.  So while there are some good huggers in my circle of friends, what does physical touch do to my heart?  And I’m not neccessarily talking about temptation with the hugger- I’m just talking about that yearning for more physical touch that just isn’t possible when you’re not married or dating.

At the same time, isn’t it better to get a good hug from a friend than be completely deprived of physical touch?  After all, while physical touch isn’t my primary love language (I can’t believe I just typed that), everyone needs it.  Then there’s that question on the practical level… what about that person who comes in for a hug that you don’t want to hug?  I don’t want to share that contact unless I feel comfortable– but I guess you stand three feet away and pat them on the shoulder…

Just some thoughts this fall morning.  What are the limits of physical touch a single girl should allow herself, so as to save her heart from desires that aren’t fulfillable right now?  With a world chucking their carnal treasure at everyone, perhaps these seem to be a pretty naive and sheltered thoughts. But I think it’s worth thinking about.

Quotable Francis

22 Sep


I’m here to say … nothing much.

10 Sep

My sister and I were discussing the blog world the other day, and where our perspective blogs fit, our readership, etc.  Eerily, Jenny had a similar post the same day, which struck me as funny since she’s one of the blogs I “look up” to in the blog world.

It made me think about this poor excuse for a blog, which I love so much but have neglected so much.  What is it’s purpose?  If I have something somewhat serious or profound, I’m more likely to head over to… which has also been neglected this summer.  If I am having a bad day or am going through a crisis that requires writing to process, I’m not likely to post that for the world to see.

Is this blog only good for gratuitous food shots?

IMG_9309an afternoon snack of “assorted toasts” at Pinewood Social

IMG_9387a breakfast treat on the feast of St. Max – a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit from Porter Road Butcher

or worse yet, alcohol shots? (no pun intended.)

IMG_9255Samples at Turtle Anarchy Brewing, in our quest to find the best microbrewery here in Nashville

IMG_9333Samples at Fat Bottom.  You have to admit, they make a pretty scene…

Or maybe glamorous pictures of the single life (since I don’t have cute kids to post, I’ll post dinner parties?)

IMG_9356(photo courtesy of my friend Constanza)

I suppose this is a random blog post to come say that I don’t know what to say, but I’m in the writing mood and felt like coming here to say something.  Perhaps some day I’ll learn how to express what’s in my heart and mind without completely showing all my cards, and then I’ll be able to blog when I’m in these moods without boring everyone with a photo dump of random shots from the summer.

I’ll leave  you with this C.S. Lewis quote.  I found comfort in it this afternoon, although I don’t know how he can be 100% right unless he’s talking about heaven.


But on that note, you should read this story and be jealous that I have one of the best bishops in the country.

 The end.

Today is Beautiful

26 Aug

The mother of one of my friends is on her deathbed.  Another one of my friends is in the hospital giving birth to her first daughter.  As I knelt at Mass this afternoon, I thought of the juxtaposition of the emotions present in that one same hour.  The sorrow and joy, the dread and excitement.  The pain, the unknown, the expectation, and the fear.  The resignation, the embrace, the beauty, and the love.

Birth and death. Perhaps they aren’t too dissimilar.

The moments of grace when the Lord is present, ready to comfort, to heal, to bless, to invite us into a deeper relationship with him — these moments are with us every day.  Every day people are born, and every day people die.

It’s ordinary time… that God touches with extraordinary grace.


Bourbon Retreat

20 Aug


It all started with five of us talking after our Derby party, sipping mint juleps and dreaming big.  Let’s go to Paris.  To Rome.

How about the Bourbon Trail?

The details came together easily, and before we knew it, we were headed up I-65 to Louisville, KY on a Friday morning, ready to make memories.

I won’t bore you with all the details, the inside jokes, the quotes and stories that only the five of us will ever think are funny.  I will tell you that it was one of the best (and most affordable) mini adventures I’ve ever had.

Our time in Louisville included wandering around Louisville Slugger Field even though it was closed and we weren’t supposed to be inside and our first distillery stop (the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience).


At the gift shop, the woman working saw that we were Catholic (my Miraculous Medal) and told us about the “prettiest church in Louisville,” which just happened to have perpetual adoration, confession for first Friday, and the full skeletons of two Roman martyrs.  Not bad for an unexpected side trip.  Did I mention her kids went to Christendom?  #smallCatholicworld


Bourbon and Jesus.  It was the theme of the weekend.

Yes, we were on a Bourbon Retreat.  Every day included bourbon, Jesus, and plenty of unexpected gifts.  He made it pretty clear from the very beginning that He had hilarious things in store for us:

IMG_8908We just needed to be open to the Spirit.  It was Pentecost weekend, after all.  So there was a lot of quoting Acts 2:15.


That night we stayed in a funny apartment (bed and breakfast… minus the breakfast) which was full of character but not so full of air-conditioning.

IMG_8435Aways a bad sign when your candles are melting without being lit.  Oh well… it gave us something to laugh about now.  “Remember when Mario slept on the kitchen floor in front of the window a/c unit?”

Saturday we got an early start, and after Mass (remember — Jesus and bourbon) we headed to Jim Beam.


Then Heaven Hill,

2014-06-07 13.58.06and Maker’s Mark.

IMG_8555We were quickly becoming experts on the distilling process, so we weren’t too keen on our Maker’s Mark tour guide, who treated us like frat boys.  But again, at least it gave us something to laugh about now.

After Maker’s, (where the lady who ran the “dip your own bottle in red wax” station redeemed the place for us by being awesome) we headed to Gethsemani for Evening Prayer and a holy hour.  Gethsemani is a Trappist Monastery, probably best known for being the home of Thomas Merton.  (remember, this ain’t no normal Bourbon Trail weekend.  This is a bourbon retreat.)


We headed to Bardstown to satisfy our very rumbly tummys, and ate at Talbott Tavern, which dates from the 1700s and has seen the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, and Jesse James.  I embraced the Kentucky experience with burgoo and a hot brown, washing it down with an Old Fashioned.  It was there I began to worry about myself… after sipping the drink (and I’m usually a cocktail girl), I thought, “Why did they put all this stuff in my bourbon?”

There’s no going back now.  My palate has acquired a taste.

We headed to Frankfort, where we welcomed the air conditioned hotel with open arms.  The next morning, we went to Mass, had a holy hour (remember… bourbon retreat…) and then hit the road.  We had four more distilleries if we were going to complete our Bourbon Trail passports and get our free t-shirt. We had started the weekend with, “Well, if it happens, that’s nice…” but now it was no laughing matter.  We were going to do this.

Wild Turkey opened first, so they were our first stop.

Spirits for the Spirit!IMG_8542

Then it was off to Four Roses

2014-06-08 13.28.57

and Woodford Reserve.

IMG_8581Then we booked it to Lexington, where the last stop was Town Branch, a new distillery that also brews beer. We missed the beer part of the tour, but made it in time for the distillery part.  Oh, and the tasting.

2014-06-08 17.05.38Whew.  Two and a half days. Eight distilleries.

That’s a lot of bourbon.  Well, not really.  Not as much as what fills this:

IMG_9006We celebrated with dinner at The Village Idiot and congratulated ourselves on one heck of a weekend.

I’d highly recommend making the trip, even if you don’t do all eight on the “trail.”  In fact, I’d love to go back and hit some of the ones we skipped — Buffalo Trace and a few of the smaller distilleries.  There are so many, we had to draw the line somewhere — so we stuck to the ones in the passport.

I thought that eight would be a bit much — that the tours would be repetitive, that I would get bored, that I would want to stop after Saturday.  But each tour was unique and emphasized something different.  There were steps we didn’t see at every tour, there were elements to the process that were explained differently, and in the end, all eight complemented each other well.

Favorite tour: Heaven Hill

Most Disney-like tour: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Most surprising: Wild Turkey

Most beautiful grounds: Woodford Reserve

Best “branding” (for good or ill): Maker’s Mark

We learned how to smell with our mouths open, we now know the legal requirements for bourbon to be bourbon, and we’ve acquired a taste for the magic that happens when corn and sweet Kentucky water meet charred oak barrels in a hot Kentucky summer.

Good times.


(Thanks to Mario and Ian for several of these pictures!)







2 Conferences and a Home Visit

6 Aug

Every once and awhile over the past two months I would plan to blog.  Then I would stare at the computer screen and the date of the last post, glance at all the photos in iPhoto from the past two months, stare some more, then get completely overwhelmed and close WordPress.

Let’s just say this has been an incredible summer.  I think it’s the fastest summer to date – I can’t believe it’s already August – but it has also been one of the most fun summers to date.

Part of the reason the summer went so fast (besides my packed social calendar) is that I was out of town for large chunks of it.  I spent two wonderful weeks in theology-land, attending two conferences at Franciscan University, with a home visit sandwiched between the two.  Have I mentioned that I put 3,500 miles on my car this summer?  yeah.

The first conference was the Bosco Conference, a catechetical conference that is full of practical workshops, great people, and beautiful times for prayer.  I was able to stay with my dear friend Amy (so there was a lot of sleep lost over late-night conversations), catch up with a few friends from the catechetical world, drink in the wealth of knowledge that is Dr. Petroc Willey, and spend time with Sefanit (for those of you truly veteran blog-readers, you’ll recognize that name from Rome!).


The Portiuncula Chapel is my favorite place in Steubenville.  Okay, in all of Ohio.

This trip came at the perfect time — I needed the time to be with Jesus.  Attend a few talks, go to Mass, sit in the chapel, eat.  repeat.

I skipped a workshop one afternoon to head into Pittsburgh and meet up with my friend Mike Aquilina and his daughter Mary Agnes.  He gives a great tour of the saints of Pittsburgh.  St. John Neumann, Bl Francis Seelos, St. John Paul II, Bl Mother Frances Siedliska… it’s quite impressive.  Mike knows so much about the history of the Church in that area, I could have listened to him all day.


After the conference was over, I headed home — but met up with my sister and her family on their way through Ohio.  We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, drove to visit my great aunt in Columbus, and then finished the trip to Indiana.  It was such a wonderful time home– the kids are all at really fun ages, and it was fun to have them all together.  It was a very quick trip home for me — just two days — but with my brother’s family down from Chicago, all of us were together except Sr. Mary Grace, and we managed a lot of fun in just two days.


(See her blog for plenty of great pictures.)

Then it was back to Franciscan for me, for the Applied Biblical Studies conference.  I was blessed to be able to teach with the St. Paul Center before the conference kicked off.  Two hundred people came for the Journey Through Scripture bible study, and I found myself teaching alongside incredible presenters like Michael Barber, Matt Leonard, and David Currie.  Oh, and this woman named Kimberly Hahn.

It was wonderful to be back with the St. Paul Center, to see their new offices, to hear about the new plans for the DVD series (you have to see this), and just talk with Scott and Kimberly and the gang.


The conference was incredible, as always.  More time with Jesus in the Portiuncula, more incredible and inspiring talks from the best biblical teachers in the country. But you know what was the best?  There I was, with Dr. Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, Michael Barber, John Bergsma… and you know where I learned the most?

At the holy hour.  I was sitting behind the Hahns, next to Mike Aquilina and Matt Leonard and all the rest.  And we prayed together.  WE PRAYED TOGETHER.  As I knelt there, the lights dim and the gym floor hard, Father processed around with Jesus in the monstrance, I worshipped the Word of God with giants in the Church.  I was kneeling with these incredible scholars, these beautiful writers, these celebrities…and they were in love, in adoration, in worship.

These men learned a lot from books.  But they learned more on their knees.

And I wept with joy.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 661 other followers