Being known

Every Tuesday morning, after my early Adoration hour, I go to Bruegger’s Bagels on the way to work. I’ll bop in there on another day of the week here or there, but it’s definitely part of my Tuesday morning routine.

Shawn is behind the bagel counter, ready to make my plain bagel with egg, cheddar cheese, and tomato (“after it comes out of the oven, please.”)  If it’s not Shawn, I know whomever is back there will not make it properly, and I often won’t even let them try.  I’ll just get cream cheese instead.  Thankfully on Tuesdays it’s almost always Shawn. Then I’ll go to the cash register and be greeted by Sayonara with the greatest “good morning” a Tuesday morning has ever seen.

It’s a routine, and I love it.  Shawn doesn’t even ask me anymore.  One day there was another guy behind the counter with him, and when he asked me what I wanted, Shawn simply said, “I got it,” and pulled a plain bagel out of the basket and started cutting it.

This morning I was thinking how happy this makes me, and at first I just chalked it up to the idea of routine and ritual (which apparently people are finally admitting makes our life better).

But then I decided it’s more than that.

We want to be known.

It’s the human desire to be encountered (which I wrote a bit about here).  It’s the feeling of being encountered, recognized, and known.  We want to feel important — not in a prideful way, not in a famous way, but just important to someone, somehow.

How many people survived prison camps or other terrible situations hanging on to the fact that someone was out there waiting for them?

We want to be known.

Shawn and Sayonara brighten every Tuesday morning because they acknowledge that I exist and that I’m a part of their routines as much as they are a part of mine.  I’d like to think I brighten their days, too.  Addressing them by name, asking them how they are, treating them as if they matter to me – which they do.

What if every day, we tried to seek out at least one other person and brought them God’s love by simply showing them they’re known? Maybe it’s just a matter of making eye contact with a stranger and telling them hello. So often I walk past people as if they’re not there. Maybe it’s taking the time to ask how someone is doing or listen to a coworker’s story – even if I’ve heard it before.  Maybe it’s a gesture of appreciation to someone whose work usually goes unnoticed, or a compliment to someone who is usually forgotten.  It doesn’t have to be grand, it just has to be intentional.

There’s a power in being known.

Thoughts on the Synod

I have been more out-of-the-loop with the Synod than I normally would like.  It’s a far cry from last year, when I had just started my job and didn’t have any projects in full swing. I had plenty of time to read as much as I could, watch press conferences, and speculate. This year, work has kept me busy and I’ve barely had time to read a blog post here and there.  I skim Twitter in the morning (following the Holy See Press Office is rather helpful for getting quotes from the press conferences) and sometimes that’s all I can do.

Perhaps, though, it’s not such a bad thing.  I’m aware of the discussions and debates, but in the end, I’ll be waiting until the dust settles to see what comes of all of this. Which is all I could have done anyway. So we pray for the bishops, we pray for the Pope, and we wait.

One thought: Pretending that the only issue the synod needs to discuss is Communion for the divorced and remarried is an insult to families throughout the world. This isn’t a synod on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried.  This is a synod on the family.  And with all respect to those who are in that situation and hurting, there are millions of people throughout this world hurting for other reasons, and their wounds need to be addressed as well. I was reading comments on an article during the first week of the Synod (heaven help me, why do I read comments on articles…) and the person said if that problem wasn’t going to be solved, why is there even a synod?  Well, that’s insulting to every family that is hurting throughout the world: hurt by war, fatherless families, prostitution and sex trafficking, polygamy, abuse, poverty, infertility, lack of educational opportunities…

What about the families who are struggling to be faithful, to be life-giving, to be virtuous in this culture when everyone around them is telling them to give up?  To act like the synod is only about Communion for the divorced and remarried is a slap in the face, at best.  (Thank you, Cardinal Dolan.)

More than one bishop has commented that if the focus of the synod is Communion for the divorced and remarried, it is a narrow focus that pretty much completely ignores the situation of families outside the western world.  We tend to forget that much of the Catholic world lies outside our everyday experience.  The Catholics in North America make up a mere 8% of the Catholic Church.  Add Europe and you get a total of about 32%. Not exactly a majority.

One of the most striking things about the World Meeting of Families was not just the international community present, but where much of the international community came from. Not from affluent Europe (an easy trip to Philadelphia).  No, they were from Asia and Africa.  I’ve never seen so many bishops gathered for Mass in one place outside of Rome, as I did at that opening Mass for the WMOF.  Where were they from? Africa and Asia. (Including this guy.) The Church is growing and the Church is faithful in these “2nd millennial” churches.  They deserve to be in the conversation.

That being said, I stand by the things I said last year (here and here) about last year’s extraordinary synod, and I urge everyone to pray for the bishops.  We can spill a lot of ink, we can gossip and complain and speculate and worry.  Or we can pray.

why am I here?

I should be writing a couple of talks for a faculty retreat I’m giving on Monday and another talk for on Laudato Si that I’m giving next Wednesday.  I could also be writing the pro-life talk I’m giving at the end of the month, the talk on prayer I’m giving in November, or the women’s retreat I’m giving in December.

But no, I’m here. Because I’m having a crisis.

I think every blogger goes through this at some time or another, especially when one is looking at a fairly stagnant blog (no fault but mine own).  What the heck am I doing? Why am I here?

I’ve been watching a series of videos from Michael Hyatt’s Influence & Impact summit that’s going on right now, originally to see if there were some tips for marketing my adult formation opportunities or strategies to share with leaders in adult formation.  Essentially, half of my job is marketing the Gospel message to adults sitting in the pews who don’t know they should care more than they do.  So I was thinking I could learn from the “secular” play-makers who are out there.

But after watching several of the videos, I began to wonder about my own blog, website, and online presence.  I want readers to my website. I want to be speaking and teaching groups of people. But unlike the people I was listening to — people who had massive followings online, multiple New York Times’ best sellers, and huge “platforms,” I’m not selling anything.

Or am I?  As I was listening to them, they all had something in common: They had a product- not just physical products (books, an online course, or newsletter full of tips and inspirational encouragement)- but a product in the form of some niche message.

What was my product? What was my “why”? I love to write, but why should anyone read me? What do I have to offer?

One of the presenters said that we all, at some point, suffer from the curse of familiarity. We begin to assume that everyone knows what we know.  We have nothing to offer, nothing to share, because we don’t have anything unique.

Maybe I do have something unique.  My friend Jenny insisted I did, when we were in Philadelphia waiting 8 1/2 hours to see the Pope drive by (have you read about that?  It was awesome…), and I didn’t believe her.  But maybe I do, and maybe it’s just a matter of honing in what sets me apart.  I’m don’t have a tribe of cute kids to homeschool. I don’t spend time crafting or DIY-ing my way to Pinterest-worthy masterpieces. But perhaps I still have something to offer.  And perhaps it’s time to get off my duff and figure out how to hone that into something that’s worth giving.

Stay tuned.

An incredible week in Philadelphia

I honestly don’t know where to begin when it comes to reflecting on this past week.  So much of it feels like a dream.  But then my feet hurt and I remember that it was all very real.

It’s hard to believe the week is over.  Learning from Cardinals, Church leaders, and other Catholic celebrities and just taking in the joy of thousands of families all week, and then capping it off with the papal visit to Philadelphia … it’s just hard to believe it’s over.

Seeing the Popemobile on American city streets was surreal.

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…And then he stops and kisses your friend’s baby. And the 8 1/2 hours of waiting on the side of the road is all worth it.

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More later, folks. Although that was the high point right there.

Historic Philadelphia

Today I may or may not have had a tour of historic Philadelphia from a guy who once played “young Ben Franklin” in a summer play on the streets of Philly.

Not only did I see where it all went down…

IMG_2823(confession: I wanted to sing songs from 1776 the whole time.)

But I also saw where (most of) our Founding Fathers worshipped:

Christ Church- the Anglican church were many of the Founding Fathers, Betsy Ross, and the Penn family all had pews

And where they worked.  This is right by Ben Franklin’s house (right next to his printery office) and it’s still a working post office!


We also visited Old St. Joseph’s, the first Catholic church in Philadelphia


The beautiful painting on the ceiling was a gift from Francis Drexel’s estate. Yeah, like St. Katherine Drexel’s dad.


Getting ready for the Pope!

And after a full afternoon at World Meeting of Families, we returned where we began the day – in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers – and had a drink at the pub where they hung out.  I’m pretty sure the real work of the Continental Congresses probably happened here.

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I couldn’t help but continue to think… what were these guys thinking? When they were all sitting at their Anglican service, did they have any idea what the heck was happening in this new country?  Did they realize they were making history?  Or were they just doing, in the words of Father Mike Schmitz, “the next thing” ??  I just wonder.

WMOF Day 1

Today was a quiet day before the mayhem begins.  …which basically will now translate into a blog post about food.  Catholic celebrities will come in time. Today you get pictures of food.

I hung around the house in the morning while Megan was at school, catching up on some work, watching Food Network, and having fun creating lunch with leftovers and staples in Megan’s fridge.  Once Megan got home and ate the pasta salad I created, we headed for the convention center downtown so I could pick up my registration.

While we were down there, it finally really sank in what exactly was happening.  We wandered into one of the exhibit halls, and although everyone was still setting up, there were booths as far as the eye could see of Catholic vendors.  EWTN had a huge booth with a sign hanging down from the ceiling.  Every Catholic publishing house you could think of was there.  And this was only one hall.

We started running into people from all over the world.

IMG_2806Name that flag!

This isn’t just some conference, Joannie.  This is going to be huge.

Registration went so smoothly – which was rather shocking after some of the snafus I have heard about in the last few weeks.  I picked up my name tag and all my loot and my train pass and I was good to go in less than ten minutes.


I have to unpack all my loot so my bag is empty and ready to fill with all the chatchka the vendors will be handing out!  In addition to our t-shirt, our backpack had a water bottle, a nice hat, the Gospel of St. Luke, a rain poncho, two pens, a pin, tons of free literature from sponsors, and even a Pope Francis fan.


The exhibitor program alone exhausted me.  Not to mention the program for the whole event. It weighs five pounds.

IMG_2812objects are thicker than they appear

On our way back to the train, we stopped into the Reading Terminal for a snack. I had only seen the Terminal during a flash mob on YouTube, so the foodie side of me was anxious to experience it.  I think I’ll eat lunch there every day this week.


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Megan got coffee, while I opted for Irish Coffee ice cream.

It tasted just like Irish Coffee.  Deelish.

Then it was time to head back out of the city, where we picked up our friend Father Kevin at his parents’ house so we could go get cheesesteaks.  His dad and brother recommended Chubby’s, and even though the girl in me didn’t necessarily want to eat at a place called Chubby’s, I decided to put the “you are what you eat” idea out of my head and just embrace it.


I’m pretty sure I’ll eat a cheesesteak for dinner every night this week.

After we hung out with Father’s family for awhile, it was time to head back home so Megan could get some work done. But we had one last stop before we were finished for the night…


They deliver.  Seriously?  You can tell we’re near a college campus.


Until tomorrow!


Prepping for the Pope

I don’t know why I was surprised to see a “Welcome Pope Francis!” sign in the Philadelphia airport last night.  I mean, this is kind of a big deal.  But it started to sink in then, and continued to sink in as we drove through the city and saw billboard after billboard welcoming the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis.  I mean, even Wawa is welcoming him!


I also realized last week that this will not only be my first time to see a Pope on American soil, it’ll be my first time seeing the Pope anywhere outside of Rome!  I’ve seen John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis, but always in Vatican City or somewhere within the city of Rome.

So it’s happening, folks.  I haven’t blogged about my incredible experience at the Bristol night race (thank you, Dad!!) or the whiskey class I took a few weeks ago, or the incredible food I’ve eaten lately, but I’m back here and ready to blog about Philly.

I’ll be blogging serious thoughts over at – if I find time at the end of the day – but if I want to blog about things like the sandwich I ate from Wawa last night, you’ll find me around here.

We started the festivities of the week by going to a Padre Pio festival today, complete with people whose names are Antoinetta Biancorosso and Italian men who talked with their hands and plenty of people who were willing to jab you in the back if you weren’t standing close enough in the line for sausage and peppers. Good memories of Rome and hopefully good practice for what lies ahead next weekend.


Okay, Philly.  Here’s your chance to shine. I’m still sad Francis didn’t come to Nashville, but it’s time to show him what your city is all about.  Okay, maybe not.  Please try to make Americans look good.