All posts filed under: Blog Posts

“Parks and Recreation”: Icon of Community

Over the past several months, I’ve been rewatching NBC’s comedy series Parks and Recreation, which is, in my opinion, one of the most quietly wonderful shows ever to be on television. Having seen every episode at least once now, I think I’ve figured out what made the show work so well (or, more accurately, what made it work so well once its writers figured out what they wanted it to be). Parks and Rec works because its characters are better together than they would be alone. Fans of the show undoubtedly recognize themselves in one or more of the characters (I’ve been cast as Leslie Knope by multiple friends, and I’ve cast my own friends as Ron Swansons, Donna Meagles, even April Ludgates), and it is this recognition that also serves as a reminder that we are made better human beings by the other people in our lives than we could ever become on our own. Leslie’s overachieving drive and relentless enthusiasm needs to be tempered by Ron’s taciturnity, Ben’s pragmatism, and Ann’s steadiness. On the …

Mother’s Day Quotations: A Bouquet from Church Life

In honor of this upcoming Mother’s Day, as well as the ongoing month of Mary, we’ve rounded up a list of highlights on motherhood from Church Life Journal’s pages. We offer the list below as a “bouquet” of quotations offering insight from our authors reflecting on the spirituality of motherhood. Click through at each citation for the full article.  No one will know if a mother does the dishes with her heart raised to God in gratitude, or if she patiently reads to her child who wants to hear the same story over and over again, or if she deals gently with the rebellious teenager. No one will know if she responds with sweetness or bitterness to the inevitable disruptions and perturbations of family life that are decided in a split second’s movement of the heart, but she will know, and she makes her choice, and it is upon these innumerable hidden habits and choices that her growth in holiness hangs. —Allison Ciraulo, “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood” All of us who bear children have …

Motherhood in Perspective

One fall afternoon, I was trying to get my two small children ready to go for a walk around the block, and every little preparatory step (socks, shoes, coats, etc.) was taking what seemed an eternity to accomplish. My well of patience had run dry, my inner dialogue had gone bitter, and I was ready to scream. My three-year-old daughter and I were grating on each other and my 18-month-old son was unhappy and clingy. It felt ridiculous to let these little things get to me so much, but it also seemed futile to deny that they had built up to the point of overriding my composure. “It’s the little things—they are a big deal,” I thought defeatedly. Eventually we made it outside. It was one of the first times my son was walking with us instead of riding in the stroller. He toddled along in an alternate rhythm of almost running, then steadying himself in stumbling, slower steps. As we walked, a strong gust of autumn wind rushed noisily through the trees and pushed at …

stained glass window

Stories of Grace: Episode 15

“If I sit in the side aisle of the Basilica, I can see clearly the stained glass window I eyed suspiciously years ago, a window I can now trust like an old friend: each little piece, fit into place slowly and creatively, as light shines steadily through.” Visit here to listen to Notre Dame senior Madeline Lewis tell the story of finding the grace to trust the intricacy at play in her life. Subscribe to the free Stories of Grace podcast on iTunes U and receive automatic notifications when a new story is published. The full text of Madeline’s reflection is below. Fathom For almost three years now, I have been the proud owner of an imaginary dog. Or, co-owner, I should say. Let me explain: at the beginning of my sophomore year, in late August, on the first day of class, I met a boy with a backpack that I really liked. It was a burnt-orange colored backpack, with a tiny plush gorilla keychain hanging off of one of the front zippers. What a nice backpack, …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 5: Young Adults

Over the past couple of years, I’ve struggled with the transition from Lent to Easter.  I think it’s because I spend more time thinking about living into Lent than the season of Easter.  After all, Easter’s not a celebration that lasts just for a day–but fifty. But the day itself is pretty cool. The smells, the bells..the weather…if I’m lucky.  It feels like a fresh start.  But a few weeks into the season, I’ve already found myself returning to ‘normal.’ At 26, my normal is filled with more bad habits than I would like to admit.  I’m busy; I overcommit; I use technology more than I should. But I trust Easter’s message, that old ways are dead and new life reigns.  This can’t just be an intellectual exercise, but something that is lived.  Here’s three ideas about how to do it. Cultivate practices of gratitude During Easter, we are able to see Jesus for who he really is–the one who has redeemed humanity.  Under the light of his truth, we are invited to celebrate and …

My Beloved Son: The Baptism of Walter Congrove

My son Walt was baptized almost a year and a half ago. His older brother Harry was chrismated with him, and then they made their first Communion together. It was a very busy day. We had friends, family, and two sets of godparents coming in and we had to have food and cake enough for them and the whole parish. The preparations were steady and occasionally frantic, with some unplanned emergencies along the way. When it was all over, it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken a single picture. I didn’t have a picture of the boys inside the church, in front of the font, with their godparents, with us, or with the priest. I had run from one place to another the whole time and I failed even to think of handing over our camera to anybody else who might have been able to take some pictures. I have regretted these lost and missing photographs ever since, but the experience etched some unforgettable images in my memory. Because Walt was to be immersed, …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 4: Food

We fast for the forty days of Lent. It stands to reason that we should find ways to feast for the entire fifty days of the Easter season. Most people are pretty adept at enjoying the extravaganza of Easter Sunday with chocolates, jelly beans, even Peeps (which, as my grandmother taught me, are really only good for Peep Jousting), but what happens after the inevitable stomachache and the ensuing sadness that the Easter baskets are empty? How can we truly keep the Easter feast for fifty days? We can BAKE. As my lifelong love of creating delicious treats has been reignited of late by my being introduced to the joys of The Great British Baking Show (watch and revel—you’ll thank me later), it seems to me that baking is a fairly simple way for people to continue their celebration of the Easter for the entire season. By baking something once each week, you can sustain a sense of joy and newness throughout Easter, and if you’re concerned about your waistline, you can use this as an …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 3: Dads

In his book, Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations, Vern L. Bengston notes that a father who is actively involved in religious practice is more likely to have children who continue being involved in religious practice. For this reason, it is essential for the flourishing of the American Church that dads get involved in the religious lives of their children. Here are six practices that dads might do with their kids during Easter to help develop habits of faith in the home. 6) Take Your Children to the Zoo and Speak About Religious Imagery My son loves the zoo. We ride the carousel of sundry animals (often choosing the shark or dolphin for some unknown reason). We race down hills together. We run to see the lions, the monkeys, and the terrifying carp. For this reason, it wouldn’t take a lot to talk to your kids at the zoo about the link between the animals and the Catholic imagination. Deer are prominent in early Church mosaics because of Psalm 42, “As the …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 2: Education

Editors’ Note: This post is part of a series offering ways to keep the joy of Easter alive for the entire fifty days of the season. Read Part 1: Music here. As my students walked into the classroom this morning, I greeted them with an energetic “Happy Easter!” One of my students quickly turned and responded, “Why are you saying that? Easter was on Sunday.” As we chatted about it further, I learned that the students had just discussed in their religion class that Easter lasts for 50 days until the celebration of Pentecost. They talked with me about Jesus’ Resurrection, his appearances to the disciples, his Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. They knew the facts, but did not recognize that we were truly still celebrating Easter. Like the concepts in every class and at every age, the truth takes a little bit longer to settle in and take root than the facts do. So how can we help our students to realize that Easter is full season of joyful celebration in the rhythm …

Formation Like the Dewfall

“Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica,” “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” These words, prayed during Mass, at the time of the epiclesis – when the priest extends his hands invoking the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, express the slow work of my formation. “Like the dewfall” are words that consistently capture my attention during the Eucharistic prayer, and I find myself echoing the prayer over and over again in my head, long after they escape the priest’s mouth, as if trying to retain the image forever, connecting my growing awareness of God’s love to the slow formative work of the dewfall. “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.”  Dew is a mysterious substance, a film of moisture that appears when we wake to each new day, coating the ground we walk on. This coat of condensation is subtle, not overpowering, …