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May Catholic BY Grace Column

It is the Marriage at Cana all over again. It really is.

Everyone is celebrating. The crowds are excited and hopeful. And behind the scenes, the apostles are dealing with a crisis.

The Blessed Mother sees both: the celebration and the building crisis. And she intervenes.

Right now, we are gearing up for a celebration. In September, the Church will come together to celebrate the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage and the beauty of the domestic church (the family).  And it should be a time of celebration. A time of hope. A time of gratitude and praise for the gifts we have in marriage and family.

The event is bookended by the Synods on the Family, where the apostles gather together. A crisis threatens marriage, and the Blessed Mother steps into their midst. “My Son, they have no wine.” She seems to be saying it again.

The fundamental building block of our society is crumbling, and the whole thing is about to collapse. It will all come to a screeching halt—this celebration of marriage and family—if something doesn’t happen.

What does it mean to run out of wine today? We see it in the proliferation of pornography, the commonplace use of artificial contraception, the growing number of babies conceived through in vitro fertilization—a process that claims the lives of five-to-ten embryos with every cycle of IVF.

The wine runs out as we see our young people sexualized at earlier and earlier ages, as young women are objectified, as the unborn are sacrificed on the altar of our agendas, our pre-conceived plans, our ideas about the future.

The wine runs out when couples stop working at marriage, stop dating each other, stop putting faith and family at the top of the list.

The wine runs out when men and women stop advocating for marriage and new life, when those advocating for marriage are advocating a completely different reality than the Church has ever held.

The wine runs out when society tells the Church what a Sacrament should be, which lives to protect, when a marriage is over.

My Son, they have no wine.

And yet, the celebration goes on—as it should because marriage and family are worth celebrating. No need to throw our hands into the air and give up. Our Lady has proven that she cares about marriage, and she even cares about the celebrations that surround it.

She intercedes, and her Son acts.

We are living in the moment between celebration and disaster. The bishops see how fragile the family is in modern culture. They have heard Our Lady speak. They have been given the directive to do whatever He says.

It is an odd place to be, standing here, seeing it all. The celebration coming in September, so like the Wedding at Cana.

The Synods on the Family, so like the moment when Our Lady speaks and our Lord acts.

Celebration and crisis.

The water & wine of grace. And the reality of outside forces.

This could be our finest hour. This could be the beginning of a world-wide ministry to the family. It began at the Wedding of Cana. Our Lord’s public ministry. The miraculous intervention. The pairing of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.

In my darker moments, I see only the approaching crisis. People building hasty marriages. Efforts to redefine marriage. Decisions to discard marriages like they were last year’s fashion statement.

The domestic church is in trouble and the answers won’t be easy. The answers may even require something miraculous.

But we have been here before.

It’s time to rise up. Some things are worth protecting, defining, defending, and salvaging. And once again, water can turn into wine. The celebration will continue.

And the Church will lead the way because she has received the mandate: do whatever He tells you.

Let the Church be the Church.

Pray for the apostles.

And expect a miracle.


Come With Me to the Holy Land! We have openings for our November 2015 pilgrimage!

Holy Land Poster for Website For complete itinerary and brochure, contact me at

Departure gates include St. Louis, Missouri, and Houston, Texas!

Walk where Jesus walked. Feel Mary’s Mantle wrapped around you!

In reference to today’s post at Time: I should turn off the comments on this response right now … but I won’t.

Benjamin Corey wrote the article. It was posted at Patheos before Time Magazine picked it up.

I would have been interested in the piece right away, had I been the first to see it. Ben was one of the other twelve pilgrims who traveled to Jordan with me recently. We had many things in common. Being Catholic wasn’t one of them.

So, when my sister posted the article on Facebook, I found it interesting. She said it was “something to ponder.” My sister isn’t Catholic either.

My oldest daughter reposted it on Facebook, calling it an “interesting article.” She isn’t Catholic.

My middle child and his wife weighed in. They didn’t agree “with almost all of it,”  but they think they might enjoy sitting down and having a cup of coffee with Ben. (They would, but I would love to be a fly on that wall if they did.) Oh, and they aren’t Catholic.

I sat back and enjoyed the comments and the posts/reposts. The article is on unity and what a true Christian nation would look like. Benjamin Corey does a great job of applying things Jesus said and did to today’s culture and national conscience. We fall short, to say the least. He also comments about unity and I suppose that caught my attention the most.

Why? Probably because I talk about Christian unity quite a bit. Probably because I may have mentioned it around him in Jordan.

Benjamin Corey from the article: “Some claim we were one, some claim we are one, and some say we need to become one. Yet, each time I hear that phrase I have an inner Princess Bride moment where I say to myself, ‘you keep using that word, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.’”

That’s one of my favorite lines from the movie, too. And I regularly think the same thing when I think about Christian unity. So what did Jesus mean by being one? In John 17, was He talking about all being on the same page when we think about social justice. Sure. Absolutely. So in that regard, Ben is correct. And I agree with most of what he said in his article.

But Jesus wasn’t merely talking about a unity of thought when it came to social issues of the day. He wanted us to be one. Period. And if our trip to Jordan proved anything, it proved that our little ecumenical group from various backgrounds didn’t agree on much of anything. We still had a fantastic time in Jordan.

We agreed that Petra was incredible, that the people are supremely kind and generous, that the Christians there need our love and support, that Jordan is doing an amazing job in opening her borders to those who are persecuted, that Jordan must be considered part of the Holy Land–because to miss out on Jordan is to miss out on much of the fifth Gospel. Jordan is the Holy Land, as is Palestine, as is Israel. We agreed on those things.

We didn’t agree as Christians on Christian things.

It would make an interesting diagrama. Regarding social justice, I agree with Ben quite a bit. Connect us. Connect me with a few others when it comes to thoughts on holiness and personal sanctification. Connect with me with others when it comes to thoughts on traditional marriage. Connect me with still others when it comes to respect for same-sex attraction and the reality of that sexual orientation. Connect me with others when it comes to theology–especially on Mary Connect me with others when it comes to morality. We weren’t even a Venn Diagram. We were all over the place.

So was Jesus saying that we are to agree, be one, in so far as it concerns social justice only? Or was He saying that we are to be one. In our theology. In our morality. In our practice of social justice.

Yes. Yes. And Yes. Unity… “I don’t think that means what you think it means.” No kidding. I think it means far more. I think it goes to a oneness that is so unified that it mirrors the unity the Father and the Son share. Again, see John 17. That is not a kind of, sort of, unity.

It isn’t just a unity that addresses social concerns. It is all. The “I AM” is One. And He calls us to be One. Perfect in unity. As the Father is one with the Son.


It doesn’t mean what you think it means. It doesn’t even mean what I think it means. It’s what Jesus meant it to mean.

Pew Research That Changes Things

I am sitting here. On a pew. In the adoration chapel.

I just genuflected and prayed a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.

My mind played with thoughts, and I brought them back around to prayer, as I so often do during this hour.

And my mind went briefly to that Pew Research Center doomsday summary.

How it’s all declining.

Whatever will happen to organized religion?

Will we all descend into a spiritually blind pit and muddle around until the Lord returns again?

Is the best behind is? The best art? The best music? The best stories of conversion and redemption and miraculous intervention?

And then I looked up and saw Mary.

I thought about her simple humility and her confidence.

Unshakable confidence.

And I thought, what would she do with the whole Pew Research Doomsday thing?

I’m only guessing, but I think she would smile. Tell me to get off my rear and stop wrestling with random thoughts and put the knees on the kneeler for a while.

Don’t just sit and ponder the empty pew.

She’d say something like that.

And maybe she’d smile and add:

My Immaculate Heart will triumph.

My Son has this. He really does.

Walking With Mary To Ein Kerem

Every once in a while, something comes to me, and I just go with it.

Every once in a while, the thought grows into something so much bigger and more amazing than I ever expected.

That is how I would describe Walking With Mary to Ein Kerem.

I didn’t need to pack my bags. I didn’t need a passport. Sometimes, all I needed was the long lane that connects my home with the main road or a treadmill or an elliptical machine at my daughter’s home in Minneapolis.

This journey is a prayer-journey.

This pilgrimage is one we make with the Blessed Mother.

We wake up one morning and decide—with almost the same spontaneity of Mary—that we are going to travel 80 miles in the footsteps of Our Lady.

Eighty miles. That is the distance between Nazareth and Ein Kerem (also spelled Ein Karem), where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.

Yes, Our Blessed Mother made that 80 mile journey alone, on her own two feet, with the Messiah taking on flesh within her. She journeyed through Galilee, Samaria, the Jordan River Valley, and finally through the hills of Judea.

She crossed the threshold of Elizabeth’s home … and the Magnifcat welled up in her spirit and spilled forth from her lips.

DSC_0689 (2)

I made this virtual pilgrimage of prayer with Mary during Lent 2015. In May, I presented the idea to a few friends. It became a Facebook event and almost 400 people joined the journey.

We are sharing our thoughts. The songs that are going through our minds. The things we are seeing. The deliberateness of each step. How good it feels to be moving—and not just moving again, but walking with Mary.

We share about the days we can’t walk, and others comment back: I walked more today than I need to walk, and you can have those miles.

Yes, we are carrying one another on this journey. We are sharing the miles with each other.

But mostly, we are sharing the miles with Mary.

This is no mental game.

This is not a gimmick to get back in shape.

Amazing things are happening in the souls of those who say yes to this journey.

We think of things we have never thought of before. We put on the mind of the Blessed Mother!

It’s not too late. This journey can begin today. It can take as many days as you want to give it.

Here are a couple of things to help you on your journey.

First, a journey tracker. You can fill in the miles as you travel. It is a spreadsheet, and it is ready for you to personalize it any way you want.

Walking With Mary to Ein Kerem

Second, a link to the Facebook Event.

Read the comments. Scan the posts. See the pictures of scenes Mary would have seen.

And enter the journey!

Book Cover Artwork from AMP Gifts of the Visitation

An Ave Maria Press book


Track your journey to the Visitation this May

May Walking With Mary


Click on the link to access the chart. Journey to Elizabeth’s home with the Blessed Mother–and share Christ!

A Woman With a Bias No More

When I grow up, I want to be like a Jordanian or Palestinian Christian.

I want to lose my prejudice against a language. Crazy as it sounds, I have been prejudiced against words. Words! Arabic, to be precise.

It’s like being prejudiced against Spanish, and words like Dios (God) or Si Dios Quiere (God Willing).


My Jordanian Christian friend Ra’ed taught us the Arabic word for God. It is Allah.

My Palestinian Christian friend Shibly taught me the Arabic word for God willing. It is Inshallah.

That’s when I realized I was prejudiced against a language. A language!

See article by fellow traveler Marge Fenelon:

I attended a wedding in the area of Moab while in Jordan. I understood almost none of it, but I caught the word for law. That’s not unusual. How many times have I heard the word law or lawfully in the wedding ceremony?


In Arabic, the word for law is sharia.

That’s it. Small case “s.”

I have had a bias against an entire language. It’s like having a bias against Spanish. Or French. Or German.

And that’s crazy.

Muslims did not break through my bias in this area. Don’t assume I am brainwashed by “scary Muslims.” Christians taught me these words. Palestinian Christians. Jordanian Christians.

I also had a bias against the names of countries. Crazy, isn’t it?countries

I suppose it is because these areas are predominantly Muslim. Once, I believed all people who lived there were Muslim.

Until I met Shibly.

Until I met Ra’ed.

Until I attended Mass in these countries and realized our faith is there, and the Christians there are strong and beautiful. And I realized that it is crazy to have a bias against the name of a country, to paint an entire nation with one brush.

And then, I came face-to-face with my most surprising bias of all.

I had a bias against Muslims.

Ah, you say, that one is merited. Look what Muslims have done to us. To Christians.

And then, there was Jordan.


The first Christian refugees. To welcome Christians, is to welcome Christ.

The Muslim population in Jordan has opened its arms to the Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq. They have done this even as radical factions in other nations watched and gritted their teeth. They have provided housing and food and venues for employment for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The population of Jordan has increased by at least 1/3, due to this act of generosity. Who is the good Samaritan now?

Who is the one that looked the other way? Would the U.S. be as kind to the immigrant among us? Would we even welcome the refugee to our soil? Once, we were that country. Once.

Shame on me for painting a language, a nation, a people, a religion with broad strokes.

Allah is my life–for God is my life.

Jordan practices the Gospel mission of welcoming the stranger–would that I would do the same.

And Muslims are people of faith, honest, God-fearing, people of prayer.

Now, you must be sure that I am brainwashed.

No. I am not.

Here is the thing. We must begin to use the word Muslim carefully. It is more than a word. It refers to people, many people.

There is a group that has stolen the name and radicalized it. But how does one differentiate between these things? These terms? The people?

We call it an adjective. Don’t forget the adjective. The adjective can be as different as good is to bad. As holy is to evil. As brotherly is to adversarial.

Radical Islam.

It is not the same as Islam.

Islam loves God and considers the Blessed Mother to be the most holy and pure woman to have ever lived. Virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Ever-virgin. Free from sin.

I’m looking at our common ground now.

And Christians in Palestine and Jordan have helped me to do that.

We live in our ivory towers here in the United States. We draw conclusions that may or may not be correct.

Christians in other countries have so much to teach us.

Christians like Fr. Nabil Haddad, who had such words of wisdom about how to be a witness to the world and become the face of Jesus Christ where you are planted.

I was a woman with a bias.


The Gift of Jet Lag

You wake up earlier than everyone else in the house.

You fall asleep in the chair when the family sits down to catch up on recorded episodes of Survivor.

In the middle of the day, you have to retreat to your bedroom and crash. The whole rhythm of your day is thrown off.

After a pilgrimage, the phenomenon of jet lag is a gift–provided your schedule permits you to freelance your way through your days.

But it is a time of decompression. A debriefing chamber. A zone where nobody else can go. You are alone–with God. Falling asleep with Him. Waking to Him. Submitting to the weakness of your body, which becomes a submission to Him.

Jet lag becomes a prayer–a prayer of restoration.

As with every phase of the journey, this one is also a gift, if we would recognize it for the gift that it is.

Become a St. Helena or St. Francis & go to Jordan

When we think of the Holy Land, we think of St. Helena and St. Francis who blazed the trail ahead of us.

Those of us who were blessed to travel recently to Jordan feel a little like these two saints–not in holiness, but in the desire to share what we have found and encourage you to walk in our footsteps.

The holy sites in Jordan seem untouched. In a way, that is compelling. You feel like you have been entrusted with a precious gift. It’s like you are walking back in time.

There’s no hype. No glitz. No neon, touristy sensationalism.

You feel like St. Helena when she discovered the relics of the True Cross.

You feel like St. Francis when he laid claim to the holy places.

But you also feel a little inept. These places have remained dormant far too long. It is great to be here and feel like I have the place all to myself, but this is altogether wrong. I should not have this place to myself.

It should be teeming with people.

I should be rubbing elbows with many people of faith.

Herod’s fortress at Mukawir, where St. John the Baptist was beheaded–it should not exist in a ghostly silence.

Mount Nebo should be filled with people wanting to catch the same view Moses had before he died.

Elijah’s birthplace should be over-run with pilgrims.

We are a pilgrim people–always have been, always must be. And we feel a little inept, because we do not know how to convey the privilege to you. Here, you get to reclaim the faith and to be counted among the first to step back into time. To say this is ours. This is where our faith began.

The land of Moab and Edom and the Holy Land of the east call to us. Where are you? Where have you been? It is time for today’s St. Helena and St. Francis to reclaim these holy places.

Jordan has laid out the red carpet.

Come, let us see our faith in the land of the Jordan River.

Goodbye is the hardest part.

Tomorrow is our last day in Jordan.

My dear friend, Diana von Glahn, is leaving in the morning for Israel. She is leading a pilgrimage; so instead of going home on Sunday, she will be off to Nazareth. I’m sad. We have had a wonderful time together here, and I don’t know when I will see her again. I don’t know if we will ever travel together like this. I don’t want to say goodbye.

But I will be getting up in the morning and having a final breakfast with her.

Today, we saw Mukawir, King Herod’s fortress and the site of the beheading of St. John the Baptist. Neither Diana nor I are likely to die soon, but we are having to let one another go. That’s hard to do in friendship. That’s hard to do, period.

But she has a calling, a mission. And my mission is here, then home, then God knows where.

I thought of that today as I blinked back tears at the thought of her leaving tomorrow. I thought of that as I contemplated John the Baptist in the cave where he was held. He sent a message to Jesus asking if he was the One. That’s all he needed to know. Tell me again that you are the One we have waited for; tell me again that this is the plan. I can do all things–if I know this–even say goodbye to you, dear cousin.

Behold the Lamb.

Behold the momentary separation.

Behold a plan that is greater and more amazing than anything we can imagine.

At the end of life’s pilgrimage, we  also say our goodbyes. But they are not permanent goodbyes if we are in Christ. The things of this world are passing away. It just keeps happening as all things press on to the day of Our Lord’s return.

I stood among the ruins of Mukawir.

I thought of John and Jesus.

I thought of many things.

I thought of many people.

My priest.

My family.

My call to pilgrimage and all the goodbyes that we face in life–and death.

Even so, all things work together for the good of those who serve the Lord. Diana, go forth to serve the Lord in that unique and wonderful way in which God created you to serve.

And I will do the same. Until later, my friend.