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Space to Grow In

Free will can look a lot like teenage rebellion–

if the people who dislike your choices are manipulative or gossipy or judgmental or think your faith is some kind of cult.

Not kidding. Some people think that about the Catholic Faith.

You will get resistance. Breaking family and cultural mores can get you more consequences than backtalk did when you were twelve. There are times I would rather have a slap across the face for being a bit of a smart Alec to my parent.

Or a fly swatter to the butt. Done and over. Stings for a moment and the sting is gone.

Or a lecture that I could hear and then walk down the hall to my room and shut the door.

So how do you know if you are who they say you are? How do you know much of anything when you decide to stop factoring in and even responding emotionally to the sanctions, both covert and overt?

You know that passage, lean not on your own understanding? Get a priest. A very good spiritual director.

And get it all out there – like you just threw up all over the place.

He is used to that.

And he is used to seeing the bigger picture. God’s perspective. If he gives you the green light to carve out space from those who make you feel crappy, then it is not rebellion, or angst, or vindictiveness. No matter what anyone else says (or whispers to another).

It is you just doing what you should have done a long time ago. Congratulations, you just embraced the gift of free will.

And if you frequent the confessional and seek spiritual direction, chances are pretty high that you are actually making a solid decision. Be willing to say, Get behind me satan.

It will still feel uncomfortable. You know how your old friends or family respond to your tentative attempts to extricate yourself from their frowny faces.

Rebellion is not bad. It just depends what you are rebelling against.

You are loved by God. He delights in you. He wants you whole. He wants you fully living the life of his divine grace.

Anything that threatens that beautiful gift needs to be told to stand down.

So now that you can choose to live any way you want, choose to live well. Choose the life God created for you.

Welcome home.

Here, you really do get to be you.




I Love You, Denise.

I haven’t written in a long time. Not truly. Not the deep, raw stuff that is my trademark.

For many weeks, I have thought about one phrase. One sentence that should be the ultimate pledge. The healing balm for the world.

I love you.

And yet, how often this phrase leaves one empty. Or worse, it leaves us shaking our heads and saying, “No. I don’t think that is so.”

I just read a book about St. Theresa of Calcutta. Again, the question of love presented itself.

If I can just figure out this phrase, what it really means, I think so much will be clear — or clearer.

It is easier to pinpoint what it is not than what it is. Until today. It is my father’s birthday. He is deceased, but the memory of his love is as clear as ever.

There was so much love in him that there was room for little else.

He loved. He liked being loved, but that was not his primary goal. I was his primary goal.

And everyone who encountered him could say the same thing. I was his primary goal. To show me how much he loved me.

You really do remember how someone made you feel, far more than what they said.

It is the essence of what drives us to see some people canonized. They made us feel…
God’s Presence.

They exuded Incarnational Love.

So many people have said the words to me in my 53 years. But I am learning to pay far more attention to how they make me feel.

This is the true test of love.

Never arrogant.
Never demanding its own agenda.
Practicing divine hospitality.
Keeping a guard on the tongue.
Not seeking to control.
Embracing another’s free will rather than orchestrating a manipulation that masquerades as mother, brother, sister, friends, husband.

And you begin to understand Our Lord’s words. Who are my mother and my brothers?
The one who does the will of the Father.

There is no guile in him.
No falseness.
No turning.

And the question of love and all its characteristics becomes a personal one.

Who and how must I love?

The littlest. The wounded. The forgotten. The ones Mother Theresa would have loved. And how must I love them? I must become an oblation.

A libation.

Incarnational Love made manifest through me.

He has permitted a wound within me that has turned my heart to the wounded ones. And I am learning to find them in the Wounds of Christ, where scars replace a festering wound. And all is made new.

A Secret From Mount Arbel

Only 9 days. She has waited for thousands of years. Nine days is all that remains.

A post shared by Denise Bossert (@denisebossert) on

Bookmark with Doug Keck

Wherein I meet Jim and Joy Pinto at EWTN

Wherein I meet Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word interviews Denise:

ANNE With An E

Marilla says what so many have said.

“I don’t understand her.”

This Anne is not like the Anne played by Megan Follows. Both characters are the Anne from the book, but the Anne in the recent series is hard to understand…

…unless you are a grown-up.

…unless you have experienced trauma.

Then you understand her, and you feel many things when you watch her. You feel a little sense of vindication.

This Anne has a hidden trauma. She has known domestic violence and bullying. One scene suggests she has known the deception of a predator and has learned to run, really fast.

Emotional flashbacks plague her. She has the kind of flashbacks in which she is taken to the moment in the past, and sees it all again, like she is right there, like it is happening to her again.

But she also has emotional flashbacks. What is that? It is an experience in the present, the now, in which one feels old emotions welling up inside, over the top emotions, but the very emotions one felt in the moment of violation. When bullied. When victimized. When suffering due to control or the misuse of power. And all that old emotion is flung at a person in the present moment. The response doesn’t seem to fit the offense, and others are horrified.

Poor Anne is judged.

She is stuck.

She is in a world where then is now and now is now. And all of it is mixed up.

She pours her sorrows out to Belle, Matthew’s horse, and the horse is a kind of therapy animal. She can receive the words and nuzzle closer. There is no rejection. There is no judgment or misunderstanding. In Anne’s mind, the horse understands – even before Marilla begins to understand.

And thankfully, Marilla does understand in time.

As a victim, Anne knows well the fear of getting too attached if it is going to all disappear. Or if affection will be withheld. Or if opinion will change. Or if others will be affirmed. Or if she will be made the scapegoat.

Anne speaks of things one should not speak about. This Anne is for those of us who are no longer impressionable children. We know this Anne.

Seen too much.

Experienced too much.

Been in seasons of life when we lived out what we knew-but-did-not-understand.

We have felt the same when we didn’t fully understand the Pandora’s Box we opened. We have received punishment. And nobody thought to ask why we talk like we do or act like we have acted.

Nobody stopped to wonder why we would be so foolish as to be caught in such a trap.

This is an Anne we know–even if she is one we worry will be unpredictable and test our resolve to be merciful. We know this Anne, this one we have judged harshly.

We need to consider this Anne, contrary to what some are saying. Don’t let the kids watch it, but for the love of all victims and survivors of trauma, don’t dismiss this Anne.

There is something to her. Her predicament is far more likely than the precocious Anne with a slightly mysterious past and a whole lot of charisma.

It says something about us if we refuse to admit the more likely scenario. This Anne has PTSD, and she is everywhere. She is all around us. One quarter of the women we know have been victims in childhood. Some were victimized as adults.

Before you decide to boycott this Anne, pause. Ask yourself if you have boycotted girls and women like her. Be Matthew. Be Marilla. Go beyond sayng, “I don’t understand her.” Try to understand. To be patient. To let her work though the trauma.

Don’t reserve all your love and pour it out on the Megan Follows kind of Anne.

A bruised reed, he will not break. Isaiah 42:3

Fasting 101

I have never successfully fasted apart from the liturgical calendar’s mandatory fasts.

But I have a big petition. Something I must get right.

Mother Mary, it is in your hands. You always take care of my petitions with such love. Even as I give the petition to Mary, I know there is something rightly-ordered about being ready to give up something for my petition.

Something that takes it from, “Here, Mary, take care of this for me” to “Thank you, Blessed Mother, for taking my petition, which I have offered with love by way of prayer and fasting”–and what a journey it has become!

The first day, I kept thinking it was time to eat. I saw every Facebook video depicting how-to clips for desserts, and my mind wanted to pause and watch. I was too weak-in-spirit. It was all too tempting. So I scrolled up or down as fast as I could.

Then, it was easier.

And the intimacy with Christ was sharper, clearer, set apart.

Over the weekend, I traveled to Iowa and gave a talk to a Magnificat group. Before the fasting began, I decided to fast from solid foods except when a meal was part of fellowship in the line of duty. For me, that is when I speak or travel for the Gospel message.

Those few moments were precious. The people I broke bread with were precious. The whole of it–precious.

But my first day back to the deep fast was hard.

Like the Enemy was nipping at my heels.

I don’t know if I can do this for a month. I want to.

I want to say that I would offer everything for God’s holy will. I want to say that He has all of me. That I am completely fixed on giving Him my total yes.

Fasting has a way of testing that resolve. It has a way of clearing through good intentions and getting to the heart of the question:

“Are you sure about that?”

It is only day eight.

I think I’m sure.

I want to be sure.

So, I give you today, too. Help me to be faithful, My Lord and my God!

About Heaven


My Protestant family is sure they are going to Heaven. They feel sorry for me because I no longer have the take-it-to-the-bank confidence that I will shoot to Heaven like a dart when I die.

If I die tonight, I think I’m ready, but it depends on a merciful Lord and my complete abandonment to — well, everything.

I wonder, sometimes, what it will be like for some Protestants who face that moment of Truth.

Let’s say the Catholic Church is correct (and I believe that it is). If so, Jesus will introduce them to His Mother as the Immaculate Conception.

Will they be horrified at that?

Jesus will introduce them to the Saints. “Here are some of my dear friends. St. Padre Pio. He had the stigmata.”

Will they doubt such signs and wonders and say oh, no. We don’t believe in that.

Jesus will look with love upon other residents of Heaven. “And this is St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Louis de Montfort. St. Francis Xavier. Pope St. John Paul II.”

Will they turn in disgust and say, oh, no, not a pope. That can’t be. And the writings of some of those Saints, don’t You think they loved Her a little too much and You not quite enough?

Will they hear the Litany of Saints being sung from Earth, the Church Militant at Mass, the prayers of the priests and question why the prayers are heard in the Heavens?

Will Jesus tell them that the Church He founded is and was the Catholic Church, but His mercy is so great that those, through no fault of their own were born and raised outside of the Church, might be saved as well, if they humbly receive Him?

Will they shudder at all of that and say no? If it all ends up being true, what will they do?

Will they say no? Will they reject one final time what they have firmly denied throughout their lives?

You see, I have noticed that Catholics, though often criticized as the arrogant and intractable ones, are actually quite humble and accepting of things that are difficult, teachings that are hard to swallow, morals that are hard to follow.

The ones who are far from malleable and compliant to the most difficult teachings are not Catholics.

Atheists. Agnostics. And yes, even Protestant are far more stiff-necked.

Perhaps you think I am wrong about Catholics. Perhaps you think I am wrong about Protestants. Perhaps you think Protestants have it right and Catholics have it wrong.

Faithful Catholics are taught to bow deeply. To fall to their knees. To remain docile to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity speaks to and through the Catholic Church. To repeat the Creed every week. To embrace unity in the Faith and always let the I-Me-My battle cry be wrestled to the ground.

They are familiar with the Cross.

They not only accept suffering, but they offer it up as a prayer.

They know the Church is timeless and are never addicted to their own culture’s version of Christianity, never clinging with their fingernails to a religion that fits one era over another.

They are pilgrims here.

And pilgrims hold loosely and are ready to abandon everything.

Some may think that I became spiritually arrogant when I converted. Perhaps it seems to be the case. But I have wrestled many preconceived ideas to the ground. I have needed a teachable spirit every step.

This conversion has been the most humbling experience of my life.


I’m not there yet, but Lord, I want to be.

I want to hear Him speak, and no matter what He says, I want to say, Amen.

So be it.

I believe.

Wait for it…

It is like those videos we all love. You click on it. It seems like nothing unusual is happening. The title of the thing tipped you off, though. So you know something is coming. You don’t know if it will “gross you out” or if it will make you want to say “Yes!” or if it will leave you with your mouth open and needing to hit the replay icon because you can’t believe you saw what you just actually saw.

That is what it is like to be in between with God.

The key phrase here is not “in between” but it is “with God.”

If you are with God, there is an unstated title on your life. Wait for it.

This is a lull in the action. It is a time of preparation. Your suffering. The silence. The nothingness is anything but nothingness.

It’s like your soul is being filmed and nothing unusual is happening. But if you are a person of faith and you truly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and you trust in the Eucharistic Messiah who came to you at Mass and the One who promised that you will have life because you have received,

then wait for it.

He created you and has used you. He will use you again.

Perhaps He wants to heal you first, or equip you, or put into place the help you need to fulfill what comes next.

Or maybe He wants you to be able to look back on the work that is about to unfold and see Him, not you. If it all clicked and happened on your timetable, maybe you would be tempted to think you controlled God or you were the key player in the events.

Wait for it.

Something is about to happen. Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up with eagles’ wings. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Once renewed, look out. When God acts, you’ll know it. Wait for it.