Catholic Exchange: Evangelizing Through Christian Friendship

As Christians, our lives and our relationships are meant to be different from the prevailing culture. We are witnesses to Christ crucified and risen from the dead, who is the cause for our joy. As the Mystical Body, the communion we share with one another is one of the ways that we are able to draw others into the love of the Most Holy Trinity and to the eucharistic banquet. When people see the love we have for one another, they should immediately see the love of God dwelling within us. 

As witnesses, we are not meant to draw attention to ourselves, but rather, to the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within each one of us. There should be a dynamic at work in our friendships and relationships that leads people to wonder in amazement at the love we have for one another, and it should awaken within them the desire to enter into that love. Our bonds of love in friendship—or any other loving relationship—is a reflection of God’s love for mankind. Our friendships are meant to be infectious and life-giving. And while there will always be varying levels of intimacy and affection in each one of our relationships with individuals, the joy in the love of Christ that we share in those relationships should always be inviting to others so that love and communion can deepen and flourish within the Mystical Body.

When our relationships are grounded in the love of Christ, they take on a new quality. There is a closeness that becomes evident to others. I’ve been thinking about this in my own relationships. I’ve noticed that the more my relationships are focused on the love of Christ, the more other people, even within my own parish, ask me about them. I am frequently asked if one of my closest friends is actually my biological sister. I tend to reply with: “Yes, she is my sister in Christ, but we aren’t biologically related.” Our friendship is centered on our mutual desire to grow in holiness through the paths we have each been given. The closeness we share with one another in Christ is evident, so people are convinced that we are sisters.

Another close friend of mine, who I visit with after daily Mass each day, is often confused for my mother. Fellow daily Mass goers see the love and high regard we have for one another, so they’ve come to wonder if we are mother and daughter. We’ve taken to telling people that we are spiritual mother and spiritual daughter, because it is true. Once again our relationship is first and foremost about our shared love for Christ. That love, deepened through the Holy Spirit, radiates outward and the intimacy we share in our relationship is seen by others to the point of people believing she is my mother and I am her daughter.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

The Way of Love

In the Mass readings right now we are working our way through my favorite epistle, the First Letter of St. John. It will play a key role in aspects of the book I’m working on. If there is one word that describes this letter it is love. The Beloved Disciple whose deep spiritual friendship with Our Lord is clearly seen in his writings and the one who took Our Lady into his home is clearly well versed in the school of love. He is the one Apostle who understands the full requirements of charity, which is why he stood fast at the foot of the Cross when everyone else fled.

We live in a culture that lives an understanding of love that is largely opposed to the example we find in St. John as he calls us to follow Christ. Love has been reduced to an emotion or a utilitarian pursuit of happiness. This means that once people have expended their use in our lives or those good feelings pass, we can promptly discard them. Our culture tells us love is about me and my desires. How does the person make me feel? Love is when we feel good about someone. Love necessarily dissipates through hardships or struggles in the relationship. If I’m not being completely fulfilled by you, then I will get rid of you.

This is not only true of romantic relationships, but all relationships in our culture. It is true of our friendships and our family bonds. We maintain what in reality are superficial connections to the people around us. They serve their use or give us some pleasure, but there is not depth or true sacrifice on our part. If the relationship becomes burdensome or difficult then we simply cast that person off and move on. The sad reality is that we all do it. The true understanding of love in all of its forms has been lost to us because of the philosophies of utility and will to power that undergird our society, as well as the innate existential fear we experience because of the Fall.

The message of Jesus Christ as explained to us through St. John’s First Letter is an antidote to this understanding of relationships. First, he explains the nature of God as the one who is love itself. God does not simply love and give love, His very existence is love. This is most exemplified through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in order to bring about our redemption. Love is by its nature sacrificial. Deeds are required of us to love. It requires everything from us, which is precisely why we tend to flee from the demands of charity. We realize that love will hurt at some point. We will in fact have to watch our spouse, parents, friends, and people we love die one day.

We also come to understand through St. John that we are called to love one another fully. Christ Himself tells us this in the Great Commandments that we are to love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves. St. John’s First Letter is a deep meditation on these words. Christ does not tell us that we are to only love our spouses, families, and chosen friends. No, He goes so far as to tell us that we are to even love our enemies.

Now, to our culture, this is sheer madness. We are supposed to love people as long as it feels good and then move on. How are we supposed to love everyone including our enemies? We are supposed to hate and despise our enemies. In our Fallen state this feels much easier. Anger allows us to remain distant from the people who hurt us or who question our worldview. While righteous anger can be a great unifier, most of us battle to keep this unruly passion in check. If we examine our anger towards someone we often will see that it is predicated on vengeance more than justice. It’s a struggle because we are made for love and we want to be loved by the people we love, but often we aren’t, so we respond in anger through our hurt.

The radicality of Christ’s call to love our neighbor means that we will have to suffer in love. While loving the people who hurt, reject, betray, or persecute us does not make sense from our human perspective, there are often deeper spiritual realities at work. It is often the very people who reject us or who seek to hurt us who need our love the most. It may be that our love is given to them through prayer as is the case in those Christian witnesses who have prayed for their concentration camp guards who torture them the most or the saints who were persecuted by their own brothers and sisters, but pray ardently for them. The example par excellence of this is when Christ utters his cry of “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” There is so much we fail to see when we choose to hurt others.

A failure to love one another as we ought to is tied to a wide variety of factors in our lives, some outside of our control, and others a part of our Fallen nature. Many of us struggle to accept the love that is extended to us. We think we are unworthy of it or we do not know how to step out into vulnerability because of the inevitable pain that love will bring. Sin can hinder or make us incapable of authentic love, especially if we objectify people through that sin. And far too many people have fallen for the lie that love is simply about my happiness, feelings, desires, and wants. They have never been shown or taught what love truly means. It is to focus on the happiness of another, to will their good, and it is in emptying ourselves where we find our own ultimate joy.

The counterfeit versions of love that we see in our culture are an understandable diversion from the fear we all must confront in order to love fully. Fortitude is a requirement of love. For the Christian, we know that love is the Cross. This means God will require us to lay down our own lives for others each day as we learn to die to self. This is a painful process and one we flee from repeatedly. The constant mortification of our own ego is difficult. The Fall has made us believe that we are the center of the universe, but through grace we are made into a new creation and that requires purification and suffering. It is through this process that love is perfected and all fear is cast out. We come to find ourselves rightly ordered to God and others, which brings about our freedom. The perfecting love of God turns us into the fully alive human being we are made to be.

The ultimate irony for our culture–and for ourselves–is that as we flee from authentic love and accept empty shells of love, we find ourselves unhappy and lonely. Our culture is extremely lonely. For all of the instant communication at our fingertips, people are more lonely than ever. That is because love requires us to set our own wants and desires aside in order to give. We must become self-gift. A danger of social media is that it breeds narcissism. While it is good to keep up with people, it does not fully create the deep connections and friendship God is calling us to in our lives. We see teenagers sitting at tables with flesh and blood people while all staring at their phones. It’s much easier to placate the ego through attention and likes than it is to seek relationships with the people in front of us who will inevitably hurt us.

Everyone we love is going to hurt us. They are Fallen human beings just like we are, which means that their failings will cause us pain. We can’t avoid pain forever and it is in pain that we learn to love more deeply through the power of forgiveness. Like love, forgiveness is a choice we may repeatedly when others have hurt us. We often want things to be quick and easy and one-time choices. Both love and forgiveness require a repeated act of the will to continue to do what is good for someone and to forgive them when the pain they’ve caused us comes to mind. This includes those people who are no longer in our lives for whatever reason. Or even harder, those people who are still in our lives, but serious damage has been done. Forgiveness is a part of dying to self in love.

Our example, as St. John reminds us, is Christ Himself who shows us the way of suffering in love and the power of forgiveness. His sacrifice for us is truly radical. It is through sacrifice that we are transformed and conformed to Him. Growth in love requires suffering from us. In fact, even though we fear suffering, it is our experiences of pain in our relationships with people that lead love to deepen. Forgiveness deepens our love for others and it mortifies the ego. It is why Christ gave up His life for us and came back to offer forgiveness. He’s showing us the way of love.

Featured image taken from Wiki Commons.

Bridging the Divide Between the Sexes on Our Worldviews

Recently I have had discussions with my husband and a close female friend of mine who is also married with children. We’ve been talking through the differences between the way men and women communicate and understand the world and relationships with other people. I’ve worked with a lot of men over the years and many of my closest friends have been men. I don’t have any brothers, since I have two sisters. Through both marriage and my friendships, I’ve noted that there’s always been a barrier in understanding between men and women. It’s a barrier that is very difficult to make clear to either sex. We often make parodies of it, fight about it, or ignore it.

This difference is most easily seen and understood in married life, but it also manifests between co-workers, friends, in ministry, and any other area where men and women interact. Many of the fights men and women have center around the same types of things and the difference in worldview, communication style, and understanding. This often reveals a barrier between a husband and the wife in how a particular topic or issue is approached or comprehended. The same is true in other interactions between men and women. In many cases, both parties acknowledge this gap in understanding and simply find a way to compromise without ever dealing with the gap itself.

The most common complaint women will make is about how they simply want to vent about a problem because women often work through things relationally or socially. We talk it out and in the process sort out the problem. Men on the other hand want to fix the problem since they are problem-solvers. The problem is, most problems women work through don’t have a clear solution and men are left trying to work against their nature through discipline and listen to their spouse, friend, co-worker, daughter, or sister work through the issue. While this is indeed a struggle–and an understandable one–in my mind, it doesn’t get to the issue of how the two sexes actually understand the world.

Men are global thinkers. They focus on the big picture. There are all of these things that need to be done and they are prioritized a certain way in order to fit into the whole. The hierarchy of importance is much larger for men than it often is for women. Our focus is usually smaller scale. We are more focused on the smaller tasks that are given to us. We focus on the relationships around us and if we have been asked to do a particular thing, we put our energy into doing it well. Men place value on the overall picture, while women value the work they may be doing on a smaller scale. It is why we are mothers and are primarily charged with the nurturing of souls and men are not. We are caretakers. We are able to focus on the smaller scale dimensions and not get lost in the big picture or the rest of the world “out there”. This would be detrimental to the souls and people in our care if all we thought about was “out there”.

These two world views fit together and are complementary when they are balanced properly and when a mutual respect and understanding of these differences is understood. More-often-than-not, we either don’t understand the differences or we forget them when conflict arises. I can only speak as a woman, but one of the most destructive things a man can do to a woman is minimize the tasks she has been given or taken on simply because they aren’t as important as X, Y, or Z. We don’t compare our tasks to everything else. If we did, then our tasks wouldn’t ever get done because we’d be too busy comparing what we are doing to everything else of more “importance.”

Why is this damaging? Men attach value on the things they see of most importance in order to achieve the big picture. If a woman minimizes the big picture and says it doesn’t matter, then a man is going to bristle because he knows it’s important. Women objectively get that the big picture matters, even if it isn’t our primary focus and mission. Men unfortunately minimize the “seemingly” smaller tasks of women quite often. I usually give men a pass since–although I get frustrated at times too–unlike much of modern feminism, I don’t view men as a threat, rival, or an enemy. I get we are different, but recently I started to consider why women have coined the term “mansplaining.” I don’t agree with where it’s roots lie, but I see at least part of the reasoning for it.

I suspect it comes out of this difference in understanding of the world and our missions. Men will inadvertently–or even intentionally, depending on the man–talk down to women who focus on the things they have said they will do or have been assigned to do that are a part of the big picture, but not the big picture itself. Men will solely focus and compare it to the “big picture” and minimize and even dismiss the work a woman is doing. Comparing our work to the big picture is almost always interpreted by women as a man dismissing our effort as useless or unimportant. He will tell us how everything else is more important and this is utterly irritating to a woman, because we also know that our part is of value. This is really destructive when a husband views his work as of more importance than what his stay-at-home wife is doing to raise their children. Both tasks have been assigned for the good of the family and are indispensable.

In a woman’s mind she is putting everything into and trying to do the task well, but has now been told that it’s not worth while. This typically illicits both anger and hurt in women. Husbands will do this to wives when a woman is struggling in a particular aspect of her vocation. Focus on the overall goal or picture is what they will tell us. That’s fine and good, but women aren’t wired to focus on the big picture all of the time. We are more detail oriented. We are more relationship oriented. We are focused on each individual task assigned to us. If we’ve been given a project, we will put our entire selves into it in order for it to be done well.

My husband struggles to understand why I will sometimes put off a chore around the house in order to spend quality time with our daughter. I will place that relationship before a chore because I see something that our daughter needs at an emotional level. My primary love language is also quality time. I’ve focused on my daughter’s individual needs over the overall goal of taking care of our home (big picture). He is correct that the chores need to get done, but oftentimes women instinctively know to place other human beings before a task that needs to be done. This may not always be the case, but it seems to be much easier for a woman to understand than a task-oriented man.

These same issues arise in the workplace and in ministry. There’s nothing like a meeting to reveal these differences in understanding. Women will focus on the relational, emotional (this can be good, but a lot of times not), or smaller tasks that are needed to achieve the whole. We are bottom up thinkers while men are top down thinkers. Women build up, while men go out and conquer. Scripture is very instructive here in that the women are often building up the men–that bottom up approach–while the men sort out how to go out into the world to bring the world to Christ. Women are called to do the same, but our approaches vary quite a bit. It’s also one of the aspects of masculinity that makes the all male priesthood instituted by Christ logically consistent to me.

This distinction between the sexes is extremely important for building and maintaining communion within the Mystical Body. Women cannot focus too much on the smaller tasks, the emotional response of other people, relational aspects, and the details too much or men are not going to respond or want to be active in a ministry run in that manner. The same is true for men in the way they respond to women. Telling a woman that what she’s offered to do is not important compared to everything else is destructive for morale. Women do not want to work in those conditions because they do not see their effort as being valuable to the men in the group. Even if men don’t mean it in that manner–although oftentimes they do–women will take it as a direct attack on her person. This is an innate aspect of our nature. We can’t help that our focus is where it is and so when we are told it’s not as important as something else–when it is important to us–we shut down. It’s difficult to want to keep helping if that help is seen as minor, when in reality, the small tasks help form the whole and the mission cannot be achieved without both the small picture and the big picture working together: Complementarity.

The solution is for both sexes to come to understand these differences and figure out a way to bridge that divide. Women need to acknowledge that the big picture is essential and to support the men in our lives through that goal. By the same token, men need to understand that in constantly comparing our “minor” tasks to the big picture they are in fact hurting the women in their lives. It is human nature to want to disengage when the value is taken away from our work. This isn’t some silly emotional response that men often simply attribute to the emotional nature of women or that we aren’t thick-skinned enough. This is in fact tied directly to our nature. If you minimize our efforts, then our response will be anger and hurt because you’ve directly attacked an aspect of our womanhood.

We are never going to fully understand one another on this issue, but if we are truly seeking communion in Christ through the Mystical Body whether it be in our marriages, friendships, parish communities, or our secular responsibilities, then we need to at least acknowledge that this difference in understanding exists and patiently try to find solutions that will appease both men and women. When conflicts do arise, we need to forgive quickly so that any damage done to that communion can be repaired as quickly as possible.

My Daughter Knows How to Love Big

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My 3 year old, soon to be 4, daughter has the biggest and kindest heart of anyone I have ever met. Those of you who read my blog regularly, or who know me in person, know that she is my only child. She is our blessing and gift and she may end up being the only child we have due to the Cross we have been asked to carry. My daughter Michaela, named for my dad and St. Michael the Archangel, loves deeply and loves big. She talks to everyone and she truly wants to know the names of and about the people she encounters. No matter where we are, she says “hello” to people passing by and asks for their name. When I take her to a playground she knows the names of all of the kids and the moms who are out that day. Everyone is her friend. Everyone should get a hug.

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Sure, she has her moments of fits, tantrums, pouting, and lack of sharing. There are days she is the perfect definition of “threenager”, but for the most part she is a peaceful and happy child. She is sensitive and kind and tries to take care of others, including me. There is a joy and wonder that radiates from her face on most days and it blows me away. She continues to challenge me to abandon my selfishness, live in each moment, and wonder at the universe around me. She helps me to step into her childish world that I too may have peace. There are many days that she reminds me to pray and she tells others, even strangers, that she will pray for them. This child keeps me on the path on so many days when I am falling and would rather take a nap on the path.

In a world marred by pain and brokenness my daughter can be overwhelming to people. We don’t know how to respond to such open and unabashed love and affection. It stuns us and our pain can make us push back against it. It is through her that I see more clearly why many cannot stand the light of God’s love. It is piercing, all-consuming, and foreign. We who are hurt by family members, friends, lovers, illness, wars, loss, and pain. We cannot fathom a God who reaches down to us and binds our wounds without an agenda other than to make us the best person we can possibly be. I see it every day when I watch my daughter reach out to people. They are shocked and do not know how to respond to this beautiful, out-spoken, princess-clad, young girl who wants to know all about them.  She then shares a bit about herself and is so filled with joy as she converses with kids and adults alike. I need to be more like her, which is probably why God entrusted her to me as her mother.

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Knowing this about her means that I must also guard her heart. People reject her now and they will do the same in the future. I have to teach her to persevere in love, even when it is not reciprocated. I also have to teach her how to miss people. She cried all of the way home from the airport today when we dropped of my sister and her family for their return flight to Montana. She is the extrovert only child and I have to help her channel her desire to be with and love others. I have to help her bind her wounds when her heart is hurt or wounded. This is motherhood and this is my vocation as her mom. In the end we help each other to Heaven. She helps my heart grow bigger and my love deeper towards her, her daddy, and others. I help her continue to love no matter what happens.  What an amazing and terrifying gift. I am truly thankful for this amazing little girl.

Authentic Friendship

 

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Lately I have been contemplating the nature of friendship: authentic friendship. I have lived all over. Being a Veteran, I have meet a lot of different people from all over, including from my time in England. I have discovered over the years that the majority of friendships are tied to circumstances. Those friendships seem to be a necessity. It is a, “We are all in this together”, type of situation. That is very true in the military.

I can honestly say that I have only had a handful of real and long lasting friendships. As I thought about this topic, one thing struck me about those friendships: They all encompassed the Cross. Those friendships that have had the greatest depth were when the two of us went head long into the depths of pain and suffering. There was no fear, worry, or pride. We may not have even been able to understand fully the other person’s pain, but we walked together no matter what.

I think the first time I realized this was about 9 years ago when I was living in England. I had been diagnosed with delayed-onset PTSD from my 9-11 relief work and ended up checking myself into a hospital for inpatient treatment. My friend, Nicky (who I hope reads this. Your birthday pressie is in the mail!!!), took over my affairs and she would drive down to London, nearly a 6 hour drive once or twice a week to visit me. She came after work, she came on weekends, it did not matter. In the month that I was there, she was always there for me. She is a British civilian. She did not know exactly what I was going through. That scared a lot of people, but not her. She loved me and stayed with me through the whole thing.

Real friendship requires vulnerability. A willingness to let go of the masks we wear out of pride, and let others see us as we are: works in progress by the grace of Christ. Friendship, just like any other loving relationship, requires great courage. Pain causes fear. In our sin, our natural inclination is to run from pain, but friendship means running head long into it. It means spending the day with someone whose anxiety is off the charts after successive miscarriages. Or hugging someone who is crying in agony. It means listening to another person’s heart as they bear all that they carry. It means forgiving and moving forward, when disagreements occur.

Friendship is a great gift that God gives us along the journey. How wonderful it is to meet someone and say, “Me too!”. It is a chance to move past the mundane and superficiality of our daily lives. There is a deep longing in our hearts to know people as they are, but sin cuts us off from each other. Friendship is a foretaste of Heaven, where superficiality is left behind and we see people transfigured in the brilliance of Christ, where we are made whole.

With all of this in mind, I would challenge all of us, to go deeper into friendship. To conquer fear and misunderstanding. Friendship does not always require empathy; sympathy is enough. It does require summoning our courage as we go deeper into Love. It means serving, even when we are busy with everything else. Just like family, friendship means prioritizing. Are there friendships in your life that may have grown stagnant? Do you keep people at arms length at times, like I do? How can we better serve the people in our lives, as Christ calls us? Do you desire deeper friendships? Friendship is a great blessing. Let’s let those people bless our lives fully. God bless.

7 Quick Takes for this Gray and Occasionally Sunny November Day

Today I am linked up over at Jennifer Fulwiler’s Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes. Join us with your quick takes for the week here:

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1.  My husband and I bought our first home together in May of this year.  We actually ended up in the town where our parish is located (long story as to why we drove 30 minutes to Mass…let’s just say “spirit of Vatican II” and leave it at that).  My husband now commutes every day, but we think that it is worth it.  We have been blessed with even more friendships through our church and have been able to get more involved.  We have become good friends with a family with four girls.  I teach junior high religious ed with the dad/husband.  They are our board game friends.  We have almost made Sunday dinner and games a ritual.  We chat after Mass and then end up planning to play games and have dinner later that day.  It has been a great blessing for us.  When we lived in Boone, NC we had a couple we used to play Settlers of Cataan and pinochle with.  Now we play all kinds of games with our friends from church, including a Star Trek version of Settlers (so awesome!).
2.  I am learning to enjoy reading the same book over and over again to my toddler.  One of my blog readers from CatholicMom.com pointed out that I  need to foster a love of “nonsense” with my child.  I thought about it and decided that she is right.  I used to have a great imagination and I am working on my first novel, so I should be able to read Pinkalicious to my daughter and enjoy it, even if it is not one of my favorite books.  Michaela is even “reading” to herself these days and that makes me so proud.
3.  Conquering my coffee addiction is not going so well (she says while slurping down a peppermint mocha).  Facebook was easy for me, compared to coffee.  I think that some of my readers are misunderstanding my conquering addictions.  Holiness is about letting go of the things we allow to control us, so that we are free to enjoy them in moderation.  Facebook was leading me to sin. Coffee is an addiction, not something that I merely enjoy.  God gave us these gifts as “pleasant inns” to borrow from CS Lewis.  That means we enjoy them, but not allow them to consume us.  If we read the works of the Saints, we will see how they call us to detach from those things that control us, which really means things that replace God in our lives.  Today, I did not do as well as I wanted with the coffee, but I will try again tomorrow and by God’s grace be freed from my addiction, and hopefully some day just be able to enjoy coffee, rather than feel I “need” it.  A priest told me that I needed to do this in Confession recently.   No one “needs” coffee he said.
4. I got to go on an impromptu date with my husband last  night.  My awesome friend Christine (you can check her blog,, Domestic Vocation, out here) agreed to babysit our toddler with 2 hours notice.  We had not been on a date in over two months.  I am sure all of you parents understand.  We had a nice dinner at a cafe downtown.  We even walked down the street holding hands.  Some day that will embarrass our daughter.  I think when  we kiss it already embarrasses her.  There are such similarities between a two year old’s reactions and a teenager’s.
5.  This past week our junior high religious ed class discussed vocations.  Have you talked about vocations with your kids?  The most important thing we discern is where God is calling us to.  Not everyone is called to marriage, even though that is what our society tells us.  We need to encourage vocations to the Priesthood or religious life.  Here are two great videos to share with your kids about vocations.  The first is for young men on the Priesthood and the second is for young women on becoming a sister or nun.

6.  I have a confession to make.  I do not make my pancakes from scratch.  I think about it, but the box of multi-grain pancakes at Kroger is so much easier.  I just add water, and then, whatever I want.  This morning I made sweet potato pancakes with the leftover mashed sweet potatoes from dinner two nights ago.  I followed the directions on the box and then added 3/4 of mashed sweet potato puree, and a dash of cinnamon.  They were so good.  I did not even use syrup.  You can add whatever you want.  One of my favorites is cottage cheese and blueberries.  Give it a try!  Sneak some healthy stuff into those pancakes for picky eaters.
7.  This song is so beautiful.  I hope it blesses you as you go into your weekend. My husband and I saw Casting Crowns in concert when we were dating.  It was a great show.

People Who Have Impacted Me Thus Far (non-Family Edition)

Yesterday morning, as I sat in my Lay Dominican meeting listening to one of the Friars talk about the Dominican life, I was blown away by the fact that I was even there.  So many things have had to happen in order for me to be where I am today.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  My husband and I own our first home together, and we are blessed with a beautiful daughter.  We have amazing friends, and our church community continues to shape our lives daily.  Then I started to think about people who have had a profound impact on me in the last 15 years.  They are varied, and each served a purpose and a lesson.  I am deeply indebted to them and I will have fond memories of them, even if we never meet again on this side of Eternity.  Obviously, my husband, daughter, parents, and sisters, have been a huge impact on my life, but here are some non-family people who may or may not realize that they played a crucial role in my life.  These are in chronological order from the time I was 18 years old.

 

  1. Dmitri Stagakis:  My favorite teacher of all time.  He showed me the beauty of foreign languages and the joy of following God.  He also was deeply devoted to marriage, and even gave me a prayer in Russian to say for my future husband.  I still imitate some of his word order choices and tell stories about his teaching when people ask about my Russian training.  He is a brilliant man, tremendously gifted, with a huge heart.  He also had a mighty good Stalin impersonation, minus all of the killing.
  2. Mauricio Ramirez: I met Mauricio when I was a 9-11 relief worker. He was handsome and charming. He was a kindred spirit, and one of the only men besides my husband that I have ever loved.  He taught me sacrificial love.  To want what is best for the other person, even if it means that I suffer.  He taught me how to desire happiness for someone at all costs.  I still desire his happiness 12 years later. Sacrificial love is one of the greatest lessons we have to learn in this life.
  3. Vance Clarke: Vance and I were in Russian school together, but did not become real friends until we were both stationed in Maryland.  He is a fellow Anglophile. He showed me what a real gentleman looks like and taught me genuine friendship with the opposite sex.  He was patient with me since we are separated by over a decade in age. He put up with many of my blunders, and my selfishness.  I am thankful that I have kept in touch with him and his wife over the years.  Their three daughters are gorgeous 
  4. Nicola “Nicky” Williams: My British sister who taught me authentic friendship. Nicky blew me away with her love of Our Lord and her deep devotion to her friends.  When I was in the hospital for a really bad period of PTSD, she drove 3 hours (one way) a couple times a week to see me in London.  She took care of my affairs, and she loved me unconditionally.  Mental illness is hard for people to grasp.  She did not ask questions, she accepted, and walked with me.  I had never had a friend like her, and I dare say, she is a very blessed rarity.  We have sent each other birthday presents and Christmas presents for nearly a decade now.
  5. Kate Hennessy: Truly a sister. She took me into her family while we both lived in England.  She took care of me, and treated me like a natural part of the family.  She is intelligent, talented, and a beautiful person. Her kids began to show me what a loving sacrifice parenting is, but how much joy comes with it. Her family is brilliant. Even in her own struggles, she walked with me and helped lift me up.  She will always be like a sister to me.
  6. Liam Hennessy (RIP):  Liam was a second father to me.  I still cannot believe that he is gone.  He was one of the wisest and most brilliant men I have ever met.  He showed me what it was to struggle on the journey towards Truth.  He was dedicated to the military and the mission.  He truly cared about the people he served.  He and Kate both taught me that my crazy sense of humor actually exists elsewhere in the world.  They were my tribe.  I miss you Dad 2.0.
  7. Alyson Miller: Alyson actually helped to change the course of my life. She opened up the world of homeschooling to me and is an intellectual powerhouse. Another person with my dry sense of humor, she and I spent many hours laughing, while also wanting to change the world.  She is one of the only roommates, I have not wanted to kill by the end.  She is the reason I interned at The Heritage Foundation and ended up staying on the East Coast. She inadvertently brought me back to the Catholic Faith (she herself was not yet a Catholic-she is an amazing Catholic woman now), by telling me to go to Mass at the National Shrine when we lived in DC in 2009. Holy Week at the Basilica has sealed me as a devout Catholic for life. She is the reason that I met my husband.  Living in Baptist territory, and knowing I wanted to marry a Catholic, she told me to join CatholicMatch.com (yep, we met online) and I met my husband 3 days later.  It works for some people!
  8. Glenda Canfield: She is the epitome of Catholic wife, mom, and sister.  She has stood by me during all three of my miscarriages.  She held my hand until they wheeled me into the OR this past February for emergency surgery. She has helped my husband and me through some really tough times. She is one of the holiest women I have ever met.  She has shown me what to strive for in my own vocation.
  9. Dana Blanchard: You are the definition of Christian mother and grandmother.  The faith you exude is astounding and you have taught me a lot.  We have both had difficult years on the medical front, but I am truly amazed by your holy presence.  I am also so impressed with your whole family.  God is definitely making saints in that family of yours.  You are one of the sweetest, most genuine, kindest women I have ever known.
  10. Tresa Clarke, Christine Johnson, John Clarke, Bev Gilraine, Harry Koenig, Heather Burns (other Lay Dominicans): Without all of you, I would not have discovered my secondary vocation as a Lay Dominican.  I feel like I have found my Heavenly tribe when I am with Dominicans.  I honestly feel as though I have found my people.  People who are deeply devoted to Our Lord, and who are as much of a Catholic nerd as I am.  Who love the Liturgy and who have introduced me to St. Dominic; the ultimate kindred spirit. Tresa and John, you also have shown me how to work tirelessly to help men, women, and babies hurt by the scourge of abortion.  You have strengthened me as I have stood and prayed outside of Planned Parenthood, you inspire me and give me great hope.
  11. There are so many others.  I have been blessed with many people in my life who have helped me along the way and I am sure the Lord will bless me even more.  To all of you thank you!  You are all over the world. I pray for all of you constantly, and everyone on this list.  May God bless all of you on your journey.

Have you ever thought about the people who have directly impacted your path?