Well, it’s been too long. I wrote to you to say that I was going on pilgrimage, and then I disappeared. Do not fear - I did come home.
I came home to immediately leave again for St. Louis to give a teacher inservice, and then came back home to give a talk at our diocesan Scripture Summit. Right now, my calendar is filling up for the spring and even next fall. Did you know that I do parish staff retreats? Teacher or catechist in-services? Parish missions? Women’s days of reflection? I’d love to come to your parish or speak to your group - just head over to my website and look over the form on the speaking page. There you’ll find a number of talks I give regularly, as well as the option to ask if I’d do a special talk for your group.
Know of a few parishes in the area that would be interested? Maybe a parish staff retreat at one place and an evening parish mission across town? Let’s do it. It’s a win for everyone if I have a few talks per plane ride!
A New Project
I teased on Instagram last week that there was an exciting project I was working on launching on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I was thrilled to spend the last few months working with an incredible team of people from the Augustine Institute on a free prayer app. It’s a Catholic meditation app called Amen. (Click here for iOS and Android.)
It features Augustine Institute content like daily reflections by Dr. Tim Gray, a 50-day reading plan to read through the Life of Christ with a beautiful dramatized audio Bible, Lectio on the Psalms for a bedtime examen, and more.
It has been a labor of love, born out of an ecumenical partnership between Catholics and Evangelicals, and I have certainly be blessed to be a part of it. I’m not sure I could have asked for better new coworkers in this project. And did I mention I am essentially being paid to pray and write down the fruits of my lectio? Well, not quite. But kind of.
While there is a lot of content there now, stay tuned for even more content to come. And if you have ideas for content, for Scripture verses you’d like to see turned into meditations or bedtime stories, well, you have an inside track right here. Just let me know.
Download it for free, use it to help get in the habit of daily prayer, and… review us and give it 5 stars, if you want to help us out.
Redemptive Suffering & the Communion of Saints
I had a rough week last week, with a thrown out back that left me horizontal for several days. There’s nothing that makes you feel more useless than being unable to sit up. Or stand. Or lay down, really… I got through the speaking engagements I needed to, but ended up re-injuring the pulled muscle with a pretty severe coughing fit, and backtracked any healing process that had managed to take place.
At the same time, I heard through the social media grapevine that a beautiful Catholic family had lost their two-month old. I don’t know this family except through mutual friends and acquaintances, but I felt called to begin to offer up my back pain for the dear young Mom who was suffering so much. I was suffering physically, but I couldn’t even fathom what she was suffering emotionally.
I tell the following story not to pat myself on my back or to tout my own holiness, but to share what it reminded me about redemptive suffering and the community of saints. (Believe me, I have not carried the cross of the last week and half blamelessly!)
Last Sunday morning, five days into the thrown-out back episode, my back seized up and spasmed after I tried to apply ice to the muscle. As I fell to my knees, unable to move, I started repeating the young mom’s name. I believe there’s something to the idea of redemption suffering. And if I was going to suffer physically, I wanted Jesus to somehow use that to lift a little of her suffering.
How does that work? I don’t know. How can such intense emotional suffering of suddenly losing your dear baby girl ever be eased? And how can my pain help a stranger ten hours away? As the pain increased and I laid on the floor, wondering what I was doing to do if this didn’t stop and no one knew what was happening, I just kept telling Jesus that the suffering was for that mom. (Believe me, I repented of ever having made fun of those I’ve fallen and I can’t get up commercials…)
Throughout the week (and yes, I did eventually get off the floor), I had various other prayer intentions come to my attention, and I continued to tell our Lord that my suffering was for x, y, z. As I did that, did the suffering go away? No. But did it become a little easier to carry? Yes, because it had purpose. Suffering with no purpose is the worst, isn’t it? And while it wasn’t easy to be sidelined for a week (especially the week the app you’ve been working on is supposed to launch … thanks, coworkers, for understanding why my camera remained off for some of those Zoom meetings!) I knew that I could give the pain to Jesus. I don't know how he would use it, but maybe in heaven I would understand.
At some point, while I was on the floor that day, I realized that since the little baby girl was in heaven, I could pray to her too. Certainly she wanted her mama’s suffering alleviated - more than I did. So I prayed out loud to her. Because we’re all in this together. Even people you’ve never met, whose photos you’ve only seen on social media because a friend is a friend of a friend.
Redemptive suffering is a mystery. We’ve all probably been told to “offer it up.” But have you ever thought: what does that mean? What does it look like?
Perhaps it simply means repeating the name of someone who is suffering more than you as you’re lying on the floor. Maybe it means biting your tongue when you want to complain and instead saying inwardly, “Jesus, I’m giving this to you for ______.” A skeptic will tell me that’s bonkers. But Jesus showed us the power of suffering for someone else. And while I can’t explain it, I know it makes a difference in the long run. I guess we’ll all find out in heaven.
Thanks for subscribing to this newsletter. I’m going to try to be more disciplined about writing bi-weekly. Stay tuned for the story of my unlikely sacramental. (Unless in the next two weeks I decide to write about something else.)
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