Being Home

Being Home

I love home.

During the throes of the pandemic, I was unbothered by the experience of being home day after day. I always imagine Saturday mornings going to a coffee shop, but I would generally rather just be home after a long week. It isn’t luxurious or perennially tidy, but it is a place I love to be.

So it probably isn’t too surprising that it is natural for me to find that prayer brings me to a home. While not physically a replica of my home, it is nonetheless an image of home. Sometimes, it happens that surprising, amazing things transpire in prayer while I’m “home”–yet so often it is a source of the ordinary, the seemingly mundane and yet the achingly beautiful. Recently, prayer which includes Our Lady has found me at a large kitchen island, watching her fingers expertly knead the dough, crafting loaves of bread, reminding me that waiting for it to rise is important, and delightfully covered in a dusting of flour.

My mom didn’t make homemade bread all of the time, but it wasn’t an unusual occurrence. It didn’t take too much imagination to find myself watching my heavenly mother do the same thing. In fact, the first time it came up in prayer, it seemed almost too easy, too natural, and thus a little surprising. A simple task, completed numerous times, and yet a joy to watch unfold. Leaning on the counter or helping spread melted butter on a soon-to-be spiral of cinnamon rolls, my prayer was taking me to an encounter with Our Lady which was simple and ordinary. I found myself posing questions to her, pondering the significance of Our Lady creating bread while the Bread of Life had been nourished in her womb, and entering into the life of the Holy Family as St. Joseph and Jesus would casually stop by to speak with Our Lady.

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Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries

Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries

May 13, 1917

Our Lady chooses to reveal herself to three children tending sheep in the Cova da Iria.  Tenderly, she tells them to not be afraid and yet she asks them to sacrifice for the conversion of the world.  They are mere children, the oldest one is ten years old, but they agree to offer up their sufferings and sacrifices for love of Jesus and for the conversion of others.

That may seem abstract to many of us.  However, they are quick to concretize this request.  Whenever poor children ask for food, the three children give them their lunch.  As they tend to the sheep, they see how long they can go without water and offer this thirst to Jesus.  Little Jacinta finds out that she will die alone in a hospital in Lisbon and, although she is scared, she chooses to offer this trial up to Our Lady for the sake of others.

We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore him.  That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering.  God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

Canonization Mass Homily of Pope Francis, 5/13/2017

These sacrifices, though small in the course of human history, are monumental.  Children are shown to be capable of leading the way to holiness.  Their tangible witness is felt in particular in the place one would expect it: Fatima, Portugal.


It has been a tremendous gift of mine that I have been to Fatima three times.  The picture above is from the most recent trip.  The man in the picture happens to be the nephew of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta Marto.  His father was their older brother, John.  Proud of his close relation, he showed us the page in Lucia’s book where she speaks about his father.

Each time I am in Fatima, I experience a great peace that comes from resting in a place that is so dear to my Heavenly Mother.  My birthday aligns with the anniversary of her first appearance in Fatima and so I have a filial devotion to this particular feast.  As I have read more about the children and how they fervently responded to her words, I have grown an even deeper love for Our Lady of Fatima and her little children.

May 13, 2017

In so many ways, their lives were insignificant.  Francisco and Jacinta were two children who fell victim to the influenza epidemic in 1919-1920.  Their lives were spent in poor circumstances in a town in Portugal for which few people cared.  While generally good children, they were not known to be perfect.  Yet on May 13, 2017, they were declared canonized saints in the Catholic Church.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life.

Pope Francis 5/13/2017

Continue reading “Simple Witnesses: The Newly Canonized Fatima Visionaries”

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes

“What color was the towel?”
“How big was the towel?”
“How was it wrapped around you?”
“What color were the walls?”
“Was the bath made of marble?”
“Were the walls taupe?”
“How large was the bath?”

I knew what they were doing.  

Sometimes students love to get their teachers off track and launch into tangents.  It works even better if the teacher enjoys talking about particular topics.  I recall a specific teacher in middle school who would tell the same stories over and over again.  And we loved to let him because it meant that we wouldn’t move on with other work.  As a teacher, I now understand a little more how one could repeat the same story to the same class and not remember.  If I, a “veteran” teacher of five years, struggle to remember if I told this story this year or to this class period, then a teacher of 30-40 years should definitely have a greater struggle.

We were talking about private revelation.  It is difficult for me to remember how much I knew at their age, but I was surprised at what they did not know.  I mentioned Lourdes, Fatima, scapulars, and Miraculous medals, receiving blank stares for many of them.  So I started to talk a bit more in-depth about Lourdes.  Once they found out that I had actually been there and been in the baths (“Can just anyone go?”), they had many questions.  Some were deeper (“Did you go to receive healing of body, mind, or spirit?”) and others were more surface level (“Do they reuse towels?”).  And when genuine interest (even if merely for the sake of not doing more classwork) is shown in the area of faith, I find it hard to not answer questions. Continue reading “Our Lady of Lourdes”

Beloved Fatima

Beloved Fatima

My sister said that the closer we got, the larger my smile became.  I couldn’t help it.  I was returning to a place that I had visited twice before and it had a certain feeling of coming home.  The bus pulled up and let us out, excitedly spilling onto the platform before setting out on our mission.

I had returned again to my beloved Fatima, Portugal.  This was the second “Marian bookend” of my Camino in the summer of 2014.  Prior to walking the Camino, we had visited Lourdes.  Now, we were on a celebratory trip to Fatima.

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Maybe Mercy

Maybe Mercy

What I really wanted to do was call the teenage girl out on her attitude.  Yes, I should have prepared better for class by having the questions printed out for them instead of having them write them out.  At this point, however, it was the end of the day and I didn’t feel like trying to convince my students why school required them to do schoolwork.

Instead of writing down the questions, this young lady was resistant.  Her face was one of annoyance that she would have to write down questions.

“Do we have to write these all down?”
“Well, I think you would want to.  You need to answer these questions over the movie we are going to watch and you won’t be able to see the questions when I pull the projector down.”
“So we don’t have to?”
“I guess not if you think you can remember all the questions and answers.”
“Cool.  I’m not doing it then.”

I was frustrated that something so little was seen as such a heavy burden.  She wasn’t the only one who was put out by this task.  As the students wrote down the questions, they would take time to heave a sigh or breathe deeply.

“I hear your sighs.”  I told them as I waited for them to finish copying the questions.

So while others were not enjoying the task at hand, this girl was the most vocal about it.  She has her days.  Some days she is bubbly and excited, calling me “girl” and sharing different stories.  Other days she has a bit of an attitude and looks unimpressed by nearly everything.  I was trying to decide how to handle her responses to me in the classroom.  Should I take her aside?  Should I give her a look?  How should I respond?

In the midst of my frustration, I remembered a personal detail she had written on an assignment at the beginning of the semester.  She wrote briefly of a family life difficulty and in that moment of her less-than-desired responses, I thought of it.  And I prayed for her.  I ask Our Lady to give me the patience to deal with this young girl who was struggling with things that I didn’t know or understand.  In a moment of clarity, I recognized her responses as being, at least in part, the fruit of inner turmoil and pain.  She was hurting and something she felt she had control over was complaining about a simple task in class.

I wish I could say that I have applied this merciful attitude toward all of my students all of the time.  I haven’t.  But it did make me stop and consider: why don’t I extend to those I meet the same mercy I would desire others to extend to me?  Of course, we all need to grow in not letting our emotions overrun us.  We strive to not take frustrations out on people who are completely removed from the situation.  But I know I have been unkind many times and what has brought me out of that rut before has been people looking beyond my ugly words or actions and treating me with kindness.

This brief interaction made me want to extend mercy, without being a doormat for my students.  Not everything in their responses is about my teaching or what they think of me.  Perhaps they just had a difficult test or a fight the night before with their parents.  It doesn’t make what they have said or done acceptable, but it can make them more real to me, people with hearts and problems, struggling to navigate the difficulties of life.

It was once again impressed upon me the need to pray.  I do not enter the classroom alone to fight in a fierce battle against teenagers.  Those would be rather bleak prospects.  Rather I go to them (hopefully) as a missionary and I go armed with the best of warriors–the universal Church.  Particularly during this year of mercy, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could encounter my students and everyone I meet as a missionary of mercy?  How beautiful would it be if through an encounter with us, people could know that attribute of God in a deeper, fuller way?