life doesn’t have to be complicated


Toni is a lover of the outdoors, and an avid sports person. She can hike, bike, or paddle more miles in a day than I could in a month. Okay…many months!

Toni is also the National Coordinator of LIFE Ministries for the Marianist Family. LIFE (Living In Faith Experience) is a summer camp experience for high school students. The latest LIFE e-newsletter came today, and included a Lenten reflection written by Toni. She has kindly given me permission to share it with you.

Last Lent, I picked up Fr. James Martin’s Seven Last Words. My intent was to read a chapter a week, but of course, the busyness of life & LIFE got the better of me. On Good Friday, I rode my bike out to the Wissahickon Trail and hiked a little up Forbidden Drive. I sat next to the creek for a solid hour or so, and I read the entire book. I was having a truly difficult year, and being able to reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, even if just for a short time, allowed me to put my challenges into perspective and move on.

I think the biggest blessing about that day, even more than reading the book, is that I got out of the city & had some desert time. I was alone, I had time to think in the quiet, and I was able to just “be” me. Sitting with nothing but the sound of the water, the birds chirping and the wind rustling through the trees reminded me that life does not have to be complicated. Choose your battles. Breathe. That is what this time of year is for. How can your life be simpler? How can your life be better because of this simplicity? How can you be of better service to others through this realization?


I like Toni’s version of Lent, focused on BE-ing more than DO-ing. Stopping to Breathe. Seeking – and finding – the wisdom you need at this moment in life.

Toni reminds us that “life does not have to be complicated”. Her “simple” questions hold so much wisdom and truth. How can my life be simpler? Better?

Seeking this simplicity isn’t just for my own peace of mind and soul. How can it free me up to be of better service to others?

May we all find our own desert moment this Lent. Time to BE amid the busyness. Time to Breathe. Time to…

Be still and know I am God.

(psalm 46:10)



















the holy NO!


I have a friend who is a true Martha. We all know the story of the quintessential worker-bee. Martha is busy in the kitchen making sure all will be fed while her sister, Mary, sits leisurely at the feet of Jesus, soaking in his every word. Jesus praises Mary for choosing the better path.

My friend always stood up for Martha. After all, she would say, nothing would get done if it wasn’t for the good souls who see the practical needs, roll up their sleeves, and get it done! You can’t argue with her reasoning. Sitting on a contemplative cloud doesn’t put dinner on the table.

During a recent conversation with our online faith community, my “Martha” friend said that her current goal in life is to learn to say a “Holy NO!” Knowing her busy life, we all chuckled. Then pondered. Then nodded our heads in agreement.

A Holy NO!

Why do we feel so compelled to say Yes! to tasks, favours or projects?

One reason may be due to our catholic upbringing. (Gasp!) We were raised with a theology that goes something like this. “Jesus died on the cross for you. Your life should be a continual sacrifice to honour the ultimate sacrifice made by our Lord and Saviour.”

How can you say No?

Sacrificial thinking was tied to the virtue of obedience. Unquestioning, submissive, humble obedience. In our hierarchical church, these lines of obedience were clearly laid out. Priests obeyed bishops. Bishops obeyed the pope. Laity had to obey them all. Why? Because priests, bishops and the pope spoke for God. Disobeying them was disobeying God.

Again. How can you say No?

Patriarchal thinking ruled family life also. The mother who craved time for herself was pointed towards the ever meek and mild Virgin Mary.  Women were to put aside their own needs, dreams and aspirations. They were to sacrifice all for their family.

Our time, treasure and talents are gifts given to us. Gifts made to be shared. We cannot go through life saying No! to every request made of us. That would be a selfish life indeed, and make for an awkward conversation at the pearly gates.

But, our time, treasure and talents are also limited. We need to discern carefully and wisely to whom we give these gifts. It’s a matter of balancing the Martha and the Mary in our lives.

We all need “Mary” time – with ourselves, our loved ones, with God. “Mary” time feeds the mind, heart and soul. We need to BE as much as we need to DO.

Sometimes we need to give our inner “Martha” a polite, firm, and holy NO!




diabolical is not a nice word!

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah, of Guinea is known for his traditionalist views of liturgy. His words often make headlines in church news circles. For example, he tried to re-install the rule that priests say Mass facing east, with their backs to the people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course,  but Cardinal Sarah is also the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. His liturgical leanings are often in stark contrast to those of his current boss.

The latest headline concerns a new book about reception of Holy Communion. Cardinal Sarah wrote the preface for the book.

“The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it,” the cardinal wrote.

“Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.

“Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?

Let’s put aside, for the moment, the inane nature of the “kneeling and on the tongue” vs “standing and in the hand” debate. Both methods are approved by the Vatican. One is not holier than the other. Kneeling piously does not guarantee reverence in the heart, as standing does not connote irreverence.

Instead, let’s look at the Cardinal’s choice of language.


church lady

This choice of words scream of judgment. Calling the simple gesture of receiving Holy Communion on the hand as “diabolical” hearkens to the days of inquisitions, when the smallest acts or words were twisted, magnified, and used as evidence of heresy. Prosecutable accusations. Yes, accusations.  A simple accusation was often all that was needed for a tortured confession and inevitable punishment.

Thankfully the bonfires are no longer. Some bishops still swing the hammer of excommunication, but their threats fall mostly on sceptical minds and hearts. More and more, these episcopal bullies are being ignored by the faithful; as so they should be. Still, it saddens me to see the outliers in the hierarchy who continue to peddle an angry, judgmental God  rather than a loving God of mercy.

Cardinal Sarah’s choice of words simply feed the divisions in our church. Instead of building bridges between progressives and traditionalists, the Cardinal fires up his followers with language of diabolical attacks on what is, in reality, a liturgical custom or tradition that has evolved over the centuries and continues to do so. In my local parish, we have some folks who kneel and receive the Eucharist on the tongue. They have the freedom to do so, while the rest of us stand and receive in the hand. No biggie!

The ultimate irony, of course, is the use of  the sacrament of COMMUNION as a weapon of division.

For more reading…

Cardinal Sarah: Communion in the hand part of ‘diabolical attack’ on Eucharist (Catholic Herald, UK)

Cardinal Sarah: Receiving Communion in the hand part of a “diabolical attack” on the faith America: the Jesuit Review