Thursday, December 22, 2011

FINALLY!: Kateri Will Become the First Native American Saint

Native American Kateri is a soon-to-be saint who recently entered my life with divine synchronicity. The whole story is too intricate to share here, but I will tell you that I recently bought this book: Kateri – Native American Saint. This beautiful book is great for children or anyone who appreciates nice artwork.

On Monday night, I put this precious book in a display case in my office with a drum. Drums are used in Native American religious ceremonies. That same day, unbeknownst to me, the news came out about Kateri’s upcoming canonization!

I feel like I know Kateri because of all of the little coincidences that have peppered me over the past few weeks. In 2011, I became fascinated with Native American culture again. As a teen, I had turquoise jewelry and Minnetonka thunderbird moccasins. This year, I re-bought some of those items and got the moccasins as an early Christmas present from my husband. I even met a real shaman!

This book features a photo of a Kateri Prayer Group, and one of the women is holding a drum. The drum in this context, for me, symbolizes integration of European and Native American cultural traditions, or at the very least, respect for ancestors who walked American soil before we did.

Why did this canonization take so long? So many people have chosen this woman to be their patron saint even though her status is “Blessed,” a notch below sainthood. The campaign for her canonization was passionate. This book already has her sainted in the title, but included a prayer card for her canonization. Hence, for the past few weeks, I was confused about her status on the canonization track, and wondered why it was taking so long to certify her holiness. She died in 1680!

My instinct is that her ancestry and cultural identity caused some hesitation, or suspicion. The history of Europeans pushing Native Americans off of their land isn’t a story of kindness and compassion, yet Manifest Destiny was still taught by some teachers as if it was an undeniable fact when I was in school. This 19th century concept supported the idea that God wanted the European settlers to take over. Sometimes the push for domination was violent and inhumane, yet under Manifest Destiny, it was justified because the Europeans were be destined to rule. Thankfully, my parents provided some perspective on this when I got home from school.

Nevertheless, this long history of European settlers arising victorious over many indigenous tribes probably meant that it took a long time for Kateri to get her due. Even now, comparative religion textbooks often gloss over or completely skip indigenous spiritual customs as if they don’t matter, or are somehow irrelevant to the story of the human race. Remember that the victors get to write history. However, if most people on this planet before Christ were not Jewish, it seems like we could learn something about how humans interact with their Creator by studying ancient indigenous traditions.

Kateri was brave. She accepted Christ even when it was sure to cause problems in her tribe. Yet, she’s more than just another Catholic saint with a courageous story. She’s a Native American. Hopefully, her canonization will show Native Americans that the Church accepts them, and maybe even pave the way for more sincere and meaningful inter-religious dialogue with people who still practice ancient traditions.

If you want to hear more about this exciting news, try this story from a Montreal-based network.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You Don't Move to D.C. to Get Married?


"You don’t move to Washington, D.C., to get married, you move here for your career.”

Huh? What?

I spotted this line in a new Washington Post article about the supposed plunging popularity of marriage in the U.S. If you have not seen the piece – you can find it here.

In general – I think the headline is overly simplistic. In reality, people still want to get married. Many of them are just delaying the accomplishment of that relationship goal (and in fact, jeopardizing it) by falling into a major modern-day trap: shacking up.

But really, as a third generation Washingtonian, I was most puzzled by the statement above in bold. D.C. is in my DNA. The statement has that sound-bite pinch that tends to gloss over the details of real life.

Plenty of people come to town for the social scene and to be among more singles. The restaurants are awesome, and it's a good place to meet people and have fun. D.C. helps people further their career too. It's a two-pronged approach. You get a good job and a nice paycheck, which equals nice cloths, exciting dates, and a great start (or second wind?) to your adult life in general.

This paradigm might be especially beneficial for men, who need good career tracks to be attractive to single women who want a somewhat traditional home life. They can build a career in D.C. and also have their pick of great date locations.

Guys from less electric parts of the country have told me that D.C. girls tend to be more trendy and educated than the girls back home. Men may come here for a job – but that doesn’t mean they go blind and forget about falling in love. They are focused on their career – sure – but they also find D.C. appealing for the “society.” That’s the silver lining that maybe they weren’t anticipating, but are happy to embrace.

Women, if they don't get married at a very young age in more rural or central areas of the U.S., can find both social and professional opportunities in D.C. People marry later on the East Coast than other parts of the country, so a mid-twenties single in downtown D.C. may be perceived differently than they would in other locales. If their girlfriends are all married up in their hometown, D.C. can provide a new circle of single lady friends, more social activities, and interesting professional options.

Even for D.C.-area natives, singles commonly meet downtown. When they get married, they move to the burbs. This is a common pattern, and it just irked me to see that misrepresented in the press.

Happiness and fulfillment, for most people, are about more than a job. I think people carry their full satchel of hopes and dreams with them when they come to D.C. and try to achieve it all. Many of them do!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Haunted Weekend in Gettysburg, Pa



We went to the Farnsworth House, a haunted bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, Pa this weekend. My parents gave us a gift certificate to this place last year for Christmas, and we only just got around to going there.

It was very interesting! The house was in the middle of some fighting between Union and Confederate soldiers, as demonstrated by the many bullet holes in the brick. The Confederates ultimately claimed it, so most of the stories are about Confederate soldiers.

The restaurant there was very good. If you go, try some of the traditional, old-style dishes. We did and were happy that we stepped outside the box.

We went on a ghost investigation from 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (okay, we turned in early!). I got a lot of hot spots using a K-II meter in a nearby battlefield, which is now school property. A hill there was the sight of a lot of violent deaths. The people who live in the homes nearby will hear screams, call the police, and the police will come to find nobody out there.

I’m no K-II expert, but if my K-II hits were real and not a result of interference from some wiring, I can say that I felt that the soldiers may have been more receptive to particular people (young women?) in the group. I say that because I got a pretty constant K-II reading in one spot, and then my husband and the tour guide came over, and it temporarily stopped. Another time, me and another woman were getting hits in the same spot, and two other people came over with their K-IIs and didn’t get anything.

My husband has told me before that guys are more inclined to share how they really feel with a woman, so I wonder if the soldier spirits on the battlefield were following that instinct? I guess I can see a soldier telling a woman, “Oh, that really hurt!” and maybe trying to be tough in front of a guy. My guess is that if I walked onto the battlefield dressed as a Civil War nurse, I’d probably get a lot of activity.

When we investigated the house, a woman who was with a man who claimed to be a skeptic got a big jolt. She was opening a door and it jerked out of her hand and swung open.

My husband had an intense nightmare where Confederate soldiers were trying to break into our room. While he didn’t think anything disrespectful or try to provoke any spirit activity, he is a total Northerner. It was not a normal dream, so we’re still trying to unpack it!

I, on the other hand, felt oddly comfortable. My relatives fought in the war as Confederates and we were in a Confederate house, so I wonder if the spirits decided not to bother me!

At any rate, people talk to angels and people who have become saints, so I don’t see any problem with recognizing that individuals on the other side can still communicate and make their presence known.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

St. Therese - A Powerful Patroness


Today is the Feast Day of St. Therese, my patron saint. So, I thought I would pay tribute to her and tell you how she has inserted herself into my life!

In 1999, I was preparing to enter the Catholic Church for Easter 2000. I saw a Novena for St. Therese in September 1999, and thought, “Why not? I’ll try it.” I remember trying really hard to say it every day. Then, before the novena was even over, I heard that her relics were coming to the U.S. for the first time. And – surprise, surprise – they were coming to the National Shrine, which was nearby.

I told the priest who was preparing me to enter the Church and he said, “Well, I guess we know who your patron saint is!” It was pretty clear to us that she chose me, which I think is pretty neat. I never really got into the process of going through a book of saints and choosing one – one chose me! And even when I started to think about other saints, they didn’t really hold my attention for long. I knew it was Therese.

During that whole time period, I was really busy with college and sometimes had convert angst. It seems like most people enter the Church with someone, like a fiancé or spouse, by their side. I was alone. During one of the entry rites, I remember seeing a shower of flower petals out the window I was facing. That was beautiful and it certainly made me think the Little Flower was checking on me.

After my conversion, I spent about two years with the Secular Carmelites and considered becoming a Carmelite nun. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I will always love Carmelite spirituality.

I heard about a priest who advised a young dater not to bother praying to St. Therese for a spouse. For some reason, he didn’t think she was the saint for marriage requests. Well – I don’t think St. Therese liked hearing that, because my husband proposed on September 29th. Therese died on the 30th, so I think she was saying, “Hello Amy! It’s okay that you didn’t become a Carmelite – I am still helping you.”

As someone who has been blessed by this saint’s attention, I encourage you to ask her for help on anything you want!

Friday, September 2, 2011

When I Was a "Secular Sister," I Dressed Like This...



Chapter 12 of my book is Secular Sisterhood. It is my term for women who get stuck in the in-between vocations discernment rut. Usually, they don’t know what’s going on…but it can seem obvious to others. Now you have visual evidence of my own experience as a “secular sister.” I think it was about seven years ago.

Here I am with Fr. Elias Carr of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in Austria while on a pilgrimage. The female counterpart to a canon is a canoness. If you gave me a veil in this picture, I would be a Canoness Regular of St. Augustine. You can read more about the Canons here, but for now, I want to re-visit one of my favorite topics, which is the secular sisterhood.

Choosing a vocation is an important focus for Catholic singles. The Catholic singles scene has some issues though. One is that it is so easy for pious people to passively choose to remain single...and possibly get praised for it! But, they commonly end up cranky and miserable in the end, especially when they don’t analyze and accept the likely consequences of their actions and attitudes.

Devout women can get stuck in a "nun-like" phase if they are not astute and self-aware. It might sound good on the surface…but something is missing.

Psychologically, the secular sister mindset can go like this, "Well, I don't think I'm called to the convent, although that would be cool, so it's probably marriage, but if I can't find a perfect man, I'll just stay with Jesus and live a nun-like existence." In other words, I’ll sit on this fence.

It's not a proactive, positive way of thinking. It's not even really full discernment of marriage. You aren’t carrying a compass that is pointed in the marriage direction for sure. The approach is passive, fear-based, rigid, and unrelenting in perfectionism. Extreme caution and distrust for the world and other people can lead to stagnation. At the time this photo was taken, I lacked confidence…and well, FAITH!

Thankfully, I realized that...and Fr. Elias was a good person to chat with as I tried to unscramble myself.

The male equivalent to a secular sister is a “Dabbler.” You can read about them on pages 101-102 of the book. Fr. Elias told me that he has met plenty of Dabblers! The phenomenon is real.

By the way, if this blog post could have a soundtrack, it would be “Sitting on a Fence” by the Rolling Stones.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Women Need Back-Up Plans

A few days ago, I logged on to my Facebook account and saw a desperate plea for help. A husband left his wife and children. A concerned friend and Good Samaritan decided to request donations for the abandoned family.

The message came soon after I talked with Joe Patch IV of Spirit & Truth Live on Radio Maria (Fridays at 2:00 p.m. EST). Joe and I had a pre-chat before the live show and agreed that we had to encourage Catholic women to be prudent about their education and income earning skills. It’s an important point that does not get credence in many devout circles.

When I came through an ultra-orthodox diocese as a young 20-something, the “pro-family” messaging often skirted the issue of women securing their futures. Nobody wanted to sound like a feminist, minimize the needs of young children, or to question the trustworthiness of male family members.

Life is unpredictable though. Is it smart not to prepare women for basic survival? Why is it that in some Catholic communities, a child-like, ingénue helplessness is framed as a badge of honor?

I think it’s critical to look reality squarely in the face and puncture ideals that can lead to personal tragedies.

We know that not every man is going to stay committed to his wife and children. It’s not a new story! We can kick, scream, and protest as much as we want, yet, the risks remain. Things can go wrong even with the best intentions and planning. What if a guy turns out to be a violent abuser and you have to leave?

It is impossible to ever completely control another person, even if that person is a spouse. Complete confidence in your husband right now can devolve over time too.

If thinking about your husband leaving or abusing you is either too troubling or far-fetched to entertain, what about illnesses and accidents? What if your husband is killed through an on-the-job mishap? What if he gets in a car crash and is permanently disabled? What if an illness takes him early? How is the family going to survive? Tragic things happen to good people every day. Nobody knows why – but it’s best to be prepared.

Even if a woman intends to spend the majority of her life as a homemaker, it's wise to have what Joe called an "insurance policy." Have a back-up plan.

A woman who is proactive about evaluating her talents and strengths should be able to select a specialty to her liking. In this day and age, possible back-up plans are extensive. Not every career field requires expensive degrees, and not every workplace fosters an extremely aggressive culture that would challenge a gentle woman who is full of maternal instinct and compassion. Some jobs can be done from home in a “mompreneurial” fashion.

If one back-up plan seems too cumbersome, find another one that suits you better. We’re all different, and one size won’t fit all. Remember that having skills does not mean that you always have to use them either.

Another thing to keep in mind is that education for the sake of education is not always wasteful. A well-educated woman is beautiful and her intelligence will enrich her marriage, relationships, and ability to support her children through their schooling. Even if she doesn’t constantly use her degree, she will have the academic background, critical thinking skills, and piece of paper, to help her open doors if she needs to in the event of an unforeseen crisis.

As women who live in the modern world, we need to think about how to feed ourselves and our children in worst case scenarios. What's our plan? In the old days, it was all about being born into the right family, marrying the right man, or getting plugged into the right charity if poverty struck. For all of the negatives we face in society these days, we have more opportunities than ever to build strong safety nets.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Borders Closing Experience


I’m sure you heard the news that Borders is going out of business. I subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly updates, and for the past few months, I’ve gotten constant messages about the store chain’s demise. Eventually, I got so sick of reading about it that I stopped opening the messages. That said, I don’t know all of the gory details, but….we did go to our local Borders today to check out the pickings and it was educational.

Educational? Yeah – go to your local Borders armed with an iPhone or Blackberry. Browse the aisles. You’ll find titles that you never knew existed. But, wait…it’s only 10 percent off? 20 percent off? 30 percent off? Check the title online and 90 percent of the time, it will be cheaper on Amazon. If you have any self-control or interest in keeping to your budget, you’ll send yourself an email note about the book or add it to your wishlist, and order it later for half the price. It’s sad, but true. Unless it’s a last minute gift, or you need something for a train or plane ride, it’s hard to justify the extra expense unless you are simply in a mood to treat yourself.

I bought the things that were 40 percent off, like timeless greeting cards and magazines that I may want to write for. I am a complete bibliophile, but still couldn’t bring myself to buy the books because they seemed overpriced, or not steeply discounted enough for me to run around like a kid in a candy store.

As an author, I know that the higher prices are probably better for me in the end. So while one side of me wants consumers to pay the steeper price tag so I can earn a penny for my blood, sweat, and tears, the other side of me is still the savvy consumer. Talk about internal conflict! I’m sure the prices will come down as Borders liquidates, but my initial experience told me a lot about the changing marketplace.

While I always will love the books I can hold in my hands, I have a feeling that e-books are also changing the environment. When I was studying for my library science degree, nobody thought they were going to take off, but now? I’ve heard publishing insiders swear that e-books still aren’t taking a big chunk out of the marketplace and that it’s all hype, but my personal experience says otherwise. Some readers are really into their Kindles, etc. Put it this way - I’m glad my title is available as an e-book. Right now it's on the Kindle bestseller list for books in Catholicism - go figure!

A Final Plug for Tyler Blanski's Mud & Poetry


I promised people a summary book review of Mud and Poetry in the winter months and feel increasingly guilty for not delivering. I love the book, but life got in the way and I never finished the final few pages. It’s on my permanent reading list though, and I will get back to it. I probably shouldn’t wait any longer to give one final plug though and register my endorsement on Amazon.com for all book buyers to see….so here it goes….

If you have read Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, or The Four Loves and burned out on them, try Tyler Blanski’s Mud & Poetry. It’s contemporary, philosophical, theological, but readable and relatable. It is written by an Anglican and has some Protestant theological concepts. As an increasingly ecumenical Catholic convert, I found this interesting and not to be a turn off at all.

The first chapter is where Tyler describes the differences between Mud Love and Poetic Love. Poetic Love is a higher form of love than Mud Love, and the chapter is filled with various descriptions and metaphors to convey these concepts to readers.

My favorite quote from Chapter 1 is probably on page 15:
“You can’t have poetry without mud. Christianity knows this. This is why, for all its Sistine Chapels and Dantes and Bachs, it remains the faith of messy ordinary people living messy ordinary lives.”

Tyler talks about how popular culture’s concepts of the roving bachelor are damaging and unhealthy. He also mentions that Christianity’s courtship movement can be equally damaging and unhealthy. I am a huge fan of anyone who has the guts to stick their neck out in the Christian community and speak the truth about that, especially when they are young and getting the courtship sales pitch. Tyler says, “No, thank you.”

Mud and Poetry is a pondering book, and it takes quality time to sift through if you’re going to read it right. If you zipped through my book and want something else to chew on, try this one. It will make you think about what you’re looking for in a relationship.

Because Tyler is still single, it can sometimes have a wistful and idealistic tone of unfulfilled desire, but that’s okay. It’s real, and it’s poetic. His work has a beauty to it that reminds me of viewing a classic painting, and other times, it makes you feel the everyday beauty of sipping a favorite drink at a local coffee shop. I wanted to go read this at a coffee shop! The style of his work is inspirational in of itself, and for that, I have a deep respect for it.

I discovered Tyler Blanski on CNN.com’s Belief Blog. When I read his post, I thought “Oh my gosh, I need to talk to this fellow.” Well, he’s a really nice guy and does check his fan mail. Tyler has been compared to a modern day C.S. Lewis. His faith is, to me, pretty traditional and I don’t think Catholics will feel too out of their element while reading his work. It will take you a little outside of your box, but sometimes, that’s what we need to grow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to Handle a Breakup

Summer is a rough time to experience a breakup because it’s the sunny season of barbecues and socializing. Chapter Eleven of my book is Coping with Disappointment and Betrayal. Most people who date have their heart smashed once or twice. It’s not pleasant!

Here are a few quick tips that should help you weather the storm:

Invite Jesus into Your Cracked Heart - First and foremost, realize that a broken heart gives Jesus a big opening to enter through. Invite him in and he will help you get through the pain. Suffering can amplify our spiritual sensitivity and leave us more open to Christ’s love and help.

Give Yourself Some Credit – In the hours, days and months following the breakup, you are going to wonder if there is anything you did wrong. Could you have prevented this mess? You may not feel so great, especially if you were the one who was broken up with. Most times, you can at least give yourself some credit though. You took a chance on love. Some people don’t have that kind of courage or trust, and lead lonely lives as a result.

Take Stock – Did this breakup save you from a troubled marriage? Can you find a silver lining or something to be grateful for? Is there a big relationship lesson you can learn from the whole experience? Maybe it’s to learn to read your gut instinct better or to avoid certain behaviors. Or, to draw boundaries more effectively. Maybe, you learn that one trait in a spouse is more important than you thought it was before. In Chapter One of my book, I describe how one really bad breakup taught me to change my dating strategy and philosophy completely. Breakups can be fruitful. They can change your life and usher in learning opportunities, so take advantage of the time and reflect.

Monitor Depression – It’s completely normal to feel depressed following a break up, but monitor yourself. Sadness can beget more sadness. You can change your brain chemistry in a negative way or become susceptible to illness if you don’t know how to coax yourself out of a melancholic slump. Journaling is a cheap and easy way to keep your mind moving forward. Studies show that journaling for 20-30 minutes every morning about your innermost thoughts and emotions is like clearing the cache of a computer. You can also do some therapy or life coaching if you want more one-on-one attention.

Move On, Even if You Still Hurt – It’s tough to know when to move on after a break up. You’ll probably always have a scar from a painful split that will stick with you for a long time. It’s like a tattoo. So, be careful about waiting a super long time to date again under the premise, “I need to heal.” You need to recover, yes, but the memory will never completely leave you. At some point, you need to replace bad memories with good memories. Here’s my rule of thumb: When you are at a point when you don’t need to talk about your past relationship or breakup constantly, you’re probably ready to date again.

Remember that all things happen for a reason. In the near-term, you should be able to learn something from your breakup that will help your future relationships succeed. Once years go by, you’ll have better hindsight and probably mature more. So don’t be surprised if you continue to discover things about yourself, others, and relationships in general through the memory of one breakup!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Wins First-Time Author CPA Award


The Catholic Press Association (CPA) just gave my book, How to Get to 'I Do,' an award in the First-Time Author category! Founded in 1911, the CPA of the United States and Canada has more than 600 member organizations and reaches over 26 million people. This award is a big deal, and as my editor said, "Winning a CPA award is definitely an honor—they’re hard to snag." One word: W-O-W.

The CPA said this about my book: "This well-written guide with the views of a young woman searching for that one most important relationship in all of life includes supportive comments by her spouse. A book that could make a lifetime difference."

I remember when I got that irresistible spark that led me to write the book. I literally felt something in my stomach - butterflies. My whole body got cold and clammy, like something big was about to happen. I felt like I was about to get on a roller coaster. I knew that God was asking me to do something special that would touch many people and change lives. I would know the excitement of using my creative gifts for a public audience. I've always been attracted to the glamor of being a writer, artist, or musician. But, I knew this venture wouldn't be all me, and that's why I felt cold and clammy. I would be God's instrument. That's both exciting and scary.

Since my book came out last year, I have given many interviews and answered many emails from readers. But, somehow the award confirms for me that my initial inspiration and inner knowing were authentic. I'm glad I persevered through the many discouragements I hit along the road to publication now. It was all worth it.

Thanks for all of your support!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

EWTN Segment Cancelled

Sorry gals - the segment was cancelled last minute. They wanted to cover Fr. Corapi. I hope to get re-scheduled for later this summer and I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

See Me On EWTN Tomorrow Night!


I will be on Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. EST. Tune into EWTN and if you want to talk to me, prepare to call in!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two Helpful Words for Marriage Seekers

The power of words can be phenomenal. I'm sure you've seen jewelry with inspiring words. A necklace with the word "Love," a bracelet with the word "Dream," a trinket box with the word "Remember." The meaning and energy a word carries can help lift our hearts throughout the day and fill our minds with inspiration.

If you hope to find a compatible life partner and get married, these two words may be helpful to ponder: Openness and Focus.

Openness
When I type the word "openness," I envision a healthy, optimistic, and rational openness. Openness does not equal carelessness or naiveté. For instance, it's good to be thorough about getting to know new people. It makes sense to pay attention to statistics and analysis about factors that make and break marriages. Sometimes, it’s critical to maintain strong boundaries.

That said, a super rigid mindset won’t be helpful in dating, especially if you’ve been at it for years and are not happy with your results. In chapter one of my book, How to Get to ‘I Do’ - A Dating Guide for Catholic Women, I point out that rigidity is a common obstacle that observant Catholic daters face.

A willingness to grow, change things up (maybe your requirements!), and accept that God's divine plan may not be your exact plan can help you find the right person. In my case, I joined Match.com after years of Catholic dating websites and live events. I took a leap of faith and was outside of my comfort zone, but I met my husband within two weeks on Match. My path may not be every girl’s path. One size doesn’t fit all. But, my experience taught me how easy it is to put blinders on, get self-righteous, and miss life-changing opportunities. I learned just how important it can be to put eggs in many baskets.

Focus
Neither my husband nor I are big fans of the “I’m just going to let stuff happen” stance when we are clear about what we want. If you read articles on dating and consider yourself a marriage seeker, you know what you want. This saying may be helpful to you: “When you pray, move your feet.”

You have amazing power through your ability to sharply focus on your goals. Put energy towards attaining your goals and watch what happens. Through prayer, positive thinking, priority setting, and moving your feet in the direction you want to go – things start to happen.

It’s like if you want a car. For a few months, you look more closely at the cars on the road and read reviews. Next, you crunch numbers and check prices online. Eventually, you create a budget and go to a car dealership in person for a look. You might do this many times before it’s time to buy, but the goal gets closer through small steps. It all starts with a willingness to focus on the goal and invest resources in that direction.

Obviously, a spouse is a lot more important than a car. The point is that unless your dreams fall in your lap, anything worthwhile will require some action on your part. Some folks think they will meet their spouse when they are least expecting it. Sometimes, it happens. A lot of times, it doesn’t. And even if someone does “fall in your lap,” you’re going to have to nurture the relationship in the face of competing priorities.

Folks who tend to be unfocused or even scattered might worry that focusing equals obsession. You aren’t obsessed if you give a reasonable amount of time and energy to focus on an important priority. I keep a Goethe quote on my desk that says, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter the least.” Through focus, you ensure that you don’t major in minor things.

Openness and focus are good words for marriage seekers. Think about them when you want to overcome rigidity and procrastination in your love life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Radio Tour Comes to a Lovely Spring Ending

I just did my last radio show of my tour. It’s been a busy season!

What an honor to talk to so many people across the country. I really like radio personalities! I admire their wit and how they are so quick on their feet. Although writers and radio hosts are both communicators, writers are obviously more focused on non-verbal communication.

I recently wrote an article about a voice class I took at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC prior to the radio tour. It helped me gain a better appreciation for my voice and encouraged me to want to use it more. You can find the article here.

The radio tour was just another example I have encountered in life about how valuable cross-pollination is in the arts. So often, writers will stick with writers, and actors will stick with other actors, but really, we have so much to learn from each other. I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to hang out with actors at the Studio Theatre, and to talk to so many people on air who make their living through their speaking ability.

If you missed the radio shows, some of them are available online. Some were more interesting and fun than others, but such is life! All of my shows are listed on my Appearances page and linked to the website that I found for each show. Some stations maintain archives, and others do not.

Although endings are always a little bit sad, it’s a beautiful spring day outside. An ending always brings new opportunities. The flowers outside highlight that this is the season of new beginnings.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred PART 2

I’m about half way through Mud & Poetry now.

I’ve read some parts that are distinctly Protestant at this point. I can relate and smile while I read it because I used to be Protestant, but I know some of my Catholic friends wouldn’t get it…like the concept of being “saved.” It’s not a pronounced theme in the book at this point, but worth mentioning. I’m pretty ecumenical, so I don’t mind reflecting on how people of other denominations experience their faith. At the same time, I realize that a lot of my readers and Web site visitors are only familiar with Catholicism.

Believe it or not, even though I’m no longer concerned with a “moment” of salvation – I do still think there was one time in my life when I developed a profound relationship with Christ in a Protestant style. That moment probably has more bearing on my faith than anything else. It was more significant, to me, than baptism and confirmation. It was more life changing than any confession or Mass. Religious rituals lose a lot of their meaning, or salt, if you don’t have an actual relationship with your Maker.

But, I digress. Back to the book. I loved this thought on page 73:

“For all we know, we are God’s miracle workers and we don’t even know it.”

More on pages 73-74:
“…God’s long-term plan is to gather everything and everyone together in him, and he sometimes uses seemingly the most unspiritual means to go about it: sex and marriage, ordinary humanness…..But the sad thing is, most of us think we’re too holy for this aspect of it! It’s too coarse, too sensual, too lowborn, too down-and-out human to be of God…..We’d rather have our church programs and our intellectual frameworks, our high stacks of books on chastity. At least in those we can escape the incredible difficulty of the here and now.”

I totally agree.

As I wrote Chapter Seven in my book, Growing Outside Yourself, I remember how jarring it was when someone reviewed it and told me that it was a rather Protestant section. My primary message of the chapter is that Jesus doesn’t always deliver graces in the ways we expect. Why is that Protestant? It seems like Catholics sometimes think that Jesus is only allowed to come through a “Catholic door” or “Catholic toll free phone line.” That has not been my life experience at all, and that is what Chapter Seven is about.

Jesus told the criminal being crucified next to him that he was going to Heaven, or “paradise” to directly quote Scripture. If that happened today, I wonder how many observant Catholics would readily accept it. And, how many modern-day Catholics would ever listen to a sermon from a carpenter in the first place? They’d be like, “Where’s your degree?” We demand credentials these days.

A friend of mine who was trained to be a Jesuit recently told me, “Sometimes, Catholics need to learn to be Christian.” We can get lost in our ceremonies and miss Christ among the formalities….which can include educational programs, courtship books, and other frameworks we are given. I’m sure it’s not just us, but it’s the environment I see most regularly.

Back to reading!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred

This book review is going to be different because I’m going to do something I have never done before….but hey, it’s my blog! I’m going to post occasional updates as I read….and wrap it up at the end with one summary. The reason for that is because Mud & Poetry is not your “Oh, I can knock this out in three days” type of book. It’s not an efficient book, but rather a pondering book, and it takes quality time to sift through if you’re going to read it right.

Mud & Poetry by Tyler Blanski is a good alternative to Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility, or even The Four Loves if you’ve been through those types of books already and burned out on them. It’s contemporary, philosophical, theological, but readable and relatable.

The first chapter is where Tyler describes the differences between Mud Love and Poetic Love. Poetic Love is a higher form of love than Mud Love, and the chapter is filled with various descriptions and metaphors to convey these concepts to readers.

My favorite quote from Chapter 1 is probably on page 15:
“You can’t have poetry without mud. Christianity knows this. This is why, for all its Sistine Chapels and Dantes and Bachs, it remains the faith of messy ordinary people living messy ordinary lives.”

I’m on Chapter 2 right now. Each chapter might be two sittings, and then you want to think about it and talk to people about what you read. That is why I’m choosing to fill you in gradually. Holding my thoughts in until the very end would be painful and unnatural! That said – I would recommend it for a book club. This is exactly the type of book you want: something that is meaty and will generate discussion among both men and women.

In Chapter 2, Tyler talks about how popular culture’s concepts of the roving bachelor are damaging and unhealthy. Yet, he also mentions that Christianity’s courtship movement can also be damaging and unhealthy. He says on page 35:

“Here’s the thing. Reading Christian courting books isn’t at all the same as pornography. But it had a similar result in me. I created a world of romance and sex and relationship that doesn’t exist in real life. It was flowery. It looked pure. But it wasn’t real. It wasn’t a beautiful brown, like a pint of Guinness. And I believe relationships hurtle us, sometimes against our will, into the most fundamental reality of what it means to be human.”

Thank you, Tyler, thank you. You’ve said it well.

I discovered Tyler Blanski on CNN.com’s Belief Blog. When I read his post, I thought “Oh my gosh, I need to talk to this fellow.” Well, he’s a really nice guy and does check his fan mail. Tyler is Anglican and is sometimes compared to a modern day C.S. Lewis. His faith is, to me, pretty traditional and I don’t think Catholics will feel out of their element while reading his work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breakfast with the Pope - A Brave Story of Faith



If you are tired of sugar coated Catholic prose, and want a more raw account of a person who tries to lead a Catholic life, drop what you are doing and buy Breakfast with the Pope. Click the link and insta-order. Seriously.

Susan Vigilante chronicles her struggle with infertility, her quest to become a writer, and the joys and sorrows of friendship and family life. A young brother-in-law struggles with cancer as she prays for his healing. A bosom friend leaves to become a nun. She visits Italy and meets John Paul II through Polish friends. And, she gets to know recipients of Padre Pio's many miracles.

This brave memoir is easy-to-read, well written, and covers many topics that will fascinate Catholics. It has laugh out loud moments. But, more importantly, the story urges readers to be more compassionate, open, and real with themselves and others. It challenges us to acknowledge what we really think when things get awkward or go completely off-course.

In Breakfast with the Pope, Susan introduces us to her unexpected candor and uncommon honesty. Rather than artfully sidestepping her crosses or disappointments, she walks through the burning coals. Instead of taking a detour away from the Church and following an easier route, she stays the course and takes us over the bumps in the road with her.

She has also known profound privilege and good fortune. How many of us will ever have breakfast with a pope? It’s a story you have to read.

While I think everyone needs this book, it's not your typical Catholic bookstore item. Even though Susan stands by her faith when many others would throw in the towel, it wouldn’t get through most Catholic publishing houses. Lines would have been struck in the editorial rituals, conformity checks, and hyper-piety filters. It’s not sandpapered down. Thank God it got published as is though. We need bold story telling to convey big life lessons in all of their natural texture and glory.

The book itself is beautiful. The cover design, the high quality paper, the uneven finish of the pages. I read it within three days and it is a keeper, because I will certainly read it again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Courtship vs. Dating: Why Dating is More Likely to Get You Married



I briefly mention in my book that I am not a fan of courtship manuals, but didn’t go in depth on my reasons why. From my perspective, it was more helpful to focus on positive and action oriented suggestions that would help women find a good man. However, some readers want more information on why I am not a fan of the courtship fad.

If this topic is of interest to you, please check out this Valentine’s Day piece I wrote for The Catholic Exchange.

I also mention this topic here in an interview with The Catholic Post.

I’m sure these won’t be the last places I talk about this topic, so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Save $25 on AveMariaSingles.com – Code AM0051


Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m doing a radio tour for Valentine’s Day and you know what my top advice is for people who want to find a spouse? Get online!

For observant Catholics, AveMariaSingles.com is good option and I’ve met some AveMaria marriages in recent months, so it does work for some people. That said, please consider putting an egg in this basket.

AveMariaSingles.com does a one-time membership fee rather than billing by the month, so it does cost a little bit more up front than other Web sites. But – use the code and get $25.

Let me know if you meet anyone!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Faith Was Lacking at 2011 AWP Conference


When you move mountains in your schedule to attend something, it’s annoying when the event doesn’t turn out to be as advertised. That’s what I feel happened to me with the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference this year.

Oftentimes, it turns out that my favorite artists are fallen away Catholics or can’t articulate their spiritual beliefs. So, you can imagine my excitement when I saw these two sessions advertised for the February 3rd line up at the conference:

Faith and the Writer: Inspiration and Practice.

The Rosary Effect: The Challenges of Writing from a Catholic Perspective.


I paid $110 for the privilege of attending the conference that day. So excited was I to find other professional writers with faith that I came early to both of these sessions in order to secure a front row seat. However, as the sessions unfolded, I felt scammed.

It was difficult for me to identify more than one or two people who seemed to have authentic faith of any kind on these panels. I heard a lot of anti-Catholic, anti-church, or anti-religion people describe their thoughts and feelings. Some of the speakers seemed incapable of understanding what faith is and means to the 90% of Americans who reportedly have it.

While a token atheist or agnostic would have provided diversity for the Faith and the Writer session, I didn’t get the impression that anyone felt the need to maintain balance or think about the audiences these titles would attract. The sessions, from my perspective, needed more panelists with a confident sense of belief to fly.

It didn’t feel “right” to attend a session that promised discussions about faith and writing, only to hear something like, “Oh, I really don’t think so highly of faith or have it myself.” It was a tad bit condescending, and in the end, I felt that my faith was manipulated to support a cause that was misrepresented in the program.

I hope to propose a session for next year’s conference that gives a more compelling analysis of faith and writing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Beautifully Written Catholic Memoir


Burst is the Catholic memoir to read when you want a well-written, inspirational story that won’t take weeks to complete. It’s a small book with a big message and one-of-a-kind stories.

I met Kevin Wells through our editor. We both went through the same publishing house, Servant Books, and signed our books together at the National Shrine recently. What a great guy! He dubbed me “Servant Sister” and that makes him my “Servant Brother.”

I bought his book, had him sign it for me, and immediately started reading it. It starts with him being taken to a hospital when his brain starts bleeding, and so the title, “Burst,” refers to blood vessels bursting.

What Kevin suffered through will make anyone shake their head in dismay. How could this happen to a young father and husband in good health? But, severe illness and brushes with death can bring blessings, and through this book, Kevin shares his with us.

Suffering can refine people’s perspective on life and bringing them closer to God. Kevin already had a close relationship with God prior to his illness, so I think that means that his pain and misery brought him especially close to God. Sitting in that spot with him may help you come to some important realizations too.

With this unique perspective, Kevin takes us through his early career as a sports writer, struggles with infertility, and the nightmare of losing his beloved uncle, Monsignor Wells, to a murderer. He takes us through the adoption of his three children and the healing power of God. I’m talking real physical healing…through the intercession of the saints. Yes – miracles still happen!

And the writing – oh the writing! He’s a real pro. I re-read many of his exquisitely crafted sentences. You will seldom find such beautiful writing in a contemporary Catholic non-fiction book. This book gives you a powerful story of God’s grace that is very Catholic without sacrificing style or the art of words. You will also laugh; Kevin has a great sense of humor. He’ll certainly write many more books!

Kevin Wells is a writer you want to discover early on. Buy Burst. It’s the perfect length for a lazy weekend, a retreat, or a snowy day! Later, when Kevin on some prestigious literary list, you’ll say, “Oh, I was a fan from the beginning.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Near-Death Experiences Show Importance of Faith and Relationships

My husband and I have become addicted to a show about near-death experiences: I Survived – Beyond and Back on the Biography channel.

The shows interests us because people who have near-death experiences get a very real look at the afterlife, and a lot of their experiences are relevant to what people believe as Christians. Some of the experiences confirm our beliefs.

For example, a lot of people will say that God is neither masculine nor feminine. Yet, prayers in the Catholic faith say “He” and even Jesus refers to God as “Father.” So far, the people we have heard who met God on the other side describe a male voice – one that resembles thunder. There isn’t ambiguity and the descriptions strike me as profoundly Scriptural, traditional, and well…masculine.

We have heard three stories of people being sent to Hell. I was raised in the “New Age” tradition where I wasn’t sure if there was a Hell. One of the reasons I became Christian is because my life experience confirmed that there was good and evil, and I wanted to learn more about the good. Two descriptions we have heard of Hell so far (one of those descriptions was actually from another show, Celebrity Ghost Stories) are nearly identical. The people who were sent to Hell immediately experienced evil, dark entities clawing at them. They could not break free. One of those people had recently murdered someone.

Another man who went to Hell found himself in a jail cell that featured a dark, fiery pit with screams coming from the distance. He had no clothes. A large hand – God – rescued him, and said “It’s not your time yet” and sent him back to his body in the hospital bed.

What is threshold for being sent to Hell? Well, the guy who ended up in the jail cell wasn’t my idea of a horrible person, but confessed that he was materialistic and wasn’t making the best life choices. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that means. He was a husband and father for many years and didn’t give specifics.

Another man did not go to Hell, but was warned to change his ways. He was reminded of times when he said hurtful things, or withheld kind comments.

But, what is amazing is that the vast majority of the people we have heard from were definitely Heaven-bound. They are frequently greeted by relatives. If they have a choice to stay in Heaven or return to Earth, they normally return for relationships with children or spouses. It convinces me further that helping people get to ‘I do’ is a worthy goal!

The Heaven-bound folks all came off as good people, but not super holy and not always churchgoers. So it leaves me with a lot of questions, and I’ve been analyzing these stories backwards and forwards for answers.

If this subject area interests you, watch the show!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

6 Ways to Connect in the New Year

There are lots of ways to connect with me in the New Year!

- Write: The contact form on my “Connect” page is up and running. Please feel free to drop me a line.

- In-Person: I will be at the National Shrine on January 23 (before the pro-life march) signing books.

- Listen: I’m launching a Valentine’s Day (or “season”) campaign and expect to do 20 radio shows. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@AmyBonaccorso) and/or my Facebook Fan Page if you want notifications.

- Mail: Want your book signed, but don’t live in the DC area? Send me a note on the Connect page. Send me your book, I’ll sign it and mail it back to you.

- Read: In addition to my book, I publish new and fresh thoughts every week. Most recently, I posted on the Catholicmatch.com Blog, Faith, Hope, & Love (How The Holy Spirit Is Working Through My New Book) and became an official Catholicmatch.com blogger.

- Share: I see your tweets about my book and appreciate positive book reviews, especially on Amazon.com. It’s a huge compliment when you share the book with others and I enjoy the new connections it creates!

Blessings!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011- Rebel Against Stupidity

My 2011 New Year’s Resolution is a bit odd: I am rebelling against stupidity. How did this come about? Well, a lot of the times, we turn on the news or learn about some new change, and we sit there wondering, “Why? That’s stupid.”

For example, I learned yesterday that I was somehow automatically signed up for a service I do not need or want. I called weeks ago to confirm that I was doing the correct thing to prevent any unexpected sign ups. You can imagine how annoyed I was when I found out that regardless of my conscientious follow up, some form of stupidity had prevailed, and not in my favor. Of course, that means I have to spend my personal time making phone calls to correct this mess up.

This kind of time wasting, nonsensical stupidity is so pervasive.

I’m not always content with passivity, but there is only so much I can do to change the world around me. I wrote my book and hopefully that is helping people field the stupidity in the Catholic dating world. But, I wondered what I could do in my own life to make things more functional? More rational?

I started in December 2010 with a quick analysis. Finances came first. I paid off all credit cards I had with balances because thankfully, I really don’t need to carry balances. Therefore, carrying a balance for me personally is stupid. The interest rate just increases the amount I originally paid for whatever I charged, which negates the purpose of sale hunting.

I am also looking around my house, trying to find ways of neatening it up, because neat surroundings tend to be more positive. The vibes are just better. Being tidy is not always my first priority, but I think I can do better. There is a certain stupidity factor when your mess gets in the way of relaxation or productivity.

A week or two ago, I was prepping for 2011 and pointed to a jacket on the floor. I looked at my husband. He said, “Oh no, 2010 is ending, the year of the stupid, and that means that jacket has to go.” Yes, it should either go in the closet or in a donation bag, because it does not belong on the floor.

Any “stupid” things you want to change for yourself in 2011?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 - Rebel Against Stupidity

My 2011 New Year’s Resolution is a bit odd: I am rebelling against stupidity. How did this come about? Well, a lot of the times, we turn on the news or learn about some new change, and we sit there wondering, “Why? That’s stupid.”

For example, I learned yesterday that I was somehow automatically signed up for a service I do not need or want. I called weeks ago to confirm that I was doing the correct thing to prevent any unexpected sign ups. You can imagine how annoyed I was when I found out that regardless of my conscientious follow up, some form of stupidity had prevailed, and not in my favor. Of course, that means I have to spend my personal time making phone calls to correct this mess up.

This kind of time wasting, nonsensical stupidity is so pervasive.

I’m not always content with passivity, but there is only so much I can do to change the world around me. I wrote my book and hopefully that is helping people field the stupidity in the Catholic dating world. But, I wondered what I could do in my own life to make things more functional? More rational?

I started in December 2010 with a quick analysis. Finances came first. I paid off all credit cards I had with balances because thankfully, I really don’t need to carry balances. Therefore, carrying a balance for me personally is stupid. The interest rate just increases the amount I originally paid for whatever I charged, which negates the purpose of sale hunting.

I am also looking around my house, trying to find ways of neatening it up, because neat surroundings tend to be more positive. The vibes are just better. Being tidy is not always my first priority, but I think I can do better. There is a certain stupidity factor when your mess gets in the way of relaxation or productivity.

A week or two ago, I was prepping for 2011 and pointed to a jacket on the floor. I looked at my husband. He said, “Oh no, 2010 is ending, the year of the stupid, and that means that jacket has to go.” Yes, it should either go in the closet or in a donation bag, because it does not belong on the floor.

Any “stupid” things you want to change for yourself in 2011?