Hanging By a Thread… of Beads

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Amidst the strange events that are unfolding worldwide, I have been so grateful for my Rosary. The Holy Rosary is my tangible link to the Blessed Mother who continually leads me more deeply into relationship with the Trinity. A month or so ago, I gave a talk to a moms’ Bible study group in which I shared my personal story of how I came to rely on the Rosary. A mere string of beads has been a source of strength and comfort when I had nowhere else to turn—and thanks be to the Almighty, those beads are fortifying me once again when so much uncertainty and fear abound. What a profound sense of peace to pray the Luminous Mysteries with the Pope and the rest of the world this week. I hope we all continue to pick up this powerful devotion daily and marvel at the results.

You don’t have to enjoy saying the Rosary. Truth be told, I often don’t. But, now more than ever, give it a chance. I hope the talk I’ve linked below helps you understand why.

Here’s the intro they read before I began.

Our speaker today is Mary Jo Gerd. She has been married for more than 15 years to a wonderful husband she believes God handpicked for her.

However, she is currently employed by three overbearing, domineering bosses…ages 13, 11, and 9. They just happen to call her mom which is the best and hardest job she’s ever had.

Before taking on that important role, she worked as a promotions writer and producer for a movie channel, doing trailers, celebrity interviews, and red carpets. She traded in her “glamorous” media job for the more rewarding, albeit lower-paying vocation of full-time wife and mother. She hasn’t looked back since. Well, maybe once or twice.

She and her family are active members of their Denver parish. She enjoys writing about family life and her reversion to the Catholic faith on her personal blog, Late For Church.blog. You can often find her essays featured on New Advent. She’s been regularly interviewed on Relevant Radio’s, “Morning Air” discussing all sorts of Catholic topics. And she is a brand new board member of the non-profit organization, Families of Character.

Please welcome Mary Jo Gerd.

“Adulting” Through Lent

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Somehow, it is both shocking and no big surprise that the term “adulting” has worked its way into our cultural lexicon. We collectively commend someone when he dutifully takes on the responsibility assigned to his stage in life. “Yay for you, Gary! You’re paying off your college loans on time.” Yet, as creatures accustomed to so much comfort and ease we will often do whatever it takes to avoid facing difficult but necessary challenges of growth. “But I don’t want to have kids until I’ve lived a full life and visited every major league ballpark in the U.S.”

I recently watched a documentary, “American Factory” which details a Chinese company’s take-over of a shuttered Ohio factory. The Chinese employees who are sent to oversee the transition cannot even conceive how to manage the entitled Americans. In a meeting to discuss the major problem of motivating their reluctant employees, they learn that from a young age Americans are coddled. They are rewarded and propped up even when it is undeserving. The aghast Chinese managers are warned to never criticize American employees. 

This sobering account of American society got me thinking about how our Christian faith offers the perfect antidote to this cultural sickness. And it’s completely contrary to the relentless Communist Chinese work ethic which diminishes and risks individual lives for the supposed sake of the whole. Rather, Jesus Christ by his incarnation teaches of us what it truly means to be fully human. To be a real adult. Throughout his life on Earth and especially on the cross, he exemplified the pouring out of his self as an act of sacrifice for others, for me. If Christ offers us the grace and example to be fully human, then Lent offers us an opportunity to grow as fully Catholic. This is a time to enter into our humanity while delving deeper into the mysteries of our faith. It’s a time to discern our motivations. Are we driven to do good because of pride, or fear, or because we know it’s right? Do we attend Mass out of duty or a sincere sense of piety? Are we able to eschew comfort for the sake of spiritual maturity and to help a neighbor? In becoming more fully Christian, we naturally become more adult. Living as a spiritual adult is a noble goal, but how does one practically get there? I’m sharing some simple personal Lenten guidelines to help me “adult” through this Lent.

Continue reading ““Adulting” Through Lent”

“Punch him. Kick him. Crucify Him!”

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What does a young woman’s self-defense class have to do with our Lord’s harrowing journey to the cross? I posted this essay last year and it remains one of my most popular to date.  Find out why…

Every year with the arrival of Holy Week, I endeavor to place myself in the unfolding drama of our Lord’s incomprehensible path to Calvary. It is an extremely fruitful and therefore established devotion of prayer in preparation for the holiest days of the year. And no doubt, the Church in Her wisdom understands our need to unite in Christ’s suffering especially at this solemn time leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. So we pray the stations of the cross, we meditate on the most sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and during the Mass on Palm Sunday, we even get to play a role in the gospel’s Passion, interjecting vitriolic phrases like,

“Crucify Him. Crucify Him!”

Continue reading ““Punch him. Kick him. Crucify Him!””

Five Lenten Personality Disorders and Cures

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We are at the halfway point in Lent—officially midway through our 40-day spiritual desert. No doubt that means different things to each one of us depending on our unique personalities and proclivities. Some of us are barely limping along with gritted teeth. “What do you mean only twenty more days?!”  While others can’t seem to get enough of all this glorious prayer and penance. “Woohoo! Bring. IT. On. Lenten challenge accepted!” And the rest of us fall somewhere in between on the Lenten personality spectrum. Depending on the year and the circumstances surrounding my life, I’ve found myself all over the map when it comes to my attitude. While I think the world loves to caricature Catholics negatively, I couldn’t help poking some good-natured fun at the alter egos I’ve assumed or encountered on my Lenten journey. Maybe you’ll recognize one or two familiar traits in yourself as well.

Continue reading “Five Lenten Personality Disorders and Cures”

Lenten Mercy & A Ball of Yarn

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I started knitting recently. It turns out the ol’ inter-webs aren’t all bad. Via the université de Youtube, some very gracious ladies have kindly schooled me in the art of “casting on” and achieving my very first stitches. Under their expert tutelage, I will now be spending my free time connecting countless yarn chains, while hopefully breaking the bonds of slavery to my phone. That’s the plan, anyway.

I’m kind of enjoying it… I think. Progress has been slow. My kids, however, are already extremely confident in my abilities. They’ve even placed special orders which seems wildly premature since I have only a week of experience under my sans-a-belt. Against my better judgment, I have promised each of them a homemade scarf. At this rate, the scarves will make wonderful college graduation gifts. That gives me a good ten years before my oldest graces the stage of the auditorium to pick up his diploma and hopefully collect his glorious handkerchief-sized scarf.

Continue reading “Lenten Mercy & A Ball of Yarn”

Feasting, Fasting & Perfection

What’s your take on fasting? If you’re a well-adjusted God-fearing, healthy individual, it’s always a good thing, right? Recently, God the Father surprised me by His answer.

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Why am I even thinking about fasting now?! According to the liturgical calendar, we are squarely in a season of feasting. Woohoo! Lemme at the goodies! Yesterday we marked the joyful feast of the Epiphany. Our family joined another family at a doughnut shop after Mass. And what says feasting better than greasy fried cakes covered with icing and sprinkles? Nothing in my book. While I did manage to refrain from partaking in the sugary treats this time, the truth is, ever since Christmas Eve I have taken to the feasting principle like a portly duck to buoyant waters. Who doesn’t enjoy all the great foods that accompany our jubilant holy days during the Christmas season? I single-handedly made enough pizzelles to supply the Italian World Cup soccer team for a good year. Santo Cielo!

Continue reading “Feasting, Fasting & Perfection”

Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!

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Every year with the arrival of Holy Week, I endeavor to place myself in the unfolding drama of our Lord’s incomprehensible and arduous path to Calvary. It is an extremely fruitful and therefore established devotion of prayer in preparation for the Holiest day of the year. And no doubt, the Church in Her wisdom understands our need to unite in Christ’s suffering especially at this solemn time leading up to Jesus’ resurrection. So, during Lent we pray the stations of the cross, we meditate on the most sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, and during the Holy Mass on Palm Sunday, we even play a role in the gospel’s Passion, interjecting vitriolic phrases like, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him!” Were more cringe-worthy words ever uttered? As a child, I remember only whispering those lines because they were just too ugly to say with gusto. As much as I hate reciting them to this day, I now understand the importance of trying to be present with Christ and feel the onus of my own sinfulness. Like it or not, we actually play a part of that fateful scene 2000 years ago. Continue reading “Punch Him. Kick Him. Crucify Him!”

Look to the Light

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There’s a time in the late afternoon when the spectacular Denver sun streams through the windows of my kitchen, casting an illuminating beam across the expanse of floors and countertops. The light hits at such a precise angle as to expose a blanket of crumbs lurking near the toaster, the layers of dust hidden in a corner under a cabinet and the otherwise invisible stains near the base of our wastebasket. It’s as if nature’s very own high-powered S.W.A.T. searchlight pours into the shadows, revealing the hidden, dirty underbelly of the kitchen. Once in a while, I delight in the chance to wipe out a smattering of crumbs or rub out the trail of sticky spots on my laminate floor.

Continue reading “Look to the Light”