US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Ash Wednesday makes its mark

It’s the one day of the year when you know who believes what you believe.

By Ed Block |
Article Your Faith

Ash Wednesday is become a very popular feast day, perhaps more important to some people than Holy Days of Obligation. At Marquette University, where I teach, Ash Wednesday Mass and the distribution of ashes will positively fill the modest but spacious octagonal chapel in the student union. Student ministers will distribute the ashes, and as many as 200 students will file into the central sanctuary to have an often quite large sign of the cross marked on their foreheads in ash.


Bring a poem on your spiritual journey

Reading poetry shows us the beauty of the world through new eyes.

By Rhonda Miska |
Article Your Faith

“A poem in the pocket means we will be accompanied wherever we go,” writes Bishop Robert Morneau. 

Morneau’s words ring true to me. Poems have been sturdy companions on my spiritual journey, accompanying me through moments of rejoicing and lament and everything in between. While the liturgical prayer of the church and reflection on scripture are bedrock spiritual practices for me, praying with poetry has also been a fundamental part of my spiritual life for as long as I can remember. 


Write a sacred image

When artists create an icon, they engage in a centuries-long sacramental and theological practice. Their work reveals the unseen face of God.

By Jonathan Ryan |
Article Your Faith

A year before I became a Catholic, I went on a retreat to an Orthodox monastery north of Columbus, Ohio. The monks occupied an old farm house and converted the basement into a chapel, complete with large, colorful icons. Every morning I attended Morning Prayer while icons of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the saints looked on. The images stared at us, speaking in a mysterious language I didn’t quite understand, as we gazed back at them.


Go to God on the Compostela

The point of a pilgrimage is not simply moving from point A to point B in order to collect a coupon at the final destination.

By Angelo Stagnaro |
Article Your Faith

Those who practice Zen refer to sitting in meditation as zazen. The Japanese word means “just sitting.”

They do nothing else except sit and wait. Shedding the unnecessary. Allowing the world to reorder itself into its simplest form.


Tune into silence

Silence is not a battery-charging pit stop on the road of apostolic work. It is—or at least aspires to be—uniting one’s own heart with the heart of God.

By Rhonda Miska |
Article Your Faith

According to Trappist Father Thomas Keating, a decades-long practitioner and teacher of centering prayer, contemplative prayer is about relationship, not method. It’s your intention and your relationship with God that counts. 


Prayer from scratch

Just like baking, prayer takes time, patience, and a dash of ingenuity.

By Emily Sanna |
Article Your Faith

Growing up, I spent one week every summer with my grandparents in upstate New York. It was a week full of traditions and rituals that were repeated year after year, immersing me not only in the love my grandparents and I shared, but also our family history. We went for walks in the woods, visited the tiny public library, and I played with giant pickle jars full of buttons. Most important, we baked molasses cookies.


Lessons from my garden

Gardening isn’t just an issue of environmental sustainability. It’s also good for your soul.

By Christine Lai |
Article Lifestyle Your Faith
I sat down on my parents’ front lawn in Los Angeles and breathed in the fresh air. I dug my hands into the dirt, relishing the feeling. Then I began tearing out the grass. I despised the grass, in particular the amount of water it wasted in California’s record drought. I hated how yellow, brittle, and bald it was. I hated how difficult it was to remove, because of the thick roots that ran deep.
 

Why running can be prayer

Running and prayer are siblings in repetition.

By Nick Ripatrazone |
Article Your Faith
My wife and I run together at a local state park. “Together” is optimistic; I can no longer keep pace with her. We ran track together in college, but I am a few pounds heavier than in those days when I whipped around the track for the half-mile. 
 

Accompanying the suffering

Caring for people with AIDS taught this Catholic the value of human life.

By Sue Stanton |
Article Your Faith
As Ebola patients began to die in Africa last summer, it was not difficult for me to revisit the memory of my first AIDS patient. His death hurled me into an abyss, searching a dark corner of my own soul where, buried deep, lay the long held question of the value and meaning of human suffering. 
 

A canticle a day

Let the ancient words of Mary, Zechariah, or Simeon leave their mark on your heart.

By Ed Block |
Article Your Faith

One of the most valuable experiences from my boarding school days—and one that has remained with me—is the habit of formal prayer. I remember praying the Nunc Dimittis at night prayer in the quiet of my high school chapel: “Now you may dismiss your servant, Lord, according to your word, in peace.” Just saying the words instilled a sense of peace.


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