Students of Pope Francis summarize his agenda with the phrase “pastoral conversion.” Lent is an especially suitable time to think and pray about conversion. But what is pastoral conversion?
An important lesson that I learned about Lent actually came from a Jewish friend. While working at Purdue University, I served under Dr. Robert Ringel, a devout man who approached his religious observances with deep care. In the first year that I worked for him, he came into my office to seek forgiveness for any wrong he may have done me. This was part of his preparation for Yom Kippur, a high holy day for the Jewish people and a day of atonement for sins against God and his people.
Prayer can be mysterious—in particular, other people’s prayer can be mysterious. In our November issue, we went ahead and asked six brave souls to reveal the benefits they reap and the struggles they have when they pray ("Private practices: The real prayer lives of Catholics," pages 12-17).
Here are a few additional Catholics who were willing to give us a glimpse into their day-to-day prayer lives:
When you try to pray, do you fidget? Do you keep starting a grocery list in your head? Don’t worry. Just give God 20 minutes.
When Father William Meninger left his post in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington in 1963 to join the Trappists at St. Joseph Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, he told his mother, “That’s it, Mom. I’ll never be outside again.”
It didn’t quite turn out that way. One day in 1974 Meninger dusted off an old book in the monastery library, a book that would set him and some of his fellow monks on a whole new path. The book was The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous 14th-century manual on contemplative meditation. Meninger says, “I was amazed at the practicality of it.”
Pray tell, when was the last time you actually talked to anyone about your prayer life? Six Catholics open up about how they talk—and listen—to God each day.
Catholics believe in life after death, but things get complicated when those departed spirits start creeping across your living room.
About 10 years ago, Marla Fisher and her husband, Everett, were leaving their Pasadena, Texas ranch-style home for a weekend getaway. As Everett backed out of the driveway, Marla remembered that she’d left her curling iron in the bathroom, and she went back to retrieve it.
The couple had been renting the house for about four years, and every once in a while Marla would reach over to turn on a lamp and nothing would happen. Then she’d tighten the bulb and the light would come on.
There’s something appropriate about turning 40 in a place where you might get eaten by a grizzly.
The mountains don’t care about you,” says the forest ranger, having just finished his bear-safety talk for probably the third time that day. In case you don’t already know: Hang your food at night; only prepare meals in designated areas; and whatever you do, do not run from a bear (it activates the chasing instinct). These are rules to live by in the wilds of backcountry Montana, where one should also be on the lookout for mountain lions—far less predictable than grizzly bears.
Being a practicing Catholic has become a covert operation for some young adults, who are choosing to keep their faith to themselves rather than explain the church’s public stance on certain controversial issues.
Ten ways to determine if a practice is compatible with your Catholic faith.
Just because a spiritual practice comes from outside the Christian tradition doesn’t automatically mean it conflicts with church teaching—nor does it automatically mean the opposite. If you’re not so sure about your son’s meditation practice, your friend’s devotion to reiki, or if you can, in good faith, take that yoga class, your goal should be to wisely discern the answer.
Susan Pudelek spent two decades working in interreligious contexts, including a stint on the staff of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. In her current work as director of pilgrimage ministry at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago, she oversees occasional interreligious workshops and events. For those who want to learn about or participate in practices of other religions, she offers these guidelines.
1. The more grounded you are in your own religion, the more you have to offer others.