Catholic teens are looking for quiet spaces to develop personal relationships with Jesus through prayer and contemplation.
When I think of my teen years, I mostly remember a dark road. When I turned 15 I got my license and, with a small sum of money my dad gave me after he sold my childhood home, I bought myself a real beater of a car that you could hear coming from blocks away. I didn’t want to go home; my mother had died the year before, and my Dad had remarried and had a whole new family and a new house where I felt like a stranger. So I was always driving.
Mary Undoer of Knots has come to serve as a touchstone in my daily life, assisting me whenever new knots arise.
It was time to call in the big guns—Mary, the mother of God, and some industrious cherubs. I’d been wrestling with several impossible problems. Talk therapy worked to a degree. But certain issues are beyond copays and conversation. As a manager, I distributed work to capable employees, and I now imagined turning my personal issues over to celestial coworkers.
Silence is not an 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.
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.
The course of grieving is never smooth, but worship gives students a place to process their loss.
Not two minutes after transcribing my last interview for this story, my phone rang. An undergraduate student at St. John’s University, where I work, died suddenly just before Holy Week. I had just spent weeks listening to stories of loss from students and ministry professionals across the country. Now here was death, seeping hurt into my own home. My heavy heart grew heavier. I felt helpless.
At small group Masses, college students learn the importance of praying for and with each other.
It was my last week at Marquette University before leaving for a semester to study abroad in France. I’d just finished my last two papers, and while my dorm room was not at all packed up for my departure the next day, I decided it was time to take a breather. At 9:15 p.m. I headed off with a few other girls from my floor to the Tuesday night Mass in the Joan of Arc Chapel.
Building a relationship with God is a life-long process of transformation. The key is first figuring out where your heart lies.
What do you treasure the most? How do you imagine the world? Peter Feldmeier, professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Toledo, says if you are willing to ask yourself these questions, then you’re on the way to defining your own spirituality.
Catholics understand that images, scents, smells, and even gestures are holy.
Catholicism hasn’t always come easily to me. As a religion major at a liberal arts college and then a woman at a divinity school where the curriculum was designed to prepare ministers for ordination, I was constantly asked to defend and explain my faith. “But aren’t you a feminist?” people would ask. Or, “Why don’t you become Episcopalian? They’re almost like Catholics—and you could get ordained!”
Just like baking, prayer takes time, patience, and a dash of ingenuity.
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.
A weathered and worn prayer book reveals a spiritual life well lived.
Ever since I first learned the Hail Mary, I have loved prayer. Perhaps Sister taught us the Glory Be first. It’s shorter, more repetitious; if you know the sign of the cross, you’re halfway there. But it’s the Hail Mary I remember, specifically the pleasure of the word amongst. It was the mystical heart of the prayer for me—at least when I was six. I also loved the hallowed in the Our Father, and that ignominious lurked somewhere among the stations of the cross.
The biblical Sophia is more than metaphor; she is an expression of the presence of God.
At a retreat where I referred to Sophia several times in my first presentation, a man suddenly stood up and blurted out: “Just who is this Sophia? Stop assuming that everyone here knows who you are talking about!” His interruption startled me, and it reminded me that many do not know this jewel in scripture, that Sophia is hidden from many.