good for the soul

some thoughts on this memorial of St. Thomas Becket

Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on some thoughts on this memorial of St. Thomas Becket

canterburyToday’s memorial of St. Thomas Becket finds me reflecting on my career as a teacher of literature, retirement, and the importance of going on pilgrimages. All three of those things came together for me recently, as I had the opportunity to visit Canterbury Cathedral and reflect first,on St. Thomas’ martyrdom and then, my years of teaching T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

I can’t escape from my love of literature, and why would I want to? I’ve learned, too, that I can’t escape my longing for the Eucharist, for Jesus.

While John and I were traipsing around Scotland enjoying an epic almost month-long vacation, I became acutely aware that our travels were slowly turning into a pilgrimage. We might have called our desire to visit historical places a kind of secular pilgrimage, but our thoughts and actions turned to the Church fairly soon after our arrival. Isolation and a terrible experience programming an old Garmin GPS caused us to miss Mass on our first Sunday there. While it wasn’t intentional, it left us with the determination to plan carefully so we wouldn’t find ourselves in the same predicament the next weekend. There was an abundance of services for the Church of Scotland, but finding a Roman Catholic Church and Mass proved to be a challenge in some of the more isolated areas we visited in the Orkney Islands.

The unintended result? A constant state of awareness of this absence, and sheer and utter joy whenever discovering an RC Church in our travels. Communion, when we attended Mass, ceased to be an element of rote participation. I’m ashamed to say that it took the fear of missing the gift of the Eucharist (perceived rather than fact) that gave it the import it deserves weekly, if not daily.

One of my favorite visits was to the Italian Chapel, which deserves a post by itself. Another church, St. Margaret’s in the little town of Roy Bridge, had a shrine to St. Mary MacKillop, a saint I feature in my new book that comes out this fall. Every day brought some aspect of my faith alive, especially as we visited medieval and older churches that have been desanctified. I didn’t expect to be struck by so much sorrow in this, but it seemed like church after church in small villages have been turned over for use as community centers or worship in other traditions.

Eventually, we made our way up and around Scotland, and returned to London for the last few days of our trip. One of those days involved a trip south to Canterbury, and then Dover. While I love me some Matthew Arnold, I reread some of the tales from The Canterbury Tales. The trip to Canterbury was filled with excitement and expectation, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it. What an astounding magnificent structure! Majestic!

I smiled at my pilgrimage there — the stories I would tell some day! The funny adventures John and I had for several weeks that have ended here on our last day of the trip. We entered, excited, and lingered over the baptismal font, set in a space larger than our little parish at home. Our reverie was interrupted by an Anglican priest who invited everyone present to prayer, as the cathedral is an active place of worship. John and I stopped and joined in silence. There was something both familiar and awkward about it.

John eventually had to sit down, but I went on for what seemed like miles, deeper and deeper into the cathedral until I reached the steps that signaled the site of the once-shrine of St. Thomas Becket. All that is left is a candle burning on the floor, a place-holder for where the shrine once stood. I prayed there for a little while, and ducked into a tiny chapel to the left — a place where there might have been a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament if history had played out differently.

It left me yearning again, an experience I admit is brand new to me. We left soon after, and as John and I walked in the shadow of the cathedral toward the center of town for lunch, I shared those thoughts with him. He had to stop and rest a little before we kept going, and we found a place to sit,  when he pointed out the RC sign on the side of a building, and the presence of Catholic Church nearby. That’s when we found St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church. I went inside only to discover it was covered in scaffolding. Still, I could see the altar clearly, and the tabernacle. Amazing the peace and gratitude I felt in that moment.

I started this vacation with an eye to history and literature, surprised at every turn that made it clearer and clearer I was on an unplanned pilgrimage. In that smaller church, somewhat eclipsed by the grandeur of the cathedral down the street, I discovered my need for pilgrimage — my need to see and feel and walk in the footsteps of saints.

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back in bayou la batre

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on back in bayou la batre

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It seems I’m destined for a lot of travel this year. Who can complain about that? I wish I could say this last trip was to exotic and faraway places, but it wasn’t. Still, it took me away from home and my honey. I’m happy to be back.

Chores and some other things awaited me, so I didn’t feel like I had reached my down time at home. I even felt a little off, like Fall wasn’t quite right with this new scenery. I missed the Stone Mountain daisies that cover all the granite in Rockdale and DeKalb this time of year. Silly me, ruminating on somewhere else and not seeing the prettiful sights in front of me.

My errand to the post office fixed that mindset. The office closed from 12:00 to 1:00 for lunch, and it was 12:05. I had to get the package in the mail, so I hung around the area, exploring.

What a blessing!

Salt marshes have replaced the ubiquitous granite. No more Stone Mountain daisies — time to learn the names of the wildflowers here! No bluebirds, but pelicans are everywhere, and I even saw some ducks and geese. A lot of the winter migration goes through this area, so I better be on the lookout for some other delights.

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118: 24

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3 joys for today

Posted by on Jun 22, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on 3 joys for today

The cheaters way to 3,000 words 😉

yellow rose



and a Bonus! because who doesn’t love their Momma?


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love love love

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in good for the soul | 1 comment

I’m sipping some tea late into the night. It was hot at the baseball game, and even though we were having fun, it was hot. So now, after a shower, I don’t feel like going to sleep, but I don’t want to watch any more news, either. Tomorrow I’ll catch up. Tonight, I think I’ll just sit in the half light, drink my tea before it gets cold, and pray. The world needs prayer. And love. So much love.

I like the technique proposed by Pope Francis, to use your hand as a guide for prayer:

1. Thumb: This is closest to you, so pray for your dear ones, your family, your friends.

2. Index finger. We point with this finger – pray for teachers, the people who guide you, law enforcement and emergency responders. They need God’s guidance, too, to do their work.

3. The middle finger. Sometimes we use it in a not-so-nice-manner. It’s the tallest finger, so pray for our leaders. The world is a mess. Policies are a mess. People are a mess. We need good leaders to help us. To make this world a better place for everyone.

4. The ring finger. Associated with marriage and love. It’s also the weakest finger. Pray for the weak. The marginalized. The misunderstood. We are all God’s children. We are all worthy of  love.

5. The pinkie.  This is the smallest finger, and reminds you to pray for yourself. Putting ourselves last in this prayer strategy doesn’t mean we dismiss ourselves — it helps us order our needs after thinking broadly about our relationships.

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The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in good for the soul, Reading Challenge, reviews | Comments Off on The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

Catholic Moms Prayer BookComing soon! The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion:A Book of Daily Reflections

Are you a Catholic mom who prays for the wisdom and patience to get through each day? Do you pray for your children, husband, family and friends, and sometimes even yourself? The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion offers a new, daily resource to make the most of those few, precious minutes you have to pause and reflect.

You’ll find encouragement when you’re struggling, reassurance when you feel alone, and comfort when you’re distracted by worry. Created by moms for moms, these hope-filled meditations touch on the issues and concerns you face as you try to get through the day with a sense of God’s presence in your life. 

I’m delighted to be a contributor to this great resource. Go ahead and pre-order so you’re ready for the new year!

Pre-order online today at:

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simple advice for you

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in good for the soul | 2 comments

I ran across this wonderful video on the Aleteia YouTube channel and I want to share it with you. It’s short. It’s simple. It’s Truth, capital T.

I didn’t really begin to understand the Father’s love until I had children of my own. I gained a better understanding of my parents, and the unconditional love for my own children that wants nothing more than what’s good for them. How beautiful to love our children — how beautiful to be loved. How overwhelming good and beautiful to entrust ourselves to a loving God who will pick us up. Every time.




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