Monday, June 29, 2015

The Very Air I Breathe

'One glance 
at the holy Gospel, 
and the life of Jesus 
becomes a perfume that 
fills the very air I breathe.'

St. Therese of Lisieux

Painting: Léon Frédéric, Fragrance, in US public domain due to age

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Criticism Unveiled

'Criticism of others is ... an oblique 
form of self-condemnation. 
We think we make the picture 
hang straight on our wall by 
telling our neighbor that
all his pictures are crooked.'

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Painting: Edgar Degas

Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.
Read more at:
Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.
Read more at:
Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked.
Read more at:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where Is My Heart?

'God will love you, of course, even though you do not love Him, but remember if you give Him only half your heart, He can make you only fifty percent happy. You have freedom only to give your heart away. To whom do you give yours? You give it either

to the moods of the hour, 
to your egotism, 
to creatures, 
or to God.'

Archbishop Fulton Sheen 

Painting: Guy Rose, in US public domain due to age

Sunday, June 21, 2015

If We Are Truly Friends

'Eating and drinking don't make friendships - such friendships even robbers and murderers have. But if we are friends, if we truly care for one another, let's help one another spiritually... Let's hinder those things that lead our friends away to hell.'

St. John Chrysostom

Painting: Mabel Frances Layng, The Cafe

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shields for One Another

'I would counsel those who practice prayer
to seek, especially in the beginning, friendship 
and association with other persons having this same interest... 
This spiritual friendship is so extremely 
important for souls not yet fortified in virtue - since they have so many opponents
and friends to incite them to evil - 
I don't know how to urge it enough... 
It is necessary for those who serve Him 
to become shields for one another 
that they might advance.'

St. Teresa of Avila

Painting: Winslow Homer

Monday, June 15, 2015

Be the Stars of Their Dark Nights

             'Millions there are who are fluttering like wounded birds around the Rock.
             Get on your knees for them; sacrifice for them. 
             Be the sign of the Eternal on the face of the earth, 
             the mystery of faith against the mystery of iniquity. 
             Bear love to those who hate; bring pity to the world's tears;     
             bless those who have forgotten the need of blessing. 
             Be the hidden writing on the parchment of their world. 
             Be the stars of their dark nights.' 

             Archbishop Fulton Sheen


                    Painting: George Henry Boughton

Friday, June 12, 2015

Let the Admirable Modesty

'Let the admirable modesty 
of your Saviour be seen 
in your countenance,
in your movements,
and in your apparel.' 

St. Paul of the Cross

Painting: Richard Edward Mille, in US public domain due to age

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

But I Have a Wandering Mind

"Some say 'I do not make mental prayer, because I am subject to desolation, to distractions, and to temptations. I have a wandering mind that I cannot confine to the subject of meditation, and therefore I have given up mental prayer.' But to such persons St. Francis de Sales says: if in their meditations they do nothing else than banish distractions and temptations, the meditation is well made, provided the distraction is not voluntary. The Lord is pleased with a good intention, with patient endurance, during the whole time prescribed for meditation, and with pain arising from distractions, and will bestow many graces in return. We ought to go to prayer, not to please ourselves, but to please God. Even holy souls generally suffer aridity in meditation, but because they persevere, God enriches them with His blessings.' 

St. Alphonsus Liguori

 Painting: Carl Holsoe, in US public domain due to age

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sticks and Stones

It was an ultimate comeback to childhood taunts. I can picture myself now as I chanted it; my head thrown back, nose stuck proudly in the air, voice carrying every speck of authority I could muster.  'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!'

I would march away after this proclamation, pretending not to hear the continued words hurled toward my back.  'Skinnybones!  Beanpole!  You must have to run around in the shower to get wet!'

My fourth grade classmates were not throwing stones, so I was allegedly unaffected.  Mother and my teacher assured me that as long as no physical violence ensued, I would be just fine. 

I was not so sure. As I grew into my teenage years, even a suddenly changing public taste for leanness could not convince me it was okay to be the beanpole I'd been steadily told I was.  Add to that the teasing I got about talking too fast, being 'smart,' needing glasses (which I refused to wear), not being able to catch a ball (which I couldn’t see...), and I wound up feeling I was well below par. Sticks and stones had not been thrown, but youthful words had wounded.

I'm now many years past fourth grade, and my friends are grownups.  We don't throw sticks and stones, and of course adults never hurl wounding words at one another. 

Do we.  

I have been thinking about this, and of what I've seen words do.  Over the years, I have watched as words built and severed relationships, marred reputations, and thoroughly changed lives. I'm paying closer attention to my own speech these days, and to the conversations in which I engage.  Here is one (fictional) example of some word power I've observed: 

Sarah and Jo are talking about their new neighbor, Anne.  She's nice, says Jo, even if she is a bit quirky.  'Quirky?' asks Sarah, curious about Jo's description.

Oh, you know, says Jo. 'Just those eccentric traits. Like, oh you know.... going out to church every morning, and Kathy saw her there once in a veil. A veil! Like it was 1942!'  Kathy, a Catholic neighbor, has told Jo that veils in church are ridiculous in this day and age. 'But Anne means well,' adds Jo. 'Bless her heart. And it's nice to finally have a new family in that old house. Even if there are so many of them that who knows how they all fit?' Jo and Sarah both laugh at that one. The neighborhood has been abuzz with news of the new couple and their SEVEN children.

Comments like Jo's could not possibly bother Anne, who has no idea that this conversation has even taken place.  So these words can't hurt her.  Can they? 

I suggest that yes, even when unheard by the 'victim,' such words can.

Sarah begins to notice the things Jo mentioned, and then a few more besides.  Without realizing it, she starts being annoyed by the way Anne talks. That funny regional accent and the high pitched laugh. And the piety Sarah had actually been drawn to until Jo labeled it 'fanaticism.'  At the last minute, Sarah decides against inviting Anne to the book club she's starting.  After all, Anne probably wouldn't fit in.  Sarah points out a few of Anne's traits to her husband, and then to another couple who join them for dinner one evening.  They have a few laughs.  

Without even knowing why, Anne starts feeling shunned. She's excluded from a book club where she could have made a few new friends.  Sticks and stones have not been thrown, but words have truly hurt her.  

We have all seen the power of words, for good and for bad. Sometimes I think we'll see the full effects of them only in Eternity. 'I tremble to think that I have to give an account of my tongue,' wrote St. Faustina. 'There is life, but there is also death in the tongue.... I have known a person who, when she learned from someone that a certain thing was being said about her, fell seriously ill. She lost a good deal of blood and shed many tears, and the outcome was very sad. It was not the sword that did all this, but the tongue. O my silent Jesus, have mercy on us!'
Have mercy on us, indeed. May we have grace to put away our whispered sticks, our spoken stones. 

This post was originally published on Suscipio, 2012

 Painting: Eugene de Blaas, The Friendly Gossips

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sainthood 101

'Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what You want me to be and becoming that person.' 

St. Therese of Lisieux

Painting: Gari Melchers; in US public domain due to age

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

If We Fail 50 Times A Day

'Even if we happened to fail 
fifty times a day, 
we must still, 
each time, 
get back immediately 
to Our Lord and make acts of love.'

Dom Marmion

Painting: Arthur Hacker

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Power of Gossip

'It is my belief that the sin of spreading gossip involves all that's most evil and wicked. Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, this sin includes the poison of all the vices: the meanness of vanity, the venom of jealousy, the bitterness of anger, the malice of hatred, and the flightiness and irresponsibility unworthy of a Christian.... It breaks up friendships; hinders enemies from reconciling their differences; disturbs the peace of homes; turns brother against brother; husband against wife, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, and son-in-law against father-in-law. How many harmonious households have been turned upside down by one evil tongue, so that their members couldn't bear to see or to speak to one another? And only one malicious tongue, belonging to a neighbor, man or woman, can be the cause of all this misery.'
                                                                                  St. John Vianney

Painting: Pieter de Hooch