A Catholic Writer’s Must-Read List

There are so few great writing resources that offer solid spiritual and artistic foundations that we can turn to when we feel ourselves “lost” or confused at the crossroads between  faith and culture, between the demands of our art and the depth of our spiritual lives. I’ve read a lot of books about writing, and a strong selection of books about the artistic process and spirituality, and I’ve only come up with a handful. These are the resources that I go back to when I need inspiration. Here they are, in no particular order, with links and my highest recommendation for writers and artists!


The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright

The Christian Imagination edited by Leland Ryken

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

Letter to Artists by Pope St. John Paul II

Mystery and Manners and The Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor

Social Media: Help or Hindrance to Prayer?


I love this photo of our senior Sr. Maria Joseph keeping an open prayerline…through her smartphone!

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve received a few queries about “managing” social media in our lives. For those who have an active lifestyle and are truly engaged with the world, the pressures of our culture have made it harder to navigate that world with serenity. The question of how social media influences our lives—especially our interior lives of prayer and recollection—is a subject that the sisters in my community have been discussing for a few years now, and it’s a question that our young women preparing to be Daughters of Saint Paul also wrestle with. At our Apostolic Mysticism seminar—an international meeting of Daughters of Saint Paul around the world in May—it was the subject of several in-depth discussions. For the Clay Pots Retreat that we are offering in October, I hope to address it in a way that invites each retreatant to look at the balance in his or her own personal lives in a creative way.

In the meantime, many of our sisters are addressing this question—for families, for busy professionals, and for those in ministry.

Sister Helena Burns, FSP, shares her interaction with teens on their use of social media in “Teens and Social Media,” a particularly engaging Life on the Rock Show on EWTN. Social media and smartphones truly can be both a help and a hindrance in family life—it all depends on how we use them!

In “Three Ways To Avoid Being a Workaholic,” Sister Kathryn Hermes, FSP, shares her tips on how to avoid being a workaholic when you are surrounded by many urgent demands—including managing websites, an online store, and social media for our ministry—which is worldwide. This is a great article for busy parents, working professionals, and those in ministry.

Sr. Kathryn is also offering an 8-week online mini-course based on material in her wonderful book, Beginning Contemplative Prayer. She describes it this way:

The 8 Week Beginning Contemplative Prayer Mini-Course has been created for the busy Catholic who is looking for something deeper in their life, as well as for the person who has developed a spiritual life but would like to deepen their understanding and practice. Each week you will receive an email with an introduction to the material for that week. A link in the email will easily open up a seven page digital magazine that will guide you through your spiritual development that week. The digital magazines contains presentations, guided prayer experiences, prayer exercises to try for yourself, and multi-media material.

As I prepare for the “Clay Pots Retreat,” I need your help. What are your biggest questions and concerns regarding social media and cultivating an interior life? I’d love to hear from you! Please post your thoughts in the comments below, or send me an email! Your input will be invaluable.

* How do you balance the various aspects of your life?

* What is the greatest challenge you have to face in balancing your life?

* What is most helpful to you in cultivating a spirit of prayer and an awareness of God’s presence in your life?

Catch “Liberating a Continent” on PBS


I was privileged to be able to see this wonderful documentary last month, and I hadn’t had a chance to write a full review–which I still hope to do at some point! However, I wanted to let you know that Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is broadcasting on PBS throughout the month of August. You can find a complete and updated list of broadcasts on PBS here, but this is what I know so far. (Note that all the times are local.)

·         WTVS (Detroit #13) is airing Tuesday August 16 at 11 pm.

·         WPBT (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale #16) is airing Tuesday August 16 at 11 pm.

·         KUHT (Houston #10) is airing Wednesday August 17 at 10 pm.

·         WTVI (Charlotte #22) is airing Wednesday August 17 at 11:30 pm.

·         PBS SoCal (Los Angeles #2) is airing on their Plus channel Monday August 22 at 2:30 pm.

Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is an especially powerful and timely documentary to watch in our day because our world is so convinced that violence is the only response to oppression…but Pope Saint John Paul II was able to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and bring about change, liberation, and transformation through entirely peaceful means. If only we too could learn this lesson during the Year of Mercy!


Catholics on Social Media & Visio Divina!

Our Sunday Visitor does a marvelous job of  periodically “rounding up” wonderful Catholic resources online. The June 26th print issue had a wonderful article entitled “Digital Discovery” written by Mark Shea about Catholics in podcasting. He introduced me to a couple of podcasts that I hadn’t discovered yet, so this is well worth checking this out! I was especially interested because I am researching the possibility of us beginning a Pauline podcast, and he has quick tips for an easy start up.

Another series of recent articles from OSV gives families practical tips of how to make your use of social media balanced, discerning, and healthy. Here’s a list of those articles online.

OurLadysGardencoverFor those who are visually artistic, I wanted to mention that Pauline Books & Media is publishing two religious coloring books that the sisters hope can become “gateways” to contemplation. Our Lady’s Garden is a simply exquisite coloring book of various images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the sisters have put up one page of the coloring book online that is free to download (and color)!

The Pinterest Board with the results are beautiful.

Ever since I was introduced to Sr. Wendy Beckett’s work years ago, I have occasionally enjoyed praying with sacred art, which I have heard described as visio divina—a way of prayer that uses visual art as an entryway to prayer. Like cinema divina—a way of prayer that uses film as a way to enter into prayer, visio divina engages our senses directly with an image.  Creating sacred images to inspire has a long and sacred history, as does praying with sacred images.


Windows into Christ (2)

Windows into Christ is the second coloring book that the sisters hope will be used for prayer and meditation.

Retreat Invitation to Artists, Writers & Communicators

ChristLivesinMeAs Catholic communicators, you have the awesome call to communicate the beauty of the Gospel. It’s a demanding call: you are busy, with too much to do, too little resources, and your creativity stretched to its limits.

When is the last time you could “tune out” the noise and “tune in” to God?

Save the dates for this retreat especially designed for your needs as a Catholic artist!

Saturday, Oct. 8—Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016

For more info or to register, visit: www.pauline.org/retreat

The Daughters of Saint Paul (aka #MediaNuns), a congregation of women religious dedicated to living and communicating Christ through the media, are offering a special retreat for those who breathe, live, and work in our media- saturated world: writers, graphic designers, artists, marketers, actors, musicians, producers, editors, etc.
Clay Pots: Finding the Treasure, Communicating the Glory invites us to nurture our contemplation of the Treasure within our flawed clay pots, and revitalize how we communicate God’s Glory in a compelling way.

WHERE: St. Thecla’s Retreat House, Billerica, MA

WHEN: 8:00 AM Sat., Oct. 8th – 12:00 PM on Sun., Oct. 9th

A weekend retreat to refresh the artist’s soul, with opportunities for Eucharistic prayer (Mass and adoration), the Sacrament of Reconciliation, silence, spiritual conversation, and conferences on spirituality specifically directed towards artists and media professionals. Conference themes include:

  • Waiting at the Well: An Encounter with the Living God offered by national vocation director, speaker and retreat leader, Sr. Margaret Michael, FSP
  • That Christ May Live in Me offered by director of novices, Sr. Carmen Christi Pompei, FSP
  • Jesus at the Every Day Well offered by author, spiritual director, and manager of Pauline Digital, Sr.Kathryn Hermes, FSP
  • Can Holiness Be Digital? Encountering the Beauty of Christ in Our Communications Culture offeredby author and blogger, Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP

I’m really excited that this year we are finally able to get our long-awaited retreat for communications arts professionals off the ground! A wonderful team of Daughters of Saint Paul—Sr. Kathryn Hermes, Sr. Margaret Michael Gillis, Sr. Carmen Christi Pompei—will be leading the retreat with me. Taking a Pauline approach, we will focus on the special gifts and challenges of centering our lives on Christ, while fully engaging in the often-fragmenting world of communication. I will be sharing material from the recent seminar on apostolic mysticism that I participated in in Rome. I hope to see you here!

For more information or to register online, visit: www.pauline.org/retreat

Invitations from Jesus

By Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 By Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] , via Wikimedia Commons

This year’s annual retreat was a powerful experience of God at work in my life. I truly experienced the gentle, patient hand of the Divine Master guiding me in his way of humility, gentleness, and meekness of heart. And it was a joy to be able to pray for all of you during my retreat in a more concentrated way. God often “speaks” to me through  nature, and this retreat was no exception. I was amazed when I discovered a heron’s nest with a baby heron. In praying with the passage of Matthew 6 about how tenderly God cares for us—our God who takes care of field flowers and sparrows—my meditations were enlivened by my frequent sightings of chipping sparrows, who are a delight to watch, especially when they hop!

The Holy Spirit is still helping me to “unpack” my retreat experience, but the retreat is already influencing my day to day life and I hope it will also influence how I use the media.

If you’ve been reading previous blogposts, you know that I’ve been praying a lot about how Jesus is inviting me to use social media, especially in light of my various responsibilities. I want to do so much with social media, but time is a big factor. At the moment, I’m on a variety of social media, but I don’t always use them well. After this retreat, I think I’ve finally received some clarity about what I need to do:

1) I’ll be choosing to focus my social media use, limiting myself to interact regularly online in just a couple of ways (and letting go of other social media tools), so that

2) Hopefully, I can interact more directly, frequently, and consistently in the channels that I choose to use.

I’m starting to get queries from people about how to use social media well without letting it fragment their lives. This is going to be an area that I want to start blogging regularly about. If you have any question or insights, I’d love to have you join in the discussion. How have you discerned your use of social media?

Novena for Peace!


In response to the violence in the United States in the past week, the Knights of Columbus are inviting everyone to join in praying a Novena for Peace from July 14-22, using the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis. Let us pray the novena, and invite others to join us!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: 
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.