Friday, April 29, 2011

Poetry Friday, Beatification Edition, Part 2: Another Poem by John Paul II

As I wrote earlier today, I wanted to share a poem or two of Karol Wojtyla, who was fairly prolific in his poetry.

This is from Roman Triptypch, a section entitled, "Meditations on the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel."

I like to think of it as "the theology of the body in poem form," but it is called:


Who is He? The Ineffable.  Self-existen Being.
One.  Creator of all things.
And yet, a Communion of Persons.
In this Communion, a mutual self-giving of the fullness
of truth, goodness and beauty.
But above all--ineffable.
Yet, He spoke to us of himself.
He spoke, by creating man in his image and likeness.
In the Sistine painting the Creator has human features.
The Almighty, the Ancient--a Man, like Adam whom He creates.
And they?
"Male and female He created them."
God bestowed on them a gift and a task.
They accepted--in a human way--the mutual self-giving which is in Him.
Both naked...
they felt no shame, as long as the gift lasted--
Shame will come with sin,
yet the thrill remains.  They live conscious of the gift,
without being able to call it by name.
But they live it, they are pure--
Casta placent superis; pura cum veste venite,
et manibus puris surmite fontis aquam (see note below)
For eight years I read these words every day
as I entered the gate of the gymnasium in Wadowice.

Pre-sacrament--existence itself as the outward sign of eternal Love.

And when they became "one flesh"
--that wondrous union--
on the horizon there appears the mystery of fatherhood and motherhood.
--They returned to the source of life within them.
--They returned to the Beginning.
--Adam knew his wife
and she conceived and gave birth.
They know that they have crossed the threshold of the greatest responsibility!


note: translates as "Heaven is pleased with what is pure; come with pure robes, and with unsullied hands drink water from the source."

Poetry Friday, Beatification Edition: A Poem by John Paul II

I feel honored to be able to share one of my favorite poems from Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II, who will be beatified the day after tomorrow.

I had a nice time searching through the several books of JP II poetry I own, for just the right "one."  I think I might have to post another one later today, there are so many that I like.  This post may end up being Poetry Friday, Part 1, so stay tuned.

This poem is from "The Church," written at the Basilica of Saint Peter, Autumn 1962, when Wojtyla would have been in Rome for the beginning of Vatican II.

Marble floor

Our feet meet the earth in this place;
there are so many walls, so many colonnades,
yet we are not lost.  If we find
meaning and oneness,
it is the floor that guides us.  It joins the spaces
of this great edifice, and joins
the spaces within us,
who walk aware of our weakness and defeat.
Peter, you are the floor, that others
may walk over you (not knowing
where they go).  You guide their steps
so that spaces can be one in their eyes,
and from them thought is born.
You want to serve their feet that pass
as rock serves the hooves of sheep.
The rock is a gigantic temple floor,
the cross a pasture.

How I Turn Kate Middleton's Wedding Dress into a Catholic App Spotlight

First, I feel compelled to tell loyal readers (especially my editor, who likes me to keep mostly to books, that I'm not going all Betty Beguiles or Modestia here with this post (wonderful as they are), but I truly feel there is a connection between Kate Middleton's wedding dress and a new Catholic App out this week.

I happened to see the royal wedding live this morning, which I did not intend to do, as a very small subset of my local Jane Austen book group is gathering for tea, scones, and DVR'd highlights of the royal wedding in a few hours.  However, I was up extra early and at the gym, where I was able to persuade the guys near me to change the tv channel from ESPN to the wedding "just this once."  And when I saw Kate Middleton's dress, one of my first thoughts was, "Wow, now that is a dress."  And my second thought was, "I think that looks like St. Gianna Molla's wedding dress."

Now, our family has had a lot of St. Gianna in the past year, as our oldest daughter chose St. Gianna as her confirmation saint.  She chose St. Gianna because of her great life story, her family life and her work as a doctor (she's interested in healthcare as a career path), but I think a bit of our fashion-conscious daughter likes that St. Gianna had a really great sense of style.

But the real reason I thought about St. Gianna's wedding dress is I had just been exploring last night the new App series from Little iApps.  I got the terrific one devoted to St. Gianna, and in looking through it last night, I noticed a photo of St. Gianna in her wedding dress.

So see if you agree with me.  Doesn't her dress look extremely similar to St. Gianna's?  I took a screenshot of the above wedding dress photo from the App.

I noticed one commentator talking about Kate's dress being very 50s-inspired, and Pietro and Gianna were married September 24, 1955, so I don't think I'm too far off the mark.

Two interesting facts about St. Gianna's wedding dress: she made it herself, and that she hoped to re-use it for vestments if she had a son who became a priest.

I will get the chance to use this eVotions App later today, as I plan to pray some of the prayers for the newly married couple for a happy, holy marriage.  St. Gianna seems a good saint for this stylish new princess, and I'm sure we all wish her and Prince William the best.

Now we're back to our regular books-centered writing.  Look for later today excerpts from two poems by John Paul II in honor of his beatification Sunday.  I'll be watching that, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vatican Blog Meeting: "The 150" and Miscellaneous Links

Next Monday, the day after the beatification of John Paul II, the Vatican is hosting a meeting for Catholic bloggers in Rome.  As a Catholic blogger, I've found it exciting to follow this in the last few weeks.  I didn't sign up to be in the lottery to be invited, because I knew I couldn't go--our youngest's first Communion is May 1.  For our family, that date is especially providential because it is not only John Paul II's beatification, Divine Mercy Sunday, but also (when it doesn't fall on Sunday) the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, a big feast for our Joseph-heavy family.   So while I wish I could be there, we'll be celebrating pretty big here in Illinois.

However, my not signing up did not prevent me from following and enjoying the news of who did get invited.   There were more than 700 bloggers worldwide who applied, and 150 got invites.   I was delighted to see that quite a few people I know, through blogging, Twitter and reviews, made the list.

Lisa Hendey, the author of last May's book selection, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, is writing on her website,, all about her preparations for traveling to Rome.  Lisa is actually the only one I've met in person.   I interviewed her in Chicago last year, and it was a real highlight of my first few months writing this blog.

The Ironic Catholic is also one of " the 150."   Longtime Catholic Post Book Group readers will remember my interview with Ironic Catholic last year.  Initially, she was going to have to turn down the invitation to go to Rome, but it all worked out in the end.    Strange but true:  another invited blogger, Brandon Vogt of The Thin Veil, won a book giveaway I ran around Christmastime.  I'm excited to learn more about his new book, The Church and the New Media, to be published later this year by Our Sunday Visitor, as well as his take on the blog meeting.

Other bloggers I "know" in a more remote way (kind of like I might have met someone famous once, but I don't think that person could pick me out of a lineup) include Rocco Palmo, who writes what I used to call "my husband's second favorite blog," Whispers in the Loggia, (though in reality, he probably visits it more than mine, because Rocco is way more prolific, plus I can tell my husband in person what I write about).    Another super-prolific and sensible, thoughtful Catholic blogger to attend is Elizabeth Scalia, better known as The Anchoress.  And so many more.

I will certainly be following news of the Catholic blog meeting through the blogs of those invited, and via Twitter, which I'm finding such an interesting and helpful way of keeping up-to-date.  I also discovered (via Twitter) a blog called Vatican Blog Meeting, with helpful updates and what looks to be feeds of all the invited blogs.   Cool!  In fact, just as I thought I better go searching for this link again (since I had not bookmarked), in came a "tweet" with the link again.  Thank you @cybertheology for retweeting this!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sister Madonna Buder, author of The Grace to Race, at the Boston Marathon

After I read an article about the difficulty of qualifying, as well as getting a place, at the Boston Marathon, in the latest issue of Runner's World, I remembered that Sister Madonna Buder, author of The Grace to Race, had mentioned to me in our interview that she had hoped to run the Boston marathon:

I plan to run the Boston Marathon in April.  I want to open a new age group for women if possible.  I don’t know if there’s been an 80-year-old woman to run Boston.  When I last ran Boston in 2008, there were several men in their 80s, but no women.

She had told me about quite a few negative race experiences that she has had lately--not finishing different triathlons or other races because of health problems, so I was concerned that she might not get a chance to compete, or finish, the Boston Marathon this year.

Well, she did, and she finished!  And she opened a new class for over-80 women, coming in first (and I assume only) in her class.  Her time was amazing,  finishing in just over 5 hours.  (5:01:05).    That's a great time for many runners, regardless of age.

Congratulations, Sister Madonna!  And thanks for the inspiration!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Catholic Kindle (and other e-Reader) Books: UPDATED

Since we're discussing all things tech this month with a review of Prayer in the Digital Age, let's take some time to talk about e-books versus real books, and Catholic publishing inroads there.

At our house, we have a love/hate relationship with e-books and e-book readers.

Read the rest of this article at my newer website, Reading Catholic.  Click here to visit the full article on, and I invite you to visit and follow me over there!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Q&A with Matt Swaim, author of Prayer in the Digital Age

I am so grateful to Matt Swaim for thoroughly answering all my many and varied questions about his discussion-provoking new book, Prayer in the Digital Age, which I reviewed for my Catholic Post column this month.  You can read that review here.

Q. Why the title, "Prayer in the Digital Age?"  Who is your intended audience?

When I set out to write the book, I was primarily thinking about my audience as anyone who happened to be a frequent checker of his or her Facebook account.  As I began to dig deeper into the principles of Christian community and communication throughout the history of the Church, however, I found that while things like Facebook may be at the forefront of our collective consciousness in the “digital age,” the underlying issues associated with our media situation share a character with issues of every age in which God has been at work in salvation history.  Nowadays, when people ask me for whom the book is intended, I tell them that it’s for anyone who has a login and a password to something, because not even the luddites among us are really insulated from the digital age.

Q. You point out so many of the negative effects of being too “connected.” Do you
think these dangers are more “real” for those who have fewer specific demands,
such as a young, unmarried adult, than, for instance, for a mom with small children?

You raise an excellent question- because of the multifaceted outreach capabilities of the digital age, and because each of us encounter technology on our own cognitive levels and within our own schedules, it might be easy to think of this as a problem among the “young people,” whoever we might mean by that vague demographic aspersion.  However, when I check my social networks, I see as many, if not more, social network updates from young moms complaining about their children, divorced middle-aged men playing FarmVille, or grandparents passing along politically tinged spam as I do from those who might be considered by what might in a conversation like this be referred to as “young people.”  Ten years ago, I think that we might have been able to pin down the digitally addicted as being of a certain age, marital status, and even sex, but in the past few years, those barriers and distinctions have been obliterated at an unprecedented pace.  Nobody who witnessed the invention of print, radio or television media could possibly have comprehended the pace at which present-day digital technology has caught on.

In terms of how “real” these challenges are, the difference between the way older generations and younger ones process new media is tied primarily to personal formative experiences.  A 60-year-old woman and a 12-year-old boy may push the same buttons on a digital camera, but the 60-year-old sees it as a development, and the 12-year-old sees it as That Which Always Has Been.  In order to communicate with both when it comes to talking about a comprehensive spirituality, we have to maintain a prayer language that engages both; one that is transcendent, and not weighted down by the millstone of whatever ephemeral technology happens to be transmitting it.

Q. I was really intrigued by your critique of Internet “communities.” I agree with
some of your largely negative ideas, yet I have found as mom that I have found
Internet communities & relationships enormously enriching. I, too, have seen
some problems with and in them, but to me they outweigh the disadvantages. Thoughts?

One of the biggest critiques of the book so far has been what readers have perceived as an overwhelming negativity toward technology, which was certainly not my intent!  If anything, I was trying to document, almost in diary form, a critique of my own misuse of technology.  Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent than in my analysis of social networking, in which I try to break down the ways in which the brain and heart process various types of social media, and how our lives of prayer can be analyzed in light of that. 

I think that if we can begin to understand what media theorist Marshall MacLuhan meant when he talked about various forms of media as messages themselves, we can grow toward some level of mastery over the media we employ, and perhaps move toward becoming users rather than simply the used.  The first appendix in the book, titled “The Church in the Digital Age,” is actually an exploration of how I and others in Catholic media have worked to implement social media in the service of the Gospel, whether personally or corporately, with obviously varying levels of success.  I think that, internally, we all have some sense of when we’ve crossed over the line of using social media to our personal spiritual benefit and into the realm of personal material indulgence.  The benefits of social media use in regards to our prayer lives are directly connected to our own prioritization of the media themselves in relation to the messages such media are transmitting.  If we love Twitter more than whatever tweets we’re reading, that medium will inevitably eclipse the messages sent by way of it.

Q. Would you say your main message in Prayer in the Digital Age is about people
“unplugging” more, or being savvier and more prayerful consumers of the new media?

The goal is definitely to encourage being more savvy.  Retreat is the first resort of cowards; it can be an easy excuse to claim that because secular media mounts constant assaults on the faith, that our refusal to engage it can be considered a form of dry martyrdom.  However, martyrs typically tend to die while arduously defending the faith, rather than from smoke inhalation in the caves wherein their aggressors are throwing torches.  Many Church documents have referred to social media as the “Areopagus” of the present age, referring to the public forum in which St. Paul charitably and confidently defended Christianity in the Acts of the Apostles, with relatively insignificant success.  Somehow, even though Paul might have failed by the pragmatic criteria of the day, the fact that his words have been preserved to the edification of centuries of Christians who have come after, his seeming lack of results at the moment of his address to the “Men of Athens” have resulted in a good deal of results to those of us who live in an awful lot of places that don’t happen to be Athens. 

As Christians, and especially Catholics, we have to be savvy, patient and charitable, no matter how easy it might be for us to act like old-fashioned, reactive and mud-slinging trolls whose best intentions cause us to do more harm than good, no matter how self-satisfied we might be after firing our semi-automatic “truth-guns” into the air.  When we do so, we get a temporary and false sense of empowerment, and everyone who’s not where we are theologically thinks we look ridiculous.  If the truth transcends generations (which we know it does), we have to tailor our representation of it to do the same.

Q. Do you think that Catholics have a special responsibility to be more light than
heat in their use of the Internet? I’m thinking of the quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s
message for World Communications Day this year:

“It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world:
this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and
respectful of others.”

How can our Catholic faith help with this?

Amen and amen.  Two of the greatest temptations in the digital age are to caricature our public personas, and to mask our public personas.  Perhaps we want all of our social network friends to know us as “that conservative dude I went to high school with,” “that guy who credits all his car repair discounts to Mary,” or “that guy who never posts under his real name but always has negative things to say about whatever level of customer service he just got.”

In the book, I try to dig into the difference between mere manifestation and full-on incarnation.  Online, you and I project images of ourselves; Jesus, in becoming the Word Made Flesh, went far beyond that into the realm of incarnation.  Manifestation is transitional and conditional; incarnation is radical and irrevocable.  When John Paul II, Benedict XVI and others, are referring to our responsibility to be honest, responsible, respectful and the like, I get the sense that they have been contemplating these distinctions between the kind of presence we can have in online communities and the kind of presence we can have in local communities.  There is potential for overlap between these two worlds; since Catholicism is a “both-and” religion, we have to exercise all constructive options when it comes to the enhancement of our appreciation for the faith, whether those options be online or in person.

Q. I really enjoyed the “Patron Saints in the Digital Age” appendix in the book. I
wonder if you would consider adding in a future edition a Peoria diocese native,
Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen, as patron for perhaps podcasts or other new media evangelization, because of his groundbreaking efforts in using the media of his
time, primarily television and radio, to spread the gospel. Any other saints you
might want to add along with the great ones you chose?

Perhaps the most fun I had writing the book was in tracking down the various saints who predated the digital age by centuries but had some kind of life experience that correlated to the experiences we have today in a media-saturated cultural environment.  Servant of God Fulton Sheen is certainly among my heroes, if for no other reason than because he had zero fear of the media, nor made any apologies for the messages he communicated through it.  I think we can all look to him as a model; how often does someone come along who can be questioned neither in commitment nor in charity?  Nobody doubted that Fulton Sheen was dedicated to his cause, and yet, I sense that nobody was truly afraid to talk to him.  Please God, send us more of his kind.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Meet a Reader: Father Don Roszkowski

How we know you:  I’ve been a priest of the diocese for nearly 14 years, and I’ve had a number of assignments, from Peoria to Clinton to Bloomington to Odell to my current post of pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Metamora, and St. Elizabeth, Washburn.

Why I love reading:  As many people know about me, I have a form of dyslexia.  Throughout my school years, I worked hard at remedial classes, partially to prove wrong those people who thought I wouldn’t do well.  Because reading was so difficult at first, I have a great love for learning and reading and finding out about so many things.

My favorite book:  I primarily like reading theology, and I especially enjoy Father Robert Barron’s writing style and his analogies.  Probably my favorite book of Barron’s is The Priority of Christ: A Postliberal Catholicism. Another classic I really love is Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ.

What I’m reading now: Right now I’m reading two books.  One is what I call a “popcorn book,” an easy read with a short reflection for each day: Spirituality You Can Live With: Stronger Faith in 30 Days by Chris Padgett.  I’m also reading Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Catholic Rules for Twitter

It seems appropriate to write about an Internet phenomenon on the Feast of St. Isidore of Seville, sometimes invoked as patron of the Internet, because he wrote about such a wide range of topics.

As I've said before, I am very much a newby when it comes to Twitter and live blogging and all that sort of thing.   Of course, you can follow me at "ReadingCatholic" on Twitter, where I link to blog posts & reviews here and other random things.

But I believe I am starting to get the hang of Twitter.  One thing I especially like is "hashtags" where you can search for a particular topic by putting a "#" in front of the words.  For instance, when I was live blogging the Behold Conference last month, I would mark my tweets with the hashtag #BeholdConference.   I had wanted to follow along on #MomsDayAway, a women's conference in Boston sponsored by Faith & Family magazine, but ironically (since I reviewed Prayer in the Digital Age, a book about being "too plugged in,") the last week has been a blur of appointments, science fair proctoring, and just general off-line things.   I was essentially prevented from being online at all for any length of time.

But a few times, I saw the hashtag #CatholicRulesforTwitter, and it's become quite popular as 140-word sermonettes or jokes on being Catholic.  Some are ecumenical, and include the hashtag #episcopalrulesfortwitter or #lutheranrulesfortwitter. are quite funny.  If you go to, and put in the search box at the top, "#CatholicRulesforTwitter," you'll see a reverse chronological history of all the tweets that have this hashtag.

Here's a blog post about how this all got started, in case you are interested in the genesis of these kinds of things.   My strange but true connection to all that (not on Twitter, by the way) is a post for another day...  What I find especially interesting is how some are using the #CatholicRulesforTwitter to raise money for Catholic Relief Services.

Here are some of my favorites.  I'm sure there is some App or tool allowing me to select my favorites and upload them seamlessly, but again, I'm just doing a cut and paste here:

We are tweeters and saints at the same time. 

An Imprimatur is not required to publish tweets even so tweets should never go against faith and morals!

Blessed are the short of characters for they shall inherit the hash tag 

Don't be like the hypocrites and tweet on street corners, they have had their reward 

Always tweet the Gospel; when necessary use 140 characters.

All tweets are presumed valid unless sufficient doubt is shown to a Diocesan Twibunal. 

Be sure all principles of the 'Just War Theory' are met before engaging in a flame war" 

Parochial school parents are expected to participate in at least two school twitter-raising activities. 

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wit and brevity, nor his custom domain URL shortener, nor his photo service.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Catholic Post Book Review: "Prayer in the Digital Age"

Here's my April column that appears in this week's Catholic Post.  I hope you'll join in the discussion.  There's lots to talk about this month.


No matter how plugged in you are to digital culture, you probably have a love/hate relationship with it.

Who of us with an Internet connection hasn’t spent an hour, or more, frittering away time checking Facebook updates, YouTube videos, learning about some random thing on Wikipedia, reading interesting (perhaps even worthwhile) Internet articles, and at the end of the time said, “Wow, where did that time just go?”

At the same time, technology is great.  For me, connecting with people and ideas online has given me a unique way to grow my faith & friendships, as well as support me in my vocation as a wife and mother. Technology enables my far-flung extended family to connect and catch up in ways not possible even 5 years ago.  And I love how I can get my news from so many sources, not remotely possible in years past.

But how much is too much?  How do we integrate real-life relationships and demands with our online interests and even responsibilities?  And where does God fit in to all of this?

Prayer in the Digital Age, by Matt Swaim, explores those questions and many more about the nature of one’s Internet life.  Each chapter is an essay on how the “Digital Age” presents challenges to living a life connected to God and to our real-life communities.  Swaim presents a compelling case that when we are not well-informed and well-formed, and therefore alert to real dangers, Internet use can be like “giving a baby a chain saw.”

Even though he starts off the book recounting how he (accidentally) ruined his smartphone, allowing him true silence on a retreat, Swaim’s not recommending a Luddite return to pre-Internet days.  Rather, he’s engaging head-on the frenetic pace of the Internet and what it means for our souls.

For me, the best chapter of the book is “Digital, But Disciplined,” full of great ideas for making prayer part of one’s life, especially those whose work or interests leads them online for part or much of the day.  Also a great feature is the appendix of “Patron Saints of the Digital Age,” from St. Bernadine of Siena for advertisers to St. Paul the Apostle for public relations and St. Isidore of Seville for the Internet itself.

Prayer in the Digital Age raises more questions for discussions than it answers, not necessarily a bad thing.

Swaim invites readers not to abandon, but to take a step away from, the laptop & smartphone, and then consider what helps us and hurts our spiritual lives. Best of all, the book encourages us to live our lives, whether online or in real life, more intentionally and prayerfully.

If you’re interested in how the Digital Age relates to our Catholic faith, also consider:

Already There:  Letting God Find You by Mark Mossa, S.J .  This book, in many ways, provides answers to questions raised in Prayer in the Digital Age.  Mossa writes well of our desire for God, God’s desire for us, and how to fulfill those with balance.

It surprised me how much I loved Mossa explaining spiritual concepts with pop culture references.  Even when I ‘m not a fan of a work mentioned (for instance, I happen to be one of the few who loathe the movie Good Will Hunting), the context and message is worthwhile. Already There is a very spiritually edifying book in what Fr. James Martin, SJ, rightly calls Mossa’s “beautiful voice.”

Media Mindfulness:  Educating Teens About Faith and Media by Gretchen Hailer, RSHM, and Rose Pacatte, FSP.  Because this great resource, written by a sister catechists and Daughter of St. Paul media expert, was published way back in 2007 (!), it doesn’t address newer Internet trends like Facebook and Twitter.  Still, this book has tremendous value in helping adults who work with teens explore the culture & media in light of our Catholic faith.   The message: don’t just uncritically accept what you read, see and consume, but filter it through your faith, is a good take-away not just for teens, but everyone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? Volume 8, April Fools Edition 2011

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read?

I hope you'll consider sharing yours on your blog and/or sharing yours here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?

I've given up reading, as a start for Lent and possibly always.

What do you like best about it?

I have a lot more time to clean the house.

What do you like least about it?

I think my brain is getting a little soft.

What's next on your list?

Clean the kitchen floor.

Okay, Happy April Fools everyone!  This is definitely not one of my favorite secular holidays.  What I do like are good gentle jokes for this day, and that's about it.  A few years ago my children and I made, for my husband who loves chicken pot pie, a faux chicken pot pie that was in Family Fun magazine.  It took forever to make, but we actually had fun making it and eating the extra bits of Starburst.  I think for a second he really thought it was chicken pot pie!

Also, please remember (she said with a smile) that even today, news is still being made:   Pope Announces Third Vatican Council.