Category Archives: Fear

What do I crave most? The Cravings blog tour stops here today

Today the Cravings blog tour stops here, and it is a privilege to host this visit. Cravings, A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God, is the latest offering from prolific local, Catholic author, Mary DeTurris Poust. She gives us a book that is personal, provocative and moving. We who are members of God’s body have very interesting and challenging relationships with our own bodies. And we as Catholics, who gather to eat at the Lord’s Table, often struggle mightily with food.

The blog tour offers you the chance to win a copy of the book, by leaving one comment on the blog per day between now and January 20th. Not only can you win a book, your name will also be added to a drawing to win a $100 Williams Sonoma gift card.

Interviewed for the book, I Continue reading

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Filed under Ave Maria Press, Blog tour, Faith, Fear

Ascension Reflection

Today we have two reflections for Ascension. This one by me, and one from Don Wilson, here.
Ascension Thursday is 40 days after Easter.

As we know, Easter is when Jesus rose from the dead. He stayed with his disciples for 40 days, 40 always being a number to pay attention to. The Jews wandered in the desert with Moses for 40 years. Jesus went into the desert, prior to being crucified, for 40 days. Now another 40 days has passed and Jesus must go to the Father. 40 days always reminds us to remember who we are and where we came from, 40 days means to go forward in confidence, that no matter what, God is always with us – as Jesus has promised before He ascended.

He promises to always be with us, but Continue reading

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Filed under Ascension, Brother Mickey McGrath, Fear, Saint Francis de Sales

Emptiness, Fear of God and Lent


(The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo taken by me.)

If Lent is about anything it is about a journey into the wilderness, into the desert. How else can we be free of distraction and stimulation?

On Saturday Father Butler referred to the desert in his homily and he quoted a line from someone who really knew about the desert, Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence loved the desert because it was “so clean.”

That thought has been on my heart and then I read this from Henri Nouwen today and a whole series of thoughts have ensued.


Letting Go of Our Fear of God

We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.
-Henri Nouwen

We are afraid of emptiness yet it is the only true path to our own destiny.

This will require much prayer – and silence – this Lent, if I only I can challenge that fear. Which of course means going into that desert – filled with silence and space.

The very thought of this is overwhelming but unavoidable. Yet as we walk together and as we walk in faith, with God, we can find our way.

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Filed under Father Butler, Fear, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Lent 2009

Choosing Fear, Choosing Love -

“Do everything as far as you can for love and you will see what you are capable of! One can make more progress this way in a year, than in ten by way of fear.” – St. Mary Euphrasia

These are the words of St. Mary Euphrasia. Clicking into that link will give you information about this saint, who ultimately founded the Good Shepard sisters.

I don’t know about you, but these words really speak to me. We so often act out of fear – it is out of our human condition. Fear comes easily, whipping across the surface of our consciousness like a stiff breeze on the water’s surface.

However, if we can go deeper and move out of fear and into love, we are headed somewhere. Think about that image of the water – the surface of the water can be roiling with activity, but if you dive down into it there is usually calm and peace.

This invitation to make the choice of love over fear is the gift of Jesus Christ. When fear could have prevailed, Jesus chose to act in love. We are commanded to do the same.

Now I don’t know about you, but fear is a lot easier to act on. It is actually like an addiction! However, as with any addiction, there are pathways to surrender that allow us to act and behave differently, by living out of a deeper center.

Each moment must consciously be chosen – do I live in fear or do I live in love? It would be nice to tell you that love wins, but fear is a challenging contender.

Rather than brace myself to face that contender, fists clenched and poised for a fight, today I will try to choose the Cross. The cross means surrender, which requires humility (gulp), willingness (oh my) and then open arms and hands (can I do this?).

Can I do this? Not alone. To do this I need God.

And I need you.

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Filed under Fear, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Saints

Feast of the Annunciation – March 31


With changes in the schedule, I did not fully take in that today was the rescheduled celebration of the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

I wrote about this feast back in August, when I spending some time on the topics of grace and fear. That link will take you back to that post and to on of my favorite Annunciation images.

I also saw the image you see at the top of this post at site of blogfriend, professor, overall woman of wisdom and author,Jane Redmont. I like what she says about the image, do link and have a a look.

Today Father Butler spoke to us of our collective virginal state – that state which has nothing to do with sex, but does have to do with our openness and our innocence. He asked us to consider how we will give life to Christ in our lives; a weighty and provocative question and an essential question as well.

As human beings we find it all too easy to get hooked into the literal, don’t we? God is so much more vast than that; it is easy to see why we shrink away.

And speaking of shrinking away, which implies fear, we see how Mary expresses in today’s Gospel from Luke, her fear.

However, beyond her fear is the invitation that she accepts. And that is what we too must try to see in our own lives. How can we accept our invitation? It is not about forgetting or letting go of the fear, but to be open to the grace that will bring us into the light.

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Filed under Blessed Mother, Father Butler, Fear, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Grace

Metanoia – Metanoia

Sunset – the view from Mt Nebo, Jordan – where Moses saw the Holy Land across the water, but did not live to go.

Well, I’ve spent this Lent writing about metanoia. I did explain the word at the beginning, in this post, which accessed a dictionary.com reference. Today I am pointing towards wikipedia, despite its inherent weaknesses. The description was so comprehensive, I decided to go with it. I realize now that I have written 15 posts, including this one, on the topic of metanoia.

Writing about something is a most excellent way of not actually doing it. Feel free to remind me that I said that at some point.

Metanoia. It is really a way to express deep, transformational change. I remember reading somewhere that it means “beyond the mind.” And that works, because if I had a path to follow this Lent, and maybe you too, it was to unlock my stony heart and to get out of my head.

It took me all this time (and how many Lents… I am 50!) to realize that my heart might not be the issue at all… Maybe I had to just go beyond it, as the definition implies and get into my heart.

From the distance, the heart that looks and feels so stony might not be that at all.

Of course, that means leaving the familiar comfort of my head. As someone many of us know often says, “what a pain.”

So all this time, all the reading, the praying, the meditating or at least lame attempts at that – once again there was a more direct pathway…

The image I have is of someone on the top floor of a very rickety building. The stairs are old, dry wood and very narrow and winding at odd angles. Now I must go, one foot after the other. This brings to mind my very, very real fear of heights. I have climbed mountains and I have done all kinds of crazy things to challenge my fear, which I should add persists.

Going up to do something is one set of fears… Coming down is another and always much harder for me to negotiate. I am seeing a pattern here.

There is another option. I can leap. Hmm… Now I am reminded of some words by the French Surrealist poet, Guillaume Apollinaire.


Come to the edge…
No, we will fall!

Come to the edge…

No, we will fall!

They came to the edge…

He pushed them, and they flew.

Stairs, going slowly and seeking the safe route. Maybe that is it. Time to really find my faith and take a leap. A real leap. Trust that grace will carry me where I need to go, not stairs and carefully chosen footsteps.

It is Palm Sunday Weekend and I am thinking of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He knows what will unfold. He doesn’t stay in his head- that is a lot of heart energy and that brings with it action. The time for contemplation has passed.

Fearful or triumphant, maybe both – off he went.

So who knows, there are a few days left. Maybe rationalization will come up with more reasons and ways for me to intellectualize what must be felt and what must be truly acted upon. I don’t know. Get going. Respond to the generous invitation, rich with love from God. Just go. Go. Go. Go.

Go now.

The writing of this paragraph was followed by a very deep sigh from me.

What about you?

How has your Lent been? Do you feel moved? Changed? Can you respond to the invitation? I hope so. Maybe you or some other brave soul will share that in the comments. I would love to hear about how others are doing.

Something is afoot in me, but who knows what or how it will manifest. And I won’t know until I truly go to the edge. What could be more beyond the mind than that?

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Filed under Fear, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Grace, Lent, Metanoia

Fear and Sin, Fear as Sin


Once again, I had no plans to write today but here I am again. That is how it goes- the spirit leaps up and the words must come out.

As is my practice, I went off to daily mass today and was fortunate to be able to read the first Scripture selection, from the Second Book of Samuel. There is something about those verses that always get me; it is here where Absalom, King David’s estranged son and thought of as enemy, is slain. I can hear the plaintive cry in my heart of David,

“My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”

That’s the thing with David… He is in so many ways a huge screw up and yet he is God’s chosen king and ancestor of Jesus! This is what I love about our tradition, it can be so unconventional, although it doesn’t always seem that way. God uses us all to His good end and we as humans are so fixated on being perfect. Yet God lovingly chooses us with our incredible flaws and weaknesses and we are healed. However, that is a different topic for a different day. Back to focus…

Anyway, we also had the great Gospel from Mark, where we are treated to these spectacular healings. As Jesus pushes his way through the crowd on the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman so desperate for healing, just longs to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. She knows somehow in her heart that she will be healed, and of course she is.

However Jesus stops and calls her out – he wants to know who touched him. It must be a terrifying moment for her to have to reveal herself, because she probably broke more than one taboo by doing what she did. Hold that thought!

Then in the case of Jairus, by time they get there, it would appear the daughter is already dead. The Gospel speaks of the “weeping and wailing.” Have you ever heard Middle Eastern women mourn? Seriously. It is this loud, loud shrieking and wailing like you can’t imagine… I always think of those sounds when I read or hear this passage.

Jesus however says not to be afraid. And the girl is healed.

Father Butler began his homily with a question, as he often does. It was this sort of Q&A that first got me in trouble around here, or at least got me noticed when I mouthed off about something back in April in response to one of these questions.

The trick is with Father’s questions – we almost never, ever get the answers. That isn’t why he asks them that way, it isn’t to make anyone feel bad. It is a most powerful teaching tool.

So today he asks what the real illnesses were that got healed. It wasn’t just the physical, that was clear. I brought up doubt and despair, which Father spoke of and I wrote about yesterday. Um, no. That wasn’t it. People made their guesses. None hit the mark.

The real illness (doh!) turned out to be fear. And my wondering about what my Lenten journey might center on became very clear. How can I transform my fear into my faith? It is not a one shot deal; I’ve been working on it for years. I suspect I shall continue in that vein for many more.

Fear and sin, fear as sin. It just makes sense. I wrote about fear before in a post about grace, fear and the Annunciation.

This is a little different.

As we approach Ash Wednesday I will approach it with thoughts of how I can increase my faith, release my fear and continue to challenge that dynamic. And dynamic it is. We tend to want to see things in black or white, right or wrong, good or bad, ill or healed. It is a constant movement between the two I think.

This duality is really the place we live out most of our lives and it is one of the most challenging. And I am hoping that a journey into the heart of that this Lent will perhaps lead to deeper healing, deeper wisdom, deeper faith.

I may get myself together to share a story about faith and fear in the Holy Land, in the City of David actually. Perhaps within the next few days I can do that.

In the meantime, may we begin our Lenten journey with open minds and hearts, with our deep longing for God leading us through the desert.

I will close with a quote that frequent blog visitor and commenter Gartenfische mentioned recently. It really sums up the Lenten experience to me, I hope it speaks to you as well.


“No one escapes the wilderness on the way to the promised land.” -Annie Dillard

Peace to you all and a good Lent.

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Filed under Father Butler, Fear, Grace, Lent

Fear, Grace, Faith


“Fearlessness may be a gift, but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor; courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions.” — Aung San Suu Kyi

Upon reading the quotation above, from Aung San Suu Kyi, thoughts of Mary, Mother of God came to mind.

We all have possibly thought of what a shock it was for Mary to learn, from an angel no less, that she was about to bear the son of God!

There is a famous pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Annunciation. In this painting, which you can see here, Mary is sitting bolt upright in her bed, clutching at her cover and looking away from Gabriel. The scene seems to show her feeling a mix of shock, and fear. She is cowering on her bed. Let us remember, this was a young woman, maybe about 14 years old. She is awoken by an angel with this amazing message. It would be pretty alarming for her, for anyone to say the least!

So often the scene of Mary and Gabriel is shown to us with her looking beatific and beautiful…. but this art gives us a different viewpoint.

Which brings me back to this meditation… is fearlessness really the goal unto itself? Or is it maybe that we should, following in the footsteps of Mary, Jesus and countless saints both known and unknown, by proceeding with our fear, but not in service of that fear.

Can it be that in her grace and wisdom, even at that age, Mary knew that even in fear, that she could give the resounding yes in faith? That as Aung San Suu Kyi points out “refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions”.

Faith does not cancel out fear – but it can give meaning and courage. Faith is what pushes us forth while fear is what holds us back. Often fear is still with us, but faith propels us. It is the space where the tension between the two exists, that miracles often happen.

May our prayer today be to live in faith, knowing that our fear is with us but that God is with us as well.

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Filed under Blessed Mother, Faith, Fear, Grace, Mary Mother of God