Thursday, November 17, 2011


so, I'm not going to NCYC which is sad, because I hear glitter, felt banners and awesomeness from 5thousand will abound.  Instead, as I've been harping on for the past several weeks, I'm trading turkey for tamales this year and joining some good friends on a mission trip to Mustard Seed Communities in Nicaragua.

I can't wait to share the stories, but what I want so share now is just my profound gratitude for the prayers, affirmation and support that came from both the Hilton Head community and my friends on social media.  I was quite intimidated at the prospect of raising the necessary funds for this trip, it seemed like a lot to come up with in a month.  However, between twitter, Facebook and one e-mail campaign, I exceeded my goal.  So many friends-- some whom I've only met in passing at conferences-- sacrificed and it's truly humbling to know that when I leave on Friday, I'm going with the support of so many.

It's rare that I'm sentimental like this, but know that this Thanksgiving, y'all have truly given me a lot to be thankful for.  My prayer for all of you this week is that God is as generous to you as y'all have been to me.

See y'all in a few!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"The Way"

Originally published in The Bluffton Packet

'The Way' reminds us to make most of every step

While Charlie Sheen was "winning" it appears his father and brother, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez were busy filming The Way, a story of a man who walks the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James.
I'm pretty excited to see  The Way because I walked the Camino de Santiago (or simply "The Camino") with two friends a few years ago. Long before Emilio Estevez said it on "The View," my friends and I learned that the Camino -- and pilgrimages in general -- are a metaphor for life.
The word "pilgrims" might take you back to re-enacting the first Thanksgiving or make you think of people in drab attire and buckled shoes, but there's more to the label than a Charlie Brown special. A pilgrim is a "person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons." So, a pilgrimage is the journey that person takes. The value of a pilgrimage is that it reminds us that this life is not all there is, that our lives are a journey that will certainly end in death -- we just don't know when. As Pope John Paul II explained in 1986, "We are pilgrims progressing from time to eternity, and our goal is the father himself."
The Camino is a 500-mile trail that begins on the border of France and spans across Spain, ending in Santiago de Compostela, the city where St. James is buried. It's one of the most popular pilgrimage routes in the world, with about 70,000 walking the path each year. My friends and I took about 32 days to walk it, finishing between 12 and 20 miles a day. The days fell into a comfortable routine of waking, walking, eating and getting to know our fellow pilgrims.
One of the mottos of the Camino is "el camino es la meta" or "the way is the goal." With hours each day spent on "the way," one can see how this applies to life. Each step I took toward Santiago wasn't just about the final destination -- it was about what I was experiencing, learning and doing along that path.
The goal was both the destination and to make the most of each step that took me there.
Christ told his disciples, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Until my pilgrimage, I hadn't given much thought what it meant to say that Christ is "the way." The Camino was full of days that could get long and weary. When the blisters kicked in and you were running low on water, every step required a conscious decision to stay on the path. We were never sure of what to expect, but our goal was simple: the way.
So it is with life. We encounter challenges, boredom, difficult decisions and people but we know that every moment is bringing us closer to the end of this life and the beginning of the next. Just like those hoping to reach Santiago need to stay on the Camino, those hoping to reach heaven have a clear way to follow: the person of Christ.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#stuffmiddleschoolerssay, aka: my social justice fail

After Msgr. Gregory of Mustard Seed Communities spoke at all our masses this weekend, I thought I’d ask the middle schoolers what they thought about it and if they wanted to help somehow.  The conversation went something like this:

“So, who heard Msgr. Gregory at mass this weekend?”

I was greeted by a chorus of, “I didn’t go to mass this weekend”.  
(Insert tangent of, “I know you’re in sixth grade, but you need to remind your parents how important it is to take you to mass on Sunday.  I'm sure you’ve all heard it.)

“Well, if you didn’t hear Msgr. Gregory for yourself, he talked about the children that they take care of in Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe who don’t have enough to eat.  There’s a program where we can support them called Sustain a Life”. 

At this point, a fifth grade boy excitedly raises his hand and blurts out, “Miss Alison!  You know how you can buy a star?  We could BUY a poor KID!”

This idea is met with great excitement.  A sixth grade girl chimes in, “yeah!  We could keep it here in the youth room.  They could sleep on the couch and you could be it’s MOM!”

This is not going the direction I had hoped, but thinking it was still salvageable, I tried to bring them back to the reality of the situation, asking, “well, that’s really nice of you guys to want to take care of a kid, but don’t you think they’d miss their family, living in the youth room?”

The kids stare at me, blankly.  “No”, they all say.

I persist, “You wouldn’t want to leave your family and live in the youth room, would you?  Even if you had cool stuff, wouldn’t you miss them?” 

Again, a blank stare, “no.”

I have a suggestion for them.  “Well, guys, we can’t keep a kid here” (insert round of disappointed sighs) “but we can send them money each month to help feed the kids in Zimbabwe.  What about if, for the next month, instead of drinking Capri Suns, we drink water and send the money to feed a child in Zimbabwe?”  

“You mean bottled water?” they ask.  

“No, that still costs money.  You’d just drink from the water fountain”, I explain.

“No, I don’t think so…” they all answer.  At this point, I’m rapidly losing faith in humanity and, specifically, the 6th grade.  “You guys, when you die and Jesus asks you how you took care of each other, don’t you want to say that you gave up Capri Suns so kids can eat?”  

“Well, maybe if we could have hot chocolate instead?” they propose.

Then, Mr. “Buy a kid” remembers something.  “Miss Alison!  You can sponsor a puppy for $15 a month!  And they send you a hoodie and a tote bag!  That’s even cheaper!”.

I sigh.  “You know what guys, let’s just put in a movie.”

I realize that sixth graders who have grown up on Hilton Head have a long way to go when thinking about children on the other side of the world.  So, my question is, what have you found to work in teaching kids empathy and compassion for children they have never met or seen?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween: Let's not Bring Sexy Back...

Originally published in The Bluffton Packet:  

Halloween in a few weeks provides some serious fodder for a “Pastor’s Corner” column.  Few holidays stir up as much controversy-- Christians don’t like the spooky supernatural overtones; police warn of the dangers of going door-to-door and dentists offer prizes in exchange for candy to prevent cavities.
These are valid concerns, and I’d encourage parents to be aware of the dangers of occult activity that can creep into Halloween celebrations, don’t let kids knock on the doors of strangers and be sure to brush your teeth.  However, the latest Halloween trend that I find disturbing is best summarized in the 2004 film “Mean Girls” when the main character, Cady, explains, “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total ... (let's just say it rhymes with "but")... and no other girls can say anything about it.  The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears”. 
While this description is a bit crude, the reality is that any girl over the age of seven searching for a Halloween costume will discover the entire selection prefaced by the term “sexy” (even if it’s not labeled “sexy” per se, it’s implied in the hemlines).  Justin Timberlake’s not bringing sexy back—the costume shops are, with their options for sexy “rag dolls”, “nurses” and “crayons”. 
“Sexy”, by definition, means something is sexually suggestive or stimulating.  Growing up, I always enjoyed Halloween as an opportunity to dress up as someone I found glamorous or intriguing.  I transitioned from painting my face as a cat or clown as a child and began raiding mom’s make-up supply to wear with a poodle skirt when I was a teenager.  I wanted to look older and pretty, but “sexually stimulating” was not an objective when I was eleven.
While the pressure for parents to allow their daughters to dress as a “sexy _______” (insert anything:  cow girl, panda, maid, vampire) for Halloween is becoming disturbingly normal, assembling costumes is also a great opportunity to discuss the difference between looking pretty, glamorous and interesting versus “sexy”.  No one’s saying that girls need to wear a burka, but Halloween is a great opportunity to learn how to get attention for the right reasons—for being creative, quirky and beautiful.  Not the girl with the most skin showing.  This isn’t normally an objective, why should it be for Halloween?
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis tells the story of an unattractive man who was forced to wear a mask which made him appear more attractive.  Lewis explains, “when he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What had begun as disguise had become a reality.  What had begun as disguise had become a reality.   As we help our daughters, nieces and friends choose their Halloween costumes, be sure the disguise is a reality that will both inspire the right behavior and get the right attention.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

what is love?

This was originally published in the Bluffton Packet...  

Like any single gal, I get a lot of unsolicited advice about dating.  It ranges from the not-so-helpful-observation:  “you know, you’re not getting any younger” (thanks, I hadn’t noticed) to the overly-simplified: “you’re just too picky” (I know right?  Me and my crazy rules about illegal drug use) to the absurd: “there’s lots of men in Alaska” (and then I could see Russia from my house?).  Occasionally I do hear something helpful and inspiring.

Bill and Joan are a couple from Church who, despite their senior citizen status, are wildly popular with the youth group.  I think it’s their sense of humor and exquisite listening skills.  While the kiddos are rambling on and on about their families, pets and vacation, Bill and Joan listen with patience that can only come from spending years with children and grandchildren.  The kids also think they are “adorable because he still looks at her like she’s the most amazing person in the world”.  Given their fame, I asked Joan if they’d consider talking to the teens about marriage and dating.

Joan paused and said, “well, you know the key to marriage is respect.  If you respect someone, you’ll just fall more in love with them as time goes on.  If you don’t respect them, eventually you won’t even want to be around them”.

Genius.  I realized in all the advice I hear and read, respect for someone rarely enters the conversation.  Respect has been pushed aside by both mine and younger generations.  Physical attraction and plain ‘ole lust— which asks what can I get from you?-- has overshadowed seeing and respecting the whole person in their inherent dignity.  Love-- “willing the good of the beloved” as we learned in Theology (or, in laymen’s terms, just wanting what’s best for the one you love)—is no longer the question.  Now, it’s “what’s best for me, and I’ll keep you around as long as you’re on the same page”.

While the idea of love may be fading amidst the onslaught of messages we get about relationships from the world, it is still what humanity craves and what the future hopes for.  It’s why Bill and Joan are so popular with the kiddos—their marriage, grounded in respect, is what the kiddos want for themselves one day.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “that’s what I want for MY kids too!” then this is a great time to live in the Lowcountry.  On Tuesday, September 27 there will be a program for Middle and High School students at the Visual Performing Arts Center at Hilton Head High School from 7:00-9:00 p.m. entitled “Silver Ring Thing”.  A program about guys, girls, dating, waiting, love, second chances and the best choices, it will challenge your kids to wait for a person who respects them in a relationship.  You can buy tickets for $5.00 on-line at   or for $8.00 at the door.  There will be a simultaneous meeting for parents. Empower your kids by showing them what real love and respect is and to not settle for anything less.

Obviously, the Silver Ring thing is over, but you can find more great resources on respect and love at Family Honor and

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

my lunch...

This has little to do with anything I normally write about, but my roommate Danielle made these sandwiches a few weeks ago and they've so dramatically changed my life-- I mean, honestly, somewhere between discovering The Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Middle in order of how much I appreciate her introducing me to this concept.  Great for Fridays with Team Catholic when you're tired of tuna, because they're vegetarian AND if you're like me and don't shop that often, it's all ingredients that you can buy in small portions OR keep in your fridge for a while without going bad.  So here they are...

Danielle's Amazing Veggie Sandwiches


some sort of bread product (I'm a fan of pita bread, but regular sliced bread, english muffins, flat bread, anything substantial enough will work)
cream cheese (whatever your preference is-- all fat, no fat or somewhere in the middle)
cucumber (I like to slice them horizontally-- they fit better on a sandwich that way.  But I'm not a control freak, telling you how to slice veggies or anything...)

Spread hummus on one piece of bread and cream cheese on the other.  Pile the tomato slices, cucumbers and spinach in the middle.  For variation try avocados.

The beauty of it is that the hummus and cream cheese are such a great protein combo, it really stays with you all day.

And that was my lunch.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God, Bless America

It seems cliché to blog about this today, but I can’t stop thinking about being an 18 year old sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville, sitting in my 9:00 a.m. Survey of Physical Science class when a student raised his hand and said he had heard that there had been some plane crash in New York, and to include that in the typical prayers our professor began each class with.  By the time we were dismissed at 10:30, word had gradually spread that there was a serious situation in New York and DC (and it had been gradual…  life without cell phones or wireless internet meant you actually had time to process information) because some of our classmates with family in the area were frantic about not being able to reach them. 

My next class was with Sister M. Johanna and while we were beginning to realize that something serious had happened, no one in their right mind skips her class.  I remember some students talking, some quietly sobbing, worried about their families that they were unable to reach that morning. 
Sister M. Johanna walked in and said she wasn’t  quite sure what to do—but first we were going to pray a rosary.  When we finished praying, I remember her saying something to the effect of, that while she had thought about canceling class, she wanted us to understand that this would be part of our vocation as Catechists—that we would encounter many crisis if we chose to work for the Church, and that our responsibility at that moment was to study so that we could be better equipped to handle whatever challenges were in store for the Church.  We could leave if we felt that we had to, but this was how we could best respond.  In fact it was the only way we could respond at that moment.

Walking across campus that afternoon, Adoration and confession had been set up on the lawn of the JC Williams Center—the center of campus.  I remember turning the corner with a friend and seeing the monstrance on the lawn, classmates kneeling around in silent prayer and my friend saying, “I love this place”.  She was right.  While the world was in chaos, Christ reigned on campus that day and we were able to dwell not on the uncertainty of the future but His presence to us then and there.

These two moments stand out in my mind from 9/11/2001.  First, my professor telling us, not callously but with gravity that our responsibility as students and future catechists that morning was to pray and then continue to study so that we could help people understand the mess that was unfolding that very morning.  Second, that encountering Christ in the Eucharist—the source and summit of our faith—was the answer in a moment when no one seemed to know what the right thing was to do or say. 

They say that 9/11 is a day that shaped the millennials, causing us to realize that our world was no longer safe, that we would enter adulthood with a lot of uncertainty.  My experiences were definitive, but it was in a way that left me knowing that in the midst of fear and uncertainty, Christ is consistent and present.

Offering prayers for all affected by 9/11 today.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

go by giving...

(click here to go by giving...)

Upon graduation, I spent a bit of time in Belize as a volunteer lay missionary with SOLT.  My good friend Gayle Ohrenberger actually surprised me and hopped on board a last-minute spring break mission trip and brought me coffee, peanut butter and much appreciated communio.

Gayle caught the mission bug and has since led several trips with the high school she is the campus minister for.  Truly a mission trip rock star, she has encountered everything from lost passports to broken bones to parasites and she not only keeps going back, she brings teenagers with her.  

Inspired by Gayle's courage, I'm hoping to join her on a mission trip she's leading for young adults to Mustard Seed Communities in Nicaragua.  There won't be teens on this trip...  This time I get to take the orders and do the dirty work.  I'm excited about it.  

The crazy part is that it takes place in November, over Thanksgiving.  While it only costs Mustard Seed about $100 to have me for the week, they wisely require that I raise about $1000 to contribute to the support of the mission and raise awareness for what they do.  I realize that these are difficult times and it was only a few weeks ago that I was begging support for my sister Martha, a FOCUS missionary.  I'm also shaking donations out of everyone locally to support Room at the Inn and their upcoming silent auction.  

I realize that asking people to throw a few dollars towards a trip to Nicaragua-- when there are so many other needs-- is pretty brazen of me.  However I can say, with confidence, that it's not to support me (I even pay for my own plane ticket and put down the $100 deposit to cover the cost of my visit)-- it's solely to support the children with disabilities that Mustard Seed cares for, as well as outreach to the poor who live and work at the local dump.  I have the freedom to skip town for a week at Thanksgiving, go hug children, clean toilets and dig ditches.  Maybe you wish you could too but for whatever reason can't.  As Martha just told everyone as she headed to Nebraska, "some give by going, others go by giving".  So, here I am, begging for your prayers and, if you can spare it, the $5.00 you'd spend on a latte.

I promise if I make it, the blogging will be phenomenal.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

stuff my grandmother says

The other day I dropped by to visit my Grandmother who lives in a retirement home that is pretty much straight from the script of In Her Shoes, if you're familiar with the film (and that was a reference, NOT a recommendation, just to clarify).  She invited me to walk over to the clubhouse for a food sample fair.

It was pretty great-- imagine "sample day" at Sams or Costco, only without the shopping part.  And wine.  Whee!  In addition to food, there were some vendors with paper products.  The gentleman peddling napkins that were made from 100% sugar or corn products instead of trees (don't ask me how that works...) showed my grandmother his product and assured her, "they come in a pack of 1000".  She replied, matter-of-factly, "oh, I won't live that long".

I choked on my fried zucchini with wasabi sauce, but then caught myself.  It wasn't a pitiable or dramatic statement, she was just offering her opinion, like who might win the World Series or something.  Considering she'll be 90 in January, my grandmother's pretty healthy.  There's a good chance she'd use all 1000 napkins and some, but that's not the point.  I was just struck by how very aware my Grandmother was that she would die one day.  It's something that we all toss around, but when your initial reaction to a pack of 1000 napkins is that you probably won't be around long enough to use'em, it's a whole different story.

If I internalized the knowledge of my inevitable death to that point, I wonder how that would affect my actions.  I think if I really understood-- not just knew, but understood-- that I was going to die, I'd waste less time, pray more and treat people better.

But I'd still buy paper products in bulk.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parents Know Best

Last night was the first night at Religious Ed. (or CCD or PSR...  or whatever the trend is these days...) at our parish. All the kiddos were in their classes while their parents were in a meeting.  I took this opportunity to talk to all the classes about getting involved in youth group.  For street cred, I brought along three teens to share their experiences (for the record, highlights included, "going to a real mall at the March for Life" and "CLI is the first time I sprained my ankle!" and me assuring the kids that we didn't just shop and get injured at youth group.)

En route to the different classes, they asked said, "hey, Miss Alison, what's going on in there".
"That's the parent's meeting".
"Can we talk to them?"
"you want to talk to parents?".
"Well, duh, Miss Alison.  They're the ones that take their kids to youth group.  They need to know how important it is."
Then the next one chimed in,   "I mean, I wouldn't have gone if my mom hadn't made me go the first time.  It's like, super important for them to know that they need to force their kids to go cause they won't want to at first.  But it's really important they they make them go, cause it changes everything."

Wow.  Wish the parent's meeting hadn't ended before we finished talking to the 6th graders.
These kids have figured a lot out.
Parents, never doubt your influence.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Confessions of a Reluctant Virtual Pilgrim

I admit, when I first started reading about making this past week a “virtual pilgrimage” with Pope Benedict XVI while he was at World Youth Day, I scoffed.  I was a “left behind Catholic”.  While the cool kids were sipping sangria and eating tapas, I was meeting students at Starbucks and finalizing the fall schedule.  So when @madrid11_en@BustedHalo , #CindyWithB16 and @CatholicNewsSvc@JackieFrancois and the whole bunch from @LifeTeen invited me to “follow them to Spain” I’m not going to lie, my reaction was less than Christian.

My tweets reflected as I schlepped through my Monday, stateside, saying things like, “going to Mass.  Just like all of you in Madrid.  #youarenotthatspecial”.  I don’t have EWTN and wasn’t watching the videos that were being uploaded, but as the week progressed, the candid 140 character updates of both friends and strangers made me start pray about, wonder and appreciate what Team Catholic in Madrid was up to. 

At the risk of over-sentimentalizing a profound reality of our faith, we are the Body of Christ and despite my best efforts to ignore the graces overflowing from Madrid out of jealousy that I wasn’t experiencing it first-hand, I found the updates from the pilgrims about their encounters with each other, the Holy Father and, ultimately Christ to be quite moving.  By Friday, when #ViaCrucis was a world-wide trending topic, I was hooked and proud to know that my brothers and sisters in Christ—most of whom I would not meet until heaven—were, for a few moments, reminding the world what was really important.

Social Media has been blamed for a lot of problems—compromising people’s privacy, a skyrocketing in bullying, a shallowness in relationships based on 140 character spurts in communication—but this past week I begrudgingly admit that I was grateful for those who made my unexpected “virtual pilgrimage” possible, tweeting pictures, stories and quotes from Madrid.   This morning I was genuinely saddened to read all the “adios, Madrid” and “Gracias, B16” in my newsfeed, feeling that although I wasn’t drenched from the rain on Saturday or waking up for mass in a field this morning, social media had given a new dimension to World Youth Day and allowed me to be a prayerful observer across the Atlantic.  As if 1.5 million youth gathering to celebrate being Catholic wasn’t powerful enough, social media allowed so many more to follow and be inspired by their individual experiences.

I’m sure the apostles had no idea that Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations” would include a digital component in 2011, but I this week, I think social media—especially Twitter—gave us a deeper appreciation for our Catholic—Universal—Church.

Monday, August 15, 2011

why you should go see "The Help"...

Taking advantage of the "Feast Day Three-Day" (yep...  Team Catholic's offices were closed for the feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Mother) I went to see The Help with my grandmothers this morning and learned a few things.  First of all, I bought tickets on-line ahead of time, and although I tried to explain, I think they think I somehow stole them, wikki-leaks style.  Second, when one of the entertainment weekly clips in the previews kept showing Bret Michaels, my grandmothers were quite confused as to why he was famous and "why does he wear that scarf on his head?".  Again, there are some things you can't explain.

"The Help", however, was phenomenal, a great story with a lot of spunk.  I won't even attempt to summarize, but the ugly reality of racism in Jackson, MS in the 1960s is portrayed in a way that makes you cringe and then think.  A lot.

What struck me the most was that this was all less than a hundred years ago.  The characters on the screen were driving cars and using telephones.  Sure, they hadn't realized smoking would kill you yet, but the events on the screen didn't feel like "history" as much as "stuff that happened when my grandmothers were even older than I am now".  This was not the distant past.

As I watched Skeeter's character thumb through the laws regarding segregation in Mississippi, the absurdity now so obvious, it made me wonder what my generation would look back on with shame.  The women of Jackson lobbied to build bathrooms for their hired help, thinking it would add value to their house when all they do is give a testimony to the gross injustices of the time.

What will my generation look back on, ashamed?  We gasp in horror as the bridge club quotes scripture to justify their actions...  but what atrocities is scripture tossed around to defend these days?

It's uncomfortable...  but worth thinking about.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tom MacDonald

I love everything about this story:  
This is why...

The other night on Facebook I stumbled across a note from one of those “friends” that you have that you really haven’t talked to in years but haven’t dropped because they’re kinda cool and plus you wanna keep your friend count up to save face.   But I digress.  This sorry doesn’t begin there.  It begins way back in 2006…

When I was in Belize with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), my good friend Anne, a graduate of UMass Amherst (and an all-around awesome person) began to tell us that the mission we were working with would be in good hands when we left that summer because in the fall, her friend Tom MacDonald was coming to volunteer.  We would speculate, “who would plan retreats?” and Anne assured us, “Tom MacDonald!”.  “Who will plan masses?”  “Tom MacDonald!”  “who could help rebuild the rectory, perform heart surgery on the Church ladies and sew uniforms for children in need?”  Anne would roll her eyes and assure us that duh, Tom MacDonald would totally have this under control.  According to Anne, Tom MacDonald was basically the Old Spice Guy of Team Catholic.

We went home, began our post-Belize lives and I forgot about the man, the myth and the legend that was Tom MacDonald.  Then I ended up back in Belize on a short trip and found myself at a St. Patrick’s day party, drinking rum, imported Guinness and Belikin with the volunteers at the mission that year and suddenly, I remembered.  “Wait!  WHERE’S Tom MacDonald?”  A tall volunteer with crazy hair said, “he didn’t come”.  “You mean to the party?  But I have to meet him.  Will he be around campus tomorrow?”  “No,”  Tall-crazy-haired-volunteer said,  “he didn’t come to Belize.  I’m Zach, a friend of his.”  To make a long story short, Tom MacDonald never showed up, Zach had come to Belize after hearing about it from Tom and had even bravely taken on the role as the token non-Catholic at the mission (they showed up occasionally at Mt. Carmel) and I continued to see him, occasionally.  He was clearly a great teacher and committed to the mission, but I could never see him without wondering how and why someone would come to a random mission in Belize without Tom MacDonald.

Fast forward to last night when I found Zach's Blog: my facebook newsfeed.  His story of pursuing and being pursued by God and the Church is great, but my favorite part is reading about how he blames Tom MacDonald.  I literally laughed out loud when I saw the title, thinking back to 2006, and how Anne assured us that Tom’s impact on the mission would be legendary.  Reading Zach’s blog last night I realized that she was right.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let's hijack this hashtag...

So, Planned Parenthood’s twitter account, @PPact is collaborating with The National Women’s Law Center to host a “blog carnival” on Thursday, July 21.  Check out for details.  

It’s a little unclear what a “blog carnival” is, but it appears the point is for bloggers to share why they think there should be no co-pays for birth control and wax eloquently on all that it’s done for women.

You can apparently sign up to participate in the “blog carnival” here: and it’s probably worth entering your blog information, but I have a feeling they’ll be screening for content.  However, they are publicizing the “event” under the hashtag #BCBC.  They are also publishing the adventures of “Birth Control Girl” on a YouTube channel with the hashtag #BCGirl and the generic hashtag #birthcontrol.  

So, I propose that we hijack the hashtags.  Here’s how:

  1. Write about why you disagree with Planned Parenthood’s stance on Birth Control—it can be a personal testimony, link to something you’ve already written, link to an article you agree with, etc.  The point is to give a voice to the truth.     If you need some ideas, visit,, or my personal fave, Father Chris’s homily on contraception:
  2. Tweet your link on Thursday as much as you can. Be sure to include the hashtag #BCBC, #BCGirl and #birthcontrol.  This way, those searching twitter and the internet for blogs about birth control will find more than Planned Parenthood’s propaganda.  
  3. Spread the word to bloggers—it doesn’t have to be a new post—but let’s flood the internet with links to the truth about what birth control has done to women’s health, relationships and marriages.  And remember, preach the truth in love.  Winning souls is far more important than winning arguments.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I don't know about the rest of you all, but I find summers in youth ministry to be the equivalent to Christmas in retail...  The Triduum for Liturgists...  Finals week for College students...  You get the idea...  So, so much to do in so little time.

While blogging inevitably suffers, I'm still writing for The Catholic Miscellany and The Island Packet
(and, to demonstrate my diversity, even interviewed Chris Butler and Josh Barrett for the Hilton Head Monthly) so here's links to the latest columns:

"Confession Helps the Bullied, Too" (from The Miscellany)
"Messages about who we are apparent in Everything" (from The Bluffton Packet)
"Teaching modesty about much more than clothing" (from The Bluffton Packet)
"Summertime worship critical for children, teens" (From the Bluffton Packet)

Also, check out my Teen Tips and Parent Tips at Family Honor.  It contains advice for teens and parents on issues like the internet, media and health issues.

Stay cool!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

can my sister send you mail?

Hi all.  My sister, Martha, is awesome and recently graduated from Ave Maria University.  I'm super-proud of her because she's making a two year commitment to FOCUS.  I'll let her explain why:

For the next two years, I'll be working with an organization called FOCUS, or Fellowship of Catholic University Students. This ministry sends missionaries to colleges in the United States to aid young people in their drawing closer to God and in their battle against the negative elements of today's culture. FOCUS specifically seeks to meet these students where they're at by having its missionaries strive to come to know the personal needs of the students they encounter and to share Christ's love with them. What was instrumental in my decision to become a FOCUS missionary was a realization of what an awesome gift the Catholic faith is through spending four years an Ave Maria University, drawing closer to God during this time through the spiritual and academic opportunities that the school made possible for me. Basically, Catholicism is way too awesome not to share, and I know that the hope it offers is much needed in the lives of my peers! -Martha Griswold

If you know Martha, you know that she's going to be absolutely amazing at this-- I've been blessed to encounter many people who tangibly represent Christ to me, but no one is quite like Martha and I know she's going to make a huge difference in the lives of the students she'll encounter.  However, here's the thing.  She's off to FOCUS training and is supposed to have something like 200 addresses of people she can mail her newsletter updates to and ask for prayers and financial support.  Giving her your address in NO way means you have to pray for or financially support her (although clearly she would not be opposed to either cause she prays for ALL of you...  Yes, even you...) it would just get her off to a strong start.  You don't need to be rich, Catholic or even able to read.  You just need a mailbox.  So, if you're willing to get updates in the mail from Martha, please e-mail (or Facebook) her your address:

****also. I'm late to the game here, but apparently my Christendom alumni sister Emily has already collected about 25 addresses from the Front Royal/ Christendom crowd. I'm BEGGING my Franuniv friends to not let them out-do us.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us.

“He helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty…”  (Pope Benedict XVI's Beatification Homily).  This is what we learned from Blessed John Paul II, as a generation formed by the Church he led while the world sank deeper into moral relativism.

Standing in the middle of St. Peter’s Square in August of 2000, jet-lagged, overwhelmed by the crowds of European teens who seemed to have different standards of hygiene than we did, watching the sun set behind the obelisk we chanted, “John Paul II, We love you!” as he entered on the Popemobile and then greeted us in what must have been dozens of languages.  I remember weeping with my friends when we heard him welcome pilgrims from the United States with, “The Pope loves you too!” and realizing—not just knowing from a guide book but realizing in the marrow of my bones, as I stood just feet away from the tomb of St. Peter, in a city where Christians had been fed to lions and celebrated mass in Catacombs—that I was part of a faith that wasn’t something my parents, a self-help book or charismatic personality had invented.  It had been handed down to me, through the apostles, from Christ.  And He was visible in this man’s leadership.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explained, “the whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.  Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love”.  When Blessed Pope John Paul II took office, people feared that the younger generations had come to see the Church as irrelevant, old fashioned and not worth the time we could spend reading the Wall Street Journal, drinking Mimosas on Sunday mornings. 

So what does Blessed Pope John Paul II do?  Spends the first six years of his Pontificate clarifying God's plan for sex.  Gathers millions of young people for World Youth Days.   As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel.”  He taught doctrine in love, out of a tangible concern for our health and happiness.  Recognizing, like a loving parent, the importance of challenging us with the truth.  He showed us that the Church was truly our “travelling companion”.  That we belong to, and are called to heaven.
As I read my friend’s statuses and chat about the beatification today I see a generation whose lives are deeply affected by the witness this man gave us, calling us to holiness when many in the world were content to let self-destruct. Blessed Pope John Paul II… Continue to pray for us.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen. -Pope Benedict XVI.


Friday, April 15, 2011

look, mom... an index!

I share the Pastor's Corner in the The Bluffton Packet with Dan Griswold, who despite having an awesome last name is not related to me.  In case you are fortunate enough to not live in Bluffton (ha.  I couldn't resist) or recycle too quickly, they've made an index of the columns.  I feel so official.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

locked up for life...

I’ve mentioned that when I die, I want to be the one with the questions.  In the centuries of static between our present day and the words "What you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me…" (Matthew 25:45) I fear that I’ve re-interpreted that to mean “tithe, be nice to people who are nice to you and do what you can to help out”.  

I fear this has worsened as I get older and realize just how challenging it is to keep up with bills and carve out free time.  I love my life, I’m often smug about it.  I think to myself, “I made good choices.  If others didn’t and find themselves in a bad spot, this is not my problem”.  Then I wonder if I’ll be so confident saying that when I meet God face to face.  

So that's why I let myself get "locked up for life" to support Room at the Inn.  I've mentioned them before.  They are assisting mothers in need in the Lowcountry, giving homeless girls shelter and the assistance they need to choose life for their unborn children.  I've got to collect $1,000 in bail…  or apparently I go to jail.

When they asked me, I assured them that I was not friends with folks who could write checks for $500, $100 or even $20 (Lord knows on most days I sure can’t)…  But I thought to myself, I have plenty of friends who would give up a coffee or sacrifice a movie and could give $5 or $10 in support…  

Click here to donate on-line through pay-pal.  

Or, mail checks (put Room at the Inn of the Lowcountry in the Memo)to:
Room at the Inn of the Carolinas
PO Box 484
Colfax, NC 27235  

You don’t need to tell me what you give, but if you can let Monica, their director of development, know at so that, well, she doesn’t have me arrested…  That’d be great.

I'll have questions...

Originally published in the Bluffton Packet, March 28, 2011.

When I die and I meet God face to face, I want to be the one with the questions."

I heard this statement over the summer and I think about it constantly. The speaker explained that there were lots of moments in life that she planned to ask God, "What exactly where you thinking, allowing that to happen?" But, she said, she hoped God wouldn't have the same questions for her.
Obviously, God has his reasons for why things happen. But standing before the almighty, our reasons might seem a little weak.

This question was rolling through my mind a lot this January when I had the opportunity to tour the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., with the teens in my youth group. As an adult, I was the one getting their questions. And, let me tell you, it is a lot easier to answer questions about drugs, sex and rock'n'roll than why God allows bad things to happen.

Standing in the train that carted people to their deaths in Auschwitz, I was impressed that the teens asked not "Why did God allow this to happen?" but the more practical question, "Miss Alison, didn't people know this was going on? Well, why didn't they DO something?"

There are many inspiring examples of people who did "do something." However, there are many more who looked the other way. The hundreds of shoes collected from Auschwitz on display at the museum are a slap in the face reminding us that it was fellow human beings who allowed this to happen. Only God knows why.
It is a powerful examination of conscience for us to ask what we might be overlooking in our time.
Christ doesn't mince words. When people asked him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and not minister to your needs?" (Matthew 25:44) he answered, "What you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment..." (Matthew 25:45-46).

Uncomfortable yet? I am. How many times have I ignored Christ in my neighbor? We're halfway through Lent and our sacrificing should be encouraging us to focus not just on our relationship with God but with those around us who are in need.

Opportunities abound, but if you're looking for some specifics in the next couple weeks, consider the following:

  • Invisible Children will be screening a film about victims of terrorism in East Africa at 7 p.m. April 7 at Park Plaza Cinemas on Hilton Head Island. The screening is free, there will be information presented about ways you can get involved. Contact Chris Rosenberry, 843-422-5848 for more details.

  • Room at the Inn, a local shelter for unwed mothers is in need of assistance in many ways. Learn more at

  • Neighborhood Outreach Connection works to provide assistance and encouragement to local families in need. Learn more at

  • There are many ways to love Christ in our neighbors both locally and at an international level. When you die, be sure you're the one with the questions.

    Catholic Icing

    When I read this in the Miscellany I was reminded that team Catholic SC has a native who's doing some really great stuff when it comes to craft projects and catechetical ideas for younger children.  Actually, truth be told, I find some of her ideas helpful for bulletin board and middle school craft projects as well.  Follow Lacy on Twitter to get tips like when you can find Stations of the Cross stickers at the Dollar Tree and where to order rosary eggs from.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    why I'll eat meat today...

    Today I’ll eat meat.  And drink beer.  And it's not "cheating".

    I remember the first time I learned about solemnities during Lent.  It occurred, conveniently, during my freshman year of college when I had given up chocolate.  A box of fresh-baked cookies arrived in my mailbox from a well-intentioned friend.  As I sat in mass that evening, mourning the tragedy of allowing them to go to waste, the priest celebrating explained that it was the solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph—that we were “allowed” and even encouraged to celebrate the feast day by partaking in whatever we had given up.
    This caused a small existential crisis.  As a child I had always scoffed at those who “give up Lent on Sundays”.  I was homeschooled, after all.  A hardcore Catholic who knew prayers in Latin, not one of those slackers who gave up something random like blue starburst for Lent so that it’d be so easy they didn’t even remember what it was by Palm Sunday.  I did not “take Sundays off”.  However, in my short time at Franciscan I was realizing that perhaps my approach to faith had been a bit too regimented-- A lot about my will power and not so much about God acting.

    Franciscan was the first time I really tried to incorporate the liturgy into life, realizing if the Church had lived this “schedule” for 2000 years there must be something to it.  I began to get into morning and evening prayer, celebrate special feast days, Lord’s Days and tried to reserve the Sabbath for God.  There’s a real benefit to taking advantage of earthly reminders to remember eternal realities. 

    I ate the chocolate chip cookies that day, in honor of St. Joseph.  And ever since then, I have celebrated Sundays and solemnities in Lent.  Everyone's heard that Sundays don’t count as the forty days and all the theological reasons, but I’ve found that personally, it just allows me to experience the whole liturgical cycle better.  For example, if I go without chocolate or a glass of wine with dinner all week and then partake to celebrate on Sunday, it’s a physical reminder of an intangible reality.  Refocused in that way, the sacrifices of the week are more meaningful.

    When it comes to the Sunday debate about Lenten sacrifices, I don’t judge either way.  
    But I'm not cheating, I'm celebrating.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Except on Sundays and Solemnities.

    Monday, March 21, 2011


    Originally Published Tuesday, March 15, 2011 in The Bluffton Packet

    Even if you're not one of the more than two million people following Charlie Sheen on Twitter, you're probably aware of what he's been up to.
    I admit, while I usually don't pay much attention to celebrities, when Sheen's rants show up on TV or the Internet, I can't look away. On his profile, Sheen states that he is an "unemployed winner" and says things like, "Winning! Bring it!"
    Overnight, "winning" has become the go-to word to describe every ridiculous idea that people choose to act on. I'm not saying it's the end of the world, but Sheen is a blatant example of what St. Paul described in his letter to the Philippians when he warned that many "conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their 'shame'" (Philippians 3:18-19).
    Sheen, sadly, seems to be living this out almost to the point of parody.
    What I find more disturbing than Sheen's actions, though, is the way the world is looking at him as a sort of example -- affirming his claim that he is "winning." While most of us probably will never live quite as fast as Sheen has, we all have moments in which we confuse "winning" with, well, the opposite.
    Since the original sin of Adam, we struggle against temptation. For most of us, those temptations are minor, like gossip or laziness. But it's these small sins that start to lead us away. Sheen probably did not wake up one morning and decide to use cocaine (or, excuse me, "buy it," as he's been quick to point out in interviews), but whenever we allow our "god" to be our stomach, we set ourselves up for more trouble.
    I write this with ashes smudged on my forehead. By the time you read this, we will be one week into Lent. When I received my ashes this morning, I was told, "Remember... you are dust and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:19). For the next 40 days, we focus on acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (sharing what we have with others) to remind our stomachs -- our desires -- that they are not the boss of us.
    Pope Benedict XVI states that because we constantly "strive for emancipation from God's will in order to follow himself alone, faith will always appear as a contradiction to the world."
    While Sheen is an extreme example, we need to be constantly aware of the ways that the world defines "winning" as contrary to what we are called to as those made in the image of God, called to be with him forever in heaven.
    The pope continues that Christ alone "is the reference point of the righteous life, its goal and its center." When the world ends, there will be "winners." Don't miss out on the opportunity Lent provides to truly understand what this means.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011


    Glee, Glee, Glee, Glee, Glee...

    I love your snark.  Your witty dialogue.  I love how you portray Kurt’s relationship with his Dad…  How you give me hope that if arts can triumph over cheerleading and football, then maybe someday youth ministry will too (a stretch, I know, but just go with it).

    The episode you aired this week was, by far, your worst.  I don’t look to you as a moral compass, simply to be entertained by the keen insights you have into the personalities of teenagers.  Often, you can perceive the exact reason I love teens—how they can be slightly self-absorbed one minute and then completely transformed by their motivation to help others the next.  You take no prisoners and mock everyone.
    However, this week you sunk to the sensationalized sexuality that is the reason I hate most programs about teens.  You glamorized sexual experimentation, gave mixed messages and had some very naughty prop placement that I can’t even describe (and I was homeschooled.  So if I picked up on it, you’re just sick…)

    Plus, what’s with “celibacy”?  NO ONE uses that word. 

    With the exception of the talk that Kurt’s dad gave him (while slightly misguided—still a poignant demonstration of his hope for his son) and clarifying that anyone under 18 making a sex tape is producing child porn and could go to jail —none of your adult characters provided any useful information to teens who were confused.  Teens are capable of courage (lest we forget Jordin Sparks dishing on promise rings at the VMA's back in 2008).  When your hormones are catapulting and you’re trying to survive high school, what teens need to be told is that they are stronger than their feelings…  not that any form of experimentation is ok, provided it’s to a perky soundtrack.

    I don’t expect a television show to form teens in virtue.  However, this week’s episode was an awkward mash-up of “Skins”, public service announcements and mediocore music.  And not even funny.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    In hectic lives, it's the small moments that count most

    Originally published in The Bluffton Packet, February 28, 2010

    I rarely arrive at work before our parochial school begins, which is at something like 8 a.m. -- an hour when I doubt even God is awake. But the other day I was in my office at 7:30 a.m., my eyeballs propped open with caffeine, watching the kiddos being dropped off for school, and I saw something that really left an impression on me.
    I already thought it was pretty benevolent of parents to give their kids a ride to school -- my friends and I, back in the day, used to have to take what we affectionately referred to as "the big cheese," aka the bus.
    Then I saw something that restored my faith in humanity, at least for the next few hours. A father, dressed for work, got out of his car and tossed a football with his son on the lawn for a few minutes before school. It was so Hallmark meets Norman Rockwell that I wanted to take a picture of it -- but quickly realized that would be creepy.
    Instead, I reflected on the moment. It's clichè to say, but it's actions like this one that make all the difference for kids.
    I once saw a billboard outside of a church that read, "Kids spell 'love' 'T-I-M-E." There are so many big decisions to make as a parent -- where to send your kids to school, who their pediatrician should be, whether the kids should play soccer or baseball -- that the smaller things, like just spending a few minutes truly focused on each other, can get lost in the shuffle.
    I can only imagine how difficult it is for families to make "T-I-M-E" in their incredibly busy lives, especially on those days when the kids are just not that easy to be around. I'm sure there are days when it would be tempting to drop off the kids at school early and then use those extra minutes to run to Starbucks before work. But, as a parent, you are the most important person in your child's world. Don't take this as a guilt trip, but as encouragement. Study after study shows this is true -- that's why so much money is put into the "Parents: The anti-drug" campaign.
    It might take a village to raise a child, but you are the only permanent residents. The coolest teachers and coaches (and even youth ministers having a great hair day) do not have the same influence as you do.
    The beauty of this is that making a difference and being present in your child's life doesn't require fancy activities, expensive programs or grand plans.
    Just you.
    The football toss I witnessed is just one example of a parent taking time out of the day to be present for his son. Other great opportunities for stealing a moment are: during car trips -- with the radio and phones shut off, of course -- while grocery shopping, at dinnertime or even doing household chores together, such as cooking or cleaning. I know that these are the moments I remember most from my childhood. As a bonus, that question or issue your kids really want to talk to you about most likely will bubble to the surface during these moments together -- when their guards are down and they feel most at ease.
    Parents have the hardest job in the world -- long hours, lots of sacrifice, rarely being thanked or acknowledged for your effort. But persevere. Your love makes all the difference.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    The House You're Building

    Today I talked to some middle school girls about-- to keep it generic-- friendship.  It was the typical "we all want to fit in but what's really important" chat, but I used The House You're Building by Audrey Assad as an introduction. What was really effective was this clip where she explains the song.  She says that it's about being a "misfit" and I have to say, when these middle schoolers heard her talking about how she still feels awkward and that we all have moments of feeling like we don't fit--  well, it resonated.  I think sometimes I forget that despite their matching school uniforms, none of them really feel like they fit in.  

    The song led into a great discussion about how when we try to fit in with each other it will only leave us exhausted and disappointed-- the important thing is that Christ is our foundation, He won't disappoint, and His Church offers us a place to belong.  Like I said, the usual stuff.  But starting with this tune reached them.

    While I love Audrey Assad, It hadn't occurred to me to use this song for this purpose until my friend Joanna suggested it. Just throwing it out there for y'all.

    sacramental chaos

    Every Taco Tuesday I tell myself to not drink so much sweet tea.  Yet every Tuesday evening finds me overly-caffeinated, and if there's no Glee and grape slushies (like tonight), attacking tasks that require energy and not too much thought.  Tonight I tackled my office.

    Because my parish is awesome, I have an office to match.  This year youth ministry went from a small classroom where I barricaded my desk in the corner with coolers and rubbermaid tubs to keep the dodgeballs from hitting my computer to a truly amazing multi-purpose room with a youth room and separate corner office.  It's exactly the type of office they warn you you'll never get if you work for the Church.  Kids, sometimes "they" don't know what they're talking about.  Remember that.

    Anyways, the only problem with this is that while I'm not a "leave old dishes that grow mold in my bookshelves" dirty, I am "why file paper when stacks on my printer, fridge and sacred spaces make it so much easier to find necessary paperwork" cluttered.  Also, I've found parents are delighted to fill out the same permission slip three times, should it get mis-filed.  

    Actually, I should work on that.

    This is especially awkward since, as a corner office, everyone walking by can see.  I am well aware that stacks of paper, 3 starbucks cups and a tooth brush littering my desk doesn't exactly say, "hi, I'm a professional you can trust with your children" so I try to attack it every couple weeks.  Tonight, as I was madly chucking christmas cards and permission slips from 2007, I encountered a conundrum.  A water bottle that I had been using for holy water.  This bottle has caused me sacramental awkwardness before, but now it was finally almost empty-- save a few droplets-- and I absentmindedly chucked it in the trash.  Then I realized this is a sacramental...  We don't throw out prayer books, rosaries or other sacred objects (not because we believe they are gods, but out of respect for the God they remind us of), so I rescued it and set it on my desk and wondered...  what do I do with a bottle that held holy water?  Well, what would anyone do...  I consulted social media.  I'm always amazed how #teamcatholic comes through with some great (never sarcastic) responses when posed with a ministry question.  I got some pretty amazing answers that needed to be shared:

     our thoughts here are that if it's dried out you're fine

     or burn it.

     I think you'd be ok to pitch it...if you're REALLY feelin' cautious, you could bury it...

    (which, I think would be bad karma from St. Francis...  holy water or not, plastic's not biodegradable).

      i'd say it could be recycled. The melting down is basically like the burning that's acceptable for blessed object

     Ooh - tough one. I'd fill it with non-holy h2o, pour that onto the ground, then dispense with the bottle.

     Go to a wake and sneak it into the open casket during the viewing.   

    And that was not all.  Facebook also held answers:

    hmm add more holy water next time your at Church and keep it a Holy Water container! Make it easy on yourself!

    The truly PC thing to do would be to throw it at a vampire who has a large carbon footprint.

    Can't you rinse it out really well in the church's special sink?

    melt it into a statuette of Jesus. He won't mind.

    Throw it away followed by 3 Hail Marys, that's what I do.

    So... Thanks, internet.  I am overwhelmed with options.  After careful consideration...  I think I'll just leave it on my desk indefinitely.  A paperweight for expired permission slips.