Six-Word Memoirs for Jesus

A few months ago, Mike heard a story on NPR about six-word memoirs. NPR interviewed folks from Smith Magazine who asked people to capture their life in six-words. They received an overwhelming number of submissions.

Here are some examples:

Had religious experience at grocery store.

I’ve been blessed with second chances.

I still make coffee for two.

As typical (lame) Church workers, this led us to wonder how people would write Jesus’ six-word memoir.

We asked some of our friends for their six-word memoirs for Jesus. Many sent us a slew of six-word memoirs, so we pared it down to one response per person. We made a list of about 35 responses below. 

Check them out and and come up with your own. If you feel so moved, share it in the comments section. Enjoy!

Six-Word Memoirs for Jesus:

Never threw one stone. Liked riddles. / John Bradley

Stay calm, have faith in me. (Turned water into wine. How cool!?!?) / Howie Brown

I am here for you always. / Lori Boccuzzi

Blind shall see, lame shall leap! / Allison Beyer

Died for you. Keep in touch. / Katie Scarlett O’Hara Calcutt

I would do anything for love. / Lenny DeLorenzo

Tried my best…Love changed everything. / Melody Duffy

Let me wash how I wish. / Isaac Garcia

Bring good news to the poor. / Colleen Gibson

I died so you could love. / Kathleen Glackin

Sent to save. Condemned. Will return. / PJ Glackin

I am. Continuing to cause change. / Jana Hambley

Behold, I make all things new. / Kathy Haninger

Friends were fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors. / Gen Jordan

Taught love; only seemed to fail. / Paul Kollman, CSC

Loved you unto death, on cross. / Nic Kovatch

Started out carpenter. Significant career change. / Mike Laskey

Radical service, radical love. Follow me. / Jonathan Lewis

Humble to death on a cross. / John Paul Lichon

Loved unto death. Restored friends’ life. / Patrick Manning

From manger to resurrection, for you. /  Bethanne Mascio

I came so they could live. / Anne Milne

Teaches, cries with us, the poor. / Paul Mitchell

I hang where others do not! / Kevin Moran

I came. I loved. I rose. / Kevin Mohan

Love each other. It’s that simple. / Katie Muller

Love is all that I require. / Widian Nicola

Stranger in a strange land. Going home. / Michael O’Connor

I came, I died, I conquered. / Anthony Paz

That you might have abundant life. / Michael Rossmann, SJ

I loved you, I still do. / Jaclyn Senior

Born poor so you’ll be rich. / Aimee Shelide

To make them know My love. /Ellen Voegele

For you I give my everything. / Anna Waechter

Taught God’s love, was crucified- resurrected. / Leora Wallace

I love you. Go do likewise. / Lindsay Wilcox

Life in Communion. Miracles. Inviting Resurrection. / Felipe Witchger

Here are two more from folks who already have memoirs listed above, but since both fit well with Pentecost themes, we’re sending them with you as a Pentecost blessing:

- Jonathan Lewis

- Isaac Garcia


Love Your Enemies, Like Osama Bin Laden?

This post features guest blogger Jonathan Lewis. Jonathan is a fellow twentysomething working for the Catholic Church. After graduating from The Catholic University of America in 2008, he headed to Notre Dame for his MA in Theology, through the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program (in the same class with Mike and me). Jonathan currently works as the Director of Religious Education at Mount Lady of Carmel Catholic Church in Mill Valley, California.                                                     

The recent announcement of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden causes me to reflect on one of Jesus’ more uncomfortable teachings: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Sit with this and say it again: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Bin Laden’s death carries with it a variety of emotions; it is rare that we have such a visceral reaction to one of our “enemies.” Because of this, it is important to sit with that feeling and to allow God’s love, peace, mercy and presence to dwell within us. Faith is not something added on to our lives for convenience but should be our source, especially in times of great emotion both in joy and in sorrow. I rejoice that Bin Laden will no longer be able to inflict evil and pain on this world, but I am also saddened that his heart was so hardened and I pray for his soul and for those of his followers.

My response is that I may “be the change [I] want to see in the world” (Ghandi) and that I may allow peace to begin with me. We are called to transform the world and we are offered an amazing moment to transform the world today. This is not easy but this is the radical love that we are called to, which counteracts the evils of terrorism and violence. May we emulate the heart of God our Father to hold both justice and mercy in our hearts.

This news came on the same day when Pope John Paul II was declared Blessed and 1.5 million gathered to join in prayer and celebration of holiness. His words continue to resonate:

Let there be an end to the chain of hatred and terrorism, which threatens the orderly development of the human family.

May faith and love of God make the followers of every religion courageous builders of understanding and forgiveness, patient weavers of a fruitful inter-religious dialogue, capable of inaugurating a new era of justice and peace.

- Blessed John Paul II, Easter Message, April 20, 2003

Easter Thursday: Tornadoes?

When Mike presented our Easter week project, he promised we’d post a daily reminder of the resurrection through the Octave of Easter. It feels forced and inauthentic to name signs of resurrection when the death toll from tornadoes in the South pushed three hundred.

So all I have is a few thoughts and a prayer.

Mike mentioned that his pastor, Fr. Vince, said that while the world may be in Good Friday, we are an Easter people.

What does it mean to be an Easter people while this kind of devastation happens?

It means something different for folks who are living the trauma then it does for those of us who are safely in front of computers and TVs, as we click through pictures of demolished neighborhoods and gasp at Twister-like footage.

I have no idea what it means, for them or for us. I do know that especially in the midst of something like this, we can’t dismiss the question: How do we be an Easter people, when the world is in Good Friday?

Loving God,

Embrace all who have been killed or injured this week by tornadoes in the South.

Send your peace to those whose family, friends,

homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces

have been ripped away.

Root compassion deep in our hearts,

that we will listen and answer our call

to reach out to those who we can help–

through generous giving

acts of service

intentional time for prayer.

Make clear what it means for each of us to live Easter in a Good Friday world.

Be with us in the tension

as we wrestle with how there could be a God like you,

who died for us that we might be free–

and yet still allows us to live

in the bondage of natural disaster and moral evil.

Give us the grace to transform the world into your kingdom,

by living out the call to be who we really are–

so that the light of your resurrection

might slowly dawn on the darkness of Good Friday.


You Will Never Wash My Feet: A Reflection on the Holy Thursday Foot Washing

In the gospel for the evening Mass of the Last Supper, we hear that just before his betrayal, Jesus washes his friends’ feet.  We reenact the foot washing during the Holy Thursday celebration as a reminder of how we are called to serve each other.

I’ve never seen someone with really nasty feet get their feet washed during Mass.  Most Masses either pre-inform their selected 12 or invite whoever feels comfortable to come forward to a station to have their feet washed. This means that people either have enough warning to make their feet presentable— I’m thinking of my mother, who got a pedicure before she got her feet washed— or they can choose whether their feet are clean enough to be washed by someone else.

The feet that Jesus washed were probably more like the feet that this gentleman washes:  filthy, sore, and maybe even infected.

But let’s face it, at the Holy Thursday liturgy, nobody’s feet are really all that dirty, and there’s hardly much real washing that happens.  Even with the chance to sterilize their feet before they’re washed, most people (myself included) still prefer not to participate.

If given the choice to be the washer or washee, I’d pick washer every time. I’m not huge on touching people’s feet, but I’d suck it up and wash feet rather than let my own feet be washed.

The same is true in daily life. I’m much more comfortable (as most people are) doing and helping than receiving.

When I hear the foot washing gospel, my initial reaction is to think I’m not serving whole heartedly enough and that there’s much more I can be doing in my life. While this is true, I’m a doer, who interprets the reading as a doer would.

A dear mentor and friend always used to remind me gently that, “We don’t see things the way they are, we see things the way we are.” On my first read of the feet washing narrative, when I respond by thinking that I need to get out and do something, I’m seeing things the way that I am.

As I sit with the reading for longer, I realize that for me, the more challenging message is that to allow my own feet to be washed is to serve.

There are many ways I refuse to let my feet be washed. When I take too much on, don’t allow a healthy vulnerability with others, or am not up front about my preferences— I refuse to let my feet be washed.

These types of behaviors often seem heroic or Jesus-like. They might even seem like examples of how I wash others’ feet.

When I sit quietly, I can discern the difference between true foot washing and moments when I’m more like Peter, who responds to Jesus’ invitation by refusing to let his feet be washed.

What does it look like, in daily life, to allow others to wash our feet?


Women’s Ordination, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and Going Gently with One Another

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, former Maryknoll priest and peace activist, left his religious community this week.

Fr. Bourgeois got in some trouble in recent years because he acted against the Church’s teaching on ordination. He preached that women should be able to be ordained as priests and went so far as to participate in an ordination of women himself.

This week, Fr. Bourgeois decided he could no longer belong to a religious order that demanded he recant his views on a teaching that conflicted so deeply with his own conscience.

Some found this courageous and prophetic. Fr. Bourgeois listened to his conscience and stood against a long tradition of injustice committed by the Church against women.

Others thought this was egotistical and confusing. His pride made him believe that his personal opinion outweighed Church teaching. The women in whose ordination he participated, and many Catholics who heard about them, were misled into thinking that they were actually ordained into ministry for the Catholic Church.                                         

The question of women’s ordination is very contentious within our generation and I have spent many a long evening, especially in college, in the thick of the debate.

But the dilemma that Fr. Bourgeois’ removal raised for me was not about the ordination debate itself, but about how Catholics who disagree about this issue (and others) treat each other.  

I read a chain of literally over a hundred Facebook comments responding to a post about Fr. Bourgeois. The comments derailed into name-calling about who is a “Real Catholic” and who is a “Cafeteria Catholic.” Some commenters asked rhetorically why folks who didn’t accept Church teaching on women’s ordination even wanted to be Catholic at all. I signed out of facebook much less affected by the issue of women’s ordination and Fr. Bourgeois’ letter than by the Catholic civil war that had erupted in cyberspace.

I admit that there have been plenty of times when I have quickly chimed in with claims that some Catholics were more Catholic than others. It took a bit of life experience for me to realize how harmful and unproductive these comments were. Through parish ministry, which gave me opportunities to walk together with a fifth grade Religious Education class, high schoolers, folks in RCIA, and peers who were committed Catholics who struggled with Church teaching, I realized that we’re all on journeys of doubt and belief — journeys full of confusion and grace and frustration and transformative power.

How many Catholics have believed for every moment of their Catholic life that the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ? Do they stop being “real Catholics” in the moments when they question these teachings? No, they don’t. Catholics who aren’t always sure about the Eucharist, or who don’t really think about it at all, are still “real Catholics.”

We all have some things that we struggle to believe, take seriously, or live out well. I do at least. While I am at peace with the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination, there are plenty of teachings I struggle to live well, and I still like to think I’m a “real Catholic.” Do we always believe God loves us? Do we listen to Christ’s mandate to care for the least of his people? We each need to cultivate a place of compassion for others, keeping in mind that we all struggle to believe and live our own faith.

So many of my peers and I — and many who have gone before us — have grown up valuing equal rights for women. Many of my peers view the question of women’s ordination through this lens. It makes sense to me that if we’re really trying to integrate faith into our daily life that these types of questions come up.  It is through grappling with these tough questions that we make authentic claims about what we believe. 

This makes me think of “Of God’s and Men,” a French film recently released. It’s a story of Trappist monks in Algeria who are in danger of being attacked by radical Islamists. When it becomes clear that the monks are in danger, they sit around a table and each cast their vote about whether to leave their monastery for safety or stay where they are. The superior of the community never forces them to accept his choice to stay, the choice that he clearly believes is in line with their faith tradition. The rest of the film follows the beautiful journey of different monks as they wrestle with the different options as the danger grows.

We have to ask the questions, even if they challenge centuries of Tradition, and we have to allow ourselves to sit in the tension and uncertainty for however much time we need. Wrestling with the questions doesn’t mean we’ll always understand the answers we come up with.  But allowing ourselves and others the freedom to struggle with the things that don’t make sense is essential to authentic believing. 

What happens when Catholics who struggle through questions about Church teaching decide that they don’t agree with the Church and yet still want to be Catholic?

They’re still “real Catholics.”

 I have a deep respect for Catholics who disagree with Church teaching, specifically with teachings that mandate that they take a personal actions opposed to what they believe, and remain in the Church. This is very brave. It means that they choose to continue to belong to a community that will tell them that what they believe, and very possibly what they are doing, is wrong. And they will hear this message often and without much compassion.

The discussion surrounding the situation with Fr. Bourgeois is an opportunity for each of us to ask ourselves what we believe and why we believe it. It’s also a chance to recommit to being a people of faith who walk together on the journey.

A Hog and Me Both

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced on Tuesday that 21 priests were suspended because of possible involvement in sexual abuse.

This week was also our monthly Contemplative Leaders in Action meeting in Philadelphia. We always do a “check in” to kick off each meeting.  Several “check ins” included reactions to the priest suspensions.

On Ash Wednesday, one of the members of the group who serves as a Eucharistic Minister had been given ashes to distribute to someone who wasn’t able to make the service.

She works a second job in retail, where she went later that night. The ashes were in a Ziplock bag in her purse. When she got to her job she asked her sister, who was also there, if she wanted ashes.

Someone else saw her distributing ashes and came over and asked if she could have some too. A third woman from across the store saw what was happening and came over and said she had wanted to make a service, but couldn’t, and asked if she could also be signed with ashes.

What a powerful image. People she didn’t know were coming forward and asking to be marked with the sign of the cross in a retail store.

As this was happening, she received a text from a friend that said that the priest they grew up  with was one of the 21 priests suspended.

Moments later, she was on the phone with her siblings and mother. The siblings were reassuring their mother that they hadn’t been abused. Her sister had been baptized by the priest, and her mother was concerned that the baptism didn’t really count.

These are questions and conversations that should never have to happen.

I heard her story hours ago and I still can’t shake it. How confusing that in the same moment, she experienced the best and worst things about church?

What does it mean that there are bad things and good things in the Church? Does the good make the bad less bad? Does the bad make the good less good?

I read Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “Revelation,” on retreat a few years ago. The story is about a disgusting woman, Mrs. Turpin, who treats people awfully. Someone finally says to Mrs. Turpin’s face that she’s “a hog from hell.” These words gnaw at Mrs. Turpin, until in a moment of self-revelation, she cries out, “How am I a hog and me both? How am I saved and from hell too?”

This realization of our simultaneous sinfulness and goodness seems very Lenten. I am a hog.  And I am me, a me who is deeply good, at the very same time.

Is it possible that the Church is a hog AND that the Church is the things we love about the Church?

It’s completely understandable that people have left the Church, and continue to leave her, because of the abuse scandals.

It’s harder to believe that people stay.

Why do they?

What keeps me in is to hear that even with the news of the suspended priests, people were lining up to be signed with ashes in a retail store in Philadelphia.

Let Go and Let God / St. Francis De Sales is a Baller

I love the Catholic stock of saints. Last week we celebrated the feast of St. Francis De Sales — no, not the one who was BFF with animals. The other Francis. He’s the patron saint of journalists and writers (maybe that includes bloggers?). I’ve heard him described as a Catholic humanist because his spirituality roots in his human experience. So anyway, on his feast day, I decided to pull out “Set Your Heart Free (30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher),” a 30-day meditation book on the practical spirituality of St. Francis. I opened it up and read:

Stop worrying.
Whatever it is that you must do
to follow the path that God has shown you
do to the best of your ability.
And when you have done it
move on to the next thing.

Don’t keep rerunning it in your mind
trying to decide
whether your efforts were too little
or too much,
whether it was a great deed or a small one,
whether you might have done better.

If it wasn’t sinful and
you were trying to do the will of God,
it is enough.

Don’t worry. Move on.
Follow the path the Lord shows you
free of anxiety.

your anxiety will undermine
your efforts to grow.

If you do fail,
don’t let anxiety
overcome you,
but admit your failure,
quietly, humbly,
and in God’s presence.
Then get on with following the path
that God will continue to show you.

Wham. I felt like St. Francis was looking me right in the face as he said it.
Read the rest of this entry »


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