I Walked into Suffering on the Road to Santiago

“For as long as humans have walked, they have walked to get closer to their gods." The words appear on top of a PBS website in white upon a black background—an over-simplified truth, smacking with arrogant certitude. At least that’s the way it feels to me when I stare at the screen just a few days after returning from pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Northern Spain.“For as long as humans have walked, they have walked to get closer to their gods.” The phrase rolls … [Read more...]

Blog of the Year

When I told my fellow pilgrims that we'd received an award for faith-based blog of the year, our associate editor Matt Lafleur responded, "Does this mean we're....winners?" Good question.Jonathan Ryan and I created this blog for the margins, the narrow audience not being served (or published) by Christian presses and magazines -- those of us who've never felt at home anywhere but are tired of traveling alone. That audience has turned out to be a lot bigger than we anticipated.The Wilbur … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: John Wayne Gacy and Me

I don't remember where I hid the bodies or how I struck them down. Many are rotting in Louisiana. Others were tossed along the many roads I've traveled all around this country.Sometimes I can't even recall their names. Part of me wants to doubt I did it. Another part insists an extenuating circumstance limits my culpability, no matter how guilty I know that I am. I'm not sure if I would condemn concerns over the reaction of my wife, my family, and my closest friends as mere vanity. But I'm … [Read more...]

A Back to School Prayer for the Weirdos (and their weirdo parents)

I wrote this essay six years ago, before my daughter was diagnosed with autism and my google searches for "toddler anxiety" and "what am I doing wrong as a mother" came to an end (mostly). But as I prepare to launch my ten-year-old into a new school for fifth grade, I dug it out of the archives because it still gets to the heart of my contortions of fear and worry and guilt and pride for my children. I was also inspired by this heart-string-tugging story making the rounds today.Pray with me, … [Read more...]

The Mystery is Right Next to Us. Learn How to Find It.

 In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda pokes Luke Skywalker with his walking stick and says, "I've been watching this one. All his life....he has looked away to the future, the horizon...never his mind on where he was.....what he was doing..." I must confess, this is a summary of my life. I've always believed there is something better, just beyond the horizon and that belief has led me to neglect the people, places and the Mystery around me.The dark magic of divorce forces you to … [Read more...]

Popular Piety: A Vision of the Sacred Heart

About a year ago, I took one of my many trips to Utah, which has become my go-to vacation spot. I have a ton of friends out there, including one of my best friends. She's your typical California hippie, open to anything spiritually. Lately, she'd been going to a Christian reiki healer who, supposedly, really knew what she was doing.I'm not a spiritual prude. I'm a self-described Midwestern Lumberjack mystic, but I also nurture a pretty severe skeptic streak. I'm a bit suspicious of weird … [Read more...]

The Dark Devotional: St. Thomas Didymus: A Heart Made Double by Breaking

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “P … [Read more...]

Light One Candle

Every week after Mass I light a candle. I love the smell of hot wax and matches, the action of my own hand kindling one small flame that will burn for hours, a visible sign of my unseen petition flickering beside the anonymous hopes and burdens of others. I’ve always clung to this little ritual.In those moments of life when I’ve felt most powerless, when I’ve felt there’s no comfort at all for myself or a suffering friend beyond a cry for divine help, lighting a candle has made me feel like I … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: First Sunday of Lent: The Devil Inside

 Click here for the complete Mass readings for the First Sunday of Lent 2016.A reading from the Gospel According to Luke. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan  and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,  to be tempted by the devil.In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus faces three tests that all believers face. Satan tempts Him with immediate needs (turn this bread into stones), the desire for power/popularity (all this can be … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: Ash Wednesday 2016: Bring on the Night

Click for the complete Mass readings for Ash Wednesday 2016. Psalm 51: 12 Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me.Last Ash Wednesday, my brother sent a text asking what my spiritual goals were. I wrote back, "stay alive."I was lying in my best friend's bed in Chicago, so depressed I could barely move my fingers, but I vividly remember answering his text, then scrolling through the weather app on my phone to see the high that day would be -1.  F … [Read more...]