Quote, Equus Passage 8/20

These past two weeks have been filled with joy, and some powerful sufferings. In the past three days alone I have come to know of a friend facing infertility, another’s crippling physical pain, and a woman with emotional challenges so deep that I fear for  her soul.

We all face suffering–physical,  emotional, or spiritual. It is always personal…even when we anguish over the sufferings of another. And it always changes us.

As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his  Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, 2/11/84:

It is suffering, more than anything else,

which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.




Please Return Me to My Cell

The Catholic Writers Guild conference last week was a huge success. This was our fifth year and we have doubled in attendance. My job at the conferences was volunteer coordinator. This year was particularly challenging: I had put my back out days before, then three volunteers quit due to family emergencies or illness. I had no idea what I was in for but believed it wasn’t going to be good.

My prayers (and those of Ann Margaret Lewis) stormed the Gates of Heaven. God was in control and would guide, but it never occurred to me He would have so much fun. The comedy began before we left Indianapolis.

I’m a private (slightly neurotic) person and it has taken some time to be comfortable sharing a motel room. Preparing to leave Indianapolis in a few minutes, kneeling in Ann’s living room, I completely unpacked the conference suitcase searching for pajamas. I soon realized that they were still neatly folded at home on my dressing table. Desperate, I lunged into my dirty laundry bag and pull out the previously well-worn pajamas. Rummaging through the matching duffel bag I grab the travel-size bottle of Febreze.  Frantically I spritzed the living smell out of the tricot PJ’s, roll the dampened nightwear and shoved them into the suitcase hoping for positive results. Sunday night found them refreshed, badly wrinkled and a wee bit clammy.

Tuesday’s arrival at the conference center brought a flurry of activity setting up the booths. I was of no use because of back problems, so changed clothes into something less durable and much cooler. Touring the trade show floor I found the Ave Maria Press booths. Sure enough, there was the acquisition editor of my book, Bob Hamma. Delightful man, sweet guy, and the kind of gentleman that would never tell you your blouse was inside-out, and it was.

Tuesday night I scarcely slept, stressed out over absent volunteers. In the morning my back pain was fierce and anxiety rocketed from lack of sleep and stress. Ann was justifiably worried, but I assured her wonders are worked with prayers and pills. Soon enough I was showered and after blowing my hair dry, I thoroughly fluffed it with toothpaste instead of VO-5 Silver. Minty fresh, I headed back to the tub.

I ordered cupcakes from Tom McDonald’s daughter, Meg, and expected his arrival mid-morning. The poor man got misdirected and toted two large hot-pink cupcake carriers throughout the conference center and trade-show. When we finally met up, he good naturedly accepted my rather boisterous greeting informing him of what I’m sure he was already aware…he was tall.  Sometimes I can be a bit of a social klutz, and have been told that this is part of my “charm.”

I must have seemed pretty charming at the pub that night with the Patheos writers. I got quite a rise out of them when I said I was learning to snark by their example. The lovely Elizabeth Scalia exploded with laughter, and the ever composed Pat Gohn wrapped her arms around me and hooted with delight. I really hadn’t meant to be that funny…but I did feel loved.

My social charm continued into the next day. While on a panel I answered a question that I thought I had heard. And it was a good answer…to the wrong question. We all laughed and moved on.

That night while singing happy birthday to a friend…I…forgot…the words.

Then there was the picture with the paper pope. A mock photo-bomb…and the same shot my boss Elizabeth had done the day before. Gack! So awkward.








But the humbling and laughter didn’t end with the conference. Heading home, we stopped at the Russell Stover’s Candy store in Pennsylvania. Chocolate is always good for the wearied soul. And I was obviously wearied. The sweet Rebecca Willen (aka minion to Ann Lewis) called me back from the men’s lavatory where I stood trying to decide whether to use the urinal or a stall.

Being a hermit by nature and thrust into an environment bursting with activity, energy and life can cause me to be a bit anxious and off kilter. Our Lord knows me well, knows how I love to laugh, and took me in hand, reducing my stress through humorous humbling. I’m grateful for all the friends who laughed with me and their hugs as I bumbled my way through the ten-day trip.

I was grateful and relieved to be back in the quiet of my rooms. The last laugh came while I was unpacking. I had run so much at the conference that I’d smoked the insoles of my sandals.

(Images courtesy Tom McDonald, Elizabeth Scalia, and Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.)

Gayety in the Garden

Those of you who have been following my blog know that it has been a challenge this season tearing out my gardens that I have lovingly attended to for over twenty-five years. What remains are flowering shrubs, ornamental trees, and lots of bare soil needing mulch.

Not so long ago problems with my back laid me low. When I was finally up and able I found an unexpected garden gift. A lovely ripe tomato was waiting for me just outside the back door.

This week I’ve been afflicted with more spinal issues and reached out to friends for prayers that I would be well before heading out for the Catholic Writers Conference next week. Prayers are a wondrous thing…I am (and rather quickly) much better.

Wednesday I felt stable enough after breakfast to handle a hose and water the Golden Barberry shrubs recently planted to fill where flowers had once grown. Stepping out and around the front porch I found another glorious gift—and I can say confidently, one that shouldn’t have been there.

The front of the porch had been stripped of all flowers and bulbs, or so I thought. A few narrow strap-like leaves grew in the bare space. At first I thought the leaves a weedy grass, as they got taller maybe corn from seeds dropped by birds. Since I couldn’t bend down to pull them out, and chose to ignore them, the leaves grew.

That morning I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw two stalks of deep magenta Gladiolas standing next to the garden path. For those who live in horticultural Zone 6 and colder (I’m in Zone 5, pushing a 4) know that Glads do not winter over…and yet, these had. What was more remarkable is that I had planted those bulbs in 2011…not last year.

I giggled, rubbed the goose-bumps from my arms, stepped closer and touched the sturdy flowers just to make sure they were real.

What a lovely gift after four days in bed! And which of you dear friends prayed that I should have flowers?




I will be at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference that is part of the  Catholic Marketing Network trade show in Somerset, NJ. With all that this entails, I will take a short break for about two weeks from my routine of blogging…there may be a picture or two from the event.

(Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.)