Soul Work

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

  By Charlotte Ostermann You’ve got work to do: roles, duties, tasks aplenty. If I suggest more work, your first thought is probably, “No time!” and your next, “No energy!” Yet, I do suggest you take on more: the work of cultivating freedom. Interior freedom lightens all the other loads you carry. Whatever realities you face can become doorways to freedom if you perceive them as means to your own formation. Your power to bear tension of all kinds is enhanced through the practice of placing your interest into the people, world, works, and words around you, and through the practice of allowing your heart to be deeply affected by it all. Harness intellectual and emotional power to increase your capacity for reality, for Christ. Mind and heart are not superfluous – to be ignored until after the chores are done – but are the very muscles to engage more fully to lift the various ‘loads’ of life. It may frustrate you to start exercising a rusty brain, and it may hurt to allow your heart to respond more fully, but without these powers, you can become just a body going through the motions of life, instead of wielding yourself … Read More

Suffering and Parenthood

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove The Betrothed [book selection from ‘Year of the Spouse’]  is a novel about suffering. The young couple, Renzo and Lucia, suffer separation, arrest, exile, abduction, pestilence, and despair before they are able to be together. Their suffering isn’t unique: suffering is a part of human life. We live in a society uncomfortable about suffering. Fast food and prepackaged meals prevent the mildest rumblings in our stomachs. Smartphones ensure we are never bored. There are even services at theme parks so we don’t have to wait to ride roller coasters. Our fear of pain is killing us. Doctors prescribe narcotic medications more than three hundred percent more often than they did a decade ago. Partially as a result, the number of people who die from prescription pain medication overdoses each year has more than doubled since 1999. There is even a growing call to allow euthanasia so that patients can have “death with dignity,” as if suffering itself is somehow shameful. We bring these norms into our homes. We make special meals so our children won’t have to eat things they don’t like or go hungry. We buy them toys because we don’t want them to have unmet … Read More

Tilling Deeper Soil

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) Catholic Studies program has been a generous supporter of the annual Well-Read Mom Conference, and of Well-Read Mom in general. The article below appeared in their recent Alumni publication. It began with some frustration. One day, Marcie Stokman’s daughter Beth, a new mother, called her to say, “I’m done going to mother’s groups. All they talk about is diapers. Isn’t there a place after college where women can keep growing and learning and asking[important] questions together?” Beth ’11 had experienced a kind of approach to the Catholic intellectual life in her Catholic studies courses that she wanted to continue to pursue after college. Stokman, a Tommie parent five times over, had been speaking to mom’s groups throughout the area about children’s literature and then more generally about being well-read. She found herself coming home sad from events because women were not reading. “They were too busy, too tired, didn’t know where to start,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t reading so well myself and that we needed to do this together. It mattered that we do this. If we quit reading as women, then our children don’t read, our husbands don’t read. … Read More

A Place to go Deep – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Emma Gillette When my friend Colleen first asked me to join her brand new WRM group, I thought to myself, “Oh, I’m not holy enough to participate. I couldn’t possibly.” (If you knew my friend Colleen, you’d have the same reservation!) And yet… the idea lodged into my brain. A voracious reader, I had been in several book clubs as an adult, but they had never lasted either because the point was solely for young moms to get out and socialize, and the book was just the excuse, or because my desire to read books that matter conflicted with the others’ wish for a “fun read”. (What, you don’t think Thomas Merton is a fun read ?!) “I’ll give this group a try,” I thought. I did know some of the women whose email addresses were on the list. I recognized Stephanie from a softball team, and Colleen Number 2 (Another one! We’re chock-a-block with Colleens. There’s another one, if you can believe it. Hurrah for Irish Catholics!) because she is a lector at our church. I knew some of the women from my kids’ school. Some were strangers to me. I signed up, read the first book (Hannah … Read More

Learning From the Little Flower – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Colleen Bassindale Sometimes we delve into a new book with preconceived notions, based on something we’ve read or heard from a friend, or on past knowledge. This was true for me prior to reading [I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux]; not because I had heard anything in particular about it, but because of the subject: St. Therese, The Little Flower. I considered the term “Little Flower” a bit too cutesy and I didn’t think I could relate to her. Yes, I judged her by her name! But I soon discovered that she could not be further from a “little” anything – she was a powerhouse. Here’s a brief synopsis of what St. Therese endured in her short life: Besides suffering enteritis (excruciating intestinal problems) since birth, coupled with emotional problems – her beloved mother, who taught St. Therese how to pray and most importantly how to love, died when she was four. This harsh beginning made St. Therese long for heaven, viewing life as continual suffering. She became a Carmelite nun when she was 16, joining her two older sisters who had previously joined the Order. The other nuns … Read More

Gifts of Friendship – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

Today’s post is a continuation of the series, “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”. By Stephanie Beatty Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Tom and Jerry, Piglet and Pooh – all classic friendships! When I sit down to read a good book, I often regard that book as a friend or companion or a well-worn sweater I want to wrap myself in on a winter afternoon. We’ve all had the experience of regretfully reaching the end of a favorite book. We want the characters to live and breathe and come out of the pages and let us know what they will do next. We yearn for more understanding of the choices they made, and to gather strength from the power of having stood by them for hundreds of pages, living their wondrous lives. It is with this same zeal that my WRM group inspires me with from month to month. Together we enjoy the gift of classical, contemplative literature and eternal friendship. The selection for January (2017) was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The protagonist, a young Francie Nolan, journeys from an ambitious library-card-carrying 11-year-old to young writer whose words detail the realities of her often dark, … Read More

You Are Not Alone – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

We will be running a series over the next few weeks entitled “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”. Five Well-Read Moms will share their experiences and the friendship they found through literature and Well-Read Mom. You Are Not Alone  By Claire Vaidyanathan and Marcia Otto Moved by a Well-Read Mom presentation in New York City in 2015, two friends in Houston, TX proposed WRM to a group of women in their community. During the kick-off meeting for the ‘Year of the Worker,’ it became clear that those who accepted the invitation shared the desire to read good literature, to spend more time together, to take life more seriously, and to face deep questions about the meaning of work. Little did we know that a surprising journey was about to begin. We found ourselves generated by an unexpected new engagement with daily life. Page by page, book by book, we began to share about some of the most intimate matters of daily life, with an increasing awareness that our hearts were longing for the same thing: a companionship that would help us see the invisible hand of our loving Creator at work in the most ordinary moments of the day. Here … Read More

Spiritual Barrenness: Reflections on Dorothy Day’s ‘The Long Loneliness’ – Part 2

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Teresa Vargo Continued from Part 1 A third of the way through her biography, Dorothy wrote, “I never intended to write an autobiography. I’ve always wanted instead to tell of things that brought me to God and that reminded me of God”(94). Here we see the longing. Towards the beginning she quoted a character from Dostoevsky novel The Possessed, “All my life I have been haunted by God… this must indeed be so as former friends and comrades have said this of me” (11). She was haunted by a longing for God. When her mom had a little baby boy, Dorothy was absolutely enamored with him. She really experienced God through him. Despite all of this she still spoke about this longing and called out for union. But she was also afraid of this longing for God. She approached God through this longing and realized that He is a living God – the living God. Omnipotent. And this is a scary thing. This is what I call the transition from longing to loneliness. She had the longing for God and then she grew tired of it, or scared even. She was scared of the intimacy with the eternal God … Read More

Spiritual Barrenness: Reflections on Dorothy Day’s ‘The Long Loneliness’ – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Teresa Vargo When I found out that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had recently approved Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization, I was surprised. Not because I didn’t think she was a good woman, but because I knew her as an activist. And although many activists do a lot of good things, they’re not typically saints canonized by the Catholic Church. I was intrigued by this. So when Marcie asked me to give this talk on Dorothy Day I agreed, but I really didn’t know too much about her beyond her involvement in starting the Catholic Worker Movement. I’m really grateful that I had this chance to get to know Dorothy Day, because it allowed me to understand why the Church is actually looking to canonize her. She was truly a remarkable woman. So, if activism doesn’t make someone a saint, what does? Well, an interior life. Okay, what’s an interior life? It’s a profoundly deep relationship with God in one’s life. Not just on the outside, but in one’s very heart, in one’s very being. And here we find Dorothy Day – the contemplative. Honestly, that is kind of shocking because there are many words we can … Read More

When Reading Feels Like a Waste of Time

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman As Bishop James Conley from Lincoln, NE recently said in an interview: “All of us who wish to bring forward a renewal of Christian culture in our world should begin on our knees, in prayer. But we must also begin with books in our hands, being formed in the great tradition of the classical mind.” You acclaim the benefits of reading; in fact, you’re convinced that as a society we need to read more. Yet, in the secret recesses of your heart, there is tension. For a woman wearing many hats and juggling many activities, reading a novel seems like a waste of time. Isn’t there more important work for a woman to do than read Frankenstein or all 985 pages of The Brothers Karamazov? With everything we have going on, maybe next month would be better for tackling Dostoevsky. Yes, of course, next month! The hammock that has been lodged in an upstairs closet for twelve years due to missing hardware will magically be hung and call my name! Next month, the weeds won’t grow, and the milk won’t spill. Next month the long-awaited reading reprieve will materialize! Don’t be fooled. Do you want to know … Read More