25 March 2021

A Simple Self-Care Question for Hard Times

I didn't always know how to take good care of myself. For a number of years, I prided myself on being the woman who "gets stuff done," and somehow absorbed the lie that productivity mattered over a healthy relationship to my mind and body. I did not know how to listen to my spirit to find out what I needed to take care of myself in a given moment. I was too busy, well, too busy.

As I have grown as a person, I've learned to ask myself a simple question when I am stressed at work or by life scenarios. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, or life feels heavy, hard, lonely, or confusing, I ask, "What do I need right now?" It feels both empowering and freeing, and in many ways helps me trust myself and my intuition.

Looking at your own life, how can this question help you take better care of yourself, especially during a hard time?

Read the rest over at Verily to help apply this question to your emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

What types of questions help you take care of yourself better?

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19 March 2021

Why We Need Merton (More than Ever)

One of the things I most loved about graduate school at our local seminary were all the new spiritual writers and thinkers I encountered.

I had several professors that opened my eyes to new ideas and gave me me deeper understanding and reflection of my beliefs.

It was in my history of Christian spirituality class I first heard of a man named Thomas Merton. I had never heard of this Oxford studied writer turned Trappist monk. We spent one class on getting to know Merton. My professor gave us his basic biography and we read some passages of his work. 

It was several years later that I eagerly dove into the writings of Thomas Merton and quickly went on a journey of spiritual friendship, learning much from this gifted soul.

I do not know what propelled me to take a second look at Merton. I do remember flying home from somewhere and reading this book which is what drew me in. What I liked about this book is that it was a sampling of his writing from many different published works. 

From there I devoured everything I could that Merton had written. To this day, my favorite books of his are New Seeds of Contemplation and No Man Is an Island. I think those are one of two great places to start.

Since that plane ride several years ago, Thomas Merton has become one of the most influential spiritual writers and teachers to me in my own personal faith journey.

Now, you might be reading and thinking, "That's great Patty! Good for you girlfriend."

I promise to get off my Merton soapbox, but the reason I share this with you is because now more than ever our culture and the world need the words, teaching, and perspective of Thomas Merton.


I have noticed a growing trend among my friends, acquaintances, and people I follow on social media, many Christians and Catholics are going through a personal deconstruction of their long-held religious tradition of Christianity or Catholicism. A more recent well-known example is that of Audrey Assad. 

For many varied and often good reasons, people choose to let go of the spiritual and religious beliefs they grew up with. I share some of the similar frustrations of things I see in the Church these days. I can understand and hold space in my heart for the pain, hurt, and frustration people feel towards the Church. I find myself fascinated with learning about and understanding a person's perspective on what would lead them to leave and choose a new spiritual path for themselves.

As the world becomes more secular and the population of  "nones" rapidly grows, we see that people in the culture are spiritually seeking in many ways. From what I can see and understand, they desire truth, peace, life-giving spiritual practices, a community to call home and find support. They seek the good and beautiful and work for justice.

I think spiritual teachers like Thomas Merton can speak to the heart of a seeker in an authentic way that allows a person to wrestle with God while come to draw closer. Even if a person never converts or returns to the faith they have always known, the example of Thomas Merton is one of pastoral care, compassion, listening, and vulnerability.

Regardless of whether a person belongs to a spiritual or religious tradition, we all are on a spiritual journey. It is the journey of a lifetime to come to know more fully who we are and experience the Divine living and breathing in us.

Merton speaks to the tired, weary, and burnt out heart. His own religious wandering and restlessness brought him to the doors of a Trappist monastery; which for him, became a home for his own searching heart.

In 2021, Merton is the spiritual teacher we need to rediscover and learn from.

Merton teaches us ...

How to listen well and accompany people where life finds them.

To ask deep questions about ourselves, God, spirituality, and religion.

To dialogue and learn from people of other faiths.

How to wrestle with God while letting ourselves be found by God.

God is much bigger and deeper than what we construct or imagine.

God can be known and personally experienced.

There is room for questions.

How to be a life-long spiritual learner.

As a Catholic, if the Church hopes to be relevant and speak to the depths of people's longing, we need to return to voices that can help meet hearts right where they are.

For me, Thomas Merton is and remains one of those voices.


Thomas Merton, pray for the nones. Pray for the hearts of all spiritual seekers looking for God.
May we be the people to meet them love them right where life finds them.


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14 March 2021

5 Good Podcasts, Reads, & Follows

It is crazy to think where we all were a year ago and what has changed so much about the life we knew since then.

I have been spending some time reflecting in my journal with some questions from one of my favorite podcasts. 

I have been reading, listening and following some new voices, so I thought it might be fun to share what I have been enjoying the last few months.


A Drink With a Friend - This is a new show I discovered when Tsh's old podcast turned into this one with her friend Seth Haines. Thought-provoking conversations that leave me thinking on the topic. My favorite episode so far is this one all about exercise, CrossFit, and the sacramentality of our bodies.

Human Hope - I have been following Carlos Whittaker for awhile on Instagram. I have learned a lot from this man. He talks about many topics on his page; the uncomfortable ones that maybe we don't want to look at sometimes. Everything from what empathy is (and is not), how to apologize well, and racism. Oh and his love for birds too.
I really enjoyed his first episode with Sharon McMahon from @sharonsaysso, a Minnesota mom who has taught government for years and offers a really clear, yet nuanced way to talk about government, policy, and politics.

Everything Happens - Kate Bowler is a bit of brightness and truth-telling both in my Instagram feed and in my earbuds each week. A teacher at Duke Divinity, she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at the age of 35. Her podcast is all about telling stories of survival and thriving through the hard, unexpected things of life. If you need some encouragement, hit subscribe to this one.
She also does daily reflections on Instagram for Advent and Lent, and I love them to pieces. 

Her most recent episode with Matthew McConaughey is sweet and delightful...how do you not love that guy and his adorable Texas accent?

More than Politics - Julie is one of those people I follow online and hope someday I get the chance to hug her in person. A former lobbyist she now stays home with her five kiddos in a beautiful old house. Over the last few years, I have become much more interested in politics. While I personally identify in the middle/an independent, I love a good political discussion.

What I love about Julie's podcast is how nuanced it is, something sadly, that seems to be less and less these days. I am always learning something new, especially like in this episode on the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. 
Also the episode on the insurrection at the Capitol. That captured a lot of what I thought about.

Where Do We Go From Here - I do not even remember how I first found this podcast. The tagline on their Instagram page reads, "untangling sexual ethics for a new generation of Christians." These ladies talk about it all: purity culture, dating, singleness, marriage, porn, lust, and much more. They give me a lot to think about and reflect from my own experience and growing up.
This and that episode I found particularly interesting.

If you are looking for a both theological and psychological discussion on this and related topics, I would recommend this one. While not the religious perspective I grew up with, I have found it insightful and helpful.


Simple Green Smoothies - Joe and I are doing a green smoothie challenge during Lent. It has been a helpful way to get more raw fruits and veggies into my body. I am starting to love adding a green smoothie into my daily morning routine.

A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching: The Church's Best Kept Secret - Recently one of my RCIA topics to teach was on Catholic Social Teaching. Several years ago, I would have assumed that CST was something "liberal" or "progressive" Catholics clutched onto. However, that is a rather unfair critique. It is most deeply connected to the teaching of Jesus on the greatest commandment; love of God and love of neighbor.

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding - I love a good historical fiction novel, and this proved to be as good as I hoped it would be. The story is a fictional, yet personal account of the women who worked on designing and making the wedding dress for Queen Elizabeth II. The book goes back and forth between the past and present, which is something I love.
An easy read, but very interesting and enjoyable. If you need a light but thoughtful fiction read right now, I would recommend picking this one up.


Black Catholic Messenger - This account is a newer one for me. The editor and creator is a young black, Catholic man studying the Josephite order whose goal is to help amplify black voice and experiences in the Church. I am grateful for Nate's work and am grateful for what it is teaching me and what I am learning.

Madison Chastian @maddsienicole - Madison is actually a woman I have been following on the ol' Gram for awhile. Every time I have been to Chicago in the last few years, we bemoan after the fact how great it would be to meet up IRL sometime sooner rather later. Maddie writes at several Catholic sites online and is very passionate about writing about and for non-Catholics, women, disabilities, and more.  
She is a thoughtful writer and is not afraid of a difficult conversation when it comes to being a Catholic woman in 2021.

Alissa Molina @alissarmolina - Alissa is another fire cracker I have been following for a long time. This is a woman constantly seeking to bring the fire of the Spirit into everything she does. If you are not following her, change that stat.

Alissa is one of the cohosts on the Upside Down Podcast and the creator of From Here Sessions and the newly launched From Here Media. I have been honored to be a part of several creative projects with Alissa and am constantly learning something new from this spicy, Texan sister in Christ.

Terrible, Sinful Catholics @okcatholics - I started following this account shortly after the election this past November. This account is not afraid to have hard conversations about any and all things related to being a Catholic today. There are equal parts nuance with feeling uncomfortable. Recent conversations on things like purity culture and that Joe Biden still is Catholic have given me a lot of things to think about.
It might not be your cup of tea, but I am really enjoying the content that comes out of this account.
Check them out and see what you think.

Who are you reading, listening to, or following these days? 

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