How do we help each other bear the cross?

We have no right to mutely point to the cross and let other people hang there alone. All humans must suffer, but all humans must also help each other bear that suffering.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly?

Image: Detail of Fifth Station of the Cross by Sieger Koder, “Folly of God” series

The Ascension (and the follow-up)

I’ve heard from the bereaved that death anniversaries can be brutal. Everyone else is the world has long since moved on, but the grief is rekindled. A kind word and the promise of a prayer can make a huge difference in how painful that day feels.

It’s a profoundly Catholic impulse, the follow-up; and, like every virtue, it was modelled by Christ.

Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly.

Suzanne Bercier

Earlier this week, my dear friend Suzanne Bercier died. She had cancer, which is never fair, but Suzanne especially was so beautiful and so good.  We were college roommates.

She was from rural Louisiana, and everything you’ve heard about gracious, mellow Southerners was true in Suzanne. She had a merry eye, and thick, glossy hair; she was tall and slender, and when you sat down at her table, she made you feel like she’d been waiting all day for that moment.

She had an unshakable faith in the power of the Holy Name. When her room filled up with chatty, catty girls who veered into gossip and viciousness, she would whisper the name of Jesus and wait for the conversation to right itself.  She always invited, never pushed. The cafeteria was right next to the chapel, and when it was late afternoon, I met Suzanne hundreds of times:  she was heading to the bright chapel for daily Mass, I was fleeing to my smelly room for evening despair. And she would smile and invite, invite, invite. Want to come to Mass? Want to join us for a rosary? Okay, see you at dinner!

One clattering drawer of her dresser was full of bottles and powders, and every afternoon she would wince her way through a tall, clotted glass of some kind of chlorophyll drink.  Maybe she would have been sicker without all those handfuls of vitamins, I don’t know.  She endured so many colds and coughs, but holy cow, she worked, and worked, and worked. The idea of leaving an assignment undone was unthinkable to her, and she muscled her way through every dense text and incomprehensible passage. She chose Wallace Stevens for her junior project, because she was always looking for beauty.

In four years, I never heard her say an unkind word. She would laugh at herself, but never at anyone else.  She was a fountain of generosity. When we came back to school our sophomore year, I saw her in the parking lot, she held out her hands to me, and for a moment, we danced. It was strange, and I broke away laughing, but that is how she was: she was glad to see you, and held out her hands.

God rest the soul of Suzanne Therese Bercier, and God comfort the family that she loved so much and missed so much when she was away. And one more time, here is the song that could always get her to sing along:

 

7 Quick Takes, in which I have fun doing my penance

Okay, so I’m slow. I just got around to reading Francis’ interview with America magazine, and now I want to do a quick round-up of last week’s Catholic Women Rejoice conference in Vancouver, WA.

(photo credit Caitlin Elder)

–1–

It really was obnoxious, but I asked one of my dear, extremely busy hostesses to find me a priest who could hear my confession.  Because airplanes.

So she did, and he found the time, and we found a sacristan who could open the confessional for us, and it was a great confession.

I won’t tell you what I said in there, but the priest told me that we should try to figure out how to turn our sins into strengths.  So for my penance, I had to use my computer for good, instead of . . . other things.  I’m supposed to seek out five websites that would be useful or edifying for people.  So today’s post will count as one, since I didn’t exactly seek these out, but they certainly fill the bill otherwise.

–2–

Caitlin Elder writes Tales of the Elders.  Clever name, eh?  Caitlin is a lovely woman, very attentive and sincere — and, like 99% of the women I met at the conference, so funny.  Here we are at the dinner after the conference  – and you can see I’m a bit droopy with jet lag by this point; but Caitlin, who is pregnant, is peppy and alert.  Young parsons!  How do they do it?

(photo credit Caitlin Edler)

Do check out Caitlin’s blog for great summaries of the three talks at the conference, and stay for this sweet post about her pity party cure, her encouraging post about post-partum depression, and one extremely awesome photo of one freaked out baby on Santa’s lap.

–3–

I was thrilled to be placed at a table with Katrina Burbank, who sent me those beautiful hair jewels that my family likes so much.  Katrina is so sassy (I’m sorry, not my favorite word, but it just kinda fits) and funny and honest.  Here we are at the dinner:

Katrina is holding her ridiculously cute baby in a carrier because she knows that if she puts her down, I will kidnap her and bring her home in my purse.

(photo credit Katrina Burbank)

Burbank Homestead is her beautifully designed blog where she writes about “faith, family, crafting, and beer.”  Here is her write-up of the conference,  Katrina is so busy, and has done a masterful job of  turning her powerhouse energy and organizational skills into a resource for other busy folk who are looking for help getting it all together.  Her practical homesteading posts are especially helpful, without ever slipping into that “gaze-upon-my-wonderfulness-you-miserable-slob” attitude you often get from helpful blogs.

–4–

I had so much fun talking to the author of Moments in Mediocre Motherhood.  I don’t know if we’re really kindred spirits or if she just makes everybody feel that way, but what a fantastic woman.  I gave my speech about Mary, and described how Mary is the kind of mother who, when approached by a screaming, sticky, snotty toddler, will scoop up said toddler and cuddle her, rather than shrinking away.  So this woman, who was there with the prettiest baby girl in the world,  introduced herself by charging up to my table covered from head to toe in pretty baby girl poop and demanding a hug.

(photo credit Moments in Mediocre Motherhood)

That hug, she did not receive.  Look, I’m not Mary!  Anyway, I laughed my head off, and continued laughing as we exchanged notes (after she found a change of clothes) about how to deal with unexpected pregnancies, working from home with kiddos in the house, and dealing with fertilinazis.   She also very generously changed her schedule the next day so that she could accompany me to the airport after Mass, which gave me some extra time to play with her cutie wootie:

who was perhaps not quite as enthusiastic about our relationship as I was

(photo credit Moments in Mediocre Motherhood)

What impressed me the most was her obvious, overflowing joy and love for her family.  Check out her blog for more of this infectious joy despite — or because of — her crazy life.

–5–

Another instant friend was Kate, who braved the day with not one but two of her four kids. Kate is the co-founder of Real Catholic Love and Sex:  More than Just Missionary, which recently got a great review from Dr. Gregory Popcak. The blog is written by Kate and a married man named James, and is one of the more honest and thorough blogs about Catholic sex and marriage that I’ve seen. Here I am with Kate (and yes, we did do other things at this conference besides drink wine — but I will admit, I really enjoyed that part).

(photo credit Kate)

Not the highest quality photo, but it really captured the evening, during which I laughed so hard my throat hurt for days — and yes, I cried a little bit, too.  Kate also rearranged her schedule to come to an earlier Mass so she could drive me to the airport.  I only wish we didn’t live on opposite sides of the country.

–6–

I accidentally left my conference gift bag behind in Portland, but dear Lisa Ferry is mailing it to me.  I had heard so much about one of the goodies inside, the exquisite handmade soap made by Anna Cools of Roots Soap Company.

I dunno –  how good could it be, with only an average of five stars from 733 reviewers?  I only got a few minutes to speak with Anna, but she gave me a wonderful selection of her soaps for my girls.  Watching the mail!  Thanks again, Anna.

–7–

Oh, I met so many other wonderful women at this conference, too many for my poor brain to remember at the end of the week  – including, of course, the dynamic Julie Ondernko, founder of Catholic Finish Strong, who gave us a smorgasbord of saints to get to know

(photo credit Caitlin Elder)

and the amazing Sr. Miriam James Heidland

(photo credit Caitlin Elder)

who reduced a roomful of 300 women to tears in the best possible way.

I also met the fabulous Louise Mohr, whom I could have spotted half a mile away by her lipstick.  I hear from her sister that she has a fashion blog, and I WANT TO SEE IT.  Where, Louise?

And so many, many other wonderful women who braved the rain and their busy schedules to come together for a beautiful day filled with grace.  If you were there and would like to share your blog or website, please email me (simchafisher@gmail.com) or put it in the comments, and I will add it to the post.  And please, beautiful Sia Nickelsen, who showed me her excellent little women’s magazine, I meant it when I said send me a reminder!  I need reminders!

Again, Sterling Jaquith and Lisa Ferry, you did a completely amazing job putting this day together and making me feel at home.  The Catholic Women Rejoice conference will be back next year!  I really suggest putting it on your calendars now.

Don’t forget to check in with our host, Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary, and wish her a happy 10th anniversary!