Large families are a huge blessing, especially at the holidays! As the youngest of eight children I have many memories of waiting for family to arrive on Thanksgiving. I had brothers and sisters driving home from college and from their own homes (bringing my nieces and nephews that were like brothers and sisters to me as they were more my age than my siblings). The anticipation built in me as I waited for our quiet home to be transformed into hub of laughter, fun, singing, and lots and lots of sharing. When I was young I took all of this for granted, I don’t anymore.
Many things have changed since I grew from being the baby in the family to having a family of four children of my own. I realize now that the presence of one thing connects every thanksgiving I have celebrated over the last 50 years: PRAYER. Throughout the years there have been many different forms of prayer depending on the household hosting the gathering that year, but every meal has always started in a prayer of Thanksgiving for the food we were about to share, for all of our blessings, and a prayer of petition for all those that would not have all that we had that day.
I will never forget one prayer in particular as long as I live. It was the prayer my niece’s husband prayed at their home the year he found out he had A.L.S. There was not a dry eye in the backyard tent (like I said our family is large and most houses can’t accommodate all of us) as he read from the book of Psalms in his bible. The night ended with the whole family singing Hallelujah accompanied by another niece’s boyfriend on his ukulele and all I could think of was the multitude of prayers being sent to heaven for him as I was reminded of the saying, “singing is like praying twice!” Two years later he is miraculously still in amazing physical health despite his diagnosis. He has an army of family and friends praying for him and, whether his good health is due to these prayers or to modern medicine, EVERY day is worthy of thanksgiving prayers for him.
Thanksgiving This Year
Today I fly to Denver to be with a whole new family this year for Thanksgiving… the family of my future daughter-in-law. I am bringing along a bag full of Blessing Bracelets to share. My prayer is that every time we look down at these bracelets they will be a reminder of the love shared on this beautiful occasion and of being blessed, once again, as our family continues to grow.
Gratitude for me is a supernatural grace that raises my heart and soul above the pain of suffering and loss, to a place of love and peace. It transports me to a place where I feel I can join my heart with others and mutually lift the other up, a place where loneliness can be healed by friendship, compassion, family and new life.
Gratitude takes me to a place where I feel held in God’s arms, protected in the mantle of Our Blessed Mother, and reminds me that my Guardian Angel is with me. It reminds me to call on Archangel Michael to protect me.
Gratitude reminds me what a gift it is to be united with Christ and that His light reignites and illuminates. It reminds me that one day, by God’s grace, I will be able to sit at the banquet in heaven with all my loved ones around me. For me this is the place of gratitude- a place where I look around the table and feel loved.
This Thanksgiving we will have the grace to be surrounded by all our loved ones, some physically, and others spiritually when we close our eyes and connect our heart with all our loved ones who are either away or have gone before us, and feel the love flow in the rhythm of our unified heart beats.
This is us last year, preparing our hearts and setting the table for our Thanksgiving meal.
This Thanksgiving, I am incredibly grateful to be here! I am grateful to experience gratitude and to feel loved! This year our Thanksgiving tradition will include my immediate family and our dear beloved family friends as we celebrate a weekend of holy matrimony in addition to Thanksgiving! We will celebrate this couple’s love, and the gift of two new grandchildren in our extended family this year. This Thursday we will join together to feast, seated along the benches among the fields as my husband cooks up the turkeys, and we string lights between the trees. The feast will continue as we partake in the Holy Mass, Matrimony, and celebrations! From my family to yours I wish you a Thanksgiving filled with supernatural gratitude that overflows with love! Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!
“May I stay in constant presence and intimate union with Christ” -St.Teresa of Avila
Imagine that! Words like these draw me into the lives of the saints and ignite my heart to want to know more, learn and imitate their devotion, their practice and their meditations.
The saints lived ordinary lives like you and me but with the passion to live this life on earth in constant union with Christ. What does that mean? To me it means surrendering my will to God’s divine will, allowing my daily life to flow and activate all that I am for the Glory of God.
It does not mean sitting in a cave and meditating all day (although there are many days that I dream of just that). To me it means being fully alive, being fully who I was born to be in the very moment. The saints teach me how to live fully and show me the tools to bring me back on the path when the “dark nights of the soul” hit hard. Yes, I just said “dark nights of the soul”. We all know those days that seem to consume us and we fall into bed and ask “Dear Jesus, please let me wake up feeling renewed and refreshed… press the restart button… What I love about admitting this truth is that we are not alone! You and I experience many of the same things and guess what… so did many saints! They had miraculous moments, amazing moments, flooded with love, but they also had those dark moments when they must have thought to themselves that they couldn’t make it one more day!
What they did during those dark moments is what intrigues me. They dove deeper into their devotion, they surrendered (didn’t try to fix anything), they were still in their suffering, confusion, anxiety and handed it over to Jesus on the Cross and then they sat. They allowed Christ to hold, comfort ,and eventually restore them. This is what I find transformational.
YES I love the Saints, YES I want to be a Saint and YES, you, too, are called to be a Saint. In the words of St. Catherine of Siena and St. John Paul II, “If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire”.
My Favorite Saint
Although I love them all, I am most inspired by the miracle workers and the mystics because they lived with one foot on earth and the other in heaven. With undeniable conviction they allowed God to work through them and became a conduit of light and healing. They performed acts of wonder that convinced many that God is real, prayer really does work and that love heals!
To name a few: St. Teresa of Avila would go into deep meditation and encounter Christ and her heart was literally lanced by His burning love! She taught all the sisters in the convent to pray with their heart and fall in love with the love of God! They began to live every day with greater joy, and could hear, yes actually hear, God talking to them and guiding their daily activities!
St. Padre Pio. I love that he lived in my lifetime and that he had the gift of bi-location! On many occasions he was in Germany guiding soldiers to safety and dragging them out of the wreckage while he was at the same time in his Monastery in Italy! He had the instant gift of speaking 4 or 5 languages so that he could hear confession and give absolution in their native tongue!
St. Francis De Sales. He left behind one of the most amazing tools, a book on how to live a devout life as a lay person.
I don’t know how many days I have here on this earth, I hope many, however, I believe in learning from others to expedite my goal to reach heaven. Learning from the saints is not just a stairway to heaven, I consider it my escalator!
I love that I am able to wear St. Benedict’s medal every day and that he has become one of our official heroes! St. Benedict taught us all to make God’s love visible through all that is true, good and beautiful, and he reminds us that beauty amplifies God’s love! St. Benedict also reminds us to “Ora de Labore”, to work and pray, that one’s prayer life is interweaved into their work life and there is no separation.
We are often asked the question at My Saint My Hero, “Are you a non-profit?” My answer to this has become, “What sets My Saint My Hero apart is that we intentionally mixed our deep faith into a for-profit business that would give us the foundation to fulfill our mission: to bring faith, hope, and purpose into everyday life and to provide a tangible reminder for people that God is real and that prayer works!”
I love pulling the wisdom of our patron saints as we look for direction in our work. Pope Saint John Paul II said, “The purpose of business is not simply to make a profit, but rather to create a community of persons that produces something good to serve the needs of society.”
The Good Profit Conference
I saw this lived out as I never have before when I had the honor of participating in The Good Profit Conference put on by The Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and The Napa Institute.
The conference was inspired by the book with the same name, The Good Profit, by Charles Koch, who has been a very controversial figure in the work place and politics.
Mr. Koch lays out his many ideas in the book (you would think he was Catholic because of the way he has incorporated the ideals of Pope Saint John Paul II as noted above) and the reasons he believes his company has been so successful, not just monetarily, but more in terms of bringing dignity into the workplace and into the world.Mr. Koch speaks about Good Profit bringing something of value to people when they didn’t even know they needed it.
This is what inspired me the most, and this is what I spoke about during my few minutes in front of the microphone on the panel, titled “Spiritual Entrepreneurs”, on the first afternoon of the three-day conference.
Ultimately, I believe this idea of bringing something of great value to people when they didn’t even know they needed it is exactly how God works in each one of us.He places desires on our hearts that we would never have dreamed of.
I know this to be true because of the unlikely pair he chose to carry out the mission of My Saint My Hero.Amy and I did not have degrees in business or entrepreneurial ventures, yet, when we sat in prayer at the very start we came out with a vision for our company (as an answer to the prayerful request of St. Giovani Giuseppe and our patron saints):
From Left to Right: Christine Rich | Cofounder of My Saint My Hero; Scott Kauffmann | Partner, Content Lead Praxis Labs; Jennifer Baugh | Founder & National Executive Director, Young Catholic Professionals; Robert Reynolds | President, Avesta; Bob Keith | Director – Enterprise Solutions to Poverty Project Director – Spiritual Entrepreneurs Lab Director – Summer Business Institute Co-Founder, The Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship The Busch School of Business & Economics
To share the saints stories so that people today know that they were real people who walked this earth, but walked in union with God – and we can do this today!
To share the stories of those walking the earth now on their path to sainthood – Bringing the SACRED TO NOW.
To empower women/communities through meaningful work (both here at home and all over the world).
To bring pieces from sacred sites that people may never get to in their lives.
To share the sacredness/secrets of our faith to bring faith, hope and purpose back into everyday life.
Inspiration and Strength
Throughout my time at the conference I wore a prototype of a necklace that we plan to launch in January featuring St. Joan of Arc.I grabbed onto her medal whenever I needed the reminder to step out in courage.I was reignited in the mission that God had placed on our hearts in the very beginning through the inspiration of so many others in very successful businesses that I would never had known had based their businesses in a strong doctrine of faith.
If you are in need of inspiration, look up some of these amazing people: Dina Dwyer (The Dwyer Group), Robert Nardelli (former CEO of Chrysler & Home Depot), Claire Huang (Former CMO of JPMorgan Chase & American Express), Rob Reynolds (Avesta)… and the list goes on and on.
The Example of Cardinal Turkson
In another keynote, Cardinal Turkson, the Chief Economic Advisor to Pope Francis, reminded us to keep bringing out the good seeds that God has planted in us.He taught about ‘intergenerational solidarity’, to look to examples of those who have gone before us working for the good of society and to make sure that we work to leave behind a better world for our children and our grandchildren.
But beyond what he said at the podium, the Cardinal was a living example of the joy that comes from bringing God into our work and into every decision that we make. He is a man of great wisdom, with a great position in the church, yet I was blessed to laugh with him and pray with him and share in the joy of what it’s like to live with Christ at the center of, not only our businesses, but in every part of our life.
“Be joyful in love, be firm in hope and be constant in effort.”
This is where my book flew open, when I prayed for guidance one day as I picked up a book in my office that I had never seen before. That quote became my mantra at work and at home. After reading it I signed up to compete in the longest Triathlon that I had ever done, the Malibu International Triathlon on September 16, 2017.
Training: One Our Father and Hail Mary at a Time
The most beautiful part of my training is that I paced myself with the Rosary. I would push a bit harder during the Our Fathers, and then settle into my rhythmic pace during the Hail Marys. The meditations allowed me to be mindful on prayer with every step. Praying helped me to keep going, to believe in my growing strength, and to trust. It also created this incredible sense of gratitude for my ability to train, swim, bike, and run, and my ability to reach beyond what I thought was possible.
When Race Day arrived, it felt different than any other one I’ve experienced before. We arrived in Malibu while it was still dark. As the sun began to rise and we were about to start the race with our swim, I glanced out among the waves to see a pod of dolphins. It was as if they were reminding us of all the ease and grace of swimming. In that grace and gratitude, we stepped into the cold water and began our swim. I had 1 mile to swim down the coast and I began to pray, my strokes and breath coming into alignment with the rhythm of my prayers and before I knew it I was passing the second (out of 6) buoy! As I swam and lifted my head to breathe, I caught the rays of the rising sun on the water and saw that its rays illuminated a school of tiny silver fish swimming right under me!
Continuing the Good Fight
As I finished the swim and put my feet on the sand I realized my legs were wobbly; I sank back in the water. I began to pray for balance and strength, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time my legs held me up as I slowly jogged to the transition to get on my bike. It was in that moment that I handed my race over to God. I simply asked for Him to allow me to finish. I was no longer racing, I just wanted to keep my legs from shaking and finish the next segment. I jumped on my bike and tried to clip in, it didn’t work and I almost fell over… now I was really shaking… I told myself: try again, get your balance, breathe, pray, and on they went, I was clipped in safely and ready to ride the 26 miles up the coast of Malibu! This is the part I trained hard for: this was between me, my strength and the hills! The Our Father became my go-to prayer, where I exerted the most energy to make it up those hills! As I neared the last mile of the bike ride, I noticed so many of my fellow racers began slowing down. I decided that this was my time to speed up! I told myself, “Race with all everything you have to the finish line, don’t stop early!” I was praying, pedaling and passing others… WOW! I got to the bike rack, put on my running shoes and the rest was home free.
The Final Stretch
It was just me and the road and finally time to pray my Rosary, and have fun! I was no longer trying to win, I just wanted to finish. Six miles seemed really far, but I took it in two mile increments and one Rosary at a time. I ended up praying two Rosaries and once again as soon as I saw the finish line I began to sprint, this time I did not pass anyone. Rather I cheered them on along with me and together we ran the race all the way to the finish line.
Crossing the Finish Line
I did it! I finished the longest race I have ever done and I did it as I was turning 50 years old! Thank you JESUS!!! I couldn’t help but reflect on the verse, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!” It was a simple message to be joyful in love, firm in hope, and constant in effort. It spoke to me, challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone, and taught me the effort is joyful when done in love and prayer!
As I was leaving the race zone and the medals were being awarded, I heard my name being called. I was so excited that I ran up on stage, stood on that podium and raised my arms to heaven in thanksgiving.
This month I celebrated my 50th birthday and I realized that the greatest gift I received is actually-LIFE itself. Not only my life but the lives of those around me that I am blessed to fill my days with.
In this milestone year, I chose to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with my family. Along with my husband, our four children, a future son-in- law and daughter-in- law, and our family priest, we walked just under 100 miles in 7 days.
A Camino of Change
We have become a world that doesn’t talk to strangers, but my 19 year old daughter was determined to meet someone new every day along our walk and taught all of us how to let down our guards and join in the adventure. In doing this we created bonds with “strangers” from France, Italy, Portugal, Australia, England, Scotland and Ireland. These were people I would have put my headphones on and ignored on any given plane flight, and yet we started to look forward to seeing them every day on the road and at night in the different towns at dinner.
Living With a New Outlook on Life
When I returned home I had a whole new outlook on life that I am still learning to put into practice. This trip helped me to recognize that it’s the people right in front of us each day, even a stranger from across the world that I will never see again, that may be there to teach me a new lesson in life that day. It also made me rethink my priorities and where I spend my days.
The most vivid example of this is the time I spend with my 95 year old mother. Much of the time with her is spent just holding her hand repeating the answer to one or two questions that are on the forefront of her mind that day. Yet, as I attempt to re-answer the question in a different way each time so that my voice doesn’t give away that I am repeating myself again and again, I am reminded how many times she must have done this exact thing with me when I was just two years old and questioned her incessantly, the way toddlers do. She probably had a list of to-do’s a mile long, but she would put all of it on hold to make time for me. She laid the foundation in the lives of my seven siblings and I to teach us patience, and most of all to teach us to love every life. Now it’s my turn to put my to-do list on hold and be there for her. Every time I hold her hand and see that she’s wearing a My Saint My Hero blessing bracelet I am reminded who taught me the power of prayer!
“Where this is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young.”
I will never forget being at an audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square in Rome when he said, “Where this is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young.” This struck me to the core, and gave me a keen sense of how we are all connected from birth until death – and how every life is invaluable. I am grateful for my life, but even more so for every life that has touched me in some way.
I plan to continue my ‘Camino’ right here at home and I pray that I can be a conduit of God’s love in the life of at least one person each day along the way.
“I got this one! It’s easy, just a 7 minute hit on prime time, live TV… perfect… I am good!” This was my attitude on August 11th. Yeah that’s a good name “HIT” because it did hit me like a freight train and I felt like I had fallen flat on my face. If anyone hears me say “I have it all under control,” from here on out, someone please come and rescue me from myself!
During those 7 minutes of prime time I was entrusted to deliver God’s love and I had started to think I could do it on my own. Wow, talk about PRIDE! Thank God that He is God! He loves me so much (as He loves us all) that He allowed me to fail so I could remember who really is running the show.
Lights Camera Action…
I heard the host ask me, “So tell the world about My Saint My Hero…” and that’s when I began to babble. There was such a complete disconnect from my heart. I felt no love, no connection. They were just words flying out of my mouth, sound bites with no heart that I fell flat on the screen. When those 7 minutes were up, I walked off the stage and felt like crumbling. It was then when it hit me! I was entrusted with a very important message and I just failed to deliver it. I failed to be a conduit of God’s love. I forgot to be His instrument because I got in the way!
I couldn’t sleep that night and during the entire 6 hour flight home, my heart felt so heavy. I got in my car and drove straight to Adoration to spend some time down on my knees, then home for a little family love and finally I took a plunge in the water. These things are my tools of faith: tools to help get my mind, body, soul and strength back in alignment. It was working slowly…my feelings of shame began to lessen and the next day I was able to face my coworkers at the office, my friends, and ultimately face my failure.
A God of Second Chances
The next morning I went to Mass and as I was praying, replaying the events in my head, I realized what happened. I did not go to Mass that day, I had forgotten to get a Blessing before going on air, I forgot to bring a prayer warrior with me, I forgot to ask for Spiritual Direction…I had tried to do it on my own. However, I realized that I am not meant to do it alone, not now, not ever. As I opened my eyes I gazed at Jesus on the cross and asked Him to help me remember, to forgive me and to please continue to use me as an instrument of His love.
As I was driving away from church, QVC reached out and asked me to come back. A second chance, another opportunity to be on set, but this time trusting God to lead the way. It was as if Jesus was inviting me to sit in His lap and to simply be a conduit of His love. I immediately reached out to my team of prayer warriors and asked them to come with me!
7 Magnificent Minutes
On my flight back on August 23rd after the QVC hit with Jane Tracey, I thanked God for 7 magnificent minutes. I had gone to church, had spiritual direction, I had gone to confession, adoration and I received the Eucharist. I clung on to my Blessing Bracelet remembering to breathe and make space for God again. I brought my sister, my prayer warrior, with me… and together we remembered, together we surrendered our will to God’s divine will.
And together we let God’s love light up the stage which He did! The wave of His love radiated out and we had the honor of doing so on Our Blessed Mother’s Feast Day!
Thank you God, for the second chance. Thank you for the lesson learnt and thank you for your GREAT LOVE. Thank you for allowing me to feel the difference and for teaching me I am not meant to do it alone not now, not ever.
This Sunday we celebrate the Transfiguration: the moment when Christ transformed or “transfigured” from human form to dazzling white right before His disciples’ eyes! Behold a miracle… behold a transformation from what we know to that which is beyond physical perception! I never quite got this significance or maybe I just didn’t understand until now. The time is NOW to fully grasp the moment… for then, for now, for what is. I hope this (as summarized and quoted from the August Magnificat) helps you to open up the horizons of your heart, soul, body and mind. Please read and share with your friends! A rising tide elevates all… may we together elevate each other and rise!!!
May I become what I behold so that my life will radiate the glory of God in grace and love.
When life gets hard…disgusted and a little defiant we fall into what may be the heresy of the 21st century: “that’s just the way I am”…
But the miracle of the Transfiguration broadcasts a luminous truth: things can change.. you can change… what changes us is a radiant face!
The real miracle in the transfiguration is not only the change in Christ as he became dazzling white… but the change in perception to see beyond physical vision and see the divine glory … they began to see beyond their limitations and seize the truth of Jesus Christ. – taken from The Magnificat, August 2017 edition
We, too, Can be Changed
Through the encounter with the One who shines on Tabor, we can be transfigured into beings bursting with love, eager to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the ill, and visit the imprisoned. As Simone Weil said, “God made it so that his grace, when it penetrates to someone’s very center and illuminates their whole being, permits that person to walk on water without violating the laws of nature”.
We, like the Apostles, must not stay on the mountain but come down and radiate His love to the world by our own transfiguration. Acts of wonder convince the world that God is real, that love heals and that prayer works. The time is now to behold who you are!
The Struggle Between Martha & Mary: Finding my Inner Mary and Learning the Beauty of the Balance in Between
The “Better Part” is something I have been struggling to understand in my life for almost five years now. Struggling because I thought I was Martha in the story of Martha & Mary in the Bible, where we all want to be Mary because we don’t want to be reprimanded by Jesus like Martha was. I knew that God was bringing this story into my life over and over again to get me to slow down, make some different choices, and to choose the “Better Part”… ultimately, to choose Him! I was so caught up in the example of Martha cooking and cleaning while Mary sat at Christ’s feet and listened, because I would think “It’s fine for this one story to make a point, but wouldn’t they all have gone hungry that day had Martha not put the work in?” However, I was missing the honored guest list on this particular day. This was Jesus Christ Himself that was in her presence, not a normal guest! He doesn’t tell Martha that on a daily basis she should forget all about her obligations as the woman of the house. Rather to recognize the importance of the time when Jesus was right in front of her, for He knew He wouldn’t be there forever.
The Martha Lifestyle
I always worried about being present to every single person in my life while still attempting to be a good wife and mother and boss. But I realize now that this is impossible and this is the “Martha lifestyle” many women create thinking they are doing what God wants, when instead He is asking them for something else… something so much more fulfilling… something so much more attainable… something so much MORE. Making time to find when and where Jesus is actually right in front of you; asking you to sit at His feet and make time for Him, for the “Better Part” that He offers. He gives us so many opportunities, yet the world calls on us to be Martha and keeps us blind to them.
He’s Calling You to the “Better Part”
When is Jesus right in front of us, calling us? The glaring example is in the Mass. He wants us to know, to really know, that He is present there – body and soul, fully human and divine. Yet, like Martha, we sit during Mass thinking of our to-do list, organizing our day, our week and our life. Why? Because it’s the one hour a week we sit in quiet and our minds have the opportunity to organize and prioritize. We need to make more time to sit at His feet. At first, the Martha in all of us will kick in. We will use this time for the much needed opportunity to keep everything together. But the more time we spend with Him (more Sunday Masses, more daily Masses, praying the rosary, reading the Bible, and daily quiet time in prayer and conversation with Him to do all of the above) He will teach us. He will help us organize our lists and our life so much better than we could’ve done on our own, and then He will help us to put the list aside for the “Better Part”, for the time to sit at His feet and listen to what He wants to share with us. The “Better Part” becomes addicting and you will find yourself trying to steal away more time with Him. You will find yourself waking up earlier than you ever have and hiding away in your closet or any empty, quiet space in your home to have that time to sit with Him. You will find yourself giving up other activities in your day or other people in your life to make the time for Mass, adoration and personal prayer time.
Discovering Your “Inner Mary”
I know this seems impossible , or like the farthest thing from what you had planned for your life… but somewhere inside you know you were made for the “Better Part”. Start small, do an experiment… take the 40 Day Prayer Pledge (click on link to get one) and spend just 10 minutes with Him every day. Use the journal space and write. Don’t worry about what you are writing, that’s between you and Jesus and no one else. I promise you that at some point you will be genuinely surprised by your thoughts, your works, your actions throughout the rest of your day, and the glimpse at a peace you’ve been longing for… a peace from knowing that even though to the world you may look like Martha in all you do in your days, you will know that on the inside you have discovered your “Inner Mary” and that you have discovered what you are made for…the “Better Part”.
This is my ‘prayer couch’ as my family calls it. This is where I sit at His feet every morning…. Where do you make the time for Him? I can’t wait for you to share what you do now… or what you find yourself doing after taking the experiment in prayer!