Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Five Reasons to Homeschool in High School

Five Reasons to Homeschool in High School

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Johnson & Johnson’s link to PP: Tell Me It Ain’t So

Johnson & Johnson’s link to PP: Tell Me It Ain’t So

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Does God Want From Me? In Lieu of the Audible Voice.

What Does God Want From Me? In Lieu of the Audible Voice.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Nexus of Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic–a lesson before my pilgrimage to Poland.

The Nexus of Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic–a lesson before my pilgrimage to Poland.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All the writers in Buffalo had a few drinks. And worlds collide.

All the writers in Buffalo had a few drinks. And worlds collide.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Want a GREAT reason to hit the treadmill? Join 500 people on a virtual walk with Mary

Want a GREAT reason to hit the treadmill? Join 500 people on a virtual walk with Mary

Friday, June 12, 2015

When the BFF has a great idea

When the BFF has a great idea

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When the Family Vacation Is A Bust

When the Family Vacation Is A Bust

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Elizabeth’s Doorstep: The Holy Trinity showed up

On Elizabeth’s Doorstep: The Holy Trinity showed up

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lent & the Crown of Thorns

Terry was sitting beside her husband at the outdoor Mass we attended on the Mount of Beatitudes. She leaned into Chris’ side and felt the joy of praying the Mass with him, the enormity of hearing the words of the divine liturgy on this mountain where Jesus Christ proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount. Then, Terry suddenly reached up and swiped at the back of her neck as though she had been stung.

It was no bee.

When I looked behind her, I had to smile. The branch she had just swept away was from the Zizyphus Spina Christi plant, a tree believed to have been used to make the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Our Lord’s Sacred Head before the crucifixion.

The significance of that moment on the Mount of Beatitudes and the grace of being pricked by the thorns of that plant in the middle of Mass still resonate with me. Yes, it was a grace … is a grace to share in His Passion, just as it is a grace to share in His Resurrection and triumph over death and sorrow and little pricks of pain from countless things that trouble us. A little thorn on an obscure branch on a hill where the gospel was proclaimed and is still proclaimed today.

The thorns were not big, like those we imagine or see in Hollywood depictions of that day. They were little. So sharp. Like needles, but so small that one has to look closely to see them. The first time I visited the Holy Land and walked along that Mount of Beatitudes, I paused to snap a little branch from one tree as we descended the mountain and approached the Sea of Galilee below.

The thorns pierced me three times, drawing blood. It was painful, but I had to laugh at the irony of it. Such a little thing, this thorn.

Such little things to cause such pain. And there was a little joy in knowing I was sharing in a very small way in the pain my Lord had experienced. I treasured that little thorn. It is now between the pages of my Bible – resting in the crevice of a page that tells about the Passion and a crown of many thorns.

As we approach Lent, I am thinking again about the Mount of Beatitudes and the Zizyphus Spina Christi plant.

I am thinking about our thorns, the countless sufferings we embrace and consider a share in His great suffering.

I think of Our Lord, who walked down that same mountain, passed thorny plants such as these, and yet had His eyes on the path that led all the way to the Cross of Mount Calvary.

Oh, my Jesus. Let me take up your suffering and wear it with you.

Let me see each prick as a grace.

And let me say what you said.

Thy will. Only Thy will.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent, the Road to Bethlehem

I have dipped my toes in the chaos of the Christmas-before-Advent scene. I’ve been to the mall once. I’ve landed on radio stations that play Christmas music around the clock – and quickly popped in my Rosary CD to escape the noise. I’ve seen enough of commercialized Christmas even though I have actively avoided it this year.

Advent is the only antidote.

But Advent only comes to those who know how to get quiet. It hides from those who have to hurry. It will never be found in the crowded places and packed spaces of shopping aisles and city crosswalks.

Advent waits to be invited to your December. It will not show up on its own. It is a polite guest. It will not crash your party.

Christmas-without-Advent is a fake. An imposter. We all know it.

The Christmas we all need, the one we long for, the one we can imagine so clearly . . . it only comes to those who walk alongside Mary. In the quiet. Away from the crowds. Where Sacred Scripture comes alive and holiness is real.

Shepherds Field - Sheep Fold - Bethlehem
November 2014
It’s no mirage – this Advent journey. It’s not an optional side excursion on the way to Christmas. It’s necessary. It’s the way to Christmas. The only road to Bethlehem.

I was blessed to travel to the Holy Land twice in 2014. In fact, I am writing to you now from Bethlehem. I stood there today, at Shepherds Field, and the idea of the crowded mall seemed so silly, so completely out of step with Advent. I knelt to pray where Christ was born, and the idea of jacking up the credit card to buy a few more presents seemed almost unholy, almost contradictory.

The two don’t go together. Not when you are here. Not when you are removed from the bright lights and staged windows of Main Street America.

Today, I imagined a pregnant young woman and her beloved husband as they journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, over the rugged terrain that I have walked with my own feet, in my own Timberland boots, as my filled water bottle sloshed against my backpack, and I lifted my camera to capture the real Nazareth, the real Ein Kerem (Zechariah & Elizabeth’s home), the real Bethlehem. And I cannot think of anything but the plan of salvation that brought God into our world. The part of me that can be so easily abducted and thrown into the chaos of commercialized Christmas is gone.

But this kind of contemplation does not require an international pilgrimage – although it certainly gave me a new perspective. One can find this path – from Nazareth to Bethlehem – by doing some deliberate things.

This pilgrimage begins with receiving God, your very own personal Annunciation-moment. Christ coming to you in the Eucharist and you being sent to go forth once you have received Him. The pilgrimage is a journey with Mary from Nazareth. It happens when we take Christ with us, and we share Him with family and friends, as Mary did at Ein Kerem in the hills of Judea at the Visitation. The Lord grows within us as we feed and nourish our life in the Spirit. We do this by reading, by praying, by remembering the poor, by listening to Advent songs (and waiting for Christmas songs), by eating as a family around the table with the Advent Wreath as a centerpiece, by saying a prayer for those who send us cards rather than tossing the cards mindlessly in a basket.

This pilgrimage does not require money, or imitation snow, or double-sided wrapping paper. It only requires an undivided heart. We journey with Israel to the coming Messiah. When we set our eyes on Mary and run ahead to take hold of her mantle, we remember. That is the journey that leads to Christ.

Yes, you can make this pilgrimage through the sacramental & liturgical life of the Church. But if you are able to do it, go to the Holy Land. Some day. Some way. Go.

And kneel there, where you can imagine it all, where the real Advent cannot be usurped.

Nazareth. Ein Kerem. Bethlehem. These are real places. And the Franciscans are here, waiting for you to come and experience it all for yourself. Pilgrimage. It’s part of our faith tradition, whether it is a quiet pilgrimage of the heart or a pilgrimage that takes us to the other side of the world.

We are a pilgrimage people. And we are on a mission to discover Jesus Christ and to share Him with everyone we meet.

Blessed & holy Advent to you and your family, from Bethlehem of Judea.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reforming Our Attitude About Reformation Day

Last year on Reformation Day (October 31) one of my cousins mentioned the Protestant “holiday” on Facebook. It was a celebratory post. “Happy Reformation Day!”

Reformation Day marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It highlights the Protestant reformers who began new denominations rather than remaining within the Catholic Church. I mention it in this month’s column because many fallen-away Catholics have basically done the same thing. Some fallen-away Catholics just stop practicing any kind of faith, but many go in search of something else. There is something they don’t like, something they want to see changed, and they are tired of tapping their feet, waiting for the Church to see it the way they see it.

We are a people who want change, we want it now, and we’d really like it if the Catholic Church agreed with our point of view. When we realize that isn’t likely to happen, we are out the door and on a mission to find the faith community that sees truth as we see it.

Truth is unchanging (Psalm 199:160). Sure, new things come up now and then, and Mother Church knows that a definitive answer on the things the culture proposes must be weighed carefully. She consults Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition and faithful theologians. She gathers the input of bishops from all over the world. She ponders the entire deposit of wisdom given to her by the Holy Spirit.

The frustrated one doesn’t have time for all that waiting, pondering, and praying.

I’m a preacher’s daughter and a convert to the Catholic faith. It provides an interesting point of view. Christian division grieves me. I simply cannot celebrate the genesis of denominationalism. I affirm the good I see in those of other faith communities, of those who through no fault of their own find themselves outside the Church (CCC #818 and #848). But Reformation Day? No, I see nothing to celebrate in that.

Why celebrate Christian division? Why delight in the fact that so many have gone a different way and left the Sacraments behind - the Eucharist behind?

We know that Christian division hurts. We know Our Lord prayed for Christian unity for His
apostles and for those who would come to believe through their words (John 17:20). So, what do we do when we see posts about Reformation Day or we hear that someone else has left the Catholic Church for another faith community?

When we are tempted to get irritated, frustrated or discouraged, let’s remake it into a day in which we reform the inner man. We do a deep and thorough examination of conscience. We do our own gut check.  What do I need to change? What is out of sorts in me?

When we are frustrated by Christian division and a culture that still holds on to anti-Catholic bias, let’s call for a day in which we make acts of true reformation and reparation. Let us reform our attitudes toward the poor, the unborn, the immigrant, those who can do absolutely nothing for us. Let’s figure out what we can do for them.

Let us reform our dreams and goals. Let’s put Christ and His Church at the top of our list. Let’s reform our silent acceptance of another’s rejection of the faith. Let’s determine to seek that one out and share the joy we have in our Catholic faith. Let’s pray with Our Lord, “Father, make us one.”

For you see, the faith does not need to be reformed. We need it. The teachings do not need to be refabricated, recalibrated. We need it.

Let’s have a little more renewing of the heart and mind. Reformation of the inner man. That is the true reformation that leads to Christian unity.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Interested in Making a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land? Here's Your Chance!

Have you always wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land? Here is your chance.

As many of you know, I will be traveling to the Holy Land November 7-17, and we have a few openings. Yes, I would love to take you with me!

If you are interested, send me a Facebook message or email me. I will send you the flyer/itinerary. Ten days. Everything from Nazareth to Ein Kerem. From Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Mount Carmel to Mount Tabor.

It. Will. Change. You. Forever.


Friday, September 19, 2014

How I became a Travel Writer at Fifty

My sister was the traveler, and she was barely 25. I was the mommy of three and barely 24. We lived vicariously through each other.

She indulged the wanderlust when she accepted a teaching position at an American boarding school in England. She wrote home about Piccadilly Circus and Paddington Station. She scouted out London and planned my parents' dream vacation to England. She welcomed them when they landed, took them places.

I visited once, but by then my sister was back in the States for a few short years. David Clark and I had implemented a European travel program at the school where he taught social studies and I taught Spanish. I spent that Thanksgiving in London (though it seems like something completely different when you are in a country that doesn’t do Pilgrims and turkeys and Thanksgiving). Instead, I saw Poets Corner and Hampton Court Palace. I shopped at Harrods and stayed at the King Henry 8th Hotel.

And then I returned home to my three littlies. I had helped to get the student European travel program off the ground at Beckman High School, but before their first trip, I resigned my position and followed my first husband on a cross-country move. That was the extent of my travel. Where he went, I went. Many students and teachers enjoyed the program in the years that followed, but I focused on other things.

I thought the door to international travel was closed for me. One little dip. A few souvenirs. A memory of landing at Heathrow on the very day Margaret Thatcher resigned. But at least the students would enjoy international travel. At least I had gotten that program off the ground (along with David--what a pair we were).

My sister backpacked across Europe. Then she took a job as a manager of a science roadshow in New Zealand. My parents made another trip to see what their oldest was doing while their middle child wrote articles, taught students, raised babies, and completed degrees.

Who had time for international travel?

And then the balance shifted. My sister adopted two daughters from China (and had her passport stamped two more times), and then she settled in to do what I had done. Raise babies. She completed a doctorate, and I said no, graduate school is enough for me. She taught middle school, and then she went on to teach math and science education at the college level.

She is 51. I am 50. And now, I am the traveler.

My degrees in English opened the door for writing. The writing opened the door to syndication. The syndication led to a book contract. And all of it paved the way for my first visit to the Holy Land with the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

That's all it took. I had caught my sister's travel bug. The timing was right - and I was ready. I wanted more.

I wanted to see everything, to hold plane tickets in my hand and see new destinations listed on each ticket. I wanted a reason to have a passport and keep renewing it. I wanted to return from other countries and crave what I ate there so badly that I searched Pinterest for exotic recipes and put new things on my grocery list. Tahini. Za'atar. Babaganoush. Quinoa. Couscous.

I wanted to be the family member who gave interesting gifts at Christmas.

I wanted to prove to myself that fifty is an ideal age for wanderlust.

And I have.

Dreams have a way of coming true far more often at fifty than they do at twenty or thirty. Education
and experience and everyday life isn't aimless. It goes somewhere. It leads to more work, to beautiful grandchildren, to opportunities you never expected to have.

Life is a journey.

God leads.

And now is the time to see more of His grand world. To take it into my heart. The culture. The vistas.
The people.

A hymn by a Methodist preacher keeps going through my head these days. "This is my Father's world and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

And as I hum the tune to myself, I make plans - to see as much of that world as I can.
“This Is My Father's World” The United Methodist Hymnal. Text: Maltbie D. Babcock. Music: Trad. English melody; adapt. by Franklin L. Sheppard.
This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise; the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker's praise. This is my Father's world: he shines in all that's fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father's world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Former Protestant Makes a Case for Pilgrimages

We were visiting Washington D.C. the summer my dad received a phone call that a parishioner had been involved in a terrible farm accident. Leo Kraft sustained a crushed pelvis when a tractor ran over him. He was lucky to be alive.

Dad was the pastor of the small Presbyterian church where Leo and his wife Zoan worshipped. We cut our vacation short and returned home to the rural community where we lived so that dad could be with Leo and the family.

After weeks of recovery, Leo was finally released from the hospital and returned home. I remember
the day I was riding my bike down the street that passed in front of our house (the manse) and the Presbyterian church less than a block away. I noticed Leo and Zoan as they walked inside the church. It was the middle of the week, so it was odd that someone was going to church. We didn't have around the clock adoration time like many Catholic parishes do. So the only time people gathered at church was on Sunday mornings or for fellowship and scheduled events. If there was an event at church, we would have known it. We were the pastor's family, after all.

As I watched, Leo and his wife walked through the front doors and up the aisle, where they kneeled to pray. I felt warm inside. I knew what they were doing. They were thanking God for sparing Leo's life. It was a rare thing to see a Presbyterian doing something like that. They were usually "proper" and didn't do the overtly holy things I remembered from our years in the Wesleyan denomination (dad was a Wesleyan pastor before he became Presbyterian pastor). Wesleyans were always praying and hitting their knees in those Wesleyan churches.

As Protestants, we believed you could pray anywhere. One place was as good as the next. The church offered the whole community a place to pray, but praying on one's own could be done anywhere.

So why did Leo feel the need to hobble to the car in those first days following his release from the hospital and why did he slowly mount the front steps of the church when there was no easy access for one who was recently handicapped, and why did he walk with his wife to the front of the church and kneel when it must have been painful after all he'd been through?

It's simple, really.

Somewhere inside of us, Protestant and Catholic alike, we know that there are holy places - places set aside for our most fervent prayer time, places where we know God shows up and we can commune with Him.

Churches. Shrines. Grottos. Monasteries. The Holy Land. Lourdes. Fatima. Knock.

The cathedrals.

Marian gardens.

The bedside of a loved one who is dying.

A cemetery.

It is a Catholic concept - this going to a place because we anticipate God will meet us. Sure, Catholics believe they can pray anywhere.

But they also know that there are holy places where one meets God more substantially.

If there are unholy places - and there are - then there are holy places.

If one can expect the demons to dance in places where evil people do evil things, then we know there must be holy places where holy people do holy things.

In those moments when we long to come close to Christ, we know that it requires some kind of pilgrimage.

A journey.

A drive.

A flight.

It's like the Holy Spirit is sending us. Yes. It is a kind of divine sending and a divine visitation.

Pilgrimage. Perhaps it's a simple as driving to your church and kneeling before the Tabernacle. Perhaps it is as wonderful as planning a trip to France or Mexico or Rome or Israel.

Yes, we can bow our heads anywhere and encounter God, but somewhere inside, we all know that there is something holy about taking a journey with the expectation of encountering Christ when we reach that holy destination.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 2014 Catholic by Grace Column

Mary was assumed into heaven.

It’s one of the more difficult teachings for converts to grasp. But there are ways to approach the Assumption so that non-Catholics may come to believe.

In 1995, I wrote an article for Protestant newspapers called “Trends in Christian Fiction” which considered the possibility that a Christian fiction book might hit the New York Times Bestseller List. I traveled to key Protestant publishers – Tyndale, Crossway, Moody, Victor and Bethany House – to interview editors. The publishers handed me galleys, and they all believed their books had that crossover appeal. Only one actually did. Left Behind was on the publishing turnpike back then, and it was among the galleys I brought home with me after that Chicago-Minneapolis trip. Tyndale released the book within six months of my visit, and the book (and subsequent series) was a huge success.

Nicholas Cage and Lea Thompson star in a screen adaptation of that book. The movie opens October 3, 2014. So the Left Behind craze continues.

I have one question.

And it isn’t about whether or not the idea of Rapture is biblical. My question has nothing to do with Christians disappearing when Christ returns. I’m not going to take the time to explain why Catholic teaching on eschatological things is solid and Left Behind theology is Hollywood science fiction.

No. I’m pondering something else.

Why is it so easy for people to believe that Jesus Christ will return and “rapture” those who love Him, leaving behind the rest of the world, but those same people find it impossible to believe that Jesus Christ came for His mother and assumed her, body and soul, into heaven?

Why is that harder to believe?

When I ponder the glorious Assumption of Mary into Heaven, I have to smile. It fits. It makes sense. A perfect and loving son would do that if he could.  A divine Son did do it because He could.

Jesus Christ looked upon His mother, and Love broke through the veil.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, would not let His mother’s body know corruption. Not this mother who was so carefully created – so immaculately formed.

In May, I traveled to the Holy Land. We visited many places, but one place that stands out in my mind is Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion.

Let me take you there for just a moment. Step with me into the Tomb of King David. Let’s pray there, together. Let’s think of David’s descendent, the Christ, who was given an eternal throne.

Now, let me lead you just a few steps from the place where David is buried. There, you will find the doors to Dormition Abbey. According to tradition, Mary fell asleep and was assumed into heaven here.

There is a place in Ephesus that also makes this claim, but many Catholic sources say Mount Zion is more likely. And I agree.

The one who is Daughter Zion and mother of David’s eternal heir should end her earthly life here – and be visited by the Lord who lovingly laid claim to His mother – right here.

Come to me, my beloved mother. Come and see the place I have prepared.

With angelic shouts and trumpet blast, she was raised and crowned Queen. Earth was silent. But heaven erupted with great jubilation.

Why is it so easy to imagine a silly story about Jesus coming to Earth and Christians across the world disappearing? Airplanes crashing as pilots disappear into thin air. Cars crashing as drivers disappear. Students leaving behind open books and laptops? Why is that easier to imagine, but Mary’s Assumption seems far-fetched?

I stood in the crypt of Dormition Abbey. I thought of King David’s bones which were just a few steps away. And yet, in this crypt, there are no bones. Mary is not here. And nobody has claimed to have Mary’s remains. Why? Because there are no remains.

In fact, the disagreement about a possible site for the Assumption exists because there are no bones to settle the matter. The dueling claim underscores the reality of the Assumption. She is not here – or there!

Yes, Jesus Christ will return again. And He will raise the living and the dead. It won’t follow the plotline of a Hollywood thriller. But there is precedent for our rising to meet the Lord. Although Mary’s Assumption is unique, the One who assumed His own mother will return – for us. The dead in Christ will be raised to new life. But the unfaithful won’t be left behind – although they probably will wish they had been left. Earth is preferable to eternal separation from God. The Bible tells us we will be divided—the faithful going one way, the unfaithful another.

Leave the Left Behind hoopla in Hollywood.

Turn your eyes to the Holy Land, or Ephesus, or even toward heaven.. And celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What Jesus did for Mary – in a unique and special way – gives us hope that one day Christ will return. So let’s model our lives after the Blessed Mother – remaining faithful until the end.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Catholic by Grace Column

My mother may have gone overboard. In order to keep our tongues in check, she not only banned us from using Our Lord’s name in vain, but she also prohibited my siblings and me from using gentler cuss words. Not geez. Not gee whiz. Not jeepers. Not gosh or gosh darn.

It was too easy to go from the benign to the profane, she said.

It may have been extreme, but Mom’s high standard kept me from breaking the 2nd Commandment. I still have a low tolerance for foul language – especially when it misuses the name of Our Lord.

At His name, knees should bow. At His name, there should be no punching of walls, no throwing of dishes, and no stamping of feet.

By His name, all creation should be blessed.

Not cursed.

There are many ways to express anger. Even Our Lord became angry. But He did something rather amazing in that moment. He affirmed the authority of the Father. He elevated the dignity due His Father – and his Father’s house. Yes, He raised his voice. But even in anger, He remained perfectly holy. It is possible for us to model His righteous anger. It is possible to be angry and yet not sin (Ephesians 4:25-26)

This is a frustrating world. We can hardly escape feeling angry at times, but we do not have to defile the tongue in order to express emotion.

The book of James tells it like it is. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain” (1:26).

The old adage has some truth to it: you can lose your religion – or at least render it useless.

When my parish priest was transferred to our little Missouri town, he immediately began visiting the local establishments. He learned names. Made friends. Won our respect. After morning prayers, he stopped by the local watering hole. And when the good ole boys began taking the name of His Lord in vain, he cringed inside, but he waited. He waited until he’d gained their respect. And then, he said it, quietly, friend-to-friend.

You know, guys, I love starting my day with you. And I hope to keep doing that. But there’s something you have to know about me. When you say Our Lord’s name carelessly, you are using the name of the One I love in order to curse. To vent. That’s hard for me to hear. Just thought you should know.

Sure, the guys sometimes fall into old habits, but they are more careful now. They see my priest as a friend – and now, they see him as a friend of Christ. That has made a difference.

I don’t suppose we have to go to extremes. We don’t have to purge words like gee and gosh from our vocabulary.

But we must remember that Jesus Christ is worthy of worship and praise. And holy is his name.




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Best New Tech Tool for Cathlic Writers and Speakers... watch the video and create your own!

Denise Bossert, convert

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ACTS Retreat Weekend

A post from my ACTS Retreat Weekend.


Friday, June 20, 2014

New Content at DeniseBossert.com