Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Middle-Aged Man & His Happy Meal

It was such a weird assignment. But, then again, it was a college sociology class, so that may explain the weird factor.

Assignment: Deliberately do something counter to social mores, observe reactions of those around you, and write about it in your journal.

One student - a middle-aged man with a large beer belly - went to McDonalds and ordered a Happy Meal. He asked for a boy's toy and proceeded to sit directly in front of the counter and eat the meal himself.

Then, he played with the toy.

Another students entered an elevator and stood in front of the closed elevator doors - staring at the other people in the elevator rather than standing face-forward in silence like everyone over the age of five has learned to do.

I remember the assignment because it was SO uncomfortable. I like to fit in. I care what people are thinking about me. I feel this crazy compulsion to explain myself to perfect strangers even when I merely suspect that my actions might not make sense to them.

I don't like breaking social mores - ever.

I like to blend.

But the world has changed. Catholics cannot just blend in. We stand out because we stand up for Christ and His Church, and we hold to Church Teaching.

There was a time when that meant there wasn't very much difference between Catholics and the rest of the grown-ups in the United States.

Yeah, there was Mary and the Pope and no-meat Fridays, but in general, we could blend.

Today, people look at us like we are a grown-up who just purchased a Happy Meal and is entertained by the toy inside.

Today, people think we are as odd as the person in the elevator who faces away from the doors rather than staring at the closed doors in silence.

No college assignment required. We break social mores all of the time.

And it is kind of uncomfortable.

At a glance, our Catholic practices and beliefs don't make sense to the public.

But they do make sense. There is a Truth here that is so deep, so rich, so eternal that we must not sacrifice it to feel like one of the crowd.

The stakes are too high.

Now more than ever, we must be the salt of the Earth - even if the world has lost its taste for this kind of salt.

More than ever, we must be the light of the world - even if the world likes to dance and throw darts in the dark.

The world may like us to follow along blindly. But we cannot.

The Shepherd is calling us to follow after Him.

So, we stand and face the people in the elevator when we stand up for the unborn, for holy matrimony, for chastity, for beauty, for sacrificial living, for suffering-made-holy, for the immigrant-among-us, for the aged-and-infirm, for family meals and family values, for Mass attendance because Jesus IS waiting for us in the Eucharist. The crowds may say we are only playing with McDonaldland toys when we pick up our rosaries and light candles in the Adoration Chapel.

Get used to feeling uncomfortable under the gaze of the world...

...because the time has come.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.  For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. II Timothy 4:3-7

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tulips for Secretaries & Grandsons

It is a simple truth.

Notice the Blessed Mother at the left? It is a reminder that
she is always present - when we choose life & joy.
When I choose to live in love, all the love I've ever shared comes back to me...washes over me, like a gentle rain. And I feel joy.

When I choose to live for me, especially at another's expense, all the selfish acts I've ever done come back to me... crash over me, like a tidal wave. And I feel anguish.

The joy brings life.

The anguish brings a living death.

The joy is immediate and lasting.

But so is the anguish.

I choose.

Choose you this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

Today, I choose to live by love.

This morning, I went to my garden and cut some tulips for the school secretary. I handed the flowers to my daughter as she got out of the car. By now, she has passed the love on to the school secretary.

Two days ago, I cut a tulip for my grandson. When I dropped him off at home, I handed the flower to
him and reminded him that he could give it to his mommy.

It made him smile, and within minutes, it made his mom smile. I'm still smiling.

In the middle of these simple acts, I remembered something.

I rediscovered the joy of all the times in my life that I have chosen to give myself away.

And it was very good.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Should I Connect With You on LinkedIn?

It was a great question.

I clicked on the email and thought... now that's a great question.

Yesterday, I sent out some invitations to connect through LinkedIn. One person wrote:

How can my accepting your invitation to Linked-in be of help to you?

Most people simply accept or ignore LinkedIn requests and leave it at that. I have two reasons for connecting with people on LinkedIn.

The first reason is that LinkedIn connected me with a group of faithful Catholics who were willing to pray for a very serious situation in my family last January. I wrote about this in THE ST. LOUIS REVIEW. God heard the prayers, and my newborn granddaughter survived a traumatic birth against all odds, without suffering any brain damage. Since then, I have had the privilege to pray for other LinkedIn contacts. So, the first reason has to do with interceding for one another.

The second reason is that I share my conversion story (and other topics) with parish groups, Confirmation classes, RCIA classes and high school religion students at no cost. Many people know that I write, but I also love to share the story of God's grace - at no cost if possible. The gentleman who wrote lived in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and worked in the area of education & evangelization, which meant that I might be able to provide that service at no charge for his students or parishioners. Sometimes, travel expenses are so great that I am not able to speak pro bono - but in my home diocese, I am in the position to give freely. In other dioceses, I am able to speak at cost (travel expenses).
Feel free to contact me at: or to connect with me through LinkedIn.
Let's keep praying for one another. Let's keep sharing the Good News with one another. All for the greater glory of God.

You can find my bio and speaking topics at my blog:

Denise Bossert

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How can I forgive? How can I forget?

Never underestimate the gifts of the Holy Spirit in unmasking the things you need to jettison in your quest for holiness.

If we are willing to go deeper, He will help us to go deeper.

When I go to confession, my confessor poses a few questions to me:

Do you know God loves you? (That’s when my eyes usually fill up with tears. Seriously, I have just come clean about my worst self, and God shows up to assure me that He loves me. Who wouldn't tear up?)

Do you want to become holy? (I truly do, but I'm such mess.)

Are you willing to receive the help of the Holy Spirit? (Totally.)

And then I go back to my life. But the crazy thing of it is this. God begins showing up everywhere to take me closer and closer to the holy version of me - closer to the woman that He created me to be.

Recently, I uncovered a pitfall in this quest for holiness. I knew something was wrong with me. It’s not right to replay other people's offenses against you in your head. I was stuck in a pattern. Each time I remembered the offense, I would be hurt all over again and have to make another act of forgiveness. I couldn’t seem to forget.

My own memory was hijacking me.

It was hijacking my quest for holiness.

So, I needed some major help from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. A little wisdom. Some understanding. Right judgment. Knowledge about what was happening and why it was happening and how to stop it from happening over and over.

It would be so much easier to get amnesia. Forgiveness is an act of the will. I did all that. But what can a person do with an active memory.

Every time I see that person … I remember.

To not remember – well, that’s not even possible.

And yet, it seemed necessary in order to get out of this spin cycle I had fallen into.

I don’t remember when I figured it out or why I figured it out. I just know that I did. Somehow, the Holy Spirit came through on that promise to lend some help to the penitent soul. And that’s when I realized…

… the problem is arrogance and pride.

The antidote is meekness and humility.

So, each time I remembered… I would have a chat with myself. Come on, Denise. Drop the arrogance. Blessed Mother, teach me to be more like you. Help me to learn how to be meek and humble of heart.

If I did that the very second in which my memory took me back to the offending moment—my hurt evaporated. Peace took its place.

Then, that truth was underscored in an unlikely place. I was scanning some boards on Pinterest. I
usually stop and read the text on pictures of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. And this time, it was pure gold. Forgiving requires love; forgetting requires humility.

That was it. That was the very thing I was discovering. I knew I loved the offender. I truly did. That’s why I was able to forgive again and again – every time the memory took me back. The thing I had trouble with was humility. Humility would enable me to let the memory go before it had a chance to take me back. Humility ended the spin cycle.

And the thing I was realizing was that I didn’t even have to have the strength to be humble. All I had to do was call in the troops for assistance in the effort.

Jesus, help me to be more like you right now.

Blessed Mother, throw your mantle over me and show me what meekness and humility look like.

Archangel Michael, defend me in this battle…

Unbelievable how much difference this all makes.

So, just when I thought I had gathered together all the bits and pieces the Holy Spirit wanted to show me, I got another lesson. Where? Today at Bible study.

When we fall into the trap of labeling other people solely in light of their sin, we see nothing else good in that person. Who wants to be defined by his or her worst moments? I certainly don’t. And it is a pretty awful existence to see others and immediately think of just one thing… that thing.

Suddenly, the windows of my mind opened, and I remembered the good in the very people that had offended me in the past.

I thought about all that the Holy Spirit had taught me…

And it was very, very good.

Do you know that God loves you?

Do you want to become holy?

Are you willing to accept the help of the Holy Spirit?

Answer yes to all three of those questions—and look out. God is about to do a new work in you.


Monday, April 15, 2013

A Prayer Request from Kim

Denise - you don't know me.  I just ran into your blog while listening to How Beautiful by Twila Paris.  A friend had sent me the link.  Then I ended up on your blog.  NOT I do no believe in accidents.  So I believe God led me to your blog and now i believe He is asking you to pray for me.   I had an abnormal mammogram on March 29th and then had another and an abnormal ultrasound on April 3rd.  Had a biopsy on April 9th and now have been diagnosed with cancer in both breasts.  I don't know any more as I see the dr. today but if you could pray for me that would be wonderful.  we have 3 beautiful boys.  Two of which we homeschool and the other went to a Catholic High School and is now at Maryville University in St. Louis.   My husband is a convert to the faith and I am a cradle Catholic.   Please pray for me and my family and get any prayer warriors to do the same. 
God bless you,



UPDATE: biopsy came back, and it is Stage One! Thanks be to God. Kim is so thankful! Please keep her in your prayers!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Confirmation Readiness and the Sailboat's Sail

It reminds me of a sailboat whose sail is curved, like the curve of a woman's belly when she is six or seven months pregnant.

It reminds me of a kite that has found enough wind to remain airborne but not quite enough wind to soar.

Both are waiting for the mighty gust - so that they can fulfill their destiny, their mission, their reason for being.

Our daughter will be Confirmed in just a few weeks. She is the sailboat. She is the kite.

At the evening meal on Sunday night, she talked about the previous night's sleepover at a friend's house. There were five girls total. Three that were not Catholic. And two that were Catholic (my daughter included).

The topic of abortion and gay marriage came up.

(Yes, the world's talking points are hitting our children.)

Our daughter was sad because she was the only one to defend Church teaching. Even the other Catholic girl affirmed gay marriage and abortion rights.

My daughter lowered her head. "I lost the debate." She took a bite of her quesadilla, but kept her eyes

My husband and I asked her some questions and realized that she felt bad because she had not convinced anyone of the very things she holds dear. Even the strength of her defense was weakened because the Catholic girl said that she did not believe a Catholic has to accept everything the Church teaches...and if two people love each other... and if a young woman is pregnant and doesn't want to be pregnant...

So, as Dad and Mom, we listened and felt our daughter's frustration. But we were also very proud.

She was the little sailboat with the curved sail. She was the kite full of promise.

All she needs is the gusty wind of the Holy Spirit. She is ready to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is a beautiful thing to witness the spiritual readiness of one's child.

We affirmed her efforts. We told her she handled herself well. She hadn't become angry or arrogant. She hadn't backed away from Truth. She hadn't sat quietly while the others affirmed one another's opinions.

She stood in her Baptismal grace and did her best.

My husband told her that she had experienced a small portion of persecution for the Faith. And there is always a cross and a crown that come with that. He reminded her of the profession of faith every catechumen made just a few evenings ago at the Easter Vigil - what she will also affirm in a few weeks when she is Confirmed. I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. Yes, a Catholic must accept all that the Church teaches. That is our Catholic Faith. We revisit this very question every Easter Vigil.

Even so, we both said a silent prayer for this very special daughter. She will face moments like this many times. Her faith will be tested. And she will feel like she has failed all too often.

She will need wisdom and understanding. She will need right judgment and courage. She will need knowledge and reverence. She will need to sense the wonder and awe of the Holy Spirit.

Or the sail will deflate.

The kite will take a dive.

And, as her parents, as those who have been Confirmed and have full access to the Holy Spirit's gifts of wisdom and understanding, we recognized that the moment has come.

She is ready.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The United Church of Mayberry

One of my daughters will be entering the Church on Pentecost Sunday.

First item on the "to do" list? Present the local parish with proof of her baptism.

Kari was baptized in 1987, just two months after her birth. My father was the pastor of the parish in rural Iowa where she was baptized. The United Church of Crawfordsville.

When I handed the RCIA instructor the necessary documentation of Kari's baptism, he read the name of the church and looked at me with confusion. It was obvious that he had never heard of that denomination.

I explained to him that Crawfordsville had once had two churches: a Methodist and a Presbyterian. The churches decided to merge at a time when both of them were losing members. Many people were leaving the state of Iowa at that time. Farmers were losing their farms. Young adults were finding jobs in other states. The overall population of Iowa was declining, and the two churches were left with one choice.

Merge or die out completely.

They merged.

The two denominations agreed to toggle back and forth between pastoral candidates. They would have one Methodist pastor. When he left, they would have a Presbyterian pastor.

The merge worked. The laity wasn't concerned about the differences in their denominations. The pastors didn't highlight the theological differences. They didn't even set up worship in either one of the old churches.

They had a new building.

The RCIA instructor didn't need to hear more. All he had really needed to know was whether or not Kari had a valid baptism. He didn't know anything about the United Church of Crawfordsville or how they celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism, but he did know about Methodists and Presbyterians. Both of those baptisms would be valid.

But he was intrigued by the small scale show of unity. He also found a little humor in it.

I had never thought about the name - or how silly it sounded. United Church of Crawfordsville. It
was something like United Church of Mayberry. There was a kind of unity, to be sure, but hardly the universal unity that Jesus desired when He prayed on the night of the Last Supper (John 17).

These two little churches agreed to avoid their differences. They agreed that the theological differences didn't matter, although their respective denominations obviously disagreed since the larger denominations had never merged.

On a small scale, these two congregations were attempting what the larger denominations couldn't seem to pull off.

By the time my father became the pastor, most people couldn't even remember if their families had been United Methodist or Presbyterian prior to the merge.

Even so, if unity is important... If unity has merit... If unity is preferred... Why settle for a unity of two small parishes in one tiny Iowa town?

The name United Church of Crawfordsville, Iowa points to the greater need for Christian unity even as it reveals a degree of absurdity.

Toggling back and forth between pastors of two denominations...

Well, that's an interesting way to institute unity--but it is not enough.

That little parish may be an icon of unity in that little town, but to those who do not live there - to those who live anywhere else - it has no meaning. Like the RCIA instructor who looked at the documents and read the parish name... nobody else can appreciate their small step toward unity.

And then there is the Catholic Church.

The name Catholic means universal.

Now we're talking unity.

She has one deposit of faith, and She is global.

True unity.

Her priests are all on the same page... studying the same theology... receiving the same Sacrament of Holy Orders...reading the same Divine Office...upholding the same Faith.

No toggles required.

And the laity is united. There are no topics we refuse to talk about fearing they will reveal that we are not really as united as we like to think we are.

This unity is real.

My father loved the little church in Crawfordsville, Iowa. It was making progress in unity in ways that the denominations at large couldn't seem to pull off.

But I have discovered something even better.

We are Catholic.

We are John 17 in living color.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dreams & Rosaries

A couple of nights ago, I had a dream. It seemed full of meaning... even if it was only my subconscious mind having some fun with spiritual realities.

There were two babies in the dream. They had both been born many years ago and died shortly after that. Even so, their bodies were completely intact.

I was filled with a great desire to see their lives restored, and I thought to myself, if only they would eat... then they would live again.

Unable to feed them from my own body (keep in mind that I am past the season of childbearing and nursing), I looked down at my hands and saw my white pearl rosary.

Some of the beads were swollen - full of something. I knew immediately that they contained the nourishment these little babies needed.

I took the swollen beads and touched their mouths. They began sucking on the white beads, which broke open and began filling the little mouths with a nourishment that was beyond earthly sustenance. The babies revived.

It was a beautiful dream.

And I keep replaying it in my mind.

I think of it each day as I pray the rosary.

Isn't it possible that there is some spiritual truth here. It is completely consistent with our Faith to believe that we can do far more by offering a rosary for lost souls than anything we might strive to do with human effort alone.

I think especially of those who have been baptized... but fell away.

Metaphorically speaking, they are like the babies who were born, but died or lost consciousness from lack of nourishment shortly after birth.

We try everything we can to bring them back to the Faith. Our efforts seem pointless, as pointless as a middle-aged woman who wants to nurse a dead baby back to life.


Go ahead. Walk over to your rosary and pick it up. Look at it. Spiritually attach your lost one to a certain bead... a decade... the entire rosary.

And then, get on your knees.

I do not believe this is a random dream. I believe this dream reveals what we already know as people of faith.

There is more power in one rosary prayed with great faith than contained in all of the tears and words and books and letters and DVDs we insert into their lives to try to bring them back.

I'm praying my rosary with more fervor than ever.

Each white bead - each Hail Mary & every Our Father - yields life-giving graces.

And in that dream, the babies began to suck, and their eyes were opened.


A Baptism at Easter Vigil

Fr. Tom Miller baptizing my grandson at Easter Vigil 2013 at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Archdiocese St. Louis, MO.