You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. – James 5:8 

During pregnancy everyone (and their mother) feels the need to offer all kinds of advice, from what to eat to what to name the baby. I politely ignored all the people who criticized my lifelong vegetarianism. Yet, I obsessed over every recommendation for baby gear that was loved or hated. I got lost in the online mommy blogs and ratings games. Well-meaning people offered comments like “enjoy this time while you can” and “sleep now before the baby arrives.” As each of my pregnancies neared the end, I felt sicker and sicker. I didn’t sleep, I could hardly eat, and there was little to “enjoy”. I was counting down the days so at least my sleepless nights would include the company of a new baby. There was not a lot of patient waiting happening.  

Around the third trimester of pregnancy, many people have baby showers or getaways to celebrate the new baby but also the changes coming for the couple and the family. For my second pregnancy, my sisters and I got massages and that was exactly the extra care I needed. The third Sunday of Advent feels a lot like the home stretch of my pregnancies. I am caught between the reality of the now and the anticipation of the joy to come. The Church gives us Gaudete Sunday, meaning rejoice, to buoy our spirits and strengthen our joy when the waiting gets tough. This Third Sunday is like the spiritual babymoon we all need to fully open our hearts to receive the miracle of Jesus’ birth. 

In these liminal spaces of waiting, some of us struggle to name our shifting identities. A mom or not a mom, a family of 4 or a family of 5? One who works or one who stays home? Perhaps you have felt this way during periods of major transition in your own life. The person I was is already fading away, but my new self is not yet fully formed. 

Just like a family welcoming a new addition or facing the loss of a member (to death, divorce or distance), the early Christian community struggled to understand who they were individually and collectively. Tensions arise as the discomfort of settling into newness begins to grate on insecurities. Each Christian is asking “who am I?”. Sometimes the answer we hear in prayer is murky. Pointing out the shortcomings in those around us is easier than waiting for clarity to emerge. 

The new beginning that God is nurturing within us takes time and patience, like crops thirsting for rain in order to grow. I do not want to be suspended between the person who lived before and the person who I will become. 

Gaudete Sunday is a pregnant pause. Amidst the flurry of tinsel and sprinkles and holiday cheer, it is a moment to ground ourselves in the joy of waiting.  

Going Deeper

Meditate on the sense of anticipation in Advent.

Read Waiting in Hope by Becky Eldredge

Spend time with the prayer You Keep Us Waiting.

Read more helpful Advent reflections on Christus Ministries or Becky Eldredge’s websites… I contribute to both of these, alongside other talented Ignatian writers.

Donuts for Dinner (and other ways the False Spirit Works)

The clock hands keep moving later and later. I step on a monster truck and trip into the couch. Six times before dinner, two times after dinner, and another three times before bedtime. That is how many times I asked for help cleaning up the toys. I want to throw up my hands and exclaim “Fine! I will do it myself!” I want to scoop up the toys, reorganize the bins, and get the job done correctly. In the battle of wills, I have been defeated by a monster truck and a 6-year-old.

The false spirit (or enemy, Satan, evil) often appears like a Lego hidden in the carpet, or a monster truck peeking out from under the edge of the couch. This false spirit lurks in the shadows, waiting for opportunities to exploit our weaknesses. It gnaws at our willpower and forces us to a breaking point. St. Ignatius gave us three images to help us spot this trickster as well as strategies to bolster our spiritual defenses. They are also referred to as Rules 12-14 in the principles of discernment.

My own self-talk manifests itself in unique ways depending on how the false spirit is most active, however the first is the most vividly depicted in my life right now.

#1. “I’m just so tired” The persistent child.

Tonight, my toddler ate a donut for dinner while we walked through the grocery store. I did not wake up this morning intent on winning the Lackluster Mom of the Year award. I had been in three meetings at work, then picked up the toddler at preschool, met my sister and my two older kids for some activities with an out-of-town guest. As the adults conversed, my 8-year-old son and my 10-year-old nephew each managed to lose a shoe in the creek that runs through the park. After an exhausting search in the sun, we still came up one shoe short. They shared a shoe as we traversed the wooden bridge and made our way back to our cars.

On the drive home, my “low fuel” light popped on and I also realized I desperately needed groceries. I left the older two kids with my husband, but the 2-year-old was insistent that he needed to go to the store with me. Because he is still transitioning to his new preschool, I begrudgingly took him, just to get out of the house and get the shopping done… BIG MISTAKE. I dragged him crying through every aisle as I frantically threw taco fixings and fruit in the cart. And then, right next to the sliced bread and tortillas was a box of heavily processed, highly sugared donuts.

So that’s how I became that mom who let their kid eat his way through the store so I could finish my shopping in peace. Most days I have my life more together than this. When I read Ignatius’s description of the false spirit as a petulant child, I feel the utter exhaustion of an end of the day grocery run. The donut came when I had no more fight left in me.

Likewise, the false spirit erodes our willpower to fight racism, injustice, and the oppression of the most vulnerable. These problems are bigger than me, and my small acts seem meaningless and insignificant. I am too tired to fight the big fight. Speaking with integrity at our workplaces, in our civic government, and in our communities, it all becomes too much. I want to give in, to buy the donuts, to silence the conflict at any cost.

#2. “I’m so embarrassed.” The secret.

One of the most telling ways that the enemy works on me is to constantly remind me that my weaknesses and failings must be hidden. I want to maintain my reputation as being strong and capable. If I ask for help, will that change how other people see me? What if I let people down? I’m sharing my donut and wayward toy stories because these are the ways that God is working on me. I’m still learning the delicate balance of setting clear boundaries, while being more patient with my kids. I want them to explore, to come up with new creative ideas. But I also need them to come when I call them, put away the toys at bedtime, and not throw their shoes into running water. Whatever our struggle is, God never asks us to hide it from those most close to us (our spouse, spiritual advisor, and most trusted friends). If you feel that sense of shame that makes you hide the action, thought, or temptation from these key groups, then it’s probably an indication that the false spirit is at work and these people might have a difficult truth to reflect back.

#3. “I never learn.” The weak spot.

Do you ever beat yourself over having the same tensions within your family, the same sins to confess, the same bad habits that you can’t seem to kick? Our commitment to following Christ is tested over and over, oftentimes in similar ways. Through this purification, God continues to heal us. I get discouraged and berate myself for “never learning” and falling into the same traps. This self-talk around failure is one way the false spirit exploits me: telling me I’m not capable of change, that I’m stupid and weak and will never be enough.

St. Ignatius lived into these three workings of the false spirit. He struggled to name them so that all of those who would use his Spiritual Exercises in the future would also grow in the ability to call out the enemy in our midst.

The donut, the shame, the guilt. None of these are the real enemy. The real enemy wins when we allow these tensions and fears to overshadow God. We have convinced ourselves that we must be the makers of our own destiny (at all costs), and we choose our own fleeting happiness over all else.

Go Deeper:

This post appeared on Becky Eldredge’s Into the Deep blog as part of a series on Ignatian Discernment.

Sustaining Hope in the Midst of Anxiety


“There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly.”

Mark 5:25-26

My anxiety is hemorrhaging out of me. Over time I have learned to deal with my triggers in more effective ways. But some days, like today, it hemorrhages. It bleeds into my prayer, it floods my mind, it drowns my judgment. I am trying to put a bandaid over it, but it is too late, and nothing can stop this hemorrhage. 

In many situations, I can roll with the punches and cope with whatever challenges come my way. But not when it comes to vomit… As luck would have it, the very week I signed up to write on the topic of anxiety, a nasty bug has knocked us down. I am an armchair epidemiologist, tracking case numbers and incubation periods of a stomach virus I cannot defeat. The data analysis gives me something to fixate on. There have been moments of fear, helplessness, and self-doubt. I have had flashbacks to the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, and yet this time I am alone, hemorrhaging anxiety. 

The afflicted woman had spent all her money on doctors that could not cure her. For 12  years she sought answers. Yet somehow she did not lose hope. I will admit, I have felt very hopeless these past two weeks… so what hope have I clung to? 

“She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.

She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”

Mark 5:27-28

The recent Disney movie Encanto features a Colombian family with gifts that help their community. The main character, Mirabel’s mom, has the ability to heal injuries and illnesses with her homemade cakes and breads. “The truth is she can heal you with a meal, her recipes are remedies for real.” As the children have cycled through days on the couch in the past two weeks, I have watched this movie and listened to the accompanying soundtrack more times than I can count. How many times I have wished for a magical bread that cured all of our illnesses! 

I wished for that magical cure while my 5-year-old received IV fluids in the waiting room of the emergency room. I wished for it again when I picked up the third prescription for my two year old within a week when he developed two secondary infections after the initial illness.  I wished for it again when the one child that seemed to have escaped the illness came down with it a full week after the other two. 

Somewhere about the 1000th time I heard the catchy phrase “my mom Julieta can make you feel better with just one arepa” (a bread made with cornmeal) in Encanto, I realized that Jesus does continue to offer me a special nourishment along the way. While the Bread of Life that Jesus offers may not instantaneously heal a broken bone or sick tummy, it does offer me hope that no matter what happens I will be okay. 

All week I have remained with the woman afflicted by hemorrhages. I am with her as she reaches out to touch the cloak of Jesus. I summon her courage, her unfailing faith that to touch even the fringes of Jesus’ person has the power to bring healing. 

In the face of a bout of anxiety, my prayer is not a steady, clear profession of faith. Hope is a lingering glance, the flutter of my fingertips on His cloak, the smallest kernel of trust that no matter what, Jesus will still be with me. 

Go Deeper

The post appeared on Becky Eldredge’s Into the Deep blog in a series on Sustaining Hope.


Wednesday in the Easter Season

I was involved with training other students to serve small, Ignatian faith communities on my Jesuit university campus. After graduation, that evolved into leading a summer program for campus ministers and peer leaders who would come together to pray, learn, and envision how they might serve the spiritual needs of their own campuses. Much of this collaboration happened pre-social media, resulting in few opportunities to connect afterwards. We “scattered” after the program and each spread the Gospel in diverse and assorted ways. I had no control over how each of these individuals would share what they received. 

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the disciples “scatter” throughout the region, bringing the Good News of Jesus to those who never witnessed the miracles of Jesus themselves. Faith is deeply personal, often nurtured in one-on-one conversation, in a small group, and in our unique journey towards God. And yet, that personal conversion happens in the context of a local community and a wider Church. Like the early disciples, each one of us is sent forth to proclaim with our lives the ways that Christ has been present. Each day we scatter seeds of hope and faith, yet we may never see them come to fruition. 

The post originally appeared in the Jesuit Prayer App on May 4, 2022.

Jesus, Lord and brother,

in my Easter joy,

I want more than to just be aware of you in my life.

I want to believe in your presence at my side.

I feel blessed with an abundance of your gifts

and your promise of being raised on the last day.

Help me to be like the your early followers

and, even when I am scattered,

to have my life be an example

of your word at work in today’s world.

Thank you for the great mercy you show us.

Creighton University Online Ministries Praying Easter 

Broken Locks

Wednesday in the Easter Season

But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
“Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life.”
– Acts 5:19-20

Our daughter has no doorknob. We went through a phase where she locked herself in her room over and over again. Then she locked herself in a room at a friend’s house and someone was preparing to climb through a second floor window to get to her when she finally figured out how to unlock the door. The result: no more doorknobs. 

In today’s reading, the disciples are imprisoned and their ministry seems to come to a standstill. Then the angel of the Lord breaks through locked doors, freeing the disciples and sending them back to the work they are called to do. Sometimes we make prisons for ourselves. We cannot see a way forward, to follow the call of Christ. We see locked doors, bound hands, empty dreams. 

We are trapped by fear, grief, a desire for security. Is God trying to break me out of my self-imposed prison? Has God removed the locks, opened the doors and challenged me to follow him anew this Easter? 


Anima Christi 
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

This post originally appeared on The Jesuit Prayer app.

Real or Fake?

“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” Lk 24:14-15

“Zombies aren’t real. Neither are aliens.”
“Well if that’s true then neither are leprechauns, the Easter Bunny, or Santa!”
“What about the tooth fairy?!”
“What is real?!?!”

This heated exchange over what’s real and what’s “fake” continued for much of the twenty minute car ride home from school. As I listened to my children “conversing and debating” over what makes something real, I imagined the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They journeyed along, recounting the facts they knew and all the things that challenged those truths. “But we were hoping that…” I hear the voices raising louder and louder, the futile attempts to make sense of conflicting realities. Can I hang onto the truth of Santa and the Easter bunny if zombies and leprechauns are not real? 

Finally my five-year-old proclaimed “God is not fake and I am not fake.”  These simple facts re-grounded her in a core truth. The disciples on the road gradually came to recognize Jesus as He shared the Gospel message and broke bread with them. Once they knew who Jesus was, everything fell into place and they recognized their own truth as disciples and believers in the Resurrected Christ. 

On the road home, my children together uncovered the greatest Easter truth. They are real, God is real. When it comes to the Easter Bunny, I plead the Fifth… 


O God, who gladden us year by year
with the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection,
graciously grant
that, by celebrating these present festivities,
we may merit through them to reach eternal joys.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

– Collect for Daily Mass
New English translation according to the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. 2010, Copyright International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

The Clothes Make the Man

“He went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,

the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.”  John 20:6-9

When I was expecting my first child, Paul, my 2-year-old nephew Jeremy often accompanied me to my prenatal appointments. Each time we saw “Jen’s tiny baby” on the ultrasound, he was annoyed that the baby “had no shirt on.” Shortly after Paul was born, he was cleaned up and wrapped in a plain white hospital-issued undershirt. Since Jeremy was too young to come into the maternity ward, my husband wheeled the little bassinet over to a place where he would be able to see the baby. 

After seeing Paul for the first time, Jeremy excitedly told everyone in the hospital waiting room, “Tiny baby here! Him have shirt on! Him have shirt on!” That image on the ultrasound screen was incomplete. The new baby FINALLY being clothed, was an indicator that he had really arrived. A simple white shirt was a symbol of his humanness. 

The disciples arrive at the tomb on Easter morning. They see the empty burial clothes lying on the ground and something about the placement clicks.  These ceremonial wrappings, which they carefully completed in order to provide a proper Jewish burial, could not contain life. The massive rock covering the tomb could not contain life. The disciples’ eyes are opened and they begin to see that Jesus had triumphed over death. 

At our Baptism, we are clothed in a white garment, a symbol of this new life in Christ. This white garment could be an ornate gold and lace- trimmed creation, a simple onesie, or an abandoned burial cloth. These clothes are reminders that God’s love for us is bigger than death. 

Today, we taste, touch, and see the tangible signs of Easter. May each meal we share with loved ones also fill us with God’s love. May the Eucharist we celebrate nourish us for the week to come. May the Easter egg hunts and festivities show us the unbridled joy of discovery and wonder. 

God, I offer my emptiness to you today. Fill it with your love, joy, and wonder. 

Looking for a Reason: Irritating Sin

Wednesday of Holy Week

“…and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.”
Matthew 26:16

My 8-year-old woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. I caught him “flicking” his little sister twice before even finishing his breakfast. I didn’t pack the right snack for school. His temper was short. A storm cloud surrounded him. No matter what solutions I offered, he had decided that today was going to be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. 

How many of us have fallen into that same trap of deciding that something challenging will be “too much” for us to handle? A Lenten sacrifice, a meatless Monday commitment, recycling, making time for Mass on a hectic weekend. It is all too hard, too costly, too time-sensitive. I have tuned out any mentor’s helpful suggestions to cope with my struggles as well as any guilt nudging my conscience. I am looking for a way out of the hard work of following Jesus. 

Although today’s Gospel recounts the moment where Judas Iscariot makes the arrangement to hand over Jesus, he had probably been mulling over the betrayal for quite some time. Perhaps he was worn down by the pressures of following Jesus or couldn’t face whatever changes he was being challenged to make in his own life. Just as with Judas, oftentimes many moments of doubt or fear led up to the moment of betrayal between each of us and Jesus. 

Whether I intend to or not, I am on the lookout for reasons to betray Jesus. The false spirit has been flicking my arm, pulling at my hair, crowding my side of the backseat in the car. 

I place myself at this table with you, the last supper before the Last Supper. What am I holding back, and hiding from you? 

Tomorrow, help me offer my whole self at your table. Transform my brokenness into something new. 

Palm Sunday: A Current Event

 He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:7-8

A few years ago, my son became fascinated with the violin. We listen to the violin music and watch YouTube videos, and for a while he took lessons. His enthusiasm for the violin prompted a longtime family friend to share the story of how her father’s violin skill saved his life during the Holocaust. His autobiography and oral history recordings in the United States Holocaust Museum recount the horrific things he witnessed. Yet, his entire story was interwoven with his testimony of God’s love and care for him and others. 

At 14-years-old, his father was beaten to death before his eyes in a concentration camp. He begged the guards to spare his father and take him instead but to no avail. Then this young man began quietly chanting Psalm 22, “Eli, Eli, lomo azavtoni— My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken us?” As Jesus takes our place, He prays these same words on the cross. Survivors, scholars, and theologians all ask “where was God” in these atrocities.  In this one personal narrative of the Holocaust, it felt like God walked into the labor camps, the mines, the barracks, and the crematoria with this boy and his family. Jesus’ Passion was being played out in Dachau and Auschwitz. The crucifixion of Jesus was happening in that moment. 

The Passion is not a historical account of something that happened 2,000 years ago. The Passion of Jesus is happening today. It is happening on our borders. It is happening in Ukraine. It is happening in the gang violence that captivates our cities and the opioid epidemic that has rocked so many families. The Passion is in the terrible abuse of people and power by Church leadership. The Passion is in loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Each of us is sharing in the suffering of Christ, and each of us is witnessing that suffering in those around us.  Do I choose to stand and bear witness, to accompany Jesus in each of these moments?

What if I entered Holy Week with this living, breathing Jesus in mind? What if I were less detached from those around me? Can I imagine their hopes and suffering on the cross with Jesus, alongside my own? 

Photo by Jussara Romão on Unsplash 


Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, April 6 2022

“Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.”

Jn 8:31-42 

Until I was 16, it consumed my days, my evenings, my weekends. It made me feel good about myself, connected me with others, and caused me a great deal of enjoyment. This activity was a fundamental part of me and defined so much of my (and my family’s) life.

When I got sick during my junior year of high school, I realized I had become a slave to dancing. Any enjoyment had become overshadowed by the all-consuming commitment and the shame at never being good enough. Something life-giving had become a source of pain. Instead of drawing me closer to my true self, dance began to pull me deeper into despair. 

This is how the false spirit often works. We are lured into complacency, and these gifts that God has given us become the very center of our lives. Today’s readings remind us that we are enslaved by our own sinfulness. We become inordinately attached to things that have the potential for good: activities, social media, gossip, and perhaps even a beloved ministry. The good becomes the goal, and there is no room for God. 

As we draw nearer to Holy Week, what might Jesus be trying to set free within me? I find St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation prayer to be a helpful meditation on this detachment. 

The First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal. In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me. 

Translation by David Fleming, SJ

How are you inviting me to a deepened life in You, God? 

This post originally appeared in the Jesuit Prayer App.