Footprints on the Journey

2014 Second Place Winner of "Best Online Blog-Individual" Category from the Catholic Press Association

Hoarders—The ‘Mental’ Edition

I’m an emotional hoarder. What I mean by that is I stockpile emotions until the weight of them becomes unbearable to hold and then I burst out in an explosion of whatever emotion I’ve been holding onto. It’s not a good thing to do.


I was thinking about this because my father used to have hoarding tendencies. If something were on sale, like soda bottles, he’d buy not one or two, but 10 or more to put in the basement. The same was true for other store bought things like paper towels and napkins, canned goods and the like. It was also true for odds and ends. We used to have additional chairs in our basement that he picked up along the side of the road, hurricane lamps and Christmas decorations galore.


I promised myself that I wouldn’t become a hoarder when I became an adult, but, like the cliché goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Not only do I have some physical “collections” at my house—from comic books to toys from the 90s to books and more, my mental hoarding is top notch. Need some blue feelings? I have some in abundance? Anxiety? I have that in surplus as well.


If you are like me, you probably have some “extra” feelings you don’t really need to carry around with you as well. With summer coming, I feel like now is the perfect time to de-clutter both inside and out.


So how do we do that? How can we get rid of the garbage in our head? One way is through prayer. If we let God in, we can let go of some of the negativity we are holding onto. God doesn’t want us to be unhappy or full of anxiety. He says so many times in the Bible. Let’s try to listen to Him.


I’ve quoted this before, but it’s so good that I’m going to quote it again. It’s from St. Paul and it says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Walking on the Journey

Two years ago, right around this time, I wrote a post about my best friend who happens to be an atheist. It was one of my highest rated posts, with the largest number of views in the history of this blog. But that’s not all. It’s also the most meaningful to me for a very important reason.   After I wrote that blog I received an email from a lovely young woman named Jasmin, who told me that she, too, had an atheist friend named Thomas Romanelli whom she had introduced to “Footprints on the Journey.” She continued to say that through discernment and reading of the blog, he had changed his beliefs from atheism to Catholicism.     This year, I received a message from Romanelli, the former atheist, who told me that he had entered the Catholic Church at Easter!   Romanelli told me about his earlier beliefs and said, “I was raised in a Catholic family, but had no interest. I felt there was no evidence of God. I had no one to inspire me or educate me of the simplicity of believing, and understanding that evidence of God was not always apparent, but was often subtle.”   He went on to say now: “God has completely changed my life. I am more at peace with myself and others. I am more confident and self assured, knowing, not just believing, but knowing, that He is there for me.”   He mentioned that my blog had played a part in his conversion. At that, my heart soared with joy and I cried –sobbed, really. If I made a list of the five happiest moments of my life, receiving that note would rank high among them.   Why am I sharing this with you? For two reasons: Because oftentimes we don’t know the part we play in someone else’s life and because God can work in your life even if you think he can’t for whatever reason.   You may think that your actions have no effect on someone—but they do. Did you help a coworker with a project? You may be the reason he doesn’t quit. Are you a sponsor for a recovering addict? You may be the reason she doesn’t give up hope. Did you leave a nice comment on someone’s Facebook page? Your kindness could be the thing that stops others from rude remarks.   As we walk along this journey of life and faith, let’s try to remember that when others join us on our path, they are there for a reason—to teach us, to inspire us, to challenge us. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love.”

Christopher Award Winner Shares Tools to Care for Aging Parents

Marcy Cottrell Houle won a Christopher Award last night for her book, “The Gift of Caring: Saving Our Parents from the Perils of Modern Healthcare.” When I heard the topic of her book, I knew immediately that I wanted to speak with her.


I am sure like me that many of you are coming to an age where it is becoming necessary to take care of sick or aging parents. I also know how difficult it can be. I was there to take care of my sick father during the last years of his life and have witnessed other close people taking care of sick relatives as well.


I wanted to share her book and her thoughts with you because I was definitely able to relate.


In her book she writes, “Growing up, I saw other people growing old, never my parents.” I am not an expert, but I think this happens to a lot of young adults. I think it’s sometimes hard to transition from the role of a child to the role of caretaker when it comes to your parents.


A little later on, she writes, “And when the parallel universes of aging and life at last collided for my parents, I was probably the least prepared of all to grasp it. For it had never entered my thinking that this could happen to them. Or when they desperately needed help, it would not be there.”


Unfortunately, in Ms. Houle’s case, she had to witness misdiagnoses, neglect, symptoms being written off as ‘old age’ that were not, and other harrowing ordeals. She told me, “I wrote the book after seeing the suffering my parents went through. They fell through the cracks of the health care system.”


“This book helps people become empowered to advocate and navigate the health care system, which is very confusing and something dangerous,” she said, adding, “The book provides people with the tools they need.”


While the topic may seem sad, she said the book is hopeful. “It’s a call to arms. A call to change the system.”


As for the award, she said with a smile, “I feel very honored. People have told me the book is meaningful, that it’s helped people in their lives. There is no better reward for a writer than that.”





Where’s Waldo (And Faith, And Joy, and Love)?


I was just on the verge of becoming a tween when the “Where’s Waldo?” books were becoming really popular. I wasn’t too into them, but I did have a few. If you aren’t familiar with that series, they were books that contained different scenes with a plethora of images. In each one, you had to find Waldo—a young man wearing a red and white striped shirt—among the images.


In some cases, it was very hard to find him—at least the first time around. But once he was found, it was easy to go through the book in mere seconds and point him out. The books turned from a “hide and seek” game to a “memory” game.


I’m bringing that up because sometimes our feelings can be like that, too. I know that at times, that’s happened to me. Unfortunately, it’s more often than not, the good feelings like hope, happiness, joy or love. It also happens to things like trust and faith. When someone is having a particularly rough time, it may seem impossible to find those hidden emotions.


I know that if you are suffering from a chronic illness, or a death in the family, or an addiction or any other kind of hardship or tragedy, those good feelings may seem impossible to reconnect with for any extended period of time, if at all.


I know that there are so many people who are searching for lost things—for pieces of their heart and soul. I know that they are there. Maybe deeply hidden—waiting there for you to find them for the first time or to discover them again.


Thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

Why Did the Chicken…Listen to Jesus?

A coworker of mine told me a joke the other day. It went like this. Question: “Why did the chicken fall into the well?” Answer: “Because he didn’t see tha’ well!”


I have to admit. I cracked up pretty hard. I know it’s a children’s joke. We both admitted to that. But afterward, the two of us spoke seriously about how often as adults we don’t look at what is around us but automatically think things are better anywhere else but where we are.


I’m a city girl, so all the chicken jokes I’ve heard didn’t really make that much sense to me growing up. But a few years ago, when I went to Portugal with my husband, I had a chance to see chickens in action. When they are startled, they run around like maniacs—not looking where they are going—bounding into whatever is in front of them, flapping their wings like mad.


So when I thought about this joke a little more and compared it to my spiritual life, it made a lot more sense to me. Sometimes, at least for me, I have to remain still and in the place where I am to feel what I am feeling (which right now means getting used to the fact that there are times when I’m going to feel distant from God but that doesn’t mean that He isn’t there) and let God be God.


I can’t just go blindly off, afraid and in a mad dash, just because I’m frightened or not used to it. I have to remain calm and do like Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, I am with you!” John 6:19-20.


When Faith Is Like a Mirage

I’ve seen it exaggerated in a few cartoons. A character is lost in the desert when they all of a sudden see an oasis full of water in front of them. When the place of refuge is just out of their reach—it disappears—it turns out to be a mirage.


For the past two or three weeks, that is how I felt about my faith. I felt like it was just out of my grasp. But when I came close to touching it, to feeling it, it disappeared like a mirage. It was a devastating place to be. It’s a place I’ve been before. And it’s a place I’ll most likely be at again.


Generally, when I find myself in this state of being, it’s because I’m overwhelmed with too many things. Perhaps you’ve been in this type of situation before, too. I find that my mind races because it’s full of too many worries. My days fly by because they are filled with too many obligations that I have to fulfill. My heart aches because there are just so many loved ones in difficult situations. Or perhaps you yourself are going through a difficult time from sickness, addiction or difficulties at work or in the home or another situation that is weighing you down.


When this happens, there is one quote from the Bible that helps keep me grounded. It’s a really simple one. It doesn’t help me to catch up to the mirage, but it reminds me that God is present right where I am and that I don’t need to go searching to find him. He’s already with me. I don’t have to try so hard. The quote is this, from Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”


When life is swirling around, it’s nice to remember to just be still and let God do his thing in our lives.

Getting out of a Ditch


I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s because I like to be totally honest and up front about my faith on this blog—and for the past few weeks, I have metaphorically driven my faith off course.


I kind of felt like I’ve been in a car driving fast on a highway with the radio on, but with an unruly and unhealthy passenger in the car talking next to me. I can recognize what song is on the radio, but I really can’t make out the words or put a name to it because I’m paying attention to the road and what the person next to me is jibber jabbering about. Before I know it, I’m two miles past my exit and I really have no idea how I got there.


When life gets like that for me—when things go so fast that the soundtrack of my life becomes fuzzy and I lose all sense of direction as to where I’m going—it’s hard for me to write about what is going on inside my soul. In all honesty, that is probably when I should write the most because that is when I’m most vulnerable to getting lost. That’s when I could use help from all of you.


However, sometimes we don’t do what is best for us because we are human and make mistakes.  


Thankfully, I know God is ready and waiting for me when I realize what I am doing and come out of my daze. He’s there ready to be by my side and get back on the road with me as I turn the music back up and start living my life fully alive and alert again.

Learning About Mercy, Through a Saint

Last night I had a date with a saint. The relics of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish sister who gave the world the famous image of “Divine Mercy,” were at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for veneration.

St. Faustina was charged with giving Jesus’ message of mercy to the world. In a vision, he told her, “I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart.” St. Pope John Paul II canonized her in April of 2000, making her the first saint of the new millennium.

I didn’t know much about St. Faustina until I was assigned to write about the relics. I had heard of her Diary, and had seen the image of the Divine Mercy.IMG_2891

But that was about it. I honestly didn’t really know what the word “mercy” meant, either. It wasn’t until I started really talking to people about St. Faustina for the article, and heard the homily of Father Justin Cinnannte, a priest of the archdiocese, at the Young Adult Mass at St. Patrick’s last night, that the word at least started to make sense for me.

I won’t say I know exactly what mercy means—I’m still trying to figure that out—but I think I have somewhere to start now.

Father Justin told the story of a troubled boy who had been kicked out of high school. He later learned the boy was placed in a mental hospital. A while after he was let out of the hospital, this young man came back to Father Justin and asked for the sacraments of confession and anointing of the sick.

Father Justin said a phrase came to his mind: “By his wounds you are healed.”

The young man then showed Father Justin his arms, which were covered in scars from self-harm.

Father Justin said, “The reason why he was able to show his wounds to Jesus was because Jesus first showed his wounds to him.” He was referring to Jesus’ wounds on the cross.

I never before realized that mercy and healing are so closely related. No matter how scarred, or broken, or damaged we are, God wants to wrap us in his mercy and make us whole. He knows what we are going through and he wants to us to live in peace. That’s what his mercy is for, I think.    

Starting today, I’m going to try to pray more often with the words that are on the bottom of the Divine Mercy image, which says, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Making Holy Week Meaningful With Social Media

I was going through my Facebook news feed last night when I saw a quiz that asked, “Which personality from the Easter story should you reflect on this Holy Week?” I thought it would be a fun little quiz to take that I’d quickly forget about. When I saw my results, however, I was shocked, and, truthfully, it is giving me quite a lot to reflect on.


The quiz tells you who you’d most likely be in the Easter story. My husband took the quiz and got Simon of Cyrene—the man who helps Jesus carry the Cross. It’s fitting because my husband is always ready and willing to help others. I couldn’t wait to see what result I would get.


Then I took the quiz and saw…Barabbas!


My initial reaction was revulsion! How could I be most like the “man in prison for insurrection and murder” Luke 23:25 who is freed so Jesus could take his place? Was I that bad?


The more I thought about it, however, the more I could relate to Barabbas. I recalled all the times in my life that Jesus stepped into my life to save mine—in big and small ways. He has been there to give me second, third and fourth chances to make my life better. Even though Barabbas was a known bad guy, Jesus takes his place and dies in place of him.


I don’t know if Barabbas changed his life or not after that episode with Jesus. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he tried and failed and tried again. No one knows. All I know is that the more I think about Barabbas, the more I realize how much Jesus loves us all.


If you’re interested in the quiz you can find it at the link below. If you take it, share your results in the comments below!

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