I’m sure it will come as no surprise to my family, friends, and those of you who follow me on social media that I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot over the past month. My grandmother was, to say the least, extraordinary. She didn’t win any awards. Gram wasn’t known outside of her hometown. She didn’t do great things or travel to faraway places or lead protests or discover a new star. She didn’t do anything special at all unless you count every single little thing she did with extraordinary love, and she taught me so much.
There are many lessons I learned from my grandmother, but there is little that she taught me through words or preaching or admonishments. Almost everything I learned from her, I leaned by watching her, and I try my best to emulate all that she taught me.
These are the things I will always cherish and strive to uphold.
I recently came across an article in Scientific American that really intrigued me. As we (fingers crossed and prayers said) go into the diminishing phase of Covid with its strange ailments, long-term effects–and trust me, I know about these–its indiscriminate taking of life, closing of churches, separating of loved ones, and alienation of those who most need socialization, I have become keenly aware of the rise in mental health issues and disorders, including in my own inner circle. It seems that the world has fallen into a deep pit of despair, and our lives have become meaningless and out of focus. We have lost the spiritual connection that is necessary to thrive.
Enter, David Rosmarin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program. In his study of psychiatric patients throughout the pandemic, he found that prayer increased significantly in March of 2020 and continued to rise throughout the year despite the closing of houses of worship. He found this to be an extremely important find since “Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists.” He noted that, in 2020, American mental health sank to the lowest point in recorded history with diagnoses of mental disorders increasing by 50%. The use of alcohol and drugs rose as did contemplation of suicide. YET the mental health of those patients who attended religious services, in-person or online, actually improved significantly!
Rosmarin goes on to say that studies show that nearly 60% of psychiatric patients have a desire to discuss spirituality with their psychiatrist yet are rarely, if ever, given the opportunity to do so. He says we can blame it on Freud and his characterization of religion as a mass-delusion. We see this trend in suggestions by both the American Psychological Association’s and Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for coping with the pandemic. The only near-mention of religion is the CDC’s recommendation to “connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.” The author goes on to say, “we ignore potential spiritual solutions to our mental health crisis, even when our well-being is worse than ever before.”
According to this study and another, “a belief in God is associated with significantly better treatment outcomes for acute psychiatric patients. And other laboratories have shown a connection between religious belief and the thickness of the brain’s cortex, which may help protect against depression.” He also concluded that “many nonreligious people still seek spirituality, especially in times of distress.”
It’s been almost six years now since I first walked on the holy ground of Israel where I met the people who would come to be major players in my game of life. I still can’t believe the many gifts and blessings I received on that pilgrimage and the countless ones I’ve received since then.
In 2018, one of my pilgrim family members, Jan, invited me to go on a second pilgrimage to the Holy Land planned for February of 2019.
I eagerly accepted her invitation and extended the offer to my sister-in-law, Lisa. That trip forever changed our relationship, making us true sisters in marriage, love, and faith. Since our return, rarely a day goes by that Lisa doesn’t check in on me to send her love and tell me she’s praying for me (she’s a much better sister than I am as I’m terrible at reaching out to people). Those texts mean more to me than she will ever know.
I’ve put off writing this for a long time – several weeks in fact. It’s not because I’m uncomfortable talking about it but because I’m sick of hearing about it and talking about it and thinking about it. I’m writing this only because I’d like to start a conversation that comes from the people and not from the doctors. That’s not to say that I don’t believe what the doctors have to say but because I don’t believe they are talking to each other about what they are hearing from us, the patients. Maybe they are, but too many times in the past couple months I’ve heard, “My doctor has never heard of this,” or “My doctor says it’s not a symptom,” or “My doctor looks at me like I’m crazy.”
We’re not crazy. We’re just hurting, confused, and looking for answers.
Maybe if we can start a conversation about what we’re experiencing, we can find the answers that everyone needs and hopes for. I know that’s my hope and also my prayer.
Whether they’re a football fan or not, I suspect most people enjoy seeing what the world of advertising has to show us during those thirty-second to two-minute breaks between downs and quarters. I still get chills when I think about Mean Joe Greene throwing his jersey to the “kid” who offered him a Coke, and who doesn’t remember the iconic “Where’s the Beef” ad that made Wendy’s a household name? Most of all, who could forget the clydesdales kneeling before the space that was once the Twin Towers? That still brings tears to my eyes. As does this one from Toyota that will air this coming Sunday during the Super Bowl…
“Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” This was said by our associate pastor, Father Michael Angeloni, at daily Mass this past Monday, April 20. When I heard those words, I did what I so often want to do when I attend a live Mass–I stopped the video and backed it up to listen again. “Faith, like film, is developed in the darkness.” Father said that even those who walk closely with God experience times of darkness, times when nothing seems to make sense, times when we ask questions and seek answers.
Several times each day, I look at this situation we are in and wonder, what is happening? Why is this happening? How can we get past this? I question everything that is being done. Is it the right thing to stay home and not risk being exposed? Is it right to protest staying in? Is it right to close so many businesses? Is it right to keep businesses open? Is it right to visit with people whom we know have had no exposure? Is it best to shut ourselves off from physical contact with anyone and everyone? How do we know when it’s safe to go into the world again? What are the answers, and how do we know what the right answers are?
I am stumbling in the dark, grappling for the light switch. I can’t see where I’m going. I don’t know if danger lies ahead. The darkness seems to swallow me, distorting my vision, and I can’t tell if I’m alone.
I recently heard someone say that the greatest gift her parents gave her was her faith. It kind of stopped me in my tracks. Here we are, in the midst of the Christmas shopping season, and I hear that the greatest gift someone received from her parents was the gift of faith. Not an Apple Watch, not a laptop, not a designer bag or piece of jewelry, but the simplest of gifts–the ability to believe what is not seen and embrace it, the courage to trust in God, and the knowledge that there is a glorious new life awaiting us.
I thought to myself, how true it is that the greatest gift we can pass down is easy and free to give, but then I realized, faith is not easy and it’s not free… Read more →
Did you ever have one of those days when you feel like you are doing nothing but banging your head against a wall? A day where you hit obstacle after obstacle and are living the old adage, one step forward and two steps back? I’m having one of those weeks, and I have to admit, I feel so discouraged. This is hard for me because I am not a person who is easily discouraged. So, today I’m going to try to think of ways to overcome these feelings, and I have the perfect starting point.
This morning, I received the best email ever. It came from someone I have never met, a reader of my latest book, Island of Hope. Diana wrote, “This was an amazing book!!!! The characters were very real and likable and the whole story line gave a sense of hope! I read it in less than 24 hours, it was that good!!! This was the first of your books I had read….and I loved it!! I look forward to reading more! I shared quotes from your book that I found very inspirational in emails to Christian friends and I am sending the book to the woman who was my kids’ Sunday school teacher as she just lost her husband. Keep up the awesome work! :)”
Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. It was just what I needed this morning. Sometimes, that’s all we need to create a positive shift in our lives–a sign that we’re doing okay despite what’s in front of our very limited point of view.
The past few days have been a blur for Ken and me. We returned from a trip with friends in time to pack up the car and head right back out again. We spent the day driving toward a city almost six hours away where we said goodbye to our youngest daughter after a full day of setting up her dorm, running to the store for last minute things, buying the last of her books, and getting her settled for her freshman year of college. On the way home, we made a quick, late-night stop to see daughter number two and check out the on-campus house where she will spend her junior year. We were exhausted when we pulled into the driveway just after midnight last night, and the house seemed awfully quiet this morning, but we are so happy for all three of our girls as they each begin a new school year (oldest daughter is beginning her final year of law school).
I wish so many things for my girls as they embark on or continue with new chapters of their lives. I wish for good health, happiness, wisdom, and faith. Most of all, I wish them fulfilling, lifelong friendships. We should all be open to new friendships, no matter where we are in life, how old we are, where our career is headed, or what stage of family life we are experiencing. I have seen first-hand how much friendship can change and enhance your life. That was made more clear than ever this past weekend. Read more →
Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.
Father Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.