This is Maximilian Kolbe. He’s pretty awesome. And his feast day is today. Maximilian loved Mary, the Mother of God. He had an experience when he was twelve where Mary appeared to him. Maximilian’s mother asked out loud one day, “What am I to do with you?” after he inevitably did something frustrating like refusing to take his shoes off when going to bed (yes my child went to bed with his shoes on tonight because he insisted he needed them). Maximilian heard his mother, took it very seriously, and asked Mary what was to become of him. She offered him two crowns: one white for purity, and one red for martyrdom. She asked if he was willing to accept one of the crowns—he chose both. Both, people! This man was a saint starting at age TWELVE.

He later went on to take his final vows in the Conventual Franciscan Order, found the Immaculata Movement, and be ordained in 1918. He began a publication of a magazine to fight religious apathy, founded a new monastery, started a Catholic newspaper, and then went to Japan and did it all over again. All this while struggling with tuberculosis. After returning to Poland, he began a radio station in 1938. Shortly after, he was imprisoned by the Nazis and eventually taken to Auschwitz. While at the camp he smuggled bread and wine for Mass, and heard confessions when possible. After an escape, ten men were order to be killed. Maximilian volunteered to take the spot of a man who was married with children. His life was eventually ended by lethal injection after three weeks of starvation. He died embracing both crowns offered to him.


This is Maximilian Klaus. He’s also pretty awesome. His namesake’s feast day is today. Yes, we chose to name our son after this incredible saint. Before Max was born I mentioned to Eric how much I liked this name and he almost immediately vetoed it. In the delivery room after Max was born, Eric looked at me and said, “I think we should name him Maximilian.” I just had a baby, but few things could have surprised me more.

One of the many reasons we chose this name is because of his amazing life. To choose the life of purity and martyrdom is unfathomable to me, but for Kolbe it was all about serving Jesus. That’s what I want for my son: for him to live a life for Jesus. As his mother, it’s scary because I know that kind of life will not always be safe, and certainly not easy, but, Christ does not call us to comfort; He calls us to be bold. Kinda like Maximilian Kolbe.

Not sure what we’ve done to our son by naming him after Maximilian Kolbe, but I know I can relate to his mother. When taking his shoes off after a lot of insisting I found myself saying, “What am I to do with you?” J Here’s to a bold life in Christ!

Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers. – St. Maximilian Kolbe


Here’s to Forever


Four years ago this week I sat dreamily staring out the car window as my parents, Eric’s parents, all our stuff, Eric, and  I drove to Chicago. We dropped all our stuff in our tiny apartment so that after wedding we wouldn’t have to worry about moving. I remember thinking about how perfect it would all be. Our cute little apartment, in our cute little neighborhood, with our cute little “L” passes. Don’t get me wrong, I knew marriage would be difficult at times, but nothing can prepare someone for really, truly, wholly joining your life with someone else.

We had an absolutely beautiful wedding, and an OK reception. I remember thinking, as the Age of Pinterest dawned, how much I woulda-shoulda-coulda done differently. Then I looked over at EK happily programming in our cute little apartment, and thought, “If it was all about the reception, why are we this happy?” If I focused so much on giving my guests the blowout of a lifetime, I might have missed the happy programmer in front of me who just wants me, and a God who says, “Be an image of my love in the world!” So maybe I’m OK with having an OK reception. This is not to say that those who had rockin’ receptions somehow missed the true meaning of their marriage. I’ve been to plenty of fabulous receptions for couples who totally get marriage. But for those of us who didn’t? Really, it’s OK. Marriage is so much better than even the most perfect reception.

A great article I came across recently was actually about preparing for marriage while being single, but it reminded me that the vows we professed on July 3, 2010 where not just for one day, but for a lifetime. They are vows to come back to and pray with frequently. In the Rite of Marriage couples promise four things to each other: they come freely, they intend to love each other faithfully and forever, and they promise to create fruitfulness through their marriage.


If I do not freely come to my marriage I am not being honest, and certainly not giving my whole self. This is not only bad for me, but hurts my spouse a great deal. Being free doesn’t mean I get to do whatever I want. Being free means giving up my will for myself, EK, or our marriage and, “trusting that God has my greatest happiness in mind (Knobbe).” And I suck at this. That is why prayer is so important.


Each vocation is just as unique as the individuals who make up each one, but what we all have in common is that we are called to love. Purely and without pretense simply because we all have been made by God who is Love.  With that being said, loving anyone is probably the most difficult thing we can do, because loving someone means you need to be vulnerable. We tend not to like doing that especially when we are mad. Which, oddly enough, leaves us exceptionally vulnerable. Being faithful to EK means loving him even on the days I don’t like him.


Commitment to someone is not an easy feat (see above about love). By making a commitment to EK, I am sacrificing my selfishness. That doesn’t mean I’m never selfish (see above about freedom), but forever is sure going to be a lot harder if I am. EK could probably tell you some pretty good stories about how four years already feels like forever. 😉 But seriously, some days forever doesn’t seem long enough when you are hanging out with your best friend.


One of the ways a marriage can be fruitful is by children. This is by no means the only way. Marriage is a reflection of God’s love for us. By being a good example of the vocation of marriage, a couple encourages and supports other married couples, engaged couples, and those preparing for marriage. Each couple is uniquely fruitful based on their interests, gifts, family, etc.

“And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven (Rite of Marriage, Nuptial Blessing).” I can only hope and pray for us to reach a happy, old age together. Here’s to OK receptions, beautiful weddings, and vows that remind us why we love. Here’s to forever, EK! 



Knobbe, Beth. “Happily Ever After Begins Now.” Living and Loving the Single Life. http://bethknobbe.com/

May Blessings Pt. 4


Well, I’ve had an interesting end to May (more on that later), so I will truncate some of the days

May 19-22

I have no idea what happened on these days. It has been far too long and far too many blessings for me to remember which happened on these days.

May 23

We left for vacation today to Chicago!! We drove in without a hitch and got downtown to our hotel with only a few squawks from Max. This picture was taken moments after we dropped Eric’s new phone on the ground by the Bean and shattered the screen. Look at that smile! He is such a great man! I would not have been quit this happy after shattering my screen. What a blessing Eric is to my life!

May 24

We cooked out on the beach with our dear friend Carol. It was soooo great to see her and catch up! One of the things we miss most about living in Chicago is our fun times with this lady. Such a good and blessed friend!

May 25

We got to catch up with another friend, Katie! The four (five including Max) of us went to this delightful Italian restaurant where you share everything. You order family sized plates and pass it around. We spent probably around 3 hours there talking, eating, and drinking. So good to spend time with these ladies again!

May 26

I had a work conference in Wisconsin starting Tuesday so we left Chicago on Memorial Day. We left in the morning not sure what our plans were, and we ended up in Lake Geneva, WI at a restaurant we enjoyed

May 27

We bought boar games today! It just isn’t vacation unless we come back with board games. The one we still have on our kitchen table is Caverna. You are a dwarf family and you win by making your cave and forest the best little cave and forest (there are a few more mechanics than that, but you get the point). It’s so great to spend time in friendly rivalry with my husband! I think it says somewhere that a little healthy competition is good for a marriage…especially if the wife wins all the time. 😉

May 28

The conference I went to was with Evangelical Catholic to help train campus ministers and parish leaders in methods of EC. This organization has really been a blessing to my ministry and to me personally. I’ve learned and grown so much since I was first introduced to them.

May 29

Thank God for a great family doc and good intuition. I hadn’t been feeling well since Wednesday morning, so I finally called my doc and she wasn’t for sure what was wrong with me, but the options she listed were concerning. I made the decision that we should probably skip out on the rest of the conference and get me to the doctor…

May 30

I went to my doctor’s appointment, they sent me to get CT scans, and then they sent me to the Emergency Room because I had appendicitis. I had surgery that afternoon and was resting by that evening. Woof. That was not how I expected my Friday to go. Thank God for talented (and friendly) surgeon’s!

May 31

Because I had to stay in the hospital overnight, Eric’s parent’s came and helped take care of Max overnight. All on their 34th wedding anniversary!

May Blessings Pt. 3


May 12

Max got on the struggle bus in a big way today. I eventually gave up and just went home. Even when he’s difficult, even when he doesn’t sleep– he’s still a huge blessing in my life. Taking care of him is one of the most difficult and most rewarding experiences of my life thus far. And who could deny this cute face.


May 13

I prayed two days in a row! Blessing indeed!Cor 8

May 14

Irissa came to visit us this week and it was wonderful! We chatted, ate delicious food (yeah for new grill and a new blender!), and played with Max. She is wonderful! Blessings to her as she gets ready for grad school in the Fall!


May 15

Kenz’s birthday. El Azteca. Great company. Good conversation. Birthday blessings. Sombreros.


May 16

Ben came to visit! I really like having Ben around. We eat lots of great food and play lots of fun board games. If only I can make him live nearer to Ames we could do this more often! Brother-in-law blessings!


May 17

So, I forgot to unlock the building for work today…Not good. But it did give my co-workers an opportunity to exercise mercy, which they did quite well.  Having co-workers that will be merciful and loving, even when it’s inconvenient, is a blessing.


May 18

Orientated summer peer ministers today. It’s going to be an awesome summer with these folks! Looking forward to all the gifts they have to offer STA throughout the summer. (picture to come later)

May Blessings Pt. 2


May 5

Today two great things happened. 1) Max slept in the morning before lunch and 2) I had time/remembered to pray! This doesn’t always happen. Max sometimes gets on the strug bus with sleeping in the morning, and I often opt to do a bunch of work that requires two hands instead of praying. What a blessing to have that time! Now, to make this a habit…

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May 6

Pancake study break! I love how excited everyone was to enjoy delicious food and how needed it was for some to get motivated to study that night. The dedication some of these students have to their studies is inspiring to me.

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May 7

Jonathon’s first Zombie Burger experience! It’s not that zombies or burgers really make me think of God (give me a minute and I could absolutely make a connection), but the people who came with us do. Heidi, the one who introduced me to ZB, and Jonathon who is a delightful (soon-to-be) seminarian. Sad I didn’t get a picture of this momentous event, but here is a picture of Max’s first ZB experience.


May 8

No TNL! I stayed home and it was wonderful. What a blessing to have time to spend with my boys.



May 9

Graduation party! Three beautiful ladies graduating and going on to change the world in big ways. What a blessing to have had them a part of the community.


May 10

My parents are wonderful people! They came this weekend to help us with our atrocious landscaping. I really didn’t like the rock that was there and had no way to get rid of it. I took a chance by contacting a person on craigslist who wanted  rock and it worked beautifully! We even gave her a bunch of hostas. I originally was going to ask for money for the rock, but she made multiple trips and she was on a tight budget. Being generous reminds me of the numerous occasions of generosity shown to me throughout my life. God places people in our lives and opportunities to do His will. This was just one of those situations.

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May 11

My first Mother’s Day! It’s interesting that I spent the day cooking, but that is what I love to do and don’t get to do it enough! I made delicious pork ribs and homemade fries for lunch with my parents, and homemade bread sticks and pizza for supper with friends. We topped it off by playing Dix-it, a super fun new board game that is  kinda like Apples to Apples, but actually good.


May Blessings Pt. 1


Since this is the Month of Mary in the world of Catholics, I have decided to take this month to focus more on seeing the blessings in life (especially since this blog is named Beatus, or blessings…).

Mary is basically amazing. She bore a son whom she did not ask for, but said yes to. She loved that son to the bitter end of his days, and then some. Since having a son of my own, I understand just the tiniest bit what Mary might have been thinking in those first couple months of motherhood. Things like, “Holy crap! They let my leave the stable with this child! Now what do I do?!” and “Wow. I am so tiredzzzzzzz.” and mostly, “This tiny, beautiful human being is going to do some pretty amazing things in their life. I can’t wait to see.”

Mary could have easily focused on herself. After all she had to go through the shame of being an unwed mother, pregnancy, and child birth, She could have attributed Jesus’ holiness as a toddler to herself–but she didn’t. She always points us to Jesus. In many paintings of Jesus and Mary, Mary is literally pointing to Jesus. She is quite beautiful, so she often strikes you first, but then you see her say, with a single gesture, “No, look to Him.” This is what I seek to do this month. Capture those moments I am pointed toward God.

May 1

Ugh. Every year people leave, and every year they leave ME. That’s really what it’s about. It’s an affront to me! And I guess I’m just going to have to get over it. 🙂 This group of seniors are some of the first students I got to know well at STA. They are the first group of student leaders who I have had the privilege to see grow beyond imagining. They point me to God every. single. day. And I love them for it. This is from the last TNL. What a bittersweet night. Congrats graduates!
May 2

It’s a carnival! A lot of time and effort was put into this event and it was a success! Seeing a community come together and just enjoy each other and life is pure happiness.


May 3

This girl is the most talented, driven, and beautiful woman I know! She has worked so hard to get to this point in her life, and I was in awe during her senior recital.  I could feel the years of shrill notes, concerts, practice, and hours come to fruition as she gracefully played through runs. This women points me to God all the time. Especially when she takes care of (and puts to sleep faster than I ever can!) my son. What a beautiful image of love and care.

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May 4

This is a picture of Eric and I in Italy shortly before we were engaged. Today’s blessing comes in the form of a reminder of how great it is to be married! I was reflecting with Eric on a long walk with our dog that even though it’s been nearly 4 years, almost every Sunday I am overjoyed that neither of us have to leave. Kids, do not enter into a long distance relationship lightly–it sucks. Hooray for marriage!

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Recently, the subject of reconciliation came up in a conversation with a Baptist friend of mine. I found out he grew up in a world that thought Catholics believed only the pope could speak to God. After settling that erroneous claim, I tried to explain reconciliation. As I was describing the experience and explaining the belief system, I realized I was giving more real life examples than theological explanations. I ended up coming to my own conclusion: Catholicism touches the human, lived experience. I had never put it into those words before, but had always felt that was true.

God doesn’t often take us out of this human world to communicate with us. Certainly there are times when we feel we’ve reached a particularly holy place in our prayer, but God plays on our human senses to do it. We experience the world, and God, in this body, and our Church speaks to that experience by showing us that God reveals God’s love for us in this world.

We sing joyful music at Easter and Christmas, expressing our happiness and joy of the season. We use incense during adoration or certain special days throughout the year, awakening our sense of smell. We eat and drink (how much more human can we get!), weekly, or daily, the Body and Blood of Christ. When someone is sick, there is a ritual to help ease the suffering, a communal experience to show the love of God through the gathered community. When two people confess their love for each other, we have a way for them to express this love publicly, as one is wont to do when in love! We are constantly marking life with the holy.

I have a distinct memory of eating lunch at my grandparents’ house as a child. I was hungry and eager to eat the feast my grandmother had prepared and I started to eat before everyone had sat down. She immediately caught me and told me that we needed to pray to thank God for what had been provided us. “After all,” she said, “the food tastes better if we pray before we eat.” I was skeptical at my grandmother’s claim, but paid more attention to my food after we prayed and it somehow was different. This was clearly a line you feed to small children to get them to pay attention and pray, but it has stuck with me and has made eating a meal together a sacred experience. We are constantly making meaning out of our life experiences, even the routine ones. We are constantly marking life with the holy.

This idea of Catholicism involving the human, lived experience is not my idea alone. The idea of “Catholic imagination” has been around for many years. Most widely known is Andrew Greeley’s book, “Catholic Imagination.” He says, “Creation is grace, and the Church is a sacrament which bears witness to that truth.” [1] Let us break down this rich statement.

Grace is God revealing Godself to us. So, creation (i.e. trees, people, animals, mountains) is a way God reveals Godself to us. That is why when we come to a cliff looking out over water, a forest, or the Grand Canyon we stare in awe and beauty. We may also sense some otherness in these sites; there must be something bigger than us that created this awe-inspiring view. God reveals something about Godself in these views.

The Church, in this context, is the institution of the Catholic Church. Sacraments are encounters with the living Christ, here and now; they reveal and make present the reality of God.[2] Andrew Greeley describes sacrament as the “revelation of the presence of God.” [3] So, the Church reveals God’s presence. Creation is how God reveals Godself to us, and the Church reveals God’s presence, which backs up the claim that God reveals Godself through creation. The Church puts an exclamation point on the truth that God is active in creation! The Church does this through mass, through the sacraments, and through the preaching and witnessing of its members— it is about telling a story.

As an illustration of how this human lived experience is reflected in Catholicism in a unique way, I will use my own family’s story with tragedy and grief.

On Saturday, September 4, 1999 my oldest brother, Neil, collided with a train while driving home. At 21 years of age he was fit and on track for a successful college baseball career. His life as he knew it—my family’s life as we knew it—was suddenly and drastically changed. Neil sustained a brain injury that left his left arm and leg limp and his speech faint. Neil would spend the next two years on a road to recovery that he is still navigating today.

Because of the injuries he sustained, Neil spent about five months in a coma. After testing out of a coma he had surgery to replace bone of his skull that had been shattered in the accident.  It was unknown at the time that, because of the replacement, fluid was gathering around his brain making his rehabilitation regress. It took five months for doctors to be convinced something needed to be changed. He had another surgery to reroute the fluid easing the pressure, and improving his rehabilitation. Neil’s first memory since the week of the accident occurred shortly after the shunt surgery– 10 months after the accident. After leaving the Intensive Care Unit, he spent about 15 months in the rehabilitation center.

Since leaving the rehabilitation center Neil learned to walk, bought his own condo, completed an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree, and found a job he loves. He has regained his life.

This is my family’s story. By telling this story I am helping to create meaning in my family’s experience. Just as I was able to describe to my Baptist friend the experience of God in reconciliation through stories, I describe the experience of God through my family’s story. We are constantly marking life with the holy.

As is often the case in tragedies, there were many graces that occurred during this time that we are still discovering and unfolding today.

[1] Greeley, Andrew, The Catholic Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 6.

[2] The Catechism for the Catholic Church, Liberia Editrice Vaticano (Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1995), # 1084 & 1127.

[3] Ibid, 1.

Hope and Renewal


“…the liturgical reenactment of the death and resurrection of Jesus can influence our perspective to see that life, though tragic at times, is not beyond hope and renewal (Gula, 1989).”

As children we are often sheltered from tragedy–or at least our parents attempt to shelter us. Unfortunetly, tragedy occurs anyway no matter how much we are sheltered, no matter how much we prepare. I have seen friends come back after difficult break-ups, family live again after a death, and a country mourn the loss of thousands of loved ones.

How do we stand up from our tragedies? With hope and a renewed sense of life.

My workplace recently suffered a fire caused by a member of the community. Although her mental state was most likely to blame for the act, it still hurt that someone would purposefully put others, and themselves, in danger.

We have been displaced from our offices for about two weeks and our worship space for about three months while cleaning and repairs happen. It is a disorienting feeling to have a place you love and worship in be purposefully damaged. It is scary to thing that this woman could have hurt so many people; so many I have grown to love. The incredible part is how the community has stepped up to take care of each other; both the students and residents, and the surrounding community.

How do we stand up from our tragedies? With hope and a renewed sense of life.

This community is so much more than just the space we worship in. Once we knew we would not be in our worship space for some time, we went about finding an alternate worship space. An auditorium on campus has become our temporary house of worship. We are so much more than the space we worship in.

The first weekend after the fire was inspiring. Our numbers were down somewhat, but we easily made the switch of location because we crave that community, we long for that community  and familiarity displaced from the fire. Throughout our liturgical reenactment of Jesus’ life and death that weekend, we regained our hope, our renewed sense of life that would not have existed if we did not come together to worship in community. What brought us together was the hunger to know that there is someone more than us “out there” who knows, loves, and cares for us deeply. How do we experience that knowing, loving and caring? Through those around us. I find my hope and renewed sense of life through Jesus Christ, shown to me in the eyes of another.

How do we stand up from our tragedies? With hope and a renewed sense of life.