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Browsing News Entries

St. Gertrude the Great

On Nov. 16, the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of a distinguished medieval nun and writer in the Benedictine monastic tradition, Saint Gertrude of Helfta, better known as “St. Gertrude the Great.� One of the most esteemed woman saints of the Christian West, she was a notable early devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “She was an exceptional woman, endowed with special natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace, the most profound humility and ardent zeal for her neighbor's salvation,� Pope Benedict XVI said of St. Gertrude in an October 2010 general audience. “She was in close communion with God both in contemplation and in her readiness to go to the help of those in need.� Born in Germany on Jan. 6, 1256, Gertrude was sent at age 5 to a monastery in Helfta, to receive her education and religious formation. Under the leadership of the abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn, the monastery was highly regarded for its spiritual and intellectual vitality. The young Gertrude’s teacher, later canonized in her own right, was the abbess’ sister Saint Matilda of Hackeborn. A gifted student with a great thirst for knowledge, Gertrude excelled in her study of the arts and sciences of her day, while living according to her community’s strict practice of the Rule of Saint Benedict. By her own account, however, something seems to have been lacking in Gertrude’s personal devotion, which suffered due to her overemphasis of intellectual and cultural pursuits. A change in her priorities began near the end of the year 1280, in the season of Advent. Gertrude was 24 and had greatly distinguished herself in many fields of study. But her accomplishments began to seem meaningless, as she considered the true meaning and goal of her monastic vocation. Anxious and depressed, Gertrude felt she had built a “tower of vanity and curiosity� rather than seeking to love God above all things and live in union with him. In January of the following year, she experienced a vision of Christ, hearing him declare: “I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation.� During 1281, her priorities shifted dramatically, away from secular knowledge and toward the study of Scripture and theology. Gertrude devoted herself strongly to personal prayer and meditation, and began writing spiritual treatises for the benefit of her monastic sisters. Understanding the love of Christ as the supreme and fundamental reality, Gertrude communicated this truth in her writings and strove to live in accordance with it. Though acutely aware of her own persistent faults, she also came to understand the depths of God’s mercy. She accepted the illness and pain of her final years in a spirit of personal sacrifice, while recalling the goodness of God that had transformed her life. St. Gertrude the Great died on Nov. 16, though it is not known whether this was in the year 1301 or 1302. While some of her written works were lost, others survive: “The Herald of Divine Love,� “The Life and Revelations,� and St. Gertrude’s “Spiritual Exercises.�

Pope Francis’ ‘journalism for peace’ starts with you

Is it just me or is the truth getting harder to find? It seems there is an increasing disagreement in our country over how to interpret both the news and the Good News.

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It’s OK if kids play church

A joyful squeal erupts from the hallway outside of the kitchen as I prepare dinner.

“En garde!” shouts my son in the deepest, throatiest voice his 8 years can dig up.

“En garde!” volleys his 3-year-old sister in a voice far less successful at impersonating a pirate.

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How can I keep them singing?

There are many ways my husband and I differ, but perhaps the most significant is that I come from a family prone to spontaneous outbursts of song while he comes from a family prone to subtle nods as they listen to the car radio together.

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Flint’s holy water

In the spring of 2016, as a graduate student at Michigan State University, I spent some time in Flint interviewing residents and business owners on how they were dealing with the lead crisis. I attended Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church  in Flint and was heartbroken to see the drinking fountains and faucets covered with signs saying not to use them. No one living in the church’s rectory could use tap water, either. The holy water bowls were empty, but the hallway was full of donated bottled water for parishioners to take home.

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How to talk to your children about Jesus’ death

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” blares from the Echo Dot sitting on our kitchen counter. We listen to it so much, my 3-year-old daughter Dahlia perfectly mimics the announcement of it in that sing-songy computer voice of Alexa’s. “‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ by Gene Autry,” they report in unison, with the first syllable in Autry drawn out as though Alexa might be a little Southern. It’s the 11th time we’ve listened to “Rudolph” today, which would be fine but for the fact that it’s March and we’re in the middle of Lent.

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A Catholic celebrates Persian new year

I observe two new year celebrations in three months. First, I celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1. Every year, I watch the ball drop at midnight on television, sing “Auld Lang Syne” with family and friends, and sleep in late the next day after celebrating the night before.

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When will we learn?

A couple of years ago, I taught Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (Twelve) to college freshmen, most of whom weren’t even born when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gunned down 13 of their fellow high school students on April 20, 1999. My students were largely ignorant of the shooting with little understanding of how profoundly that day shaped their high school experience. They were surprised to learn that only 1 in 5 high schools had security cameras before 1999. Today, 3 in 5 do.

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Keeping faith despite the worst kind of sins

I felt welcome at Michigan State University right away. My journalism professors gave me the tools I needed to succeed in my profession, and I made some great friends. I even found a nice Catholic church within walking distance from campus—St. John Church and Student Center, part of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in the Lansing diocese. I loved going to Mass every weekend to mentally unwind from my hectic graduate school schedule.

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How to add empathy to your library

School lunchrooms all smell and look the same, the overripe aroma of hundreds of lunches barely contained by cream-colored walls just this side of salmon. Every table is a petri dish despite the wipe-and-spray done by careless seventh graders more interested in squirting the back of each other’s pants than sanitizing eating surfaces.

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