Category Archives: Joy

Beauty / Feminism / Joy / Womanhood

Mama Mary and the Hope of the Resurrection

August 15, 2017

Today is one of my favorite solemnities celebrated in the Catholic Church—the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a gift that we get to celebrate the assumption of Our Lady—soul and body—into Heaven!

The word “hope” has been resounding on my heart these last few days. I’ve been reflecting how alive I feel and fully myself when I am able to live in hope?

I almost imagine Hope as the literal mantle wrapped around Our Lady. In and through her maternal intercession, she gives me the gift of hope whereby I can trust in the Father’s promises.

Whereby I can hope.

Her mantle is my protection against the lies and distractions of the enemy.

In the first reading at Mass, we hear of the Woman crowned with stars in the Book of Revelation. I can’t help but also think of how this same woman was promised to us in Genesis 3:15—the protoevangelium, or “first Gospel.” Speaking to the serpent after the Fall, God the Father says:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is why most often we see statues of Our Lady with her standing upon and crushing the head of the serpent.

Mary is the woman—the woman so full of grace because God chose to dwell within her.  …the woman who participates in God’s eternal plan of salvation.

The most amazing part of all of this is that in and through the gift of our Baptism, He chooses also to dwell within us—in and through our very bodies.

…but He doesn’t stop there.

Today’s feast recognizes the great hope we have in the Resurrection.

Our being human means that we have both a body and a soul. Unlike the Cartesian dualism so many are accustomed to, we see both our bodies and souls as important gifts—as part of who we are. Only when integrated and whole, both body and soul, are we ourselves—human persons created in the image and likeness of God.

Our culture has truly missed the mark in understanding the gift of the human body. While our bodies are a means by which we come to experience things, they are most importantly the tangible gifts that allow us to express who we are.

I often share with my students that our bodies are the only tangible, material thing we have with us from conception till death. Everything else passes away. In fact, the philosophical definition of “death” really is the separation of one’s body and soul.

Today we remember that our hope is in Christ who gave Himself even unto death so that we might have life–in abundance and for eternity. His rising is a promise to us of what He has destined for us.

I love to think of Our Lady as she who “found her beloved and would not let Him go.” Not only did Our Lady conceive of the Son of God within her very body, but she also received His Spirit again at Pentecost. This fullness—this guarantee of abundance where our hearts burn from within us—is our destiny. We have a good good Father, and He will not leave us orphans.

Before the Fall, man and woman existed with God in a state called “Original Justice.” There, we, too, were full of grace and so intimately united with God. In and through our mutual disobedience, we fell from this state of perfect harmony with God. As a result of the disharmony with God, we also experienced disharmony with ourselves, with others, and with all of Creation—all of the gifts entrusted to us from the beginning. We each experience the fruits of this death, both spiritually and eventually physically.

Upon His death, Christ did not just go to sleep. He physically died so that even that dark human experience could be redeemed. After rising from the dead, He ascended into Heaven, promising to send His Spirit again to us. Our Lady, who was present in the Upper Room and praying with the Apostles as they waited, must have been full of such joy to yet again wait in hope to receive the gift of the Spirit.

…and so here we come to the beauty of the Assumption. I love to think of Grace as the glue that puts back together all of the broken pieces we have as a result of the Fall. With each little “yes,” Our Lady was choosing to receive more and more this gift of grace.

Grace is what integrates us.

Grace is what makes us whole.

Grace is what makes us new.

And so, Our Lady leads us as any good mother does—further up and further in. She reveals to us the depths to which the Father desires to go with us. He desires truly to bind up every wound and dry every tear. He desires to re-integrate our very beings, our entire beings—both body and soul as one.

Today, we celebrate the gift of our having bodies—living temples of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we celebrate the gift of hope—that we, too, will one day rise again with our very bodies.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

Today, we celebrate so good a mother who hoped against all hope that “the promises spoken to her by the LORD would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).

May we, too, live in the hope of His promises.

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).

And, ladies, before you shame your body or condemn each supposed flaw, please remember that your body was created as a gift entrusted to you by the Father. In and through this great gift, you express who you are to the world. In and through this body, you tangibly image God to all of creation because in and through this body, you choose to love and be loved.

Contrary to the misunderstandings swirling around you, your body in its unique design glorifies the Creator.  May we each have the grace to see our bodies as the gifts that they are—not based on their size or their weight but instead on how we have offered them in sacrifices of love every day.  Whether big or small, our tangible presence to those around us–only possible in and through our very bodies–is a gift that can be life-giving…and therefore holy.

“You are all beautiful, my beloved; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7).

I pray that each of you might hope in those words of Truth. Our Lady’s being assumed into Heaven testifies to the depths of those words. And such words are the hope that Truth provides for us.

May we learn to live in such a way as to remember the great gift of our bodies, without condemning or obsessing. May we remember that we are daughters of a Father who has ransomed us from the effects of death. May we rejoice that we will receive the beautiful gift of our bodies back one day, for no part of us that is good will ever be squandered.

Your body is good.

Your body is beautiful.

Your body is a gift.

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful” (Song of Songs 4:1a).


Catholic / Culture / Joy / Mardi Gras / New Orleans

Why We Do Mardi Gras

February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras is so much more than what most people, especially the media, understand it to be. I feel like I can speak with some kind of authority on the subject, especially because I am a New Orleans girl. Born and raised here, some of my earliest memories involve going to Mardi Gras parades. My dad, who grew up in the heart of the city, tells me stories of his days growing up here, attending parades, breaking for lunch to eat Red Beans and Rice that his mama made, and then heading back out for more parades. Many of the dates that he took my mom on involved going to Mardi Gras parades.

I want you to really be open to this post, so let’s get some important things out of the way right off the bat:

Mardi Gras is so much more than Bourbon Street.

Mardi Gras is so much more than drinking and debauchery.

Mardi Gras is so much more than some sort of pagan idol worship where sin abounds and grace is somehow absent.

Mardi Gras is like real life; it’s about gifts and blessings and human beings who choose how they use or abuse those gifts and blessings.

Remember that food and drink are not the poison.  It’s about the inner man, one’s inner heart of hearts.

Okay, so now, I can share!  Today is Lundi Gras, the Monday before Fat Tuesday.  I have been at parades all weekend, reflecting on how Mardi Gras seems to be a microcosm of my life.  (Keep reading.)

Two weeks ago, I arrived in Rome for an intensive week of PhD classes.  Though I was in classes all day every day and so exhausted, there was a restfulness to my consistent schedule.  I only had to be about one thing for a whole week.  It felt more like a retreat to me than anything, especially because I was seven hours ahead of the New Orleans time zone and so pretty much detached from people (and demands) at home.


When we allow silence to reign, we can hear Him that much more.  When silence surrounds me, then even when with people, I can recall His presence and be fully in that moment.

One week ago on Monday night, I returned home…and hit the ground running.  In only three days, I was meeting with clients, recording the first episode of a new radio show, preparing for a presentation, teaching a session of Theology of the Body to college students,  driving to and from another city to teach that session, and then beginning the Mardi Gras weekend on Thursday night.

If you asked me for one word to describe going from quiet time all to myself for a week in Rome and then moving into hanging out with hundreds of thousands of people at a loud party on the streets of New Orleans every night and most days, it would be this:  overwhelmed.

I was (still am) so excited about parades.  After all, Mardi Gras is also one of my favorite times of the year!  The problem is that I was (and still totally am) also super tired.  Jet lag is definitely a thing, and most of these parades happen at night.  None of this, though, is some sort of problem; it’s just my reality at the present moment.  If the worst problem I have to complain about is that I am tired because I’ve walked several miles to get back to my car after a parade, then I am one blessed woman.

Because here’s the thing–we can be overwhelmed and still not be crushed or broken or even sad.  We can be overwhelmed and it not necessarily be a bad thing.  Sometimes we are just overwhelmed with the good.  I am not saying that I always realize this as it is happening.  But as I have worked to practice gratitude, it opens my eyes to the blessings all around.  Practicing gratitude is prayer, so it’s like any workout of my body.  To build muscle memory, I must practice.  I must repeat what I know to be true, even when I don’t feel it.

As I practice gratitude, I can see even through my exhaustion that God desires life for me in abundance. 

So here is where I can more clearly explain how Mardi Gras seems to be a microcosm of my life. Mardi Gras involves different parades filled with beautiful floats being driven (or paraded) down streets lined with spectators.  Those on the floats throw plastic beads, food, toys, stuffed animals, etc.  We wave our hands excitedly and plead for throws.  We play music and dance and laugh.  Confetti floats down, and strangers become friends.

 Joie de vivre–This is a French phrase I grew up knowing in New Orleans because of its roots in French culture and because of the spirit of New Orleans.  It means the “joy of life” or the “joy of living.” Wikipedia shares that “joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life.”

…a philosophy of life, y’all.  

That is what I am talking about.  I want my philosophy of life to be JOY!

Even at a loud Mardi Gras parade, God is present and speaking to me.  I was standing at one of the biggest parades of the season two nights ago, super jet lagged and envisioning the long walk ahead of me to the car.  I realized that I was totally tempted to a sort of ingratitude.  I was tempted to wish I was somewhere else instead of being right where I was.  I’m not saying that this is bad; in fact, I needed to acknowledge the reality of my exhaustion in order to keep moving.  I was standing there and longingly remembering my quiet evening in a hidden Church in Rome just one week ago.  I was wrestling with lots of things hidden in my heart, and there was a certain sadness because of these burdens that few people know about.  Everyone has these things they are carrying, and at a parade, like in life, you can randomly recall those things and be overwhelmed by them.

So yes, I was literally at a parade and crying out to God in my heart to provide for me.  I longed to hear His voice, but it was too loud.  Y’all, then He spoke!!!

No, God doesn’t speak in an audible voice to me, but He moves in my heart to make me aware of Truth accompanied by an abiding peace.  God made me aware of the reality that I can be at a loud party like a parade and STILL HEAR HIM!

No matter where I am in the world I am always home because He always abides in me–if I let Him.  It’s one thing for me to know that and trust that in the silence; it’s another to know that and trust that when surrounded by thousands of people with music blaring.

But this IS what He desires for us.  This IS what He calls us to.  Yes, we must run to the silence and learn how to hear His voice.  But then, we must go out and live our lives and be open to hearing Him even in the midst of the noise.  He is there, too, desiring to give us joy.

Here is the other part of the analogy, one that applies to all of us.  For the big parades, there are about 30-40 floats.  It alternates with a float and then a marching band or a dance group.  In other words, we beg for stuff and then we dance.  Beg and dance.  Beg and dance.

Standing there, it hit me!  …just like the pack of beads that hit me in the head a few nights ago when I wasn’t paying attention.  Jesus threw out grace to me to help me remember Truth!  …truth is that Jesus desires us to beg and dance.

Jesus desires us to beg from Him for every good gift.

Jesus desires us to dance like a child who trusts in his father and who delights in play.  When a child dances, he wiggles and bounces and has movements all his own.  He delights in movement.  It’s like his body is expressing what at times, his words cannot even yet say!

…and that is joy.  Joy of life!

Both experiences of my life these last two weeks are gifts.  To believe that Jesus can only speak to me when I sit in a quiet Church in Rome would be to limit Him.  Yes, that quiet Church is what prepares me to hear him at this loud party, but to claim He is absent from these Mardi Gras festivities is to deny His power.  Christ ate with the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the sinners.  He ate with them because He wanted to be present to them.  He ate with them because His presence before His words showed them what it really means to party, what it really means to live joy in such a way that I become more of myself, not less.

I do not need to be afraid of Mardi Gras, for there is no darkness so dark that God cannot penetrate.  Even though there are parts of Mardi Gras that can be dark because of the free choice of people, not all of Mardi Gras is darkness.  Much of Mardi Gras is light!  …the light shining brightly within those who choose for Him.  For life.  For authenticity.  For joy.  How dare us limit God and say that He cannot be present at Mardi Gras!  He is all around me at Mardi Gras.  …and He is within me at Mardi Gras.

While at a parade, a friend randomly shared with me a homily he heard last year.  This priest said that we do Mardi Gras because we know how to live, and we do Ash Wednesday because we know how to die.

Living fully as a Catholic means that I live seasons of life.  Living fully means that I have times both of feasting and fasting.  If I only have one or the other, then I am sick.

We need the both/and!

My feasting is a gift; my fasting is a gift.  I can only truly feast when I know how to fast.  I can only fully live joy when I know what it means to suffer.  Suffering carves out a space so deep that even more joy can be received.  I become thankful when I realize my own lack without Him.

Joy does not mean that my life is perfect or that I have it all together or that I am fully rested and feeling totally healthy all the time.  Joy means that I am fully open to reality as it is: to the present moment and the gifts still given, despite the burdens I am carrying.

So why do we do Mardi Gras? We do Mardi Gras because Mardi Gras invites me to the reality that life is about living.

Mardi Gras is about the people.

Mardi Gras is about learning how to be like a child and realize that I, too, am only able to be present to this very moment, and I don’t want to let it pass me by without asking–begging–for the best of graces to be thrown to me.

So beg and dance, people.  Like I shared in a past post, my favorite part about Mardi Gras is dancing in the streets when a parade breaks down for a bit.  We just dance and laugh and play.  In life, this is what it means for us to live.

The parade of life is passing me by, but I get to choose if I want to participate in it.  I get to choose if I want to both feast and fast.  I get to choose if I want to beg and dance.

I choose to dance.  And I hope that you’ll join me.