More Than Politics

I recently was honored to appear on Julie Varner Walsh‘s brand-new podcast, More Than Politics,  a “podcast for those of us who want something more than what we’ve come to expect from politics — and from our political discourse. Each week, More Than Politics will feature a conversation that helps put today’s politics in context, that honestly and charitably explores the issues of the day, that encourages us to engage in politics in a moral, even loving way.

I have been enjoying the podcast since it began–I feel smarter every time I listen!  Julie and I had a great discussion about feeling politically uncomfortable.  You can listen to it here.

And you can expect to be seeing more political posts from me (or that’s what I currently intend, anyway) as we get closer to the Presidential Election.

Unethical Vaccines: From HeLa to COVID-19

I recently wrote an article on the connection between abortion and vaccines for the American Life League‘s Celebrate Life magazine:

Baltimore, 1951: A young woman lay dying in her hospital bed, her body riddled with cancer. Before her death, doctors scraped some cells from her cervix. Later, without her knowledge or consent, those cells—“the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory”—became instrumental in innumerable medical studies and discoveries.1 They also generated incalculable wealth. 

That young woman was Henrietta Lacks, and if you’ve heard her name, it’s because of Rebecca Skloot’s curiosity. One day in a biology class, Skloot encountered a picture of the unnamed woman whose cells were known as HeLa, their donor little more than a footnote in a textbook. Skloot’s determination to learn that woman’s name led to her best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Lacks’ descendants, many of them struggling in poverty, have never received a penny from the millions generated by her cells.

But Lacks is not the only unknown and unknowing person whose cells have contributed to medical advances.

Read the rest here.

Design a Custom Baptism Announcement or First Holy Communion Invitation with Basic Invite

May is the Month of Our Mother, but for Catholics it is usually something more: a time for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and graduations.  My Facebook Memories remind me that last year around this time we celebrated one nephew’s First Holy Communion, another’s Baptism, and my daughter’s Confirmation and 8th grade graduation!

baby boy in baptism bonnet Confirmation day with Bishop First Holy Communion boy

Well, things are a little different this year, aren’t they? When I watch my parish’s Sunday Mass via Facebook Live, the Prayers of the Faithful prompt me to pray for those who would have celebrated their First Holy Communions or Confirmations on spring Sundays, but who are now having to wait as patiently as possible for the grace of those Sacraments, as we all wait and long for our return to Mass and the Eucharist.

But we WILL celebrate again!  And part of our holy anticipation lies in planning for these blessed events.  Basic Invite is here to help with
baptism announcements, First Holy Communion invitations, and more, and they want me to tell you why you should choose their products to make those occasions special when they arrive.

baptism announcement

[Disclaimer: I was compensated for providing you with my honest opinion of Basic Invite.]

I’ll be honest: after just a few minutes of looking over Basic Invite’s website, I started wishing I needed a baptism announcement or a First Holy Communion invitation.  The tools they provide make it look not just easy to design your announcements and invitations, but even fun!

The first exciting thing, and what really sets Basic Invite apart from the competition, is access to unlimited color combinations.  There are over 180 colors available, and you can change the color of every element on every card.  This is coupled with instant online previewing so you can get your design exactly right.

baptism announcement

But online viewing doesn’t really compare with seeing the real thing, does it?  Basic Invite allows customers to order a printed sample of their baptism announcement or First Holy Communion invitation.  That way you can see and feel the quality of the paper, and know in advance how it will print before placing a final order.

To customize your design even further, you can choose from over 40 different envelope colors!  And for those who don’t enjoy licking envelopes, all Basic Invite’s envelopes are peel and seal so you can get them ready for mailing quickly and easily.

baptism announcement

And about that mailing:  Basic Invite also provides a free address collection service.  Here’s how it works: share a link with your guests via social media or email, collect their addresses, and Basic Invite will print your envelopes free of charge!

Of course you want to know prices, which start at .75 per card and increase depending on factors like shape and the addition of photos.  The cost of each upgrade is clearly marked as you go through the process of designing your card.  And everything is 15% off until the end of the month!

Quote Me: Cast Your Cares on God

I’m excited to share that I was recently a guest on a podcastLindsay Schlegel interviewed me for the last episode of the first season of Quote Me, in which guests discuss a favorite quotation and its impact on their lives.

My quotation was “Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds.” It is from the poem Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

That’s not where I first read it, though.  Listen to the podcast to learn more, but I’ll say this much:  it’s related to my obsession with The X-Files.  Once upon a time I wrote fanfiction, and the story I refer to in the podcast is right here, should you be interested.

I hope you will give my interview–and the rest of the season–a listen and let me know what you think!

Merry Christmas Gift Guide

Now, I am not one to start Christmasing early.  We celebrate Advent hard and save Christmas for its proper 12 days as much as possible in today’s world.  But part of having a peaceful Advent for me is doing my Christmas shopping in November.  If you want to get an early start too, I’ve got some ideas for you!

Many of the products below were created by folks I know, or were given to me to review in the past.  There are a few (very few!) affiliate links among them.  In many cases I have included links to my reviews so you can learn more.

Let’s start with Catholic gifts. 

I used to think my only option for Catholic gifts was the local Catholic book and gift shop.  It’s still a great option when I need something right away, but there is so much else out there, much of it handmade by Catholic artisans.

I love, love, love Pink Salt Riot products.  You cannot go wrong shopping for your favorite Catholic woman here!  My top recommendation is the design your own bracelet:I wear the one I created most days!

I also love my St. Peter bracelet from Kindred Forest Co.

Visit them for a wonderful product line geared toward helping you be friends with the saints!

I am crazy about SockReligious (especially the clever name!).  There are so many choices that I can’t pick a favorite.  Maybe these?

Stay Close to Christ is another source for all kinds of Catholic gifts, including these adorable tiny saints.  You can get one for free with your $10 purchase if you enter the code LESLIE at check out.

I found these and many other favorite Catholic products via the CatholicsOnline Directory.  Click on the logo to learn more.

The talent of the artisans listed is truly a gift from God and I have been blessed by the products I have purchased.

A couple of my favorite Etsy shops I discovered via Catholics Online are Saongjai (I have bought sturdy, beautiful rosaries there) and No Heart Untouched (love her style and my husband loves the coffee cup I bought for him!).

There are always books on my Christmas list

I’ve already written some posts on Christmas-themed children’s books.  And here’s a link to non-Christmas picture books I love.

The following are a few Catholic books I have reviewed and can recommend.  Links to purchase are in each post:



And here are links to a few that I have not reviewed:

Be Yourself: A Journal for Catholic Girls  (The boys’ version is coming out soon!)

The Gift of Invitation (this is one of a series of Stay Connected journals)

Becoming Holy, One Virtue at a Time (another of the above series, to pre-order)

Made for Greatness (a growth mindset journal for Catholic kids)

Now for a few secular options!

I love the ring I purchased from Mama’s Jewelry, which contains the birthstones of all my children.  There are lots of styles to choose from and they are surprisingly affordable!  

This is the best lipstick I have ever owned.  It’s no longer available from the seller in the linked review, but you can purchase it here.

This next one is a bit pricey, but Healtop health and wellness products are amazing.

Finally, for those-hard-to-shop-for-people-who-have-everything, visit Uncommon Goods.  Honestly,  I love almost everything they sell (especially the candles)!

Let me know in the comments if you found anything here for your Christmas list!

When to Say Yes and When to Say No: Respecting Your Spiritual Gifts

Several years ago my parish decided to bring the Called and Gifted workshop to our parish to help our members discern their spiritual gifts and to encourage them to use them in parish ministries.  As a member of the organizing committee, I traveled to a neighboring state to experience the program myself.  I also received training in facilitating the follow-up interviews and small group sessions that followed our parish’s workshop.  I became and remain an enthusiastic believer in the existence and importance of spiritual gifts.

And yet when I was asked to take on a church ministry that did not align with my gifts, I said yes.

Being on the church hospitality ministry (read serving doughnuts once a month after the Mass we attend) did not seem like a big deal, and I was flattered (let’s face it) to be asked.  But within just a few days after accepting I had second thoughts.

It may sound ridiculous, but I don’t have the right charism mix for serving doughnuts.  I realized this almost immediately and told my husband I wanted to quit.

But he thought it would be wrong to back out.  He said he would take over the job if I did not want it.

You know what? John does not have the right charism mix either.  He carried on miserably for some time before he finally gave up the job.

If someone had asked me to organize and run the doughnut ministry, I would have rocked that.  I have the charism of Administration.

If someone had asked John to recruit hospitality ministers, he would have rocked that.  He has the charism of Leadership.

Every ministry in a parish is important.  Every baptized Catholic is gifted in some way for ministry.  Every parishioner should be offering time and talent in service to the Church.  But heed this PSA:  There is nothing wrong with saying NO if you are asked to participate in a ministry that does not align with your God-given gifts.

If you are not sure what your spiritual gifts are, here is one online test that is similar to the one used in the Called and Gifted workshop.

What This GenXer Wants Millennial Catholics to Know

I am a member of the Catholics Online Directory (and if you are a Catholic blogger or artisan or speaker, you should be too!).  One membership benefit is having promotional posts published on the Catholics Online website.

Founder Amy Brooks of Prayer, Wine, Chocolate interviewed me for this article, in which (among other things) I said: “I am far more likely to be scandalized by people chewing gum or receiving Communion inappropriately than by what they are wearing. At least they are there.”

Want to see what else I said?  Read more here!

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray

If you are busy like I am (and who isn’t busy these days), daily dedicated prayer time may seem out of reach.  And yet we NEED daily prayer to help us cope with our overwhelming, stressful, too-busy lives.  As Saint Francis de Sales famously said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”

For the past year or so I have struggled to develop a prayer routine that works for me.  I tried getting up earlier in the morning, which I know works well for many people; but I often fell asleep while trying to pray, or hit the snooze button instead of getting up.  The spirit may be willing but the flesh is indeed weak.

I tried other times of day too, but my schedule is unpredictable, and nothing seemed to stick for long.  Even my twice-weekly Mass and rosary walk that I kept up for an entire school year became a thing of the past once I no longer had a child in school right across the street from the church.

I realized that the best way for me to work prayer into my daily schedule was NOT to assign a definite time and place to it, but rather to make sure I fit it in any way I can.  I found some apps that are helping me do that and I wanted to share them with you.

MARY APP

You may be familiar with the practice of Marian Consecration.  I recently completed Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory program for the second time.  I wanted to pray a short consecration prayer every morning, and I keep this app open to the one I want to say.

PRAYER 2000+

This is the ultimate prayer app with just about every Catholic prayer you can imagine.  What I love about it is that you can make a favorites list and then put it in the order you want.  Here I have the next three prayers I want to say each day, and I will probably add more over time.  For now, I say the Morning Offering, the Litany of Humility, and the Prayer for Generosity.

HOLY ROSARY

There are many rosary apps available, of course.  And ideally I’d rather use an actual rosary anyway.  But I can play this one and pray along while my hands are busy doing other things.  I like that this one automatically opens up to the proper mysteries for the day, and I like that I can increase the replay speed a bit.

PRAY AS YOU GO

I have actually been using this for over a year.  I start it as I pull out of the driveway to pick up my kids from school, and it is just about the perfect length for the ten-minute drive.  This is a daily session based on Ignatian spirituality including music, scripture, reflection, and prayer.

HALLOW

This is a Catholic meditation app, and introduces you to different types of prayer, like Lectio Divina or the Examen.  I use this in the evening after dinner when I typically sit out on the front porch for some alone time.  I love that you can choose five, ten, or fifteen minute guided mediation and prayer sessions.

With the help of these apps, I find I am able to meet my prayer goals most days.  All told, I am consistently praying over 30 minutes a day now and I feel hopeful that I will be able to add more over time and will be able to continue this routine.

Have you used these apps? Do you have any other favorite prayer apps?

Five Apps to Help Busy Catholics Pray

Guest Post: Honoring the Dignity of the Shortest Lives

The following is a guest post from my friend Heidi Indahl, and all photos are hers.  You can learn more about Heidi and her ministry at the end.

From Conception to Natural Death.

As Catholics, we use this phrase often.  Honoring the dignity of life from conception leads us to protest abortion laws and educate others on the nature of contraception.  The dignity of life at the point of natural death leads us to rally against assisted suicide laws and elder abuse.  To honor the space in between is to act for social justice and for the benefit of the marginalized.  Have you ever stopped to consider, however, what honoring the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death looks like when only a short time passes between the two?

Such are cases of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death.

As a church, can we do a better job of including these smallest of persons (and as an extension, their families) into our work as a pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family people?

I think we can.

And more importantly, I believe we should.

I believe speaking for babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death is as hard as it is because the world has written these lives off as unpreventable losses . . . casualties of natural law and the fallen state.  Health care providers blur the line between early miscarriage and chemically induced abortion in their usage of terminology and procedures.  Celebrities grieve their miscarriage publicly one day and shout their abortion the next.  Family and friends tell women every single day to get over it because it just happens.  We all have a thousand messages a day telling us that the unborn baby is not a life that is important.  Even when we know the truth, the culture makes it easy . . . indeed, safer . . . to just stand by thinking, man, I hope that doesn’t happen to me!

And yet, it does happen.

Statistics of pregnancy and infant loss remain relatively unchanged.  We might not be able to change the frequency of this death through legislation or social justice action, but we can change the reality for a forgotten group of people inside our faith communities.

All of the unborn deserve dignity in their deaths.  They deserve to be properly buried if at all possible.  They deserve to be remembered in the prayers of the Church through mass and other available rites.  Their families need the same social support and comfort that we provide to all those grieving the loss of a beloved member of their family.  We are not just supposed to bury the dead, pray for the dead, and comfort the sorrowful when it is convenient, easy, and socially acceptable.  We are supposed to do it for every single human person that it is in our control to do so for.

I regularly speak with well-catechized, every-Sunday Catholics who have no idea that the Church provides a variety of funeral and naming rites, memorial suggestions, burial sites and more** for infants who pass away before or shortly after birth.   Women whose doctors say flush the fetus and they do, because no one has ever told them there is another option.

We can do better for our friends, our family, and ourselves.

A couple facing pregnancy and infant loss should never wonder inside the walls of the Catholic Church if their child’s life was valued and important.  It was.  Our whole pro-life argument is centered around the idea that the value of a life isn’t different because the life hasn’t existed as long or hasn’t produced the same contribution to society.  That doesn’t cease to be true because a person has passed away.

Every person matters from conception to natural death, because we know God formed human beings in His image and likeness.  Not because of their contribution to society.  Not because of their age, race, gender, or hair color.  Not because of the circumstances of their conception or death.  But because in them is the image and likeness of God himself.

And in them we can find God.

**Check with your local diocese for approved options.  If they don’t know, advocate for the next family to face this grave loss by helping get something in place!
_________________________________________________________

The mother of seven living children, three miscarried babies, a stillborn daughter, and a daughter who passed away shortly after birth, Heidi Indahl is the author of Blessed Is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss and 67 Ways to Do the Works of Mercy with Your Kids.   With a passion for sharing her pregnancy and infant loss journey, she does so in a way that can enrich the spiritual life of all women while also improving the way we think and talk about pregnancy and infant loss to promote a genuine culture of life, centered in the truths of our Catholic faith. 

For more information and additional pregnancy and infant loss resources, visit Heidi’s website.