The Curse of the Quiet People

I hadn’t realized how much it bothers me until today. The Curse of the Quiet People, that is. Let me explain.

A friend invited me to participate in a project she is undertaking, called Women Under the Big Sky. She is photographing and interviewing a variety of women who live in Montana, and her interview questions are fantastic. She is asking questions that allow a person to share real insights into who she is, what she has experienced and what is important to her.

For someone like me, generally a Quiet Person, it was spectacularly refreshing and I was grateful for the opportunity. Because for the most part, the Quiet People don’t get asked a lot of questions about themselves. And because they don’t typically feel inclined to insert themselves into conversations with assertiveness or persistence, they often sit on the sidelines in group settings – observing, listening, wishing someone would bring them in and give them a chance to contribute.

This project allowed me to share myself and some of my story with people who have never thought to ask, or have never had the opportunity to ask, about my life and experiences before knowing them.

I try to be an interested inquirer – I haven’t always been very good at it, but I’m trying to be better – someone who probes into people’s lives and backgrounds to know more about them, their interests, and where they’ve been. My husband is exceedingly good at this (he is a Quiet Person, too). He can tell you a tidbit (but usually much more than a tidbit) about all manner of interests, hobbies, or obscure subjects because he has spent a lot of time asking and listening to people through the years.

Recently, we had a fine visit with friends from back east. After sitting down to tea, within minutes, our friend turned to my husband and said “Now, Duane, I’ve been thinking about something and I want to hear your thoughts about it.” We enjoyed a second visit with them a couple of days later, as we all needed more time to hash out the issue. I was heartened by these visits, because a Quiet Person had a chance to be probed and heard. At the same time, I was bummed out because these friends live so far away and our visits are limited to once a year.

Today, as I thought about this, I realized that there are people whom I spend a good deal of time with socially who really don’t know much about me or what I might have to offer to a conversation because of my background and experiences.

And now I turn it back on myself and ask, Which of my friends have I not taken time to probe, discover their stories, experiences and ideas? As a Quiet Person and introvert, I am challenged by this.

I suppose my lot in life as a Quiet Person is to enjoy and appreciate the deeper friendships I have with the people who do listen and probe, while hoping that the Outgoing People in the periphery of my life will perhaps see that even us Quiet People have experiences, life stories, opinions, and ideas that are waiting to be probed, heard and valued.

If you would like to read my interview, you can find it here.



A Rosy Rant

But first…

As I was praying the Rosary this morning, I became aware of something that is rather obvious, but oftentimes we miss the things that are most plainly in our sight, don’t we?

As I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of Jesus’ death, I thought of how wonderful it is that the Church has given us the gift of remembrance. If a person prays the Rosary daily, she spends two of those days reflecting on the very thing that we often need to know if we are to make it through our own trials: Jesus suffered, too.

We are not the first to suffer.

We are not alone in our suffering.

He has been through deep and profound suffering Himself – both physically and emotionally. He was rejected, scorned, betrayed, lonely. Because God became Man, He knows what it is like to suffer as we do.

I’m grateful for a Church that doesn’t sugarcoat everything. I’m grateful that my Church gives value and serious theological consideration to the role of suffering in our lives. Things don’t always work out. Not everyone experiences the miracle of physical healing, no matter how fervent our prayers are. Marriages fail. Jobs are lost. Children stop speaking to their parents. Life is just plain hard.

Thanks be to God, we can be consoled by the knowledge that He knows, He is with us, He has suffered, too.

Catholics, please stop using God’s name irreverently!

Behold, my first full-on, hand-flailing rant.

For all the reverence that Catholics show with their body language inside a church, I am appalled at the way many of them misuse the Holy Name of God. You know what I’m talking about. “OMG.” I can’t even bring myself to write it out.

Growing up in a devout evangelical home, to use the name of God flippantly was a soap-in-the-mouth, rear-end-whooping ordeal. You just didn’t do it. Or maybe you tried it. Once. And then after the sting of the belt on your bottom and taste of the soap in your mouth went away, you wisely decided that it was a matter of self-preservation to not repeat the thing.

So imagine my utter disappointment to become immersed in Catholic culture and hear people I love and respect as Christians casually toss around the Name of God. This is yet another thing that becomes difficult for me as a parent, since we have taught our son in no uncertain terms that we don’t say that; it’s irreverent and God makes it pretty clear in His Ten Commandments that His Name is to be spoken with reverence, not “in vain.” What is he to think if he hears people he sees as devout and faithful Catholics, who use language that he has been told is off-limits and disrespectful? For crying out loud, my son was in total confusion when we dropped him off for a youth event, and the bus he was to ride on had written on it, in big letters: “OMG it’s OLV” (the abbreviation for the name of the Catholic parish to which the bus belongs). Explain that one to an 11-year-old.

Sigh. (Work with us, Catholics!)

The same can be said for Catholic Christians who use four-letter words and foul language. Aren’t we supposed to be different? In the world but not of it? To me, the language we use in our everyday lives is a reflection of our identity as Christians, who are to be set apart from those “of the world.” In my experience, one of the most sure ways for Catholics to maintain the stereotypes that abound among most evangelical Christians (that we’re not real Christians) is to be unconcerned about the language they use and how they use God’s Name. I have been on the other side, and I know this to be true in my own experience.

So, Catholics, please help us parents out. We’re trying to teach our kids to be reverent and obedient to God. To be set apart; to go against the grain of the culture. It’s hard enough when they hear the language in the public schools, on the bus, and in their neighborhood friends’ homes. Let’s keep it out of our churches and our Christian homes.

You wouldn’t dream of walking past a tabernacle without genuflecting. Could you carry that reverence even further, and keep your OMG’s to yourself, or perhaps reconsider the need to use that particular language in the first place?

For the sake of our children, grown-up Catholics – and for the sake of our beautiful Catholic faith and its reputation – please speak with reverence in all things.



I fondly recall my first experience as a professional adult in the real-world workforce. My senior year in college landed me an internship with a Lutheran refugee resettlement agency; after graduation I stayed on part-time until the funding became available for a full-time position. At that time, I became a full-time caseworker/federal grant coordinator for the agency. I had the opportunity to interact with newly arrived refugees from across the world, but as this was the late 90’s, most of the families entering as refugees had fled the former Yugoslavia years before.

Drinking strong coffee and visiting with my friends the Baltic family, Summer 2000

Drinking strong coffee and visiting with my friends the Baltic family, Summer 2000

During intake interviews and through the calm voice of my interpreter friend, herself a Croatian, I heard the horrific stories of the men these families had lost in the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica. Many of the families I interviewed and assisted were missing husbands, brothers, sons. I met dozens of women – brave, strong, but still carrying the nearly unbearable weight of grief and loss – who watched these husbands, brothers and sons being taken away that day, never to see them again.

I have seen the look of utter despair and trauma in the eyes of the Kurdish, who were flown to the mainland from Guam, newly rescued from the terror of genocide by the hand of Saddam Hussein in the mountains of their home country. Theirs was a fresher, more raw trauma, reflected in the often terse and difficult relations with those from our agency. (One family demanded their promised automobile and seven-speed blender upon arrival, among other things that seemed unreasonable for their situation. We concluded that the aid workers on Guam likely provided greatly exaggerated expectations of what the Americans would provide for them once they got here. It caused quite a lot of headaches with the Kurdish refugees, and resulted in some angry confrontations.) We saw a small group of Kosovars (Kosovo Albanians), also relocated hurriedly upon removal from their disastrous situation in 1999. Again, fresh and raw pain in their eyes, airport pick-ups with little or no baggage to claim.

I have sat on donated furniture in cheap housing with these people and laughed with them, cried with them, and looked through cherished pictures of loved ones while imbibing great quantities of strong coffee with sugar cubes and cheap cookies. I’ve struggled to communicate in sign language amid embarrassed laughter without an interpreter, filled out dozens of forms for Social Security cards, sat in public health center waiting rooms for hours upon hours for Tuberculosis skin tests and results, comforted dozens of small crying refugee children in doctor’s offices after receiving a round of immunizations. I have been hit on by young single refugee men, accepted more beautifully crocheted doilies from homesick ladies than I ever had use for, eaten delicious dolma (stuffed cabbage rolls) fresh from the pan and delivered scores of cans of the highly coveted Vegeta to grateful Bosnians. I have even gotten stuck on a bridge with a flat tire in a car literally bursting with tall young Bosnian men who hadn’t come from the part of their society where deodorant was widely used. Once, I was rather pleased with myself after silencing the Bosnian men in my car who were carrying on a conversation. Unbeknownst to them, I had studied Russian in high school, and because their language is similar in many ways to Russian, and because I had picked up a little Serbo-Croatian in my years on the job, I could understand the gist of their conversation. I must have indicated in some way that I could follow their conversation, which in turn resulted in a fair amount of shock from the back seat.

I remember being immensely humbled by the hospitality offered by the families of refugees I worked with. There was always – always – coffee, something sweet to eat with it, and many times, lunch or an afternoon meal was fixed for me. I simply could not refuse. I developed relationships with those who could speak English – an interpreter wasn’t always available for visits. Some of them came to my wedding; perhaps my most cherished wedding present was an exquisitely crocheted tablecloth from the Torbica family from Bosnia.

The Torbica family from Bosnia, August 2000

The Torbica family from Bosnia, August 2000

My deepest regret, now that I am much older and wiser, is that I didn’t spend more time simply visiting with the people I worked with. I was too self-involved and immature to realize that these individuals were in need of more than housing, clothes, and a new can of Vegeta. They wanted and needed companionship; someone to acknowledge their humanity and dignity as people. They wanted to share their stories, their food, their skills, knowledge, memories, culture, hospitality. Because when you are hated and reviled and driven out of your home simply because of the faith you profess, the street you live on or because of your family name, you can lose a sense of your dignity and value as a person created by God for a unique purpose and good.

As I follow the headlines of yet another genocide taking place across the world and see the faces of the hundreds of thousands of individuals driven from their homes, their land, their communities; fleeing to yet another border and hoping that by the time they get there, it will still be open to them; I am awakened to their cause. They are people; human beings; mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles, grandparents. They have left everything behind. Their hopes are simple, basic. A place to live, a job to support their families, food on their tables. Education for their children. Safety. To live without fear. Peace.

And perhaps a seven-speed blender and another can of Vegeta, if you don’t mind.

Final Installment: Things I Missed Out On as a Protestant

  • Mary. She was the mother of our Lord, an obedient and holy woman who gave her “fiat” or “yes” to the Father and abandoned herself to His will entirely. Christians have believed since the beginning that she was taken to heaven – body and soul – and from her place there, intercedes for us. I have written about my connection to her (, also the mother of an only son, and how I have found comfort in her intercession. I frequently listen to my Protestant or non-Christian friends share troubles they are facing, and one of my first thoughts is, “You need the Blessed Mother!” In other words, sometimes we need the solace that a woman’s unique nature provides – and the comfort of the prayers of someone who has suffered tremendous grief and loss: the death of her only cherished Son. We can turn to Mary for her prayers in any situation, and she will always lead us to her Son, Jesus. The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Jesus. When we pray the Rosary, we are not worshipping Mary, we are simply asking for her intercession in the same way we ask one another for prayers. The difference is, she is already with Him in heaven, and as His mother, she is honored and loved exceedingly by Him. Shouldn’t we do the same? Just yesterday I was navigating through a complicated web of junior high boy friendship drama and I remembered what I had written earlier in the previous paragraph. I threw up my hands and cried out, “Mary, Untier of Knots, I’ve made a mess of this. Please help me untie this one!” and sighed. Several hours and a seemingly endless stream of phone calls later, the situation was smoothed out and my son had a fun time with two of his new friends. I owe a big one to the prayers of my heavenly mother.
  • Confession. Ah, confession. A friend and I have gotten into the habit of sending a quick, two-word text to one another every so often, after leaving the confessional feeling refreshed and full of joy. “Ah, confession.” I so wish that all of my friends could know the real treasure that is lost to them outside of the Catholic Church. This sacrament has gotten a bad reputation, but for those of us who participate in it regularly, it is our soul’s very life and breath. I cannot imagine my life without it, now that I have experienced the true freedom and grace of the sacrament of Reconciliation. I can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my sins are forgiven, the things I have confessed are truly behind me and I can walk out of the confessional free of the heavy burden of my sinfulness. The very first act that Jesus performed after appearing to the apostles in the upper room was to make provision for His followers in this way: He empowered the twelve apostles with His authority and instituted the sacrament of confession. In John 20:21-23, “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Participating in the sacrament of confession has helped me become more loving, selfless, patient and more aware of my need for His mercy and help as I move toward Him in holiness.
  • Jesus in the Eucharist. Because the Eucharist IS Jesus. This topic merits its own separate post in the near future. This summer I have thought a great deal on the Eucharist and what it means to me, and I wish to give the thoughts more time and space. Nevertheless, I will take this opportunity to reiterate my supreme gratefulness for the intimacy I have found with my Lord through the reception of His precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
  • Church Authority. Yes, you read that correctly. I sink gratefully into the protective arms of Mother Church and sigh in relief that the Catholic Church is not a democracy, the truths of Scripture will be unchanged and upheld for all time, and I can rest in the knowledge that it’s not my responsibility to attempt to interpret the Bible. Debate, yes. Question, yes. Seek understanding, yes. Just as our nation’s founders set up an authoritative body to interpret our Constitution, the Lord left us an authoritative Body to ensure that the truths He had taught were safely and correctly passed down – orally and in writing.
  • Rootedness. I have written about this before. ( The Catholic faith is deeply rooted in ancient history, and I am awed by the knowledge that the liturgy of today’s Catholic Mass is directly rooted in the earliest practices of the faith. We are still proclaiming the ancient creeds and singing hymns and liturgical texts which were written by great theologians such as Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s, and in the same context for which he wrote them.

A Few Words About the List

Before I complete my list, I want to clarify a few things. I am concerned about coming across as snarky in these posts. Let me assure you, I place high value on my Protestant upbringing. I know many, many holy evangelical people whose faith and relationships with the Lord have inspired me to deeper faith myself.

I do not think that it is impossible for one to have deep, meaningful faith as a Christian outside of the Catholic Church.

In other words, Catholicism is not the only way.

We are all journeying together towards heaven and greater trust, deeper love for God and others, striving for obedience and ultimately, the prize of eternity with God. We are sisters and brothers, and we’re in this together.

I do believe, however, that the fullness of the Christian faith was meant to exist in the Church that Christ Himself established – this Church exists today and continues in the truths that Jesus passed on to the twelve apostles, who passed them on to their successors, etc. The ecclesial communities which are, by their own choosing and nature, separated from this original Church, have rejected that which Jesus intended for His people. In turning away from the lavish banquet which Jesus meant for us to partake as His followers, those communities have settled for something other than what is offered. Hence, my list of “dishes” served at the banquet which I missed out on before sitting down at the table.

Also, I want to say that I know many Protestants who know and practice many of the things on my list – evangelicals who pray the ancient prayers, read the Church Fathers, appreciate the liturgy, follow the Church calendar in their own home. I emphasize that this list is specifically things that I personally missed out on because I was not exposed to them. I acknowledge that everyone’s experience is unique. This list reflects my own experience.

I was one of those Protestants who didn’t know enough about Catholicism to intelligently argue against it. I didn’t even know why I should be arguing against it. Why are so many people still protesting something they really know so little about? As Fulton Sheen so adequately put it,

“There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

I had no one in my life to share the truth of the Catholic faith with me. No Catholic ever explained to me the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; I never heard any personal stories of how the ancient, sacramental faith drew one into relationship with God in profound ways. I never knew what I was missing, because no one ever shared the beauty of the Catholic faith with me!

Now that I have come into my own fullness of faith as a Catholic, I am compelled to share what I have discovered with others who also have not heard. I implore my readers to give a fair hearing to the true teachings and practices of Catholicism, to set aside any predetermined notions that are not based in truth, and consider that there might just be something about the fullness of the Catholic faith that draws one’s parched soul in, nearer to God, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, who is still calling us to deeper, more engaged faith.

Things I Missed Out On as a Protestant, Part Two

  1. I am going to start this next installment of my list out with a bang. I can hardly keep this one to myself; it has been such an all-encompassing, life-altering piece of my newfound Catholic faith. I speak, of course, of the Eucharist. I will dedicate an entire post or three or ten to the abundance of graces I have received because of my frequent participation in this most sacred, intimate communion with my Lord. For now, all I will say is this: for almost 40 years, while I celebrated a symbolic communion once a month with crackers and grape juice, my Catholic brothers and sisters were being fed with the “true food” of Jesus’ flesh and blood, every day! (Read the sixth chapter of John!) The Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the reason I am Catholic today. Jesus – the Bread of Life – the true food we Catholics receive at every Mass, is the source and summit of my faith. How did I live without this spiritual nourishment? 
  2. The Church calendar and lectionary. For many liturgically-minded Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, the calendar year ebbs and flows along the tides of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Because of the incredibly well-ordered Scripture readings which are prescribed for each day’s Mass in the lectionary, throughout the year we follow the narrative of Christ’s birth, presentation, baptism, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, as well as the major events as significant to the formation of the Church. I am still brought to utter amazement at the wisdom of the joining together of Old Testament and New Testament readings on Sunday mornings, when the first reading so brilliantly leads us to its fulfillment in the Gospel reading. I am grateful for the lectionary for another reason. The lectionary provides the framework for every day’s homily (or sermon). As a Catholic, I am almost guaranteed to never hear another Superman or Duck Dynasty sermon series again (costumes and film clips included). Thanks be to God!
  3. The Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. We Catholics have a bigger Bible! The seven deuterocanonical books (sometimes called the apocrypha by Protestants) are books that were included in the original canon of Scripture, but were removed from Protestant Bibles by Martin Luther. Up until Mr. Luther took the liberty of taking away from God’s Word books that provide precedent for many of the Roman Church’s practices, all Christians accepted these books as Sacred Scripture, which is why they remain in the Bibles of Catholics today. You should read these books – they are terrific accounts of men and women of faith and courage, and include beautiful wisdom as well.
  4. The Crucifix. I have also written about my appreciation for the Crucifix, as opposed to an unadorned Cross. There is something profoundly meaningful about meditating on the suffering of my Lord in the visual representation of His Passion on a Crucifix. If Christians remove the visual reminder of His suffering and death, how can we expect to find meaning and comfort in our own suffering?
  5. Beauty. I have seen and worshipped in many beautiful Protestant church buildings. All too often, though, beauty for the sake of beauty in evangelical churches is eschewed for the more practical matter of space (think of former warehouses/big box stores converted into churches), or for the implementation of technology. (Now that you mention it, how many times is the Cross in the front of the sanctuary hidden by the screen which is used for worship songs and/or videos?) Catholics take some heat by non-Catholics for the expense incurred by incorporating beauty into our places of worship. We incorporate our belief that beauty draws people to God, our Creator. I appreciate the layers of beauty present in the cathedral in which I worship, as well as the simple beauty present in other Catholic places of worship. My soul is drawn to God through beautiful music, art, stained glass, and the transcendent architectural beauty of church buildings, Protestant and Catholic.

Things I Missed Out On as a Protestant Christian (Part One)

As a convert to Catholicism in my late thirties, I sometimes bemoan the fact that until reconciling with the Catholic Church, I was deprived of the fullness of Christian faith that was given to us by Jesus; the “missing links,” so to speak, for which my evangelical soul hungered and thirsted.

I believe that God, in His goodness and wisdom, intended for all of our spiritual needs to be cared for within the boundaries of the community of believers, which He established through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. To quote a frequently heard comment on Relevant Radio, “Jesus did not leave us a book. He left us a Church.” Yes, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, the Church (almost 400 years later) gave us the canon of Sacred Scripture, with its interpretation to be guarded and preserved by the Church.

I thought I could get away with a Top Ten list of things I missed out on (albeit as an evangelical Christian in many wonderful, orthodox communities of faithful believers) before I came into the fullness of Catholic faith. My list is still growing, as I realize how many wonderfully rich pieces of the ancient faith I have discovered and come to cherish. I will start with six, and call this Part One.

  1. Diversity. Every time I attend Mass, whether it be a weekday or Sunday morning, I look around and marvel at the richness of diversity among my fellow Catholic sisters and brothers. (I live in Montana, which is not exactly known for being multi-cultural, multi-racial or multi-anything with the possible exception of breeds of cattle.) I appreciate that I see people around me who are young, old, rich, poor, middle class, disabled, wheelchair-bound, politically conservative and liberal, people of various ethnicities, socio-economic status, and educational backgrounds. Which leads me to Number Two…
  2. Universality. The word “catholic” means universal, and was used in the 100s by Ignatius of Antioch to describe the Church of Jesus Christ (“wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”). It is remarkable to think that I have sisters and brothers in the faith in literally every corner of the globe, professing the same Creeds, receiving the same sacraments, worshipping in the same liturgy every day. Which leads me to…
  3. Liturgy. When my family travels, we locate a Catholic parish along the way where we can stop and worship. It brings exceeding comfort to these former evangelicals to walk into a church – anywhere in the country – and know what to expect (for the most part – there are rogue Catholic parishes out there too, to be sure). The liturgy does not change from church to church; the prayers, Bible readings and Eucharistic liturgy are the same, it just looks and sounds different from church to church, depending on musical style, etc.). As evangelicals, one never knows what to expect from two churches in the same denomination – hymns or contemporary music? Casual or traditional? I appreciate the familiar nature of the Mass, no matter where I happen to be.
  4. Writings of Church Fathers, Saints, Bishops, Popes. One could spend a lifetime delving into the writings of the Church Fathers; the letters, encyclicals and writings of the popes; the memoirs and writings of the myriad saints; and the regularly published thoughts and homilies of the bishops across the world today. They are treasures, and even though I have shelves full of books and lists of must-reads, I have not actually read nearly what I would like to. But they are there, tempting me and beckoning me into their vast stores of historical Christianity, the beliefs of the early Christians, the wisdom of the holiest saints, the theology as taught by the brightest minds in the world. I resolve to be more disciplined about taking advantage of these treasures, now that I know they exist and have ready access to them.
  5. Advocacy of Catholic bishops. As shepherds of God’s people, our bishops wear many hats. One of them involves advocating publicly on behalf of “the least of these.” Our Catholic diocese employs a person who represents the Catholic Christian position at our state’s legislature, on issues such as abortion, death penalty, health care, poverty, immigration, marriage and more. I can visit the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops website ( and read letters written by our bishops, advocating for such issues as the persecution of Syrian Christians, the treatment of inmates on death row, the dignity of all human life, to the treatment of refugee minors crossing borders in the U.S. They have their fingers on the pulse of every issue that concerns humans on every planet, in all circumstances, and they use their Christian faith as compass to guide their advocacy. I am proud to be a part of a Church whose leaders are publicly, courageously, intelligently and articulately making the unchanging Catholic Christian voice heard and known.
  6. Consecrated men and women. I have had the privilege of making retreats at a beautiful monastery in north-central Montana several years in a row. There are a handful of wonderful Poor Clare sisters who provide this lovely place of rest and retreat. Our diocese recently ordained a consecrated hermit who will spend the rest of his days in prayer and solitude on behalf of the Church. This past Christmas I purchased coffee from an order of monks in Wyoming whose lives revolve around unceasing prayer and Scripture reading, daily Mass and coffee bean roasting. The Catholic Church values the vocation of marriage, to be certain, yet it also provides an opportunity to those who do not feel called to marriage. For those people who idealize solitude, quiet, a simple life, service to the poor, deep and sustained prayer… the Church says, “We have a place for you.” I am grateful for the sacrifices of those who eschew the material now for the spiritual eternal, whose prayers sustain the Church, whose lives are shining lights of peace, joy and love for the least of these in every corner of the world.