Friday, September 25, 2015


I know there's been some small flurry of interest that Pope Francis has been in the U.S. next week.

A lesser-known news item: next week I am going to Rome!

This will be my first trip to Europe in 35 or 40 years. Last time, I was in no shape to appreciate to appreciate the art, the food, the churches, or really anything. So I'm excited.

Sister Maximilian Marie, O.P., has taken me under her wing and secured me a ticket to the Papal Mass on Oct. 4th that opens the Family Synod, and to the Oct. 14 Papal Audience (the Pope apparently holds a Papal Audience at 10 am each Wednesday he's in town). How great is that?

I have my new passport, my room, my guide books my copies of I, Claudius, John Varriano's A Literary Companion to Rome, A Traveller in Rome by H.V. Morton, and about fifty million suggestions to drink coffee at this cafe, visit this church, walk to that market, and not to on any account miss all kinds of things I'm sure I'll miss. The sisters are having me for Pranzano I think it's called (lunch) one day, and for tea another, and I may take a day trip to Assisi.

Also, I'm to have coffee with a delightful seminarian who generously angled to get me a Scavi tour.

Other than that, I just want to wander the streets (think of the pictures), go to Mass, take in the gardens, and pray with all my heart for the human family.

Every single day this yeas has been so packed, shaken down and overflowing,  I could write a book on it. I've been without a permanent address, mostly by choice, so that's been interesting.

My weekly arts and culture column is almost a full-time job. I take the honor and the responsibility seriously and the gift I receive in return--the people, the inspiration, the sense of a rich extra dimension--the Kingdom of God like yeast, all through the loaf--is stupendous.

I also have a new book out, and if all goes well, two more out next year, and my monthly column for Magnificat. The "Credible Witness" essays need to be submitted six months in advance and the line-up for 2016 includes many of my heroes: Dorothy Day, Franz Jaggerstatter, Fr. Stanley Rother, Fr. Ed Dowling.

Another big project: I'm co-writing the memoir of Kathleen Eaton-Bravo, founder and CEO of Obria, formerly known as BirthChoice, which brings free medical clinics to under-served communities with a focus on crisis pregnancies. She prefers the term "life-affirming" to "pro-life," tries to give the prospective mother every available option in favor of giving birth to the child, and believes in accepting, loving, and supporting the mother (and father), whether she chooses to have an abortion or not. To me, that's the crucial Christ-like link that's been missing in the terribly polarized pro-choice/pro-life battle. It's messy wading into these waters. There's no pat, ends-neatly-tied-up solution to any human situation. The solution is love.

So the project is inviting me to stretch on a number of different levels. To go to a place that's not safe and secure, where the labels disappear, where we consent to be vulnerable, misunderstood, and possibly shunned--by both "sides"--is the place on the outskirts where Christ stood.

In the end, it is always two human beings. Can I reach out my hand to my brother, to my sister, and say: Tell my your story? Can I listen?...

Here's the link to a piece called "The Man in the Skirt: The Church as Field Hospital." It was inspired by a cross-dresser I saw almost every day at Mass this past summer.

Somehow it's in the spirit of the message of Pope Francis--which is straight, rock-bottom, from the Gospels.



  1. I'm more excited about your trip to Rome than about the Holy Father's trip here. Does that make me a bad Catholic? A bad person?

    You can't go wrong with H.V. Morton . . .

    1. ha why not at all, dear Bill: that makes you the BEST person!
      I don't have a TV but on the TV at the gym yesterday, I saw the Pope get off the plane at JFK and bless the schoolchildren. So beautiful! I'd rather have one little glimpse that becomes enshrined in memory...

      Anyway, thank you so much for your good wishes. I'm saving the Morton for the (14-hourr) flight. My little brother has hooked me up with Marco of Gonna Puke Records, so between him and Sr. Maximilian Marie, O.P., I should be covered.

  2. Have a wonderful trip to the Eternal City! I remember one sentence from a book I read long ago, " Italy is drenched in Catholicism."

    May we all be!

    Please keep us all in your prayers as you traverse about the many Roman churches. <3

  3. Many blessings to you and your trip to Rome! Go to the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception! I was there 26 years ago. I thought it would be creepy but instead it was deeply, deeply moving. Just my little traveling tip.

  4. Supremely excellent! Safe travels! Light a candle for me somewhere in the Eternal City!

  5. Is that acacia in the last three pictures? I think I can smell it from here in upstate NY. I really miss California. Thank you for your words and pictures.

  6. Have a wonderful time in Italy! I'm going on another retreat at the Mercy Center in Colorado Springs for 3 weeks in October, and I'm taking Redeemed because I want to reread it, Stripped, and an October Magnificat as my reading material. And I'm going to make an effort to really learn to pray the rosary! Blessings and peace.

    1. Great Anna, thanks and have a grand old time on your own journey!

  7. Thanks, everybody. Much to do before I leave. Was dreading the long flight but now I realize thank God, maybe I can rest a bit! I can't believe how lucky I am to be going.

    I don't think those are acacias. Here's a piece describing two types of yellow flowering trees growing on Echo Park Blvd.

  8. Hey Heather-you don't by any chance have a stopover in London do you?! Time for a coffee?! Have a wonderful trip-you have been in my thoughts and prayers much recently as I re-read Poor Baby for very personal reasons and was moved and healed by it. Thank you-I'm praying so
    Wine very dear to me will read it with an open heart too. God speed and I pray you can rest well and be restored.

    1. Or rather, I'm praying 'someone' very dear to me read it!!!

    2. I kind of like "wine very dear to me"...No, I'm going by way of DC. At the gate for Rome as we speak! Thanks Lizzie. It'll be good to be there, praying for the human family. Have a cup of coffee for me in London.

  9. No matter how much you would prefer your rest - push yourself to Assisi. It is a THIN PLACE - a particular location where the barrier between heaven and earth has been permeated. You will not regret your effort.


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