Domestic Church Erika Faith Formation Prayer Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Testimonials


I have been an avid horseman* for as long as I can remember. After turning her back on me for a moment as a toddler, my mother found me surrounded by half a dozen large horses in the pasture. Later, I got my own pony and eventually  transitioned to full sized horses. If I wasn’t riding, I was just with my horse(s). In inclement weather, I read about horses. Even my punishments growing up were related to horses: grounding from riding my pony or from reading my horse-related books. Even today, as a horseless-horse-enthusiast, I constantly use equine terms and practices in my daily life. My philosophe is that life follows the same rules as horsemanship: transitions are key.

My first pony

Transitions, in horsemanship, are changes in speed. The best of transitions look effortless, elegant, and graceful; horse and rider move seamlessly. To achieve smooth transitions, there are several steps communicated to the horse at exactly the right time. Failing to properly prepare the horse results in choppy, ugly, and bumpy transitions. In life, transitions are the changes we go through as we age and mature. Each transition must occur in order to live, but there are small steps that can ease them and ensure chaos doesn’t reign. Skipping these small steps can lead to disastrous consequences.

What’s around me?

My 4-H show pony

One of the first requirements for smooth transitions is awareness. Horses are very reactionary as flight animals. Every change in the environment, vocalization, weight shift, and mood can induce the horse to react. As a rider, awareness is essential to communicate effectively with the horse. Quietness is a prized trait in a horseman because it allows the horseman to prevent negative reactions from the horse. Great horsemen are said to have quiet hands guiding the horse, quiet legs moving the horse, and quiet minds focusing on the horse and the goal. In life, awareness of God is essential. God is not only in control, but also present and more than willing to bestow blessings if asked. However, distractions are everywhere concealing God’s presence and blessings. That’s why it is essential to actively seek God in everything–even distractions. Sometimes God hides His blessings in sadness and disasters, but He’s always present and waiting for signs of awareness. In quiet contemplation, God reveals Himself to those who seek Him.

What am I doing?

My home-bred riding and driving horse

Another key requirement for smooth transitions is a goal. As sensitive animals, horses are capable of easily detecting or abusing the rider’s intentions or confusion. A clear goal, even a simple “go from point A to point B”, gives the horse confidence and almost instantly yields greater harmony between horse and rider. At times, the horse seems to read the rider’s mind simply because the rider is focused on the horse and their combined goal. One of the most used clichés is “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Often, this cliché seems true as the best-laid human plans result in chaos and confusion. However, the error isn’t the plans; it is the exclusion of God from those plans. God has plans for each and every one of His creations. These plans are written in our hearts and revealed through quiet time with God, prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Mass, and reading Scripture and Faith-filled writings.

Pause and think…

My pregnant with cancer driving horse

Smooth transitions are also preceded by a ‘half-halt’. Basically, a half-halt is a subtle cue from the rider for a minuscule pause from the horse. While it isn’t a specific cue for change, it distinctly alerts the horse to an upcoming change. Large transitions, like from a halt to a gallop or vice versa, may require several half-halts as preparation. They must be appropriately timed for the desired effect. Poor timing diminishes the effectiveness and the transition suffers. In life, the equivalent of half-halts are moments of prayer. Like a half-halt, prayer doesn’t have to be obvious or time consuming to be effective. Prayer prior to large changes in life, like marriage, buying a home, changing careers, etc, is infinitely more effective than prayerful supplication after these changes have taken place. A simple, “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” can suffice as long as there is an opening or slight pause to allow God to answer.


Let’s do this…

My borrowed driving horse and his friend

Following the half-halt is the actual cue for transition. Obviously, the cue is very important to the transition; without it, the transition wouldn’t exist. Since horseback riding is a dynamic relationship between horse and rider, change is constant and predictable. Like the half-halt, the cue must be timed very precisely, more precisely than the half-halt. In addition to precise timing, the cue must be proportionate to effectively communicate the command. A large transition or disobedience requires a strong cue; while a weak cue may not produce a transition at all. Similarly, life is a dynamic relationship with God, with God supplying the cues. Many times God’s cues are very subtle, while other times they’re like a 2-by-4. Subtle cues from God are best heard in the stillness after a half-halt of prayer. During trying times, God sometimes has to use a 2-by-4 to combat the inattention, disobedience, and lack of time given to Him. However, He always gives cues to those who ask Him for guidance.

Whew, that’s finished…

Sharing the love with my daughter

Once the transition occurs, the final step is praise. Depending on the rider’s effectiveness, praise can be subtle, almost undetectable to all but the horse or effusive. Since horseback riding is dynamic and training occurs every time the rider is with the horse, sometimes excellent preparation results in mediocre or even dismal transitions. An honest attempt, even without spectacular results should always be rewarded. God also deserves praise even through transitions that seem bad. After all, without God no transitions would even be possible. As the Author of our lives, God knows the plan, and provides ample guidance. For this, He deserves praise and gratitude. He will ultimately reward His Faithful with Heaven.



Life with horses has helped me live a better life with God. My transitions haven’t always been as smooth as I’d like, usually because what I want and what God wants differ. When I’ve followed the steps to graceful transitions, God has blessed me abundantly. I’ve given God free reign. You should too!
*I use the term horseman because I don’t need to feminize the term to preserve my femininity. I also use the term horseman synonymously with rider because that is the most common form of horsemanship. I based my description of transitions on the discipline of dressage (French for training) and is often the foundation of other disciplines.

Easter Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Michelle Spiritual Growth

Lent: A Time of True Change and Hope

Three years ago on March 2, 2010 we were experiencing blizzard-like conditions here in Georgia.  I remember vividly driving into Atlanta, after dropping off our kids to various friends’ homes early that morning, fighting the snow and wind that was battering our van.  There were icicles hanging on the side mirrors and traffic was almost at a standstill.  The raging weather outside couldn’t match the pain that was raging inside my heart.  You see, we were headed into Atlanta to begin the process that would allow me to deliver our son Joseph whose heart had stopped beating the week before.

I found it strange that we would have such a storm in March and yet, in a way, I found it rather comforting as well.  I would always remember our journey that day by the snow. It wasn’t “just another day”, it was something very different.  I would come to think of Joseph as my snow angel.

When Joseph was born later that day, it was clear to see that he had many things wrong with him.  I could understand how is heart was not strong enough to see him through the whole pregnancy.  And while we had done some testing during my pregnancy that indicated some of the problems that seemed so evident after he was born, we decided not to have genetic testing done on him because to us it didn’t matter what was “wrong” with him… he was perfect in our eyes.

During Lent I often think of our struggles and the crosses that we have been chosen to carry.  I suppose because his birth came during the Lenten season it’s only natural to tie the two together.  Lent seems to make all our losses that much more painful, especially when we contemplate the Way of the Cross and the 13th Station of the Cross in particular.   The 13th station, where Christ is taken down from His cross and placed in His mother’s arms, is almost too much to bear.  Still, we are called to walk that walk with Christ and so we take up our cross and we walk alongside of Him.

Over the past few years I have come to realize that Lent isn’t only about the carrying of the cross or the spiritual desert that sometimes comes along with the journey.  It is also about the hope that is promised at the end of the journey.  If we make the most of our trials and tribulations during Lent then we experience a metamorphosis… a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means.  By embracing the cross we are transformed into something so different than we were before.  At the end of Lent we are no longer the person we started out to be; we are made new.  If we think of Christ on the cross- broken, bleeding, dying – and afterward His own disciples not recognizing Him after His resurrection because of the marked change, well, it just makes sense.  After our “40 days in the desert” how can we be the same people we were before?

I am comforted and humbled by the thought that Christ died to open the gates of heaven for all of us.   We are assured that in heaven we will become whole and perfect again, our sins erased, our illnesses healed, our hearts mended.   We will not be the same people we are now.   My little Joseph, so frail and so sick, with problems so severe he couldn’t live, has his body healed completely.  Knowing that this gift is available for all of us gives me great comfort, joy, and hope.

While we normally find ourselves in a dark place during Lent, contemplating our sins, our wrongdoings, and our failures we hope to be changed during our walk with Christ. We know that there is a light waiting for us at the end of our journey.  We will see that light on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord but that celebration here cannot compare to the joy we will experience in heaven.  Our complete healing is waiting for us.  Our crosses are heavy now but the reward is great for trusting in God and following Him always.  The scars left by the cross will be healed and we will be whole once again.  Christ will quench the thirst that we have experienced in this spiritual desert.  We have hope to experience a great metamorphosis… one that will make us perfect in the eyes of the Lord.

Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Mass

It Is Right and Just: Mass Changes One Year Later

It has been almost one full year since the new translation of the Mass has been implemented in the Roman Rite. Can you believe it has been almost a year already?? I certainly can’t.

A little over a year ago I wrote a post about change in our every day lives. In that post I discussed how change can be wonderful, difficult, joyful, stressful, and so much more. We can experience all those emotions individually or simultaneously. But in the end, change is often a good thing, even if we don’t recognize it as good at first.

A year later I’m now pleased to report that my boys are now well on their way to being 18 months old, they are doing great, and we are still slowly learning this parenting thing.

What a difference a year makes!

The “new catalog rules” at work that I mentioned last year are nearing their time of implementation. I was at a conference recently where other librarians were stressing about these upcoming changes and I found myself rather calm about them. I like that feeling.

The construction at my parish is basically complete. Sort of (we are now getting a new organ as well).  Last year I mentioned four big projects that we hoped would be completed in time for the Church’s new year, i.e. Advent. I’m pleased to report that our sanctuary was mostly complete in time for the first Sunday of Advent 2011 and we were able to have Mass back in our sanctuary again.

Construction of the new tabernacle and altar

What a great feeling to move into an old space made new and to use the new translation of the Mass for the first time. All at the same time!

Our Bishop praying before Our Lord in the Tabernacle at the dedication earlier this year.
(c) Cindy Olson, 2012

It was an extraordinary feeling to have so many of  my senses engaged at once. My visuals were different because the altar looked different. I had to listen more carefully and be more fully engaged in the liturgy in order to hear what was different and say the parts that were different. The tabernacle itself wasn’t yet installed, but a few months later when it was we all had to get used to genuflecting where we used to bow.

Over the last year all the various construction projects have been completed (and the new organ is being installed now). We now have a brand new baptistery  a beautiful adoration chapel, a new more roomy rectory for our priests, and a stunning tabernacle for our Lord to reside in. And throughout all these changes to our space, we are also getting used to the changes in the translation of the Mass.

I picked up on parts of the new translation easily and others I struggled with. To this day I still catch myself saying “It is right to give Him …”  instead of “It is right and just.” That one gets me almost every time. I struggle some because my children became more difficult during Mass in this past year. Juggling children and trying to keep them from running off and falling into the baptistery means I can’t always have a cheat sheet in front of me. I still stumble over some words here and there, but those new parts of the Mass that are usually sung have been the easiest for me to pick up on. Music is such a wonderful aid!

How about you? Have you internalized the new translation yet? Has it been easier over the last year than you anticipated it would be? Are you still struggling some? I’d love to hear your experiences!


Mass Changes: Children, Catalogs, Construction, and more

Is your life full of change of some sort or another? Does change stress you out or do you easily accept it? Change is one of those things that can cause many of us to put up our defenses at the very word.

Most of the time, change is a good thing, even if we can’t see it at first. But it doesn’t mean it is easy.

Like many of you, my life is full of change. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always handle change well. One thing I have to remind myself of is that God is always in control. When I forget this is when I begin stressing about change too much.

One of the best changes in my life right now is my children. My life is forever changed because of them. I am still frequently overwhelmed and stressed, but I love every bit of it. Who wouldn’t? Just look at these cute faces:

Ethan and Peter, 17 weeks old

They are 4 months old today. True blessings from God!

My life is also forever changed by the three children we lost between 2008 and 2010. I learned something from each of those children as well and I’m grateful for the little bit of time I had with each of them.


The Online Catalog vs. The Card Catalog

When was the last time you used a card catalog at the library?  It’s probably been a while. Now you can see the catalog on your computer at home. Libraries are always changing. I know, I’m a librarian. My main job is to collocate and organize the information that makes up our library catalog. It can be a challenging job at times, especially when there are changes. There are always changes to cataloging rules (updates, revisions, etc.). But nothing like what is about to happen in the library world in another year or so.

We’re talking huge shake-up here. HUGE!

This is one of those changes that I used to stress about. No more.  I made a decision some time ago that it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it. So why bother? Now this is one of those changes that I am ignoring until I actually need to know about it. When that time comes, I’ll get the training I need and will move forward.

By the way, speaking of libraries … today is the feast day of St. Jerome, patron saint of libraries and librarians.


New Tabernacle under Construction

If ever there was something that could define change, it is construction. This is tangible, visible change. My church is undergoing lots of construction right now. We are building a new rectory for our priests, a new Perpetual Adoration Chapel, a new Baptistery, and undergoing a drastic renovation of the sanctuary that includes relocating the tabernacle there {happy dance}. Oh, and I think we’re getting a new organ. Last
time I saw our organist he was showing off a drawing of the new pipes.

It’s a lot. It will be a lot of very good change for our parish and our diocese (since we’re also the cathedral), but it is also causing a lot of other changes right now as well. Mass is now being held in the parish hall and, because the hall is smaller than the church, mass times have changed.
Changing mass times has meant adding another mass to the schedule (another responsibility for our priests) and temporarily cancelling the monthly Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast and the occasional coffee and doughnuts after mass.

Work in our sanctuary is supposed to be completed by Thanksgiving so if everything stays on schedule we’ll be able to have mass on Thanksgiving
Day in our newly renovated space.

It is interesting timing: new sanctuary and new translation of the mass.

Mass Changes

Cathedral of Christ the King, Sanctuary under Construction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the changes that will be happening to the mass on the first Sunday of Advent this year. I can’t even imagine how different it is going to be when we begin having mass with the new translation and in a new, beautiful space. I can’t wait!!

This is going to be a big change for everyone. And I really, really hope people will embrace this change. With the new translation we have
an opportunity!!

It is an opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with the mass. It is an opportunity to refresh our understanding of what we’re doing and saying
in the mass. And, it is an opportunity to relearn the meaning behind so many of the beautiful prayers and responses of the mass. If the changes to come concern you at all, I say look at it as an opportunity.

Yes, it’s a big change. Change can be hard to deal with. It is a big unknown and can be a little scary. But take comfort in the fact that people much wiser than any of us (unless we have some bishops or cardinals reading this blog) know what they are doing and have the best interests of the Church at heart when they sat down to work out this new translation.

We’ll be more in line with the original Latin text of the mass and we’ll have opportunities to relearn and refresh ourselves with the new words
we’ll soon be learning and incorporating into our vocabularies.

I for one am looking forward to it. I find it an exciting endeavor for our Church!!

How about you? What major changes are happening in your life? Are you giving them over to God or are you stressing about them? How about the upcoming changes to the mass? Are you looking forward to them or are you apprehensive?

Finally: don’t forget about the blog giveaway. You must comment on the giveaway post by TODAY in order to be entered. Good luck to everyone!!