Ink Slingers

Journey Through The Desert: Lent 2021 Photo Journey

Lent 2021 begins tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.

Shortly after Ash Wednesday last year, many Catholic churches were closed for a long time due to C*vid. Some are still closed. For many of us, Ash Wednesday and Lent a year ago mark the beginning of a time in spiritual desert; unable to receive the Eucharist for so long. For many of us it’s allowed us to grown in our faith; spurring us on to make greater efforts in our relationship with God. Lent 2020 was hard. Some of us feel like we’ve been living in Lent since March 2020 and haven’t left that  desert. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of where you’re faith is right now, Ash Wednesday 2021 marks a way to re-focus ourselves on Christ. 

Our 2021 Lent “Journey Through the Desert” Catholic Sistas Photo Journey helps us to do that. The words on our Photo Journey prompt remind us to look around our lives and be a little more aware of God’s presence. To reflect on those things present but also those things in the past. The Catholic Sistas Photo Journeys are set up to allow us to reflect on where we see Christ and where we’re lacking Christ and need growth.


Join Us

So if you need something to help you re-focus you a little bit more on Christ, or you just enjoy reflecting on your faith visually, consider joining Adrienne, Allison, Anna, Celeste, Laura, Mandi, Rosemary, and me (Rita).

Be sure to use #CSLENTIPJ (Catholic Sistas LENT Instagram Photo Journey)  so we can find your photos and share some of them in our stories!

And just a little side note, say a little prayer for us Texan Catholic Sistas (and many others in the South). We’re struggling right now with unprecedented weather that our state, city, and homes were not built to handle. 1/3 of my city (Austin Texas) has been without power since early Monday morning (parts of the power grid are frozen). So between unprecedented, record- breaking weather and C*vid still things affecting many thing, we’re entering Lent a little differently this year.

How the Lent 2021 Photo Journey works

• Each day has one word associated with it. Most of these words are from the readings for the day, some are about the saint of the day, and some are just related to the season of Lent. Snap a photo or find an old photo related to that word. The photo does not have to be faith-themed, as the goal of our photo challenges is for us to see God in our everyday lives and reflect on Him.

• Use the hashtag #CSLentIPJ and any other appropriate hashtags (#gray, #adore, #suffer, etc) when you post your Photo Challenge photos. This allows us all to search Instagram and other social media platforms for other participants. You can even follow the hashtag on Instagram so you’ll see all the photos posted from everyone participating. We will be sharing participant photos throughout the Photo Challenge, and the way we find them is through the #CSLentIPJ hashtag.

• While our main platforms for the Lent 2021 Photo Journey are Instagram, and Facebook, we are present on many other platforms. Tag us with @CatholicSistas on INSTAGRAMPINTEREST and FACEBOOK. And if you’re blogging about your Lenten Photo Challenge, link back to us or comment below with a link to your post.

• When you use the hashtag #CSLentIPJ on Instagram, it will enable us to find you on Instagram and possibly feature you in our stories!

• Click the graphic below to download the CSLentIPJ graphic for quick reference. Note that the dates of the weekends are a different color to help visually break up the days.

• Lastly, consider joining us on Facebook in our group CATHOLIC SISTAS – THE COFFEE HOUSE. Here we can share pictures of the challenge and we get to know each other in a private setting. Please request to be added and answer the group questions, and you will be approved as soon a moderator is able to add you.

Books Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa

What to Read for Lent 2021

The pandemic led to my being able to read even more than usual during 2020 and with Lent quickly approaching I have a lovely list of books to add to those I’ve recommended here in the past. Behold your Lent worthy reading list for 2021:


Impossible Marriages Redeemed: They Didn’t End Their Story in the Middle is Leila Miller’s follow up to her eye-opening expose of true accounts from children of divorce: Primal Loss: The Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak. In this new work, Leila compiled the stories of broken marriages which leaned into the redemptive power of the faith and were healed as well as several submissions from folks who continue to “stand” for their sacramental marriage in-spite of being abandoned by a spouse. 

The Saint Monica Club: How to Wait and Pray for Your Fallen-Away Loved Ones by Maggie Green was written based on her own experiences with children who have fallen away from the faith. Like Saint Monica, mothers are called to pray without ceasing and wait upon the Lord. This book was an immense help to me as I continue to pray, hope, and wait on my own wayward children.

Have you struggled with low spirits, anxiety, or depression? Has it taken a toll on your progress in your spiritual life? Dan Burke’s Spiritual Warfare and the Discernment of Spirits may be the help you need in discerning how the enemy may be attacking you and actively preventing you from growing spiritually.

In February of 2019 the Pew Research Center released the results of a study showing that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had dropped to an alarming 30% of self-identified Catholics. In response to this obvious decline in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has written a beautiful and concise answer for how Catholics can reestablish a firm belief in and veneration for the Holy Eucharist in The Holy Bread of Eternal Life: Restoring Eucharistic Reverence in an Age of Impiety.

I recently finished Conversation with Christ: The Teaching of St.Teresa of Avila About Personal Prayer by Peter Thomas Rohrbach. It is by far the best book I’ve ever read on mental prayer and walks the reader through several variations for maintaining a relationship and real conversation with Christ. It is one I will keep constantly on hand for reference for years to come.


After the difficulties and realities of the last year, a little escape from contemplating the current state of the world might be in order. I am a huge fan of interspersing fiction amongst the spiritual and informative works I normally read. I especially appreciate anything written with a Catholic worldview and there are many authors who have successfully written beautiful, enjoyable works of fiction with Catholic themes.

Sigrid Undset is by far my favorite Catholic author. She was a convert to Catholicism in the 20th Century who interwove Catholic themes throughout her works. 

My personal favorite novel, Kristen Lavransdatter, is a medieval Scandinavian saga which earned Undset the Nobel Prize for Literature. The trilogy follows Kristen from childhood through late adulthood—daughter, wife, and mother in Catholic Norway. 

The tetralogy, Master of Hestviken, Undset’s second medieval Scandinavian offering is not as well known but is also very enjoyable. This work explores many of the same themes but from the point of view of Olav Audunsson an orphan betrothed to the daughter of his adoptive father. 

The Wild Orchid/The Burning Bush set in the mid-20th century Norway is the story of Paul Selmer, who grows up in an enlightened household and shocks his entire family when he chooses to convert to Catholicism as an adult. As with many of Undset’s novels, marital fidelity and self-sacrifice are strong, underlying themes.

Several years ago I picked up Undset’s Ida Elisabeth and found, for one reason or another, I could not make it past the first chapter. Early in 2020 a friend finished reading this work and declared it to be one of her favorites. I am so glad she did as it led to my finally finishing this beautiful novel. Once again, the consequences of sin, marital fidelity, forgiveness, and grace flow throughout this work. 

While not personally a Catholic, some of Willa Cather’s works are very Catholic and well worth including on a list of Catholic fictional works.

Shadows on the Rock is a sweet work, set in colonial New France close on the heels of the martyrdom of North American saints such as Saints Jean LaLand Rene Groupil. The story is written from the point of view of pious 12 year old Cecile Auclair. In her mastery of vivid language, Cather paints a beautiful picture of 17th century life in remote and barely settled Quebec.

Death Comes for the Archbishop, also by Cather, tells the story of Father Jean Marie Latour. Having been appointed the Apostolic Vicar of New Mexico Father Latour travels his vast, desert mission territory shepherding his flock and spreading the gospel over the span of 40 years. This compelling character, fraught with the loneliness and gravity of his task, advances his mission by degrees in the manner of a gentle, faithful, and resourceful saint. 

Father Bryan Houghton was a well known convert to Catholicism in the mid-20th Century. Not long after converting the entire Church was rocked by the sweeping changes to the liturgy on the heels of Vatican II. Personally, I have often wondered how people actually felt as their churches were renovated and the Mass changed almost overnight. Father Houghton wrote a beautiful and touching fictional account which explores this subject in Judith’s Marriage.

On my list for Lent

Visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri is a short and lovely companion to bring for a weekly Holy Hour.

Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture by Sheila Liaugminas. I recently listened to a conversation between Sheila Liaugminas and Jason Jones on his popular podcast. Intrigued, I had to pick up her book on protecting the first principles of the absolute human rights to life, dignity, and equality.

The next two on my list were recommended by our parish priest as worthy spiritual reading: Sayings of the Desert Fathers and On How to Accept and Love the Will of God and His Divine Providence by Saint Alphonsus Maria Ligouri

The Sinners Guide by Venerable Lous of Granada was a favorite of Saint Teresa of Avila. I feel anything recommended by Saint Teresa needs to be on everyone’s “must read” list. Am I right?

Are you reading anything inspiring this Lent? Share your picks in the comments.

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

The 2019 Handy Dandy List of Lenten Resources

The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Booklist for Families

Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Prayer

Complete Surrender

Complete Surrender

“Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46

The last seven words of Christ.  Here, upon the Cross, is the Word made Flesh.  The second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Redeemer, the Savior, Love and Mercy Itself.  And from His Sacred lips come words of complete surrender, body and soul, to the Father.

I’ve heard these words of Christ every year as I’ve moved through Lent, Passion Sunday, and into the Triduum, but I hadn’t ever truly considered the full implication of them until recently.  “Jesus, I trust in You!” has been a mantra of mine for several years and while those words have helped me turn to God in trust, I noticed an increasing void. A call to go deeper, to surrender, complete surrender.  It is one thing to trust, another thing to let go. Not just a little, but as completely as Christ did on the Cross. I can profess that I trust Jesus, but then still act as if I have to orchestrate a solution to the problem or influence someone to change their behavior.  Trusting doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve stopped playing God.

In searching for a prayer to help me with letting go, I came across the story of the Servant of God, Father Dolindo Ruotolo, a Franciscan priest from Naples.  An unassuming man, he referred to himself as “the little old man of Mary, Most Holy.” Contrary to his own self-perception, however, he was hailed as a saint by Padre Pio and revered among many as a prophet, predicting “a new John will rise out of Poland.”  There are thousands of accounts of miracles attributed to his intercession as he sought to bring compassion, healing, and mercy to the poor and the sick (and he had no fear of being near those who were contagious!) He must have had quite a way about him, writing prescriptions for those in dire need with the signature: “Doctor Cretinico Sciosciammocca” (Doctor Stupid Fly-swatter)” – not so stupid considering the treatments he prescribed brought about miracles! Captivated by this “little old man”, I was drawn to his ardent love of the Church, his unwavering devotion to our Blessed Mother, and his ability to give time to countless charitable works while yet penning 33 volumes (10,000 pages) of in-depth commentaries on the Old Testament.

Yes, this “little man” had struck a chord within my soul just as I imagine his presence would have done to so many others during his life.  Perhaps the secret to his tireless work amid his own personal sicknesses and sufferings (even his name, Dolindo, means pain) was his ability to give it all to Jesus in complete surrender, in loving imitation of our Lord on the Cross.  His “spirituality of surrender” is powerful, as I can attest to after having begun my apprenticeship in the process of “surrendering”. Why an apprenticeship? Because I quickly discovered by Day 3 of the Novena that this wasn’t a Novena I would pray once or twice and then move on along my spiritual journey.  This was more like the Via Dolorosa of Surrender that I needed to walk every day of my life until the end, just as Christ embraced His Cross and carried it to His final end, an act of complete surrender to the Father. 

I discovered Fr. Dolindo’s Novena of Surrender a few months before Lent began and the timing could not have been more apropos.  When it comes right down to it, there is so very little on the grand scheme of things that I can control in my life. My human nature and my tendencies to anxious thinking rebel at the idea of letting go and giving up my imagined sense of control.  I consider it somewhat of my own personal little miracle, procured I am sure through the intercession of the Servant of God, Father Dolindo, that there have been moments during these ever-changing days where I have felt a peace I have never felt before.  Whatever may come in these days, weeks, and months ahead, I will continue to walk bravely on down the Via Dolorosa of Surrender, with these words on my lips ~

O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”

Do you struggle with surrendering certain aspects of your life to God? 

Which ones?

How can you incorporate a “spirituality of surrender” into your life?

*Click for a pdf containing a brief biography of Father Dolindo and the text of The Surrender Novena

*Click for a beautiful tri-fold Novena card (available in two sizes)

Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Offering your suffering Prayer

Memories on the Other Side of Our Humanity

memories, humanity

Of all the memories I have, I ran from one memory in particular for decades, its wreckage surfacing periodically in the waters of my soul – ugly pieces covered in sharp barnacles, full of wormholes, severely waterlogged. Over the years, I tried to remove the pieces on my own, struggling under their weight, injured in the process by their rough surface. One day, almost drowning in the wreckage around me, I gathered the pieces in desperation and flung them far into other waters – the waters of God’s limitless ocean of Mercy, the very ocean that flowed as blood and water from Jesus’s pierced side as He hung on the cross. It was only then He revealed to me the divine hidden amid the wreckage.

There is another I cling to, its embers stirring periodically in the fire of my soul – tiny pieces glowing with hot intensity, waiting to be rekindled, flame ablaze. Like a pouting, spoiled brat who doesn’t want to hand over the cookie jar, I hold fast.  Tucked safely in the depths of my heart, it mustn’t consume, yet it must be remembered. I fight to keep it balanced there, fearing the treasured details will fade, never to be felt again. Jesus, knowing my stubbornness, waits patiently, but His questioning is persistent. “What will you choose?” “Not yet,” I beg, knowing full well that until I do, He cannot reveal the divine hidden amid the beauty.

In all of God’s extraordinary creation, only humanity has the ability to reminiscence or recollect. “To be human is to have a collection of memories that tells you who you are and how you got there.” (Rosecrans Baldwin) In our weakened humanity, we are sometimes unwillingly bound to memories that are forced upon us. As an event unfolds and rushes into our minds like an avalanche, we feel helpless against the onslaught of each vivid detail. Those are the memories we run from, pushing them deep into the dark recesses of our minds the moment they try to surface. “Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the sea bed.” (J. G. Ballard) Diving deep into the waters of that sea creates memories of its own, ones with perhaps too great a price tag. So, we flounder about on the surface, avoiding the wreckage that floats around us. “For people like me, who have blocked out a chunk of their past, you wonder – if you open that door, if you walk into that room of your memories, what will happen? Will it destroy you or will it make you stronger?” (Tim Daly)

The other side of our humanity cherishes the memories that make life meaningful.  We strive to capture moments in photographs, even though the images will never match our experience. Entries are written in diaries and journals, the writer hoping to memorialize the event despite the limitations of written language. Mementos are placed with love in carefully chosen boxes or containers, their existence a tangible reminder of what we fear we will forget. And those definable moments that are incapable of being captured are etched into the very fibers of our hearts and minds. Frozen in time, we visit the memory again and again, hoping to relive the experience in its completeness.

All memories, from the most horrifying to the most beautiful, have one defining characteristic. Trapped within the boundaries of time, those moments can neither be erased nor can they be duplicated. It is then we realize there is a letting go, a sacrifice, hidden deep within those memories. It is a letting go of our ability to change or remove that which we wish could be forgotten for all eternity. It is a letting go of our ability to transcend time and space to embrace and relive that which we hold dear. Limited by our humanness, we must accept the sacrifice of letting go, lest it crush us under its weight or eat us alive with desire.

There is One, however, whose memories will never be limited by the confines of time. Sharing in our humanity, His mortal life was subject to time, but His divine life is as present to us as when He walked this earth. The events of His life – from the horror of His crucifixion to the beauty in His miracles – are living, tangible events, not mere memories passed on through the ages. Through the grace of His divinity, we can enter into those events and experience them today just as if we were present 2000 years ago. “…and all that Christ is – all that He did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being present in them all.” (Catechism, 1085) Seem impossible? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) Knowing our need for His presence and as living proof, He left us with tangible signs where we can encounter Him not only through our intellect, but also touch Him through our senses: the washing waters of Baptism, the sanctifying oil of Confirmation, the transforming bread and wine of the Eucharist. He gave us signs tested by science: the Shroud of Turin and the numerous miracles of the Eucharist. What lengths He has gone to prove His presence to us, even commanding us to do likewise. “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19)

Just as we can enter each moment of His life, He is present in each moment of our lives, whether we believe it or not.  Every moment and every memory of every moment is a chance to meet Him. That memory that hides in the darkness, afraid of being discovered, afraid of being struggled with, afraid of being brought into the light, can be brought into His Passion and Crucifixion. He has already agonized over it in the Garden. He has already conquered it on the Cross. That memory that hides in the heart, afraid it will never be felt again, afraid it will consume, afraid it will fade, can be brought into His Glorious Resurrection. He has already seen its beauty and promise. He has already felt its strength and power.

Whether we are frantically running away from our memories or desperately clinging to them, it is only when we are ready to make the sacrifice of letting go, of choosing to live in the present moment fully, that we can see the marvelous new beginning He is calling us to, birthed from the memories of our lives.

As we journey through Lent, what memories are you running from?

Can you kneel with Our Lord in the Garden and let go?

Can you place them at His feet and surrender while He looks at you with love from the Cross?

As we anticipate and celebrate Easter, what memories do you cling to?

Can you relinquish them to the power of His resurrection and believe He can raise them up to reveal their beauty?

Can you trust His promise to make all things new?

Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Maurisa Reading

A Catholic Sistas’ Book List for Lent 2020

Two years ago Catholic Sistas provided The Ultimate 2018 Lenten Book List for Families. I’ve done a lot of reading since then and felt we could use an updated list of worthy spiritual reading for this Lent. This time our reading list is especially targeted to intrigue you, dear Sistas.

My number one pick for this Lent is the classic by Saint Francis de Sales: An Introduction to the Devout Life. I spent several months reading this gem during my weekly hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. 20 plus years a Catholic and I’d never read this book before. It completely changed my spiritual life. If you are searching for inspiration in becoming as holy as God Wills you to be according to your state in life this book is the perfect fit.

I recently finished reading Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age which is a published, extensive interview of my current hero, Bishop Athanasius Schneider by Diane Montagna. The book includes an impressive biography of the bishop who lived through the persecution of the Church behind the Iron Curtain and then proceeds in examining the many issues facing the Church today, including the numerous scandals and deep confusion we are currently experiencing. Not only does Bishop Schneider examine the crises, he offers concrete solutions. He’s an inspiring contemporary figure in the Church today and his interview left me feeling very hopeful about the future of the Church.

Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and J.R.R. Tolkien is a fictional conversation imagined by Peter Kreeft. I really enjoyed the idea of this book written as if three of my childhood heroes were discussing the reality of the Eucharist. As an adolescent I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals in my home town. I always admired him and if Peter Kreeft got it right, I was able to somewhat understand his misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Of course, I grew up reading Lewis and Tolkien and had no difficulty picturing their contributions to the fictional dialogue. As a Catholic, this experiment of Dr. Kreeft’s helped solidify my belief and understanding of the Real Presence.

We had an unusual influx of visitors to our home this past year. Our dear friends from Maryland, who are godparents to one of our younger boys, were able to come and stay for a long weekend. While visiting, my friend Debbie, was reading Overcoming Sinful Anger: How to Master Your Emotions and Bring Peace to Your Life by Rev. T.G. Morrow. She left her copy behind for me and I read through it quite quickly. This is definitely a book to keep in your home library, especially when you or a family member is struggling with anger, as many of us do from time to time.

I oversee a Catholic women’s book club and this year we read the popular Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe. This is another little book to keep ever present in your home library. It is an extremely valuable spiritual work to have on hand in especial times of turmoil, distress, and anxiety.

Another work our book club read was You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth by Danielle Bean. I loved this book devoted to Old Testament women and their stories. Danielle’s writing style is very accessible and relevant to today’s woman. I loved her take on each of the stories and how she related their lessons to episodes in her own life.

After hearing an interview with Dr. Carrie Gress on Patrick Coffin’s podcast regarding her book The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Feminism, I went on a Carrie Gress kick and had to read most every book she’d written. Before diving into her book The Anti-Mary Exposed, I recommend you start with her The Marian Option: God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis. I also highly recommend Ultimate Makeover: The Transforming Power of Motherhood, especially for moms of younger children. I really wish I’d read that one when I was a young mom, but I did give it to my adult daughter who is a brand new mom to my first grand baby and she found a great amount of wisdom in her reading of it. Bonus: My two youngest boys did their Marian Consecration last May using her Marian Consecration for Children which was simple enough for our first communicant and challenging enough for our confirmand.

Danielle Bean interviewed prolific Marian author Marge Steinhage Fenelon on a recent episode of her Girlfriends podcast. Inspired by her most recent book, My Queen, My Mother–A Living Novena, I researched and wrote a piece for Catholic Sistas filled with Marian pilgrimages one could make right here in the United States. I also read her powerful Forgiving Mother–A Marian Novena of Forgiveness and Peace. Part autobiography and part devotional to Our Blessed Mother, I found it to be an extremely valuable read even though I do not have a particularly strained relationship with my own mother.

Another of my very favorite books from this past year was The Priests We Need to Save the Church by my new friend Kevin Wells. He was gracious enough to grant me an interview which was published here in December 2019. While his target audience is priests and bishops, Kevin’s book has tremendous potential for inspiring the laity to embrace the “universal call to holiness.”

In the next few days I’ll be finishing up Jay W. Richards’ newest book–Eat, Fast, Feast: Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul–A Christian Guide to Fasting. Dr. Richards (PhD in philosophy and theology) explores the history of fasting and how it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. He then goes on to encourage a return to a regiment of intermittent and long term fasting for physical as well as spiritual health. The book lays out a 46 day plan for preparing your body for longer fasts by putting it into a state of ketosis–a method which he promises will make fasting much easier without sacrificing the spiritual element. Being a true Catholic, Richards does not neglect addressing the spiritual value of feasting after the fast. With Lent upon our heels, I personally wanted to step-up my fasting and penance and this book may really help prepare the way.

What am I reading this Lent?

I have three spiritual works on my list this year.

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

What are you reading this Lent?

I love seeing what other Sistas are reading. Share your Lenten reading choices with us in the combox.

–Note: I provided links for each of the listed books. As far as I was able I linked to author websites or to Catholic merchants.