A September Round Up

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

Things are so busy that I feel like I am just able to do the next first thing in front of me. I have so many ideas that I want to get down into writing, but everything is swirling with no direction. There is also a lot that I want to write about, but not every story is just mine to share. It is one of the complexities of writing in the realm of nonfiction and current news and events. But also, I am not sure I am ready to write about all of it because I am still processing so much of it. The image in my head when I feel this way is a tangle of knots, like the hard ball that forms when a delicate chain wraps up into itself. When life gets like this, my go-to is Mary, Undoer of Knots. Her feast day is tomorrow – September 28th. In the many times I have turned to her she has gently shown me the role I play in making these knots tighter. Often by trying to fix what was in front of me – no matter how intensely I tried to pull and yank the knot out – it stubbornly laid there hardened in front of me. She showed me that sometimes you just need to gently knead out the knot by rolling it in your fingers and letting the knot show you where it can come unloosed. It takes time and patience. Slow breathing and stretch breaks.

In June, we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By placing these knots in front of Jesus and asking Him to take it up, I learned detachment. Ignatian spirituality helped drive that home. Detachment is a big scary leap that offers a freedom and lightness on the other side. It is so hard to loosen my grasp on the railing, but once I did, I found that I was on stable ground ready for me to regain my footing. In meditating on detachment I started to see that I didn’t need to hold on to these knots. Last night, in prayer, I realized that the Our Father actually nudges us towards detachment. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. It is what it will be. As they say in AA, “Let go and let God.” It’s all detachment. Now, that is not to say we move to inaction. Instead, it reminds us that we have a responsibility, yes, but we are not God. We will be judged by our actions, our care for Creation and her people, yes, and our love. The righteousness and holiness for which we are to strive is to be right with God, which begs the question: what is God’s and what is actually just… noise?

The knots that are mine to unravel slowly respond to the gentle movement between my fingers, like rosary beads falling and rising as I work towards the next Hail Mary. The knots that are not mine to fix will stubbornly sit there wound up and hardened no matter how hard I try to smooth it all out. It’s okay to let go of those knots and trust that someone will get to them. Maybe it will be you some day, but maybe today is not that day. Maybe it’s time to just lay it down for a bit and take some deep breaths and stretch your neck out. Look out the window and ask Mary and Jesus to hold on to it, work on it for a bit. From my experience, usually, it’s not really my handiwork anyway. Just the Spirit moving through my fingers.

That all just came spilling out of me and I really came here to share about some books and writings that I have seen around the Internet and thought I should beef it up a bit with some explanation of why I haven’t been writing on the blog. I guess some of those whirling ideas had more of a direction than I realized.

Here is what I wanted to share:

  • The newest issue of Common Horizon (Vol. 1 Issue 3) is now available for purchase at From Here Media.
  • Shannon Evans has a new book out called Rewilding Motherhood: Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality. I was lucky to be enough to be part of the launch team and, man, it does not disappoint. You can buy it here or pretty much anywhere books can be purchased. You can read my review here.
  • My Instagram friend Gina started a Substack and her writing is fantastic. She lives in France, but she is from Scotland. We both lived in Seattle, but not at the same time.
  • Now I am reading Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength by Kat Armas and I cannot wait to tell you more once I am done.
  • OH! And my other Instagram friend Cameron Bellm partnered with Lauren Winters from Brickhouse in the City released a new No Unlikely Saints devotional focused on mental health and it is just what the world needs right now.


Common Horizon Issue 2 and Before Gethsemane Initiative a New Nonprofit

Common Horizon Vol. 1 Issue 2 is now available for purchase!

Getting to walk alongside Alissa as she has grown From Here Media has been a privilege. I have a recurring article in the Common Horizon publication urging readers to move to action. Each issue explores one of the seven Catholic Social Teachings. Both Issue 1 and 2 are available for purchase. You can find the Universal Voices podcasts, From Here Sessions, and Common Horizon issues at FromHereMedia.org.

Support a newly forming nonprofit Before Gethsemane Initiative

I have recently been asked to sit on the Board of Directors for a newly forming nonprofit Before Gethsemane Initiative, an organization with fidelity to the Catholic Church and Her teachings and committed to anti-racism in the United States. We are in the early stages of incorporating the organization, which is the process of officially becoming a 501©3. If you are able, please consider donating to the GoFundMe as it costs a significant amount of money to start a nonprofit. If you are not able to donate at this time, please consider praying for our co-directors and the Board of Directors as we work together to launch this worthy organization.

If you are able to contribute to the startup costs, you can give to the GoFundMe.


A Place To Belong Letters From Catholic Women

I had the privilege of contributing to a project, A Place to Belong Letters from Catholic Women, that is currently available for pre-order, which will be released on March 25th – the Feast of Annunciation! In preparation for its release, I had the opportunity to be on a podcast “The Daughters’ Project” by the Media Nuns.

Pre-order the book here.

Listen to my episode on the podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Google!


Workers for Justice

Read more about this meeting among Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, and Dorothy Day here.

I like to think about the giants who have come before us – the giants whose shoulders we stand on – those that laid this ground work of seeking justice for us. A litany comes to mind: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta King, Servant of God Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Thomas Merton, Saint Oscar Romero, pray for us.

A friend shared a story on her account recently about people before us exchanging letters before ever meeting. And it makes me think about the relationships among these greats that started over letter writing. Yesterday I learned that Thomas Merton and Dr. MLK, Jr. were set to make a retreat mere days after MLK’s assassination. Dorothy Day traveled West to meet Cesar Chavez and offer support and solidarity for fieldworkers. The connections to the global struggle for justice are everywhere.

Read more about this meeting among Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, and Dorothy Day here.

I think about the work for justice today and the relationships of solidarity I have made over Instagram. I joked that learning about the letter writing made me feel less creepy about calling these people friends even though I’ve never met them, but I have spent hours with them on Instagram, Voxer, and Slack. Social media can be a dumpster-fire-time-suck, yes, but I sense that the Holy Spirit is at work here, too. The Internet has offered me community, solidarity, and consolation in the midst of pandemics – a pandemic of injustice, a pandemic of loneliness, a pandemic of disease. This space has helped me persevere as I limp along – exhausted, angry, and tired – maybe the same way these letters exchanged by the greats helped them find energy to keep going, often feeling isolated and alone.

I’m thankful for these friends. I am thankful for those that came before us that started the work that we must now take up to do our part to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. The work of justice must happen in community and it’s okay that, right now, this community is virtual. But oh what joy it brings me to think about when we get to meet face-to-face and embrace and make a retreat together – all for the good work of justice.

May we remember and honor the saints and the workers every day. May we take up the fight for justice and find respite in these communities.

To read Dorothy Day’s account of the pictured encounter with Cesar Chavez and Coretta Scott King click here.


The Long Loneliness

As 2020 comes to a close I’ve been compiling photo books. Sometimes the pictures convey more than words ever could, but sometimes the pictures can also smooth the edges of the roughest memories. And the latter is making me increasingly uncomfortable. I’m being reminded that in the art of storytelling we need those rough memories no matter how hard they are to remember. Not because we need to wallow in what’s hard, but we need the reminders of what we have overcome. We need the generations-to-come to know that they are not alone in feeling their angst, their disappointment, their cynicism. We were there once. And we are still there, too. If we embrace a nonlinear understanding of time I think we can better cope with the need for reflection. Anyone who has dealt with any sort of traumatic event can attest to the fact that we don’t really ever “move on” and forget. Instead, these moments embed in us and we often revisit them. We circle back. I don’t mean that we live in and wallow in the trauma, but it is important that we sit in it and feel it in order to heal from it. It’s okay to revisit it. We don’t just do it for ourselves. We do it to be of service to others. To offer empathy and support when someone else finds themselves in a place we once were. We can go back to those painful times, whether the feelings have dulled or not, and we can still pull from those experiences. I think in many ways our current generations have lost the art of healing and storytelling. We have lost the sacred ways in which our ancestors learned and taught when we bought into Western linear time. Let us not forget that God has never claimed a linear timeline. As Saint Oscar Romero reminds us in his Christmas homilies, Jesus is simultaneously in the incarnation and the crucifixion. As humans, we have the capacity to feel the loneliness of the darkness and the warmth of the light at the same time. It may be uncomfortable, but is it not part of the complexity of the human experience? I think of Mary’s joy as she brings forth the Son and her sorrow at the foot of the cross. Without both, our salvation story is incomplete.

As I think about 2020 I know that it wasn’t just our world that was rocked, but there are some things we celebrated and suffered that was unique to us as a family. Jobs lost, financial uncertainty, balancing working from home and academic, behavioral, and social progress of the kids on our own — in those ways our experience was very much like a lot of people around us. But we also had to confront addiction, and recovery, and whatever life is after that. I took on a month of solo parenting while working from home in a pandemic while I was 8 months pregnant. By the time Mila was born I felt like I was at my weakest. I remember, while laboring with her, that I wasn’t sure I had the strength to do it this time. I felt like I was drawing from an empty well. My body was tired and I am still feeling the affects of it. But I also got paid to do consulting and restorative justice work. We somehow swindled the universe into letting us buy a house. But, the loneliness of 2020 is the heaviest. Having a baby during a pandemic is lonely. Navigating addiction and recovery is lonely. Being separated by thousands of miles from my best friends and my closest family members is lonely. And right here at the end, our beloved dog died.

This loneliness is not something that I can fix with a 2021 resolution. I can’t help but think of the words of Servant of God Dorothy Day, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” My heart aches for community. I have been reminded about my passion for radical hospitality. I think for many of us, a light was shown on our loneliness this year and we are being forced to grapple with it in a way that we weren’t prepared for. I don’t have any solutions to this or a nice send-off. Instead, I am sharing I suppose, to reach out, to offer a space of welcome and solidarity. We have work to do ahead of us, but we cannot go at it alone. Together, we were made for times such as these.


10 Tips for #GivingTuesday from Your Friendly Nonprofit Professional

Hello from your friendly nonprofit professional! I am going to start with some not-so-great news, but end with some action items. I want to leave you feeling hopeful so hang in with me for a sec, k?

According to Philanthropy News Digest charitable giving is down in 2020 and that is probably a surprise to absolutely no one. There are reports circulating, like this one, that many community-based organizations are increasingly getting inquiries from potential donors asking for voting history and political affiliation of the recipients of their charitable giving. In case you didn’t know, this is unethical and pretty much always illegal for charities, social services, and nonprofits to collect and track this information, let alone as an eligibility prerequisite. Although this is not surprising given the current political climate we’ve had over the last few years, it is disappointing.

In my stints in fund development I learned that most people are generous givers and trust the good people doing the good work to be responsible with the donations. However, there were always a few thorns demanding more recognition, offering unsolicited criticisms, or sharing their veiled (or sometimes blatant) prejudice thoughts about the community the organization served. So, I don’t find this surprising to hear — especially after the election cycle that we just had.

Here are ten tips for you to keep in mind this #GivingTuesday to start practicing how to be a responsible and well-loved donor, especially if this is new for you! I’ll link to some of my favorite organizations at the end of this post.

So, tell me: what are some of your tips? And what are some of your favorite organizations to donate to?

And now, some of my favorite organizations to support:


Welcome (and stay awhile) to an intersection of justice, social change, and Catholicism

At the beginning of my reversion to Catholicism, sitting on a futon in a small dorm room in Seattle that I shared with Melissa, I would scour the Internet for blogs or articles or just something that was written from a point of view of a Latina cradle Catholic. I was looking to find a Latina whose Catholicism was formed by a conviction for social justice and a grandma praying the rosary with a copy of Vanidades laying around. I was looking to find a reflection of myself in someone else. If the statistics were right, I knew I wasn’t the only one out there, but back then I never found anyone. 

My hope in sharing honestly and openly through these little boxes is to offer a space where someone else searching for the intersection of justice, social change, and Catholicism can come sit around this fire and spin ideas. I want to offer what I was looking for to help someone else feel less alone. Fast forward to today and I have found comadres talking and planning and moving to action among the corners of the interwebs. I am apart of and I have helped create and space like the one I was looking for.

I decided awhile ago, though, that I’m not going to stress about curating this weird little piece of Internet that I have. I really, really love photography as a creative outlet. I like the idea of a feed with a color palette and a cohesive theme. But, I’ve learned over and over again that my life does not lend itself well to that type of stability. A good and wise and former college roommate who knows me startling well (Melissa I’m looking at you) has said some things to me over the past few weeks that has helped me remember this. As a family we’ve had to pivot and reimagine what life is going to look like in dramatic ways. Career changes, cross-country to cross-the-town moves, some-day-but-not-yet answered prayers, unexpected babies, unexpected medical journeys, and loss and death, addiction and recovery. It has often left me feeling like I am grasping to steady myself on some janky carnival ride. Even if I am able to plant my feet, I am not entirely sure this whole thing isn’t going to have a major malfunction and fly off its tracks. It’s dishonest for me to try to package that into some nice message for you to follow because over here the outcome is usually messy and a little lopsided. My guess is that maybe that’s true for you, too. 

We are often telling writers, and artists, and neighbors to stay in their lane on the Internet. We want to commodify each other – we want the products, but we don’t want the people. And I’m not down with that. I’m going to say what Melissa reminded me of: there is space for us to be too much, and too intense, and too loud about the things that hurt us or inspire us or move us to action. There is space for us to invite one another in and circle up and share our gifts and talents, as well as our thoughts and opinions. So, if you have been searching for a place where justice, social change, and Catholicism intersect: welcome and stay awhile.

Catholic, Mindful Wanderings

Philosophical Tensions

Mel Ziegler: Flag Exchange, installation view at Frist Art Museum, 2020

It was in college that I first started to notice and become uncomfortable with seeing the flag for the United States at the front of churches. To be honest, it makes me uncomfortable to see them anywhere in a church. It’s at this same time that my eyes were really being opened up to the dysfunctional relationships between patriotism and Christianity in the United States. I was also delving pretty deep into rediscovering Catholicism. I was earning a degree in Global Development Studies at a Protestant Christian college. I had just started to sort out the philosophical contradictions in my life that I think a lot of first generation kids struggle with.  

I had a hard time feeling proud to be from a country that so clearly exploited my father’s home country for its own economic gain. I ended up spending years reading and writing papers about the complicated relationship between the United States, Nicaragua, and the rest of the countries that make up Central America. I knew that I was supposed to be grateful to be living the life that I was, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty at what this all cost. I felt like I had lost out on honoring this culture that had so deeply shaped my identity.

I moved away from the Catholic Church in high school and I realize now that it was it’s own form of assimilation that I was going through. I was drawn to the progressiveness that one can find in nondenominational Christian circles. Where I grew up, this was largely compromised of a whole bunch of white people going on missions trips to countries that were ripe with Catholic history. I was being told that the Catholic Church was not the place for the social justice issues that I cared about. And even though in my gut I knew that I was Catholic, I kept trying to find a way to fit in with hip nondenominational Christians that claimed to be living like the first apostles. This carried over into a missions trip when I was 17 to Ireland and England that truly changed the course of my life. My relationship to Catholicism was something I was still trying to figure out all throughout my time in college and grad school.

The deeper I got into looking into my faith and my politics (by way of my choice in taking the academic route that I did) the more I felt out of place in Protestantism and the more I felt cynical towards the US. In researching for papers and projects about the United States and Central America I naturally started to stumble upon the important (and sometimes contentious) role Catholicism has plaid in recent Latin American history. A simple question of “why” led me to better understanding Catholic Social Teaching, liberation theology, and some badass religious. Why was Saint Oscar Romero willing to go toe-to-toe with the Salvadoran government? Why was Father Ernesto Cardenal willing to have his rights stripped as a priest to administer the sacraments to fight alongside the Sandinistas? So much so that it led to many of their deaths. Why were these government entities seeing Catholic nuns and laypeople as such a threat to their power? 

This red, white, and blue flag standing at the front of churches started to feel like a betrayal to the parts of me that I felt most confident and connected to: I’m Catholic. I’m the daughter of a Nicaraguan refugee. 

I wish I could say that coming back to Catholicism in all of its fullness was the reconciling I needed to seeing those flags at the front of all those churches that I hopped around. For awhile, it did, I suppose. But the reality is that there are times when it feels like the political world of Evangelical Protestants have hijacked the ancient Catholicism that radicalized the likes of Peter Maurin, Servant of God Dorothy Day, Father Ernesto Cardenal, and Saint Oscar Romero. The search to make this all make sense hurts in a different, deeper way this time around.

It has been hard to find Catholics on the world of the Internet and social media that I could relate to in a meaningful way. Back in college I scoured blogs and endlessly Googled trying to find someone who related to my Hispanic Catholicism and my bi-cultural upbringing. The closest I got were finding Catholics that were also passionate about social justice. I settled with that for a long time. Finally, just in the last couple of years I have started to connect with other comadres and it has been life giving. But it’s also made a glaring wedge to some of the ways the Catholic Church in the US has failed to work in solidarity with and for some its most devout. 

Whether we are talking about abortion, civil unions for the LBGTQ+ community, Black Lives Matter, or immigration policy many Evangelicals and Catholics alike are tone deaf to how their words land. The way in which many decide to defend the Church and her teachings end up leaving harm and hurt in their wake. A documentary recently came out with a clip of Pope Francis talking about how we should be protecting our friends and family that identify as LGBTQ+. The Catholic response was so quick to remind people that Catholics “don’t believe in gay marriage” that they missed the whole point: we also need to first come to people with love and compassion. We need to recognize that our obsession with the legality of marriage between certain people have made for rhetoric that is perceived as hateful and unwelcoming. It’s making people feel like they will never be loved or worthy by the Church our her followers. 

This is true, too, for the rhetoric around abortion, immigration, and a whole host of “progressive” causes, is it not? Language calling women murders and splashing pictures of tangled fetuses is not only lacking compassion, it is traumatizing. In what ways could we all be better at entering these conversations not to tell people to not have an abortion, but instead actually be proactive about meeting the needs they identify as most important? Instead of insisting that our current immigration policies are someone else’s fault or assuming those crossing those invisible lines are ruthless criminals ready to take down the integrity of the United States, maybe sitting down and truly listening to the stories about why someone chose to make that journey would do us some good. Something that I have learned from these years I have spent in the nonprofit field is that the most successful and effective programs and policies are the ones that are led by the community that the work is intended to serve. 

I am not totally hopeless when I look around at my fellow Catholics. I do find myself startled time and time again to come across people who understand so much of the faith, but totally miss the mark on these issues. There is a way to defend the faith and share the ancient traditions with those around us without causing so much harm along the way. It’s worrisome to see the blurred lines between our faith and patriotism. I pray that us Catholics start to do a better job of honoring the legacy of social justice in our Church and that we commit to doing a better job in the future. I pray that The reality is that a lot of us shy away from certain movements (ahem, Black Lives Matter, for example) because we don’t agree with all of the tenets of the organizers or the mission at hand. Instead of inaction because you don’t agree with the loudest voices, I encourage all of us to figure out how we can still be moved to action. We cannot use the politics of anybody else as an excuse to sit any of this out. That may mean we pave our own path, but that in no way means we should ever turn our back on the injustices of our time. And that might mean that we hold our Church as our home to welcome all lives into as our number one priority. 

Some further reading and listening that may be of interest to you: