The Family and The Mystical Body of Christ

Some days I feel like the entire day is spent encouraging, lecturing, threatening, and punishing kids into applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…When you think about it, families can be composed of individuals who would never choose to live in the same hemisphere, much less in the same home!

I struggle as a Mom. Some days I feel like the entire day is spent encouraging, lecturing, threatening, and punishing kids into applying the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Knowing my goal is not tyrannical subjugation, but rather a “disposition of reciprocal openness and autonomy together,” I’ve tried every analogy under the sun. The one I use most frequently is that as a family, we are all part of the same team (our younger kids have been around team sports a lot more than they’ve studied anatomy). As a team, we celebrate each other’s victories, because, well, they are victories for all of us. And we mourn each other’s losses because, well, they are our losses too. And most importantly, we build up, we do not tear down. When we build one another up, we are building up the entire team. When we tear down, we are harming the entire team (i.e. the family).

At times, this is easier said than done, given the wide variety of personalities in our home. But apparently, our home is not alone in this struggle. G.K. Chesterton once said,

“The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each of us did on the day that he was born.

This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up.” – Brave New Family, p. 43

Of course that’s true. For when you think about it, families can be composed of individuals who would never choose to live in the same hemisphere, much less in the same home! In The Birth Order Book, Kevin Leman says that if a family is a tree, the children are the branches – and of course, branches grow in all different directions. In fact, Leman says,

“One of the best predictions in life is that whatever the firstborn in a family is, the second born in the family will go in a different (and oftentimes opposite) direction.”

What better soil for the organic development of a healthy and robust Body of Christ? For growing in consideration, patience and selfless love?

Of course, if our family is any indication, sometimes I don’t have much hope for the rest of world. In those moments I’m mediating until my tongue is in knots, or separating a couple of rowdy kids because I fear the damage resulting from being together will out-do the damage caused by being apart. In those moments, I question God’s grand plan for the sanctity of the world. In those moments I would give anything just to walk away from the awesome responsibility of raising saints.

But there are others. There are moments — thankfully, many moments —  that give me hope. Those moments can only be described as sacred portrayals of God’s Holy Will for all of mankind. When one notices a slight, and goes out of her way to offer comfort and support. When another takes his siblings out for dessert in a restaurant, just because. When one repents harmful behavior and seeks forgiveness; but even more, reconciliation, and there is mercy and acceptance and…love. When they help each other with schoolwork, do a chore without being asked. Write a note. Draw a picture. Say a prayer for a family member. These are moments that offer hope for the future. There are moments of heaven in family life – when all the struggles, sacrifices and suffering have their reward.

Even more importantly, in those moments, our family is a family. It is in those moments what God intended it to be. We are one body, united in the Holy Spirit, pouring ourselves out for one another in love.

If we can become one body within the confines of our own homes, beginning in the confines of our own hearts, than there is hope that we can be one unified body in our communities, in our states, in our country, and throughout the world. And that hope is necessary. Because when I watch the news, read the paper or browse through social media, I see a diseased body, contorted and vulgar in disparagement and hatred, inflicting violence against herself. There is no discourse. There are only cancerous walls full of anger and hatred and inexplicable disdain.

I cannot change the world. I cannot heal the Body of Christ. But I can pour my heart and soul into our own little domestic church, calling upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen the cells of this microcosm of Christ’s Body within our home. By God’s grace, perhaps one day our children might be sent out into the greater Body of Christ, full of strength, probiotic in nature, resilient and immune to the cancers of hate and selfishness.  I can keep grasping at those little moments of hope I am privileged to witness every now and then, as my husband and I do our best to infuse our home with the love of Christ, knowing that the infusion is our path to sanctity. Over time, we are bound to witness an increase in the  reciprocal openness and autonomy together, that simultaneous intimacy and dignity which comes from the Holy Ghost. 

In the end, whatever struggles we endure and whatever sacrifice is necessary, we must persevere. For the family is the only hope for the world, particularly as it applies to the mystical body.  As Saint John Paul II said in a 1986 homily,

The family is the “first and vital cell of society”. In its own way it is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church. The future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family.


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Art: The Happy Family by Jean Honoré Fragonard, c. 1775


Sacrifice in the News: Real Love Faces Obstacles – Here’s How One Couple Faces Them

Doctors Told Him to Check His Wife into a Nursing Home; Instead, He Wheeled Her Around the World.


Doctors Told Him to Check His Wife into a Nursing Home; Instead, He Wheeled Her Around the World*


Donna and Andy Fierlit








Janusz Korczak: A Hero of the Holocaust

If you were to walk through the entire cemetery, gazing upon stone after stone after stone, you would find only one engraved with a name. That name, is Janusz Korczak.

“God, give me a hard life but let it be beautiful, rich and aspiring.” — Janusz Korczak, Prayer from his youth, recorded in the Warsaw Ghetto Diary

The name Janusz Korczak may not ring a bell for many Americans. If you’ve heard of him at all, you probably read The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. But even there, Korczak was one of many stories featured tangentially alongside the feature story of the Zabinskis, a husband and wife team of zookeepers in Warsaw who used their property to hide Jewish refugees, protecting them from the Warsaw Ghetto and from unspeakable concentration camps once the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Or perhaps you read about him in The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman, which is the autobiographical account of Szpilman’s own years in the Warsaw Ghetto. In both books, Korczak is but a side story, an annotation on a central plot. You may have even read right past him amidst all the other compelling tales. But in Europe, Janusz Korczak’s story is legendary. In fact, in Europe, Janusz Korczak is as well known as Anne Frank. There is a monument to him at Yad Vashem in Israel, another in Warsaw and a memorial stone dedicated to him at the concentration camp in Treblinka, where he died.

By education, Janusz Korczak was a pediatrician in Poland at the dawn of the twentieth century. His passion for writing and for children catapulted him to fame in another area, as the author of several books for and about children, which are still available to Polish families today. In 1912, his love for children resulted in his establishing an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw. Korczak, himself, was the director. When the Warsaw Ghetto was opened in 1940, the children were ordered to abandon their home and relocate within the heavily guarded walls of this 1.3 square mile living hell, along with 400,000 other Jews. Korczak was offered refuge on the “Arian side” of the fence, but he chose to escort his children into the Ghetto and to remain with them there.

For three years, Korczak devoted all his energy to creating some semblance of home for his children amidst the atrocities of the Ghetto. He treated each child with dignity and respect. He ran his orphanage like a democracy, with a court system run by the children themselves, teaching them always to show kindness and consideration toward others. He begged for food for the children for hours each day, if only to bring home a few crusts of bread or a bit of watery broth to share. And then in 1942, there were rumors that Ghetto residents were to be rounded up and placed on a transport to the Treblinka Extermination Camp. Shortly before the transport arrived, Korczak directed his children in a play about a little boy that dies. At the moment of death, the boy sees a radiant light, feeling immense joy and happiness for which there could be no parallel in this world. Many have claimed that Korczak chose this play because he wanted to prepare the children for what was to come. He had a great desire to protect them from fear.

In early August 1942, troops arrived and transport carriers stopped outside the Warsaw Ghetto. Along with thousands of others, the children were requested to board the trains. Again, Korczak was offered an escape via the Polish underground. Instead, witnesses watched, amazed as he and all 196 children exited the orphanage, dressed in their best clothes, each child carrying a favorite toy. There were no tears. There was no distress. Korczak, along with his children – some as young as two or three years, with the oldest being no more than thirteen –  walked peacefully together, hand in hand, toward the train. They boarded together. Once SS officers slammed the doors shut, Korczak and his children were never heard from again. Later, it was confirmed that they had been executed together in the gas chambers at Treblinka, along with hundreds of thousands of others; Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz for its number of executions.

If you were to arrive at Treblinka today, you would find an awe-inspiring memorial to all those who lost their lives in that horrendous place. There is a symbolic cemetery set up to honor hundreds of thousands of Jews who were killed in the gas chambers there. In the “symbolic” cemetery, there are 17,000 stones standing erect, representing persons, families and populations of entire towns that were destroyed at the Treblinka death camp. But if you were to walk through the entire cemetery, gazing upon stone after stone after stone, you would find only one engraved with a name. That name, is Janusz Korczak.

It is puzzling to think that of 70,000 stones, only one is engraved with the name of a person. Is that perhaps because, amidst the hundreds of thousands of victims, this one man very clearly, at every turn, before and during the atrocities of WWII, sacrificed himself and his safety and security for the most vulnerable of all? Could it be because Korczak did not have his life taken from him, but rather that he laid down his life for the weakest, most defenseless of his “friends?”

korczak stone

We call this, this life, sans wealth, sans freedom, sans accolades, given over for the most vulnerable and ending in a gruesome death that did not have to be – this life that placed God before self and served others on His behalf – we call this sacrifice.


The Jews, our older brothers and sisters in Christ, have a tradition which states that in every generation, there will be 36 Just Men, whose shoulders bear the weight of salvation. These men, through the purity of their souls and the righteousness of their lives, provide a foundation on which rests the security and the future of the world. It is widely held that Janusz Korczak was one of those precious 36.



NOTE: Be Alarmed: I share the above story in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which has been designated for observance this entire week (4/12-4/19).  Sadly, it seems that fewer and fewer Americans are being educated about the Holocaust at all. Thursday an alarming survey was released  showing that a full 41 percent of American adults do not know what Auschwitz was – this figure includes 66 percent of Millennials. In fact, 22 percent of Millennials had never even heard of the Holocaust. Be vary wary – those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

We need to help our children and young adults to learn more. There are so many books to help readers to gain some understanding of that time period in history – education need not be limited to “boring” textbook accounts. Check out some of these harrowing stories, mostly nonfiction, some historical fiction, that will hopefully inspire further curiosity about this unbelievable time in human history:

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson….(autobiographical account of the youngest Jew saved by Oscar Schindler)

Night by Elie Wiesel (about his experiences at Auschwitze and Buchenwald concentration camps with his father from 1944-1945, at the height of the Holocaust)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Diary of a Jewish girl in hiding for two years during the German occupation of The Netherlands)

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (true story about a couple that owned the Warsaw Zoo, and saved over 300 Jews on their property through the war)

The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Wladyslaw Szpilman (inspiration for Oscar award-winning movie, The Pianist)

Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (award-winning novel and inspiration for the movie by the same name; based on detailed testimony of “Schindler’s Jews” – demonstrates beautifully the courage and cleverness of Oscar Schindler and his ability to work agains his own to save over 1,200 Jews from certain death)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (pure fiction, but places you right in the setting of WWII – on both sides; this amazingly well-written novel follows a blind French girl and a German boy through their parallel experiences during WWII – Pulitzer prize winner with great historical accuracy; does not focus concentration camps, but rather the chaos of the war, and the evil that begat it)

New Friday Feature – Sacrifice in the News

Here, at Pelican’s Breast, we believe Friday is the perfect forum to celebrate contemporary stories of sacrifice, some big, some small, all of which which represent Christ and His perfect observance of the two greatest commandments – love of God and love of neighbor.  

Traditionally, Friday is reserved as a day to reflect on Christ and His Cross. It is a day to do penance by making sacrifices of our own in honor of the Greatest Sacrifice, from which all good comes, and which is a fountain of life and source of grace. As such, at Pelican’s Breast, we believe Friday posts are the perfect forum for celebrating contemporary stories of sacrifice, some big, some small, all of which which represent Christ and His perfect observance of the two greatest commandments – love of God and love of neighbor.

Feel free to email me a link to great stories you’d like to see featured here!  This week, we have three news stories to profile, as well as an inspirational first episode of a great new video series about everyday heroes, produced by the Knights of Columbus:


French Gendarme Gives his Life in Exchange for a Female Hostage

french police officer

Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame 


Brother Gets Haircut to Match Sister’s 10-inch Scar

brother hair cut

Ethan McMullan (19) and his sister, Alana (17)


Driver in a Burning Vehicle Rescued by Two Good Samaritans


Dash cam video shows Jose Martinez rescuing driver from being burned alive. 



Everyday Hero, Joe Reali –
Complements of Knights of Columbus

Everyday Hero, Joe Reali, in a feature story produced and shared by Knights of Columbus.

Has Your Child Left the Church? You are not Alone, but Elisabeth Leseur Can Help

In a recent homily, our parish priest discussed the staggering fact that 80 percent of baptized young people are leaving the Faith before they are 25 years old.

In a recent homily, our parish priest discussed the staggering fact that 80 percent of baptized young people are leaving the Faith before they are 25 years old. He was sharing the findings of a newly published study conducted by St. Mary’s Press, in conjunction with Georgetown University. The report —  Going, Going, Gone! The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics — discusses the self-reported reasons Millennials give for leaving the Church. Our pastor mentioned three:
  1. They do not believe in God
  2. The Church is full of Hypocrites.
  3. What the Church has to say about morality (particularly sexual morality) is diametrically opposed to what the culture is teaching Millennials.
Elisabeth intuitively recognized and understood each of these reasons, and sought to eradicate them through the only productive means possible —  personal transformation. May each of us be inspired to adopt her resolutions, that His light may be encountered by every soul we meet:
Elisabeth_LeseurIt is not in arguing or in lecturing that I can make them know what God is to the human soul. But in struggling with myself, in becoming, with His help, more Christian and more valiant, I will bear witness to Him whose humble disciple I am. By the serenity and strength that I mean to acquire, I will prove that the Christian life is great and beautiful and full of joy. By cultivating all the best faculties of my mind, I will proclaim God is the highest Intelligence and that those who serve Him can draw without end from that blessed source of intellectual and moral light. The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, p. 10


Elisabeth Leseur, Pray for us!


Important Note: The brief reflection above was written for a wonderful website promoting the cause for Elisabeth Leseur’s canonization – an effort I pray will be fruitful, as there is so much we can learn from this holy woman. Please check out for more information and join EL Circle of Friends!


The Terrible Beauty of God’s Love

Despite our complete inadequacy before God, we know that He desires that we open up ourselves in order to give ourselves to Him to the best of our abilities—even if it falls short.  Love requires an openness that makes one vulnerable.

by Fr. Jeff Loseke

There is nothing more beautiful—and more terrifying—than to reflect upon the love of God.  God’s love is so beautiful and so terrifying because God’s love is utterly real.  It is Believer Heartnot merely an emotion, a thought, or an ideal.  Rather, the love of God is His very self.  To stand before the love of God is to stand before Him who made us and who knows us better than we could ever know ourselves.  Despite our complete inadequacy before God, we know that He desires that we open up ourselves in order to give ourselves to Him to the best of our abilities—even if it falls short.  Love requires an openness that makes one vulnerable.

As human beings, we do such a good job covering up our weaknesses and donning various armors and defense mechanisms all for the sake of protecting our weak and vulnerable selves.  On the one hand, we desire love and intimacy.  On the other hand, we want to remain in control.  We struggle with weakness—both in ourselves and in others.  We are often perturbed by our own lack of strength and fortitude, and we are not always gentle and understanding with the weaknesses and shortcomings of others.  And so, as an antidote, we must look to the Cross.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is God’s most perfect communication of His love for us.  On the Cross, Jesus chose to become weak, broken, despised, and even forgotten.  What an act of faith to look at Jesus’ Cross and see God there!  To the nonbeliever, one would see only a criminal, beaten beyond recognition, guilty of treason, and left to die on an instrument of profound humiliation and torture.  He is a loser, defeated… and yet, in that total emptying of self, He gives all, and He gains all.  This is the truth about love, which makes little sense to our secular society that is driven primarily by feelings, emotions, and personal desires.

To understand and relish the truth about love requires one to spend time studying, digesting, and even entering into a relationship with the truth.  I use the word relationship to highlight this reality because if God is truth, then to know and relish the truth is to know and relish one’s relationship with God.  That relationship, however, ought not to collapse in on itself, however.  Therefore, to translate the truth into the way one lives his or her life is necessary for love to be complete.  Love must bear fruit, give life, and bring people together.  It must be relational, fruitful, and affect the way we live our lives—for God and for others.  This is the mystery of love, the mystery of God, and the mystery of the human person.  To be open and vulnerable before another in total self-gift is to be real.  This is what makes God’s love both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.


The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

Art: Christ, helped by angels, decorates the believer’s heart wit, 2014 (Wikimedia Commons)


Is Your Marriage Lacking a Certain Chemical Element?

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young fresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun?

Valentine’s Day is upon us again.

Do you watch all the ads with the lovey dovey smiles and the flirtatious eyes, and try to remember what that felt like? Do you recall the giddiness of being young and marriage paintingfresh and so in love that even folding socks together was fun? Where even an accidental touch was electrifying and you called your love 100 times a day just to hear his voice?

If we’re not careful, love can become like a favorite shirt thoughtlessly tossed into the bottom of a drawer. Over time we tend to pile other things on top of it, passing it over from day to day without even thinking until some random thought, word or action sparks a reminder, and we realize that something very special is missing.

When I was in my early twenties, I began a cross-stitch project that I was sure would be a permanent focal point on my wall. It was a huge, colorful piece of country folk art, and it would have been beautiful. Today, six kids and fifty million ideas later, that piece of art has long been abandoned to the wasteland of forgotten projects.

Recently, my daughters and I were digging through my sewing box to find notions for their latest crafts. Sure enough, they found that old piece of material with the beautiful, but unfinished cross-section of a town, all neatly stitched in bright, bold colors. The finished portion would probably fill a 9×13 frame. They were awestruck. “Mom! This was sooo beautiful! Why would you leave it in a box?! Why don’t you finish it? How could you just put this down and walk away?”

How to explain that things came up? That I was too busy holding babies, doing laundry and feeding kids? And as time passed, my obligations only became greater, running kids from here to there. Other goals. Other plans. I never intended to set it aside for good. In the beginning, I only put it away during a busy time in my life. But then along came something else. And pretty soon, it was relegated to an old sewing box as I focused on making new curtains, pillows and bedspreads for our first house. And then along came the children and there were the sports and the play dates and school. There was always something that kept me from picking up that project.

And now?

I’m no longer interested.

Sadly, many marriages end up in the predicament. Sometimes we cast them aside, with every intention of getting back to them “later,” when life calms down. But then things don’t calm down, and our marriage becomes faded and dingy, lacking the bright color and excitement it once had.

Has our love dwindled?


It’s there; but it might be a little lethargic, perhaps suffering from a lack of oxygen.

It might do us good to breathe a little life back into our marriages – both body and soul.

While challenges in marriage can be complicated, the action of loving is not. Love is a verb. And we must take steps to love our spouses, no matter the condition of our relationship. A simple love offering can go a long way toward reviving that spark. Take some time this week to spend some special time together, sans distractions. And make that a habit. Talk. Listen. Pray together. Attend adoration together. And more than anything else, recognize the privilege you’ve been given by virtue of your sacred union.

There is no magic pill that will liven a marriage relationship. Love takes time. It takes sacrifice. And it takes commitment. Here are just six thoughts to keep in mind regarding this amazing sacrament that is marriage on this very special day. Perhaps contemplating the profound nature of your relationship will help to ignite the flame of desire and spark the passion of commitment:

  1. You have been chosen and called, therefore, as husbands and wives to be for one another the living experiential sign and expression of God’s love by sharing with each other the gifts of uncompromising love, unconditional acceptance, ceaseless dedication, total fidelity, and untiring service. These are the signs of God’s love, and this is what makes God present in the Sacrament of Matrimony. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love

  2. How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father?!!! How wonderful the bond between two believers, with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh. In fact, they are truly two in one flesh, and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit. Tertullian, quoted in Familiaris Consortio, by Pope John Paul II

  3. The basic error of mankind has been to assume that only two are needed for love; you and me, or society and me, or humanity and me. Really it takes three: self, other selves, and God; you, and me, and God. Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful…Duality in love is extinction through the exhaustion of self-giving. Love is triune or it dies. —Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married, p. 43

  4. In spousal love, the body of the beloved assumes a unique charm as the vessel of this person’s soul, and also as embodying in a unique way the general charm and attraction which femininity has for man, or virility has for woman. Spousal love aspires to the bodily union as a specific fulfillment of the total union, as a unique, deep, mutual self-donation. — Dietrich von Hildebrand, Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy, p. 47

  5. Romance is almost sure to die; love, however, does not have to die with it. Love is meant to mature, and it can do so if that readiness for sacrifice implied in the original self-giving of marital consent is alive or can be activiated. The idea that true love is prepared for sacrifice strikes a chord that perhaps our preaching needs to touch on more. As Pope John Paul II says, “It’s natural for the human heart to accept demands, even difficult ones, in the name of love for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person.— Cormac Burke, Covenanted Happiness, pg. 24

  6. Matrimony crushes selfishness, first of all, because it merges individuals into a corporate life in which neither lives for self but for the other; it crushes selfishness also because the very permanence of marriage is destructive of those fleeting infatuations, which are born with the moment and die with it; it destroys selfishness, furthermore, because the mutual love of husband and wife takes them out of themselves into the incarnation of their mutual love, their other selves, their children; and finally it narrows selfishness because the rearing of children demands sacrifice, without which, like unwatered flowers, they wilt and die.— Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Cross and the Beatitudes, p. 41-42

  7. Do not forget that true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, but simply loves. – Saint John Paul II, Jubilee of Youth

Guest-Post: Introducing Paula Zwenger

In marriage, those small blessings we can offer our spouse tend to go a long way. Paula Zwenger captures their beauty in her poem, “This Man of Mine”

Recently I camthe_marriage_of_mary_and_joseph-_engraving_by_s-a-_bolswert_wellcome_v0034533e across a poem by Paula Zwenger that really speaks to the subject of sacrifice in a beautiful and inviting way – particularly as it pertains to the vocation of marriage. I wasted no time in asking if she would allow me to post it here. Thankfully she said yes – please enjoy her contribution below:


Easing Into the Ordinary

Who doesn’t love a good party – times when you gather with family and friends, partake of really delicious food, and wile away hours in fun and games? Perhaps you commemorate festivities by exchanging gifts, traditional mementos or souvenirs?

Life is full of reasons to rejoice. We make merry at birthday parties, graduations, or if good health and grace allow, high-number anniversaries in our vocations. We may travel different paths to arrive at our milestones, and express our thanksgiving in unique and creative ways based on our cultural traditions, but the logistics of our celebrations hold a few things in common.

Each one starts with preparation, building anticipation proportionate to the length and importance of the feast. Do you need to choose and send invitations? Are out-of-town guests expected? Where will they stay? Who plans and executes the menus for meals (don’t forget that Aunt Susan is allergic to nuts and Cousin Joe is diabetic)? Is special clothing required? Will there be a photographer? What about decorations? ‘To-do’ lists span columns or pages and require many hands to accomplish.

Finally . . . the ‘big day’ arrives! Everything goes off without a hitch (or not).  You spend yourself in joy, creating memories to last a lifetime. You may even arrive at this day exhausted by your preparations, but still luxuriate in what goes right, and bask in the joy on faces of those around you. This is what life is about – the very feasts that help make life worth living. Gratitude is simple to attain and acclaim in the midst of such blessing!

Then . . . a new day dawns. The party is over. It’s now time for post-celebration clean-up and return to day to day living. No more dancing in the streets, or aisles, or banquet hall – now you roll up your sleeves and return to work.

As Catholics, our faith tradition provides us with a liturgical calendar of seasons which help to focus our prayers, thoughts and actions.  We cherish the beauty of an extended Christmas season, which lasts far beyond the influences of secular society. Yet even with all the opportunity for special feasts and solemnities, we can wax nostalgic for the beauty of the crèche and stockings and beautifully lighted tree as it comes to a close.

In fact, in our house we’ve been known to ‘extend’ this season, as evidenced by holiday decorations, by as long as two weeks into Ordinary Time. If your family is anything like mine, everyone is excited to put up Christmas decorations, but no one is excited to take them down. The house looks a bit empty for awhile when the colors, lights, and precious heirlooms have been stowed away again for another year, out of sight.

This year, once again, I was dreading the chore of ringing out Christmas and ringing in ordinary time. My husband, Patrick, and I had talked on January 6th, the traditional calendar date of Epiphany, about needing to take things down on the following Saturday (the day this poem arrived to be written).

That morning he, an early riser by nature, held to his usual schedule while I slept in.  I was upstairs longer than usual, puttering around and reading online articles while listening to the local radio station, not looking forward to the chore ahead.

As it turns out, a plan beyond my own was already in motion. You might say I had a little ‘epiphany’ of my own about easing into the ordinary – which prompted the poem below.

This Man of Mine

I’ve never fully understood, not even ‘til today
how bonds we formed so long ago have blessed us both to stay
It’s got to be a gracing, giving strength beyond our own
that holds this love together all through choices we have grown
You take two different people and conjoin them up for life,
a model tried through centuries, this husband with his wife

He’s not given to praising and perfection’s not his game
but oh, he works in many ways at loving, just the same
Today, for instance, when I rose, ‘to-do’ list on my mind
I came downstairs with heavy sigh and what gift did I find?
The tree and lights, near put away (Epiphany now passed)
he did a chore I didn’t like without it being asked

Some frown at my believing and they wonder at my hope
yet every day, some way I’m blessed with gifts that help me cope
My answer is in trusting full that come good days or bad
this sacramental bonding tarries not as passing fad
It’s choice each morn on rising new to honor and to bless
in ways the other may not know, or ever even guess

I don’t pretend all answers in this riddle that we live
but time and time again it seems we get more when we give
I share with you if you are blue that times can turn around
not Pollyanna pandering but truth that I have found
I’ll write the blues when they appear but sunshine rays this day
right now it’s time to ‘walk my talk’ with no more word delay

I’ll find the chore that blesses him and makes for brighter day
I’ll love it into being and amend my past delays
When gratitude is lacking I will turn my heart to prayer
And offer even that to God who meets me in His care
There’s nothing that I cannot do when guided by His call
In loving you, in loving Him, whose mercy saves us all



Paula Zwenger
is a wife, mother, and grandmother who, upon finding herself an empty nester, tried on the hat of rhyme loving writer. It fitted very well. Her joy manifests completely while taking the ups and downs of life and wrangling them into poetry. She also has a passion for creating rhymed treasure hunts with a Catholic flare to celebrate the faith and learn a thing or two along the way. You can find her musings at


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