11 Quick Prayers for the Overwhelmed Mom

Parents are busy people—and many, this year, have been busier than ever.

I’m friends with a lot of wonderful moms with small kiddos, and a common refrain for all of us is that the bustle of family life sometimes leaves little time for the deep conversations with God that we so crave in this stressful season of motherhood.

It’s not just the physical effort that keeps us busy (although our hands are literally full most days). It’s the mental load, which occupies our minds so thoroughly that there’s no space left for reflection.

What we sometimes forget is that God doesn’t need a treatise on our faithfulness every day. He doesn’t need long, poetic tributes or formal applications for help. He meets us in the little moments of crisis and joy—the in-between times when we’re looking for the next thing that needs doing. He loves our labors, because every overwhelmed moment is a gift of self to our families and, thereby, to Him.

So I try to say many Our Fathers and Hail Marys and Glory Bes as I go about my day—to let them be the tunes I whistle as I work. It reminds me that my labors are holy and important, and gives God thanks for the blessings He has given me (even when I’m too tired to really articulate my gratitude).

I hope you give that a try, because it’s been so good for me. And, in those moments you want to express something a little different, keep these brief prayers handy. Remember that you are His beloved child, and He is delighted by every “I love you” and “I trust you” and even every “please” and “thank you.”

For when you find yourself in wonder at the beauty of Creation.

Dear God, please reveal to us your sublime beauty that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, so that we will never again feel frightened. My divine love, my love, please let us touch your face.

(St. Francis of Assisi)

For when you are lonely.

Remind me, dear friends and intercessors in the Church Triumphant, that there is a place for me beside you at God’s table. All you holy men and women, pray for me.

For when you’ve lost your patience and really, really need it back.

O My God, relying on Thy infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

(Act of Hope)

For when you are in pain and want to offer it up for another.

Father, help me to join my suffering to the redemptive suffering of your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. By virtue of this self-giving love, bring comfort to [a friend in need] and help us both draw nearer to you.

For when you are among friends, neighbors, or even strangers.

Help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go—let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by my example—by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you.

(St John Henry Newman)

For when you are full of joy.

God, there is no greater joy than to feel you near me. I thank you abundantly for the abundance of your love!

For when you’re frightened.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

(From the Chaplet of Divine Mercy)

For when you have a difficult decision to make and need guidance.

O Holy Spirit, sweet Guest of my soul, abide in me and grant that I may ever abide in Thee.

For when you are just so very tired.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in Thy love for me.

For when you need your own mama.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

(From the rosary)

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” and Other Spiritual Clichés

As the saying goes (get it?), every cliché became clichéd for a reason.

We use them to teach, communicate at work, share in solidarity, reference favorite movies. It’s a perfectly fine way to contribute to a conversation in many settings.

The risk, though, is treating clichés as if they have finality. Clichés can help us connect with others or articulate a relatable thought, but they should never be a conclusion—because the only thing a cliché proves is its own popularity. That isn’t the kind of evidence you need in a debate.

When it comes to faith and morality, clichéd thinking is an especially important fallacy to avoid. Discussions on these topics may be heated. Sometimes, a person will want to engage on them because they are in crisis. The issues on the table are critical, and they are complicated. A proper conversation should involve a lot of thought and evidence. But too often, the same oft-cited clichés are treated as if they can stand in as a final word.

They can’t. Clichés may not be untrue, but they aren’t the whole truth, and when you’re talking about something as nuanced as faith or policy, that’s an important distinction.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

We hear this so much in today’s world. And it’s an important reminder to check our biases and offer forgiveness. None of us can judge the state of another’s soul. None of us can see the interior of another’s heart. It is essential that we know our place in this way.

However, this concept of Christian compassion isn’t an open door to relativism. We can never damn another person, or purport to know how God sees them (except to rest assured that they, as are we all, His beloved children). But this doesn’t mean we must support everything they do or say when we believe those words or actions to be wrong. It’s okay to call out wrongdoing. In fact, it is imperative. And to be shut down with this cliché in response is not to be beaten.

Remember, though, that we are not here to change hearts. Only God can do that. We can (and must) share truth, and live a good example that shows kindness, meekness, and penance—but that’s all we can do.

“Let Go and Let God” (Or Its Cousins, “God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle” and “Everything Happens for a Reason”)

And on speaking of what we cannot do—there’s quite a lot of it. Of course there is. Of course we can’t change the world all on our own, or single-handedly save our country, or even, frankly, guide the precise path of our own lives.

In this way, it’s important to give over our worries and anxieties to God and trust in His care for us. He is our Father, and He will carry us through it all—either on this earth or to salvation—if we let Him.

But we can control our own behavior. We are entirely responsible for the way we live our lives, even if we can’t foresee all of the outcomes of our behavior. So yes, we should be letting God “take control of our lives.” But no, this is not a reason to set aside hard work, or attempt to convince ourselves that deeply important issues are not worth examining and stressing over.

Sometimes we need that stress to remind ourselves of our roles and how we can better help our neighbors, as well as ourselves. And sometimes, if someone is suffering, we need to acknowledge their pain instead of brushing it off as something God will remove from them if only they believe hard enough.

Pain can be cleansing. So can hard work.

“Actions Speak Louder Than Words” and “You Can’t Have it Both Ways”

This is one you might hear often in partisan debates: “If you say you believe in x, you’ve sure failed to show it with real action!” That impulsive response to a difficult statement, or one that appears contradictory, is understandable. It’s so hard to wrap our minds around some of the issues we face in public policy today, and how all of those issues intersect and interact (spoiler alert: neither major American party gets everything right).

But Catholicism is a “both/and” faith. So much of what we believe might appear confusing, but nuances often reveal that there is no contradiction when two things—like rejecting abortion and rejecting birth control—appear to be discordant.

The proper thing to do isn’t to accuse someone of failing to act on their beliefs. Instead, ask how they have, or how you might go about doing the same. Better yet, ask why and how they believe those two things at once.

What to Say Instead

People don’t come away from difficult conversations feeling like they’ve learned something if they’ve heard too many platitudes.

That said, we’re not all incredible orators. It’s hard to come up with the right answer to a tough question when put on the spot.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself falling back to clichés when I’m just not sure how to articulate more detail. I grasp for something relatable and recognizable, and want to offer that to “prove my point” by way of helping someone understand where my head is at. But that’s not the way to teach someone something. And it can be a dangerous cop-out—because, if I feel like I’ve expressed myself in an “easy” way and the other person “just doesn’t get it,” neither of us is challenged to dig deeper and discover something important.

So, if you want to say something but aren’t quite sure how to say it well—don’t take the easy way out. Instead, be honest: “You know, I’m not precisely sure how to give you the best answer for that right now. Let me look into it a little bit more and get back to you with better insights.” Then, actually do that research and follow up as promised.

That is a difficult thing to do, especially if the conversation is heated or it feels like something huge is at stake. But you know what? That’s humility. Humility is objectively good. It’s also so impactful, because it shows people that you are aware of your own limitations and respectful of their time and attention. It also means you can extend the conversation and treat the subject with the care it deserves—and, if necessary, take a pause so everyone can catch their breath and return to the discussion with more information.

Whether you’re talking politics, faith, or ethics (or all three), remember that you are not responsible for having an astute, complete answer to every question. No one should expect that of you—and neither should you expect it of yourself. Check your pride. Be a good listener and a steady speaker. Above all, be open to learning. That’s how we grow.

Challenge is good. Tough conversations can be stressful, but they can also be incredibly productive—not just in influencing others, but in growing our own intellect. Give them the time and attentiveness they deserve instead of bandaging incomplete thoughts with relatable but empty banalities. St. John Chrysostom, patron of orators, pray for us.

3 Conversations to Have During Pregnancy for Better Postpartum Intimacy

Every pregnancy and every child has taught me something new. As the L&D nurse who taught my childbirth class in 2015 often said, “no two mother-baby couplets are the same.”

But one thing is true of every pregnancy and new baby: I have to lean on my husband a lot, and I’ve had to relearn how to do that, again and again, amidst the transitions of new motherhood.

For all couples, welcoming a child is an intense and emotional time in a marriage—in good ways, mostly, but in stressful ways, too.

It will be difficult to have big, emotional conversations during the sleepless and chaotic months of life with a newborn. But if you can lay the groundwork for better intimacy now, you’ll be more prepared to support each other and will feel more loved once baby arrives—and that will make for a much more blissful transition as a growing family.

Don’t forget to touch on each of these topics before baby arrives. You’ll be so glad you did!

1. What are you family planning needs, and how often should you touch base and discuss whether they’ve changed?

Talk openly with your spouse about whether you anticipate wanting to avoid pregnancy for a period of time after this baby is born. Are you hoping to have children close together, or would you prefer to have a bit more time between pregnancies?

First thing’s first: You can get pregnant while breastfeeding. Delayed return of fertility is not a given, and many women conceive before having their first postpartum period. Please don’t assume it can’t happen to you! And don’t assume you and your spouse are already on the same page about whether you want it to happen. A surprising number of couples believe they’re in agreement about this issue without discussing it, or simply don’t think about it until after the birth—and that can make for a lot of conflict.

I have encountered two types of couples when it comes to family planning postpartum: “whatever happens, happens” and “we are not ready.

Both philosophies are valid. Neither is wrong. I, for one, tend to land in the second group. The newborn stage is hard on me, and it takes a lot of focus to stay afloat.

Of course, any baby would be welcomed with open arms. Every child is a gift and will be received as such! But, so far as we can be, my husband and I are intentional about delaying pregnancy in those early postpartum months.

If you’re more the type to go with the flow and conceive when you will, that’s great! It’s good to be on the same page either way.

Most importantly, no matter what you expect to feel or want before this baby is born, be sure to establish some targets with your spouse about how frequently you should revisit this topic after the birth. Things can and do change—either because your feelings are different than you anticipate, or something health-related happens that introduces new factors—so you’ll want to communicate well on this as your family grows.

If you do hope to delay pregnancy, have a good strategy in place. Charting for natural family planning often looks drastically different postpartum and while breastfeeding, so be prepared for a learning curve and some follow-up courses with your instructor—even if you’ve been using the same method without issue for years.

Bring these questions to this conversation to help you cover everything:

  • Do you need to urgently delay pregnancy for a period of time after this baby is born? Or are you comfortable not charting for fertility? Does this differ from what you were used to pre-pregnancy and, if so, are you feeling prepared for that change?
  • What will you do if something about the birth, or mom’s or baby’s health, forces you to change those plans? How can you support each other if this change in plans is upsetting?
  • What NFP method will you use, if necessary?
  • How confident are you in that method?

2. How will you prepare for sex to look or feel different while you’re still healing and your new family responsibilities are placing extra demand on you?

Parenthood changes a lot of things in a marriage. Certainly these changes are beautiful, and a welcome part of growing together with your spouse. But there are also some growing pains involved.

One common challenge is with physical intimacy. The large majority of couples enjoy a normal sex life after the birth of a child, but there can be an adjustment period. Lingering discomfort from delivery (especially if there were complications), the drastic hormonal changes that come with birth and breastfeeding, a lack of sleep for both parents, new stresses, complexity with NFP, and simply less time in the day can mean sex is less frequent, less easy, or less comfortable for a while postpartum.

To prevent hurt feelings and miscommunication in the moment, it’s important to address these possibilities with your spouse before baby arrives. You might have a tough time talking about it in detail in advance—it’s difficult to imagine what all of these complications might be or feel like, especially if this is your first child—but it could be even harder when sensitivities run high after baby arrives, so it’s good to open the lines of communication early.

Be open about your fears and anxieties on this subject—including not just those involving physical difficulties, but emotional ones, too. In particular, talk about how you might help soften the blow for one another on the occasions you’ll need to turn down sex. Encourage one another to be open to intimacy, even if it’s not top-of-mind, when you’re able, because the opportunity to reconnect and draw closer is more beneficial than you might expect if you’re not immediately in the mood.

You should also be comfortable discussing how you can be more receptive to each other’s needs, help each other enjoy sex, and what you’ll do if any ongoing issues arise and need medical attention.

Bring these questions to this conversation to help you cover everything:

  • How long is too long without intimacy? Are you willing to be generous with each other in this way, while respecting each other’s need for rest and space?
  • What will you do if sex is initially painful once you’re postpartum? How can you emotionally support each other through it?
  • Do you have medical resources lined up to address painful intercourse if necessary? Will you want to pursue them right away, or take more time to heal on your own first?
  • What insecurities or concerns are you feeling about how sex might be different after the birth of a child? How can you help soothe them for each other?
  • How can you ensure you’re communicating openly and often with one another about this subject? Can you agree on some codewords or phrases to help break the ice before discussing it, in case you find it difficult to bring it up in the moment?

3. What types of nonsexual intimacy will help you stay close to one another if sex is not an option?

Whether you need to abstain in support of physical healing or NFP, or simply aren’t up for sex as frequently for a while, it’s absolutely critical not to let the separation get between you and your spouse. Sex isn’t everything, but it is good for an awful lot of things, and that’s not something to be discounted—especially in a time as stressful and exhausting as life with a newborn.

It is especially beneficial to discuss this one well before your due date. As pregnancy progresses, sex may become uncomfortable or self-conscious or tricky. Even if you have no restrictions during pregnancy, your medical provider is likely to instruct you to abstain for the first six weeks postpartum. That may be a longer dry spell than you’re used to as a couple, so being well prepared will help.

The biggest thing here, as cliched as it may sound, is to deeply understand one another’s love languages and how to fulfill them outside of physical intimacy. Practice your skills in other areas: kind words, helpful gestures, exchanging gifts, and spending focused time together. Be open about what helps you feel loved and appreciated, and what you tend not to notice.

If one of you has physical intimacy as a primary love language, but the other doesn’t, talk about that in detail. Does cuddling or other physical touch help during periods of abstinence, or do you find it frustrating? If you’re at odds on those preferences, how can you compromise so neither of you feels rejected in the moment?

This is also a good time to talk about what it means to feel “touched out,” and how the physical neediness of a baby might interfere with your physical closeness as a couple. For Mom, it can be simply exhausting to hold, feed, and rock a baby all day and night. For Dad, the messy diaper changes or looking after older children solo while Mom tends to the new baby could zap a lot of energy. These are normal feelings, and it’s okay to want some additional personal space during this season. But it’s important to be gentle and generous with one another about communicating and fulfilling that need, so no one’s left feeling unwanted.

Bring these questions to this conversation to help you cover everything:

  • How can you connect with one another when you’re feeling distant but can’t be physically intimate?
  • What good habits can you establish to stay close as you adapt to your new roles as a family?
  • How can you express the need for space or time to yourself without being hurtful or feeling guilty?
  • What sorts of physical touch help you feel close when sex is not an option, and what’s too much?
  • Which love languages do you share, which differ between you, and how can you better practice them for each other starting right now?

Life Stages of a Healthy Marriage

My husband and I are celebrating our eighth anniversary this week. Naturally, my mind is full of memories of our wedding, honeymoon, and the almost 16 years we’ve spent together.

Every year, our anniversary is also a time to reflect on how much we’ve grown over the course of our marriage. This marriage is still young, but we’ve experienced a lot in that time.

How do you think healthy marriages age? I see it lining up pretty closely to human years (which makes sense, of course—we’re not dogs!). I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it’s the metaphor I like best—maybe because it’s so deeply relevant to our life right now, with three kids at three different stages.

It seems apt, though. Consider:

The first year or so is full of awe and rapid growth and sleeplessness, setting the stage for lifelong bonding and changing everything about your life. Just like babies, newborn marriages need a ton of care and attention to mature well. Sometimes that care and attention are difficult and take a lot out of us. Often it’s an absolute delight. But always, we are rewarded tenfold.

Then there are the toddler years, full of youthful energy and excitement about new experiences together. Spouses in this stage need to talk through feelings often and have those feelings validated, as well as learn to listen to one another with respect and restraint. It’s a great time to learn each other’s languages, and start communicating in big ways.

In the preschool years, new settings are both exciting and, at times, overwhelming, and we have great fun and some shaky moments, too. The playful adventuring is how we gain confidence in ourselves and trust in each other after the newness of life together wears off, and the challenges of the real world start to look bigger. There’s still so much reliance on one another for support and guidance, but expectations are higher, too.

The school-age years of marriage are busy and creative, as we learn to look beyond our relationship and see how our family unit plays a broader role in the world around us. Many couples have children at this point, and/or greater commitments to their careers or local communities, and juggling these responsibilities in addition to managing their own emotions and relationship can be tricky at times. It’s much like a school-age child learns to pursue new interests and gain more independence—but still needs a restful home and loving family to recharge with. If a marriage is nurturing, it’s a comfortable place to call home in stressful periods.

I imagine the adolescent years as busy and transformative. These will be the years when we have older children in activities, a bit more freedom to pursue our own interests, and maybe career moves and retirement planning to think about—that sort of transitional phase where so much of our focus is on near-term stress for long-term gain (just like high school, right?). I think it’ll be easy to feel like teenagers who want to be independent and taken seriously, which will make it all the more important to check in and reconnect frequently. We’ll need to harness the intensity of it all for good, and not let it spiral without structure.

And maturity in marriage? Those will be the years when things feel a bit more steady. Certainly plenty of circumstances will come along to rock the boat, and, like any long-married couple, we’ll need to continue practicing all the skills we’ve learned to help us stay sharp. Maybe there will even be a crisis or a curveball that will force (or inspire?) us to change and grow more than we thought we’d need to, so far in. But above all, being ourselves—together—will come a little more naturally, and there will be an even stronger foundation to lean on when the world feels shaky.

Anyway, this is how I imagine it. At eight years, our marriage is firmly school-age. We haven’t encountered the rest yet. But I find myself really anticipating the adventures ahead and looking forward to the growth that remains before us, as well as the comfort.

What I do know is this: None of the beautiful qualities of any of these “life stages” in marriage are a given. Just like people of all ages can lose themselves if they and their loved ones aren’t invested in their health and wellbeing, so, too, can marriages at any stage. I pray every day that my husband and I receive the grace to be selfless, attentive, and patient enough to keep investing in each other.

Marriage is the foundation of society. It’s the most central way we build families, lift up our beloved, help each other get to Heaven, and instill faith and compassion in the next generation. It is a privilege to live this vocation. It is also a lot of work.

Sometimes we take this critical relationship for granted. We see and work with our spouse day after day, and we may find ourselves expecting their help more than their affection. It’s so easy to fall into that trap—to make the beautiful normalcy of marriage into a thing that fades into the background. I pray it may it never be so, for my marriage or for yours. Because our spouses deserve better, and it is our great privilege and duty to give them the very best of ourselves.

There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage. After the Holy Eucharist, it has a power beyond anything that we can imagine. – Cardinal Raymond Burke

15 Unique Ways to Celebrate Your Anniversary From Home

Much like birthdays, anniversaries can become smaller and smaller events as the years go on. The busyness of daily life just takes center stage, leaving these special occasions a bit overlooked for many couples.

But even if a pandemic, financial constraints, or just the chaos of your usual routine make it difficult to go out and celebrate, it’s still so important to rejoice and remember the start of your marriage with your spouse.

To help you reconnect, here are a handful of ways you might find the time to make it an event this year.

1. Watch the first movie you ever saw together. You can browse your DVD collection, streaming services, or digital rental platforms to find it, then settle in on the couch and feel like you’re dating again. Sometimes, this first shared movie will be just as you remember it—but often, you might have a very different perspective on it now than when you first watched. After it ends, talk through these impressions.

2. Write up a family mission statement. Whether you’re a family of two or ten, it all started with your wedding day—so why not make this, your anniversary, a new starting point as well? Sit down together to draft a family mission statement that can help you capture your love and values, and tell the world who you are. It’s a project, but it can be so fruitful.

3. Dress up to stay in. Staying home doesn’t mean you can’t get fancy. If it’s something you or your spouse enjoys, plan to put on your best clothes and get dolled up. You can set a timer on your phone’s camera (or have a family member or neighbor help you out!) to get a great picture, and then you can either get back into comfier outfits or stay fancy for the rest of your evening. It’s a small but effective way to make a day feel special!

4. Go through your storage boxes of old mementos. You probably have boxes somewhere in your home, full of sentimental items from your early years together, wedding gifts you don’t use very often, or things you each brought from your childhood into your shared life. Take an hour or two to peruse them. It’s a fun way to rustle up new memories to share with each other, and reminisce on moments you haven’t thought about in a while.

5. Take turns making each other’s favorite meals. Preparing your spouse’s favorite food is such a simple but significant act of service. Try to plan ahead so one of you can make breakfast, and the other can make dinner—and be sure to serve your spouse’s very favorite things when it’s your turn (without asking them what they want first).

6. Light every candle you can, slow dance to your first song—and then fast-dance to your favorite wedding party songs. Both a dimly lit romantic moment and a playful one, taking some time to share this intimacy and silliness will be a great reminder of why you fell in love and what it was like to be called “man and wife” for the first time.

7. Talk about how your wedding might look different if you planned it right now, with your current tastes and more recent trends. Do you think you’d change anything? Might the venue be bigger, or the food fancier, given your budget and preferences today? Or would you want every detail just the same? There are no wrong answers—your wedding is the start of your marriage, not the heart of it, and you might think another kind of party would appeal to you in your current life stage.

8. Get a large map, and mark all the places you’ve explored together—and where you’d like to visit next. Make it a map of your state, your country, or the whole world. Whatever you do, dream big—but make these dreams as attainable as possible, so you can work toward them instead of only wishing.

9. Pretend you’re writing your marriage memoirs, and think up an appropriate title for each year’s installment in the series. Consider major milestones, look back through photos to spark memories, and try to come up with the words or phrases that define each year of your life together so far. Do you each have different ideas on these, or are you mostly in agreement on what they should be?

10. Think back to what you expected marriage to be, and talk through what you were right and wrong about. Sometimes, these disparities are hilarious: “Did you really think that you would be the one to wake up first every morning?” Other times, they might be more thoughtful. Either way, these reflections will help you remember how it felt to look forward to marriage and all of its promise—a precious feeling every married couple should take care not to forget.

11. Laugh over funny “what if” conversations. What if you had to choose one language for speaking, and a different one for writing and reading? Which would they be and why? What if you had a new baby right now? What would you name him or her? You can find loads of these prompts online. When you’re with your spouse all the time, it might feel like you’ve talked about everything—until you ask him something like, “What if you woke up tomorrow and, instead of using spoken language, everyone just acted out popular GIFs to express their thoughts?”

12. Share one way your spouse has helped make you a better person. It is the great duty of marriage to help our spouses get to Heaven. Give them the gift of pointing out how they’re fulfilling this great and holy task. Bonus points if you take an extra minute to get vulnerable and share where you’d like help next—taking care to refrain from criticism, whether or not they return the gesture.

13. Recall some of the other weddings you’ve attended since yours and discuss what you loved most about them. What did you think about witnessing marriages as a married couple, and how was it a different experience than when you were single? What family weddings have been the most fun to attend? These are family-building events, and it’s such a delight to think of your extended family in your anniversary musings.

14. Discuss lessons you’ve learned about marriage from the example of other couples. What are some qualities you admire in your parents’, grandparents’, friends’, or siblings’ marriages? With this in mind, what are some things that help you take pride in your marriage when chatting with these loved ones? And what do you hope to teach your own children, grandchildren, friends, and siblings about married life?

15. Create something together to help you mark the occasion. Can you work on a puzzle, a paint-by-numbers, a couple of simple paintings, or a collage together? It doesn’t have to be something you hang up or display, but it could be a fun project to share between just the two of you—and something to put in your box of mementos to make activity #4 more interesting next year.

Why Catholics are More Enlightened Than You Think

The Church is more scientific, universal, intellectual, and merciful than you may have been led to believe. Here’s how.

We believe in social justice.

The Catholic Church has the utmost respect for human life. That’s all human life, at all stages, with all kinds of needs:

  • We support a living wage because denying people the ability to provide for themselves and their families puts money above the wellbeing of our neighbors.
  • We support immigration and the responsible, generous, and charitable protection of people who are asking for help to improve their lives and escape danger.
  • We serve the poor and vulnerable because socioeconomic status does not devalue the inherent worth of our brothers and sisters. It is our duty and our privilege to affirm this worth.
  • We reject racism and any other attempt to make one person appear less valuable or worthy of life and liberty than the rest, because we are all made in God’s image.
  • We oppose the death penalty because cruel and unusual punishment violates the dignity of the human person.
  • We respect the earth and serve as thoughtful and responsible stewards of the environment and all of its inhabitants, because Creation is among God’s most beautiful and generous gifts.
  • We defend the most vulnerable among us—including the disabled, homeless, sick, dying, and unborn—from abuse or undignified and violent death, because no one’s impulses or preferences outweigh the gravity of life itself.

Examples of these virtues are abundant in the saints, and such generous and beloved souls as Pier Giorgio Frassati, Oscar Romero, and Frances Xavier Cabrini.

We believe in the dignity of every person.

A defining characteristic of the Catholic Church is her universality. The Church welcomes people of all backgrounds, races, and life stages. Each of us has a unique place in the Body of Christ, is made in God’s image, and is gifted with the ability to make this world a better place.

The diversity of saints is an excellent reflection of this truth. Our faith community has been blessed by wonderful people across many ethnic, social, racial, and cultural backgrounds, some of whom are now canonized. Read about some of these examples of Christian unity here and here.

Additionally, the Church upholds the valuable contributions of each of her members in the daily operations and success of our communities around the world. Vowed religious individuals and devoted laypeople, as well as priests, are at work running our churches, schools, hospitals, charitable organizations, and other networks every day. We are all called to serve, because all of us are worthy of being served and all of us are capable of having an impact that cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

We believe in the beauty of the human body.

Despite popular thought, the Church upholds the perfect beauty of both sexes. Men and women have unique roles in our faith, as well as in our domestic families and in roles of public ministry. Though the priesthood is a vocation specialized for men, women play an extraordinarily important role in the life of the Church.

After Jesus—who is, of course, the truly perfect incarnation of God as well as man, and the only human we worship—the human most beloved by Catholics is Mary. As the mother of God, Mary represents an ideal of not just womanhood, but humanity. She was obedient to God, as we all must be. She persevered in the face of adversity, persecution, and danger. And she was strong, intelligent, and devoted enough to raise her child into an educated, worldly, and loving man who would change the history of the world.

And after watching him die a criminal’s death, she went on to support his friends and help grow the community he built like only a woman could.

Additionally, also in defiance of popular accusations, the Church is passionate about the goodness of the human body and the beauty of human sexuality. In fact, Church teaching asserts the divine nature of sexuality and insists everyone who participates in it puts their partner’s joy above their own—demanding a mutual respect that has simply disappeared from popular discourse around sex.

We aren’t influenced by groupthink.

The Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old institution. Many accuse her of being outdated and slow to adapt to modernity.

And maybe, in some ways, they’re right. But these things are not inherently bad.

The Church has withstood the test of time, despite the atrocities that have afflicted humanity and the shame some members and leaders of the Church earned for themselves along the way. Jesus promises the disciples in Matthew that evil will never prevail against the Church. Ours is a ship that is truly unsinkable—despite the deeply imperfect people at the helm.

So our faith is one of slow evolution and cautious change. We do not allow the latest controversies or fad philosophies to dictate Truth, and we do not give in to current whims at the risk of damaging the faith and salvation of millions. Scripture and tradition guide us, as they should. Theology is a place of healthy discourse and respectful debate. Teachings are not altered lightly. And dogma can never be contradicted.

We resist peer pressure, reject negative influences, and are true to ourselves—always.

We are artists, architects, scientists, scholars, servants, and teachers.

Catholics have served in virtually every role of society. Some of the most beautiful masterpieces originated with our love for God. A majority of the world’s non-governmental healthcare is provided by our love for our neighbors. Many of our greatest intellectual traditions have roots in the Church. A host of extraordinary scientific advancements can be attributed to great Catholics throughout history.

For more, start by Googling any of these Catholics and their contributions to society:

  • Teresa of Calcutta
  • Dolores Hope
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Gregor Mendel
  • Georges Lemaitre
  • Dorothy Day
  • Fredrick McGhee
  • Mary Kenneth Keller
  • Thomas More

You may be surprised by how deeply this faith has influence literature, the arts, mathematics, life sciences, physics, and more. There is no curiosity and intellectual insight quite like that which is inspired by a devotion to the Maker who designed it all.

We know our weakness.

The Church is clear on many things when it comes to right and wrong. Catholics live by a moral code and a formed conscience, and sometimes we are made unpopular by the worldly things we reject (looking at you, HBC).

We also know that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. In many ways, humility is a hallmark of our faith. We know our limits.

Thankfully, our limitations aren’t the end for us. We have an incredible wealth of history, tradition, and theology to help us overcome personal barriers. An abundance of grace has brought forth many bright Catholic minds, who have assembled lasting resources to benefit the faithful around the world.

These minds compiled the Bible. They established sacred Tradition, which passes down the teachings of the apostles from generation to generation. They have helped establish the forms of our liturgy, inspired many devotions and prayers, and taught us about the beauty of the sacraments. I could go on and on.

But, in her wisdom, the Church also leaves a lot of choices to the discernment of individuals and families. A massive theological library, many papal documents (of varying subjects and authority), and insights from saints aid in that discernment. But ultimately, on issues of vocation, hobby, work, family size or routines, and more, we Catholics have the benefit of a clear moral structure that helps us recognize right from wrong—and then pursue the life we were made for, the life we love.

We are guided by love.

Above all, Catholicism is a faith defined by love: love for God and, thereby, love for neighbor. We actively seek to see and resolve our neighbors’ suffering, because we are all brothers and sisters with the same Father—and we are here for each other.

As Pope Francis has said, “Today more than ever, there needs to be a revolution of tenderness. This will save us.”

Family and Self in a Work-from-Home World

As someone who has been working from home full time for several years, the current conversation around remote work in the time of COVID-19 has fascinated me.

Now, as the pandemic stretches out and companies continue to keep their offices closed, conversations are turning to whether the work-from-home shift is a permanent change.

I’m all for it. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest productivity is just as good—if not better—for employees who work at home, so the hard business data seems to support it also.

But there is a cost. Even if they’re more productive, not everyone is happier at home.

Lowly Workers

There is an immense amount of strain on people in the working world right now. Between adjusting to a new office environment, managing the stress of an uncertain economy, feeling fearful for personal and public health, and under pressure to keep productivity high in order to protect their job security and tackle pandemic projects they never anticipated—it’s a lot. For all of us.

We are all in the unfortunate position of redefining work-life balance—and fighting for what matters most when we’re expected to give a lot more than we have in our mental and emotional reserves.

Some companies are taking this burden on their people seriously and trying to minimize their contribution to it by being transparent with and supportive of their workforce.

Unfortunately, not all companies are providing the same support. I know people who’ve heard little to nothing from their leaders about what the months—even weeks—ahead will look like in terms of working locations, travel policies, job security, and company health.

There is also an unsettling trend of increased surveillance on workers who are logging on at home—a belittling overreach, and a downright unethical privacy violation to boot.

Whether it’s mistrust, mistreatment, or maladjustment, a lot of working adults are just feeling less human when it comes to their careers lately. It’s hard to feel like a unique person of worth when your stability—economic and emotional—depends on some numbers on a spreadsheet.

Now, add in an overdose of collapsing self-worth. Between the unrelenting demands placed on us in a consumerist society, and the increased tendency of people—especially young people—to hinge their self-image on their work, so many of our neighbors are feeling their emotional foundations collapse.

This tendency is known as “workism,” and it’s a plague all its own. COVID-19 has merely brought its effects to the forefront. Why do so many of us place all our self-worth on our careers?

There is an abundance of scientific evidence that the human mind is predisposed to religiosity. (Of course, to people of faith, this makes sense: we were created with an inherent love for and desire to seek out our Creator.) Psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists, and more see a common desire to belong, understand our place in the universe, and work toward a greater good.

Absent an upbringing or personal perspective steeped in faith, many of us find this sense of meaning elsewhere. Sometimes it’s in our relationships. Very often, it’s in our work. “What you do is who you are” becomes a natural assumption when no one teaches you that “You are who you were created to be, regardless of what you do.”

In times of plenty, the former definition of self is a valuable one. We feel productive and effective, confident and admirable. But in times of want, if your identify is dependent on your output, it’s hard to see your worth when you’re not even “doing enough” to get by.

Lonely Homes

Worse than fiscal fears, and just as devastating as crumbling self-worth, is the pervasive sense of loneliness reported by many work-from-home professionals in the COVID-19 economy.

Just as so many of us have our identities tied up in our work, we have our social support systems there, too. When you hold yourself to high standards of “hustle,” an increasing majority of your time is spent at work. Ultimately, the people you speak to and connect with most are at the office.

Today’s young adults are getting married at later ages. They’re starting families later, too. And, around the world, more and more people are living alone.

So where else are we finding community, if not at work? And even if your network of friends extends beyond the office, it’s not exactly easy to hang out while social distancing effects remain in place all around us.

Of course this is a recipe for loneliness. Who wouldn’t be lonely if they suddenly found themselves alone, 24 hours a day, without the freedom or safety required to connect with anyone outside their household?

Again, intensive economic demand and unaccommodating workplaces make it increasingly difficult to pursue family life for many young adults in the 21st century. It’s a benefit to your employer if you stake your identity and your community within their four walls, isn’t it? Then you never want to leave.

But a move away from family values has also contributed to this shift:

Whatever the reason (and, to be clear, there certainly are plenty of legitimate reasons to delay marriage or having children—I’m not suggesting everyone get married at 18 and start having babies immediately), having a family later in life can mean years of living literally or figuratively alone. And while independence is a good thing, isolation is not.

Balance: The Ultimate Question

At any stage in life, there’s the struggle to find balance—between work and school, school and socialization, work and family, family and self. How you find it and what that balance ultimately looks requires deeply personal reflection and adjustment, which no one else can dictate for you.

But all of us deserve the freedom to find it. Our rights are to life, liberty, and property—and the pursuit of happiness.

This is a defining moment for the next several decades when it comes to our political, social, and economic culture. I hope it swings more toward the human side of the spectrum than the commercial.

Saint Joseph the Worker, pray for us.

Drawing Inspiration from JPII on Reconciling Suffering in Our World

Pain is a reality for us all. It is the sad truth of our world that perfection is out of reach.

(Far out of reach, actually. Most of us can’t agree on what perfection even is.)

And there are many kinds of pain: the sorrow of loss, the sting of hate, the ache of loneliness, the distress of being unwanted. Some of these things I have felt. Some I’m privileged not to have experienced for myself. But each of us has a story to tell, and every one of those stories features pain.

Whatever your experience, all suffering is a tragedy. And all of it has shaped us—for better or worse—into the people we are now.

Sometimes we shroud our pain with silence, feeling averse to vulnerability. Too often, we feel like our pain is weakness—as if we should be able to “let go and let God” or “rise above” or “focus on gratitude.” And to some extent, that mind-over-matter attitude is important.

But it can also negate the redemptive promise of our suffering.

Did Christ not suffer for us, more deeply than anyone? Was he not shamed, whipped, mocked, tortured, and nailed to a cross to pay for the sins of others? Did he not weep? Did he not die?

Suffering is not worthless. Pain is not weakness. No one is stronger than Jesus, and it is by Christ’s trials that we are redeemed. So, by our own trials, we can feel him and the depth of his love for us. And that is powerful.

But Why?

I, as I’m sure you do, sometimes catch myself in abject disbelief in the face of pain. Why does a loving God let a neighbor hate his neighbor? Why does the Divine Physician let a pandemic run rampant?

Why did the Father deliver his Son into the hands of murderers?

The answer is not simple. And, put simply, God does not send any evil or ill wishes upon any of us. Our world is broken by our own free will and the imperfections of reality on this earth. Imperfect people just cannot expect to live in a perfect world.

I recently read a book of essays from Saint John Paul II—recently published, though written before he became pope—called Teachings for an Unbelieving World: Newly Discovered Reflections on Paul’s Sermon at the Areopagus. In it, the great JPII discusses the nature of belief in God in a culture of unbelief.

John Paul II explains how God made us in His likeness: “God creates the human being both rational and free, wanting above all to express his image and likeness in the human person. Even at the cost of abusing the great gift of freedom” (page 31).

We are free to do as our rational thought compels us. God wants this freedom for us—because, without it, how can we truly, deeply experience love? Love never arises by force.

That freedom, though, comes with responsibility. It means that God can’t dictate every development in our journeys or the world around us. It means pain is a part of this life.

What to Do?

Central to a handful of JPII’s teachings in this book is the notion that suffering does not separate us from God—indeed, it actually unifies us to Him in a bond that reflects the two-fold nature of Christ, who is both God and man.

God is the creator of both the ultimate justice and the ultimate love—and sometimes, these concepts are difficult for us to reconcile. Isn’t judgment inherently hurtful? Isn’t love inherently joyful?

But this is not so—not at the heart of what these virtues entail. As John Paul II outlines in this book:

God himself is the “reconciliation” of justice with love. … All that Jesus “did” and “taught” testifies to the “reconciliation” of justice with love in the dimension of God himself, just as the Cross and the Resurrection constitute its supreme witness. (51-52)

Take, for example, the sacrament of Confession. Just as God holds us to high standards when it comes to doing what is right, He is delighted by the prospect of wiping our slates clean again and again—no matter how many times we fall—and drawing us into His embrace.

Likewise, God can work joy into our lives through the pain we endure. The way He created us might have allowed for suffering to enter the world, but it also allows for more authentic love between us and Him, and us and each other.

After all, without death, we would have no need for Christ. And oh, what we would be missing if Christ had not come for us.

In the miracle of Christ’s humanity and divinity, comingled in one truly perfect person, we are given a glimpse of what it means to be human and what it means to know God. In his suffering, we can see how justice and love are, in fact, quite easily reconciled—even if the depth of that reconciliation is beyond our understanding. JPII explains:

During his prayers in Gethsemane, “Christ united himself to the Father in a special way, and in a special way drew near to him, entering into the eternal dimension of the redemption of the world. However, it must also be emphasized that in this prayer Christ also drew near to humankind in a special way. The words: “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me” testify to his participation in the suffering of all people from the beginning to the end of the world. Christ united to the father—“Yet, not my will but yours be done”—is at the same time united to every human being, and is in “solidarity” with the destiny of humanity on earth. In this prayer, Christ opens, so to speak, a special space in which every person can find himself in the most difficult and crucial moments. The prayer in the garden of olives remains the specific paradigm of the “universalism” of Christ in the history of humankind. (104)

I love this. I love how, with faith, we can see suffering not as pointless pain in an empty world, but as an opportunity to grow—into better versions of ourselves, into more principled people, into closer relationships with Jesus, and into gratitude for the salvation that will ultimately deliver us from every kind of pain.

Suffering Quote

St. Paul touches on this in Romans 8:15-18: “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (emphasis mine).

May we all endure suffering with our eyes toward Christ, do what we can to lessen the suffering of our neighbors, and offer up our pain for the salvation of the world. It is a heavy cross to bear, living in these times. But great rewards await us. Justice—and love—shall prevail.

Clarity and Confession: Reflections on Penance

You can’t pick a favorite sacrament. You just can’t. Each has its own beauty and wonder and draw. But there is something uniquely moving about Penance.

That’s not something I pictured myself saying back when I was preparing for my first confession. Or in the almost-decade I spent avoiding another one. Or even the first few times I returned to the confessional after that. But it’s a sentiment that’s dawned on me over the last couple of years.

I bet nearly all of us cradle Catholics have vivid memories of anxiety and embarrassment leading up to our first reconciliation. What adolescent, after all, looks forward to announcing their sins to another person—let alone a priest? There’s so much pressure to deny what is “bad” about us at that age, when we want so badly to be liked and loved and trusted.

And for adult converts, faith formation is a process of incredibly personal self-discovery. It isn’t easy to lay bare the ways we fall short to another person.

So it’s no surprise that I have come across some misunderstandings of the purpose of this sacrament, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. To be clear:

  • Confession is not an opportunity to impose guilt.
  • Confession is not a mechanism by which the Church holds control over your relationship with God.
  • Confession is not a conspiracy to dig up dirt in order to keep you “on the hook.”
  • Confession is not an exercise in self-defense, in which we try and shore up our value despite our sins.
  • Confession is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, given to or by someone merely for intoning formulaic words like a magic spell.

“The Human Heart is Heavy and Hardened”

Make no mistake: Sin is a heavy burden. We are obliged to live in accordance with what is morally good not for the sake of following rules, but because it is in our nature to want and to be what is morally good.

This is why our conscience speaks loudly when our courage fails to do so. It’s why we like to say that an act of kindness “restores our faith in humanity.” It’s why giving feels good. It’s why love is the pinnacle of human connection.

Catholic or not, most of us believe that someone who is kind and genuinely devoted to doing the right thing is a healthy and well-ordered person.

When we don’t live according to this inclination toward goodness, it weighs on us. We feel depressed. We feel ashamed. We feel lost, or helpless, or unworthy. And that feeling spirals, doesn’t it?

It is painfully easy to look back at the laundry list of things we’ve done wrong and think, “Well, too late now.” We build bad habits and “fall off the wagon” again and again, and eventually, it seems like the only path forward is one big, ugly circle back to where we started. There is temptation, maybe subconscious: “What’s the point in trying to do better? I fail every time anyway.”

Sometimes, we choose to cope with this via mental gymnastics that attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance by convincing us (and others) that our vices aren’t so bad after all. But, when our conscience is well-formed, this self-indulgence rarely keeps us happy for long.

And then there are the burdens that settle on our hearts through no fault of our own. Burdens that weigh heavy on us, interrupting our spiritual practices and our perspectives on ourselves, the world, or God Himself.

In 2020, as a multitude of global and social crises overwhelm us with sorrow and frustration, we know how tumultuous simply living in this world can be. It is backbreaking work, and none of us can do it alone. Deep in our stormy thoughts, it is so difficult not to simply lean into that despair and lose sight of what is still good and true all around us.

“God Must Give Man a New Heart”

How can any of us hold up the weight of the world alone—especially while dragging our own hopelessness along, too, like boulders fettered to our ankles?

The answer is, of course, that we can’t. We’re never meant to carry the whole world alone. But we are woefully incapable of lifting even our own little share in it effectively when we are restricted by sin and the suffering that plagues us when we turn away from the Lord and his boundless love.

If you have a toddler, you know what it’s like to watch someone attempt the same task in the exact wrong way, over and over, while not just refusing your help, but completely snubbing your suggestions for how to get themselves sorted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gently explained to my son that the easiest way to remove a shoe is to push it down his heel first, only to watch him fruitlessly tug on his toes whilst screeching his frustration right back at me.

Think how God must feel when we refuse His guidiance.

As Catholics, the sacrament of confession is our opportunity to turn our ears toward God. He wipes our slate clean, yes—and it’s a delightful relief every time that gift is given—but He also speaks to us in and around the confessional. Through the priest who ministers to us, or the quiet moments of prayerful penance afterward, or the newly opened curtains that let His light shine on rooms in our hearts that had been darkened by sin—He speaks to us.

The grace bestowed through Penance is one that restores our hearts to what they were designed to be. We become white as snow, receptive as Mary was in the moment of her Fiat, unwavering as John the Baptist as he taught bystanders that he must decrease as the Son of God must increase.

Sisters and brothers, I beg you: As soon as you are able, flee to the Lord in this generous sacrament. I promise you won’t be sorry.

It’s Okay to Be Wrong

Have you ever had a real doozy of a day and just collapsed onto the couch to treat yourself to a few minutes of laziness? You open Instagram on your phone, wanting to scroll through bright colors and the happy faces of friends and family.

But soon, all those snapshots of happy faces, perfect ponytails, handmade masterpieces, and messages about working hard and “soaking up every minute” make you feel like an abject failure.

We know that social media plants seeds of damaging perfectionism in our hearts. It is a blessing to connect with others from afar, to be sure. It is a joy to see their joys. But sometimes, when we only see everyone’s most polished moments, it’s easy to feel like every scene of our lives should be tailored toward impressing others. It’s an impossible standard.

Trying to meet that standard crushes self-esteem, triggers anxiety, and even influences suicidal ideation. It makes us feel like we aren’t enough unless we constantly exceed all expectations.

Thankfully, in my circles, friends and family often share the less-than-ideal memories they make each day, not just the perfect ones. We commiserate and laugh at ourselves daily. And I hope this is the case for you, too, so we can embrace social media for its supportiveness instead of defining ourselves by its embellishments.

But another type of perfectionism has sunk its teeth into the social media age. And it is just as damaging.

Social Sanctimony and Cancel Culture

I don’t follow the news closely. This isn’t to say I’m ignorant to the goings-on of the world around me; it’s just that I’m not cut out to be a news junkie.

I dislike the 24-hour, for-profit news cycle. From my viewpoint, it has encouraged journalistic integrity to step aside so that bias (specifically on political subjects) and view-earning drama can step in. I can’t completely trust any single source of news, so I have to peruse many to get the big picture on a story—and even then, I must accept that my perspective is limited.

This is true of mainstream media outlets, many of which have presented consistent partisan leanings in one direction or another. And I can’t even express how damaging it is from downright fake news outlets.

In the same way the idyllic images on social media make us feel pressure to always “live beautifully,” the slanted language of the nonstop news we are served makes us feel obligated to believe a certain way, or form a specific opinion, or hold up one version of the truth without examining every side.

Then there are social pressures like “cancel culture” and imposed relativism, which suggest a need to protect ourselves from perceptions of bias that could hurt us—at least when it comes to biases that go against the mainstream.

So we speak loudly on issues we haven’t fully explored, or jump on board with shaming others for saying something counter-cultural or making a bad joke or being ignorant—while neglecting to seek important context and first-hand perspectives. Then we decline to engage with those who disagree because they are simply wrong, as far as we know. Which is, in today’s narrative, about the worst thing you can be.

To be clear, on some issues, what’s socially acceptable really is the right answer. It’s never okay to be racist, or to kill, or to bully (to use a few examples that should be painfully obvious).

But many other issues—economic policy, education reform, gender roles, social support systems—deserve healthy and respectful debate. Their positive evolution is, in fact, driven by that debate. Too often, though, popular culture labels one or another position as “unacceptable.” And then cancel culture kicks in, or at least debasing comments that all too often attack the individual instead of the issue.

It is a vicious cycle. The inherent bias we ingest from the news and day-to-day conversations gives us a sense of being unwaveringly right in our understanding. Next, social pressure pushes us to demonstrate to other people that we’re right (lest we be ostracized for being wrong, or for being too quiet). This leads us to share the biased content as if it is unbiased proof, which presents it to someone else—and the spin continues ad nauseum.

It’s Okay to Be Wrong (As Long As You Want to Learn How to Be Right)

What we’ve forgotten is that it is downright impossible to be correct in all things, at all times. Just like it’s impossible to be Instagram-ready in all things, at all times.

It is tempting to see history as a line on an upward slant: a neat chart that shows us starting at zero and growing to perfection. We want to see human progress as black and white, beginning with the dark ages and ending with paradise.

But this simply isn’t reality. History, though positive growth is certainly clear, is also a squiggly line of peaks, valleys, progress, regress, goodness, and badness.

We may have markedly reduced poverty worldwide, but we’ve also notably increased the wealth gap in the last century. We may have 216 million fewer hungry people than we did 30 years ago, but obesity is contributing to the premature deaths of 4.7 million people every year. Global violence by genocide has declined over human history, but infant mortality for black babies remains 2.5 times higher than white babies in the US.

Human history is a relentless game of good versus evil, and we cannot expect to achieve perfection.

Now, I know it may not sound like it, but I am an optimistic person. We should always be striving to make the world a better place for our neighbors and children. I will always try to influence positive change, especially in regards to respect for human life. So I don’t point out these gaps in human progress to make you sad.

Rather, I outline them as a reminder of humility.

People are inherently good.

People are also inherently flawed.

There is no perfection in this life—not until we are saved from the shackles of death. Can we do better for ourselves and each other? Absolutely. But we can’t do it alone, and we certainly can’t do it by diminishing one another in the process.

So if you’re called out on social media for sharing a misleading article, or misrepresenting a counterpoint, or failing to see another perspective on an issue—I hope you’ll listen.

I hope the person who’s offering criticism is doing so thoughtfully, without vitriol. I hope your response is respectful, too.

I hope you don’t feel ashamed for being mistaken. I hope you aren’t scared of hard conversations or challenging research. I hope you know when to turn away from a discussion that isn’t productive without dehumanizing the person on the other end.

I hope the same for me, too. For all of us, growth takes grace.

Most of all, I hope you don’t let the despair of this world drag you down into the pit. I hope, instead, you can look up and marvel at all that is beautiful about this life—and know that you are not alone, and you’re not perfect, and no one should expect you to be either of those things.

You can always join hands with your neighbor, learn something new, and gain a better understanding of the many perspectives. You can minimize the alienation of “us” versus “them,” and unite as people who want to live in a freer, fuller world.

Even if nobody changes their mind.

This isn’t perfection. But it is progress.