Women of Christ Wednesday: The Visitation Project


From left to right: Bonnie, Rebecca, and Heather. Credit to The Visitation Project’s Facebook page.

From The Visitation Project’s Website:

The Visitation Project is a radio show with one goal: meeting Catholic women wherever they are.

Co-hosts Rebecca Frech, Bonnie Engstrom, and Heather Renshaw come from different backgrounds, regions of the country, and perspectives, yet together they offer a fresh voice for Catholic radio. On-air, the TVP Crew discusses issues and challenges significant to today’s Catholic woman, while infusing huge doses of joy and their love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith as the underlying thread that ties it all together.

The Visitation Project is produced through the facilities of Mater Dei Radio in Portland, Oregon. TVPRadio episodes broadcast every Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. PST on 88.3 FM Portland / Vancouver and 100.5 FM Eugene / Springfield. You can also listen live at http://www.materdieradio.com.


1) What is The Visitation Project and where did the idea for this show come from?

The Visitation Project is a weekly half hour radio show that airs Sunday nights at 7:30 PST. Our name comes from the Visitation, when Mary set journeyed to see her cousin Elizabeth. There she was literally with The Lord, but she didn’t ask Elizabeth to come to her. She met Elizabeth where she was, and brought Jesus to her.

That’s the academic answer. What is it really? It’s three Catholic women having an honest conversation about life, family, the culture, and our faith with lots of laughter and the occasional beat-boxing.  We’re meeting women where they are and bringing Jesus with us!


2) What do you think makes The Visitation Project different from other Catholic radio programs?

We’re not scholars or theologians, so we’re not talking about things from that perspective. We’re trying, instead, to engage our audience in a conversation about what it means to be a Catholic woman in the modern world. We talk about things no one else is discussing, and we aren’t afraid to say the things you don’t normally hear on Catholic radio.


3) You have a few podcasts about vocations. What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning marriage and religious life?

Start off with prayer, asking God to make it obvious where He wants you to be. I always ask him to make it obvious, because I’m not good with subtle. I need big blinky neon lights pointing the way.

After praying, search out people who are living the life you feel called to and ask LOTS of questions about what it really looks like to live that life. Don’t forget to actually listen to the answers, not just the good bits but the bad ones too. Then you can have a full picture of the decisions you are making.

Get all the information you can, and then realize that God is going to lead you wherever He wants you to go.


4) What advice do you have for young moms that want to make sure that their kids understand the Catholic faith?

Talk about your faith in front of your kids and let them see you pray. Small children will soak up everything you tell them, but they will believe what they see you do.


5) What do you think is the most important thing you guys want people to know about The Visitation Project?

That they need to be listening. Seriously. All the cool kids are tuning in. We’re everywhere – radio, podcasts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and our website thevisitationproject.com; and we really do want to hear from them. Some of our best shows have come from suggestions or questions from our listeners. We want to know what’s important to you and what crosses you’re carrying. We want to go beyond being your favorite audible addiction. We’re hoping to create a community of Catholic women that helps us all to live our faith out loud and with great joy.

Audrey Assad: Women of Christ Wednesday


Audrey Assad is a worship leader and musician who writes, in her own words, “soundtracks for prayer.” She has penned her contemplative songs of worship with (and for) Matt Maher, Christy Nockels, Brett Younker, Sarah Hart, Meredith Andrews, and others—Audrey’s passion is to write fragrant, prayerful music that truly leads to encountering Jesus Christ, even in the silence of the heart.

The Pledgemusic pre-order for Inheritance is still going! It can be found at http://pledgemusic.com/audreyassad and there are amazing new items in the store, including shirts and posters in partnership with St. Vincent DePaul Society!


Where did the idea for Inheritance come from?

I was raised in a church that only sang hymns, a cappella and out of the hymnal. I learned to sing harmony and read music in church, and all these years later I just really wanted to make an album that paid homage to that heritage. The name is a nod to the musical traditions that helped shape my art, as well as the wealth of wisdom the Church has to offer us in the form of hymns.


How did you create the band LEVV? ETA on the first album from that band?

LEVV was begun three years ago, and it was initially a solo project—I named it after Leo Tolstoy (Leo is ‘Lev’ in Russian) because reading his work and reading about his life inspired me to make some much-needed changes in my career. After working with Seth Jones (a friend in LA) quite a bit on the music, it became apparent that he was meant to be part of the band, and we made it a partnership.  The album (Strange Fire) releases in September.


How do you balance motherhood and your career and your marriage?

Every day and week is different. Some weeks I get more sleep and more coffee time and others, I get less. My son is over a year old now so some of that stuff is a bit easier than it used to be—but then again I have to chase him around all over the house making sure he doesn’t cause too much destruction, so it’s a tradeoff. I work three days a week on emails, admin stuff, and/or writing, so we have a babysitter for two days a week and my husband stays home one day a week to make that possible—I travel 3-4 times a month to play music, and somehow we just kind of make it all work. Teething is always a game-changer. 😉

Tell me about how you met your husband and what it’s like being married now.

I met my husband in Tucson, AZ at a youth conference where we were both working. We stayed friends loosely over Twitter and Facebook for a year, and then started dating after I figured out that he was young, Catholic, artistic, and handsome and I was crazy for not putting myself out there.

Being married is a gauntlet of emotion and selfishness and I am a much better and humbler person for it, but I still have a long way to go. I married someone very different than me, and someone who is also creative—we disagree (strongly) a lot and that is very refining. Love grows well under those circumstances if one keeps remembering to put the other person first, so we are better off for being together and growing in happiness every year.

How exactly did you convert into Catholicism?

I started RCIA after a year of personal study — I had been turned on to the Church’s teachings by a young student I met in a coffee shop, and from the first daily Mass I attended I was so intrigued that I had to keep learning. One thing led to another and I found myself entering the Church at Easter Vigil 2007. I am long past the ‘honeymoon phase’ most converts experience and have been down in the mire with everyone else, trying to live a holy life in union with the Church and figure out how to engage culture’s unbelief and my own unbelief in the midst of that. It’s a constant journey. I’m still converting, really.


What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning marriage?

Steer clear of extremes. Being extremely uptight about morals and discernment can be dangerous, as can being extremely carefree about them.


What advice would you give to those struggling with pornography, male or female?

Visit The Porn Effect for a wealth of helpful resources and ways to stay committed to chastity in this area. Make sure you have friends willing to support and help you—addiction has a much easier time surviving in a vacuum.


What’s your opinion on music liturgy?

That’s a big question, with many nuanced answers I could give. A short (and incomplete) opinion I hold is that it is very hard to do modern music tastefully at Mass, but it is possible and I have heard it done. Most of the time, keeping it simple really helps. Guitar and drums are hard to keep in the realm of tasteful (for Mass) so sometimes, something like piano and voice is the better choice.


Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Libresco



Leah Libresco grew up as an atheist in New York.  When she went to college, she picked fights with the most interesting wrong people that she met, who happened to be the campus Catholics.  After a long series of coffees, late night conversations, and book swaps, she would up changing her mind and leaving her deontological beliefs behind to be recieved into the Catholic Church in 2012.  She blogs about religion at Unequally Yoked and her first book, Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer explains how she learned to pray to God, instead of just argue about Him.


When I was browsing around the Patheos site in my college days, I used to see Leah Libresco on the atheist channel. When I saw her blog on the Patheos channel a few years later, I was like “Oh, she converted. Good for her.”

She delves a lot more about what life is like for her as a Catholic in her book Arriving at Amen. I’ll be posting a review on that later this week. For now, I wanted to ask Leah some questions relating to her book and about apologetics in general.

1) Where did the inspiration for Arriving at Amen come from?


Becoming Catholic wasn’t as simple as just changing my mind about God.  I needed to learn how to have a spiritual life at all, and I couldn’t avoid prayers that were hard for me — that would have meant skipping all of them!


I wound up finding my way into prayer by relying a lot on analogies and examples from things I loved in the secular world (so, the repetition of ballroom dance helped tutor me in how to approach the Rosary, and some of what I’d learned about the Sunk Cost Fallacy helped me prepare for Confession).  I hope that the book can be helpful both to anyone who is stymied by one of the seven prayer practices I discuss or someone who’s a little more comfortable but would like to see a prayer from a new angle.


2) What do you tell atheists when they ask you why you became Catholic?


Well, when I want to tell the whole argument, it usually takes about three hours and starts “There are three major schools of ethical reasoning: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics…”  I can’t promise the short version is satisfying, but the gist is that the thing I was most certain of was that morality was real (something we discover, not something we construct) and that we were able to percieve it (albeit imperfectly).  Holding on to this idea created a lot of confusion about how we wind up having access to a transcendent kind of truth, and, in the end, I was more sure of this than I was that God didn’t exist.


3) How do you balance working in news with apologetics?


Most of the time, there’s no balancing act at all — I don’t write apologetics at work; I cover statistics-heavy facets of the day’s news.  The biggest way that my faith impacts my writing is that I try to reflect on the effect my pieces will have on my readers.  I try to avoid writing anything that leaves the reader with a feeling of contempt or hatred, even if I’m discussing a tragedy that’s being treated callously.  I want to follow the Campsite Rule and leave my reader better than I found them, and not just in terms of new facts discovered!


4) You’re obviously not one who shies against politics and religion. What are some tips for having a good civil debate?


A good debate is one that you and your opponent expect won’t be solved in a single conversation.  It’s pretty hard for someone to find out that they’re wrong in a single argument (and it’s prudent to go home and reflect on what you heard before conceding completely).  So, in general, you should be playing a long game.  That often means I put less of my energy and attention into arguments I can’t stick with (drive by commenters, etc).  Starting a fight means starting a relationship — I can only take on so many!


If you’re trying to lay the foundation for future conversations, you need to make it as pleasant as possible for your opponent to fight with you — after all, you want them to invite you over again for a second round.  I try to do this by asking a lot of questions about whatever I’m genuinely curious about, making sure I really understand my opponent, rather than trying to box them in our first discussion.  I try to be honest about which parts of my argument I think are weaker, so my opponent can trust me to be truthful and so that it’s clear it’s worth their time to ask questions of me.

5) With the recent news about the decline in Christianity, what are some reasons for staying Catholic?


I think there’s really only one — because I think it’s true.  It would be silly to stay Catholic just for community or to not disappoint someone or because you haven’t made up your mind what you’re leaving for.  Catholicism shapes my life in a way I wouldn’t want it to if I didn’t think it was rooted in truth.


6) Who are your go-to saints?


My confirmation saint is Augustine.  I wanted a saint who had experience with some of my temptations (gnosticism, Manichaeism, and others) who I could turn to in faith that he knew the troubles I was having.  I also really love St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose love cast out hatred when he volunteered to die for another prisoner in a concentration camp.  I think about St. Catherine of Siena, but mostly in the context of how intimidating I find her, rather than in prayer!  And I love the Breastplate of St. Patrick.


7) What advice would you give to young adults who don’t identify with any particular religion, fallen-away Catholics, and those just struggling with their faith in general?


Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice in general.  I think advice in this domain tends to be best when more specific and tailored to the particular person.  If someone came to me and said that they were struggling with their faith, I’d wind up asking a lot of questions before I had any ideas on how to be helpful (including “What information or experiences do you think would give you peace on this topic?”).  If the person were interested, I might recommend Fr. Thomas Green’s Weeds Among the Wheat, which is a book on Ignatian discernment, but, if I were going to summarize it in a single idea, I’d say this: make choices from a place of consolation, not desolation.  If you’re not sure where you belong and feel conflicted/torn/lousy, try to think about what will lead you to a good choice, but also, just take care of yourself and be patient — don’t rush into anything without a feeling of peace and settledness about your choice.  If you keep pursuing truth faithfully, that sense of being welcomed will come.


Women of Christ Wednesday: Mary Cieslak


Mary Katharine Cieslak is 22 year-old college grad who aspires to be a filmmaker, whatever that may mean in this ever-changing media landscape.

1) Tell me your “coming out” story.

I mean, my “coming out” story is still happening: I only just came out to my little sister last week!! That’s two out of eight people in my immediate family. Personally, I find people’s stories of coming out to themselves infinitely more fascinating. I think in cultures where it is dangerous to come out—and it is undeniable that Catholic culture is generally negative towards accepting anyone other than cisgender and heterosexual persons—there tends to be this self-repression of people within that culture. It took me 12 years to realize I was gay. I just compartmentalized all the little hints, the nagging doubts, and forced myself to forget. That’s just not healthy, and I think there’s also a danger that people will ultimately leave the faith altogether. Heck, it’s already happening, it’s been happening!!

2) What are your perspectives on SSA and being Catholic?

I really dislike the term “SSA” (same sex attraction). To me, it’s another way of disassociating queer people from that identity: “You’re not gay, you’re just a person with same sex attraction!” But you can’t discuss accepting your identity when it’s considered a tacked-on attribute, akin to having brown eyes or blonde hair. I admire how words and meanings matter very much in the Catholic Church, but here? It’s a conversation-halter. That shouldn’t be our goal. Catholicism isn’t a one-liner, so please, stop quoting Galatians 3:28 like you’re dropping the mic. Our faith is a constant dialogue between Scripture and Tradition. And a 2000+ year old conversation will not be nullified by people identifying as queer any more than people identifying by race, ethnicity, or nationality did.

3) How has coming out affected your life?
Well for one thing, a lot of personal questions were answered! But of course, many more took their place. It reminded me of how I felt immediately after I was confirmed in the faith: “Okay but, now what do I do?!?” In an unexpected but pleasant surprise, I do feel more sure in my body now that I recognize its intricacies better, even as I slowly, anxiously come out to people one-by-one. It’s become a journey of self-discovery, and I find myself getting excited each time the Church talks about this subject. More than anything, it’s has made me realize that my faith is happening, it is ever-present, and I must engage in dialogue with it! How could I not?

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes!! *laughs* But in all seriousness, my go-to is my namesake, the Virgin Mary; she is such a benevolent Queen, a comforting Mother in a time where I am afraid to come out to my own. And I’m intrigued by the various discussions of saints and Biblical figures who were queer. The tomboy in me has always loved St Joan of Arc, so even if the idea that she is transgender is unfounded, make her the patron saint of it. Right now there is no official patron saint of any queer or MOGII persons. Give us someone, please!!

5) What advice would you give to Catholics who identify as having SSA?

You are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and you are loved by the Creator who made you. Now that you have discovered this new part of yourself, you can embark on this spiritual journey! And you do not have to make that journey alone. There are more and more of us realizing and accepting God’s creation within us every day. Seek us out. You were made from Love; you were made to be loved. Just knock.

6) What would you say to adults who struggle to understand homosexuality?
I was once like you. I thought, love the sinner, hate the sin. But love is not manifested through disapproval and disregard. How uninspired, how lazy of the Church Militant to approach its vulnerable members in this way.
Listen to the people who come forward. Make a safe space for people who do not. You are eager to direct people to God and show his love, but you cannot welcome them with one arm wrapped around them, while the other pushes them away.
Do not assume that you are never in the company of queer persons. Many times my father has unwittingly belittled his lesbian daughter at the family dinner, while in fear I bit my tongue on the truth.
Be gracious to people who fall from grace. The amount of times I’ve come back to confession pleases my priest to no end. Because the Church was made not to condemn but to save. Continuously. Constantly. Limitlessly: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?”


Women of Christ Wednesday: Mariella Hunt


From her website:

Mariella Hunt is 20 years old and lives in the Treasure Valley. She writes fiction and reflections on the Catholic faith.

She has been featured on TeenInk Magazine, with a poem published in their July 2013 edition. She also guest writes for Ignitum Today and for Stephanie Kehr.

Mariella is currently in the process of publishing her first novel Dissonance.

She summarizes her novel thusly:

A mysterious ailment dooms Allie Grant to permanent confinement. It limits her contact with other people, but doesn’t stop her from getting away to chase a song no one else hears.

When Allie’s recital ends in tragedy, she’s sent to live with Julian, an uncle she’s never met. He claims to be a Muse with surreal affinity for the arts–and answers that could heal her.

Allie learns quickly there’s more to this man, who despite his haunts has a world in his hands. As they struggle with demons together, tragedy gives way to truth that will set both of them free.

1) Where did the idea for Dissonance come from?

It came from the ocean. Five years ago I was visiting Peru and fell in love with the sea; this fascination became a story about mermaids and sirens. Somehow as I’ve edited over the years, the storyline took a total change and now it’s about Muses. I don’t know how that happened…but that just shows how much life a story can have.

2) Are there any Catholic elements in this story?

There’s an abandoned cathedral but it’s only there to illustrate the eccentricity of the man who owns it. Really, I didn’t go out of my way to pluck religious elements into this story. I think there are traces of Catholicism in how I tried to make family important, a priority over all things. Anything else is just coincidence that fit well with the story.

3) What kind of stories do you like to read?

Lately I’ve taken to reading a lot of literary fiction and YA to review, but I have a definite soft spot for classic novels. They’re timeless and they have a strange magic to them.

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Mother Mary has kept me calm all this time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the details for publishing are finally settling down on May, the month of Mary! I had planned for a December release, but God proved to me that even manuscripts are part of His plan and not mine.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

For your book to be any good, you’re probably going to rewrite a lot. Don’t let the years discourage you, but be prepared to think you’re done and then realize it could be better. I promise there’s a point where you eventually feel satisfied with the plot.

Dissonance will be coming out soon! I’ll keep you posted on it.

Men of Christ Monday: Matt Maher

I had the very very fortunate privilege of interviewing Matt Maher recently about his album “Saints and Sinners.” I have reviewed the album on this blog, but it’s quite another thing to hear the story behind the creative process in making this album.


So where did the inspiration for this album come from? 

I was thinking about this next album while on tour for All the People Said Amen. Originally making protest songs, going back to the Shakespearean definition of the word, which means. loudly proclaim something you believe. too confusing. too long to explain. Moved on to the idea of being inspired by the saints. Not just those who are canonized. Reveal something about God’s heart. Inspired by world youth day in Brazil. Look through Church History. January of last year, starting writing A Future Not My Own. Had a phase of writer’s block. Record label wanted a whole album and he had a lot of unfinished songs.



Tell me the stories behind some of the songs on this album.

Because He Lives-Gaither. Taking pieces of the song and sort of making it a “part two” to the original. Instrument is, obviously, inspired by St. Francis. It felt like God was working through me with this particular song because it just feels so timely. Abide With Me was inspired by “Abide In Me.” The song was composed by Henry Francis Lyte as he was dying. Glory Bound was nspired by Woody Guthrie’s “This Train is Bound for Glory.” I use the music in this album to illustrate the dichotomy of being called to be saints, but still being a sinner. 80s music was a big influence, including Springsteen. Land of My Father was inspired by a talk that centered on idea of returning to the Kingdom of God. The chorus was inspired by Isaiah 6 and the vision of Heaven. It reminds people of God’s kingship.


What is your personal favorite song on the album?

When I first created the album, my favorite track was “Rest.” I wrote it while my grandmother was losing her eyesight, coming to terms with the fact that she’s dying. I started thinking about the idea of dying with dignity.

My current favorite, now that I’m on tour is “Deliverer.” “Deliverer” was inspired by life as a parent and as an artist. Mary held all these things in her heart-and I’m just starting to learn what that means now. The moments you experience with children reveal a glimpse of the kingdom of God, impact your life. This song was inspired by my son overcoming his fear of the dark, but it didn’t come to me right away. It came from carrying this memory in my heart first.


Who are your go-to saints?

This album is round one of my list. These are the saints that are walking with me.


What advice would you give to young Catholic adults?

To those in the church: Memory is a powerful thing. Most of our faith is rooted in our memory. Sin is rooted in our fear of the future or the past. We have memories of what it means to be a sinner, not just to remind us about the Mercy of God, but to continue actively pursuing a relationship with God. We remember needing mercy so that we can be merciful to others. The mercy we are called to extend is limitless and inexhaustible. What the world needs now are saints that are rooted in reality and not in sentimentality. Most people grew up with a distortion of Christianity. God shining in our weakness, the power of the Cross is perfected in our weakness.

Men of Christ Monday: Timothy Quigley

Timothy Quigley is an actor and filmmaker based in Lancaster. He is the creator and star of the sitcom, “Ordinary”.

“Ordinary” is a sitcom about a fresh-faced newly-ordained priest assigned to a parish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When his rascal little brother Josh shows up at his new home, Father Anderson finds himself facing more challenges and surprises than he could have anticipated. From handling erratic staff to wrestling restless catechumens, he’ll need to summon all the patience he can to get through his ordinary day. You can donate to the Season 2 Kickstarter in the link
Timothy volunteers as a videographer and editor at Lancaster Community Television (LCTV66) and is actively involved in community filmmaking and local theater. He will next be seen on stage in the musical, “Absolutely Anything” produced by The Creative Works of Lancaster, March 5-8.

First of all, tell me (and my readers) exactly who you are and what you currently do for a living.

I’m Timothy Quigley, cradle Catholic, from a happy family of 10 children happy to keep the Irish-Catholic stereotype alive. I am an actor, a filmmaker and local television producer. Those three jobs keep me quite busy.

I take it there are some Irish twins in your family?

None, as a matter of fact!

So you have a family of your own now. Describe a typical day in your life, balancing your family and the jobs you have.

I have been married for almost 7 years, no children (pregnancies but no births). My wife and I both come from large families and wanted to have one right off the bat, but our Father had other plans. We’ve seen this as a time to find ways of ministering where we might otherwise not be able. My wife, Carolyn, is a nurse who works a number of places but primarily as a school nurse at the local high school, JP McCaskey. Monday through Friday, she’s doing her work and I’m doing mine, touching base with each other regularly. We get up early, get ready for work together, then split up until I come back from the office to go to bed. Saturdays we get housework done and Sundays we chill.

What inspired you to create Ordinary?

The first inkling of an idea came from working around the rectory and observing how similar it was to any other workplace. It started as a joke that NBC’s “The Office” could easily do a spin-off called “The Parish”. Years later I returned to the idea and started to write, but it morphed into something very different than what I thought it would be. I didn’t want to fashion a “Father Michael Scott”, if you will. We have plenty of them elsewhere in visual media, and they’re just not representative of the majority of priests I know. This led to centering the show on the priest and his story. The vocation of the priesthood has always fascinated me, and there’s a lot to work with when your character is in persona Christi, with elements both very human and very divine.

Tell me more of your personal vocation story.

I started discerning the priesthood when I was 10 as an altar boy, attending daily Mass. At that time, the only other thing I wanted to be was an actor, but when I learned that movie and TV actors don’t get to write their own lines or direct the movie/show, I said “Forget it then, I’ll be a priest”. I went to a school in New Hampshire for boys wanting to become priests, run by the Legion of Christ. I was with the Legion for a short time but discerned away from there thinking I was perhaps called to diocesan and parochial life instead of the life of a religious community like the Legion, so I entered diocesan seminary at Saint Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia. It was there that I watched the short film, “Fishers of Men” from Grassroot Films. My friend, with whom I had confided my recent doubts about my vocation, turned to me and said, “Doesn’t that just inspire you to want to be a priest!?” I said, “No, it inspires me to become a filmmaker.” I left seminary in 2006 and started studying the craft. Now I’m an actor who does get to write his own lines and direct his own show. Heh, a show about a priest at that. Everybody wins!

What led you to marriage?

It didn’t take much thought or spiritual agony on my part. In 2007, a year after I left seminary, I met a really cute girl at the Saint Gertrude’s 20s Group in Cincinnati and I asked her out. My first girlfriend! I married her 10 months later. Transitioning from pursuing a priestly vocation to a marital vocation was relatively seamless. Because while I discerned I didn’t have a vocation to the priesthood, I was certain I still had a vocation to fatherhood. My whole life changed when I altered my vocational discernment approach to basically, “Pray and just go with your gut.” There’s way too much vocational analysis paralysis among our young Catholics.

What advice do you have for those who are discerning vocations and struggle with “vocational analysis paralysis”?

I think everyone discerning their vocations understands they were created for a purpose. We know that we each have a unique way we are meant to know, love, and serve God in this life, so that we can be happy with Him in the next. That puts pressure on us to make sure we don’t muck this up!! But it’s really not that complicated. Our Father has no interest in making our vocational discovery a PhD in aerospace engineering. (Unless of course he is calling you to be an actual rocket scientist then… yeah.) What He really wants from us is to enter into prayer with Him and stay close to Him. Whatever I am made for is what I am MADE for; it is part of who I am, right there in my gut and will become clearer with prayer. So what is the thing that drives you, motivates you to be the saint you’re called to be? Do that thing. Don’t focus on vocational discernment as a, “What do I feel called to eventually be?” You already know: a saint. Ask instead, “What do I feel called to do today?”

Who are your go-to saints?

The Blessed Mother is number one. I chose the name Mary at my Confirmation. Others I go to regularly are Saint Joseph, Saint Timothy, Saint Raymond Nonnatus. When I’m in the middle of filming, I go to Saint Jude and Saint Rita.

What do advice do you have to young adults who want to pursue a career in film and television? How do you balance your faith and your work?


I can’t speak to the challenges of keeping your faith while working in Hollywood. That’s one avenue some take, but I’ve decided to stay in my lovely hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. With the ubiquity of the internet and the low cost and wide accessibility of equipment, there aren’t any good excuses to not just do it. Surround yourself with talented people, which becomes easier the more you do and the more you pay attention to what everyone else is doing. And don’t ever make the mistake of thinking other filmmakers are your adversarial competitors. They’re your allies. One thing that is very cool about our production of the second season of Ordinary is the great team of local filmmakers we’ve assembled. None of them are even Catholic, but they love what they do and they love the show. It’s not worth it to compromise your artistic vision or your religious conviction in an effort to be liked. People value authenticity of character and work that is genuine.


Please donate to the Ordinary Season 2 Kickstarter! Season 1 is available for On-Demand on Vimeo.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Marriage Edition

Diana is the creative force behind The Faithful Traveler, as the show’s co-producer, writer, host, second cameraperson, and editor. She is also The Faithful Traveler’s entertaining and vivacious host, imbuing the series with an exuberance that attracts viewers of all ages and backgrounds and makes them excited to join her on her travels. Diana explores the art, architecture, history, and doctrine behind shrines and places of pilgrimage around the world, and hopes to encourage people to visit these spectacular locations themselves, armed with the information provided in The Faithful Traveler. For those who can’t make the travels themselves, Diana hopes to bring these amazing sites into their homes, and enable them to virtually make pilgrimage with her.
Born and raised in San Diego, Diana is a lifelong Catholic who uses her knowledge of her faith, her English and legal degrees, and the marketing and publicity skills she has honed in the last seventeen years as a book editor in trade and professional publishing markets in all of her roles with The Faithful Traveler. Diana received a BA in English at Pepperdine University and a JD from the University of Notre Dame Law School. She has been a book editor since 1998, and currently edits books for a publisher in New York City.

Today, I interview Diana von Glahn and ask her about her show and her marriage with David. I ask that you pray for both of them, since David was recently hospitalized.


What inspired The Faithful Traveler?

The Faithful Traveler grew out of seeds that were planted in my childhood, and which grew throughout my youth and young adulthood. I’m a cradle Catholic, and i grew up in San Diego, where Father Junipero Serra built the first of 21 missions in CA. I grew up loving the saints and learning about them. As i moved from my home to go to school, wherever i would go, i would seek out a Catholic Church because that was home.

As I travelled around–Malibu for college and South Bend for grad school with a year in London, my world view was growing, and I was encountering different styles of architecture and churches. I found them fascinating.

At Notre Dame, at the time, it was the only Catholic university with a chapel in every dorm. They all differed architecturally based on when they were built. I wanted to write a book about them, calling it The Chapels of Notre Dame! That idea was eventually scrapped because of life, but I continued to explore churches in my life, moving from San Diego to Mississippi to New York City.

In NYC, I met David. we moved to PA and eventually got engaged. As we planned our honeymoon, I wanted to include both Catholic and touristy things in our itinerary. We were watching a lot of the travel channel, and we’d often talk about how awesome it would be if there was a travel show on tv that went to catholic places, but that didn’t talk about Catholics like we were a bunch of nutters.

(Sometimes, non-Catholics can sound a little TOO skeptical when talking about things like incorruptible saints and eucharistic miracles. but really, who can blame them?!)

I wanted to watch something that had the production values of the Travel channel and the History channel, but that actually talked about Catholic things and places. Eventually, we decided that we had to create that show ourselves, and so The Faithful Traveler was born


Tell me about how you met.


David and I met shortly after I started working at a legal publisher in NYC

Apparently–or so he tells me–he thought I was cute and wanted to meet me. Unfortunately for him, the first thing he said to me was some snide remark about me being a lawyer (I was a legal editor), and I immediately decided I didn’t like him.

So for, like, a year, he would come by and try to talk to me, and I would be so rude!

It was horrible. I often say it was like Pride and Prejudice. Eventually, it got to the point where I would tolerate being in his company. (I was such a jerk!)

One day, I REALLY wanted to go see opera in central park, but all of my friends were all, “WHAT?! You’re crazy!”

No one would go with me! One of my friends said, “David von Glahn likes opera!”

I was desperate–this was a huge event and I didn’t want to go alone, so I asked David if he’d go with me and he said yes. I guess that was our first date. He bought wine and took me to a very nice restaurant. He made me laugh all night long.

The opera was horrible but we had fun and then we stayed up talking in Central Park until, like, 3 am.

He wanted to know what kind of guy I’d date, and I told him, “I’m only dating Catholics from now on, sorry.” He wasn’t Catholic, and I had just had years of dating non-Catholics and I eventually got tired of always compromising on my faith

David said, “well, what if I’m interested in converting?”

I said, “My kind of Catholic is too hard for you.” But by this point I liked him, and so I prayed about it

It occurred to me that there are many Catholics who aren’t too stellar about practicing their faith and so why would I deny this one person the opportunity to rise to the occasion? We started dating, and David went to Mass with me every Sunday. He LOVED it. He went to adoration with me at St. Patrick’s Cathedral one day early in our relationship.


Wow! The classic flirt and convert story.

I know, right?! But I really wasn’t flirting with him. Anyway, we dated for about 1 month and then Sept 11th happened. David was supposed to be flying to LA that day. I saw the whole thing from the windows of our office on 6th ave and when they closed the bridges, I gathered my girlfriends and we walked up to David’s apt on the Upper West Side. It changed everything. The tenor of our relationship. Our happy courting days were cut short. Eventually we moved to PA and got married.

We were engaged on the feast of the annunciation and married on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was a beautiful winter wedding.


What’s your marriage is like now, especially since you work together on the show?

We’ve been married 11 years and to be quite honest, my brand of Catholicism is hard for him sometimes. (My brand being cradle Catholic.) I love everything about the church and don’t ever question anything. He’s a New Yorker. He questions everything. For many years, this caused problems in our marriage, but we grew and learned. Now we do our best to make our differences work for us as opposed to against us

Marrying a convert isn’t easy, but you know, marrying anyone isn’t easy. I know many cradle Catholics who have married other cradle Catholics who have crises of faith or who get divorced. The key is being committed. Really committed.


Who are your go-to Saints?


The Blessed Mother, always. St Michael, St Joseph, St Rita of Cascia, and St Anthony, when I lose something.


What advice would you give to young married couples? And what advice would you give to singles?

To both, I would say read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.


For the singletons out there, I’d say, read that book and identify what kind of love language you speak–what kind of love you need  to feel loved. Then go out there and find someone who can give that to you. Don’t settle. Pray all the time. Don’t get impatient. A lifetime of being married to the wrong person is way worse than a lifetime of being alone because you can also be alone in a marriage and that is very painful

For the young marrieds or soon to be marrieds–my niece is among this list–I would say read the book together. Identify what love languages you speak and do your best to speak those languages to one another

The key to staying married is this: Forgive. Pray. Don’t ever quit. And don’t ever settle, either. Remember that your spouse is your vocation. He or she is your ladder to heaven or to hell, and you are the same for him or her. Let your spouse make you holy.

I once had a friend say something to me that made me laugh but which was so real, so true. “We all have rough edges, but its only in bumping up against one another that those edges are smoothed out.” That’s what marriage is like. You will bump up against one another and it will hurt, but don’t let that chase you away from one another. Don’t let the answer be the creation of space. You have to allow the bumps to smooth you out, to make you holy. It’s part of the purification process that God allows us to go through. We can’t be afraid of or run away from the purification if we want to get to Heaven.

One more thing: Don’t ever think someone else has it better than you. Everyone carries a heavy cross. you just don’t always see it.



Woman In Love: An Interview with Katie Hartfiel

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Katie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of the Lord. As a teenager, Katie fell in love with Christ at a Steubenville youth conference in her home state of Colorado. She received a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love. This work coaches young women as they strive for purity through praying for and journaling to their future spouse. She has been blessed to watch hearts come alive with the realization that our faithful God hungers to exceed our deepest desires.

I first met Katie and her husband Mark when they gave a talk at my school. It was part of a series of lectures called Bottom of the Cup. Katie’s testimony inspired me to address my journal entries to my “Beloved,” which could apply to a future earthly husband or a godly one.


What was the inspiration behind the Woman In Love book and the brand as a whole?


Woman In Love is a term that was coined by the girls in my youth program and I as an alternative to the phrase “Woman of God.” We tended to associate the thought of being a “Woman of God” with images of churning butter. There is nothing wrong with such an image, but we felt that what really described us was that we were women who were madly, deeply, passionately in love. This love radiates into everything we think, do and say. We are defined by this love. This is the heart of being a Woman of God… being a woman who loves and who is beloved. The book focuses on the fact that when we accept Jesus as our First Love, He is free to mold us for our second love- whether that be the Church or a spouse.



What are you doing nowadays?


I was a full time youth minister in Houston for seven years and left my position about 6 months after my second child was born. I am now a full-time stay-at-home-mom. My kids and I sleep too late and them stumble around getting ready for our day. I homeschool in the mornings, play in the early afternoon and work on my ministry in the late afternoon. Evenings are usually spent on my holey couch with my husband and a hot beverage. On the side I do some speaking and writing which allows me to be with teens and share my passion.


What do you have to say to those who think young adults aren’t participating enough (or even at all) with church activities?


It is hard to find a home in parish life when you are a young adult. Many programs are geared toward youth or families… and let’s be honest– a lot of old people. The truth is that the church will benefit from an awakening of the young adult demographic! Their gifts are endless! I have so many young adult friends who have given so much to our parish through heading fundraising efforts, teaching and serving. The truth is that when we give to our parish we receive.



What do you think is the best thing about being married and being a mother? How different is it from being single or a religious sister?


The best part is the experience of meeting God in my kids and husband. They teach me all the time about God’s unconditional love for me. At least once a day, usually more, I find myself looking at their faces and feeling overwhelmed in adoration of God’s generosity. When we find the path God is calling us on, He WILL encounter us. He does so in a particular singular way through marriage, and He does so in a particular singular way through single life and a particular singular way through religious life. He knows the place that will set our hearts on fire.



Who is your go-to saint for things relating to motherhood? Who was your go-to saint when you were waiting for your husband-to-be? Any saints that you designated for your daughters?


I spend a lot of time shooting arrow prayers to the Blessed Mother during the day. I often like to ask her to come and take over so I can have 5 minutes.


A saint that has really introduced herself into my life beginning during my Husband-To-Be prayer days is St. Philomena who is the patroness of purity for the 21st century. She stood up against her country, family and the most powerful man in the world in the name of purity and she is a powerhouse. She has been very faithful to me in her intercessions! My daughters both have a love of St. Philomena and St. Clare, but they are particularly partial to St. Therese.



What advice would you give to young women and their mothers about discerning vocations and relationships?


Trust. God will never be outdone in generosity, and if we are generous with God He will be generous with is. I heard before that faith is knowing that when you step off the cliff you will either be given solid ground to walk on, or be given the wings to fly. We tend to rush things in discernment, but young women- you aren’t waiting for your love story to start- you are living it RIGHT NOW. Today is an important day in your formation for your vocation. Worry about today and live one step at a time.



If you could go back to when you started writing letters to your HTB, what would you tell her?


I think about this a lot actually. I would say, “Katie, put your head down and just make it. It’s all going to be better than you could imagine on the other side. God is hiding you in His wounds and sharing tears beside you- He is sharing in your cross, but He will also share with you His Resurrection.”

Interview With Arleen Spenceley


Photo courtesy of Arleen Spenceley

Arleen Spenceley is author of the book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin (Ave Maria Press, Nov. 2014). She works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com.

What was the inspiration behind
Chastity is For Lovers?
Chastity Is For Lovers was inspired by my desire to encourage the people who already practice chastity, and to present chastity to the people who don’t practice it yet. I want people who are virgins to know they’re not alone, and I want people who are saving sex from now on to know that chastity truly is possible, and I want people who haven’t heard of it, or who’ve got it confused for abstinence, to know what it actually is.
Do you feel yourself drawn towards any particular vocation or do you prefer to be open to all of them?
I am most drawn to marriage, but I’m not married to it. I’m still not sure to which specific vocation God will call me, but I hope to be open to any of them when that’s clearer to me. In the meantime, seeking Him first is a fantastic way to prepare to accept the call to any vocation. Doing so will refine our desires, and pave the way for continuing to seek Him first when I become a wife or a nun or otherwise consecrated single person.
Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?
I’m two kinds of single: unmarried, and also not currently in a dating relationship. But I’d consider myself “single and mingling,” ’cause I do date. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be perpetually single, because I don’t know yet if I will be. But I can tell you that this season of singleness — if it indeed is a season — is actually kind of exciting. That has less to do with what I’ve done during this season and more to do with what God is done. It is clear to me, almost always only in retrospect, that how single I am has been integral for my ability and availability to do some of what God has invited me to do.
Had I not been single while writing the book proposal for Chastity Is for Lovers and then while writing the book itself, I probably would have neglected the writing or the relationship. That isn’t to say a person can’t write a book, or travel and speak, or otherwise serve the Church while dating or married. But because of my particular circumstances, another commitment would have been a bad idea.
I wrote the book proposal during my second to last semester of grad school. At the time, I worked 32 hours a week as a staff writer for the newspaper, interned 14 hours a week as a counselor at a youth shelter, took two classes and lived, interned, worked and went to school in four different cities. As much as I had moments of hoping I’d meet a guy to date, God didn’t open that door and in retrospect, I’m super glad that he didn’t.
One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
When loneliness hits, I say “focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus,” over and over, in my head. The last time I “ached” like we sometimes do while we’re single was when I was interested in a specific guy — a guy from whom I wasn’t hearing. And while I hoped he’d text me or call, God legit spoke to me when this thought popped into my head: “You don’t ache because you’re alone. You ache because you’re looking in the wrong direction.” I hadn’t been seeking first Jesus. I’d been seeking first some other guy. So I needed that reminder to focus on Jesus.
Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to anything relating to dating/boys/love life/etc?
For most of my adult life, St. Francis de Sales has been my go-to, ’cause we’re basically BFFs.  In undergrad, while I studied journalism, I suffered from anxiety. One day, I stumbled upon a quote from St. Francis de Sales about anxiety, and it really helped. A few days later, I stumbled upon another de Sales quote. It was also about anxiety, and it also really helped. I’d never heard of de Sales before I stumbled upon his quotes, so the journalist in me had to do some digging. I looked him up, which is how I discovered that he’s the patron saint of journalists. I’ve felt a connection to him ever since.
If you’d like to see the quotes I stumbled upon, click here.
What advice would you give to young girls and boys right now?
I’d give both females and males the same two pieces of advice: a) Reflect a lot on the fact that you are of infinite value because you exist, and b) Focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus, focus on Jesus.

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