The Devil Waits Outside the Church

The Devil Waits Outside the Church

She arrived during the homily. Walking right up to the statue of Mary Help of Christians, crowned with May flowers and lovingly arranged her small spray in the Virgin’s arms. She genuflected, then crossed to the altar and prostrated herself, before proceeding to sit on the other side.

devil waits
St. Michael and the Devil

I recognized her from 6:30 am daily Mass and from the food pantry. I had suspected for some time that she had some kind of mental illness and was perhaps homeless. Though of late, she had been fixing herself up and dressing with more dignity.

My dad, who suffers from dementia, had had a rough week, which I attributed to the heavy overcast. Therefore, I also attributed her strange behavior to that as well. It was the first time I had seen her exhibit such a level of inappropriateness during Mass.

When she went up to serve as a Eucharistic Minister, there was more bowing and prostrating. She held the chalice on the crown of her head and then kissed it. She did offer the Blood of Christ appropriately to the faithful. But when she returned it to the table at the side of the altar, there was more show, and putting it on her head and such. Finally, Father spoke a few quiet words to her and removed the vessel and cloth from her hands. She submissively returned to her seat, with no further exhibition.

All this was difficult for me to observe. I wanted it to end, to not distract me from the Mass. I was irritated. It was wasting my time and distracting me. I was not feeling loving or kind. I realized this and forced myself to be patient.

It was the comments I heard after Mass that angered me. “Someone needs to get that woman off the altar. It was sacrilegious!”  Yes, I believe she does need to be gently corrected, perhaps guided into some other area of ministry. Nevertheless, I must take issue with this.

For years now, I have watched this congregation shunt its elderly, disabled, and mentally ill to the side. Even out the door. Making them feel unwelcome and unwanted. Shame on you.

You boast of a school to form young Catholics but then you disrespect the ones who worked for decades to build this church and that school. Who gave of their time, their talent, and their money. Shame on you.

You too will be there. How will you feel when people push you further and further to the door? Did the patron of your parish love his boys but not his parents? Did he tell his mother that he did not need her anymore because her abilities were lagging? Is it only the children and youth who are welcome in the kingdom of God? People can serve many different ways. It is sad when the community only selects the bright, the beautiful, and the young and then complains that there is not enough help.

I have not seen her since the incident. I hope she has not shaken the dust of this community from her shoes. But I fear she has. May she find the love and acceptance she deserves.

The devil does indeed await us just outside the church. We must strive to continue to be the Body of Christ to the world, starting with each other.



Mother Mary’s Garden

mother marys garden

An invitation

to hear the cousins play at a tiny church festival in San Luis, prompted a leisurely drive back. We took Highway 159 toward Taos, NM, to County Road P, toward Manassa. Mother Mary’s Garden is tucked away on the left. We parked outside the gate and walked in.

mmg rock and flowers

Mother Mary’s Garden

is a non-denominational, spiritual oasis. Susan and Milt Sanderford were inspired to create it after a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia. Because of its location, in the middle of the high desert of the San Luis Valley, it is peaceful and serene.

statue mother mary

I enjoyed wandering the gardens. Yet I wondered where they got water. I found it noteworthy that this off-grid shrine has a well, with solar-powered timers for watering.

ceremonial firepit


radiate from the iconic statue of Mary in the middle of the garden, to each of the 7 gardens surrounding it. Plenty of scattered benches provide room to rest. In addition to 2 labyrinths, the gardens include a stone circle, a fire pit circle, a medicine wheel, a healing grotto, and a star child circle.


Walking the labyrinths

and strolling the paths is refreshing. The wide expanse of Alpine Valley surrounding Mother Mary’s Garden is soothing to the spirit. Vast, silent mountains provide the perfect setting for meditation and centering.

Afterward, I breathe deeply of the fresh, mountain air and soak in the warm sun as I enjoy the covered swing. Such a lovely, secret garden in what can sometimes be a harsh, unforgiving land.

Plan your pilgrimage:



Carrick Ministries – Catechetical Artistry


In the few years since I last reviewed Carrick Ministries, their focus has broadened and evolved so much that I thought it was worth another mention.  Julie is still singing, writing songs, touring, and doing parish missions. Carrick Ministries has also teamed up with a number of other artists, such as Leighton Drake, another fantastic artist/minister I reviewed previously. This enables Carrick Ministries to offer a number of parish missions, events, and even a diocesan Catholic Women’s Conference, coordinated by the team.

Event choices offer themes of: Divine Mercy, Discipleship, Using the Sacraments in our daily lives, “Living Our Creed”, “Living the Mass”, and Marriage. All events are elevated by Julie’s inspirational music and exquisite voice. Dates are still available for Memorial Day Weekend, through October 4th. See Carrick Ministries website for further information and to schedule your event.

An interesting addition to the offerings is the “Gathered in Grace – Women’s Conference”. This is fully coordinated and presented by Carrick Ministries, who will work with your diocese in scheduling, managing and promoting it. The conference offerings include: 2 presenters, Julie and one other; music; materials to help get your conference set up and print ready materials for promotion, as well as a broadcast-ready Public Service Announcement. For more info, testimonials and to schedule your conference, see Carrick Ministries website.

Finally, I cannot help but recommend Julie’s amazing music. Her recordings include Catholic favorites as well as her own compositions. Her voice was exquisite before her bout with a rare and insidious form of lung cancer, and she came back even better than ever. Her personal struggles, reflected in the songs she has written, touch every one of us who have experienced the same or similar struggles. Her faithful reliance on Jesus and “Mamma Mary” is a light of hope for all of us looking for the answer to making it through the trials of this life. Carrick Ministries is now offering Julie’s music in 10 CDs, 3 DVDs, a songbook, and a complete boxed set.


Bella – Review

Bella, released in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival, is one of those movies that I really meant to see, but never got around to it.  Thanks to Netflix, I finally did, and wow, what a great movie!

The story, which takes place in one day, may get a little confusing as the backstory unfolds in flashbacks.  Jose, a soccer star who has just signed a lucrative contract, accidentally kills a small child and serves time in prison.  After his release, he works in his brother’s restaurant as a chef, where he meets Nina, a waitress who has a brief affair (not with Jose) which ends in an unplanned pregnancy.  Nina’s solution is to end the pregnancy, but Jose has other ideas, and Nina changes her plans (as shown in flash-forwards, confused yet?).  The subtle anti-abortion message is so powerful, that I can see why pro-life groups adopted this movie and helped to heavily promote it.  

I enjoyed the portrayal of Jose’s family and particularly his interaction with his brother Manny, whose compulsive reactions Jose responds to with calm dismissal.  Such as when Manny fires Jose, who simply walks out the back door of the restaurant, then returns the next morning and cooks Manny breakfast as if nothing happened.

My favorite scene has to be Jose, sitting with a rosary in his hand, while Nina is taken into the back of the abortion clinic.  It’s something you might miss, if you weren’t Catholic, but to me, it screamed the power of Our Blessed Mother’s intercession.

Bella is a story about imperfect people, living sometimes difficult lives and facing complicated choices.  It’s about the power of God bringing awesome good out of our human weakness.


Ireland’s Rich Religious History – Guest Post


Ireland, known by many as the “Island of Saints and Scholars” has a rich, inspirational and sublime spiritual heritage.  Monastic settlements were founded in many different parts of Ireland.  The fame of these monastic settlements, the quality of their education, their saintly and prayerful way of life attracted many from Europe to come and spend some time in Ireland.  Many of these monks established monastic settlements in many different parts of Europe.  It has been said many times that the Irish monks rescued Europe from the ravages of the vandals who plundered much of Europe during what is often known as the “Dark Ages”.
There is hardly a place in Ireland which does not have a close association with an Irish saint.  The locals are very conscious of their links with their local saints and celebrate these links with great devotion at specific times during the year.   They are very conscious of the heritage they have inherited.  It is not unusual for a community to have its local schools, one of its streets named after its local saint.  Local football teams and clubs are also named after the local saint, such is the awareness of their identity with their local saint.
 Saints such as St. Patrick and St. Bridget need no introduction.  Others almost as well known include St. Brendan, St. Kevin, St Columba, St. Ciaran, St. Enda, St. Finbarr, St. Gobnait, St. Oliver Plunkett, St. Mel and St. Malachy.  Theirs is a heritage which is richly cherished, valued and treasured by the locals in those parts of Ireland which are closely associated with these respective saints.
Many of the most scenic parts of Ireland are very closely associated with the saints in Ireland. Places such as Knock, Lough Derg, Glendalough, Croke Patrick and Clonmacnoise are enchanting, captivating, picturesque and prayerful.  What about a day’s retreat on Lough Derg, the island so closely associated with St. Patrick, the island to which so many Irish people return each year to their renew their faith?  Or what about Mass out in Inishfallen, one of the many islands in the Lakes of Killarney?  Maybe one would like to visit Knock in Co. Mayo?   Knock is one of the most important Marian Shrines in the world and draws huge numbers of pilgrims each year. Maybe one would like to visit Ballintubber Abbey or Holy Cross Abbey, places of worship which have barely changed despite their antiquity. All these sights can be seen on an O’Connor Autotours Religious tour program either tailor made or by taking part in their popular Celtic Cross program.
 Combine all this with the opportunity to see the Green Isle and have a relaxing holiday.  Whether the sun shines, the fog lies low on the mountains or the rain falls, the vista constantly changes as one travels around the shores of this beautiful country one calls the Emerald Isle.  And there will also be opportunities to do some shopping if so wished by the members of the group. 
One will return home, invigorated and renewed, refreshed and energised, revitalised and strengthened in one’s faith and beliefs.  One will view life from a more affirmative and more positive perspective.
The list of places to visit is endless, the choice is yours.  Every effort will be made to accommodate the wishes of the group. The aim will be to make sure that all the members will value the time spent on pilgrimage and will recall their pilgrimage as one which will have a bearing on their lives in the years ahead.  In all cases the group will have their own Spiritual Director which will add immeasurably to your pilgrimage experience in Ireland.  For further details of the service provided by O’Connor Autotours please view the following link   or contact them by email
Guest post courtesy of Michael Clifford, O’Connor Autotours, Religious Tour Director/Driver-guide, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.  O’Connor Autotours website includes details on all their tour packages, including day trips, rail and private tours.  They also have links to many other Ireland travel resources.  
No compensation was received by Catholic Traveller or O’Connor Autotours for this guest post.