For some ten happy years (1985-1994) I was a parishioner at St Anthony’s Church in beautiful Rocky Point, New York. It was a place where my husband and I began our family and raised little ones amidst a burgeoning beach community in a church with a wonderful crew of (mostly) Italian-Amercan priests who loved Jesus, People, and Pasta, in that order. I learned to love St Anthony under their kind tutelage, (along with his many affectionate nicknames of San Antonio, “Tony”, St Anthony of Padua, and St Antonio of Lisbon).
St Anthony is the saint who finds what is lost to us… from lost earrings and diamonds, to lost faith and bearings. Dear St Anthony come around, something is lost and needs to be found…
You see, when I was first a stay-at-home Mom, I was more than a little bit lost in the role. I had a rough transition into motherhood, particularly in yielding my professional life to the privilege of staying at home to raise my children. But Jesus used those years to introduce me to his Mother in a powerful way through the nurturing community of women he sent into my life in those days. So I have always had a special place in my heart for St Anthony ever since those early mothering years when I finally “found” being a Mom was just about the greatest thing that might ever happen to me.
Fast forward to today and imagine my joy in getting an invitation from the Pilgrim Center of Hope to come to San Antonio to speak at the Catholic Women’s Conference last weekend. It was not lost on me that this was St Anthony’s turf, nor that I was being asked to speak about the mission portion of my book… that of spiritual and physical motherhood. God has a sense of humor, does he not?
It was a wonderful few days, notwithstanding my being stranded en route by weather-related delays in Houston, and missing the opportunity to pray at the basilica dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux at a pre-conference event. But eventually, my intrepid “angel” guide, Ivanna Warnken, picked me up and delivered me to the hotel (as she would all weekend long), I was able to catch up with Anastasia Northrop and take her out for a drink in thanksgiving for her support of my book.
The next day I was happy to re-connect with local San Antonio pals Angela and Dan Sealana at a delightful lunch on the Riverwalk. Angela was an early reader of my book, (and I think she was largely responsible for bringing it to the attention of the conference committee, for which I’m grateful.)
Later on, Angela gave this lovely talk Friday night that set the tone for conference — helping women connect with Jesus in a deeper way through his Eucharistic presence. Her love for Christ, together with her poise and story-weaving won the hearts of her listeners. She writes about her experience over at her blog, Inspired Angela.
Angela also helped me get ready for my talk, by producing a short get-’em-on-their-feet video that introduced my talk to the 1800+ women in the room… to the tune of Chris Cagle’s “Let There Be Cowgirls”… She did a great job taking the first two minutes of the song that captured these words…
On that very first day, the Lord sat down
And saw fit to say, “Let there be light!”
So He could tell the day time from the night
And then he spoke again,
Felt the wind come rolling in
Smelled the rain
It soaked everything
And then the mountains rose up,
Across the Great Plains
And all the angels up in Heaven started singing,
“All it’s missing is a pretty thing”
Let there be cowgirls for every cowboy
Make them strong as any man, Lordy
Something you can’t tame,
She’s a mustang
The heartbeat of the heartland
She’s got a drawl, ya’ll,
Yeah, she’s the salt of the earth that rocks my world.
Let there be cowgirls, come on.
Yes, this was taking a little creative license with the Genesis story, (and this was the first time I’ve used country music to introduce my themes from Genesis 1 in a talk) regarding our dignity of being made in the image of God… but, hey, I was in Texas! These women, I hoped, would “get it” — and they did — and I enjoyed packing my boots and leather fringe vest for the talk! These Texas women are definitely the salt of the earth!
The video was a fun way to connect and bring up the energy a notch late in the day when I spoke, because the talk, in essence, was to drive home the point that we women have got to get our boots on when it comes to the bodacious mission of being spiritual and physical mothers…. that its up to us to drive a new feminism that supports a culture of life.
The remaining highlights for me, besides meeting the conference go-ers after the morning Mass, was being part of the fine team assembled by Mary Jane Fox (co-founder of the Pilgrim Center of Hope) and Nan Balfour (Conference coordinator and speaker). It was a joy to be alongside veteran authors Heather King and Dawn Eden, both whom I’ve interviewed at Among Women as I’ve long admired their work. (AW 140 with Dawn; AW with Heather.) Both moved audiences with their powerful testimonies and insightful nurturing in the areas of recovery and healing from some of our deepest hurts.
This was the first time I had met or heard Fr Nathan Cromly who preached a great lesson on Mary. I hope that videos of these talks might be made available to the general public in time.
Also: Some thoughts on the conference experience from Heather King.
San Antonio, pray for us!