Posts written by Meredith

Meredith’s Christmas Letter 2014

Merry Christmas! What a year 2014 has been. I didn’t write a Christmas letter last year, so this year’s includes some relevant points from the tail end of 2013. Highlights include five employers, four homes, three provinces, several stressed out tendons, and one intense weekend retreat.

During the first week of January 2014 the tendons in my right hand and arm went on strike. I had been working as a housekeeper and banquet server for the Fredericton Inn since the end of September 2013 when my hours at KHJ (Bell Media) were capped at ten a week.

Housekeeping is an incredibly physically demanding job. Think 8 hours of squats and lifting weights five days a week where the only break is half an hour at lunch. The tendons in my right hand and wrist had been acting up since shortly after I started working for the Inn. The carpal tunnel brace I wore stopped carpal tunnel from developing, but didn’t protect me from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which affects the thumb and wrist tendons.

The morning I recognized the issue was serious I had been ignoring the pain for the first two hours of my shift because I couldn’t afford to take the day off. Then I couldn’t move any of my fingers or my thumb without excruciating pain which went all the way up my arm and I spilled beer all over the carpet because I tried to pick a half-empty bottle up. I left work early and spent the rest of the day in the emergency room; my friend Jessi took pity on me and relocated our plans to hang out after work to the Chalmers ER. She even brought food so I wouldn’t starve to death waiting to be seen.

I was initially given two weeks off work with instructions to ice my thumb and wrist for ten minutes every hour. Two weeks turned into four weeks which turned into six weeks off work, unable to do much of anything except read and watch Netflix. I averaged about one book every day and a half, and worked my way through four seasons of the new Dr. Who and three seasons of Downton Abbey.

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends who were able to help me out during those six weeks. Jessi came over to my apartment and helped me cook at least once a week; Leo folded all my laundry for me a few times, helped feed me, and got me to leave the house even when I was grumpy and not very good company; Stephanie kept me company and drove me to doctor’s appointments; Gisèle made me laugh about how much pain I was in by sharing her experience with carpal tunnel pain and being her adorkable self.

Since it was eventually deemed a legitimate workplace injury I got paid for the time off, but not until about a month after I had gone back to work at the inn, now just in the capacity of a banquet server. Going from working 60 hours a week between four minimum or just above minimum wage jobs down to 10-25 hours a week in one just above minimum wage job is a pretty significant pay cut. After a couple of months of working part-time and hitting nothing but dead ends in my quest for full time work in Fredericton I faced reality: waiting tables wasn’t putting any food on mine, and it was time to move home.

Leo and I had started dating again the day before I hurt my hand. Initially when I decided to move back to Ontario we thought he would be coming with me. A few weeks before the move, he and I had a serious talk about the future and us and what we both wanted and needed for forever to work. We realized we’re the best of friends, but the things we wanted and needed weren’t necessarily compatible. So we broke up again; but this time it wasn’t a horrible traumatic thing. It was an appropriate ending to an amazing romantic relationship, and a good start to what I hope will be a lifelong friendship.

During the De Quervain’s saga I started a blog with Lauren, who many of you have met at Thanksgiving dinners over the last few years. Lauren and I met through Canadian Catholic Students Association events at university. As Anne Shirley said many times about Diana Barry, we found in each other a kindred spirit. We both contributed to a few times a week until the summer. It’s mostly been Lauren keeping it going since then, because my life got hectic when I went back to Ontario.

I also had the chance to go to Halifax with my SERVE-brother Mike for an interview retreat weekend with NET Canada. NET is a travelling youth ministry team which puts on retreats and develops youth programs in Catholic Churches and schools across Canada. I made the decision to apply to NET in November 2013 while I was still reeling from Leo and I’s first break-up, not enjoying my work environment at KHJ and feeling utterly lost and without direction. At the time, I thought I wanted to do NET to share God’s love with teens across Canada. I recognize now I wanted to do NET to get away from all the things post-undergraduate degree life was throwing at me.

During the interview retreat weekend my one prayer was that wherever it was God wanted me to go in life, he would take away the fear of going there. As you know, my fourth year at STU was incredibly difficult. What I either didn’t realize or didn’t admit to myself was just how shaken my confidence in my ability to be a journalist was by the experience. When I went on the interview retreat weekend, I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to be a reporter anymore. I didn’t think I was good enough, and I didn’t want to be attacked that way again – something I was sure would happen if I was doing my job.

That weekend in Halifax was the first time in over a year the prospect of even applying for career-type jobs, journalism-related or otherwise hadn’t terrified me. NET sent me a very firm no in the mail about a month or so later. Hunter, a girl from PEI who I met that weekend was invited to go. She’s been at a parish in Swift Current, Saskatchewan since September and I’m happy to get the occasional letter update from the iNFUSE mission there.

My sister Kathleen flew out to Fredericton in May for the Victoria Day weekend. Joy and Renato took me to the airport to pick her up and we spent a day and a half seeing the sights and finishing up my packing for the move. Jessi spent my last night in Dunn’s Crossing with us and helped Kathleen and I load the U-Haul first thing in the morning on the Saturday. Dan stopped by to say goodbye before work and earned the “Help Meredith Every Time She Moves in Fredericton” achievement by carrying my TV down. Then everybody went to Cora’s for breakfast and a final goodbye hurrah.

Kathleen and I left Fredericton around 1pm AST and arrived at our hotel just outside Quebec City around 8pm EST. We had made a few stops on the way for gas, bathrooms and photos, and we took the U-Haul across the covered bridge in Hartland just because.

Sunday, I drove us from the hotel to Aunt Anne and Uncle Pat’s in Kingston. We spent the evening visiting with them and were taken on a lovely tour of downtown Kingston on a quest for gelato. Before we all turned in for the night we watched a movie with Claire and one of her friends.

Victoria Day we did the final leg from Kingston to Whitby. When we arrived at Mum and Dad’s, my brother, my sisters, and their significant others were all there to help unload. It was a lot faster than loading was, and I soon found myself installed in the upstairs north west corner bedroom, which belonged to Michael when I was in high school, and then to Maureen during my university years. The day after I unpacked my last box from Fredericton, Mum and Dad announced they were selling the house.

A few weeks after I got home, Chantal, a friend since high school recommended me for a job with Pilar’s Catering. Working a wedding season in the catering business truly is an experience like no other. I worked 12-18 hours just about every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday over the summer and picked up shifts during the week whenever I could. It was exhausting, but I liked my co-workers and I was happy to get to spend so much time out in the sun when I was at Bloomfield’s (a garden tent venue in Newcastle.) I spent a lot of my not-work days catching up on the sleep I didn’t get on the weekends, working on articles and book reviews for The Catholic Register and The Catholic Review of Books, opening rejection letters about jobs I had applied and interviewed for, hanging out with my siblings and of course spending time with Lauren since for the first time in four years of friendship we were living in the same province and close enough to visit.

I was also thrilled to get to attend my SERVE-sister Brittany and her husband Tim’s wedding over the Labour Day weekend in Hamilton. Watching the two of them say their vows and getting to spend the day with our SERVE-siblings Mike and Michelle was such a blessing. Meeting Brittany and Tim’s friends and family was also great, there were just so many good people there.

I wrote a column for Youth Speak News at The Catholic Register about post-grad employment and how sucky it is when you’re looking and not finding. The article was published online Friday September 19. Five days later I heard about three different jobs. One was for a paper in Huntsville, one was a contract with Faith Connections in Toronto, and the third was the job I’m in now.

Justin, a friend from school called me up out of the blue at 11pm on Sept. 24 and asked if I wanted to move to Alberta. There were two job openings at stations owned by the company he works for (Newcap Radio). “Anyways, I just thought I’d let you know. The deadline is Friday morning if you’re interested.”
I put in my application on the 26th and got a phone call that afternoon asking for an interview. I interviewed for the position by conference call on September 30th during a break from packing for my parents’ move the next day. Less than an hour after I hung up from the conference call I got a callback with the job offer.

I was asked to interview for the Faith Connections position in Toronto the day I flew to Alberta, but I didn’t go. I had prayed God would make it very clear where I was supposed to be. Less than a week from when I heard about the job at The Spur to when I was hired for it seemed like a pretty clear response to that. I still haven’t received a rejection letter from the newspaper in Huntsville.

I gave my notice to Pilar, helped my parent’s move house and didn’t bother unpacking much at the new place, just repacked and thinned out the stuff I was bringing with me to Alberta. My last two weekends in Ontario I spent dancing in Oshawa with Nick and Connor, two of my friends from Pilar’s.
Thanksgiving Monday my parents had a housewarming/going away party and I said my goodbyes to most of my Ontario family and friends. . I flew to Alberta October 20th and started work on the 23rd.

Now I live in a small studio apartment less than a kilometer from the radio station where I work in St. Paul. It’s a FM country station called 97.7 The Spur. I co-host the morning show with Dave and I report the news for this town of six thousand people and the surrounding area. I’m settling in well. I’ve made friends with a couple from Newfoundland and a few other people in their late twenties and early thirties. I’m in two choirs, one for church and one for fun and a group in Elk Point is trying to get me to join them too.

Work is going really well now that most of the technical issues from the first few weeks have been resolved. I have a few logoed shirts and a jacket for The Spur, and as of last week, my own business cards. (Sadly, I think I’m more excited about having business cards to hand out than I am about having 226 sq. feet of apartment to call my own.)

I’m really enjoying the work. The station manager Kevin has been an absolute dream in terms of helping me get settled in town and introducing me to people. Our receptionist Kris passes on every story tip she comes across in Elk Point. Dave and I get on well on air and he’s been really good with helping me learn the on-air-but-not-reading-news aspect of the job. I met the rest of the news team for our hub at the Newcap Christmas party a few weeks ago and they’re all great people.

I fit in St. Paul. It’s just me here, but that’s okay because this town is exactly my speed. As much as I love dancing, the city has never appealed to me as a lifestyle. Even at the end of my third year at STU when I interviewed for editor-in-chief at The Aquinian, they asked me where I saw myself in five years. I said I hoped to be working in the media in a small town, settling down and having a family. Two and a half years later I’m in a full-time permanent media position in a small town. I have no idea what God’s timeline is looking like for the other two items on that list, but I’m okay with that.

2014 was a huge year, so it took a huge letter to cover the big themes. Thank you all so much for your love, support, and prayers this year. I’m so blessed to have each of you as part of my life. I hope your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are full of happiness, and that you will all see the ways 2015 will be good to you.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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To be consoled as to console,

Dear Pope Francis,

I don’t know about you, but when my grandfathers died, being told they were in paradise didn’t do much to alleviate the fact that I missed them terribly here on earth. When my cousin Emma died the weekend before my university graduation, it didn’t make it less of a tragedy.

Yesterday afternoon, I read about the car crash in Argentina, and the loss of your nephew’s wife and children. I am so sorry for your loss. I am praying for you and all your family.

When someone dies, saying ‘I’m sorry’ feels like so little, but often it’s the only thing we can say. All the other words get stuck on the way out.

The other night, Mark Loggie, one of my friends from school said “You don’t have political beliefs, you just have theories on how not to starve. You don’t have religious beliefs, you simply have philosophies concerning death,” in a post on Facebook.

On the one hand I can see where he’s coming from. A significant part of most faith traditions is how they respond to death.

But how we respond to life is more important. In John’s gospel we read about how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We’re told Jesus loved Lazarus, but it is not his love for Lazarus that causes him to raise him up, it is concern for the living left behind.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.”

Jesus then goes to the tomb and raises Lazarus up. It was the grief of the living which troubled him.

When we have funerals, they’re an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased and remember them. But I think their real purpose is to provide closure and consolation to the living. To create that space for the bereaved to express their grief and for friends and family to come together to support the widow, the parents, the siblings, and the children.

I’m so sorry for your loss, and I pray you and all your family find consolation.


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Exemptions from religion in Catholic schools

Dear Pope Francis,

In today’s newspaper, I read about parents who choose to send their children to the Catholic schools here in Ontario, yet want them exempted from religion classes so they can do courses they feel are more suited to employment and post-secondary education. One mother, Carolyn Borgstadt is quoted saying “it’s 70 minutes every day for an entire semester. Nobody needs that much religion.” Another father thinks religion is going to distract his daughter from her math and science courses.

Cassie and I in the cafeteria.

Cassie and I in the cafeteria.

I am a product of the Catholic school system. Because my family moved several times while I was growing up, I attended four different schools between kindergarten and grade 12. All were Catholic, and all incorporated living the faith into the daily routine outside of religion classes. I do not think I would have absorbed as much meaning from the practice of Morning Prayer and grace before snack and lunch times had I not also received the formal instruction in class.

One of my friends from university often talks about how very few people are concerned with being good people. Yes, people try to do the right thing, but in his opinion hardly anyone spends time thinking about and developing the habits and qualities that make someone good.

When I think about Catholic schools, I think this is where the greatest value in the religion classes is. Learning about the Catholic faith is not being spoon fed points of doctrine from the catechism. In the primary years, what I remember was mainly reading the parables Jesus told in the gospels and then talking about the little things we could do to be like Jesus in our lives. I remember copying the Our Father and the Hail Mary (in English and in French) when we were learning how to write, and the colourful bracelets embroidered with WWJD which we were all given to remind us to do random acts of kindness, and to recognize when others were being kind to us. In grade 7 or 8, we had to learn public speaking, and before we wrote about our own topics and presented on those the test run was reciting our choice of the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed.

Myself and classmates lined up for a trust walk on a retreat our graduating year.

Myself and classmates lined up for a trust walk on a retreat our graduating year.

Most of the parents kicking up a fuss about their children being required to take religion classes have kids in high school. But high school religion was when we started really talking about the qualities that make someone a good person. We started to learn about the lives of the saints, and talked about the process of making decisions and developing our conscience. We learned about the importance of contributing to the community around us through volunteer work and about how events in the global community affect us. In my grade 12 year, we each picked a moral issue to research and present to the class on, in support of or against the church teaching on that issue.

Praying for intentions as a class creates a bond between students which I’ve mentioned before. Having the priest come and say mass at the school creates an opportunity for people to participate. The choir provides music, the dance club and the drama students often provided a re-enactment or artistic interpretation as the scriptures were read or while people were coming up for communion. Many of the students in Catholic schools come from families who do not regularly attend mass. If you think the faith is important enough to send your child to a school which incorporates it, why would you try to deprive them of the only opportunities they have to experience it?

Learning about the church and participating in the liturgies and sacraments is part of the package when you send your children to Catholic school. If you don’t want the package, then change your tax status and send your kids to the public school. I just don’t think the courts are right about this.

Frustrated with people trying to have their cake and eat it too,


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Exciting news

Hey Pope Francis,

Thanks for the prayers! I heard back from the thing I didn’t want to get specific about and I’ve got some news to share.

I’ll be writing a few news articles a month for Youth Speak News at The Catholic Register starting this fall. It’s just volunteer, but I’m super pumped about it because it’s an opportunity to get started in Catholic media and meet some of the people who are already doing it here in Toronto.

The other thing I’m really excited about, I don’t have a link for yet. But I submitted a review of Crimes Against My Brother by David Adams Richards to The Catholic Review of Books and the last I heard it was going in to the next issue. I was hoping to post a picture of me grinning and pinning the review on the fridge at my parents like I did with the first article I wrote for The Aquinian, but it doesn’t seem to be out yet and I haven’t seen it on their website. I’ll share the link once I can, I’m really proud of the review I wrote. I know bragging isn’t ladylike, but it’s one of those things … I just want to share it because it feels like a really big step.

I haven’t felt like doing any journalistic writing in so long. I really thought it wasn’t something I was going to do, but I’m starting to wonder if it was just a huge bruise on my soul after all the nonsense with the students’ union fourth year. The last few weeks I’ve been thinking in terms of stories again. Asking questions without having to force it.

I’m still feeling really pulled towards some kind of ministry and thinking about high school chaplaincy as a possibility, and I’m so excited to be teaching catechism to the grade twos at my church this fall. But the part of me that loves writing and mixing sound and sharing stories is coming back. It’s hard, like waking up after a very deep sleep. The muscles are stiff, but it feels good to stretch them again.

Anyways. Mum and my sisters are waiting in the car for me, we’re heading up to the cottage for the week. More when I get back.



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Controlling and coping

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s been a busy week. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a lot of hours at work. Over all, it’s still just part time but the individual shifts are long and leave me pretty wiped out the next day. I’ve had a few interviews for other jobs and volunteer positions, but until I have something solid to report I’m keeping quiet on the details. As always, prayers are great!

I haven’t been writing recently, not because my life has been super busy or because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I’ve been worrying about how pretty much the only things I post on Facebook these days are links to mine and Lauren’s posts on LTP, and a lot of what I’ve been thinking about feels very private.

Facebook-Privacy-GuidePart of it is a result of a conscious decision I made to not post so much of my life on Facebook a couple years ago. Sometimes (like once in a blue moon, and none in recent history) I get messages from creepy people, and generally when it happens I get super paranoid about my privacy for a while. I’ll purge my friends list of everyone who isn’t family, who I don’t know in person, haven’t spoken to in the last six months or who I wouldn’t be genuinely interested to catch up with if we ran into each other on the bus. I untag myself in most photos and go through all the pages I’ve liked and the groups I’ve joined and remove myself from everything. I generally try to avoid posting ubiquitous status updates and am often accused of being the slowest person ever in regards to putting up pictures if I’m the photographer at an event with friends.

Most of the time, I ignore the internal contradiction of being both intensely private about my own life and a reporter.

Yesterday, a reporter friend from school posted on her blog about how private her own journey back to Christ felt. She wrote about being nervous of what her Facebook friends would think if she posted the link to her blog, and about how the long-term consequences of being silent about faith aren’t worth it.

Something I really admire about Tara is how upfront she is about being Christian. She posts about things she’s grateful for, bible study, and the ways her car tests her faith. Her online presence is generally really positive, even when she’s having a hard day and I always get the sense that her relationship with Christ is something which really permeates every area of her life.

I’m not trying to compare myself to her or put myself down for being less active on social media than she is. I’m sharing the link to her blog because I’ve been struggling with a similar question lately. Tara wondered what her Facebook friends would think about her posting about her faith. I wonder what people will think if I share the big life stuff which has challenged and informed and deepened mine.

Something I struggle with in these letters is finding the line between being honest about what I’m struggling with in my spiritual life and my experience of being a young Catholic woman in a largely secular culture; and maintaining my privacy. I don’t want my posts on this blog to be like journal entries. The closer something is to my heart the harder it is for me to put it up here.

But at the same time, a lot of what I have to say about my relationship with Christ and why it runs so deep doesn’t translate well to writing without also writing about the big life stuff that’s happened. Even the broadest strokes – two years of crisis after crisis on all fronts leading to a major depressive episode followed by a nervous breakdown, an identity crisis, and a year of going through the motions outside while paralyzed inside by my own anxieties. It’s not like you can just bust it out and say “and that’s why me and Jesus are tight.”

My 17-year-old sister was really upset with me during the drive back to Ontario because I hadn’t told her much of anything about my life in New Brunswick over the last few years and I wasn’t just spilling everything. What she knew was the stuff I shared with my parents, and she was hurt that I didn’t seem to care enough or trust her enough to tell her anything myself.

If you weren’t in the JDH cafeteria during the winter of 2013 when I ran out of money on my meal card and then cried because Jeremy, the Tim Horton’s guy paid the $1.72 for my medium earl grey tea and I couldn’t comprehend why someone was being nice to me; you probably would have thought I had my shit together based on what I put online. I live-tweeted the students’ union meetings and posted status updates about whatever assignments I was working on and the things I cooked when I was procrastinating on those assignments.

Controlling what I put on social media started as a coping strategy when everything was outside my control before I moved away. Over the years control over my information expanded from the Internet to include more and more of the details of my life until it included everything and nothing.

I know being so intensely private offline is affecting relationships. Something’s gotta give, and I suspect it might have to be some of my privacy.

Trying to open up,



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World Cup 2014

Dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,

Congratulations on Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina yesterday. Wasn’t as shiny as the 7 goal game against Brazil, but it was good. I enjoyed following it on twitter while I was looking at houses with my parents.

– Meredith

Dear Pope Francis,

I left for work at 9am Saturday and didn’t get home until 3:45am Sunday. Fifteen hours is a ridiculous shift.

I got up for mass yesterday and then went house shopping with my parents because it’s bad form to be taking a nap while the open house is happening.

I start another 11 hour shift in an hour.

Proper letter coming tomorrow. Right now, I need to iron a blouse and restrain my hair.

Sore and in need of caffeine,


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Dating outside the faith as a route to Christian unity

Dear Pope Francis,

On Monday, I wrote about why I think it’s a bad idea to flirt to convert. What I didn’t really look at was the larger issue of whether or not Catholics should date non-Catholics to begin with.

Looking at it from my own experience, I’ve gone out with a couple of baptized but not-practicing Catholics, a few pick your own protestant Christians, and a handful of atheists and agnostics. I’ve only gone out a couple of times with a practicing Catholic. He was a good date, but we both figured out pretty quickly that we were more suited to friendship than romance. Based on these experiences, I think I’m pretty well-qualified to argue both for and against dating outside the faith.

As someone who aspires to eventually marry and become a mother and foster parent, it’s really important to me to be able to include Christ in a relationship with my significant other. (How exactly it works is yet unseen. God stuff is a lot easier to talk about with Christian girls than Christian boys.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t even be here had my own parents not been open to dating outside their sects. Two friends with upcoming weddings are engaged to Christian-but-not-Catholic men.

My parents at their wedding reception.

My parents at their wedding reception.

When I look at what it means to be a Christian, the things that divide us and the things that bring us together I think marriage is the most unifying thing we can share as Christians beyond the passion and resurrection. When I was 12 or 13, I altar served at wedding masses pretty much every weekend from June-September.

Fr. Maderak had a really good homily he often gave about how a couple can help each other develop the fruits of the spirit, both by consciously trying to be more patient or more kind or more prudent themselves and by striving to see and reward the gains their spouse was making in whichever area.

One of the parts of the ceremony I always really loved was the lighting of the unity candle. Tara, the choir director and soloist at St. Leonard’s when I was there would sing a really beautiful piece which I think was called “When two become one” while the mothers of the bride and groom each lit a candle, and then the bride and groom lit a third candle together with the two flames. (I’d link the song, but I can’t find one that has the same tune as the one I’m thinking of.)

That image of the unity candle and the literal bringing together of two people, with all their faults but more importantly with all their gifts has always stuck with me. When two people get married and start a family together there’s two extended families being brought together too. Those extended families may have different cultures and different faiths, but they get exposed to each other over the years as the couple has kids and they grow up and eventually marry. That exposure helps breed not just tolerance, but acceptance which is I think much better. There’s so many opportunities for learning about what still makes us different from each other, but also about how at the core of it we believe in the same triune God.

In unity,

P.S. I got invited to one of those friends’ wedding while I was writing today’s post, so now my face looks like this:all the happy at once

Yes it hurts a little, but only because I’m smiling so big because my heart is so happy. Yes, I would like a tissue thank you.

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Don’t flirt to convert

Dear Pope Francis,

I was once part of a serious conversation about interfaith dating. From the perspective of the people I was talking with, any relationship with a non-Catholic is interfaith. Over the course of the evening, conversation progressed from what constitutes an interfaith relationship to whether or not the Catholic party should be actively engaged in converting the non-Catholic, or if Catholics should simply not date outside the Church. In today’s letter I want to look at the notion of ‘flirt to convert.’

My parents renewing their vows for their 25th wedding anniversary.

My parents renewing their vows for their 25th wedding anniversary.

My mother was raised Baptist and didn’t convert until several years after I was born, so I have a definite bias for being open to dating outside the Catholic Church. Given my desire for Christian Unity, it should be understood I also have a bias towards being a Christian as opposed to dividing ourselves by sect.

As Catholics we are all called to be ambassadors of Christ and evangelists to the world, and I think this ministry should be present in all our relationships whether they are with Catholics or non-Catholics. A dating relationship is a time for getting to know someone in an emotionally, spiritually and intellectually intimate way and discern whether marriage to each other is in the cards. Discussions about faith and honest, appropriate responses to questions a partner has about it should absolutely be happening, and as believers we should absolutely want the conversion of an unbelieving partner.

What we should not want is a superficial conversion for the sake of the relationship. If an unbelieving partner is going to become Christian, it needs to be because they believe Jesus is the risen son of God and want to grow and share in that relationship. We should want to share that journey with them, encourage them and support them as they come to know Christ.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

If we are serious about both the relationship and our desire for their conversion, neither can be a prerequisite for the other. We either love our partner as they are or we don’t love them.

God bless,


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The opposite of charity

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s hot and humid outside even though it’s rained a bit the last few nights. The renovations at my parents’ house are finally done. All the furniture that had to be moved up and downstairs and out to the garage and back again is in its proper place and I have a mess of small bruises and a very sore knee to show for it.

This morning was the first in two weeks that I was able to sit and read my newspaper and drink my tea when I got up. It’s also Canada Day.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a seventeen year old sister. Since I moved back to Ontario a month ago I’ve been living with her and another sister at my parents’ house. I’ve really been trying to see her in a better light than I’m generally inclined to and up until this weekend I was mostly succeeding. Yesterday was a failure which ended with me crying in my room for an  hour and then staying holed up there with a book all evening except to come down to dinner; during which I flipped her the bird before excusing myself and returning to my room.

I’m not going to bother with a list of all the things she did to vex me yesterday, because they’re not important.  What’s important here is what it means to be charitable.

charityCharity is not just an umbrella term for organizations which work to help marginalized people without cost to them. It’s not just the act of giving money or time to the church or these organizations, although the act is certainly an expression of it which I’ve become very familiar with as my family prepares to move.

As Catholics, we have a unique understanding of virtues and gifts. Faith, hope, and charity are the three theological virtues which form the foundation for moral virtues and spiritual gifts. As a virtue, charity means to “love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”

I didn’t cry in my room for an hour yesterday because I was hurt by Kathleen’s angry words. They were the trigger, but what I was really upset about was how instead of letting what she said go, instead of being patient and waiting for her to be able to help me, and instead of curbing my tongue when snarky comments came to mind; I got mad at her. I yelled and swore and said all the things I thought and let all the frustrations of the last few weeks churn.

Then instead of apologizing and letting it be done, I stayed in my room reading and being upset with myself for not being able to find it in me to love her even a little bit right then.

I wasn’t being charitable. I need to work on that.

Heading out for a Canada Day BBQ,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The volunteer industry

Dear Pope Francis,

Ask and you shall receive. I got hired as a server with a local catering company yesterday and as long as I do well tonight and tomorrow they’ll keep scheduling me. I’m pretty sure it’s just part time, but it’s such a relief to have a job again and know I’ll have some income.

As an aspiring writer interested in ministry, looking for work sometimes feels like an exercise in futility. Most of the jobs I really want to be doing want more training or experience and the only way to get the experience without spending more money I don’t have on education is by volunteering. I like volunteering my time with the church and not-for-profits and I think the experience from volunteering is hugely valuable in terms of getting experience for a career and even more so in terms of personal growth.

What’s been a challenge for me is trying to figure out the balance between doing what I love and volunteering for these unpaid opportunities and finding work that meets the right-now needs of income to pay off a credit card full of moving expenses and money for transportation to those opportunities here.

The experience also has me thinking a lot about the mindset of the not for profit industry. I know a few people working in unpaid internships for charities which raise money for valuable causes such as AIDS research, education for women and girls around the world, disaster relief. Then there are the friends who work for minimum wage in jobs funded through government grants doing outreach, communications and fundraising for other charities. (Full disclosure, similar grants provided the funding for my summer jobs all the way through university.)

Global Volunteer Month @Morgan Stanley

What these friends all have in common is a genuine desire to make a difference in the world, a need for experience in their chosen field, and a tendency to work second and third minimum wage jobs so they can afford to work for these organizations. When we talk, they laugh about how it’s just how it is if you want to do good in the world. You have to be willing to work 70 hours a week and juggle back-to-back shifts between the cause you’re working for and the reality of needing food and shelter, not to mention money to pay back gargantuan student loans.

This really bothers me, because what I’m seeing is a lot of organizations taking advantage of the belief that volunteering for the experience a) means more money is available to go directly to the people the charity is helping and b) better equips you to get paid work in the field. Shouldn’t the not-for-profit industry also be interested in a sustainable workforce?

Working for free in unpaid internships or for minimum wage doesn’t give employees of the industry any concept of what their time might actually be worth in the private sector. When they eventually burn out from the strain of multiple jobs and volunteering they’re not equipped with the knowledge of what kind of salary they should be asking for when they do get offered a job elsewhere.

I’m still trying to sort out what I think a good solution would be. The current reality just doesn’t seem right.


Thank you Volunteers cake.

Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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