Why I Remain Catholic


No, this isn't the Feast of Corpus Christi, but I’d like to chime in on a discussion. I want to respond to Elizabeth Scalia’s (The Anchoress, Patheos.com) challenge to present a cyberspace cloud of witnesses all answering one question: Why do I remain Catholic?

So here it is: Why do I remain Catholic?

The short answer is simple: the Eucharist. The long answer is connected to the short answer: because there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else in this life that I desire more.

Though raised Catholic, I came to a personal relationship with Christ in an evangelical Christian church in New Orleans when I was twenty-three years old. The invitation and subsequent decision to give my life to Christ was a total game-changer for me—one that radically altered the trajectory of my life. I am exceedingly grateful for the clear, concise call to conversion I received in that little evangelical church. I still maintain that we Catholics could learn a lot from our separated brethren about pure-D evangelization.

However…and there is a “however”… two church splits and an ego-showdown between pastors left me wandering around looking for a “church home.” Though I won’t tell the whole story now, suffice it to say that Our Lady grabbed hold of me and led me back to the Catholic Church, back to the family table. By the grace of God, I believed and was convinced that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist,  and there was only one thing left to do. To walk headlong with mouth and heart open to receive bread from heaven—real, living bread—His flesh for my life and the life of the world.

As an evangelical Christian, I had hung on each word that came forth from the mouth of my pastor as though my life depended on it. His sermons were my sustenance, and I gathered like a bird to its mother, wanting to feed right from its mouth. A good sermon? I’d been “fed,” and I’d come back for another. But as the division in our little church increased, the sermons withered, and I was hungry for something more.

I returned to the Catholic Church, no longer lost, but famished, thirsty, wounded. Christ nourished me with His flesh, slaked my thirst with living blood, and gave Himself over to me. Asking no money, no tithes, no payment, He came inside me, closer than I am to myself. For twenty-six years, I’ve consumed Him lavishly and freely, and I still can’t contain the awe.

I don’t pretend to understand the mystery of the Eucharist; I can hardly scratch its sublime surface. But this much I know: I’ve tasted real food and real drink, flesh and blood poured into me right from the Cross, and there is no turning back.  I’ve departed the cult of the sermon and arrived at the heavenly feast. It’s a feast to which, while dim shadows exist, there is no counterpart on earth.

Christ feeds me, feeds us,  His body formed and extended in time and space. His flesh is true food, His blood true drink; it is the life of the world.

Beauty Will Save the World

Photo Credit: Word on Fire

God showed up our home last night. He came through beauty, and I’m so grateful we didn’t miss Him.

God came in the form of four incredibly talented young musicians and singers, friends of my Nashville-based daughter Kara Klein, who want to transform our culture. They’re part of a new outreach called “Love Good Music,” founded by inspirational speaker and composer Jimmy Mitchell for the explicit purpose of evangelizing our culture through beauty. (See their website at lovegoodmusic.com for more information.)

I’m not sure what I expected, but what a breath of fresh, inspirational air Jacqui and Cathryn Treco, Chris Cole and Shawn Williams proved to be. Their simplicity, faith and joy blew me away, not to mention their jaw-dropping talent. While all who attended the impromptu concert were amazed by the young troupe’s musical ability, their mission is bigger and deeper than to impress others with their gifts. Their quest is to draw the hearts and minds of those present to God through beauty, standing in direct opposition to a secular culture where art forms have become increasingly vulgar, obscene and violent.

Love Good Music troupe and Kara Klein

These young people understand that the human heart is hungry for the good, the true, and the beautiful. Drawing upon a foundational theme in the Catholic faith—that is, the power of beautiful art to draw men’s hearts to the transcendent—the musicians hope to inspire others through heart-piercing entertainment. Both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II, a classically trained pianist and a gifted actor respectively, wrote about beauty’s power to pierce hearts and point men to God. Both quoted in their own work the famous line from Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot,” which says, “Beauty will save the world.”  This is possible by reawakening man to the infinite, the transcendent, to that which calls us beyond ourselves. It happens by pointing man to the true artist and creative force behind all that is beautiful, namely God.  This is precisely what Fr. Robert Barron communicates in his immensely popular "Catholicism" series.

Thanks to the young artists who convincingly conveyed the power of beauty last night through their wholesome, delightful art. May we resurrect in our culture a prominent place for such beauty, for beauty can change the world.

Please enjoy the below video clip of Shawn Williams on violin.  Forgive me for the homemade quality of the video, as it doesn't do him justice, but you'll get an idea of his immense talent, which left us all breathless.  And enjoy the gorgeous painting by my dear friend and neighbor, Marcia Holmes, that graces our mantle, entitled "Reflective Oak." God bless!

Download clip here:  IMG_1571

What Holds The World Together

Blessed is the womb that bore you,

and the breasts at which you nursed.      

Luke 11:27

Cut away the umbilical cord, but don’t cut away the heart. Because the heart—the feminine heart—helps hold the world together.

I watched  with tears in my eyes yesterday as the women of the Our Lady of the Lake Altar Society processed up the center aisle of the church, carrying roses and bouquets for the annual May crowning while singing hymns to Our Lady.

 Triumph all ye cherubim! Sing with us ye seraphim! Heaven and earth resound the hymn! Salve, salve, salve Regina!

Hail, Holy Queen, we cry with such resounding joy that it carries a exclamation point! Why? Because we know that our salvation was and is contingent upon the intersection of divinity and humanity in Mary’s hallowed womb. We understand that the world and the Church need the balance of the feminine heart, the heart that mothers children, the heart that gives life, the heart that takes its piercings and releases the offering of blood, sweat and tears into the ground of its saplings, who move too fast from suckling to separating. But even as they pull away, a mother’s heart stays put.

Like the mother I spoke to yesterday, one of the three whom I call, “The Daughters of Jerusalem.” They can often be seen kneeling together praying for and suffering over their children. When I see them conjoined in prayer, I think of Jesus’ words: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children” (Luke 23:28). And I think of Our Lady, who was a daughter of Jerusalem.

“My daughter just had her first baby,” one of the women shared with me before Mass. “She asked when she can expect to get a good night of rest, and I told her you’re never going to sleep again!” she smiled. “Because mothers never stop lying awake at night worrying about their children!”

Then there’s the mother I see day in and day out in the chapel on her knees, praying and weeping for the teen who’s taken to cutting herself; her beautiful, beloved daughter who has turned against herself. I watch her wipe her tears; I see the broken heart she bears as she grips her Rosary with tired fingers and as she does not sit down, never sits down, the entire time she spends each day offering the raw-kneed sacrifice of her bleeding heart for the child to whom she gave life. That, the fruit of a mother’s love, consumed for the fruit of her womb.

And let’s never forget the Mother at the foot of the Cross, standing beneath her Son’s broken body so she can receive, let it fall on her face and her veil, His precious blood—the same precious blood that formed in her womb with her consent. Her primordial affirmation also made life possible for us, hence the adage of the Church Fathers: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.” There she stands beneath His battered flesh, her tears and sweat mixed with His, uttering the unceasing: “yes.” Yes until it’s finished. Yes as she receives His body from the Cross. Yes as He disappears from her sight.

It is good that we remember and sing praise.

Don’t tell me the Church wants us to deify Mary, for that would, indeed, be blasphemy.   But what we need, oh so desperately need in order to be human, is to experience and celebrate more deeply the feminine heart of the Church in this all too lopsided, hostile world.

May after May we remember the Woman who continually births Love into the world. Roses, crowns and hymns are hardly enough to recognize the feminine beauty found in Mary's heart, the axis that every Christian church and every woman in the world needs to reclaim.

Requiescat In Pace



I feel called to share this excerpt from Miracle Man on the sixth anniversary of Bernie's death.  I wrote this final "Bernie Update" to our family and friends days after his funeral on the Feast of St. Joseph.  The Miracle Man taught me all about persevering love, and our journey together infused my being with Holy Hope… the hope that is borne of suffering and birthed through love.    Bernard Joseph Klein, rest in peace.

March 22, 2009,  Final Update

Dear Friends:

Bernard Joseph Klein was buried on the Feast of St. Joseph on Thursday, March 19, 2009. When we awoke, a dense fog covered the area, but by the time we arrived at Our Lady of the Lake Church, the sun had broken through, ushering in a glorious sunny day. It is difficult to share what is in my heart, but I would like to give you a glimpse of the day in Bernie's honor.

The funeral liturgy was absolutely beautiful, as we were graced with the angelic voices of Kitty Cleveland and the St. Scholastica Academy Choir under the direction of a most gifted pianist and friend, Sharon Scharmer.  Fr. John Talamo, Fr. Beau Charbonnet and Fr. Robert Cavalier honored us by presiding over the liturgy, and their presence on the altar in gold robes made present to us Christ's priestly presence in heaven—sacred, redemptive, all-powerful. I have never been so happy to be Catholic as I was on Thursday. I stood in awe and wonder as I watched the rich symbolism of the funeral Mass unfold, reminding us of Bernie's baptismal vows, his presence at the heavenly banquet of the Lamb of God, his marriage to the Eternal Bridegroom. As sad a day as it was, it was equally joy filled thanks to the consolation of the hope of heaven, and the love of our family and friends—all tangible and very real to me as I stood in the church with the symbols of heaven before my eyes surrounded by people who love me, Bernie and our family.

When the funeral Mass ended, we processed to the cemetery of St. Joseph Abbey, where many of the monks and priests of our archdiocese are laid to rest. It is holy ground, full of silence, prayer and majestic oaks. As we drove up to Bernie's gravesite following the hearse, seven Marines stood at full attention waiting for his arrival. It took my breath away to see them standing there and to remember how proud Bernie was of serving in the Marine Corps—the place where he found his personal gifts and his identity as a man. A twenty-one-gun salute and "Taps" followed our prayers, along with the folding of the American flag accompanied by Kitty's gorgeous voice singing "Amazing Grace." It was a moment none of us will soon forget.

 After the services concluded, we made our way to the home of our dear friends, Angele and Gary Darling. Gary is an incredible chef and he laid out a delicious banquet for us, including his famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad and Mediterranean Hummus. We ate, laughed and cried as we remembered Bernie and his unique personality. A gentle wind blew through the French doors that were open throughout the house, and the Holy Spirit was very present as we shared a meal and fellowship in remembrance of Bernie. I returned home that evening with my heart full, feeling as though I had been to a wedding reception instead of a funeral. It was a happy ending to a day I had dreaded and prayed against for months —the funeral of my spouse.

 As I write these words, my heart is full of gratitude for Bernie's love and life. I am grateful for his illness and for three months spent in a hospital room filled with tender moments of love and grace. I am grateful for the outpouring of support, love and prayer that came forth in the midst of such a profound personal tragedy. And I am grateful to God for his faithfulness, and for the reality that he continually seeks after us, wooing us with opportunities to know and embrace his Fatherly love. In the end, that was what this journey was all about—for Bernie and for me.

Thank you for your love and for carrying Bernie on the wings of prayer into the arms of Our Lord. I am eternally grateful, and I know he is too.

With love and thanksgiving.