Sowing Seeds of Faith


My good friend, Pat, was the first person I knew who returned to the Catholic Church. We struck up a deep friendship at a little evangelical church in New Orleans, and five years later the Blessed Mother brought us both back to the faith of our childhood. Pat who now lives in Asheville, N.C., recently launched a new ministry called “Theotokos Prayer.” The ministry evangelizes others and encourages them to pray through the vehicle of beautiful, handcrafted prayer strands. Each strand features personalized medals, crosses and colors which hold a special meaning for the recipient. My prayer strand, which Pat gave me as a wedding gift, has a medal of my patron, St. Jude, as well as a cross with the four major basilicas of Rome on it. I had it blessed by Pope Francis during our honeymoon in Rome and I absolutely love it!

It is my delight and honor to introduce to you “Theotokos Prayer” by sharing with you Pat’s first blog from their website. I encourage you to visit to order a personalized prayer strand for yourself or someone you love.  I promise, you will not be disappointed! Blessings and grace! Judy

How Theotokos Began

“That man has learned to live well who has learned to pray well.”     St. Augustine

Theotokos began with a handmade gift of a St. Joseph’s chaplet. My dear friend, Betsy, had begun making chaplets and wanted to share this ministry with me. We then started to give them to the homeless, First Communion classes, family and friends. We discovered along the way that people of all denominations and walks of life were drawn to this form of prayer—using prayer strands on which to pray. Customizing the strands (which have the number of beads of a decade of the Rosary) by choosing specific beads and patron saints made the strands even more meaningful for the recipient.  I would write letters to the recipients affirming God’s love for them and their family often during times of great struggle, as in the loss of a loved one, or deep joy, such as the birth of a child.

As this journey unfolded, friends and family encouraged me to develop a way to reach more people. Thus, Theotokos was born. The purpose of Theotokos, which means “God bearer” or “Mother of God” in Greek, is threefold. Foremost is to have people draw closer to God and each other through prayer. Secondly, to reach people who would not ordinarily be drawn to the Rosary, Our Blessed Mother and the Saints.  Thirdly, to have the strands blessed, thereby fulfilling the request of the Blessed Mother for people to have blessed objects in their homes and on their person.

The Pope has called for creative ways to evangelize our culture and this endeavor seeks to do just that. There are moments in everyone’s life that are opportunities to reach out to our family and friends. These prayer strands are one simple way of reintroducing faith to the people in our circle of influence.

Currently there are five strands for specific occasions or needs: the Child Strand for the birth of a child, Baptism, or First Communion; the Family Strand to aid families in praying for one another; the Healing Strand for those suffering in all the forms our suffering may take; the Wedding Strand, and finally the New Orleans Saints strand (they need a lot of prayer). People are drawn to beauty and each of these strands is carefully crafted to be as beautiful and appealing as possible. I also have images enclosed with each prayer strand that evoke beauty, such as a picture of Mother Teresa or a bride with her new spouse. The one closest to my heart is of our eldest daughter, who died in 2001. This image of Ashley embracing her then two-year-old daughter so lovingly depicts the treasure of children.


Prayer is a gift that is meant to be shared with and for others.  I am humbled at being able to bring this endeavor to fruition with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the inestimable help of dear friends accompanying me along the way. Thank you!

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”     Philippians 4:6-7

Standing In Mama's Shoes

I'm proud to dedicate this blog to my beautiful Mama, Phyllis Landrieu.  I hope to have a fraction of your grace and courage some day.  Happy Mother's Day!  I love you!!!

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother. John 19:25

“My Mama’s given me big shoes to stand in,” I have frequently been heard to say. And it’s true. My mother is one of the smartest, most gifted, hard-working and energetic women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and loving. And did I mention that she’s beautiful? At eighty-one, she’s lovely, elegant and graceful. See for yourself.

Phyllis Landrieu, Mother of Ten

But the thing I appreciate most about my Mama is that she’s taught me to stand strong in the face of suffering. She’s demonstrated in living color how to let love make suffering pregnant with life, and how to permit intense pain to bear great fruit. She’s shown me how to stand—yes, stand at the foot of the Cross—offering bitter tears and the sacrifice of a sword-pierced heart for the good of other souls. Reflecting on my Mama, I can’t help but think of the Blessed Mother, who gave us the first big shoes to stand in. And like my earthly mother, stand she did, even as her heart was breaking.

When my mother faced the shattering suicide of my thirty-five year old brother, Scott, sixteen years ago, she had a choice to make. She could turn in on her grief—focus on her sorrow and let it consume her—or she could let her suffering become a conduit of blessing for others. She chose to found a task force in Scott’s name, training school teachers to recognize and respond to the signs of sexual abuse in children. It was not until my late husband, Bernie, died that Mama shared with me a private letter she’d written to him upon the death of his own son, Marshall. Her powerful words encouraged Bernie not to let his grief defeat him, but to use it instead as an impetus to help others. She wrote:

 At first after Scott’s death, I wanted to remove myself from all of my activities, pull down into the lonely darkness...just sit and hold my pain. But the abused children kept calling me and I found an opportunity out of the darkness by working to open the Children’s Advocacy Center. I did it in Scott’s name and there is a picture of Scott on the wall…If I could relieve some child’s suffering, I could relieve some of Scott’s suffering, and mine…There are so many suffering, just as I am, with pain and disappointment. In helping them, I am helping myself...They dim my pain, and I am rejoicing that Scott is in some way helping them also.

Nine years after Scott’s death, Mama faced the unimaginable. She faced the loss of another child to suicide; this time it was her second born son, Stephen.  If anyone ever had a right to close the blinds, turn off the lights and call it quits, it was my Mama. Instead, she chose to found an educational center in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of New Orleans designed not only to educate poor children, but also to provide comprehensive healthcare for them, as many poor children have never been to a doctor or a dentist in their lives. Though Mama has faced numerous personal and health challenges in recent years, including recuperating from a brain injury caused by a fall and caring for my Parkinson’s stricken Dad, she passionately presses on to help “the children,” for whom she fervently believes we all bear a responsibility.

Yes, my Mama has given me big shoes to stand in, but mostly, she’s taught me to stand. To stand upright when life goes face down, to stand steady when the rug is pulled out from under your feet, to stand, and keep standing, when all you really want to do is crumble to the ground in a heap. She’s shown all of us, with incredible courage and grace, how to walk forward in the face of inconceivable adversity. She walks forward with her face set like flint, carrying in her heart the sacrifice of her grief—a sacrifice that may just give a poor, needy kid a chance at life.

Now those are some shoes worth wearing.

Mom and Dad

Birthing Grace


I wish I could have captured that moment in time. Forever. It was silent, sacred, sacramental.

I stood at the bedside of my daughter, Gaby, on Holy Saturday morning as she prepared to give birth. The room was cool and dimly lit, filled to the brim with the anticipation of new life. As I closed my eyes to pray for a safe delivery between Gaby’s instructed pushes, I entered into the sacrosanct silence of the room; the quiet hush of awe and reverence that comes in waiting for a child to be born.

Only one sound pierced the stillness—the steady beat of the baby’s heartbeat registering on the monitor rhythmically: thump, thump, thump.

Standing with my eyes shut tight, listening attentively to the baby’s heartbeat, I sensed the heart of Jesus pulsating with love for the world. Thump, thump, thump, I heard the God-man’s heart ringing out. I thought about the meaning of Holy Saturday—a day of anticipation, a time of looming rebirth, a period of waiting for the full bloom of love to burst forth from God’s heart, the same heart that had been silenced on Good Friday. It was a fitting day for Rose Grayson to be born.

Rose’s annunciation came the week before her father learned he had cancer, ushering in what would become a “Triduum” kind of year. A young family discovering they were pregnant and facing the reality of human mortality in one sweeping breath, moving from happy excitement to fear and grief, embracing the mysteries of life and death all at once. The hopeful expectation of a new baby, made present alongside the agony of not knowing the outcome of a cancer diagnosis. Baby readying, and the accompanying labor of cancer testing, surgeries, and waiting for results. The paradox of the cross, presented with penetrating clarity.

Then came the final prognosis: cancer free! And the ultrasound news: a girl, the first to join three brothers! I watched the little family move out of Good Friday as healing rays came and life resumed its course with renewed vigor and purpose. And now it was Holy Saturday, the day of Rose Grayson’s birth.

The womb is not unlike Jesus’ tomb, I pondered, waiting to see Rose’s tiny face. In a place of dark silence, an enclosed border establishes a clear boundary with the world, and life secretly does its bidding until the darkness is overcome with a burst of brilliant light. Suffering offered and labor pains become cries of joy: He is Risen! It’s a girl!

In the silent enclosure of a birthing room, I gave thanks to God. Grace has ushered in a resurrection. God has given us “Rosie Grace.”

Your death, Lord Jesus, is our life . Your grave the womb of radiant light.

Hymn for Holy Saturday Evening, The Vigil of The Resurrection

Catching the Faith

Please enjoy this re-post of my last Easter blog.  This Easter, I was busy welcoming my new granddaughter, Rose Grayson, to our family.   She is blessed to have three big brothers and her parents, Gaby and Grayson, to pass the faith to her. Happy Easter!IMG_0440

“Christos Anesti ek nekron, thanato thanaton patisas, kai tis en tis mnimasi zoin harisamenos,” my little grandsons chanted in unison as I watched happily in surprised silence. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life,” the boys rang out in Greek, singing the ancient paschal troparion taught to them by my son-in-law, Grayson. Five-year-old James looked entranced, while two-year-old John-Henry danced around the room, slapping his hips and throwing his hands into the air to provide dramatic effect at just the right moments. Even baby Joseph, who just turned one, chimed in.

“Catholicism is caught, not taught,” I thought as I observed the children singing, remembering the familiar adage from Catholic theology that I’ve quoted numerous times to my students. “We don’t sit a one-week-old infant down and tell him everything he’ll ever need to know about the Catholic faith,” I’ve explained repeatedly when teaching how the truths of our faith are passed down in tact from one generation to the next.   Instead, we start with songs, pictures and simple blessings. We take the kids to Mass, point out statues and stained glass windows, and maybe light a candle for those we love. We read Bible stories, whisper prayers in the dark when bad dreams invade the night, and sing—in Greek if we so desire—the deep mysteries of our faith, learned on an I-phone while riding in the van. That’s how our children catch the faith, and it’s how we, in turn, catch it back from them.

Catholicism has been “caught” for two thousand years the very same way; that is, through the habits of a living Church that hands on its living faith via time-honored practices that grow organically and culturally throughout history. We call these practices “traditions,” and they are meant to embody and express Sacred Tradition--which is the Truth that Jesus deposited into the Church through His life, death and resurrection, and through the relationships and institutions He established.

The concept of living faith comes down to us from our Jewish ancestors, and was embraced by the Christian Church:

“Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

In other words, we are to let our faith in God permeate everything we think and say and do. Which doesn’t mean that we’re on our knees 24/7, or that we escape our broken human condition. It does mean, however, that we invite God into all things, and that we remember that He is with us at all times.

Part of the crisis we are facing in our Christian culture is the direct result of the dichotomy that exists between faith and life, due in large part to a modern world that compartmentalizes and hyper-specializes every aspect of life. Our lives have become neatly divided into measurable functions and categories, reducing the expression of Christian faith to a perfunctory Sunday visit. But it is not meant to be so. Our fathers in faith reminded us that the “split between the faith which many profess and (our) daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.”* Further,  they teach us that harmony should exist between our faith in Christ and all of our earthly activities.

I heard that harmony Monday night in the voices of little children, as they chanted, “Christ is risen from the dead” during a family vacation. Yes indeed, they are catching the faith. And they’re throwing it back to me.

*Par. 43, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Second Vatican Council

Poverty Is My Greatest Gift

As we continue to rejoice in Christmas, I am delighted to offer this beautiful guest post by my Christmas Eve-born daughter, Kara.  She has some wonderful insights into the gift of poverty.  May the Lord bless you and yours this Christmas and coming year, and may your New Year be holy and filled with the love and awe of God. get-attachment-1.aspx

Last Christmas Eve, on my 28th birthday, in a little chapel in New Orleans, Louisiana, I sat before Jesus in the Eucharist and wept. Having been on a journey with the Lord for so many years I felt exceedingly frustrated that I still struggled with so many of the same issues, poverties, faults, and that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life.

I wanted to be strong and have it all together. I wanted to be valiant, virtuous, beautiful and saintly. And there I was, weak, dependent, fragile and in a nutshell, poor.

Crying out to the Lord, I asked Him bitterly, “Why did you make me like this? Why did you make so frail and needy, with so much brokenness? Why did you make me so dependent on you for every breath that I breathe? Why didn’t you make me strong and capable and beautiful in the ways I want to be? Why?”

Immediately with such tenderness and love I heard the voice of God the Father say to me in reply:

“Kara, I made you a Christmas child, and the gift of Christmas is poverty. And poverty is your greatest gift.”

Jesus was born into a dark, cold, empty cave. Into the barren blackness of the night. A King born for the poor, of the poor, as the poor. And how easy it is for we followers of Christ to hate poverty.

By poverty I don’t just mean the hungry in the soup kitchens, the homeless in the shelters, or the beggar on the street—I mean the beggar within our very own families, and most of all, the beggar within ourselves. We want to escape our emptiness, deny our addictions, shun our weaknesses and mask our faults. But as my mother always told me, “Kara, if you were perfect, why would you need a Savior?”

I think St. Therese was made a Doctor of the Church specifically in this time of history because in a society where we truly believe it is our job to be perfect, independent, need no one, and save ourselves, she reminds us that the way to the Lord is not a growing up but a growing down; that the way to freedom is not a figuring out but a letting go.

“What pleases God is to see me love my littleness and my poverty. It is the blind hope I have in His mercy. There is my only treasure,” she tells us.

All of our weakness and frailty, all of our poverty—yes, even our sin if we lay it at the foot of the manger—become that empty cave into which the Christ child may be born. To ransom the captive chained within our souls. To free us from the bondage of ourselves. To die and rise for us, and make us truly rich, that we might rejoice! All because we are poor.