Catholic Inklings

Musings and sharings on my devotion to an ancient religion.

Pastoral Minister. Fan. Writer. Ninja.

Twenty years of pastoral experience plus more than forty years of fandom equals a faith/fun mashup. Join me as we journey through a life of faith while engaging the things of this, and the other worlds that we love.

My Black Belt Journey

I hate my feet. In fact, I’ve always been entirely uncomfortable in my skin. As long as I can remember, I’ve known that I’m nothing if I’m not three things: small, ugly and weird. I’m not really that small, actually; I’m exactly average height for a woman of my age, but people have always experienced me as little. But, there’s no denying the ugly and weird—and I wouldn’t want to. I’ve come to accept and even appreciate those two parts of me. I’ve got a face that only a blind mother could love, and I’ve never fit in to any group that I’ve belonged to. As challenging as those two aspects of my life have been, they helped make me who I am and, a good deal of my self-acceptance has to do with my journey to earning my black belt.

I’ve always wanted to study martial arts for a few reasons. I’ve always wished I could defend myself if I needed to, or to be able to defend others if they were in danger. For a few years I lived vicariously through my children as they studied paying close attention to everything they were learning. So when the opportunity arose for me to study—you think I’m gonna say that I jumped at it—but, no! I hesitated! I would have to go barefoot. My hideous feet would be on display. And I’m such a klutz—I walk into walls, trip over flat surfaces, can’t follow directions, and have naturally terrible balance. Add getting nervous when people look at me and karate should have been a recipe for disaster. I decided that it would be so very stupid to not put aside my self-consciousness and try this thing that I’ve wanted my whole life, so I took my socks off, grabbed my son’s old gi, and got on the mat.

I’m 100% sure that if I had tried this anywhere but at Master Sue’s I wouldn’t have lasted very long. But, between Master Sue, Master Jose, Rob and the very encouraging teen instructors and classmates, I began to feel like I could get it. Master Sue and her instructors encouraged, joked, supported, and took so much patient time with me, putting me at an ease I’ve never felt anywhere. I stopped caring about my feet, any baby weight I was carrying (yes, I know they were teenagers—don’t judge me. I like cheese), the fact that I fell over more than I stood up straight; and I just really loved being at class, challenging myself, being amazed what I could retain, being happily shocked at how a palm heel can go through one-inch boards like butter, and doing all this with my oldest son. I began to get confidence; something as alien to me as octopuses (they are definitely aliens, and no one can tell me differently). Confidence seeped into other areas of my life, and I have been growing in many ways. One of the most significant places of growth for me—and this will seem silly to lots of people; but has been a stumbling block for me my whole life—was that I got less camera shy. When my picture was taken because I got another belt or stripe, I was happy to oblige, because I worked hard and earned it. I stick up for myself when bullied, had the courage to get a book published, and have made a point to step out of my comfort zone in a variety of ways. I even wear flipflops in public!

Throughout my time at the dojo I’ve noticed similarities between martial arts and my own work in initiation ministry in the Catholic Church. We learn a bit, practice a bit, become stronger and have rituals to mark important moments in our journey. This closeness has been significant for me, because it made me appreciate each more fully. To move up in a belt, you have to learn specific moves, but you also have to show personal growth. This has been a spiritual journey for me because I’ve had to learn a great deal of humility, self-control, letting go, acceptance, mentoring, and discipline. These have not been natural to me; but working with Master Sue and the study of Bool Gwa Mool Do Kwan has expanded me (I have more to learn, of course). Master Sue has been my Yoda (although she’s much, much cuter), constantly reminding me that I must, “do or do not; there is no try.” No negative self-talk. No excuses. No giving up. Even when I got hurt a few weeks before this test, I was not allowed to give up (I would have). And the beautiful part of this is; if I had had to wait to test, I would have been okay with it. As with the RCIA (initiation ministry), it takes as long as it takes—and it’s the very process of learning with Master Sue that I gained the patience to say that and it be perfectly true.

Earning my black belt has been physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging, and is the greatest personal accomplishment of my life. I’ve never had to work harder at anything or overcome more to accomplish a goal. It means the world to me that I’ve been blessed to take this journey with my son, Benjamin, of whom I couldn’t be prouder, and to have been taught be a woman as strong, resilient and beautiful (inside and out) as my Master Sue.

On a Hero’s Journey: Where Christianity and Nerd Culture Collide

Growing up, it wasn’t easy for me to fit in. I was always “weird.” (I still am.) I liked what I liked regardless of whether it was popular or if anyone else liked it. The two topics I was most interested in were my Catholic Christian faith and nerdy things, but it’s hard to find an adult with the fortitude to have an in-depth conversation about cartoons or comic books. Until recently, it wasn’t easy to find friends in either of those groups who are fans of the other, especially as a full-time pastoral associate at a large parish. Amazingly, I’ve found (or been found by) small pockets of folks whose interests intersect each, and surprisingly, they are people in ministry, too!

Read the full article on Busted Halo!

To Be Great, Serve | Breaking Open the Word at Home

In the readings for Sunday, Oct. 21, Jesus reminds us that if we want to be great and have authority, we have to become a servant. Our Gospel makes it very clear that it’s a baptism of service; one of sacrifice — possibly even the sacrifice of our lives. Jesus asks James and John if they are prepared to accept that baptism, a baptism of danger, when they ask him to give them places of honor in heaven. He tells them that they will, in fact, experience what Jesus will experience.

Get the full reflection and questions for the family here.

Their Hearts Are Far From Me | Breaking Open the Word at Home

Beware overly religious people! That’s one of the many lessons in today’s readings. But, how can anyone be overly religious? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? No. Zealous faithfulness is good. People who are so consumed with the strictness of religion so that it obscures their relationship with God is a problem.

Get the full reflection and discussion questions for the family here.

Finding Christian Themes in Today’s Superhero Sagas | A Review of Comic Con Christianity

A beautifully woven tapestry with nearly equal parts faith and culture, “Comic Con Christianity” has something for nearly everyone. Contributor Ryan Langr, admitted lover of all things nerd, reviewed “Comic Con Christianity” by fellow contributor Jen Schlameuss-Perry.

Ryan writes, “As a lover of all things “nerd culture,” I jumped at the chance when author and colleague Jen Schlameuss-Perry asked for a review of her book “Comic Con Christianity.” A passion of mine has always been combining the faith with points of secular culture. I was not disappointed.”

Read the full review here.

I am the Bread of Life | Breaking Open the Word at Home

In the readings for Sunday, August 12, frustration abounds, but Jesus remains faithful and gives us food for the journey. Elijah — God’s greatest prophet ever — is ready to give up his prophetic ministry in the first reading, Paul tells us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit,” and the people who have been listening to Jesus continue to be confounded by his claims. They knew him as Joseph’s boy and the son of Mary — and they are murmuring!

Read the full reflection and get discussion questions for the family here.

Give Us This Bread Always | Breaking Open the Word at Home

In the readings for Sunday, August 5, God gives us good food so that we can accomplish his works. Are we there yet? I’m hungry! I’m thirsty! He’s poking me! She’s thinking about me! Long trips are hard. It was no different for Moses taking the Hebrew people from slavery to a home of their own than it is for parents taking children on an nice vacation or day trip. Traveling can make people cranky. The Hebrews were so cranky they blamed Moses and said they’d rather be slaves than be on that trip. God took care of them and gave them a food called manna so that they wouldn’t give up.

For a full reflection and discussion questions for the family, click here.

Teach Your Kids About God by Harnessing the Power of Stories | PBGRACE

Some of the best ways to learn about God is by teaching your kids to see God in what they like to read and watch. Here are ways to help teach your children about God through the power of stories. My new book, “Comic Con Christianity,” makes an attempt to do just that. It takes the truths of our faith and illustrates them using stories from the Bible and my favorite samples of nerd culture. Besides the Bible, my favorite stories are from sci-fi, superheroes and fantasy stories. Not only are they lots of fun, but they speak the same language as Christian theology — talking about destiny, purpose, sacrifice, justice. Catholic elementary school and my Jesuit graduate training helped me to see God everywhere, and nerd culture is a natural place for me to see God.

Read the full article on