Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

A gorgeous jacket caught my eye as I was flipping through an issue of a fashion magazine, trying to find the“perfect” haircut—you know, just cute enough to say I am still “fashionable”yet not too cute as to say “I’m 55 years-old trying to look 30.” The jacket was what I would call “car length.” It was covered in an animal print.

I loved it!

At that point, having lost my focus on trying to find a picture of a perfect haircut to take to my stylist, I intently surveyed the different animal print products—from handbags to pants to shoes—each seeming a bit wild and yet quite appealing. Of course at my age I couldn’t fathom donning a full-on animal print ensemble—or maybe I was never at the correct age to wear such an outfit—but there was still something attractive about an animal print accessory, and most especially that coat!

It just seemed “fun.”

Sometimes, as Christian women, we forget that we are called to have fun. In our day-to-day living in which we embrace our roles as wives and mothers and sisters and care-givers, we forget that there ought to be joy in our journey. Often that joy is a quiet one, maybe it settles upon our spirit during Eucharistic Adoration or it may be found in caring for a sick family member or even in serving food to the homeless; but other times joy is that sheer pleasure of being alive. It is that recognition that God made us uniquely female and that we have an ability to experience our world in a very feminine, fun way.

Time spent with our friends tends to reflect who we are: those who have been created different but equal to men. In the space of a lunch together we can laugh, cry, pray and laugh some more. We have the capacity to contemplate the things of the world while being able to lovingly tend to a scraped knee.

Some of us can bake and sew—this gal has not been given those particular talents—while others may be able to organize school plays or board meetings.

Through it all, with everything that rests upon our shoulders, it is good to remember that we are called to have fun.

When my third son was a youngster I remember that he used to skip everywhere he went. I got such a kick out of watching him skipping to his bike, skipping down the hall to his bedroom and skipping through the grocery aisles. For me, seeing him skip around reflected his innate ability to have fun—his great joy at being alive and very much in the moment.

Ah, youth!

Looking at that animal print jacket in the magazine, I was reminded of my son’s skipping; I was reminded that my journey, too, is meant to be fun. As Christian women we have to be cautious to not get too bogged down in our duties as matriarchs wherein the fun of being alive sort of slowly vanishes.

Fun isn’t just for the young but, as they say, for the young at heart.

None of my friends can understand why I am so anxious for cooler temperatures to arrive. But it will all become clear when they see the fun coat I have to wear!

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, October 11, 2013

Study Mary with the Popes

I won’t lie; getting permission from Libreria Editrice Vaticana to gather a dozen papal encyclicals together for a unique Marian study was, well, awesome! Holding the contract in hand, gave me goose bumps.

To share my excitement, the contract in part reads:

Libreria Editrice Vaticana, located in the Vatican City State, in the person of the its Director and pro tempore legal representative, Prof. Don Giuseppe COSTA, sdb


Bezalel Books, A Catholic Publishing Company and Bookstore, Box 300427 Waterford, MI 48330, in the person of its President and pro tempore legal representative, Cheryl DICKOW.

Libreria Editrice Vaticana grants to Bezalel Books, a non exclusive permission to reproduce , in the work entitled: MARY EVER VIRGIN FULL OF GRACE. A STUDY OF PAPAL ENCYCLICALS ON MARY, by Cheryl Dickow, the following excerpts:

The contract then goes on to list the dozen encyclicals that are in the book which begin with Octobri Menseo the September 22, 1891 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the rosary and concludes with Redemptoris Mater the March 25, 1987 encyclcial of John Paul II on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church.

Awesome, right?

Add to that my chance to write study questions and reflection questions for these documents and you can see that this has been a dream come true for the teacher in me! Now I would like to invite you to study Mary with Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, and John Paul II.

I promise that reading the words of these incredible teachers as they take us into the first understandings of the Rosary through Mary’s role as co-Redemptrix will be life-changing. As far as my role as editor in this book, I did my best to simply exist in the background and guide the reader through these incredible papal documents in a way that the questions and reflections try to make each document deeply personal and relevant. I pray you will like what I’ve done as I’ve tried to be faithful to the guidance of the Holy Spirit throughout. The work is consecrated to Jesus through Mary.

If you would like to use this book as a study, it is available to purchase individually or in groups of five.

Of course, if you would like to purchase larger quantities, please email me at

God bless you on your journey.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Evangelization REALLY Looks Like

My friend and I purchased tickets to a local event in which our Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was engaging in a dialogue with Rabbi Joseph Krakoff from the Shaarey Zedek congregation in Southfield, Michigan on the topic of Genesis.

The event—which was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Jewish Federation—took place at the Maple Theatres in Bloomfield, Michigan on a humid Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, seating at the Maple Theatres is awesome: it is roomy and comfortable and really ideal for just such an occasion.  

Sherry and I made an outing out of the whole thing and had a late lunch at a local deli before heading over to the venue. We were greeted by surprisingly long lines that immediately created a sense of excitement and anticipation. Everyone just knew this was going to be “something.” The damp, muggy afternoon air didn’t hinder anyone’s mood.

It felt rather exhilarating and, well, sort of heavenly.

The theatre holds a few hundred people and it was sold out—or if not sold out, just about sold out. Archbishop Vigneron and Rabbi Krakoff were on the stage when we arrived with a few minutes to spare before starting time. The lighting was low with a perfectly placed focus on the table at which both men sat. As the crowd meandered in, the men were clearly engaged in a quiet conversation that seemed respectful, comfortable, and amiable. The microphones were not yet on but at one point we heard laughter erupt and somehow knew that this was going to be a blessed event.

And anointed it was.

Rabbi Krakoff guided the format which included, for the most part, a bit of reading from Genesis, a Jewish perspective on particular passages and then an opportunity for Archbishop Vigneron to speak to the same verses from a Catholic perspective.

The men discussed the fall of Adam and Eve, the duplicity of the snake in the garden, marriage, the soul, and life after death—among other things.

It was thrilling to see the connections between the Jewish and Catholic faiths and interesting to see where they diverged. Both men are to be credited for the ways in which they handled the differences. For instance, Archbishop Vigneron perfectly articulated original sin while Rabbi Krakoff explained that Jews believe a child is born “neutral.” Archbishop Vigneron explained that Catholics believe in one life and that a soul and body are created together and ultimately join together after the resurrection while Rabbi Krakoff explained the Jewish understanding of life after death that included possible reincarnation but no Hell.

I was incredibly proud of my Archbishop when he kindly and with great sincerity mentioned gratitude for the ways in which our Catholic faith arises from the Jewish faith—particularly the mention of us being “grafted” in and the ways in which the New Testament invokes the Old Testament.

It was love incarnate.

After about an hour of discussion, both men took questions via note cards given to the audience members. For the most part, it seems like the questions were directed to Archbishop Vigneron. Ultimately, Vigneron fielded questions about divorce, baptism, angels, and Satan with ease and intelligence.

I’ve heard and read a lot about the “new evangelization” and yet have seen tremendous hate on the internet (and intolerance in all forms of media) under the guise of this “new evangelization” as people of faith verbally accost unbelievers and even one another. In some sad ways this new evangelization looks like e-Crusades. (Have we learned nothing from history?) It has left such an ugly taste in my mouth that I’ve begun to see “evangelization” as a dirty word.

This event changed all that.

Archbishop Vigneron and Rabbi Krakoff sat on stage and represented the very best of men of God. They were kind, charitable, tolerant, and knowledgeable as they opened their hearts to one another and to us, their audience. As Rabbi Krakoff offered in his closing remarks (I’m paraphrasing here): It isn’t about needing to agree on all things but needing to talk together. I couldn’t help but feel what real evangelization is all about: love.

It is clear that so much more is accomplished through loving dialogue than through the venom that is spewed as one person tries to convince another of what is “right.” Whatever knowledge we each took home that night, my prayer is that—more than anything—we each experienced an increase of love and tolerance in our hearts for our fellow man based upon the examples witnessed to us by Vigneron and Krakoff.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's All About the Bones

A number of years ago I read von Hildebrand’s Privilege of Being a Woman. To say it was life-changing would be an understatement. Of course, there is a saying that “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” and that may have well been the case with Alice’s book. As a grown woman I can safely say that I was ready for the truth that was found in her words—hence “life-changing.”

The problem with life-changing experiences, per se, is that they sort of leave you wondering “Now what? Where do I go from here?”

In the years since reading Privilege of Being a Woman I have read countless other non-fiction books that have been touted as “must reads” and yet without exception each has left me feeling a bit empty. Not quite doing it for me. They are okay, don’t get me wrong; but of the caliber of the von Hildebrand book? Nope. And I know they serve a purpose—but I have yearned for something more than a book that seems to be a mere collection of blog articles (as a dear friend has said about all the recent books hitting the market).

Maybe my quickly advancing age has something to do with it—but then again, I don’t feel I have to make excuses for wanting more epiphanies, more substance.

I was again a willing student searching for a teacher and waiting patiently (okay, maybe not always so patiently).

Enter Emily Stimpson.

These Beautiful Bones is an incredible book that truly has it all. Emily Stimpson is intelligent, funny, clever, and very, very likeable.

So it is no surprise that she tackles the topic of theology of the body the same way: with astuteness, humor, wit, and a countenance that sort of gently oozes from the pages. She doesn’t get mired in stories about herself but gives us just enough to endear us to her (when she gives a little nod to great-grandma Rose, you will actually smile if not laugh out loud). This book isn’t about Emily Stimpson, it is about God and you and your dignity as found in all facets of your life under the blanket of theology of the body.

Having said that, it is my experience that the TOB topic either sends people running for cover or has them shrugging their shoulders in a “who cares?” sort of way.

Stimpson’s handling of this topic is so new, so refreshing, so insightful that if you are one of those who would rather run for cover than hear more about sex and the theology of the body, she will stop you in your tracks.

On the other hand, if you aren’t really sure what this whole thing is all about: you will be blessed that this is the first book you read on the topic. In fact, it should have been the one out the gate all those many years ago; chances are we would have had a much more cohesive understanding of theology of the body and a lot less fractured feelings toward the topic.

Yes, it’s about sex but no, it’s not all about sex; it’s about bones. (I find that I don’t even want to give away the whole “bones” thing because it is a gift in and of itself and the way she winds back to the “bones” in the end actually made me cry. Just incredible.)

But back to the sex.

Even then, These Beautiful Bones is not about physical sex, it is about spousal love, dignity in the form of work, reflecting who you are by what you wear and even the way you decorate your home. Stimpson handles the topic of theology of the body as it pertains to food as adroitly as she tackles it in light of manners—yes, manners!

I simply can’t imagine who would not benefit from reading this book.

For those who are well-versed in theology of the body, I would suggest that Emily will take you into a deeper awareness of it in a way that you will live it more authentically. If you really never understood what all the hoopla was about, you will once Emily gets done with you!

These Beautiful Bones is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read in years. Make no bones about it.