If there’s such a thing as a “religious mutt”, that would be me:

• Born and raised Presbyterian (totally laid back)

• Attended Lutheran school for 12 years (spiritually ardent)

• Married a great Catholic guy and converted to Catholicism (not a huge leap from Lutheran but a billion light years from Presbyterian)

I now think of myself as a Christian; it’s a long story for another time.

Though diverse in many ways, one basic tenet these three denominations espouse is the existence of heaven and hell. 

As a teenager at our quaint Presbyterian church, I taught Sunday School to kindergarteners. We read Bible stories, watched animated videos about the Old and New Testaments, sang songs, did religious arts and crafts. It was uncomplicated – until one of the children asked what happens when we die. 

“You go to heaven, unless you’ve been really bad” one girl adamantly answered.

“Yeah! Then you go to H-E-L-L!” another kid chimed in, spelling out the bad word. 

“That’s right but only the girls get turned into angels and then God tries to do the best he can with the boys” claimed an intrepid little girl.

That’s not true” yelled the boys. ”Everybody in heaven is an angel and God is the head angel!” 

Suppressing a laugh, I figured I better take back control of my class and start asking some questions.

“Who thinks they know what heaven is like?” I asked.

The girls all agreed that “there’s lots of singing and dancing to harp music and everyone wears flowers in their hair.” 

But the boys had different opinions, especially about wearing flowers in their hair. “Boys have halos just like Jesus and they help feed the animals in heaven.” 

One boy raised his hand and answered very seriously “There are no doctors or lawyers in heaven because God does all the healing and arguments aren’t allowed.”

“There’s always angel food cake – not devil’s food cake” giggled a blue-eyed tyke. 

A little girl was next to answer the question. “God sits in heaven but he isn’t on a throne or anything like that. He sits in a garden playing with the children, puppies and kittens and lets them climb on him. And the grownups just do stuff like they used to do at home.” 

I asked another question: “How did heaven begin?” 


Then one timid, diminutive girl answered quietly “A really long time ago a lot of kids were crying because their grandmas and grandpas were dying so God said ‘Don’t cry. I’m going to make a beautiful place way above the clouds where all the grandparents and parents and pets can stay forever’. And so he made heaven.” 

I felt a lump in my throat, perhaps thinking of my own grandparents, but in all honesty I’m sure it was the simple yet poignant answer of that sweet girl. I coughed a bit to mask the emotion in my voice and asked another question. 

“Is there a special test to get into heaven?” 

I was rewarded with a resounding “NO!”

I countered with “No? Well if there’s no test how do we get into heaven?” 

An adorable red haired boy covered with freckles quickly raised his hand and said “When you get to heaven God whispers one question in your ear.” 

“He does? What’s the question?” I asked

 “He asks ‘Do you love me?’ It’s really not a hard question. And when you say ‘Yes’, God kisses you and says ‘Come on in!” 

Intrigued by that answer I asked “And how do you know this?” 

Displaying a toothless grin he declared “My grandpa tells me every time I talk to him. That’s what God asked my grandpa when he got to heaven and he said ‘YES!’” 

And all the kids shouted “YES!!” 

I think I’m ready for my final exam. Are you?

NAR © 2023


It’s been quite a while since I went to church. It wasn’t one specific thing that happened; it was a lot of little things that changed the way I feel about church.

Up until a few years ago, a large portion of my time was spent attending Mass and being involved in church activities. I was a Leader of Song, the Assistant Choir Director of the Children’s Choir as well as an active member of both the Adult English and Italian Choirs. I was president of the Parish Council, taught CCD and was also the music curator for a long time; I put my heart and soul into that position.

As I said, a lot of little things changed my opinion of church and by that I mean organized religion. I know for many people being physically inside a church and attending services is an integral part of their lives. Sitting in the sanctuary, singing the hymns, hearing the word of God, receiving Communion, praying, feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit can be extremely moving, comforting and fulfilling. To those people who honestly feel that way, I’m very glad your lives are so richly filled.

I know where I stand with God; He and I have been pretty close since I was born – probably before that. I believe He knows my innermost feelings and hears me when I speak to Him, which is often. I tried to talk to God every night but I wasn’t always successful; I’d get tired and fall asleep. I had good intentions and He knew that. Now I speak with Him whenever I feel like it even though He knows all about me (and I truly believe that).

You notice I don’t use the word “pray”. For me that’s a bit too formal but if it works for you then go for it. There were times when I’d only pray when I was worried and things were troubling me; I’d tell God what I did wrong (as if He didn’t already know) or what was weighing me down and pray for Him to intervene. I’m sure many of you can relate. 

The thought of talking to God came to me quite by accident one night after spending the day with my grandchildren. It was a particularly good day and I was thinking about the joy those kids bring me. I found myself taking a few minutes to say “thank you” to God for the many blessings in my life. I think that’s when I finally realized my blessings far outweighed my troubles and I wanted to acknowledge where those blessings came from. We had a wonderful talk, God and me. It didn’t last long, there was no kneeling or reciting the rosary. I just talked and I know God heard because a calmness came over me. It’s amazing what a couple of minutes one-on-one with God can do. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and only show my face in church on Christmas and Easter. I’d rather just have my own personal relationship with God whenever the ’spirit’ moves me.

I converted to Catholicism when I was 32 years old. Going to confession for the first time was deeply meaningful and I felt reborn. The second time was not like the first; sadly, all the priest wanted to do was gossip about other people in the church. That, I realize, is an anomaly but it turned me off to confession. Perhaps some day when I know my time on earth is reaching an end I’ll want someone to absolve me of my sins but for now I don’t need an intermediary; I talk to God and I know He forgives me.

There may be some who no longer consider me a very good Catholic; that’s okay. I like to think I’m a good Christian and a decent person. There’s no denying I screw up big time. Frequently. I’m only human and I’m sure God is looking down at me saying “There she goes again!”. Guilty as charged. I’m also sure God understands and is always ready and willing to give me another chance. 

I hope I never take advantage of God’s forgiveness; how selfish and ungrateful would that be? After all, look at the sacrifice He made for our undeserving souls. Pretty awesome, no? Thank God!

To all who observe this very sacred day I wish you a most blessed Good Friday. I’ll tell God you said “Hello” next time we chat.

NAR © 2022


Say, God! We your children, the citizens of the world, the people you created in your own image – Father, we have some questions for you. 

Did you create this deadly, horrendous virus or did you give man the ability to cultivate it in a laboratory? Did you decide one day that you’ve had enough of this amoral world and it was time to start anew or perhaps not restart at all? 

Or is it the handiwork of the devil? After all, how many times did he tempt your beloved Son during his 40 days in the desert? Turning stones into bread to relieve Jesus’ hunger while he fasted; daring Jesus to throw himself off a mountain by offering him dominion over all earthly kingdoms; demanding Jesus kneel before him, again for all the empires of the world. The temptations of hedonism, egoism and materialism – not unlike the world of 2020. 

So what is this hideous evil we are facing now – this demon bug which does not discriminate between those people who are right and good and just or the ones who are evil and sadistic and selfish? It doesn’t care if the victim is a person of power and influence or a homeless man huddled in a cardboard box under a bridge. 

Just recently people were going about their everyday lives – shopping in malls, attending concerts, catching a hockey game, dining out, getting married, hopping a plane to Rome. Kids went to school. People went to work. We went to church – your house where we gathered with our brothers and sisters, clasping hands in a sign of peace. Now your holy houses are closed. 

Grandparents were welcoming their newborn grandchildren only to be snatched from their lives. Kids were gleeful to be home from school until they began missing their friends. They couldn’t have play dates or go to Cub Scouts or music lessons or the toy store. Jobs were lost, restaurants shut down, playgrounds deserted with only empty swings swaying in the wind. 

Wearing rubber gloves while shopping became necessary, scared and wary eyes visible above our ubiquitous masks. People stowed bread and milk and eggs in their shopping bags and hoarded sanitizers and toilet paper. Some became greedy, leaving little on the shelves for others. 

How many of your children will die? How many doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and truckers put their lives on the line without a second thought, most unable to go home at night to their families? The elderly – confused, frightened and lonely in nursing homes – separated from their families because visits are forbidden. The women in the throes of childbirth afraid to go to the hospital, perhaps not even allowed to go to the hospital. 

We have new words and phrases in our vocabulary – self-isolation, flatten the curve, shelter in place, social-distancing. Yet there are comforting and familiar words such as hope, peace, love, family, faith and health. Those are the words we cling to every day. Those are the words that are stronger than anxiety, depression, helplessness, solitude and fear. 

Eons ago you destroyed the earth by water. Only eight righteous people and every kind of animal were spared. You made this promise: “Never again will I curse the earth; neither will I again smite every thing living, as I have done”.       

No, Father! We your children refuse to believe that you have abandoned us. We know you are a loving and compassionate God. You will end this vile curse, freeing us to once again walk arm in arm, our faces basking in the glow of your never-ending love. 

NAR © 2020