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Author Archive for Amy

NCR Blogger’s Memoir Breaks Mold

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

National Catholic Register blogger Jennifer Fulwiler just published her long awaited memoir, Something Other Than God. The book is enjoying exposure and praise typically reserved for secular tales. When I saw the book profiled on Forbes.com, a real feat for a Catholic conversion story, I braced myself for something compelling.

The memoir is written with the creative details and texture of fiction. This style makes it a winner among readers, and favorable Amazon reviews already top an impressive 300.

Young Fulwiler seems to happily bop along to a fun 80s soundtrack until friends compare notes about church attendance. Suddenly, this girl who self identifies as atheist doesn’t fit in. Aside from the social anxieties of not “being saved” in the fervent South, her brain starts to ponder existential questions that are too agitating to fully engage. What happens to us when we die if this is all there is?

Eventually, she’s a busy professional and meets a special man at a meeting. She deems herself too smart for God talk and isn’t interested in angels, but a thought came out of nowhere, “You are going to marry him.” And she did!

They enjoy a luxurious lifestyle together, but her existential crisis kicks in again and gives way to earnest and persistent questioning. She shows us how she finally finds conversion with her husband.

Motherhood accelerated her journey. The miracle of life brought God close, and helped her accept the sanctity of that life. Reading up on what “pro-choice” actually means these days convinced her to stop waving that feminist flag.

She also credits her blog, The Conversion Diary, and friendly commenters for helping her move forward. Her witness offers an example of digital media and fellowship at its best, something Christians everywhere can hold as an ideal use of technology.

This couple’s conversion coincided with a simplification of life. I thought the story of sacrifice was a brilliant juxtaposition to the trendy “get rich quick” programs these days that assure us of their spiritual foundations.

A genetic blood clotting disorder and her need of a Category X medication forced her to examine contraception. My opinion is that her depiction could potentially cause people to scrutinize Church teaching more rather than accept it wholesale. Yet, Fulwiler at least shows us that contraception is not a trivial matter. After all, it’s becoming all too common for moms to almost brag about their sterilizations at play dates with no notion of the moral or health implications.

Which brings me to my takeaway. Catholics will nibble on this book for it’s excellent chronicling of conversion and converts will like tracing Fulwiler’s steps whilst comparing notes. But, it is also a socially appropriate way to introduce a well-off suburban mom or middle class woman to the faith if they inquire. As a convert myself, I recall the unimaginative proselytizing that my family endured in our neighborhood and feel that this memoir would have been more interesting and palatable. It doesn’t have the bitterness of less mature conversion stories or the condescending tone of some apologetics materials.

I saw that the book was critiqued for not spotlighting the abuse crisis within the Church and fiercely analyzing that from a skeptic’s perspective. Hold on a second, whose story is this? If an issue wasn’t critical to Fulwiler’s personal choice to convert, it shouldn’t be in the memoir.

Aside from the story’s potency as a faith-sharing tool, I could hardly put it down. It’s a really good read, and that is reason enough to get it.

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Remember when social media fasting was trending during Lent?

My big undertaking for Lent was to fast from Facebook, and though it wasn’t complete, it was my first attempt and pretty strict. It was such a huge change for me that months later, I’m still processing the experience and reaping rewards from the fast. My takeaway is that when you de-clutter your life, God has space to bless you more abundantly.

My biggest blessing was that I was offered three separate professional opportunities during my Facebook fast. Though I was poking around, all of them seemed to come out of nowhere. I also increased my profits for my own business during the fast.

People have different ways of explaining these mysterious shifts or windfalls that happen in life and I’m not an expert on each of the philosophies, so I’ll stay simple. Quitting Facebook temporarily was kind of like deep cleaning my house and feeling satisfied that I made more room for my current belongings and new things to come. Similarly, the results of my Facebook fast make made me wonder if God knew I wanted more in my life and for some reason, wasn’t going to give me anything until I cleared some space. I needed to de-clutter my daily social media routine to make room for the blessings.

Now, I frankly assumed that God would have answered my prayers and made room for his gifts himself. But, every time I think that I should be able to just sit back and reap rewards without making an effort to sew anything, I find myself in the midst of a lesson that teaches me otherwise. Sewing, by the way, doesn’t have to be a huge and draining undertaking. It can be a simple shift in focus.

So, is social media cluttering your life in an unhelpful, unproductive or “unfun” way? If it is, you might benefit from tracking the time you spend on social media per day, or be more mindful about your interactions and how they make you feel. A document that recently made the rounds, the 10 commandments for the digital age, can also help you reflect upon how to use social media positively. Though many were amused by the way it encourages us to share “digital smiles,” I think a lot of us can resonate with the intention behind these commandments after years spent behind a computer.

Since my fast ended, I am more conscious about the way I use social media but am amazed by how quickly I can go back to my old ways. Scrolling for a “just a few minutes” can turn into longer than I am okay with. Just as traditional dietary fasting is proven to help the body heal and renew itself on top of the spiritual benefits, I’ve discovered that social media fasts are totally worthwhile in any season.

[This piece was published on CatholicMom.com and CatholicLane.com in July 2014]

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Five Reasons I’m Giving Up Facebook for Lent

Monday, February 24th, 2014

If you feel called to give up a Facebook for Lent this year, you aren’t alone. In social media parlance, the idea is “trending.”

Before I explain my reasons for seriously curbing my Facebook use this season, let me first acknowledge that social media enables me to do my work as a writer with great ease. It is so critical to my work that I won’t be able to completely fast from social media this year.

Also, let me assure you that I know the Holy Spirit works online wonders daily, so no, you are not deficient if you don’t feel moved to sacrifice social media this season. It might not be for you. And if you are engaged in online dating, l should tell you that I met my husband online during Lent.

At the same time, social media divides us. The divisive nature of the electronic beast has weighed me down lately. Here are five reasons that I am fasting from Facebook for Lent.

Hurtful Behavior: How many times have I seen Catholic brethren behave badly on Facebook? It could be a rude comment or a mysterious “de-friending” without explanation that will most certainly be awkward the next time I see the individual in person. It could simply be a hurtful code of non-engagement, meaning that despite my overtures to be friendly with someone, they resolutely ignore me, even if we plainly share many of the same interests and causes. My slice of Facebook isn’t always welcoming and it has made me bitter and aloof.

Shallow Connections: Originally, Facebook enhanced my connections with friends and family. That time has passed. Now, my closest friends and family stay in touch via email, texts, phone calls, and in-person events. The people I interact with most on Facebook very rarely, if ever, reach out to have a real conversation, and I usually don’t either because my sense is that they aren’t interested in forming a deeper connection. This means that my steady stream of “likes” and comments don’t mean much. Sadly, I could die tomorrow and these people may or may not know about it or mourn my loss.

Exceeded Quotas: You can only take so much depressing news per day without it adversely affecting your mood. Though I am rabidly anti-abortion, I have realized that I can’t read article after article, post after post, about pro-life news. I dispense so much sympathy to post-abortive women who regret their actions. I read so many stories about babies born frightfully early. I gasp in shock when I read about a person who survived an abortion attempt. I am outraged when I read about a woman dying after a late-term abortion. But some days, it’s too much. I never had an abortion and don’t plan to. I have a healthy baby who needs my attention. Though I like to stay informed, I don’t really need to be immersed in abortion news 24/7.

Groupthink: As I mentioned at a Year of Faith symposium, we Catholics have fostered an electronic environment that demands absolute conformity. We all parrot the same ideas, the same news, the same opinions…and frankly, I don’t think it’s a particularly creative environment. I naturally strive to do new things and think outside the box, and don’t always see the Holy Spirit within the standard fare. Sometimes, I just think, “Here we go again…” If I have a fresh idea or perspective that I’d like to share, chances are that it will be wasted in social media. People will discount it and scroll on.

Neglected Projects: Lastly, I have a few important writing projects that need my attention. I tell myself that I surf Facebook when it’s an inopportune time to work on my projects, but wonder if that’s really the case. Could I use my daily allotment of Facebook time to polish a manuscript for publication? I don’t know, but if I can, I suspect the finished project will be more valuable than my status updates.

So, come March 5th, my Facebook app is coming off my iPad and iPhone, and I will probably have to turn off notifications given the game invites I get (and never accept).

I hope I get back to basics this Lent. I hope I get to church more, read more devotional books, pray more, all of that good stuff. But most of all, I am interested in the insights I will have after this massive overhaul of my daily routine!

Want to read more about giving up social media for Lent? Check out this article on CatholicMom.com.

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Obscure Medieval Saint Still Grants Baby Requests

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

St. Leopold with two deceased sons, from the Babenberger Stammbaum in Stift Klosterneuburg

* This article also appeared in CatholicMom.com and CatholicLane.com

When I visited a fertility clinic for diagnostic tests a few years back, the place was packed to the gills. The nervous energy pulsed through the air as women considered investing their savings for treatments. But this isn’t just another infertility story. This one includes a miracle from an obscure Medieval saint: St. Leopold of Austria.

I’m one of the unlucky women who has Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of true infertility, rather than the “I waited so long to try that now it’s too late” variety. Women with PCOS recognize that they have a heightened chance of serial miscarriages if they are fortunate enough to get pregnant to begin with. The emotional distress can be as traumatic as the physical ailments that accompany this oft-misunderstood illness.

Even though I lived with PCOS worries for years, I was shocked when the doctor told me that I had only a 5-10% chance of conceiving. Really? That bad, huh? Truthfully, I was a little skeptical, but still…disturbed.

Something held me back from signing up for treatment. By the way, some avenues, like Clomid, are fine for Catholic PCOSers. Even so, the actual methods vary and the staffers I met seemed too busy marketing their success stats to care about moral concerns. The choices infertile couples have to make, by the way, are never easy. Catholic or not, ethical equations on a sheet of paper can never accurately reflect the raw emotion of real life scenarios that involve a deep yearning for a child.

Time went by, I scheduled an appointment to follow up about my options, and also, sent a prayer request to a priest who is a member of a community named in honor of St. Leopold. A month later, and a month before my appointment, I was pregnant!

Initially, I didn’t realize that the famous margrave (“marquis” in English) was behind the sought after miracle. St. Leopold is the patron saint of Austria and very little is written about him in the English language. He is patron of large families, death of children, and stepchildren. His family life explains his patronages. His first wife passed away at a young age and they had only one son together. His second wife, Agnes, lost her first husband after having 11 children. When the two widows married, they both became stepparents and formed a Medieval Brady Bunch. They had 18 children together, and tragically, lost seven.

A most virtuous ruler, Leopold was offered the role of Holy Roman Emperor and declined. This is perhaps the most impressive fact I have found about him. He was politically astute and ushered in an era of peace. A devout Catholic, he built monasteries and helped to resolve the Investiture Controversy.

Over the next year, I saw the Austrian saint’s fingerprints appear in my life. The puzzle pieces surrounding my baby’s entry into the world gradually sprinkled before me like fairy dust. While I was pregnant, the praying priest and I agreed to introduce more information about Leopold, who looks like Santa Claus in paintings, to English-speaking Catholics.

Once my son was born, I noticed some uncanny similarities between Leopold’s full name and the baptismal name we gave our son. As I researched the saint further, I learned that Leopold was documented to have helped someone have a child before. Albrecht, Habsburg duke of Austria, traveled to Leopold’s shrine to thank him for the birth of a son on November 15, 1339. This was 16 years prior to his formal canonization, which occurred after Rome uncovered an entire collection of miracles credited to Leopold.

Since Leopold’s life was dedicated to raising such a huge brood of children, it is natural that he would take a special interest in baby requests. If you or anyone you know is praying for a child, Leopold’s assistance can’t hurt! Now is the time to mark your calendar. Pray for intercession on his feast day, November 15th.

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Halloween Treat for My Mailing List

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I sent out a Halloween treat tonight to everyone on my new mailing list.

If you want access to an exclusive coaching discount, please sign up for the newsletter on the homepage. If you do it now, you will get my reminder/follow-up email with details. But, it won’t last long – sign up now!

2013 is drawing to a close. If you have loose ends, goals that somehow got lost in the daily grind….like that unfinished online dating profile, now is the time for that final push.

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7 Tips for Dating an Introvert

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

If you are an introvert, you know how it feels to be misunderstood. And if you are dating an introvert, but are an extrovert yourself, you may be struggling to understand your special guy or gal. I am quoted in this article entitled, “7 Tips for Dating an Introvert.” Definitely check it out if introversion is on your mind lately!

“Internet dating has leveled the playing field between extroverts and introverts,” says life coach and author Amy Bonaccorso. “In the past, an extrovert would be the life of the party and get the dates, but now, an introvert can impress someone with their excellent communication skills over email before meeting in person.”

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I am quoted in this Match.com article about the fears that keep singles from settling down.

“The ladies I coach have high standards, and they fear that a long-term relationship could result in them being unequally yoked and even trapped with someone who doesn’t live up to their expectations,” says Amy Bonaccorso, dating expert, life coach, and author of How to Get to ‘I Do’: A Dating Guide for Catholic Women. To get past this fear, Bonaccorso advises that her clients focus on the good in others instead of thinking only about the potential negatives.

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**Hello all! I had a baby in April 2013. This piece was featured on Catholic Lane this month and will appear on CatholicMom.com in July.

Few life events are as transformative for women as having a child. And, no other expected life event has the potential to be so painful.

These days, everyone’s mission is to avoid pain and sacrifice. We all know about the triumphs of women in the work world, but the one thing that distinguishes us from men – childbirth – is commonly met with confusion and cowardice.

The majority of American women preemptively demand epidurals, before they even feel the first contraction. Some declare that they are “too posh to push” and schedule a C-section. Anyone who does minimal research knows that popular interventions carry some risks to both mother and child. Obviously, interventions should be used when needed, but we’ve somehow created a culture that expects easy and painless birth on demand.

Still, most childbirth prep classes are designed to help women cope with the pain without drugs. I initially tried the ever popular Lamaze. However, I was one of two weirdos who really wanted to go completely natural in that class, so I moved on to hypnobirthing, or the Mongan Method.

Hypnobirthing goes beyond mere coping and re-arranges your thoughts about birthing. Founder Marie Mongan challenges the popular notion of painful birthing through countless stories and linguistics. She points out that some translations of the Bible take the Hebrew word in Genesis 3:16, etzev, and tell us that it means “pain.” Women’s punishment for their role in original sin is supposed to include painful childbirth.

Interestingly, the very same Hebrew word is used to describe the punishment for men. Some translations will use “pain” in Genesis 3:17 as well, but others prefer “toil,” “labor,” or “suffering” for etzev. Either way, the acceptable translations for both verses indicate struggle. But the frightful “p” word is only one of several options.

Mongan moves beyond etzev and replaces common vocabulary with more palatable alternatives. The term “birthing process” is preferred to “labor.” Contractions were “waves” to me. The word choices sanitize any hint of discomfort and allow mothers to relax, which should theoretically lessen pain and allow babies (“hypnobabies”) to be born easily.

Hypnobirthing put me in an ethereal mental state of “nothing can go wrong” that helped me manage early labor at home. Self-hypnosis recordings enabled me to calmly travel to the birth center. Once active labor kicked in though, everything went out the window. At the end of it all, I felt disillusioned.

While I achieved my goal of having my son without so much as a Tylenol, the munchkin got stuck. He finally came out with his head sideways – a feat that our midwife said was uncommon. While Mongan tells moms to gently breathe their babies down, hours of pushing seemed unavoidable in my case. This unanticipated fiasco nearly caused me to black out. I felt duped. Was I naïve to expect a comfortable experience?

I know some women have an easier time than I did. The mom next door to us hardly whimpered as she had her baby. Mongan is correct. We cannot assume that every birth is all that bad.

But, some situations are just plain excruciating and maybe even scary. No amount of linguistic summersaulting will change that for us. While the Mongan Method helps women take pride in their ability to give birth and confidently avoid unnecessary interventions, it didn’t make suffering particularly meaningful to me.

To put it crudely, hypnobirthing can be like brainwashing yourself out of experiencing pain. How is that different from drinking away the pain of a loss? Either way, the experience is avoided and unprocessed.

Without question, pain is difficult to deal with and no one approach works for everyone. We’re all trying to figure it out as situations hit us. But to me, the reality of pain and suffering means that old school Catholicism is still relevant in a lucrative self-help and medical industry that tries to bypass sacrifice at all costs. Self-help too often treats faith-based wisdom as irrelevant, or even something that should be eliminated from our memory banks. This is a mistake. We keep crucifixes in our churches for a reason.

Sometimes, pain is meant to be experienced or conveys a message. Maybe God put it there for a reason. Easter’s resurrection isn’t as meaningful without Good Friday’s sacrifice. A few moments of agony can burn through all sorts of crud and leave us transformed forever. Who would we be without Christ’s suffering?

While some people cannot see a reason for women to endure real birth pangs in the modern world of technology, I am happy that I was able to skip drugs that could have somehow hurt my baby. Sacrificing for the good of another in that moment was a big lesson about motherhood to me.

I liked elements of hypnobirthing and benefited from aspects of it. It is an innovative approach to an unavoidable life event for many women. At the same time, I wish I had tapped more into my reservoir of Catholic treasures. We have some serious expertise on suffering. Our tradition can be used in conjunction with any new pain management method and can always help us with life’s biggest challenges.

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5 Reasons to Get Online Today

Monday, April 15th, 2013

I just published a new piece, “5 Reasons to Get Online Today,” on www.catholicdatingsites.net. This website has a wealth of Christian dating resources that you may find helpful as you start the online dating process! If you have read my work or heard me on TV and radio, you know how important I think online dating can be to your success in finding a spouse. Spring is the season of new beginnings, so now is a good time to get online!

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Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea, facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years…. [W]e want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer’s heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet’s incessant flow of communication. -Pope Benedict XVI

I am excited to announce that a paper I presented at a Year of Faith symposium at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception is available for FREE via their theological and pastoral journal, Seat of Wisdom. It is entitled: “A New Door of Faith: Catholic Identity, Evangelization, and Renewal Through Social Media.”

A special thank you to the wonderful people there who hosted us and made the symposium so enjoyable. This was a very special opportunity for me, because although I feel called to help singles fulfill their vocation to marriage, I have other ideas and objectives too!

In the paper, I discuss the fragile state of Catholic identity in the U.S. and how social media can be used to build stronger identities…particularly through the use of niches.

At the same time, I touch on the problem of losing Catholics via social media. What if you don’t fit in? We’ve got so many categories, but sometimes, they aren’t enough…

In particular, we have busted a serious leak when it comes to Catholics with mystical leanings. This is a new focus area of mine. The Charismatic movement isn’t cutting it. Frequently, people with unusual charisms feel forced to leave the Church, or at least, the “orthodox” scene, in order to grow and serve others.

I have unique insights into this phenomenon because I was raised New Age/metaphysical. Would you believe that most of the truly gifted “psychics” I know were raised Catholic? And that a shaman I know has a lot of Catholic clients?

There are bridges to be built! Do we really think that if we bully spiritually sincere people in our pews, that they won’t Google a more supportive tribe and take their gifts of prophecy and healing elsewhere? Not only does it emotionally scar them, but we waste God’s gifts.

While “liberal” Catholics are more open, they are not always loyal to natural law or core doctrines that really make us Catholic….so that’s not the best home for a devout mystic who has been pushed out of an “orthodox” community. With the Internet offering tons of paths out of these conflicts, people are less inclined to do the hard work involved in working things out.

Further, examples I offer in the paper encourage people to use digital media to evangelize. As I mentioned in my book, I met Christ via the Internet. It happens! The Internet is not always a waste of time.

Social media is also a tool for renewal because it is so compatible with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be fast, fiery, inspirational, and hit us in our hearts. In the paper, I describe numerous examples of censorship in the Catholic world…it goes back a long time. The online universe gives people freer reign to express their God experiences, which is great, but also introduces fresh concerns about quality, peer review, and bias.

Even as a fan of the digital universe, recent weeks have reminded me of how people can misuse social media. We’ve all seen comments that are designed to goad that would never pass in person. Who has time for that nonsense? Clearly, some people do, but it doesn’t mean we all have to stoop to that level.

Happy Tridiuum!

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