One Friday night my husband and I fed the kids, put them in their cozy pj’s and wished the babysitter good luck as we rushed out of the house in blissful freedom.
We had been eagerly awaiting this date night. Instead of going to a restaurant and overpaying for our meal, we were getting together with four other couples and our priest. To make things extra exciting, Fr. John Peter would be cooking for us that night.
As we walked into the rectory, we saw the table Fr. John had set for us and it tugged at our heart strings. The plates and silverware were formally placed along with the cloth napkins. Over on the kitchen counter was the fruit Father had pick and washed for us along with the bourbon gouda he had placed on a cutting board. My eyes felt the burn and my love for the priesthood grew and stung at the same time. It was like those moments that you see your children so happy it gives you an unexplainable sting. Fr. John looked so joyful in creating this meal for us and having us in his home.
Before dinner, we grabbed our Bibles and rosaries, moved to the living room and began our time together.
It was an incredibly sweet, heartwarming night of sharing our hearts, our love and desire for God along with some accountability and faith formation.
The Domestic Church Lay Movement
The consensus seems to be that anything out of Poland has been anointed.
When you have great Saints like JP2, St. Faustina and St. Maximilian Kolbe praying with deep love for a country, fruitful stuff is bound to happen. The Domestic Church Lay Movement is no doubt one of those Polish fruits.
They have come up with a genius, Holy Spirit given concept of how to run a successful small group.
The movement has been around for 46 years and in Poland there are over 18,000 families involved. It was brought to the U.S. in 2011 and there are now over 450 couples involved.
“Domestic Church is a Catholic lay movement for Sacramentally married couples who want to grow in holiness together with their spouses and their family. It began in Poland with the help of St. John Paul II and is now available in English in a number of dioceses across the U.S.”
Here are the basics:
You might think, well, those are practices all Catholics are called to do.
Very true, but how many couples are actually committed to fully living out their baptismal promises?
How many of us have an accountability group set up to make sure that we are actually living out our faith the best we can? Not many.
Look at the lives of the Saints, most were not on their own. God raises clusters of Saints because of the innate fact - we need each other. We were all put on this earth together to help each other reach Heaven.
Couples in DC do just that, they are committed to helping the others on their journey Home.
My husband and I have been a part of the Parents Group at our church for some years now. We have made great friends and created a community that feels more like a family than just friends from our parish.
While the kids are in religious education on Sunday mornings, the Parents Group gets together for our own formation. This time and these people enriched our faith life immensely and we began to feel a growing call to go deeper into the heart of God.
Around this time our parish priest asked me to find out more about a new lay movement that was spreading throughout our diocese.
I called Alex Schimpf, Director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of OKC and one half of the couple that brought DC to Oklahoma.
As he was explaining the movement, I knew I wanted my husband and I to be a part of it, along with couples in our Parents Group.
You see, for a few years we had been trying to figure out how to take our Parents Group (one of the most fruitful groups a parish can have, by the way) to the next level with “small groups” so that couples could have more time connecting as well as a safer place to share and grow openly.
Our protestant brothers and sisters have figured out that this is a great way to grow in faith as adults, so I researched within several denominations. Sadly, I never found a solid formula for a small group. They all seemed to fall short of the end goal.
Until, Domestic Church.
Even though the movement does stand alone, it sounded like the perfect next step for any parish based couple group that have a desire to go deeper, together.
And that was us.
We went on the retreat and could feel the Spirit showing us how this was going to change our life.
Our Domestic Church family is one of the greatest gifts God has given us as a couple.
We have friends that are encouraging us to reach for Sainthood and praying for us along the way, doesn't get much better ( or important ) than that. Both my husband and I have friendships that go beyond every day issues and aren't afraid to get into the vulnerable, hard side of living as a Catholic.
And the accountability side of these friendships is huge. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again, we need each other for Heaven.
Another beautiful aspect to DC is the impact it has on the priests that have joined. Not only is the movement feeding us lay folk, priests are finding spiritual strength through relationships with DC couples. And for the couples, it gifts us the opportunity to walk closely with a priest, something that is so rare and special these days.
“The Domestic Church movement has been a refreshing source of encouragement for my own vocation as a priest. Journeying with families committed to growing in holiness is a great reminder for me that God is continually raising up saints. No matter how dark things can seem on occasion, there are Catholic families committed to Jesus Christ and to sanctifying his Church. Through regular prayer, sacrifice, and thoughtful community life Domestic Church families seek to place our Lord at the center of their lives. This for me is a great sign of hope and impels me to strive for greater holiness in my vocation.” Fr. Alex Kroll, Domestic Church priest
So, moral of the story?
If you want to be a Saint, join Domestic Church. Because it could possibly be, as simple as that.
Want to bring DC to your diocese? Find out how here!
Copyright Text and Image Stephanie Stovall 2019
I climbed into the van hesitantly while dreading the weekend ahead.
Oklahoma State University’s parish had put together a “Nun Run” for young women that felt a calling to a religious vocation.
I wouldn’t say I had heard the call, but I was…
I figured I was only fighting God on this so the only fair thing to do was give it a shot.
The weekend was awful.
Judge me all you want, I found out that trip that I do not like praying the Liturgy of the Hours at. all.
It was its own form of torture.
All of the Adoration time was beautiful, but then you’d go back to silence and work.
No, thank you.
I was counting down the hours for my “weekend of hell” (as I referred to it as the bus drove us from convent to convent) to be over.
At our last convent, during one of the Adoration times, I’ll never forget hearing the voice of God.
It wasn’t a loud audible thunder-like voice, but more of a strong thought in my head and heart that I knew wasn’t my own.
“You’re going to be a soccer mom,” are the words I heard.
They completely threw me off because I had been praying for God to open my heart to being a Sister AND then also the whole me not wanting kids thing.
It didn’t make any sense at all, until the peace came.
I knew in my soul that God was not calling me to be a nun.
And I was ecstatic!
I was okay with Him slowly unfolding the rest of that sentence to me in time because I heard the most important thing, my vocation was not in a convent. Hallelujah!
Late into the fall of my senior year at OSU I found myself praying another prayer of clarity.
I met a boy that took me by surprise.
I had already made plans to attend a Catholic missionary school in Australia after graduation and then saving souls while adventuring all over the world. A husband and kids would wait until I hit about 30.
I’ll never forgetting talking to God, “Okay God, you know how much I like him. I feel like I might be falling in love with him, so please, if you don’t want me to be with him stop these feelings and relationship right now. I want what you want. But please be clear.”
The feelings only became stronger and stronger. I couldn’t get this boy out of my head. I kept praying for direction and clarity and John kept filling up more and more of my heart.
As we spoke of marriage and a family three months into our relationship, I had to face the reality that was right in front of me.
Vocation time had arrived.
Did I want the dream of a husband and kids, a cozy home and homemade pies…or the dream of adventure and missions all over the world.
The two dreams played tug of war with me but God had made it so clear and strong in my heart that there wasn’t an actual decision to make.
I couldn’t wait to begin a life with John. I wanted, more than anything, to be his wife and have children one day.
The journey to finding my vocation has shown me the importance of praying for my boys’ vocations.
John and I have prayed for their future possible wives and for their “yes” to God if they are to be called to the priesthood. We pray for our kids to hear God’s call for their lives, no matter where it might take them. We pray that they have a deep love for God and the Eucharist.
There are so many directions this life can take them, I hope our prayers will help them stay on the path that leads them as close to God as possible. I hope our prayers will help lead them to their Sainthood.
Another lesson, that I am still learning and asking God to show me, is about my vocation within my vocation. My spiritual director refers to the two as “your big V and little V.”
Big V= wife/mom, Little V= the other little missions that God has created me for.
A hot topic in mom circles is being “more than a just a mom.”
We all cringe at the “just a mom,” because being a mom is our Big V, our biggest job in this life, besides being a wife.
But, God has given us all kinds of talents and desires of the heart that are between just us and God and meant for the salvation of the world.
The Little V can be a hard thing to discern, many times even harder than the Big V.
I think a lot of times what gets in the way of us with a mom vocation is either mom guilt and just being plain tired.
We’re so busy keeping little humans alive and well, who has time for anything else?!
Every soul is created completely different, so I can only speak for myself, but the times that I let my little humans completely rule my life, I wasn’t at peace. I wasn’t living my abundant life. That totally makes sense, because I was putting aside the other side of who God created me to be.
I see the little vocations as ever evolving. Think, Mother Teresa and her “call within a call.” She didn’t give up on her first calling, she just gave God her yes to expanding on that call. And what came to be was a Saint.
Vocations Awareness week doesn’t solely belong to the young…what’s your little vocation in waiting and is it time for the world to be graced by your own “call within a call”?
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
For some months now my prayer before the Blessed Sacrament has been “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)Even tho I look up at the monstrance and physically see bread inside, I know it’s Jesus...
.......(eyes move side to side)
Stepping out of my catholic-ness and looking into a Blessed Sacrament Chapel...we’re all insane.
We’ve lost our minds.
So, you’re telling me that little piece of bread is Jesus?
Not only that, but, there are people that sit in front of it for hours and just stare and pray??
We should all be admitted!
“This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60)
But...”Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)
So, with faith, we stay with Jesus and we believe.
We believe that inside the monstrance is the King of the World, even tho everything that we know tells us there’s no. way. that’s. possible.
Have you ever heard of the Eucharistic miracle that occurred in Faverney, France in 1608?
I read the story to my kids in the beautiful children’s book, Stories of the Blessed Sacrament, and I was bawling.
Total ugly cry, had to put the book down to wipe my snot away, and keep crying, crying.
I just kept thinking....Jesus...that is you. It IS you! Please, help us believe and love you more!
God knows we believe, but He wants to help our unbelief!
He desires so strongly for us to love Him truly present in the Eucharist that He makes the Eucharist fly...or even bleed real blood that has been scientifically tested and proved to come from a 33-ish year old man that has gone through severe trauma!
Jesus is the Eucharist.
How many times do we stop and actually think about this when going up for Communion?
Or sitting for our weekly Adoration time?
We are sitting with God.
And what do we do about it? What do we do with this Truth? With this Reality?
How much are we willing to give of ourselves to a God that is continually coming down from Heaven to give us this IMMENSE blessing?
If we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist....how does that belief...that we say “Amen” to every Sunday, how is that affecting our life?
If we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist...is spending an hour with Him on a Sunday enough?
Does that seem appropriate, even?
One hour a week and that’s it?
“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be spit out.
So Jesus, please I beg you, help me believe more deeply than I ever have before, in your True Presence.
(Read about the flying Eucharist here...it is insane!!)
(Stories of the Blessed Sacrament)
Text Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
From Boys, Popularity and Atheism to True Joy: Stephanie’s Conversion Story on Oklahoma Catholic Radio
The day before this interview with Oklahoma Catholic Radio I found out I was miscarrying once again.
I didn’t have the brain power to go through re-scheduling and a part of me just wanted to do this for Him. I wanted to “praise Him in the storm.”
I thought, I do so much God talk and now I have this opportunity to share with people what He did for my life…and I’m going to cancel because I’m sad? No, I wanted to keep the appointment…and prayed God would do the cancelling for me.
That night, Oklahoma was hit with the most random August tornadoes and I was like, dang, God. Impressive.
I just knew the station wasn’t going to have power and we’d have to reschedule.
Even though every single traffic light was out as I drove to OKCR the next morning, the station still had power.
Deacon Larry started the interview and I couldn’t even remember the beginning of my own life story.
I didn’t have anything in me to give. I felt so empty. Physically and spiritually.
I said to God, “I have nothing. Please, Come Holy Spirit. You’re going to have to tell this story for me.”
And it began.
I love this story so much. It is a story about God’s immense love and mercy.
It is a story about how God truly does keep His promises to us. He does bring great joys out of intense suffering, even the worst suffering imaginable.
I came to faith because of a 17 year old girl named Lauren Burton.
It is because of her life that I have the life I do today, with a husband I am in awe of, 5 little boys that drive me crazy 😊 … and three tiny souls in Heaven - along with Lauren, praying us on.
Here is the story of my first ever God moment… 17 years ago…
Text Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
On our family’s summer vacation there were numerous God encounters.
When our 10 year old was helping our 2 year old getting in and out of the pool.
Walking into God’s creativity at Mammoth Cave, the longest cave in the world.
Hearing our children make up silly (and also annoying as heck) games in the car and cracking up with each other.
Walking behind the scene of my husband carrying a kid on his shoulders while taking in new sights together.
These moments touched my soul and made me catch my breath because of one thing they all possessed...beauty.
Beauty is one very real way that God reaches down and pulls our hearts closer to him. Beautiful things and moments are like a sneak peek into heaven for one second.
These moments should be looked for in all things and never taken as anything other than a physical and soulful connection to Our Creator. A moment of him desperately fighting for our attention.
The most powerful God moment I had when on that summer vacation was- cheesy catholic as this will sound- at mass.
We love seeing new churches on vacation and St. Francis de Sales in random little Paducah, Kentucky is now seared into my cherished memories forever.
Just like any old church, the architecture before even walking in lets you know you are walking into Greatness. Into something that will be fighting for your attention. Into something important and something sacred.
We stepped inside this story of our faith and I immediately looked like those kids in Sandlot looking up at the fireworks during their Fourth of July baseball game. My eyes became wide and then my mouth followed in awe.
St. Ignatius of Loyola is big on finding God in all things-and in this moment I was grateful to God for waterproof mascara.
Once we got to the Gloria, man I could have bawled, even ugly cried all the way through.
Hearing this beautiful version that was so reverent and classical took me to the next level and it was as if I could feel all the angels around me praising.
Beauty is powerful stuff. We underestimate its impact on our humanness way too much.
One other thing that I didn’t expect - was a personal choice I’ve just recently decided to add - taking this moment of beauty even deeper and making it more precious.
After much prayer and learning I felt the most gentle invitation from God to begin veiling.
I can not tell you how much I did not want to begin veiling. And why? Because of what people would think. I worried about judgments from all over the place. But, maybe I’ll write more on that some other time. I’ll go on with this time, this one, incredible encounter with God through his beauty in the mass and holy art...I was sitting there with tears and then my veil caught the corner of my eye. And at that moment everything that I had been learning about veiling came together. I understood His invitation.
I felt so beautiful and so loved by God in that instant. All of the ancient reasons for veiling before the Lord came rushing back to mind and my head knowledge shot straight to my heart. It was as if for a moment I saw myself as my Lord sees me...and I felt so incredibly loved.
He sees us all as a part of this beautiful plan.
We are his beauty at its’ finest. And if God, the Creator of the universe went to all these lengths...rivers and mountains, stars and gentle rain...why wouldn’t we give him our love in the same way?
Text and Images Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, bros.
St. Felicity and St. Perpetua, like sisters.
St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, friends.
St. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, pals.
St. Kevin, St. Comgall, St. Columba, St. Cannich and St. Kieran, all buddies (I only recently found out about this Saintly crew on St. Kevin’s feast day and was blown away by the number of Saint friends he was surrounded by!)
As we get to know the lives of the Saints we quickly see a pattern in their chosen way of life.
Saints surrounded themselves with other souls that were striving for sainthood.
Looking at one Saint you find out that they were encouraged and held accountable by friends that understood their deepest desire- God- and they committed themselves to fully living out the faith.
The Bible is full of friendships that we can learn from.
St. Peter and St. Paul teach us about true friendship through genuine accountability, even if things could get awkward.
David and Jonathan are a beautiful example of deep friendship. Fr. John Riccardo has a fabulous talk on male friendship. This is a great listen that challenges you as you reflect on your own friendships.
Looking back at my life thus far, I can clearly see the fruits from Godly friendships and how I allowed other relationships to derail me from my spiritual goals.
Great friends in college helped me to discern situations like how to spend my free time and even who I should or shouldn’t date. These friends challenged my friendship with God and set examples for me that I still strive for to this day.
After college, solid friends were hard to find. After asking God to provide good Catholic friends for me, he definitely delivered. He has provided women that have helped me make the jump from contracepting to fully committing to NFP. God has put women in my life that challenge me in my prayer life and encourage me when I just don’t feel like wasting time with God when there’s so many other things on the to-do list. They have taught me to let go of crazy ideas like- I can’t invite people over if my laundry mountain is still in my living room. These friends have helped sear in my heart the value of my miscarried babies when others were rolling their eyes at my grief.
Now as a wife and mom I have taken up praying for God to provide great friendships for my family. Of course I hope all of our boys have strong friendship within their brotherly love, but I know the friends they make out of our family unit will impact their lives greatly- and that is something that needs serious praying over.
I have prayed for God to bring my husband friendships with men that are holy and will strengthen him in his journey towards becoming the man he was created to be.
Just recently my husband and I became a part of the Domestic Churchmovement and have been so blessed with “couple friends” that are fighting to stay on the same path we’re fighting to stay on.
We were not meant to live this life on our own. We need so much help to stay the course. Finding other souls that are striving for sainthood, that arecommitted to fighting the same temptations, can truly take our spiritual lives to heights we couldn’t imagine.
“Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
You’re walking down the streets of Hollywood, shopping bags from Rodeo Drive on your left arm and fresh Starbucks in your right hand.
You’re taking in the sights and variety of personalities walking past as you have that classic thought, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
You reach the end of the street and gasp. There, in the middle of a city so saturated by the secular world, is a huge statue of Christ the King. Jesus is holding the world in his hand and standing tall with a crown a top his head.
You are not only mesmerized by this statue and the beautiful Church behind it, you are now puzzled by the number of people that are in a seemingly rush to the church.
You wonder if you’ve hit that sweet spot of a random mass about to begin. You follow the hurried crowds…but they are all bypassing the Church entrance.
You follow them into the Church parking lot and see a tent, chairs and banner- “Catholic Laughs”- curious, you walk up to a table with people selling tickets and ask them to fill you in on what this Church party in the middle of Hollywood is all about…
Catholic Laughs is a clean comedy show for the whole family. They feature many comedians including stand-up acts that have appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Conan and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They have been officially endorsed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and – bonus!-travel around the country for “Fun” raisers, conferences and other events.
I had the opportunity to talk with Carl Kozlowski, co-founder and CEO of Catholic Laughs. I was amazed when he said they’ve been averaging 300 tickets or more per show.
Their events have become a hot-ticket because of the guilt-free, quality comedy.
People are coming for the fun and staying for Truth.
An exciting outcome from this ministry of laughter has been the evangelization that takes place. Kozlowski said that at his own parish there have been 3 new additions to RCIA because of the comedy shows. People are coming for the fun and staying for Truth. They are being won over with hospitality and a rare opportunity to be around a priest in a social setting.
Kozlowski shared a story about one of his friends who was raised Hindu but after having gone to the comedy show, attended his first mass. During the moment of consecration, he was taken aback by the “glowing gold light” coming down from above the altar. At the time, he was not aware of the significance of that moment. He’s been going to mass ever since.
Catholic Laughs is a perfect of example of the New Evangelization. The group gives parishes an opportunity to shake up the people in the pews through laughter, with the hope of bringing them closer to their faith.
Fr. Don Woznicki, New Ethos, helped Catholic Laughs get started. Fr. Woznicki has a passion for promoting what is true, good and beautiful through the varying talents God bestows upon His children.
Fr. Darrin Merlino is Catholic Laugh’s spiritual advisor and aides the group in connecting with priests.
If you have an interest in bringing Catholic Laughs to your parish, you can find more information on their website catholiclaughs.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
The last interview I was priveledged to have was with Chrissy Metz of This Is Us fame.
Metz plays Joyce Smith, the mother of a teenage boy who, after a serious accident, is pronounced dead. The movie, Breakthrough, is based on a true story, and it’s still in theaters so if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still time!
Metz has a remarkable story herself, one that made her feel born to play the role of Joyce Smith.
Her mom experienced her own miraculous healing just months before Metz was offered the part.
The timing of my interview was of curious timing as well.
For all you This Is Us fans, I sat down with her right after the episode where Kate’s baby was born with major complications. And what did Kate do?
Spoiler! Did you know Metz was a talent agent before becoming an actress?!
IIII know! Me neither!
Watch the full interview below!
Text Copyright Stephanie Stovall 2019
Did you know that Roxann Dawson, the director of Breakthrough, is Catholic? Pretty awesome! Reading Breakthrough was the first time she read a script and said, “This is the kind of story I want to tell.”
I got a chance to chat with Roxann and the producer, DeVon Franklin about God’s hand on this project and how it came to fruition. Watch the video below!
Honestly, this movie is a great family flick. My boys reference the film All. Of. The. Time.
Christian movies have definitely come a long way - and this one does not disappoint. It’ll leave you feeling like you got to sneak a peek at the Spirit’s inner workings in our lives. This is one of those rare instances you get to see the rhyme and reason.
It’s intense. It’s light. It’s great entertainment.
Best of all, it’s some out-of-the-box God time for all.
Catch Breakthrough in theatres now!
Text ©Stephanie Stovall 2019
Have you seen Breakthrough yet?
It’s the miraculous story of a boy that fell through an icy lake, was pronounced dead and is now alive and has a major motion picture based on this event.
All because his adoptive mom, Joyce Smith (played by Chrissy Metz, This Is Us) prayed boldly.
Joyce received the call all parents dread and some strong, faithful prayers and wailing cries later, the Smith family’s life was forever changed. Joyce cried out to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit responded through a pulse in John and a newly beeping monitor.
Today, John Smith is 18 years old with a dream to become a pastor someday.
This wasn’t the dream he had before he fell into the icy waters. John was a young boy with a struggling faith and carried a hurt heart from feeling unwanted by his birth mom.
I sat down with “The Real” John Smith and was privileged to hear him share his heart on the journey he has taken to not only heal but prosper in his faith life through forgiveness.
To say that I was inspired by his words would be an understatement. As I sat and listened to this 18 yr. old going on 40, I was taught a lesson I didn’t expect to hear that day.
Watch my interview below.
Text © Stephanie Stovall 2019