Posted in Inspiration

God in Priest’s Clothing and other Miracles

In today’s blog I share with you the TRUTH of miracles and how many times they come when we least expect them and in the most unexpected packaging.

The Week in Miracles

This has been the week of miracles.  It all began with the meeting of my self-appointed Board of Directors and me getting out of my Catholic-agenda, ego-driven way to allow the Holy Spirit to breath universal life into my vision and my mission.  The next miracle came in the form of a BOOK – Alephby Paulo Coelho.  It is the story of an author who is stuck spiritually and professionally and his teacher “J” tells him to step out of his comfort zone and to take his show on the road.  BOING….right between the eyes I got that one.   The third miracle showed up as I was struggling to GET OUT of the COMPULSIVE grieving I was still being plagued with regarding the loss of love.  In swoops my angel and teacher, Julie Tallard Johnson with a link  to David Whyte’s upcoming release, When the Heart Breaks – a journey through requited and unrequited love.  When I read the liner notes, I started bawling and didn’t stop until I slept.  I wept, not only over the loss of love, but more so, over Julie’s gift of hearing the truth beyond my words and responding in generous compassion.  I felt humbled, grateful, held in love.  I love you Julie!  Then came the night of dreams……beautiful, magnificent, generous dreams of love.  I awakened with a HUGE layer of grief shed along with a newfound hope and the restoration of my belief that love is possible.

In Walks the Priest

Then came the priest.  I have not hidden the fact that my relationship with the Catholic Church has been troubling.  There are things I passionately adore about the tradition in which I was raised and there are things that tear at my heart and compel me to speak out in frustration and sometimes rage.  The greatest challenge since I left professional work in the Church has been to find my place in a Church that doesn’t seem to want me, but from which I can’t seem to leave.  (Yep, I see the pattern here!)   But, before I tell you the story of this priest, I have to share my history of how God, at major crossroads in my life always seems to send a priest.

God in Priest’s Clothing

I have had the fabulous experience of knowing many great and wonderful priests in my life.  Attending Catholic schools probably increased the probability of this…..but regardless, I am grateful for all the priests who have played a significant role in my life.  In particular – Fr. Jeff Vanden Heuvel for being the voice of God that called me into active ministry formation in the first place and the unknown priest who kept me on the path.  Back in 1990 something, upon Fr. Jeff’s invitation, I was attending training to become an RCIA facilitator for the Newman Center.  I was attending one of the lectures when one of those crossroads came up and slapped me in the face.  The lecturer began to tell us that if we had an RCIA candidate who was living with their boy/girl friend without being married, that we were to expel them from the program and deny them entrance into the Catholic Church.  Being the disobedient brat and sh…t disturber that I am, I immediately stood up and challenged the lecturer.  “Jesus said, ‘judge not lest ye be judged.  Who are we to judge another person’s behavior and therefore, who are we to deny them the sacraments?  Isn’t that God’s job…not ours?”  I was essentially told to sit down, shut up, and do what I was told.  I left the lecture certain that if this is what I was being asked to do, I could not continue this training and could not minister in a Church that insisted on denying the sacraments.  I was frightened, devastated and heart-broken.  “God, how can I do this with integrity when these rules go against every fiber of my being and against how I believe Jesus would respond?”  The answer came in the form of a priest.  As I was walking the path having my internal discussion with God, a man ran up to me on the path and tugged at my sleeve.  “Excuse me.  I was in that lecture with you and heard what you said.  I am a priest, so I could not respond in front of the group.  But I have to tell you, you are right and they are wrong.  It is not our place to judge and it certainly not our place to deny the sacraments.  We cannot know how God works in the hearts of people.  Honor what God has shown you in your heart and please don’t leave.  The Church needs more women like you.”  And then he ran off.  Needless to say, I continued my training and went on to lead the RCIA for eight years and used that formation to craft my own curriculum in Adult Spiritual Formation.

Yesterday’s Priest

Then came yesterday’s priest.  If this time in my life is not a crossroad, I don’t know what is!  It is not a secret the struggle the past two years have been between a divorce, trying to make a living in secular ministry, raising two kids through divorce, falling in love, having my heart-broken, and still trying to make a living in secular ministry.  Everyday I ask the question, “Is today the day I throw my hands up in surrender and get a ‘real’ job?”  This time,  the answer showed up in the form of a priest.  This priest shows up, sits down in my office and as soon as he sits down, I start to well up with tears.  I felt something BIG was about to happen.  For the next two hours we talked and shared and stumbled through our similar stories of adoration and frustration, trying to find our mutual places in a very human Church.  At the end of our time together, I felt as if we had both found affirmation, validation, support and a new companion on this strange journey of ministry.  I cannot say the graces that he received, but for me, I felt renewed, refreshed and strengthened enough to continue this ministerial journey in faith. I also received validation for a bold ministry step that has recently entered my bowl of discernment.  All in all, I felt gratitude and wonder at how God showed up today in priest’s clothing and I considered this to be nothing less than miraculous.

Who are the people who have been the voice of God for you in your own path?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Posted in Authentic Freedom, Spiritual Formation

Why Does Spiritual Formation Matter?

Why Spiritual Formation is not the same as Religious Formation and why this distinction matters!

Spiritual Formation vs. Religious Formation

One of the most important lessons I learned during 10 years of ministering within the Catholic Church is the distinction between Spiritual Formation and Faith Formation.  My mentor and friend, Sr. Judy Miller was the first one to articulate what I had already observed in my own ministry formation and in the work I performed as a minister in the Church:

“Religious formation is coming to know about God.  Spiritual formation is coming to know God.” 

In other words, Religious formation is learning somebody else’s ideas about God.  Spiritual Formation is coming to know God within your own heart.  Religious formation is limited by the specific tenents of denomination.  Spiritual Formation is universal and limitless.  The United States Catholic Bishops have also come to this understanding.   In the Bishop’s document on Stewardship, they say (I’m paraphrasing here) that discipleship only comes about through mature disciples and that mature disciples are formed through sound spiritual formation which seeks to answer three questions:

Who am I?

Whose am I?  (what is my relationship with the God of my understanding)

What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?

The Bishops seem to know this, but in my experience, Spiritual Formation is rarely accomplished.  Most people in the Catholic Church (and most churches for that matter) receive a ton of religious formation – doctrine, beliefs, practices, rules, regulations, moral guidelines, etc. etc. etc.  but rarely are they given the tools through which they can come to know God personally and intimately.  Also rarely given are tools for sound discernment, instructions on how to develop a personal and intimate relationship with God and how to determine our gifts and how we are called to use them in the world.

The Seventy Percent

For eight years while ministering at the Newman Center Catholic Campus Ministry in Oshkosh, I facilitated the RCIA process.  The RCIA is a formal program through which adults come into the Catholic faith.  In most cases, the RCIA is a nine month process of inquiry, catechesis (learning) and mystagogia (asking how we are to live our faith out in the world).  The culmination of the RCIA is in the reception of the sacraments – baptism, confirmation and eucharist.  I recently learned an interesting statistic regarding the RCIA.  Nationally, only 30% of RCIA participants are still active in the Church 1 year after the reception of the sacrament.  That is an abysmal figure and I was shocked to hear that figure because at the Newman Center, our retention rate was at least 70%.  What was the difference?  I did not even have to ask that question, however, because I already knew the answer:  SPIRITUAL FORMATION  In the eight years that I facilitated the RCIA, Spiritual Formation was the foundation (cultivating the participant’s personal relationship with God through contemplative prayer practices ), doctrine a subtext.  My experience with the RCIA proved to me that Spiritual Formation is really what people are looking for AND IT WORKS!  The people that went through our RCIA program developed a deep and passionate love of God, came to know Jesus as a compassionate and loving teacher and sought to share that love through participation in the community and in service to the world.

Spiritual Formation is Universal

While that model worked for me within the context of church ministry, I have also found that my theories work in the secular world as well – perhaps even more so.  As people grow more and more disenchanted with organized religion, or at the very least are searching for more, the universal questions of Who am I?  Whose am I? What are my gifts? prove to be even more pressing.  EVERYONE longs to know themselves, to understand the mystery of our origin, and seeks to have a fulfilling life through their own unique gifts.  Spiritual Formation is the vehicle through which these questions are answered.

The Authentic Freedom Curriculum

The way that I have responded to these questions, the deepest longing of the human heart is to develop a curriculum for Adult Spiritual Formation.  The Authentic Freedom Curriculum consists of three (and sometimes four or five) 9-12 week classes of sound spiritual formation.  Using scripture, contemplative prayer practices, learning and discussion within the format of group-spiritual direction, participants are empowered to find the answer to those questions:  Who am I?  Whose am I?  etc.  In the eight years that I have shared this curriculum with a mostly secular audience in the Oshkosh area, I have seen astonishing results.  People are transformed, enthused, empowered and even more importantly, they come to know the God within their own heart and go on to share this God with others (in a non-dogmatic way).  (Read my testimonial’s page for participants’ comments)  I am humbled and grateful for all those who have participated in these classes and who continue to share love and joy in the world because of what they discovered about themselves in these courses.

Authentic Freedom Going Global

And now I find that it is time to bring the Authentic Freedom curriculum to a global market.  Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I will be offering these courses on-line via Skype conferencing.  (an intimidating task for a techno-illiterate person such as myself!)   Watch this site for details, dates, times, etc.   and if you think you might be interested, email me at

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Posted in Discernment, Initiation, Inspiration, Surrender

Ok, Now What?

Today’s blog explores the emptiness that often follows Easter and the times of emptiness we all feel in our own lives.

Past Lives

In the old days, when I still worked for the Catholic Church, Easter was IT!  All of the ministries that I was involved in (RCIA, Liturgical Coordinator, Adult Education Coordinator, etc. etc. etc. ) culminated in the Easter celebration and the Easter sacraments (Adult baptism and confirmation).  After being up all night with the Easter Vigil, then celebrating Easter mass on Sunday morning, when all the cleanup was done, I was left with a feeling of, “Ok, now what?”  The pinnacle had been reached.  The greatest celebration of the year was complete. And for the remainder of the school year ( I worked in a campus ministry parish), there was nothing to do except facilitate the mystagogia sessions of the RCIA, which ironically helped new members of the Church with the question, “Ok, now what?”

Disciples too

I think this is how it must have been for Jesus’ closest followers too.  They just completed an intense week of celebration (Palm Sunday), crisis, confusion, they watched their friend and teacher go on trial for a crime he did not commit, found guilty and sentenced to die.  Then, they (ok….really only the women and possibly John) watched him die.  Then, he is raised from the dead!!!?????   a) What the heck!?  and b) NOW WHAT?  How does one make any sense of any of it?  I can only imagine that the time immediately following the resurrection must have been a time of confusion, of waiting and wondering, a time of mystery and asking the question, “Did any of this actually happen or have we just lost our collective minds?”  We also know from scripture that if no one else, at least the Galilean disciples (“the twelve”) were scared to death and probably wondered if they should just go back to the lives they were leading before Jesus showed up and messed it all up.  They had to have been asking the question, “Ok, now what!?”


In the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), the time immediately following the reception of the Easter sacraments (adult baptism and confirmation), is called the period of Mystagogia (a Greek word that means mystery).  It is a time in the journey of the newly  initiated members of the Catholic Church to explore the question, “Ok, now what?”  Now that they have become fully initiated members of a faith community, how are they supposed to live that out and what impact will this have on their everyday lives?  It is a time of prayer, discernment and waiting – waiting for God’s guidance as to how they are being called to live out their newly claimed faith.

Mystagogia for Everyone

During the nine years that I facilitated the RCIA process, I often thought that every one of us could use a little RCIA in our lives.  In particular, the period of mystagogia seemed like a universal experience.  There are times in each and everyone of our lives where we are faced with the question, “Ok, now what!?”  Times after something really big has just taken place…..times of profound transformation and change…..times of endings and times of new beginnings.  There are many times in our lives when we find ourselves with empty hands, empty minds, blank calendars, devoid of plans or itineraries and we are faced with that gnawing question, “NOW WHAT!?”  For me, that time is RIGHT NOW.  Having just turned over to my editor 47,000 words of a nearly completed manuscript and facing some significant professional challenges and quandaries, while staring at a nearly vacant appointment calendar, I am forced to ask the question, “NOW WHAT?” and I find it ironic that it should occur in direct  correlation with my former, professional bio-rhythms.  Apparently I am still living the Catholic liturgical calendar!  🙂  And all I can do is take guidance in the wisdom of the RCIA and the former rhythms I not only lived but taught and know that all I can do during this period of mystagogia is to LIVE IN THE MYSTERY and trust that in the silence and in the waiting, God will have an answer.

When have you been faced with the question, “Ok, Now What?”

What has marked that time of mystery in your own life?

How have you moved through that process and where did you find guidance and answers?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Posted in church, Empowerment, Spiritual Formation

The Proof in the Pudding

I have been of the contention that it is only through sound spiritual formation (not to be confused with religious formation) that people can be empowered to become spiritually mature and through which we can bear witness to the effortlessness of authentic discipleship.  Now I have proof that it works.


Discipleship by Accident (but not really)

My first “official” role at the Newman Center (Catholic Campus Ministry) and my first “official” foray into lay ministry was as the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Coordinator.  My job was to provide the process through which interested adults could become formal members of the Catholic Church.  From the beginning….I accomplished this task in a non-traditional way (go figure!).  Instead of providing a program grounded in religious formation (doctrine, dogma, catechism), I provided a program firmly rooted in spiritual formation.  My reasoning was that if you didn’t know God and you didn’t know yourself, what good was a bunch of knowledge about rules?  As such, the focus of this process was the rich tradition of spiritual practices that were part of the Christian tradition – Lectio Divina, Imagination/Contemplation, Mantra prayer, etc. etc. etc.  What we ended up with at the end of the 9 month process was a group of empowered individuals, excited and enthusiastically ready to use their gifts in service to God and to the world.   They had come to know God intimately and personally, in coming to know God they had come to know themselves, and in doing so, had come to identify their own unique gifts and how they were being called to share them in the world.  In a process that nationally has an abysmal retention rate of only 30%, the Newman Center’s 70% retention rate showed me that the approach we had chosen worked.  Today I thank my experience with the RCIA (and Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel for assigning me to this ministry) for being the foundation upon which I have established my post-Institutional ministry work, and I am continually awed by the results.

The Ministry Team has Already been Formed

So, as I stand on the brink of accepting more fully my call to be “priest/ess” and to acknowledging that what I have been doing (since leaving professional employment in the Catholic Church) is and always has been “church” and wondering exactly what that might mean and what that might look like, I find that the “ministry team” has already been formed.  Standing ready and right in front of my eyes is a group of men and women who have courageously followed the path of sound spiritual formation, and who are apparently chomping at the bit to put their formation to work.  (who knew?!)  When I first dared to share this discernment in the world, my email inbox was full of inquiries, “How can I help?  You will need children’s programs and that is my gift.  We would like to offer relationship classes. Can I help with presiding?”   YIKES!  I hadn’t even mentioned the word “church” and I have a mob of people who have been fully formed ( in my opinion) and are ready to step into their own unique giftedness to help others find the peaceful contentment, joy, compassion and personal empowerment that they have all found through a 3-4 year process of sound spiritual formation.  Ha…..I knew it….this stuff works!

What tools have you discovered to help you know God, to know yourself and to empower you to share your gifts in service to love for the betterman of humankind?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries