Author, Be Radiant, Catholic, faith

A Pennsylvania Dichotomy

adventure church clouds cloudy

Somehow, I always seem to look for dichotomies.  I appreciate the incongruous connections that appear in life.  A significant one appeared as I traveled the roads of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.

As I traveled, I jumped from one radio station to another, trying to catch the news of the area.  At one point, I heard on a Catholic channel, a story shared that really struck me.  The discussion was about the two pillars of the church: Mary and Peter.

Now, I am not a theologian, so I can not speak to its truth or theology.  I was also driving, so I did not write down what station or who said what.  I can only share what I remember of the discussion.  The story went something like this.  That Christ, in his infinite wisdom called Peter the rock, on which he would build his church, the institution.  But, they explained, that Mary, carried the baby, the body of Christ, within her.  It is her mantle that wraps the body of the church, the people.  The description continued that sometimes the rock will crumble a bit and that the people are there to mend it.  Other times, the people, the body, leave the mantle of Mary and the church, the rock, is there to cause them to pause and return.

I heard the story while I was driving through the rainy mountains of Pennsylvania, for what was my first CMN conference, Catholic Marketing Network convention and trade show.  Never having been before, I was not sure what to expect.  I knew that authors and speakers and publishers and gift shop owners and all sorts of people who celebrate and support Catholicism would be coming together.  What I didn’t know was how they would interact, how they would connect with each other.

I have been to many a trade shows and conferences in my corporate, secular life.  But, this one was different.  The spirit was different.  There was no competition, there was singularity of purpose.  Authors would encourage each other before meeting with publishers, anxious to know the response a fellow author received.  Publishers connected with each other.  Gift store owners compared notes so easily.  If someone stopped you for directions, to the Adoration Chapel usually, they apologized for interrupting and were so appreciative of any assistance.  Most importantly, every conversation ended with “God Bless”.  This group of primarily lay people, were living the gospel as I understand it:  to love one another and to be in service to each other.

I really felt what it was like to be under the mantle of Mary, together.  This was part of the body of Christ.  The loving, supportive, engaging, faith-filled body that we desire to be as we live our faith.

After the convention, I continued on my journey, visiting family in New Jersey and Ohio, and showing up for a baby shower in Indiana.  I finally found myself back at home last week, as news of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report appeared.  Heartsick and devastated, I kept thinking of the contrast.  What I experienced in Pennsylvania, at that convention was faith in a very real and living way.  This; this news of priests and Bishops and Cardinals, this news is horrific.

I have been reflecting on these dichotomies and it occurred to me that the story I heard on the roads in Pennsylvania provide a glimpse of understanding for me.  “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”  That rock is crumbling.  At the same time, the experience of this conference demonstrated to me what the “body” can be.  We can be one; loving and in service to each other.  The body stands strong for our faith, shares our faith, and can even assist in the mending of the rock.

When I speak, I often share my mantra of Be Radiant.  The intention is to let the light of God shine through you.  It struck me how hard it is to be radiant during difficult times like this.  At the same time, if the body comes together and we each share our God given radiance, perhaps we can light the path in this dark world and along with the rock that stands strong, help lead others back to God.




God Bless America

God Bless America

I started my day at Mass, asking that God bless America and especially all those who have given their life for our freedom.  Truth be told, I usually start each day at Mass.  But, there is something about Memorial Day and remembering our fallen troops at church that is always so profound for me.

But, Mass today, wow was that special.  Let me explain.  Every morning when I attend Mass, there is an older man, maybe 94 or so, who always attends.  We call him Briggs.  He still drives and brings with him everyday, a woman from their retirement community, who just turned 96 herself.  Briggs is such a gentleman, always a kind word, opening doors for each of us.  I don’t know him well, but I have heard a few stories.  One story in particular is that he fought at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.  When I asked him about that a few months ago, he simply smiled and asked how I had heard that.  I took that as confirmation that indeed he had fought for us there.

But, back to this morning.  We are at Mass and there is Briggs, in his usual place, on Mary’s side of church.  As Mass was drawing to a conclusion, our Pastor suggested that we sing, as a closing song, God Bless America.  But, he offered, that he can not carry a tune and would someone be willing to lead us in song?

There are easily 50 – 75 people at Mass, but not a soul was willing to start, except for one strong voice.  Yes, it was Briggs that immediately led us in song.  The 94 year old man who fought for our freedom, ever so proudly led us in singing God Bless America this morning.  There was a hush for a second as we all realized who had started the song, and then we all joined in.  I don’t know if I ever heard a more beautiful rendition of that great song.

I think about the gifts that his man has provided us; from his days in battle, to his work in our community, to his gentleness with all he meets, to his beautiful humility.  Perhaps his greatest gift is the example he sets for us each and everyday, an example of faith, honor, commitment and loyalty.   That gift was so profoundly evident today, as the 94 year old veteran stood tall and sang out God Bless America for us and for all those who have served.

God Bless our troops and God Bless America…




Author, Be Radiant, faith

A Horrible Headache

Author Donna A Heckler as a child
Donna about age 9 or 10

Let me take you back, many, many years ago when your author, as a 7 or 8 year old, had a horrible headache.  I remember it well.  Truly, I had never had a headache before so I couldn’t figure out what was occurring, but my little head was just pounding.

I went into the kitchen to look for my Mother.  She took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  My head really, really hurts I explained.  I don’t think I even knew the word for headache yet, to be honest.  She asked me what had I done?  Had I fallen, had I hit my head?

“No”, I said, “I was just thinking.  And, now my head really, really hurts!”

“What were you thinking about?” she asked curiously.

“Well, I was trying to figure out how God could be three persons in one.  I can’t figure that out, and I really, really tried!  And, now, my head really hurts!”

My mother proceeded to explain that this was something that people are not supposed to understand, we needed to accept it on faith.  While I don’t recall if she said it was a “mystery”, she did tell me that it was something that only God understood.  She suggested I just accept it and not try to sort it out and then my head would feel better.

I thought about this at Mass today on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and thought I might share the story with you.  This little girl stills wishes her brain could figure out the Holy Trinity.  This Catholic adult is humbled by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the three persons in one who love, strengthen and guide us.

I smile as I think about this very real introduction to faith that I had as a child.  As an adult, I smile as I think about how many times faith removes the horrible headaches in our lives, allowing us to be radiant.

Be Radiant Friends….






Be Radiant, faith

Finding Radiance in the Rain

Rain on Leaves

This author and speaker did a bit of a mid-west tour this past week, driving from St. Louis to Indiana to Iowa, back to Indiana before heading home.  I tried to tell myself I was doing one big loop through the upper mid-west, though truth be told, it was more of zigs and zags, through the rain most of the way.

It was a rainy trip and I was slogging through downpours and thunderstorms as I drove.  During one part of the journey, when the rain didn’t seem like it would ever let up, I challenged myself to find the radiance, in the rain.

Surely it was there, I just needed to be present and look for it. I pulled off the highway to get some gas and a little bit to drink.  As I checked out with my beverage in hand, the clerk, never-looking up, murmured “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  I automatically said thank you and turned to leave.  No, I thought to myself, really thank her for saying that.  I turned back to her.  “Thank you for saying that.  That was really lovely.”

Words can not describe her reaction.  She lifted her head up and burst into the biggest smile I have seen in awhile.  Standing  a bit taller, she looked me in the eye and said with a shoulder shrug and that beautiful smile, “I always say that, it is sort of my thing.”

“I am so glad” I replied, “It is a wonderful thing to say.  Thank you so very much.  You have a blessed day as well.”

I stepped outside, into the rain and realized I had seen the radiance I was looking for that day.  Right there, at a little Speedway gas station in Indiana, by a shy, beautiful cashier who wanted to remind me, and all of us, that we are blessed.


Be Radiant, faith

A Profound Moment in Korea

Donna in Korea
Donna A. Heckler eating lunch in Seoul in 1996.  Trying to Be Radiant and smiling at all the food being placed in front of her.

What outstanding news this morning, to learn that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had crossed into South Korea for a Korean summit.  It reminded me of my own profound moment in South Korea many years ago.

The year would have been 1996 and I was leading the marketing for Energizer through-out Asia-Pacific.  While I was based in Hong Kong, I traveled all over Asia for work, several times making the trip to Seoul, South Korea.

During one of my visits to Seoul, my translator and the people I worked with took me to a market for a little shopping.  While we were walking through the market, my translator was pulled aside and a conversation started.  I wondered if I was the topic, as they kept pointing to me.  After a few minutes, my translator came back to me and said that this gentleman would like to speak with me, if I was willing.

“Of course” was my answer, “what does the man want to talk about?”

“I will let him tell you himself” my translator responded.

The man was older, weathered, I might say.  He was hunched over a little and his dusty white t-shirt spoke of all the work he did.  He reached for my hand to shake it and I smiled.  He started to speak to me, stopping periodically, so my translator could share.

“I have never met an American before” he began. ” I wanted to meet you, because you are American, right?”

“Yes.  Yes, I am American.  It is so nice to meet you.”

“I wanted to meet you because I wanted to thank you.  I want to thank you for sending all the American troops over here to South Korea to keep us safe.  I want to thank you for all that America has done for us.  I wanted to thank an American in person.  Thank you, thank you.  Will you tell everyone in America how much we, in South Korea, appreciate that?  Will you tell your President?”

I was so touched.  “Oh, what kind words, thank you.  Yes, I will share your message in America.  I don’t know the President.  I don’t know that I can get your message to him, but I will certainly share it.”

As I left the man I had this overwhelming sense of awe.  I had no idea the profound impact America was having in South Korea.  I didn’t know the number of troops.  I didn’t understand what it meant to the people there.

But, it mattered so much to this man that he had to stop a stranger, an American and offer his thanks to her, through her translator.

When I returned to America, I told that story quite a few times.  It was part of a larger narrative for me; that being to understand the impact that America has on the world stage.  I had not known.  I had not understood that.

So, as today’s profound moment in Korea occurred, I kept thinking of my own profound moment.  I thought of that kind man and his words of gratitude.  I thought that sharing his message of gratitude might be a perfect thing to write about and share today.