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Andy Otto :
26 article(s)

Andy Otto is earning his graduate degree in theology and ministry at Boston College and is the creator and editor of GodInAllThings.com, a blog and podcast on Ignatian spirituality. He lives with his wife Sarah in the Boston area.
December 8th, 2014

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which tells the story of a male singing Army duo that meets its female counterpart at a snowless Vermont inn and tries to put on a Christmas show there. I’ve seen the stage version twice, which adds a fun Irving Berlin song from 1947 called “Love and the Weather.” While a catchy number, it relates love to the weather, calling it “unpredictable, irresponsible, unbelievable, unreliable.”
Love and the weather, birds of a feather
Can’t be depended upon
One day it’s sunny, next day the sunshine has gone.
Perhaps during my years of dating and occasional heartbreak, I might have agreed with these…

November 24th, 2014

Sarah and I are pretty good at letting our inhibitions down with each other. A sign of a good marriage, perhaps. Some of our best times together happen during pillow talk, our (sometimes) nightly ritual. Even when we think we’re tired, we find ourselves either getting into deep conversation or just being plain silly. We’ll poke each other’s noses, joke about how our queen-size bed has little room, or annoy each other playfully.
Every relationship must have its playful times, especially marriage. Married life can be pretty serious at times. Sarah and I have responsibilities to each other, to our home, our respective families and friends, not to mention budgeting and paying bills, shopping, and cleaning…

November 3rd, 2014

One of our fears about getting married was that we would lose our independence. I was used to living on my own and making my own decisions. After college I did a little traveling, and then I discerned on my own to enter, and later leave, the Jesuits. It was a good feeling being able to make adult decisions. Sarah had done a year of service and then moved across the country for grad school. Being the strong woman she is, she took making her own choices seriously. But now we’re married, and things change.
The blessing is in how that fear has subsided. The first sign of peace was how well we compromised on decorating our apartment! Check. We’ve also been good about creating a household budget, and haven’t…

October 6th, 2014

Quite often people will ask, “How’s married life treating you?” and I want to say, “It’s hard!” But to avoid further questions I just respond, “Great!” Having recently gotten married, I think people expect me to gush about the “bliss” and the romance. The truth is, while it’s joyful, and a wonderful thing, married life is pretty hard so far. I think in our lead-up to marriage we even romanticized the hard parts. “I know we’ll have struggles and hurt each other at times, but our love will pull us through,” I would say to Sarah in a moment of heartfelt love for her. But when it comes down to the everyday living, each with our own schedules, there is struggle.
Sarah and I are still working…

September 8th, 2014

After being engaged for six months, Sarah and I were asked to speak to about 30 undergraduates in a class on spirituality and sexuality. The professor asked us to speak on our relationship and how we navigate various issues. Then the students were invited to candidly ask us questions. The first question was from a male student who asked, “Why marriage?” It’s a good question in an age of high divorce rates and decreasing marriage rates. Also, many young people cohabit and even share finances. A recent study found that 62 percent of American women aged 25-29 had cohabited by the age of 25.
So, why marriage? Sarah and I have done a great deal of reflecting on what marriage means to us. My initial response to that student…

May 27th, 2014

Recently someone came up to me and asked, “Andy, do you remember me?” Then it happened again a couple weeks later. My memory had to be jogged briefly on both occasions, but each person had remembered me from my time spent at two Jesuit universities in the last few years. I hadn’t seen these people in a while so it was nice to have the chance to chat and catch up. The joy, though, in each encounter was in being remembered.
The act of being remembered makes you feel appreciated and worthy. It’s the same as when someone tells you they were thinking about you the other day or that you came up in conversation. Consider the feeling you get when some past relationship or brief encounter that was sitting…

February 24th, 2014
Details like music and flowers are important on your wedding day, but they aren't true preparation for the marriage ahead

There are few years in one’s life that are more exciting (and sometimes more hectic) than an engagement year. After the proposal begins a slew of preparation activities. Book the church, find the reception venue, select your wedding party, decide on wedding attire, choose flowers, select music… “I could never plan a wedding in only a year!” a co-worker once told me. The truth is, a wedding can be planned in a few months if you really have to. All that stuff, while important to making the wedding day memorable, is — in the words of my future father-in-law — “fluff.”
The truly important stuff of a wedding is the growth and preparation of the couple themselves, so…

February 20th, 2014
Takeaways for our spiritual journey from Disney’s latest animated feature

I finally gave into the hype and watched Disney’s Frozen. Not only were its music and storyline a delight on a cold winter’s day, the film offered moments of deep meaning for me, something characteristic of many Disney stories. Frozen is based loosely on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen which, like many fairly tales, have strong spiritual themes. Frozen… isn’t explicitly spiritual but it teaches us about the importance of feelings, gifts, and relationships.
The story begins by focusing on young Princess Elsa who has the strange ability to magically create ice and snow with her hands. This ability offers lots of fun for her and her younger sister Anna until Anna gets hurt in their play.

August 8th, 2013

Back in 2009 I took a cross-country train from Boston to San Diego just because it had always been a dream of mine. This summer, I fulfilled the dream again with a trip by rail to the Northwest via the Empire Builder. Like most travel for me, it was spiritual — not a pilgrimage, but a more “focused realness” of God’s presence on my journey. I was not going to a sacred place. The journey itself was what was sacred.
My favorite image of God is “God the Traveller.” He’s the God of accompaniment, the one who journeyed with the 16th and 17th Century missionaries into uncharted lands, meeting strange new people, learning of God’s might and God’s personal love for each person they encountered. He’s the…

July 8th, 2013
Channelling God through good design for prayer and worship spaces

I recently moved from Boston to Providence into a one-bedroom apartment. It gave me the chance to renew and use my new space more intentionally than when I shared with housemates. The use of space can have a great effect on one’s spiritual life. The Georgetown University Center for Liturgy had a project called EnVisionChurch, which helped churches discern liturgical architecture, the use of art and space, and put them in touch with professionals who could help in design and renovation. It’s kind of like feng shui for churches.
My goal was to create a personal prayer space in my living room that I would use regularly. It had to be attractive and comfortable enough, and help facilitate my prayer and…

May 23rd, 2013

“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22, NAB)
I have never heard a priest preach on this Ephesians passage. More times than not the presider selects the secondary option provided in the lectionary, which omits any references to submission or swaps out the passage entirely. Why? Do some pastors find this subject too sensitive to approach?
I’ll admit that this line may be cringe-worthy, especially for cultures that praise women’s rights and equality for all. It tends to be one of those lines of scripture we brush to the side and avoid altogether. But we shouldn’t read any verse on its own. The text that surrounds it sometimes offers more context. Perhaps we ought…

May 16th, 2013

On Pentecost Sunday, God breathed the Holy Spirit into the apostles to remind them that they were not alone. Jesus had died, risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Jesus’ followers were afraid and unsure of their future. The Holy Spirit came to comfort them even though Jesus wasn’t there to physically comfort them any more. What does the Holy Spirit mean to us today? Much the same thing it meant for the apostles. We too are recipients of the Spirit, given to help us in our lives. According to Judeo-Christian tradition there are seven Gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, right judgement, knowledge, courage, reverence, and fear of God. The best part is that you don’t have to be religious to…

May 8th, 2013

Every so often I find myself truly inspired by someone I’ve come to know or witness. We’ve all had important figures we’ve tried to emulate. If you’re Catholic you’ll know that the saints are such a “cloud of witnesses,” who exemplify Christ-like living for us. And while we’re talking about Jesus, is he not ultimately the one all Christians are meant to model? Being inspired to emulate is good, but I’ve found sometimes inspiration can be a letdown.
About five years ago my boss’ boss asked our department to read a book called The Fred Factor. Fred worked for the U.S. Postal Service but he turned out to be more than just an invisible postman. The author, Mark Sanborn, discovered that Fred went above…

April 24th, 2013

Back in 2004, Victoria Ruvolo made national news when an 18-year-old named Ryan hurled a 20-pound frozen turkey at her moving car. It shattered her facial bones, damaged her esophagus, and caused some brain damage. It nearly killed her, but at Ryan’s sentencing Victoria forgave him and asked for a shorter prison sentence.
Here’s her reason:
I went through all the emotions that anyone would have: Why me? What did I do in my life that was so bad that this had to happen to me? Then I realized God is everywhere, and if he is everywhere, then he knew I was in such great physical condition and because of that, God knew I would be able to live through this terrible ordeal. That’s what kept me moving on, to go through my…

April 5th, 2013

You know the feeling — a meeting is held but for some reason you missed the invitation. You find out late about a concert and can’t get tickets. Your friend gets engaged but she never told you about how she and her boyfriend were considering marriage. So from now on you are on high alert, trying to be certain not to miss out on important events. This is FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out.” Especially in the share-it-all world of social media, FOMO is hard to escape. We want to be included and take part, and it’s no fun when we’re not.
A curse?
One of the mascots of FOMO in the Bible is Thomas the Apostle, otherwise known as Doubting Thomas. You might say that he had “the curse of the Blitz.”…

March 27th, 2013

Lent is a time many use as a second chance for those New Year’s resolutions they have already broken. It’s a time for cleansing and making new. This year I wanted to make up for an Advent that was less peaceful and prayerful than I had planned. I had hoped to give more time to reading, praying with the daily Mass readings and reflecting on the year. Unfortunately the busyness of the holidays got the better of me and snatched away that hoped-for time.

December 29th, 2012

Thursday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act caused a lot of stir among Americans. Even Catholics were split on the issue. One priest tweeted, “What’s nxt? Will the government tell us we have to buy a car now, house, etc.? Let’s frame this the gov’t is forcing people to buy a product.” Another priest tweeted, “#gratefultweet This morning I am especially grateful that the poor and vulnerable may be better cared for in this wealthy nation.”

December 10th, 2012

We all know that Advent has become a counter-cultural time for patience and waiting, a virtue becoming less and less known to our fast-paced world. I recently ordered an iPad mini but was finding myself with growing impatience since I had to wait two weeks for its delivery. Such things can be testing for us. The holiday season is especially prone to these feelings and reactions.
Here are five steps for practicing true Advent patience using the example of standing in a long checkout line at a busy store: You notice a woman at the front of the line who has been at the cash register for 10 minutes already causing a bit of commotion. You don’t know precisely the cause of the slowdown.

Pause… — You begin to notice

November 14th, 2012

A few weeks ago I had the chance to walk through two cemeteries within a week’s time. As I strolled through the beautifully landscaped grounds and in between the headstones I looked at the names and family relationships that were etched onto the stones: mother, father, husband, wife, baby. I began to wonder what kind of lives these people led, what they did for work, how their families were. Some dates reached back into the early 1800s. “Two hundred years from now, will I be remembered?” I wondered. To me they were fading shadows of lives long ago, but back then they were important to someone. Someone grieved their deaths.
We all know that losing someone is hard. Loss comes with feelings we may never have experienced…

September 25th, 2012
Acknowledging and responding to the violence and suffering in today's world

Last week, an interview on “The Daily Show with John Stewart” with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, began with this exchange:
Jon Stewart: “How’s the world.”
Kofi Annan: “Messy.”
Indeed, the world is in a chaotic and cruel place. In the Syrian civil war alone up to 11,000 people have been killed. Yet the day-to-day events of the conflict seem to be just a blip in the news. Recent developments say that the government has threatened chemical weapons against Syrian rebels who seized a border crossing at Turkey. Innocents are daily wounded and killed with stray bullets. Last month more than 200 Syrians were massacred. What drives a government to…

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