Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

There’s an app for that

Man looks down in his hands and taps on his toy, checking the weather and reporting his findings. God already created an app for that, I think to myself. And I look toward the sky…

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Easter morn

Looking out the kitchen window on Easter morning, I discover four cardinals perched in the branches of the ornamental dogwood tree. Though spring has arrived, the tree still holds onto its winter dress – woody branches and nothing more. Its buds, leaves and blooms have not yet begun to take form. The four birds dance […]

The litterer

My daughter is a litterer. Coming home from work at night, or taking out the trash, or while picking up fallen branches in the yard, every so often I’ll discover a piece of bright construction paper perched in a bush or laying on the lawn. I smile each time I see one, for I know […]

Heaven on earth

If there is ground in heaven, I believe it must be covered with a thick layer of fallen pine needles. If there is music in heaven, I believe it must be the wind brushing against the land as spirits travel through the sky. If there is an aroma in heaven, I believe it must be […]

Cicada killers

The wasp glided by my legs, slow and low like a giant airliner that somehow takes flight despite its enormous size. Likewise, the wasp seemed to defy gravity, for it carried in its legs a motionless cicada nearly twice its size. Paralyzed by the hunter’s stinger somewhere high above, the cicada floated toward the ground […]

"Let it be."

A friend wrote to me today: “Life is only too busy if we let it be.” It was a shared sentiment. Too often the busyness of life prevents us from getting down to the business of life. That is to say, living. Days and weeks pass by, weeks turn into months, and pretty soon years […]

"…and there was light."

As I climb out of bed in the dark of night, electrons dance across the static-laden sheets in a crinkling display of blue light. A moment later and I peer out the bathroom window. Fireflies are busy taking ownership of the night with their random, silent display of flickering lights. I look skyward and see not […]

The snake

The woman’s voice was frantic as she called across the yard to me. I hurried over to her with uncertainly in my steps, not sure what lay in store for me. Having moved into our house just weeks before, I had met the neighbor just once. Our second meeting, and a call of distress. When I […]

Nativity

Big sister and big brother, ages 5 and 3 respectively, walked down the corridor of the maternity wing. Tucked behind the glass window where the nurses cared for the newborns, their younger brother, all of three hours old, awaited their arrival. When they reached the glass window, the two tip-toed and used the window ledge to pull […]

Flight to heaven

She died two years to the day after her husband. They spent their later years within earshot of the ocean, and called the beach their home. After the funeral, again two years to the day after her husband, family likewise gathered within earshot of the ocean. I stepped out onto the deck on the brisk […]

Sunday morning

The boy sat there in his high-chair eating breakfast. Between spoonfuls of cereal, he looked up and declared: “It sure is a good day for having a great day.” I laughed at his words, but at the same time realized how simplistically profound they were. His sentiment unknowingly implies a choice we are all called to make […]

Antiphon of the goose

Sister Moon and the stars shone above, while Brother Fire danced his playful dance below. I sat in the glow of both, their light warming both body and soul. Alone. Time literally flew by while the world wobbled on its axis, Sister Earth spinning and circling Brother Sun. Wood burned, embers grew brighter, and the […]

Sleeping moon

Looking skyward, the crescent moon stood out in the winter eve, its light reflecting off the snowy ground. Something seemed amiss, however. When one pictures the crescent moon, the image that inevitably comes to mind is a lunar sliver pointing left or right in the sky. Tonight, however, the moon was on its back, as […]

Red fox

Our eyes met at the same time, both of us intruders in one another’s lives. I looked out the window, sleep still in my eyes, and froze. Likewise, his gaze caught mine. Frozen, he looked in at me from the backyard, a nocturnal creature caught staying out late. We both stared at each other – […]

Visitors

It was a bad day for the worms. Frozen for weeks, the snow-covered ground thawed in one of those misleading warm February days that hint at spring. Mud replaced the snow, and the worms had nowhere to hide. Just before dusk, the birdfeeder freshly filled, the robins came calling. Well over a hundred red-breasted birds descended upon the lawn […]

Divine shadows

In the brightness of a snowy moonlit night, the shadow of the towering tree is cast upon the earth. Barren branches reach in every direction, and their shadows dance on the snow in their distorted way. I gaze out at the snowy canvas and envy the moon. Like God, it casts its light from the […]

Floating in a moonlit sky

Christmas day and a cold one at that. Toys and newly opened presents filled his grandparent’s home, but my son stumbled upon an old bottle of bubbles and was intent on breathing life into the soapy liquid. “That’s a summertime game,” I tried to explain, more out of selfishness than anything else. I was quite […]

Sacramental snowfall

The heavens open up above today and the first snowfall of the year arrives. The children face the heavens and capture the falling flakes in their mouths, tasting heaven. The coolness drops on one’s tongue, vanishing all too quickly. It leaves you thirsting for more, the million specs of snow just a hint of heaven. […]

Rebirth

Days dot the year when I strive for rebirth. New Years Day. Ash Wednesday. My birthday. Easter. In the heart of each day I hear a voice calling for rebirth . . . a rebirth from harmful habits, to follow my dreams, to be a better person, friend, husband, father. Yet the day comes and […]

Advent

Driving in the car, my four-year-old daughter gazes out the window in the backseat. Excitment for the arrival of Christmas is building with each passing day, and Molly has been vigilant in keeping track.  “Is it 15 days until Christmas, Dad?” “Yes,” I assure her. To which she responds with matter of fact wisdom: “It scares me how quickly […]

Do unto others

Thanksgiving morning came too early for me. I had gone to sleep much too late the night before, but my two-year-old son was ready to start the day at 6:30 A.M. So much for sleeping in. A few hours later I lay on the couch with Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the television. I had my […]

Wings

It was a grey November afternoon, the air cold but not too cold, the sky dark but not too dark. I sat in my car at the traffic light and a flock of starlings caught my attention. Simultaneously, hundreds of them ascended from a barren tree on the side of the road, black dots starting […]

Wawa

The local convenience stores have all installed fancy touch screen computers that allow customers to place their order without even uttering a word. Late at night, I am the only person standing in front of the deli and its technological testimony to efficiency. The young man behind the counter stands there silently, waiting for my […]

Autumn’s martyrs

Fiery leaves signal the dawn of all middles, a waning bell curve between the activity of summer and the dormancy of winter. Autumn – the midpoint of all that lives and all that dies. I stand in the sun’s light and feel the warmth of summer months in the midst of fall. Stepping aside, however, […]

Walking

My children and I were on an evening walk in the neighborhood, their watchful eyes taking in all there was to see – basketball nets in driveways, a bunny rabbit or groundhog scurrying across a lawn, kids playing street hockey. A few blocks from home, we turned south onto a dead-end street that leads toward […]

Parable of the rocks

The rocks have stood there virtually unchanged for 20,000 years, giving visitors a present-day glimpse of a long-ago past. It’s known as Boulder Field, and its nearly 17 acres of sandstone and rock is an awe-inspiring site to anyone visiting Hickory Run State Park in the Pennsylvania Poconos. Tis a humbling experience to stand before […]

Drawn to the light

The neighborhood has long since gone to sleep. A novel kept me up past the others, and so it is well into the morning when I call it a night. I face the mirror, toothbrush in hand. Tapping and buzzing on the window screen call my attention. My bathroom light the only luminous presence in […]

Carpenter bees

My daughter and I stood on the back deck working on the never-ending honey-do list. I stood on the picnic table bench about to drill into the stucco back wall. A carpenter bee flew from underneath the picnic table. They’d found themselves a home in the table, and despite puttying the holes, they kept coming […]

"Bye-bye. Love you."

My four-year-old daughter learns much from her mother, not the least of which is her fondness for talking on the telephone. One night, with yellow play cell phone in hand, she practised calling 911. She thought of all the possibilities that I could play victim and made the emergency call for me. In her mind, […]

Christmas

The crowds stream into the church on Christmas day. Still twenty minutes before Mass is to start and already the pews are filled. Quickly the aisles are filled with those forced to stand. Latecomers are forced to pile into the vestibule; still others are forced to participate in the celebration in the cold. Sitting in […]

Listening to God

I sometimes think we forget to listen to God because we think his time is spent talking to the truly important people. The saints. The mystics. The prophets. We have it in our minds that God speaks our language and that if he wants to speak to us he’ll literally knock us off our horse […]

Seasons greetings

The mailbox is full today, as it has been often these days with the approaching holiday. Within the many Christmas greetings, though, there are always one or two annual family updates that spout off all the wonderful things the family accomplished in the last year. More often than not, humility is lacking. I wonder where […]

Spirits in the sky

My three-year-old daughter has three fears that bring about instant and complete anxiety in her little body: loud noises, crowds, and costumed people. For Molly, our town’s annual Halloween parade is her triumvirate of fears. Arriving in advance of the crowds and the noise, we staked out a spot on the brick sidewalk from which […]

Have you seen us?

Each week in my mailbox I am deluged with circulars, credit card applications, and assorted flyers that make their way directly to the recycle bin without passing go. As I deposit the papers in the brown paper bag, I inevitably pause when two lonely faces call out to me from the “Have you seen us?” […]

Brake lights

The busier life gets, the more difficult it seems to find the time to spend an hour in the Lord’s presence on Sunday, let alone any other day of the week. I have a hunch, however, that God realizes how busy we are. He knows all the things that we believe we need to accomplish […]

Salt on the earth

Darkness swallows the neighborhood, save for the covering of snow on the ground and the glow of moonlight. Snow has silenced the streets, though not for long. Soon enough the trucks and their angry plows will be about, salting the life out of snowy peacefulness. It is in this frightening interruption to human schedules that […]

Leaf-letting

I stand in the middle of the yard, an enormous pile of leaves to my side. I lean on my rake and look at the great expanse of yard still to be cleared. Breathing in the smell of burning decay, I look up at the shedding trees and wonder at this annual autumn leaf-letting. Each […]

Acorns

The squirrel sat on the lawn across the street, staring at the two-year-old girl hollering over to it. “Acorns! More acorns here!” She gestured at our lawn, which was littered with the droppings of the two tall oaks that towered over my daughter. She continued the chant. “Acorns! More acorns here!” She called not because […]

Bodysurfing

“Starting Point” in the National Catholic Reporter (August 11, 2006). I walk the beach with my daughter, a bucket of ocean in tow. Looking to the waves, a man is teaching his son to bodysurf, and I catch of glimpse of my past and my future. As a child, there was no missing my 6-foot-4 […]

The moon and the surf

God spoke to me tonight through the moon. Listening to the waves crash on the ocean floor, I heard the voice of God talking. The moon’s gravity pulled the ocean skyward, continuing the eternal conversation of the surf.

God's messenger

Each night before bed, my wife and I lay with our daughter and say prayers. We run through a litany of people and things that make up the two-year-old’s day: her little brother, her grandparents, her stuffed animal “Ducky” (also known as “Mr. Ducks”), and so on. After a lifelong friend of mine passed away […]

A hole in the sand

I sat with my daughter on the beach, gathering together millions of pieces of sand so that together they could form a magnificent castle. The beach was beginning to be deserted, with swimmers, sunbathers and the rest making their evening trek back to solid ground. A mother walked by with her young son. Spotting a […]

"Molly loves mine"

“Sacramentals” in the National Catholic Reporter (September 5, 2008). After saying prayers with my daughter, then telling her a short story with only the nightlight on, we spend a few quiet minutes rocking in a peaceful meditation before I place her in her crib for the night. On one such night I broke the silence, […]

Pretending to be blind

Is there a more uncomfortable place than the mind of the healthy visiting our elders in a nursing home? Leaving a quick visit with a friend recuperating from surgery, I walk past two little ladies imprisoned in wheelchairs in the hallway. One can barely keep her head raised. The other is letting out a constant […]

Santa and the fire truck

It was a grey December afternoon when I heard the engines in the distance. Within minutes they were at the bottom of our street, getting louder with the approach. I hollered to my daughter in the other room, calling to her: “Come quick! Come quick! Santa on a fire engine!” She came scampering through the […]

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