• Mary van Balen

    • Mary van Balen is the author of four books, numerous articles, and has written the column, “Grace in the Moment” for over thirty years. Mary holds an MA in Theology and was a resident scholar at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical & Cultural Research. A public speaker, Mary conducts retreats and days of reflection on a variety of topics including journaling and spirituality. She is a spiritual director and a graduate of Shalem's Nurturing the Call: Spiritual Guidance Program. You can contact Mary through her website: maryvanbalen.com.

Learning to See

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1: 5 This year I’ve had to replace my Advent wreath candles one by one as they spent themselves illuminating the darkness. Lit not only for dinner or in the evening, they have burned for long stretches of time at all […]

December 12, 2023 by Mary van Balen 10 Comments

Solitude’s Gift of Grace

Too often these days, I am overwhelmed with sadness and anger and a sense of not being enough. I think many of us struggle with this. It’s easy to feel this when we live in a world where so much is broken. Suffering and injustice surround us, and we feel powerless to change it. Communication […]

May 05, 2023 by Mary van Balen 8 Comments

Befriending Good Friday Darkness

While staying alone at a friend’s woodland cabin one Good Friday night, I turned off the lights and stepped outside for a walk. My eyes needed a few minutes to adjust until silhouettes of bushes, trees, and clumps of weeds emerged from the blackness. Darkness changes even the familiar, and while I knew where the […]

April 04, 2023 by Mary van Balen 8 Comments

The Gift of Being Here

Opening the kitchen door to gauge the morning’s suitability for an early walk, I inhaled quickly and held my breath in reverence and awe. Cool refreshing air slid over me after days of stifling heat. Huge, puffy clouds rose in the bright blue sky. Even from my city view, obstructed by buildings, wires, and trees, […]

September 09, 2021 by Mary van Balen

Greening Nature and Spirits

One spring morning, sitting at the table sipping tea, I saw green buds on tree branches hanging over the yard just outside the picture window. Those small fists of summer, clenched tight, must have been there for a while, but I hadn’t noticed. Seemingly overnight, the greening buds had swelled and stretched up and out, […]

May 05, 2021 by Mary van Balen 2 Comments

Love, Not Atonement

This year in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast of the Annunciation falls just a few days before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. (This isn’t always the case since Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.) The proximity of the two feasts […]

April 04, 2021 by Mary van Balen 2 Comments

Welcoming God with Open Arms

While Lent is sometimes thought of as a season to give up something, this Lent comes after a year of pandemic and unrest that has many feeling like they’ve already given up a lot. For some it has meant no in-person visits with family or friends for close to a year. Some have lost jobs. […]

March 03, 2021 by Mary van Balen 1 Comment

Just As We Are

I’ve always known the call to write. Mom supported my efforts, placing a small table in the dormitory-style room that held beds for me, my siblings, and our grandmother. The writing space didn’t last long; getting into closets on either side required sliding the desk one way or the other. But the message was clear: […]

January 01, 2021 by Mary van Balen

The Challenge of this Special Time

In a recent letter, a Trappist monk who has been my friend for decades, wrote this to me: “It is a special time to be living and praying…” This simple phrase immediately went to my heart. It seemed true, with a depth of meaning I would lean into in the days ahead. My friend is […]

October 10, 2020 by Mary van Balen

Letting the Light In

Full disclosure: I’ve tried to write this column for weeks. Thoughts and notes spill across my journal pages; drafts of documents sit on my laptop. Prayer and vigil candles are spent. Life feels heavy. Sometimes overwhelming. The state of our world and our country is revealing the dark, shadowy side beneath our comfortable façade. And […]

July 07, 2020 by Mary van Balen