Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview


By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 16, 2015

Want to know what’s on my mind? OK, I’ll tell you. Snow.

I know what you’re thinking. You know that I’m a Boston native, and you’ve read all about the pounding that Mother Nature has given to the Boston area in the past few weeks. You think I’m going to talk about that. No, not exactly.

Actually, if you rank the cities of the continental US by the amount of snow they’ve had this winter, Boston stands only at #4. The top of the list goes like this:

  • 5: Syracuse, NY
  • 4: Boston
  • 3: Erie, PA
  • 2: Buffalo, NY
  • 1: Worcester, MA

Fifteen years ago the Lawler family moved out of the Boston area, to Worcester county. We now live in a little town north of Worcester. That’s right, north—as in snowier—of the snowiest city in the lower 48.

There was a year back in the 1990s when Boston set an all-time record for winter snowfall, with a 105” total. (Yes, we were living there at that time. It was memorable.) Bear in mind, however, that the record was for an entire winter season. This year we’ve had close to 100” of snow in the past three weeks!

The Lawler manse is at the end of a winding dirt road, and I’m responsible for keeping that road clear so that we and our neighbors can reach the main street. So during the past few weeks I’ve spent hours in my pickup truck, plowing. With each new storm that process becomes a bit more difficult. The plow only pushes the snow to the side of the lane, and since there are already tall mounds on each side, the new snow tends to slip back off onto the pathway.

Shoveling out the front walk, you run into the same problem. The mounds on the side are above shoulder-height. If you try to toss the snow up over the mound, you run the risk that a gust of wind will catch it and throw it back into your face. The alternative is to carry each shovelful to a place where the mound isn’t quite so high. Neither option is attractive; neither technique gets the job done quickly. 

Fortunately I don’t need to do much shoveling by hand. The trusty pickup/plow does most of the work, and with plenty of practice I’ve become more adept at moving the mounds back, a few inches at a time, to keep the pathway clear. When we awoke to find another foot of new-fallen snow this past Sunday, after about 90 minutes of work, I was proud to announce that our lane was clear, just in time for the trip to church.

What’s more, the snow had stopped just in time, too. So although the temperature was 5°, and gusts put the wind-chill factor well below zero, we were able to make it to Mass. Still there were complications. The wind whipped the fluffy new snow across the road, so that three or four times (in the course of a 2-mile drive) we were temporarily blinded. And of course some of that snow drifted back onto the path that I had just cleared.

Today there’s no snow, and although it’s still windy, the temperature isn’t so brutally cold. We’re enjoying the respite. The next snowstorm isn’t due here until… tomorrow.

Some day we’ll look back on this winter, laugh, and tell stories to our grandchildren. For now, though, we’re looking nervously at the sky and wondering where we could put another 6” of snow. You might think that we’re hoping spring comes soon. Not so; if all this snow melts too quickly, that dirt road will be a muddy stream.

Fortunately we own a canoe. It’s completely invisible under a snowdrift right now. But I remember where I left it.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: lak321 - Dec. 20, 2016 11:34 PM ET USA

    My conversion came because of a black/white ultimatum: this husband or no husband. In desperation, I finally turned to Jesus. Had I had twenty other options for happiness, conversion would not have happened. And I would not trade my conversion for 50 husbands. How can He 'hedge us in from all sides' when we keep devising escapes?

  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 20, 2016 8:26 AM ET USA

    In the EF there is a reading from John's gospel at the end of Mass. There is this phrase: "But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name." Rigidity is essential on the part of those who "receive" Him. This involves humility, hope and self-denial. Above it says we "put on the new man." There is a miracle in our baptism, our call to holiness. "...we must not pretend that holiness is impossible." A fine reflection for Advent.