People of Faith - TV meteorologist M.J. McDermott prays with the weather

Photo: Courtesy M.J. McDermott Photo: Courtesy M.J. McDermott

M.J. McDermott is the morning meteorologist on Q-13 FOX News.

She has a degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington, and is proud to be the first woman and first TV meteorologist to win the school’s annual forecasting competition.

Before becoming a meteorologist, McDermott was an actor in New York City and Seattle. She is also a writer and singer, and for many years she conducted the choir at Seattle’s St. Anne Parish.

With her husband, John, and twin teenage sons, Kirby and Patrick, she is a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Seattle, where she serves as a lector.

Tell me a little bit about your Catholic faith journey, and the role your faith plays in your life.

Well, my dad was Irish Catholic and my mother was Polish Catholic, so of course we went to church. So I grew up in the Catholic Church, all the sacraments and whatnot. Then when I went to college I thought, Oh, everybody is giving up the church — maybe I should. But I found that that one hour a week, when I went to Mass at the Newman Center at the University of Maryland, was a nice time to just calm and be quiet. It was very powerful.

So I stayed a Catholic, moved to New York City, and went to a couple of different parishes there. I got involved in this program at St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit parish in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, called “Lay Spirituality.” It was an 18-month program of adult education. That was the time of my most explosive growth as an adult in the Catholic Church.

We had modules on different types of prayer. I did the Myers-Briggs test, and the guy who led it used it in terms of how best to approach your prayer life, based on your personality. It blew me away, because at the time I was an actress, and the kind of prayer that was so popular was the kind of prayer where it’s, you know, “Close your eyes. Imagine you’re at the Sermon on the Mount and you’ve got your toes in the hot sand.” And I would just be bored to death and fall asleep. I would go, “What is wrong with me? I can’t pray.”

And he said that prayer is part of your leisure time. It is something to balance you. So, if you spend your entire life as a lawyer, for instance, dealing with words, the worst thing you can do for your prayer life is to read literature and then write about it. Because you would be overloaded in that area. You need to go off and meditate quietly in a room, or listen to music.

For me, that creative, contemplative prayer was just the worst thing, because I was an actor and I was doing that all the time. So for me, the balancing act was the intellectual — reading literature, reading spiritual books and then journaling. That balanced me out.

Trouble listening? Head to our SoundCloud stream directly.

As a meteorologist, is there any correlation between what you do in the morning, trying to forecast what is going on around our region, and your prayer life?

Funny you should say that, because I keep thinking I want to write the book Praying with the Weather. Because, for instance, day two of creation, what did God make? The sky. It was really far up on the list of important things to create, right? So the atmosphere came way before the people, and the animals and the birds.

There is so much Scripture about weather. Like Noah, for instance. You know, God using rain as a way to purify, sanctify and then also destroy. And then the rainbow comes out — the optical effects. Everybody is dazzled by optical effects, and that is powerful.

Then, I love talking about how the Bible was written and all this stuff happened in the Middle East, which is a desert climate. And when God is revealed, or God speaks, he is always in a what? In a cloud.

And I just think: Of course! Because any time a cloud appears in the Middle East, it’s good news: “We could have some rain!” But if Jesus was born in Seattle, do you think God would speak in a cloud? Of course not. He would be talking in rays of sunshine. That is what we are going to be delighted by, right? So it’s all about climate.

Northwest Catholic - Dec. 2014

Dan Lee

Dan Lee is a freelance journalist and a member of St. Barbara Parish in Black Diamond.

More in this category: « Lost in space? The art of faith »