Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

When I was younger, I used to embrace a New Year with such enthusiasm. As a child, New Year's Day meant parades and a trip to my Aunt's house for great food and games. As a young adult, I would get together with friends New Year's Eve and stay up until midnight to count down with the ball. Now, firmly settled in adulthood and parenthood, I have to admit I will be asleep at 10 pm tonight and will quietly mark the New Year by changing the calendar that hangs on my refrigerator tomorrow.

Yesterday, I took out that new calendar and completed my annual tradition of copying over all the important dates to remember - birthdays and anniversaries and such. I also wrote down doctor's appointments already made for the beginning of the year as well as reminders to bring the cars in for service. It always jogs my memory as I flip through the pages of the old calendar. 2006 was not an easy year. My father had cancer (and thankfully recovered well). My nephew attempted suicide. I attended three funerals in June. David started school. On the plus side, some new career opportunities did open up for me, the children have continued to grow well, and I made a couple of new friends. I feel like I have deepened in my spiritual life as well.

As I look ahead to 2007, I no longer see a New Year as a fresh start. I know that tomorrow really won't be all that different from today. It's more of a reminder that time is passing and I need to make the most of it. I hope 2007 brings many blessings. I wish the same for all of you.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wise Choices by Margaret Silf

I was so excited to get an advance copy of "Wise Choices: A Spiritual Guide to Making Life's Decisions" by Margaret Silf in the mail. Decision-making is sometimes quite the challenge for me, so I eagerly dived into its pages, searching for wisdom. I just posted a review on my site. Overall it was a very good book with very practical decision-making tools. I wish that it had talked more about prayer and attempting to discern what God wants you to do. Nevertheless, it does have much to offer. The book won't be coming out until April 2007, but is now available for pre-order on Amazon.


Serving in the Name of God

This was sent to me by Janet Cassidy today. It really made me stop and think.


SERVING IN THE NAME OF GOD

Our local newspaper quoted celebrity Jeff Probst of the television show Survivor as having this to say about his experience as a volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas:

"It’s a chance to remember how fortunate you are."

Every time I read a quote like this it makes me cringe. The sick help us appreciate our health. The poor help us appreciate being employed, the disabled help us appreciate our abilities and the lost help us appreciate our faith.

It’s as if the sole purpose of those less fortunate is to make us feel grateful for our own status in life.

When we serve with this attitude, the good work is still accomplished, but it is done without love. And without love, there is no dignity. Without love, there is no justice. Without love, it’s simply a self-serving act.

We were so honored by God when, at the service of the world, Jesus came in love and raised us up. Because we are loved by God, dignity and justice belongs to each of us. This is what we can offer others when we serve—love, dignity and justice.

Send an e-mail to cassidycomments@yahoo.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line if you would like to receive future issues of Cassidy Comments.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Holy Innocents

This is one of the saddest days in the Church calendar, especially coming as it does in between the feasts of Christmas and the celebration of Mary, Mother of God (also known as New Year's Day and the World Day of Peace).

The Gospel of Matthew tells us:

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vacinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more."


Matthew 3:16-18

I don't think that there is a mother in the world who doesn't cringe at the thought of her baby or toddler dying, especially in the cruel manner described above. As Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus fled to Egypt, these babies suffered at the hands of evil. All these years later, we take time in this joyous week to remember and weep with their mothers.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vacation Days

David and my husband are both on vacation this week so we have been enjoying our family time as well as my husband and I each getting a little alone time as well. Today I took the boys to our Main City Library as well as to the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. I hadn't been to that museum in years and in the interim they have built a wonderful hands-on children's room where the kids can make crafts and have a great time. The boys really enjoyed it. They colored pictures and made medieval mosaics and castle crowns (It's Middle Ages Week at the Museum). I also managed to get them to look at one gallery which has giant plaster casts of Classical and Renaissance sculptures.

Anyway, as I was walking through the library, a woman looked at me and said, "Boy, I'll bet that you'll be glad when they are back in school!" I told her that I actually enjoy having my children around. How sad it is that most people don't expect you to enjoy spending time with your children. Yes, children can be exhausting. When they are tired and cranky and uncooperative, parenting can be completely frustrating. And yes, I do enjoy my alone time to get the things done on my to-do list that just don't mesh well with having two little children around. But I desperately enjoy my boys. They are interesting to talk to, fun to play games with, and I love to cuddle up with them reading stories. All too soon they will be grown up and living their own lives. I will have all the alone time I could ever hope for. For right now, I'm very happy to have my little boys around.

Thank you!

Thank you to the secret Santa who purchased an iPod from Amazon.com after clicking through from my site! As a reminder, if you ever want to purchase an item from Amazon, simply click through any of the links on my site (like the one below) and a portion of your purchase will go to support Spiritual Woman. You can purchase any item you want after you reach Amazon's website.
Thanks again for your support!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I will be taking a Christmas blog break for the next few days. Meanwhile I will leave you with the reason for the season: the scriptural Nativity story. I wish you and your families a very blessed Christmas.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Aquirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Luke 2:1 -19

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A New Night Before Christmas

This was sent to me by my friend Martha. I don't know who wrote it, but there is much truth here.


A New Night Before Christmas

T'was the night before Christmas
and all through the town
Not a sign of Baby Jesus
was anywhere to be found.


The people were all busy
with Christmas time chores
Like decorating, and baking,
and shopping in stores.
No one sang "Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed".
Instead, they sang of Santa
dressed-up in bright red.


Mama watched Martha Stewart,
Papa drank beer from a tap.
As hour upon hour
the presents they'd wrap

When what from the T.V.
did they suddenly hear?
'Cept an ad.. which told
of a big sale at Sears.

So away to the mall
they all flew like a flash...
Buying things on credit...
and others with cash!

And, as they made their way home
From their trip to the mall,
Did they think about Jesus?
Oh, no... not at all.

Their lives were so busy
with their Christmas time things
No time to remember
Christ Jesus, the King.

There were presents to wrap
and cookies to bake.
How could they stop and remember
who died for their sake?

To pray to the Savior...
they had no time to stop.
Because they needed more time
to "Shop til they dropped!"


On Wal-mart! On K-mart!
On Target! On Penney's!
On Hallmark! On Zales!
A quick lunch at Denny's

From the big stores downtown
to the stores at the mall
They would dash away, dash away,
and visit them all!

And up on the roof,
there arose such a clatter
As grandpa hung icicle lights
up on his brand new step ladder.


He hung lights that would flash.
He hung lights that would twirl.
Yet, he never once prayed to Jesus...
Light of the World.

Christ's eyes... how they twinkle!
Christ's Spirit... how merry!
Christ's love... how enormous!
All our burdens... He'll carry!


So instead of being busy,
overworked, and uptight
Let's put Christ back in
Christmas and enjoy
some good nights!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Clean Heart Create in Me, O God

I went to my parish's Penance Service this evening. It has been a year since I last went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and was obviously overdue. The way they work it is to have a Liturgy of the Word service including a homily. The priests (approximately 20 of them) are scattered throughout the Church. The penitents then line up and as you get to the front of the line, you take whatever priest is then available, unless, of course you are waiting for someone in particular in which case you can step to the side and wait for your chosen priest to be available. I usually leave the priest choice in God's hands and I take whomever is available.

This evening's priest of choice told me I should start going to confession every two weeks, or at the very least once a month. He told me that a regular confessor could really help me in my life. Now, before you get any ideas, it wasn't that my confession was so heinous he felt that I was in need of immediate remedial action. He recommends this to everyone. I know it is something I should be doing. Usually I leave confession feeling completely unburdened. Tonight, I feel like I have an assignment and that I need to take this next step in my spiritual development. At the very least, I definitely have something to talk about at my next spiritual direction meeting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Discern What is of Value

David had to open several flaps on his Advent calendar today (he had been rather remiss the past few days). One a few days back had the instruction to read Philippians 1:9-11. It struck me as a very insightful verse:

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Giving our Worries to God

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God" Philippians 4:6

At our last monthly meeting, my spiritual director asked me if I ever just turn over my worries to God and then try to forget about them, trusting that they are in God's hands. Me? Not stress? Not worry? That's almost unthinkable! No, I'm more like the widow in scripture who kept beating on the judge's door until he answered her petition. I keep praying when I have a problem, for years sometimes, waiting for answers to reveal themselves. Sometimes, truly, the silence is deafening, and yet, I trust that God hears my prayers and will answer in His time, not mine. As someone once told me, God has three answers to prayer: "Yes," "Not yet," and "Actually, I have a better idea!"

Yet, St. Paul tells us to give our worries to God. While I willingly give my concerns to God, I tend to hold on to part of them. I trust God but I still worry, mostly that I am going to screw things up. I know God has this great plan for our lives, but I feel like I'm going to miss the signs telling me which way to go. "Letting Go and Letting God" is not my strong point.

I think that moms, especially, are prone to worry. After all, we are not only responsible for our own lives, but also for the children whom God has entrusted to our care. That is some pretty awesome responsibility. As this is the Christmas season, I was thinking of Mary and the birth of Jesus. I wonder if Mary worried as she made the difficult journey to Bethlehem. I wonder if she was concerned about their being "no room at the inn," or felt afraid at the thought of giving birth among the animals in a stable. I wonder if she had the usual mother's concerns, about the way Jesus was growing and developing and whether she was preparing him well for the role he would play in human history. I wonder if there were times she just sat down and wanted to cry out of frustration and exhaustion. I like to think so. I think that Mary understands our every emotion as mothers, even our worries. But I also think that she was good at handing her concerns over to God. She accepted God's will in all things and trusted that all was for God's glory, even as her son was dying on the cross and she was the mother of a criminal. I need to follow her example.

Holiday Stress in Children

This is a great article on CatholicExchange on Holiday Stress in Children. This is so true. I can so tell when my children have not had enough sleep. Unfortunately, they will spend most of this week going to bed late, eating too many goodies, and generally over-excited. I keep telling myself, it is only one week! Hopefully, we will all survive!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Christmas Tree

Last night I convinced Bernie to take an evening off from his regular TV fare (it helped that his favorite shows were repeats) and watch one of my favorite Christmas Programs with me. "The Christmas Tree" was a made-for-TV movie back in 1996 starring Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris. I had taped it back then. Of course, the quality of the tape isn't that good and it is such a hoot to see the commercials from then, but the story is wonderful.

Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Richard, a landscape architect, who searches each year for the perfect tree to grace Rockefeller Center for Christmas. He finds the tree he desires on the property of an isolated convent. When he goes to ask the sisters that live there about the tree, he is directed to Sr. Anthony, a woman with a very unique relationship with the spruce, she affectionately calls "Tree." The story tells of the developing relationship between Richard, Sr. Anthony and the famous "Tree." I almost know it by heart, but it makes me cry every time I see it. Even Bernie grudgingly admits it is a good movie. Unfortunately, the movie is not available for purchase, but the book it is based on is. While I have not read the book, I'm sure the story is just as heartwarming. I have enclosed the Amazon link below.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Reason for our Hope

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles' wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint." Isaiah 40:31

We all grow tired sometimes. I know that there are many days I am longing for a nap, as much out of emotional as physical exhaustion. Life can often seem like too much to take. But this verse reminds us that we have reason to hope. We can place our trust in Jesus. We, too, can soar with the eagles!

"Babies" project


I read an article today about a "Babies" project in the "National Right to Life News." It is an effort to put a visual face on abortion by creating a poster of baby pictures representing the number of babies whose lives are ended by abortion each day (approximately 3750). The original Babies project was done using pictures from magazines and catalogues which are copyrighted and therefore cannot be reproduced. So they are asking people to send them baby photos of their children to be used in the piece. I sent along photos of my two (that is David on top and Isaac on the bottom), and I am asking you to do the same to help this worthwhile project. JPG files can be emailed to jlittle@wrtl.org or hard copies can be mailed to: 9356 E. Ash Avenue, Solon Springs, WI 54873. Please include a note giving them permission to reproduce your photos.

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Christmas Indulgence

Each Christmas Season, I like to indulge in a holiday-themed novel. Its my little vacation amidst the chaos. This year I chose "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. While I have seen countless movies and even appeared in my 4th grade play as the "Ghost of Christmas Past," I had never read the actual book.

It is rather short (106 pgs) in the version I had, and there were parts of the story that I had not been exposed to before. Even though I knew everything would turn out well in the end, I enjoyed it. It is an incredible story of redemption. We all have the chance to get rid of the "Scrooge-ness" in ourselves and start again tomorrow. Christ gives us this opportunity and what a wonderful gift it is!

Let them Come to the Water

I just posted a new article by Karen Ford, Let Them Come to the Water. It was a wonderful reflection on the beauty of creation, and for those of us in the midst of cold weather, a reminder that summer will once again come.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sharing the Christmas Story with Children

I just posted a new article on the Christmas section of my website on Sharing the Christmas Story with Children. Visit it here:

http://www.spiritualwoman.net/Christmas/SharingChristmasStory.html

Karina Fabian Virtual Book Tour

Today I am pleased to welcome Karina Fabian for a stop on her Virtual Book Tour promoting "Infinite Space, Infinite God," a new science-fiction anthology.

PFM: What is Infinite Space, Infinite God?

KF: For me or for the readers? For readers, ISIG is great character-driven SF with a Catholic theme that makes you think. You want advanced technology? It's got clones, genetically engineered humans and human/animal hybrids; interplanetary and interstellar civilizations and time travel.



You want adventure? It's got murder mysteries, battles big and small, covert operations, alien abductions, explorers lost in space and daring rescues.



You want faith?It's got miracles, Marian apparitions, Church politics, and ordinary people at all levels of faith growing in their understanding of God and what it means to be Catholic. And--if you like to learn along with your fun--in addition to the stories, it has introductions that discuss different aspects of Catholic faith and practice--from saints to religious orders--and of course, the Church's participation in science over the centuries.



For my husband Rob and me, it was a chance to play in the genre we love and to share our faith. Just like creating our children, creating stories and books is a romantic venture for us. We'd go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and discuss stories or hammer out introductions over candlelight and soft music. Beats a noisy movie and stale popcorn any day!



Finally, for me personally, it was a chance to learn more about my faith. As a cradle Catholic, there were things I took for granted that I just knew. As I read and edited the stories in this anthology, however, I had to really examine some issues--from the ban on female priests to the nature of Confession. Even now, I'm still asking and learning. You know what? That's what really excites me about this book, and what drives me to get it out there for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

PFM: What prompted you to write this book?

KF: We'd edited a Christian SF anthology, Leaps of Faith, for FrancisIsidore E-Press, and had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, the publisher, Kathryn Lively (a great Catholic writer, btw) went on to other things and FrancisIsidore went out of business, so there was no chance for a Leaps II. We'd had a Catholic publisher interested in Leaps, but who wanted all Catholic stories, so we took a chance and started compiling ISIG. Sadly, he couldn't convince his company to take a chance on genre fiction, but luckily for us and readers, Twilight Times Books has picked it up.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book? Highest hopes: "What's Pope Benedict XVI reading? Infinite Space, Infinite God--the surprise #1 New York Times' best seller, which combines all the best of science fiction with deeply seeded elements of the Catholic faith."

Realistic hopes:

#1 People enjoy the book. That's what fiction is about--losing yourself in fantastic worlds crafted by skillful writers.

#2 People learn from the book: When a reader comes away with something more than just a fun time, you've snagged the gold ring as a writer. We just got a review from "Chewing the Bone" in which the reviewer (a Christian) said that she'd learned a lot about Catholicism. It made my day to read that. I hope, too, that Catholics will learn more about themselves from it.

Along those lines, I'm hoping to bust the myths that the Catholic Church is anti-science and that religion and science are at natural odds with each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

#3 The book makes people think. One of the great traditions of science fiction is to present today's and tomorrow's problems in a venue that allows people to consider the issue. We've tackled a lot of current issues in ISIG, especially in the area of genetics and cloning, as well as some age-old issues like "Why did Jesus die for us?" We'd love to have some high schools or universities pick up ISIG for a literature or theology-in-practice course.

Who do you think might enjoy this book? Catholics who like science fiction or who are interested in imagining the future of the Church and its followers. However, if you like science fiction, you'll like ISIG, regardless of your faith denomination. Even though the theme of Catholicism runs through every story, none are "preachy" or purposely evangelical in nature. We wanted to express the faith through the actions of the characters as they struggle with overwhelming challenges, fantastic adventures, or problems both probable and improbable.

Infinite Space, Infinite God is not just for Catholics. It's for anyone who wonders "What if?"

PFM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?

KF: Infinite Space, Infinite God is out now in electronic format, and
should be coming out in print in August. To learn more about the stories in ISIG and its intrepid crew of contributors, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com. We have some top-notch talent. If you enjoy the stories in ISIG, please go to our website, http://isigsf.tripod.com/id1.html and meet the authors. Many are accomplished novelists or story writers and you can find links to their websites there. Oh, and please come visit my website at www.fabianspace.com. I blog about writing, faith, and homeschooling and there's a list of my other writings and news as well.

PFM: Thanks for stopping by! I wish you the best of luck with "Infinite Space, Infinite God!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Importance of Forgiving Yourself

On a recent episode of "7th Heaven," Rev. Eric Camden had suffered a heart attack and made a temporary sojourn into heaven. While there, he was able to pick out some non-traditional gifts for his children. For his oldest daughter Mary, he chose an eraser which would allow her to forget some of the mistakes of her past, thereby allowing her to stop compounding those mistakes.

What a wonderful gift! Who among us wouldn't like to forget some of the things we have done or failed to do in our lives? We know we can always seek God's forgiveness for our mistakes. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have the opportunity to be washed clean. Jesus suffered and died to save us from our sins. We know that if we approach God with true contrition, forgiveness is ours for the asking.

Human forgiveness is not always so easy to obtain. There are amends to make to those whom we have hurt. Sometimes, sadly, there are consequences of our actions that cannot be changed. We simply have to move on and make the best of our wounded relationships.

Perhaps the hardest forgiveness to come by is the forgiveness of ourselves. Memory is a wonderful thing. It allows us to look back and recall all those different threads that have come together to weave the fabric of our lives. Over the years, the bad times also seem to recess in importance thereby making it easier to forgive others who have hurt us in our lives. And yet, we do seem to remember the times we have hurt others. We remember our bad choices, harsh words we may have spoken in anger, and times that we just chose to walk away rather than take action. Perhaps remembering these things does serve a purpose in that, hopefully, we won't repeat the same error. But once we have sought and received God's forgiveness, we need to make an effort to forgive ourselves. Our mistakes have brought us where we are and there is nothing so bad in our lives that God can't bring some good out of it. We need to put the past behind us and move forward from where we are, trusting that God is there to guide our steps.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I believe in Santa, do you??

Adventure With Grandma (Just forwarding a good story--not my story!)

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a
kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my
big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered.
"Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that
day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always
told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot
easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I
knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told
her everything. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted.
"Ridiculous!
Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it
makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second
world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General
Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about
everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten
dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said,
"and buy something for someone who needs it.
I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of
Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother,
but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big
and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas
shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching
that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy
it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors,
the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about
thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid
with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs.
Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew
that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother
always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all
we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have
a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I
would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real
warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for
someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten
dollars down. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's .... for Bobby." The nice
lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a
bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and
ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in
her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma
said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to
Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever
officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept
noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave
me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present
down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the
bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness
for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent
shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized
that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said
they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

This feast is often confused with the Annunciation. In fact, David colored a picture of the Annunciation in school today (although he also went to mass where our pastor clearly differentiated between the two events). Maybe it is because we have a good story to go along with that event of the Angel Gabriel coming to see Mary to tell her that she was to become the mother of Jesus. But the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. While Mary was certainly conceived via traditional means, we believe that she was conceived without original sin, that tendency to do wrong that the rest of us are born with.

Still the two events are connected. Mary was conceived without sin precisely because she was someday going to be the mother of Jesus. It was all part of the plan. Just for the record, though, we celebrate the Annunciation on March 25 - nine months before Christmas, and we celebrate Mary's birthday September 8, nine months from today.

Speaking of Mary, however, I wonder if she ever found parenting to be a complete mystery. Jesus was obviously not your run-of-the-mill boy. I wonder if she ever thought to herself, "Just what exactly am I supposed to do with him?" I wonder if she had to struggle to figure it out like the rest of us do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

For my regular readers who may be wondering where I am, I am still alive and well (well, I have a nagging cough but I am still alive). Life is just very busy right now. The boys started the Christmas pageant practice tonight. David is going to be a star and Isaac is a stable animal. I'm also busy with a web design project right now so time is at a premium. I hope to blog more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent Prayer

I went to visit my spiritual director today and she gave me this Advent prayer:

Faithful Companion,

in this Advent season we pray:



to live deeply, with purpose,

to live freely, with detachment,

to live wisely, with humility,

to live justly, with compassion,

to live lovingly, with fidelity,

to live mindfully, with awareness,

to live gratefully, with generosity,

to live fully, with enthusiasm.

Help us to hold this vision

and to daily renew it in our hearts,

becoming ever more one with you.

Amen.

Six words turned Susan to the Light

To all of you who helped out Sophia Press with my previous post, thank you. Here is their most recent email. - Patrice


Six words
turned Susan
to the Light

"It was after midnight when I read them," said Susan. "Brian had abandoned us soon after Joan was born. We never saw him again. For months I'd been living on black coffee, cheap cigarettes, loads of valium, and little sleep.


"I'd stay up half the night reading -- Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre -- anything
I thought might give me answers. One night I picked up Dorothy Sayers'
translation of Dante's Inferno. In her introduction, Sayers says that the Inferno
can only be understood as "the drama of the soul's choice" between good and evil.
Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Death leaves us in that place where,
by our choices, we put ourselves: with God, or far from Him.

"The drama of the soul's choice," Susan said. "Those six words stopped me cold.
As free creatures, we each hold in our hands our own doom . . . or salvation.
In Dante's Inferno -- and in life -- where we are tells us who we are.

"Where was I? Cornered, gaunt, desperate, suicidal -- a prodigal daughter
with an infant child, driven back to a cramped room in my parents' home,
humiliated but not yet humble. In the drama of my own soul's choice,
I had chosen myself . . . and gotten myself.

"The drama of the soul's choice. Those words made sense
of Dante's Inferno; they made sense of my wrecked life; and
they convinced me -- a lifelong skeptic -- that since the Church's
explanation of my plight was convincing, I ought,
for the first time in my life, to consider
Catholicism as an answer."

Susan


Elsewhere I've told how those six words led Susan swiftly to the Bible,
and then to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton,
Cardinal Newman, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux,
St. Maximilian Kolbe, and other great Catholic men and women.
She took instruction from the local priest and began wearing
the Brown Scapular and praying the Rosary daily.

After fifteen years of exemplary life as a Catholic wife and
mother, Susan solemnly offered her life to God
for the return to the Church of a friend. Less than a year
later, just after she turned 40, the friend returned
to the Sacraments and Susan died of cancer.

* * *

I know about this, because, about a year after those six words
sparked her conversion, I married Susan, intertwining the drama
of my life's choices with hers. Soon I was Catholic, too, and together,
for fifteen years (and despite many troubles), we strove to discern
the will of God and then to do it, even as illness gripped her and death rushed in.

* * *

At the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem in Jesus' time, the ill and infirm
gathered daily, waiting for an angel to come down and stir the waters.
The first person who entered the water after the stirring would be healed.

With six words from a book, Susan's soul was stirred -- perhaps by an angel,
maybe by God Himself -- and, spiritually, she was healed. Six words changed
the direction of her life, bringing her into the Church. She drew after her me and
our children, and later helped literally hundreds of thousands of other souls.
For in 1983, a few years before she fell sick, Susan and I founded
Sophia Institute Press as a non-profit press to publish solid Catholic books
like those that first drew her into the Church.


The Temperament God Gave You (book cover)

A Mother's Rule of Life (book cover)

By means of Sophia Institute Press, the six words that stirred Susan's soul blossomed into 120 billion words: since its founding, the Press has published 2 million Catholic books by scores of good Catholic authors including St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, and even (to return the favor) a book by Dorothy Sayers.

Before combat, thousands of Catholic soldiers in Iraq pray with our edition of Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book.

You yourself may have grown closer to Christ through our editions of Angel in the Waters, The Temperament That God Gave You, A Mother's Rule of Life, Finding God's Will For You or one of our other fine books.

Finding God's Will for You (book cover)

Angel in the Waters (book cover)


Now, weak sales
threaten to close us

In recent months, however, slow sales have brought us up short, leaving us with an
empty checkbook and more debt than we can manage. Although my recent fundraising
efforts have been aggressive and mildly successful, this morning we still have over
$30,000 in overdue bills. I've had to let go out of print many of the books we worked
so hard to publish, including the book by Dorothy Sayers.

If this trend continues, we'll just wither away. Therefore, using credit, I'm e-mailing to
250,000 Catholics this tale of the six words that stirred a despairing woman's heart
and brought forth 2 million Catholic books.

With just $1,
you can keep us in existence.

If you give a dollar, and everyone who receives this does, too, our doors will stay
open; our books stay in print; and we'll have enough to publish two million more books! Considering how God used just six words with Susan, imagine how He will be able to
use 120 billion words in another 2 million Catholic books.

So please help -- either with a contribution
at our website (www.sophiainstitute.com/donate.htm)
or by purchasing one or more of our books
there -- for yourself, or as Christmas gifts.
Please forward this email to your friends,
and pray for me -- and for Susan.

Sincerely yours,

John's Barger's signature

John L. Barger, Publisher
Sophia Institute Press

1-800-888-9344

Box 5284,
Manchester, NH
03108 USA
1-603-641-9344

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the Womb - Animals

I read an article today about a new "National Geographic" special called - "In the Womb: Animals" which shows ultrasounds of various animals gestating. It spoke about how no one who saw this program could imagine harming one of these innocent animals forming in their mother's wombs. Yet some of these same people will argue that a human fetus is just a "mass of cells" that the mother has the right to do whatever she wants with.

Something to think about, isn't it?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Advent!

Advent officially begins today! The waiting has begun. I got most of my shopping done last week. I do this on purpose. As much as some people lament the "Christmas" creep (I will admit, Christmas decorations in October is a bit much!), I certainly don't mind sales a bit early. I like to get the commercial aspect of Christmas out of the way, so that then I can focus on the spiritual aspect of Advent.

The boys and I made a paper Advent wreath today that we have taped to our window. We have paper "flames" so that we can just tape the appropriate number of flames on the candles. We have two Advent calendars. I had bought one and then the next day David came home with one from school so now each boy has his own. Advent calendars generally start with December 1st, so for the past three days, they have run downstairs in the morning, shouting that they need to "open the flaps!" I think that this Advent will be very enjoyable with those two around.

Meanwhile, we are all suffering from colds. Lots of coughing and runny noses in our house. I would have really enjoyed a nap today, but as we all know, Moms don't get sick days, especially when everybody else in the house is sick, too. Hopefully, we will all feel better soon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Bouquets of Love" by Karen Ford

I work in a very virtual world. Most of the people I write for or network with I have never met or even spoke to on the phone, yet I am so thankful for every one of them. The religious writing community is really a wonderful one.

But here is an article by someone who I actually know in person! My friend Karen Ford is an editor over at Catholic Exchange. Our children go to school together and we get to hang out at sports events. Today she had an article on Catholic Exchange about her daughter Elizabeth. Check it out at http://www.catholicexchange.com/en/node/7685