Monday, December 31, 2007

Getting Fit in the New Year

For those of you who have "getting fit" as part of your New Year's resolutions, I have recently discovered the videos of Leslie Sansone. I really enjoy her workouts - they aren't too high impact and not too complex. This is good for me because I am not exactly coordinated! I even gave one of the walking videos to my mom who enjoyed it as well.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Hidden Life of Mary

Mary is a prominent player in the Gospel narratives this week. From the feast of the Holy Family to the feast of Mary, Mother of God, to the Epiphany, she is there – racing to Egypt at the side of her husband and welcoming the shepherds and the magi. She doesn’t speak, but rather “holds all these things in her heart.”

For the most part, Mary lives a very hidden life. The Gospels tell us of certain crucial moments – the annunciation, the nativity, the presentation in the temple, the flight to Egypt, searching for Jesus in Jerusalem, the wedding at the Cana, and her place at the foot of the cross. She is remembered for her relationship to her Son, which is as it should be. And yet, she was a person unto herself. She was a young woman, married with a son. She put her faith in God and trusted that He would hold them in his care. Between the events recorded in scripture, she lived her life in anonymity. Like all wives and mothers, she did housework and took care of her child. She had friends in Nazareth and watched her son play in the village. She swept and cleaned and cooked and sang songs to her baby. She took care of her husband and taught her son how to pray.

When I was a new mother, struggling to adjust to life with an infant, I took comfort in the fact that Jesus was once a baby, too, and that as a mother I could turn to Mary for support. I had always prayed to Mary, but as a mother I felt a much stronger connection. Mary was a mother, too. She would understand. Mary knew what it was like to be tired in the middle of the night, to comfort a child, to worry over a sick child, and to revel in a baby’s development. I would eventually write Letters to Mary from a Young Mother to share my reflections with others in the hope that they might help other new mothers lean on Mary in their hour of need.

I have continued to talk to Mary daily in the intervening years and will continue to do so as I travel along this eventful journey known as motherhood. Yes, Jesus was a baby, but he was also a four, and five, and six-year-old boy! He played and got dirty. He probably broke a dish on occasion. Mary answered his questions and told him stories. She was also there to comfort Him when he was hurt and to rejoice with Him when He was happy. Mary continued to lean on God as she worked to bring Jesus up.

Mary is a role model for all mothers, not only for what scripture tells us about her, but also for all the hidden things that scripture remains silent about. Mothers work behind the scenes, bringing up children and keeping house. Most of what we do will never be recorded in history, yet it is important and meaningful. Mary is our guide and our friend. She shares our hidden life and we can turn to her for support and understanding. She will ask her Son to help us. She loves us as only another mother can.

Join the Catholic Exchange Women's Bible Study

A couple days ago, I signed up for the Catholic Exchange Women's Bible Study which will be starting in January. If you are interested in joining me, visit:

http://bezalelbooks.com/women's%20bible%20study.htm

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Value of a Few Minutes a Day

As a writer, I make Writer's Digest part of my required reading. In the February 2008 issue, they have a great article by Bill O'Hanlon on "Baby Steps." The point of the article is that it is possible to write a novel by writing one page in 15 minutes five times a week. I have often dreamed of writing a novel (what writer doesn't secretly have that ambition?). While the perfect idea hasn't come to me yet, this is a way of thinking about a novel that seems less time-consuming and more doable.

While I haven't written a novel yet, I do put this practice of spending small chunks of time to get things done to work in my life. For example, I finally finished the hand-sewn quilt I have been working on for the last 3 1/2 years. This was accomplished in one-hour blocks every week or so. I could have abandoned the project many times, thinking that I would never get it done, but I kept at it and I had a lovely present to give my husband Christmas morning. Even big projects can be accomplished when done in small portions.

Is there something you have been putting off because you simply feel you don't have enough time? Why not try to set aside just a few minutes a day to work at it? Do something that moves you closer to your goal. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes for Those Seeking to Conceive a Child

I received a flier in the mail today from the Oblate Missions that had several prayers to Our Lady of Lourdes. I had never seen a prayer before for someone seeking to conceive a child (I'm sure that there are some - just that I wasn't aware of them) so I thought I would share it with you.

Prayer for Those Seeking to Conceive a Child


Mother of Christ, you were graced by God with the privilege of bearing our Divine Savior. You experienced the joys and challenges of being a parent. Your life was blessed with seeing Jesus grow from infancy and childhood, into his adult years of teaching a ministry. With St. Joseph, you created a home for your family to love and share together.

Please intercede before the God of all life, that (here mention names)may conceive a baby and raise healthy children, with whom they can share the Lord's good gifts.

May their children honor them and You by lives of virtue and caring for others. May their home be holy and their family be blessed with health, happiness and abiding love. Amen.

The Lego Star Wars Saga

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was very nice, although also very busy. It is always nice to relax a bit and enjoy this respite between Christmas and New Years.

With each Christmas, I have found that there is always one present more troublesome than others. This year's winner is definitely the Lego Star Wars Computer game that I got for David. He plays this game all the time when he goes to "Little Y" - the in-store babysitting service at our local Big Y store. So, I decided to get him the game for Christmas. I ordered it on-line and received it in a very timely fashion. David was thrilled when he opened it Christmas morning. It wasn't until nighttime, however, that we actually had the chance to install the game on our computer. When we opened the package (which had been shrinkwrapped and in all of its original packaging) there was no CD inside. Needless to say, he was rather disappointed. I had already promised them a shopping trip on Wednesday to pick up a few things we needed so I told him we would pick up a new copy of the game. We did so and I explained the story to the cashier and opened the case in front of her to make sure that it contained a CD.

We installed the game this morning, only to find that it couldn't play on our computer because we don't have the correct graphics card. My husband looked up the information on what we needed and found that Staples carried the card. I went there with the boys and picked up what the clerk told me was the correct item. My husband took our computer apart to install the card and discovered that the card didn't fit!He was going out with a friend tonight and promised he would stop by a different Computer supply store to see if he could find one that would fit our computer.

I have to say, for David, whose stress level is usually pretty high, he has been taking it in stride. At this point, the situation has become comical. As he says, "I'm not getting my hopes up!"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I will taking the next couple of days off from blogging in order to celebrate Christmas with my family. I wish you all the very best Christmas and I leave you with the reason for the season:

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

First Corinthians 13 - Christmas Version

I got this from Lisa Hendey's Blog who had in turn received it from a fellow member of Catholic Writers Online. It is a good reminder for all of us.

First Corinthians 13 - Christmas Version
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strings of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family and others, I am just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family and others, I am just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crystal snowflakes,attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child, or kiss the husband or bless the needy.
Love is kind, though harried or tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids or other family to get out of the way, but is thankful that they are there to get in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.
Love never fails.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Review: Parish Priest



Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism
by Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Finster
New York: HarperCollins, 2006

Fr. Michael McGivney lived for a mere 38 years during the latter half of the nineteenth century, yet he left an indelible mark on American Catholicism through his founding of the Knights of Columbus. He is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church,but that is not the reason that Douglas Brinkley and Julie Finster chose to write about him. Instead, they chose McGivney as a study of what it meant to be a parish priest during the difficult years when anti-Catholic sentiment was rampant and the immigrant church was struggling to get a foothold in America.

“Parish Priest” is a biography rooted in history. McGivney is the central character but the book also explores life for the immigrant Irish in New Haven, CT. It explores social issues and the development of “secret” fraternal organizations. It also examines the need for life insurance which was one of the reasons the “Knights of Columbus” was founded. “Parish Priest” also describes the hard life for priests of that era.

Catholics were fighting for their place in American society. In order to earn others' respect, they had to be “above reproach – and the priests, in particular, had to be perfect. They weren't perfect, of course. But through the years they did not sully the ideal.” Standards for entering the seminary were strict, the courses hard, and the candidate's personal character had to be outstanding. There were too few priests for too many parishioners. They were overworked and died young.

“Parish Priest” studies the establishment of the “Knights of Columbus.” While today it is a powerful organization of over 1.7 million men in several countries, it got off to a very rocky beginning. The first meeting was held October 2, 1881 with two stated aims for the organization. The primary object was “to prevent people from entering Secret Societies [which was frowned upon by the Church], by offering the same, if not better, advantages to our members. Secondly, to unite the men of our Faith throughout the Diocese of Hartford, that we may thereby gain strength to aid each other in time of sickness; to provide for decent burial, and to render pecuniary assistance to the families of deceased members.” Twelve men formed the initial committee. On March 29, 1882, the state of Connecticut recognized the Knights of Columbus with a charter and three days later the first members were inducted. All was not smooth sailing however as personalities clashed and recruitment slowed. It wasn't until 1883 when the second council formed in Meriden that the organization really began to blossom.

One of the most interesting things in reading “Parish Priest” is how many issues that existed over 100 years ago are still with us today. While the government umbrella is definitely better, the issues of poverty, men deserting their families, and the struggle to integrate faith and secular life still exist. In addition, the way McGivney was able to change how the priesthood functioned in order to meet the needs of a new time is inspiring. The Church, throughout the centuries, has had to meet the needs of its people in different ways depending on what the world required. The same holds true today as the Church reaches out to people through modern technology.

Fr. Michael McGivney was ultimately a “Parish Priest.” That was all he desired to be. His creation of the “Knights of Columbus” was a way to help his parishioners and others like him. He cared deeply about the people under his spiritual care. He serves as a role model for all priests. The book “Parish Priest” is interesting reading, providing a window into American Catholic social history in the late 1800s as well as being an inspiring tale of a priest.

Annual School Christmas Program

Last night was the annual Christmas program at the boys' school. The theme was "Christmas Around the World" with each class singing carols that had originated in different parts of the world. One of the benefits of living in an urban area is that our school actually has children whose families come from all over the world. There was a breathtaking rendition of "Do you hear what I hear?" sung by the 5th - 8th grade girls in which the echo was performed in Vietnamese.

They attend a pre-K through 8th grade school so it is really something to see all the different age groups from the littlest ones who are just so cute and sing slightly off-key and were not all singing the same words at the same time to the seventh and eighth graders who are at that horrible awkward age but who sang with beauty and reverence and did a wonderful job.

When I was sitting there watching David and Isaac singing their hearts out, I couldn't help but think how quickly the time is going by. They looked so grown up on the stage with their white shirts and dress pants (although their shirttails were hanging out - I swear they were tucked in when I brought them!). The years are rushing by so quickly. Perhaps I am more aware of it at this time of year when the calendar changes as well. 2008! How did that happen? I feel like I'm going to blink my eyes and the boys will be up there with the seventh and eighth graders. My grandmother used to say that life goes by as if in a dream. I think that she was right.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Letters from Santa

My children wrote letters to Santa the other day. Much to my surprise, today they received letters in return - actually two different letters! Someone at the post office must be sending them out. They were so excited! What a thoughtful thing for the post office to do!

The Human Cost of Abortion

In talking about abortion, we rarely think about what all those unborn babies would have gone on to contribute to our world. This article by Fr. Tom Eutenueur puts real numbers to that question. It is a powerful article:

How Many Heisman Winners has Abortion Cost?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jesus Comes Anyway

Here is a great article by Pat Gohn (visit her blog at http://writenbtween.blogspot.com) for all of us who feel overwhelmed by all the things that we planned to do for Christmas that somehow just didn't get done:

Jesus Comes Anyway

Monday, December 17, 2007

Last Minute Christmas Suggestions for Maintaining Family Harmony

This is probably the busiest week of the year for families. I know that it is in mine. Every day this week we have something going on. These are fun events which can bring a great deal of joy, but they can also bring a great deal of stress! Here are a couple of suggestions to help limit the stress while making the most of the Christmas holiday.

1) Keep children to a regular sleeping schedule as much as possible. There is nothing worse than tired, cranky children to put a whole family on edge. While there may have to be a couple of late nights thrown into the mix, try to keep children on a regular sleeping schedule. Going to bed late several nights in a row is a recipe for disaster, especially when combined when large intakes of Christmas treats and general excitement. If need be, have children take naps if you know that they won't be able to get a full night's sleep.

2) Practice the art of compromise. This is a good idea from Bill and Monica Dodds. If you can't agree on Christmas traditions, agree to alternate years. For example, if the type of Christmas tree is at issue, one year have a real tree, the next have an artificial. The key is that the person whose year it is can not gloat and the person whose year it isn't can't whine. In general, though, I think that they key to a merry Christmas (and a sign of the Christmas spirit) is to be willing to give in a bit. Decide what really matters to you. Focus on the spiritual aspects. Make sure that you get to Church. Everything else is negotiable.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The History of the Christmas Tree


I have a rather eclectic Christmas tree. On its boughs hang a collection of ornaments ranging from some my husband made as a child to ones that I made in the early days of our marriage to ones that my children have made. Some ornaments were received as gifts, while others were bought to commemorate a special occasion. Interspersed among them are brightly colored lights. With the nativity scene underneath and the angel on top the scene is complete. In many ways this tree tells the story of our lives together. It would never appear in any home decorating magazine, but I have come to love its uniqueness.

Reflecting on our own Christmas symbol got me wondering about how the custom of Christmas trees began. As it turns out, the tradition of decorating homes with evergreens predates the Christmas celebration. Some ancient peoples believed that evergreen boughs could keep away evil spirits. Others felt that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god was sick. The coming of the winter solstice (with the corresponding lengthening of days) was celebrated because it meant the sun god was getting better. Evergreens served as a reminder that spring would indeed come.

Legend holds that St. Boniface was the first to co-opt the tradition for Christianity in the 8th century. He was attempting to convert the Druids who worshipped oak trees as the symbol of their idol. He instead offered the balsam fir tree, using its triangular shape to describe the Trinity and the fact that his evergreen boughs pointed to heaven, as a symbol of God.

Martin Luther is credited with bringing the popularity of the Christmas tree to Germany. Out on a winter evening one night composing a sermon he was awed by the beauty of the stars. When he returned home, he attempted to recreate the beauty for his family by putting candles on an evergreen tree in his home.

Christmas trees, like most Christmas traditions other than Church services, were adopted late in America. The Puritans frowned on all such “pagan” traditions. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts made any observance of Christmas other than a church service a penal offense. It wasn’t until an influx of German and Irish immigrants came in the 19th century that the Puritan legacy was undermined. In 1846 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (who was German) were pictured in the London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. As a result, the popularity of Christmas trees soared, both in England and America. By 1920, the custom was almost universal.

While the Christmas tree tradition may have began as a more secular tradition, today we can firmly claim the symbol as a Christian one. Many families bless their Christmas trees and as www.catholiceducation.org points out, the symbol of a tree has deep roots in our faith. “We are reminded that our first parents were not allowed to eat from one tree, and that Christ paid the great price for our redemption by hanging on a tree.” In addition, the evergreen boughs and the lights that decorate them do remind us that Christ is the light of the world and that His light is everlasting. He has come to bring joy and light into our dark world.

Christmas Tree Blessing

Lord God,
May the presence of this tree remind us of your gift of everlasting life.
May its light keep us mindful of the light you brought into the world.
May the joy and peace of Christmas fill our hearts.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Catholic Book Giveaway

To celebrate the publication of her own book, "For the Love of Literature," Maureen Wittmann is holding daily contests on her blog for book giveaways. Check it out and pass the word along to your friends:

http://www.maureenwittmann.blogspot.com/

Women's Bible Study

Catholic Exchange is sponsoring a unique online woman's study to celebrate the 20th anniversary of John Paul's Apostolic Letter on the Dignity of Women.

To Register or Find out More, visit:
http://bezalelbooks.com/women's%20bible%20study.htm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Article on Natural Family Planning

Here is a link to a great article on Natural Family Planning. It is one of the best explanations I have heard as to why Natural Family Planning is acceptable while artificial contraception is not:

http://www.staycatholic.com/natural_family_planning.htm

Our Lady of Guadalupe



Today is the feast of "Our Lady of Guadalupe."

Guadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town that grew up around the church. It makes the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of the woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday 9 December 1531 to a 55 year old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumárraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop's answer. The bishop did not immediately believe the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle, who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed, and Bernardino seemed at death's door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby Saint James's convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, "What road is this thou takest son?" A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked the sign for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma, a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians, he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop. When he met with Zumárraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life size figure of the Virgin Mother, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop's chapel, and soon after carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops especially fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office. Pope Leo XIII approved a complete historical second Nocturne, ordered the picture to be crowned in his name, and composed a poetical inscription for it. Pope Pius X permitted Mexican priests to say the Mass of Holy Mary of Guadalupe on the twelfth day of every month, and granted indulgences which may be gained in any part of the world for prayer before a copy of the picture.

The place, called Guadalupe Hidalgo since 1822, is three miles northeast of Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost without interruption since 1531-1532. A shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill served for ninety years, and still forms part of the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected, and in 1709 a newer one even richer one. There are also a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, a well chapel, and a hill chapel all constructed in the 18th century. About 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to Saint John Lateran in 1754. In 1904 it was created a basilica, with the presiding ecclesiastic being called abbot. The shrine has been renovated in Byzantine style which presents an illustration of Guadalupan history.

- taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia article by G Lee, copyright 1911, Nihil Obstat, 1 February 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor; Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York; edited and rewritten

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Gift


The Gift
by Richard Paul Evans
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007

Each Christmas season, I try to indulge in a novel or two, a good Christmas story to help get me in the mood and provide a bit of relaxation during a very hectic time. This year, "The Gift" by Richard Paul Evans (author of "The Christmas box") called to me from the "new" section of the library shelf. I'm so glad that it did!

"The Gift" tells of Nathan Hurst, a single man suffering from Tourette's syndrome, haunted by his past. He travels a great deal as an in-store detective for the "MusicWorld" retail chain. Suffering from a bad case of bronchitis and snowed in at an airport in Denver, he meets Addison and her two children Elizabeth and Collin, who is suffering from both cancer and a heart condition. In an act of generosity, he offers the exhausted mother and her children the use of the suite at the hotel his assistant had booked for him. While at the hotel, Nathan suffers from another bad coughing spell. Collin reaches over and touches him sending a surge of energy through his body. Nathan doesn't know what to make of this, but he soon discovers that both his coughing and his Tourette's are gone. Yes, Collin has the ability to heal, but this gift comes at a price. Each time he uses it, Collin becomes more sick.

"The Gift" explores what it means to love and forgive and to give without counting the cost. It tugs at the emotions and will make you think. Reading "The Gift" is a gift you can give yourself this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Time for Conversion

This week’s gospel features John the Baptist crying out in the desert, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” (Mt 3:1-12). John must have been a wild-looking figure in his camel-hair clothing and leather loin-cloth, preaching repentance. Yet, his message resonated and people came to him to confess their sins and be baptized.

Advent is a time for repentance. Coming as it does at the beginning of the liturgical year, it is a time for a fresh start; a time to shake off our old ways and begin anew. We need John’s message as much as the people of Judea did 2000 years ago. Conversion isn’t always easy. As we all know from our secular New Year’s Resolutions, the best of intentions often fail us by week number two. Yet, it is possible. Some people actually do lose weight, quit smoking, or get more organized. By the same token, some people actually do turn their spiritual lives around. They reject whatever sin has been plaguing them; they repent, do penance, and try to avoid temptation. They make a real effort to love God and neighbor.

In “Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers who Became Saints” (Doubleday, 2006), Thomas J. Craughwell tells the stories of many saints who lived scandalous lives only to one day begin the process of completely turning that life around. Reading some of these stories is like reading the front of the tabloids today: adultery, prostitution, murder, alcoholism, extortion, etc. The point is not to focus on how bad these saints’ lives were, but rather how dramatic their conversion. As Craughwell states, “the point of reading these stories is not to experience some tabloid thrill, but to understand how grace works in the world. . . . if these people can be saved, then so can you!”

Conversion is a process, though. It is not a one-time decision but rather a lifetime of decisions to continue on the path, to battle one’s personal demons and try to align one’s will to the will of God. But like all processes, it begins with a single step, a single choice to reject sin and try to do better. It requires asking God for forgiveness as well as the strength to do God’s will. It can be a painful process as it may mean ending some friendships that keep us trapped in our sinful ways. It may be difficult for friends and family to accept the “new you.” Some might even undermine your efforts by saying that people can’t change.

The saints profiled in “Saints Behaving Badly” prove that people can change. From St. Matthew, the shameless tax collector, who Jesus called to be an Apostle to St. Augustine, the heretic and playboy, who would become one of Christianity’s greatest theologians, to St. Margaret of Cortona, a rich man’s mistress, who would eventually repent her sins and became a third order Franciscan, they show that conversion is possible.

Advent is a time for conversion. Do you hear John the Baptist calling to you? It is time to answer the call.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Importance of Priests

Here is a link to a very moving article by Alice O'Brien Gunther on what a priest meant to her in her hour of need. It is a reminder of why we need to pray for more vocations to the priesthood.:

Brighter than the Sun

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Patron Saint of Darkness


“Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light”
edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.
NY: Doubleday, 2007

“If I ever become a Saint - I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” – Mother Teresa

When I was growing up in the 1980s, Mother Teresa was widely proclaimed as a “living saint.” An elderly woman with knarled hands and a bright smile, she was the epitome of what it meant to live a Christian life. In “Come Be My Light,” we have the opportunity to get to know the spiritual life of the woman behind the smile.

Brian Kolodiejchuk is the postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa’s canonization by the Catholic Church. As such, he has had unprecedented access to her writings and letters. In “Come Be My Light,” he has used the writings to create a vivid portrait of this remarkable woman from the time she entered religious life in 1928 at age 18 until her death in 1997. Even in these early days of religious life, she began to experience some of the darkness that would dominant the second half of her life. She wrote to her spiritual director prior to her making her final vows in 1937: “Do not think that my spiritual life is strewn with roses . . .Quite the contrary, I have more often as my companion ‘darkness.’ And when the night becomes very thick – and it seems to me as if I will end up in hell – then I simply offer myself to Jesus. If He wants me to go there – I am ready – but only under the condition that it really makes him happy.”

In April 1942, with the permission of her spiritual director, Mother Teresa made a private vow to God “to give to God anything that He may ask, ‘Not to refuse Him anything.’” She trusted in God’s will for her, even when she couldn’t understand the reasons behind what God would ask. “It was in giving Jesus whatever He asked that she found her deepest and lasting joy; in giving Him joy she found her own joy.” She followed St. Therese of Lisieux’s example of doing small things out of love.

On Tuesday, September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a “decisive mystical encounter with Christ” in which Jesus called her “to give up all and follow Him into the slums – to serve Him in the poorest of the poor.” She would continue hearing Jesus’ voice speak to her for the next few months. “The ‘Voice’ kept pleading, ‘Come, come, carry Me into the holes of the poor. Come, be My light.” Yet, Mother Teresa could not do it on her own. She needed her Archbishop’s approval and he responded to her request cautiously, wishing to pray about the situation. At one point, her spiritual director even requested that she put the whole idea out of her mind. This was so hard for Mother Teresa, “yet, faithful to her commitment not to refuse the Lord anything, she chose to obey” as the Voice told her to do: “you shall not be deceived if you obey for he belongs to me completely.” Eventually, the Archbishop did give his permission in January, 1948. The remainder of her life would be dedicated to her work in the slums of Calcutta.

This choice cost her great personal sacrifice. It also marked the beginning of her true dark night. While God blessed the work, Mother Teresa felt abandoned by God causing her great spiritual torment. “Rather than hardening her, her correspondence shows that suffering rendered her more kindhearted. She encouraged others to smile in suffering as she herself did.” She did not want others to suffer because of her suffering. She could continue to resonate joy because she trusted that God had a loving plan for her and that her darkness was part of this plan. She would eventually come to love the darkness. She came to understand that her suffering was a “very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.”

“Come Be My Light” gives the reader an intimate look into the spiritual life of Mother Teresa. She has so much to teach all of us who struggle here on earth, those of us who get discouraged and feel that God has abandoned us at times. She teaches us about faith and fortitude and perseverance in the face of amazing odds. She teaches us about doing the will of God. “Come Be My Light” is an amazing book.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why God Created Children

This was sent to me from Heidi Saxton (who in turn received it from her mother-in-law). Enjoy!


WHY GOD CREATED CHILDREN

(AND IN THE PROCESS GRANDCHILDREN)

To those of us who have children in our lives,
whether they are our own,
grandchildren,
nieces,
nephews,
or students...
here is something to make you chuckle.

Whenever your children are out of control,
you can take comfort from the thought that
even God's omnipotence did not extend
to His own children.

After creating heaven and earth,
God created Adam and Eve.

And the first thing he said was
"DON'T ! "

"Don't what? "
Adam replied.

"Don't eat the forbidden fruit."
God said.


"Forbidden fruit?
We have forbidden fruit?
Hey Eve..we have forbidden fruit! "







"No Way! "

"Yes way! "



"Do NOT eat the fruit! "
said God.







"Why? "


"Because I am your Father and I said so! "
God replied,
wondering why He hadn't stopped
creation after making the elephants

A few minutes later,
God saw His children having an apple break
and He was ticked!

"Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit? "
God asked.


"Uh huh,"
Adam replied.

"Then why did you? "
said the Father.

"I don't know,"
said Eve.

"She started it! "
Adam said.


"Did not! "

"Did too! "

"DID NOT! "


Having had it with the two of them,
God's punishment was that Adam and Eve
should have children of their own.

Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Balancing the Sacred and the Secular

I still believe in Santa Claus, not the whole North Pole concept complete with Rudolph of course, but the idea of Santa Claus as the spirit of giving. There have been times in my life when presents have just appeared anonymously in unlikely places. These gifts from secret Santa Clauses have often been the most special. I know some people feel children shouldn’t be allowed to believe in Santa Claus. In fact, my parents fell into that camp. From the earliest ages, I knew that my presents came from my parents and that Santa Claus was just a story. My mother did tell me not to tell other kids, though, so I wouldn’t ruin the fun for them.

With my own young children, I have tried to maintain more of a balance. They know about St. Nicholas and that he is the real Santa Claus. They know about the spirit of giving and that we all help Santa Claus by making and buying gifts for other people. They definitely know that Christmas is about Jesus. We spend Advent getting ready for Jesus’ birth. This year we are doing a Jesse Tree and reading daily from a little book of reflections on Advent for children every day. They will participate in the Christmas Eve pageant at Church as they have the past three years.

Secure in that knowledge, I don’t feel bad that they still believe in Santa Claus and Rudolph. Their classmates still believe as well. In fact, at one point, I actually tried to tell them that Santa Claus as depicted in the popular media isn’t real. I was rebuffed by a very strong, “Santa is real, Mommy!” After all, you can actually watch Santa’s travels on the NORAD website! The secular trappings of the Christmas season are magical to children. While Jesus’ birth should certainly be magical enough, the music on the radio, the beautiful tree (mostly covered with ornaments that they have made), the lights, making Christmas cookies, and dreaming of the presents that will be under the tree Christmas morning all add to their celebration of the season and bring joy into our cold, dark New England days. Truth be told, they help me enjoy the season as well.

I believe it is possible to balance the sacred and the secular during this time of preparation for Jesus’ birth. The spiritual aspects are of paramount importance, but the other aspects are enjoyable as well. A child can believe in Santa and still understand that the reason we are getting the presents is to help celebrate Jesus’ birth. I love the figurine of Santa bending in prayer over the Baby Jesus in the Manger because I think that it illustrates this concept so well. Even Santa (and especially the real Santa, St. Nicholas) knows the reason for Christmas. As adults we can spend ample time in spiritual preparation while still enjoying Christmas parties and gift giving. If we allow the secular traditions to enhance our celebration of the spiritual, then there is no conflict. It is only when we allow the secular to take precedence over Jesus that we run into difficulty.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Jesse Tree

I have decided that the boys and I are going to do a "Jesse Tree" for this Advent. Here is a good resource for patterns if you are interested in doing the same:

http://www.kingofpeace.org/advent/advent.htm

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Beginning of Peer Pressure

David came home from school today upset that some kids in his class had called him a "baby" for playing with Thomas trains. David and Isaac love Thomas trains. I know that they will outgrow them in a couple years and move onto something else, but for right now they spend a great deal of time acting out stories with their trains - it is good wholesome fun using their imaginations.

I know David's feelings were hurt and I told him not to care what they think. He replied, "But, Mommy, I do care. I don't think I should play with Thomas anymore." So, I told him to play with Thomas all he wants at home and to just not talk about it at school. I know that isn't a perfect solution, but I wasn't sure what else to say. I told him that all through life there would be people who would make fun of him for things that he liked and that he needed to just be his own person no matter what people said. That is a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn. We all feel hurt when someone makes fun of us for something we do or believe. It takes courage to stand up to the crowd and be your own person. I hope I can help my children have that courage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Novena

It is time once again for the Christmas Novena. Pray for whatever your heart desires most this Christmas. There are two versions of this - one begins November 30th (the feast of St. Andrew) and ends Christmas Eve. A shorter version goes the traditional nine days from December 16th - 24th.

Say the following prayer fifteen times a day for whichever duration you choose:

Hail & Blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Interruptions in Parenting

Dionna Sanchez has written a great reflection on all those times our children interrupt us when we are trying to get something done:
Interruptions

Monday, November 26, 2007

Getting Ready for Advent

Advent begins this coming Sunday. It is a four-week period dedicated to getting our spiritual lives ready for the birth of Christ. Here are some products that might help you in this process:

Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Pope John Paul II

Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Pope John Paul II
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent and Christmas with the Saints

Advent And Christmas With The Saints




Advent Coloring Book

Advent Coloring Book
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Advent: A Family Celebration

Advent: A Family Celebration
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Approaching Christmas

Approaching Christmas
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree

Celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Jesse Tree Kit

Jesse Tree Kit
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - For all your Catholic needs

Jesse Tree Ornament Kit

Jesse Tree Ornament Kit


For more beautiful Religious Christmas Items, such as Advent Wreaths, Christmas Cards, Ornaments, Nativity Sets and More, Visit Aquinas and More at:
Aquinas and More Catholic Goods - Your source for Catholic products on-line. Each purchase helps support this blog and the Spiritual Woman website

Raising Children Without Going Insane


Children can be a challenge. No, children are a challenge! Jane Evans, co-pastor with her husband of Paradise Community Church in Adelaide, South Australia, and mother of three boys, realizes this. In “Raising Children Without Going Insane”, she offers an insightful, humorous look at this job called being a mother. Evans comments that mothers often feel “that life has them hurtling along on a rollercoaster.” She reassures mothers that they have “a mandate from God and that you are equipped with everything you need to succeed . . . Besides, God is counting on you to love your kids, because there will be plenty of times when no one else will!”

Evans begins by describing the different personalities of her three children, Mark, Nathan, and Benjamin, aged nineteen, seventeen, and four. Mark is very strong-willed eager to fight every boundary, prone to food allergies and abrupt changes in behavior. Nathan is a worrier, and Benjamin has a strong sense of humor and a magnetic personality. Every child we receive from God is unique with his or her own strengths and weaknesses. “There is something special about your children and God wants you to help them find out what it is.” Evans writes, “I'm constantly seeking to get to know [my children] better. I need to know their strengths so that I can encourage them and sharpen them. I also need to understand their weaknesses so I can build strength into each weakness and train the boys to overcome them.” She tells of presenting each child with a “challenge goal” for every year – something special that particular child needed to work on. Sometimes the same goal would be carried over from year to year.

Evans offers much encouragement and practical advice for mothers as they navigate the daily demands of parenthood. She also reminds mothers that God is always there to help us in our duty:

"When your child was born, God gave you the heavenly mandate to develop that child into all that He has destined your child to be. And yet He didn't leave you to do it alone without any direction or guidance. He promised that He would never leave you or forsake you. . . There are many times as a mother when i haven't known what to do and have felt at a loss as to where to go from here. Every time I have called out I have received an answer. It may not have been the answer I was wishing or hoping for, but it always turned out to be the best one I could hear."

Mothers need to have confidence in their parenting abilities. “As a mother, you need confidence based not in your own abilities, but in the knowledge that God searched the entire planet for the best mother for your child and chose you!” Evans also encourages mothers to stand firm against the world. Even when everyone else may be allowing her child to do something, if you feel it is not right, don't let them. Mothers need to keep their eyes on the end product. What kind of an adult do you want your child to be? Evans places a strong emphasis on training your children and on providing a good example.

Much of what Evans writes about in “Raising Children Without Going Insane” is common-sense, but we can always use a good reminder. Her emphasis on faith and on relying on God is inspiring and encouraging. The way she offers practical examples of how she has parented in her own life is very helpful. I have already started to implement some of her suggestions in my own family! “Raising Children Without Going Insane” is recommended reading for anyone trying to parent with God at the center.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Living a Backward Life

Our pastor shared the following story with us at the Children’s Mass this Sunday:

This morning I am going to tell you a story about a king. As you know, a king usually wears a crown made of gold, silver, and precious jewels. The king in our story wore a different kind of crown. Listen as I tell you the story of "King Backward."

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a King. He was no ordinary king. He was different from other kings because He did everything backwards from the way other kings did them. From the very day he was born, you could tell that this king was going to be different. Most kings are usually born in a palace, but this king was born in a stable surrounded by donkeys, sheep and cows. It wasn't a very big beginning for a king. In fact, very few people even knew that a king had been born. Only a handful of shepherds and three wise men got the word that a king had been born.

As the infant king grew into a man, he continued to be different from other kings. While most kings spent all of their time building up riches of silver, gold, and jewels, this king owned nothing at all. And while most kings surrounded themselves with servants, He chose to be a servant. He could often be found helping others. As time went on, people became very unhappy with their King because He just didn't act the way that they thought a king should act. Instead of riding into town on a big white horse the way other kings usually did, their king rode into town on the back of a donkey. Was that any way for a king to act? And the people He chose to be his friends! His closest friends were a bunch of smelly fishermen and He could often be seen visiting with the poor and eating with sinners.

Finally the people decided that they had put up with this King long enough. If He couldn't act the way a king should act, then they didn't want Him to be their king any more. They made a plan to have Him arrested and thrown into prison. Their plan worked. When the day came for his trial, the King stood before the people. Instead of shouting "Hail to the King, Long live the King!" they shouted, "Crucify Him! He is not our king! Crucify Him!" So they crucified the King. They nailed Him to a cross; they put a crown made of thorns on his head; they poked Him with sharp sticks and made fun of Him. What a way for a king to die! After He was crucified, they took His body and put it in a borrowed tomb. Wait, that isn't the end of the story. Remember ... this King was different! King Backward rose from the grave to live forever. Now, instead of being the Backward King, He is the Forever King. He is the King to anyone who chooses Him to be their King. Oh, there are still some people who call Him "King Backward," but those who know Him don't call Him that ... they call him King Jesus! Jesus wants to be your king, too.
(Author unknown.)

When we really take time to reflect on Jesus and his message, we realize just how radical it is. Jesus’ path to happiness and eternal life goes against everything the world tells us. The world tells us to be successful we must make lots of money and have lots of things. We should look out for oneself and do whatever we think will bring us happiness regardless of what that means for other people. We live in a very “me-first”world.

In contrast, Jesus tells us to put others first and to give our possessions away. It is truly an other-centered philosophy. We achieve our own happiness and salvation through sacrificing ourselves and giving to others.

The longer I live the more I have come to realize just how true this is. A selfish life will not bring you any joy. Possessions are necessary and they may bring a temporary happiness, but if they are your sole purpose for living, you will soon become disillusioned. There will always be some new gadget to get; some person who has more. The quest is never-ending. On the other hand, when you derive your joy from giving and loving others, true happiness (at least as happy as we can be this side of heaven) becomes possible.

Yes, this is a backward way of living, put forth by a “backward king.” Those of us who are Christian profess to follow this king. Perhaps it is time we become a little more backward ourselves.

The Life of a New Sister

Through Catholic Extension magazine, I learned about a very interesting blog: The Life of a New Sister. It is good for people interested in religious life to get an inside look. It chronicles the life of Sr. Nicole Trahan. Her profile states:

I am a second year novice with the Marianist Sisters. I'll profess first vows in the summer of 2008 - God willing! I've grown a lot through my formation with the Sisters - in my understanding of myself, Religious Life, and God... more than I imagined possible in such a short time. Having been a teacher and campus minister for 8 years... and living alone during that time, I am learning a new way of being... while still being myself. Life is good. God's grace sustains. And my family & friends are supportive. For what more can a person ask?

Taking a Break

This is hard to admit, but it is hard for me to relax. I feel like I always need to be doing something in order to be productive and justify my existence on this planet. (Yes, I know - my value comes from God, not from anything I do, but still, the feeling remains.)

Sometimes, therefore, I truly need to force myself to relax. I schedule my Saturday nights as relaxation time. My husband and I take out a movie from the library and watch while I work on my scrapbooking or quilting (two relaxing activities I enjoy). This past holiday weekend I forced myself to take a more extended break. I took Thanksgiving off totally. The other days, I confess I did check my email, but that was the limit of my work-related activity. Every night my husband and I watched movies and I worked on my quilt. I enjoyed it so much! Yes, I did feel a little guilty but I got over it! Relaxation is important. That is why God created the Sabbath and secular society gives us holidays. It is just up to us to give ourselves permission to enjoy them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catholic Contests

I heard about this one from Lisa Hendey on her Catholic Mom Moments Blog:

Check out the Catholic Contest blog where each week you have the chance to win something new!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Critical Weekend for Catholic Filmmakers

CRITICAL WEEKEND FOR CATHOLIC FILMMAKERS
Keep One in Theaters, Get the Other
into Every Catholic Home

Thanksgiving Weekend is a critical weekend for two sets of Catholic filmmakers. While the team at Metanoia Films appeals to Catholics to keep Bella in theaters this coming weekend, the filmmakers at Catholic Exchange appeal for a blockbuster response to our multi-award winning DVD, Champions of Faith: Baseball.

Just as important as ticket sales for theatrical releases, DVD sales support and sustain films released straight to video and in this instance will enable Catholic Exchange to create more films featuring cultural icons who embrace and affirm our beloved Catholic faith.

This Thanksgiving weekend only, you can buy a special “Christmas 6-Pack” for just $69. Keep one for your family and give the other five away as Christmas gifts. That's nearly 50% off the retail price and a full $30 less than the regular price for a Champions of Faith 6-PK! CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order!

By now you've heard a sampling of the reviews for Champions of Faith:

“A nine-inning faith classic!” – Bishop Ignatius Catanello, Archdiocese of Brooklyn

“A great testimony to how rich our lives can be when filled with faith .” – Dennis Heaney, President, The Christophers

“A healthy reminder that men of character do still play the game .” – Russell Shaw

“An answer and an antidote to the tidal wave of scandal.” – Arlington Catholic Herald

“ Anyone with a spiritual bent is sure to be moved by the experiences of these men.” – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Film and Television

Champions of Faith is being called “the greatest gift of Catholic evangelization this decade” – greater even than The Passion of the Christ, which was limited to adult audiences. That is why it is being shown to enthusiastic audiences at Catholic grade schools and high schools across the country with a special license permission granted through Champions of Faith. Call 1.888.488.6789 for information on how to participate.

But great reviews and accolades on their own cannot make Champions of Faith the success it needs to become in order for more such breathtaking films to be made for the Church.

Only you can make it such a success – and in just one weekend!

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give!

Do you know five Catholic families that love movies or sports? Or five families that may be weak in their faith who would profit from seeing such a film as Champions of Faith?

Do you want to see more first-rate Catholic films that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with mainstream Hollywood films in terms of production values? Do you believe the culture can be changed by them and the Faith spread through them?

We ask that you help Catholic filmmaking by supporting this exceptional film – and in doing so help your neighbors, friends, co-workers or family members by giving them this important gift this Christmas.

Even if you typically do not give Christmas gifts to your neighbors or your children's friends or the people you work with, make this year an exception. Touch them with the gift of faith and help ensure that high-quality Catholic filmmaking is here to stay.

There is nothing more inspirational than to see and hear superstar athletes at the top of their game talking about something greater than winning the World Series or being named a Major League All-Star — that is, their faith in God, devotion to the Blessed Mother and love for Christ in the Eucharist. For the first time, there is a tool available to hand to those people in your life who are the most difficult to speak with about God. Champions of Faith is that tool.

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Again, right now, and through this Thanksgiving weekend only, you can take advantage of a special offer to buy a “Christmas 6-Pack” for just $69. Keep one for yourself and give the other five away for Christmas. That's an almost 50% discount off the retail price and a full $30 less than the regular price for a Champions of Faith 6-PK! CLICK HERE or call 1.877.263.1263 right now to order your DVDs and Free Poster!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I wish you and your families all the best!

Give thanks unto the Lord
For he is good; for his mercy endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let it Snow . . .Let it Snow . . . Let it Snow

It unexpectedly snowed today. I always love the first snow of the season. It is so pretty and the kids get so excited. We already have two local radio stations playing Christmas music 24/7 so we listened to Christmas songs (early I understand, but I don't care - they put us all in a good mood!) and drank hot chocolate. It was wonderful.

Thank you, God, for the gift of snow!

Monday, November 19, 2007

For Moms Everywhere

I got this from the Amazingly Blessed website.

I.O.U.

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting the grass: $5.00

For cleaning up my room this week: $1.00

For going to the store for you: 50¢

Baby-sitting my brother while you went shopping: 25¢

Taking out the garbage: $1.00

For getting a good report card: $5.00

For cleaning up and raking the yard: $2.00

Total owed: $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he'd written on, and this is what she wrote:

For the nine months I nurtured you here while you were growing inside me there:
No Charge

For all the nights that I've sat up with you,doctored and nursed and prayed for you:
No Charge

For all the trying times, and all the tears that you've caused through the years:
No Charge

For all the nights that were filled with dread,and for the worries I knew were ahead:
No Charge

For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your runny nose:
No Charge, Son

When you add it up, the cost of my love is:
No Charge

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight at his mother and said, "Mom, I sure do love you."

And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: "PAID IN FULL"

–Author Unknown

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Discernment Event

For those of you who live in Massachusetts or Connecticut, the Connecticut Vocation Council of Women Religious will hold a Discernment Night with the theme "What is It You Plan to Do with One Wild and Precious Life?" Women ages 21 - 45 are invited. The event will be held at the Sisters of Notre Dame Provincial House. Call 860-586-8637.

Giving Thanks During Hard Times

I read the paper this morning as I always do. The pages were filled with discouraging news – news of the war, of the real estate market slump, of rising gas prices, and increasingly bare shelves at local food banks, not to mention the ever-present issue of global warming. It is so easy to have a pessimistic outlook at times like these. It is so easy to focus on all the bad.

Yet, here we are at Thanksgiving, a time set aside to give thanks for all the good in our lives. It is during hard times such as these that we are perhaps most in need of thanksgiving. It is easy to be thankful when everything is going well, yet ironically those are the times when we are most likely to forget to thank God. How often do we thank God for our health when we are not sick? We really don’t appreciate our health until we can’t breathe because of a cold or we are in pain from some injury or illness. It is only right after we recover that we appreciate our well-being. All too quickly, our health once again becomes something we don’t think about. By the same token, when our jobs are going well and there is enough money to pay the bills without worry, we tend not to consider God’s hand in this. Instead we take the credit ourselves.

We are often quick to blame God, however, when things are not going well in our lives. Why is God allowing these bad things to happen to us? We petition God to lift this hardship. It is right and good to petition God for our needs, but even in our time of need, we also need to remember to thank God. The Daily Examen is a cornerstone of Ignatian Spirituality. As part of that process, we take time at the end of the day to thank God for His presence during the day. We reflect over the day and thank God for all the good things that occurred.

Some days it may seem that there is little to thank God for, but amazingly there is always something. There is always some glimmer of light in the darkness: a kind word that someone may have uttered, a moment of beauty in nature, an unexpected blessing. God has ways of letting us know that He is there, even when we are traveling on a difficult path. In this week’s gospel (Luke 21:5–19), Jesus tells us that bad things will happen. “Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven . . . you will be seized and persecuted.” Yet, even amidst all that pain and suffering, God is with us.

And so, yes, especially in these hard times, we need to take the time to thank God for the many blessings in our lives. We thank God for family and friends, and the food we do have to eat. We thank God for the gift of life and each new dawn. We thank God for the gift of nature, for the sunrise and the sunset, for the animals, and the plants. We thank God for love and the ability to share with our fellow human beings. We thank God for the gift of His son and the hope of eternal life. We thank God for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Getting Ready for Black Friday

For those of you eager to begin (or Finish!) your Christmas shopping, Amazon.com is offering special deals this coming Friday. The link below will take you to their special Black Friday deals. Amazon sells much more than just books, so please, consider clicking through below on Friday and helping to support this site and blog with your Christmas purchases. Thank you for your support!

Amazon Black Friday deals

Friday, November 16, 2007

Parents Bill of Rights

Tom McMahon has a great listing of parents' rights on his website, Kidtips.com. Sometimes it is hard to assert your God-given authority as a parent, especially when the world (and your children) is against you. This is a good reminder of one's rights as a parent:

Parents Bill of Rights

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Living Miracle

Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski was recently beatified by the Catholic Church. The miracle that made that beatification possible was written about in the Winter 2007-8 edition of "Marian Helper." :

A Polish man named Zbigniew Chojnowski prayed to Fr. Stanislaus for his cousin (also his goddaughter) who was two months pregnant. The previous year she had suffered a miscarriage and her second pregnancy was in trouble. Upon examination, her doctor discovered that the amniotic sac had shrunk and the fetus had not been growing normally due to a lack of blood flow through the amniotic cord. In addition, the woman had a tear in the sac that had drained virtually all of her amniotic fluid. In-utero tests confirmed the baby's heart had stopped beating. The doctor declared the baby dead. The following day, Monday, a second test confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat.

'But I didn't stop praying to Fr. Stanislaus.' Zbig recalls. On Wednesday, the disconsolate mother hadn't yet spontaneously miscarried, so her doctor prepared to perform surgery that day to remove the dead baby.

'But just before surgery, examining her with an ultrasound, the doctor discovered a heartbeat.' says Zbig. Further tests confirmed the baby was alive and that blood was flowing through the umbilical cord. The presence of amniotic fluid also indicated that the tear in the sac had mended. . . . No medical explanation can account for these events.


Sebastian is now a healthy 6 year old boy. To find out more about Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, visit www.marian.org

Report Card Day

David got his first report card of the year today. He is doing well academically - all A's and A+'s, continuing to struggle with things like self-control and handwriting. I can't say too much about the handwriting. I have horrible handwriting and always have. My sixth-grade teacher gave me an S- instead of a U out of the kindness of her heart so that I wouldn't be kicked off the honor roll. My best friend successfully defended herself out of allegations of cheating off of my paper in college by stating that no one would actually be able to read my paper. The professor agreed. In any case, we'll keep working on it. David does know he need to work on his self-control and he is trying. These things take time.

This is what his teacher wrote for a comment:

David is a very expressive child. He tends to get easily frustrated and this inhibits him from trying new things. However, he is very mathematical and is doing well in all areas.

Yup, that sounds like David. Expect that I never thought of him as mathematical before. Seeing that his younger brother is the math whiz who was working on mastering division yesterday, I always thought of David as having average ability. Sometimes it is good to get another person's perspective on your child's strengths and weaknesses.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St. Maria's Messenger

Saint Maria's Messenger's first issue was sent out in November 2002 to only a couple subscribers, literally only a couple! Bernadette and Rebekah Fox, sisters who live with their large family in Michigan, wanted a Catholic magazine specifically for girls but was never able to find one. They finally decided that the only thing left to do was start one themselves, which they did! They were only 16 and 14 when they began - but with God's help anything is possible!

They write 95% percent of the magazine themselves and have even printed it up themselves on their family’s printer for five years. This year, for their sixth volume, things will be a little different in the way of printing. Little Flowers Family Press located in Canada, will be printing their magazine - partly in color, too!

As their magazine becomes more and more known especially through their website, people from all over the world are sharing in what Saint Maria's Messenger has to offer. To find out more, visit their website at www.saintmariasmessenger.com

Monday, November 12, 2007

Welcome back to Victoria Magazine

When I saw the new issue of Victoria Magazine at my local grocery store, I had to buy it. This is very unusual for me - I am not prone to impulse buys, but this one tugged at my heartstrings. I first discovered "Victoria" when I was 14 years old. It was such a beautiful magazine dedicated to a simpler time. All the women featured were gorgeous in their 19th century dresses and all items were antiques or antique reproductions with plenty of flowers and ribbons and cameos thrown into the mix. Places featured seemed stopped in time. Needless to say, it appealed to my young romantic spirit and my historical appreciation. As the years went by I would use pictures cut out of the magazine to decoupage boxes and create Christmas ornaments and as inspiration for watercolors. I even got my first rejection letter ever from them at age 15 when I sent in a poem for publishing consideration. (I still have the letter safely tucked away in my journal from that year). So, needless to say, I was sad when it ceased publication several years ago. Of course, by then, the romantic teenager had grown up and gotten married and was no longer so interested in such flights of fancy.

Still, when I saw the magazine, I had to splurge and spend the $5. I enjoyed my time with it immensely as did my children. Together we cut out many of the pictures. I saved some of them in my "picture box" and others they taped to their bedroom wall (which is a veritable collage of pictures). It brought me back to an earlier time, and resurrected some of the 15 year old girl I used to be.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can't Sing? Sing Anyway!

A colleague in her sixties shared the story of being a young girl and being told by her music teacher to simply “mouth the words.” Scarred by the experience, the woman still hesitates to sing today. Many of us can relate to that experience. Judging by the thousands of contestants who try out for American Idol each year, most of us are not blessed with stellar singing voices. While young children are likely to sing with joy and abandon regardless of what they sound like, teens and adults are much more likely to limit their musical expression to the shower, singing “Happy Birthday” in a large group, or accompanying the radio in the car if driving alone.

An exception to this unspoken rule of “no singing allowed” should be in Church. God gave us our voices and we should be willing to offer them up to God in liturgical song as a means of prayer. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are ‘more closely connected . . . with the liturgical action,’ according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration.” (CCC 1157) “Unanimous participation” – that means all of us.

I sometimes feel badly for the music ministers. Our parish is blessed with several wonderful singers and musicians, both paid and volunteer, who lead the congregation in song. They have beautiful voices and are a pleasure to listen to, but if they judge their success by how many people sing along, they are bound to be discouraged. Our job, as part of the congregation, is not to listen to them, but to join along. No one sounds bad in Church, especially if everyone is singing. There is something supremely beautiful about all those voices raised in song and prayer. Young and old, rich and poor, black and white, our voices all come together in joyful praise.

Part of the intent of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II was to get the congregation more involved in the liturgy. Mass is not meant to be a spectator sport. Yes, it still counts if one attends mass but doesn’t speak the prayers aloud or engage in song. Somehow, though, it seems a little like attending a banquet with your closest friends and not engaging in any conversation.

I do understand the reticence. Many of us have had humiliating experiences of singing badly in public. Like my colleague, we may have been told flat out to stop singing, that we can’t sing and shouldn’t torture other people by our efforts. Church is different, though. We are there to worship God, not to worry about the opinion of our neighbor. God wants to hear our voices lifted in song. Can’t sing? Sing anyway. Be part of the wonderful gift of liturgical song.

Friday, November 09, 2007

How your right brain can help your left brain

The latest issue of Writer's Digest has several articles dedicated to how the brain works - its left-side and right-side functions and how they can work together. Most of us have a dominant hemisphere, either the logical, linear left-brain, or the more creative, better at spacial relationships, right brain. All of us can benefit from attempting to use both hemispheres on a more regular basis. For those of us who are left-brained, this means nurturing our creative side a bit more. Every one of us can find some creative outlet we enjoy, whether that be a traditional art form like painting or drawing or something more geared to domestic endeavors such as gardening, sewing, or experimenting with cooking. Taking a break from "left-brained" activities will actually help us be more productive when we return to them. It also might provide a new insight into how to approach a problem that has been challenging us in a new way.

On my website, I have a whole section devoted to Creativity because I believe it is such an integral part of what it means to be human and to be made in the image of God (the ultimate Creator). Check it out for some ideas on how to bring more creativity into your life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Real Life Love

I just posted a great article by Heidi Hess Saxton on "Real Life Love." It is geared towards adoptive parents, but I think it speaks to all parents.

Real Life Love

Discrepancies in the Gospels

Here is an interesting article by Mark Shea on how to explain discrepancies in the Gospels:

Discrepancies in the Gospels

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

For our Soldiers

My sister, whose son is serving in the Navy, sent me the link to this YouTube Video. Grab your tissues and watch:

Remember Me

Using Our Gifts for the Lord

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our own little world and to focus on what we perceive to be our weaknesses. It is easy to look at those we admire and think how wonderful their contributions are to the world and how many lives they have touched. We may pale in comparison. I was thinking about this earlier today. I am blessed with friends who have done some truly amazing things. My life was feeling mighty small in comparison. But then I came upon today's first reading and it reminded me how each part, each life, even the smallest, is important. We are each called to use the particular gifts God gave us to the best of our abilities in the situations in which we find ourselves. This is what the Lord asks of us and I can take comfort in that.


Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.


Romans 5:5-9

Monday, November 05, 2007

Praying for All Souls

I'll admit that this is a bit late since All Souls Day was November 2nd, but the need to pray for those who have died never goes away. Purgatory isn't a popular concept today. I would venture to say that most people who believe in an after-life feel that upon death a person's soul goes immediately to heaven. A smaller number would acknowledge that some might go to hell. Purgatory is a waiting place for those who have died but who have not reached the level of perfection needed to go to heaven.

The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." (CCC 1030)

"From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead." (CCC 1032)

Some saints have had visions of purgatory, among them St. Faustina and Padre Pio. From their witness, we know that it exists. It is a place of longing, for those who are there know that they will ultimately get to see God, but for the moment they are denied that joy. This is why we offer masses for the dead and say prayers for the dead - to help hasten their ascent into heaven. Padre Pio told of souls coming back to thank him after they had reached heaven for the prayers and masses he had offered. If the particular person we are praying for has already gone to heaven, our prayers will be applied to someone else still waiting. Our prayers are never wasted.

I'm including some links to books about purgatory if you are interested in learning more:

Adjusting to the Time Change

Now that we have turned the clocks back one hour, it really does feel like winter is on its way. Having it be pitch black and cold outside before 5 pm means that evening activities now take place in the house. It also means that my children's inner clocks need to be re-set. Adjusting to the time change always takes about a week for them, in both the fall and spring. As babies, it wreaked total havoc with their systems - in terms of when they wanted to eat, nap, go to bed, etc. Now that they are older (6 1/2 and 5) and can actually tell time, it is becoming a little easier. Still, they woke up right at 5:30 am the past two days instead of 6:30 am even though their bedtimes had been adjusted. A few days of this and they will be sleep-deprived and cranky. So will I! Thankfully, it is usually right around this time that their clocks will make the needed adjustment.

While I do miss the freedom that the warmer, lighter months provide, this time of year has its advantages as well. It is a good time to spend more time together as a family. We play more board games and read more stories. We do more crafts and bake together more. When my boys' energy level gets too high, we even run and jump and dance around the house to get our exercise. Yes, sometimes we even watch television together. What is important is that we are sharing our time together. I hope that your families will take advantage of this time change to do the same.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Should We Obey?

I recently read “Saints in Love: The Forgotten Loves Between Holy Women and Men and How They Can Make Our Relationships Divine.” In her chapter on the relationship between St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, Carole Hallundbaek discusses the root meaning of the word obey: “It may be a cosmic coincidence that the word ‘obey,’ like St. Francis himself has its roots in the thirteenth century. It comes from the Old Frence obeir and from the Latin oboedire – to pay attention to; to give ear; to listen to. Although the word has taken on quite a different connotation in our language, obedience is not mere submission to another’s will. When we obey, we are listening – truly listening – to another.”

Unlike the vows that my parents took on their wedding day, my vows did not include the word obey. If my memory serves me, my vows to my husband were to “love, honor and cherish.” I was thankful for this. I bristled at the word obey. Whenever I would read St. Paul’s injunction that wives should be submissive to their husband (Eph. 5:21-33) my neck hairs would stand on end. My husband and I were supposed to be equals! In my young, naïve opinion, obeying had no part in that equation. In the intervening years, however, I have come to appreciate the idea of obedience a bit more. While I am still thankful that it wasn’t formally written into my wedding vows, I no longer view obedience as a sign of weakness or inequality.

Ideally in marriage, both partners want what is best for the other and the family as a whole. There should be a large amount of give and take in that scenario with both spouses willing to sacrifice for the other and the greater good. This is where Hallundbaek’s explanation of the root of obedience comes into play. What if all married people actually listened to their spouse? What if we took the time to pay attention and to understand what was going on in the other person’s life?

In marriage, it is easy to sink into the routine of informational conversation – this is what needs to be done today; this is where the kids need to be; this is what broke today; this needs to be paid today; this is what happened at work today. Unlike the early days of romance when all you had to focus on was each other, married life puts great demands on the people involved. It isn’t easy to find the time to focus just on each other and what the other person is thinking or feeling. It is easier to put the relationship on “cruise control” and just continue in the old comfortable routines. While this can work for a limited time, if we want our marriages to radiate the love they started with, we need to put in some effort. We need to actually communicate on a deeper level. People change over time. The person you married is not the same person ten, or twenty, or fifty years later. Neither are you. Staying in love with that changing person means actually knowing them. Knowing a person requires conversing over something more intimate than what is for dinner.

If we as spouses are able to communicate and have each other’s best interests at heart, then obedience is no longer a burden. Of course, it should work both ways – husbands should be obedient to their wives as well! Sacrificing for one’s spouse is a gift we can give to each other. The requests for obedience should be few and far between and should never go against God’s law (to which we owe our primary allegiance). Whenever possible, however, we should try to follow our spouse’s wishes. Doing so will only serve to make our marriages stronger and put our families on sturdier footing.

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