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.