Thursday, January 29, 2009

Exploring the life of Dr. Suess

Having finished both book 1 and book 2 of the Harry Potter series this week and not going back to the library until Saturday, the boys and I had the opportunity to read something else for read-aloud today. I had picked up Dr. Seuss: Young Author and Artist (Childhood of Famous Americans) and was eager to read it. Dr. Suess (aka Theodore Geisel) grew up in our very own city of Springfield. My children are well aware of this, especially in light of the large Dr. Suess Memorial Sculpture Garden that is located downtown. We also pass by the original Mulberry Street on a regular basis. So, I thought that it would be interesting reading, taking place in locations that we frequent on a regular basis. It was. The title was somewhat misleading, however - it was actually a biography of his whole life.

I think biographies and good historical fiction are a great way to learn about history, especially with children. It brings history to life and makes it much more interesting than trying to learn a series of facts and dates. In reading about Dr. Suess, we stopped for brief discussions on World War I, the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War. All these things my children have heard of before (mostly from other stories and biographies) but each occurrence helps to reinforce the ideas and make them more aware of the world that came before them. After reading this book, both I and my children know much more about Dr. Suess. Reading it made for a very pleasant afternoon. The only caveat I would offer is that it does mention that his first wife committed suicide (which I did not know) and that Dr. Suess once wrote an adult book about "naked women." (The suicide I talked about with the boys, the adult book I skipped over - the beauty of reading aloud!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Prayer for Widows

God the Father, we offer you the rest of our time on earth and this day, that we may serve with love and come to eternal life. May our husbands be blessed on their journey in eternity and everyone in our families be saved.

Holy Spirit, be a comfort to all widows, especially the newly bereaved. Send wisdom to all Dedicated and Consecrated widows.

Jesus, our bridegroom, Savior of our souls, delight of our hearts, help us.

Mary, exalted widow, mother of the Church, our model and intercessor; pray for us.

St. Joseph, protector of Mary and the Child Jesus, and helper of widows, guide us in the trials of daily life.


This prayer was in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Canticle Magazine in an article by Dr. Rhonda Chervin, author of "Walk with me, Jesus: A Widow's Journey"

Interested in Crazy Quilts?

When I was at the library last week, Crazy Quilts: History - Techniques - Embroidery Motifs caught my eye. I love quilting and I have heard of crazy quilts but I was never quite sure what they were or how to make them. This book answered all my questions. Author Cindy Brick offers a fascinating history of crazy quilts as well as instructions on how to make your own. This book is useful for anyone who loves quilting or who has an interest in American social history or textile history. It is a beautiful book you will want to look at again and again.

My Voice by Elizabeth Schmeidler

This is a beautiful pro-life video. Thank you to Lisa Hendey of Catholic Mom for bringing it to my attention.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reconfiguring Catholic Education

On January 23, 2009, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield, MA announced that as of September 2009 all five of the parish Catholic elementary schools in Springfield will be closed. A new diocesan school, St. Michael's Academy, will take their place, making use of three facilities already in existence. Pre-K will be in one location, K-5 in another, and 6-8 will be a separate entity within the local Catholic high school. This is a bold move, albeit a necessary one. Faced with the double-edged sword of dwindling enrollment and increased costs, none of the five parishes could support the schools any longer. Without action, the future was one in which Springfield may very well have had no Catholic elementary schools, possibly in as little as five years. Rather than let the schools die out one by one, the decision was made to reconfigure Catholic education in this area. The hope is that with fewer buildings to maintain and all parishes (even those that do not currently have a school) supporting the academy, tuition will be able to be kept at a reasonable level that parents can afford and enrichment programs will be able to be offered. Springfield is not alone in taking this step. In Massachusetts alone, Dorchester and Mattapan have already gone this route, creating a regional Catholic school.

My parish is one of those that will be closing its school, a school celebrating 100 years of Catholic education this year. Our parish actually built and opened the school before it built a church. Mass was held in a chapel attached to the front of the school building until a more suitable building could be constructed. The mood was somber at mass Sunday morning as our pastor explained the decision. Many in the congregation were alumni and current students. In addition, the school principal and several of the teachers (teachers who have no guarantee of a job next year) were there as well, commemorating the start of Catholic Schools Week. As the pastor pointed out, this decision is indeed bittersweet. Over the past century, this school has educated literally tens of thousands of students, many of whom have gone on to play very prominent roles in our community, each of whom whose life was touched in some way by the teachers, administrators, and fellow learners who made up the educational community. In the baby boom years of the 1950s when there was no tuition and the Sisters of St. Joseph taught all the classes, there were nearly 1000 students enrolled. While the numbers of students have diminished over the years, the quality of the education was maintained.

This week is Catholic Schools Week, the theme of which is Celebrate Service. It is indeed a time to celebrate the service of the many teachers, administrators, and volunteers, both religious and lay, who have given so much to Catholic schools. We extend a hearty “thank you” for all that these dedicated individuals have done. There is so very much to be proud of. There is sadness in closing this chapter of Catholic education in our city.

By the same token, there is excitement in the future. The children are looking forward to a new beginning and meeting new people. There is the sense that together it will be possible to do things that the individual schools simply could not do on their own. The pastors and financial committees are breathing a collective sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, the parishes will be able to pay their bills. The face of Catholic education is changing, and it is necessary for the system to change with it. The parish school system, which worked so well for so many years, simply wasn't working any more. This is an opportunity to keep Catholic education viable in our city for the generations to come. It will hopefully prove to be very successful, and perhaps serve as a model for other cities who are struggling to maintain a viable Catholic educational system.

A Prayer for You

This prayer came to me courtesy of my spiritual director. It is a good prayer for all of us:

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be confident knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

Letter from Heaven

This story was forwarded to me from my sister:

She jumped up as soon as she saw the surgeon come out of the operating room. She said: 'How is my little boy? Is he going to be all right? When can I see him?'
The surgeon said, 'I'm sorry. We did all we could, but your boy didn't make it.'

Sally said, 'Why do little children get cancer? Doesn't God care any more? Where were you, God, when my son needed you?'

The surgeon asked, 'Would you like some time alone with your son? One of the nur ses will be out in a few minutes, before he's transported to the university.'

Sally asked the nurse to stay with her while she said good bye to son. She ran her fingers lovingly through his thick red curly hair. 'Would you like a lock of his hair?' the nurse asked. Sally nodded yes. The nurse cut a lock of the boy's hair, put it in a plastic bag and handed it to Sally.

The mother said, 'It was Jimmy's idea to donate his body to the University for Study. He said it might help somebody else. 'I said no at first, but Jimmy said, 'Mom, I won't be using it after I die. Maybe it will help some other little boy spend one more day with his Mom.' She went on, 'My Jimmy had a heart of gold. Always thinking of someone else. Always wanting to help others if he could.'

Sally walked out of Children's Mercy Hospital for the last time, after spending most of the last six months there. She put the bag with Jimmy's belongings on the seat beside her in the car.

The drive home was difficult. It was even harder to enter the empty house. She carried Jimmy's belongings, and the plastic bag with the lock of his hair to her son's room.

She started placing the model cars and other personal things back in his room exactly where he had always kept them. She lay down across his bed and, hugging his pillow, cried herself to sleep.

It was around midnight when Sally awoke. Lying beside her on the bed was a folded letter.. The letter said :

'Dear Mom,

I know you're going to miss me; but don't think that I will ever forget you, or stop loving you, just 'cause I'm not around to say 'I Love You' . I will always love you, Mom, even more with each day. Someday we will see each other again. Until then, if you want to adopt a little boy so you won't be so lonely, that's okay with me. He can have my room and old stuff to play with. But, if you decide to get a girl instead, she probably wouldn't like the same things us boys do. You'll have to buy her dolls and stuff girls like, you know.

Don't be sad thinking about me. This really is a neat place. Grandma and Grandpa met me as soon as I got here and showed me around some, but it will take a long time to see everything. The angels are so cool. I love to watch them fly. And, you know what? Jesus doesn't look like any of his pictures. Yet, when I saw Him, I knew it was Him. Jesus himself took me to see GOD! And guess what, Mom? I got to sit on God's knee and talk to Him, like I was somebody important. That's when I told Him that I wanted to write you a letter, to tell you good bye and everything. But I already knew that wasn't allowed. Well, you know what Mom? God handed me some paper and His own personal pen to write you this letter I think Gabriel is the name of the angel who is going to drop this letter off to you. God said for me to give you the answer to one of the questions you asked Him where was He when I needed him?' 'God said He was in the same place with me, as when His son Jesus was on the cross. He was right there, as He always is with all His children.

Oh, by the way, Mom, no one else can see what I've written except you. To everyone else this is just a blank piece of paper.. Isn't that cool? I have to give God His pen back now He needs it to write some more na mes in the Book of Life . Tonight I get to sit at the table with Jesus for supper. I'm sure the food will be great.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. I don't hurt anymore the cancer is all gone.. I'm glad because I couldn't stand that pain anymore and God couldn't stand to see me hurt so much, either. That's when He sent The Angel of Mercy to come get me. The Angel said I was a Special Delivery! How about that?


Signed with Love from God, Jesus & Me.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Review - "For the Tough Times"

For The Tough Times: Reaching Toward Heaven for Hope

by Max Lucado
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008

For The Tough Times: Reaching Toward Heaven for Hope
is one of those little books that packs a big punch. We all have hard times in life, times when we feel like God doesn't care and times when we question the whole point of it all. Max Lucado turns to scripture to try to provide some answers. He begins with a reminder that "God has always turned tragedy into triumph," and that "God has a different agenda [than we do]. He dwells in a different dimension. He lives on another plane." God loves us and wants the best for us. He sent His Son to die for us. He will never leave us. Sometimes, however, it is very hard to understand God's plan for our lives.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is when Lucado explains that Satan is actually under God's control. He can only do what God allows. He is a creature, created by God. He is not equal with God. Lucado maintains that God uses Satan to 1)Refine the Faithful, 2) Awaken the Sleeping, and 3) Teach the Church. He uses scripture and evidence from life to illustrate that this is true.


"For the Tough Times" is a very insightful book which brings great comfort during difficult days.

Some good quotes from this book:

It does us twice as much good to think about God as it does to think about anyone or anything else.

Would you like some peace? Then quit giving your neighbor such a hassle. Want to enjoy God's generosity? Then let others enjoy yours. Would you like assurance that God forgives you? I think you know what you need to do.

The Holy One dwells on a different level from the rest of us. What frightens us does not frighten him. What troubles us does not trouble him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Winter of Harry Potter

As I write this, we are watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Widescreen Edition)
(again!). For us, this has been the winter of Harry Potter. Beginning in November, the boys and I started reading the books. Reading an average of 2 hours a day, it took us until last week to read all seven! I was a bit hesitant to read them, having heard that they weren't really "appropriate" Catholic reading. I also had read and heard several recommendations that the books were great, however, from people whose opinions I trust. I'm so glad that I took their suggestion. These books were wonderful, a classic tale of good conquering over evil. I'm inclined to think that those putting so much energy into putting them down probably didn't read them. The books provided us with hours and hours of enjoyment. I enjoyed them as much as the kids did (and believe me, I can't say that about everything that we read together - I never can get very excited about reading long books describing every ship in the Star Wars universe :) ). We have also watched all five movies as family movie night - we even got my husband excited about Harry! We are rereading book seven right now, then the boys said they want to start over. And so, I send out a hearty "thank you" to J.K. Rowling for her imagination and her use of language and for all the entertainment and enjoyment she has given so many.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Creativity at Work

I was reading Martha Stewart "Living" today and came across this great article Creativity at Work. It is about the real life work-spaces of the people who work for Martha Stewart Living Magazine. What I loved about it was the photos. In a magazine devoted to everything being neat and perfect, some of these people work and create in some downright messy environments. I love it! As someone whose workspace has never been neat (I was one of those kids who had papers falling out of their desk in grammar school), I can only rejoice. There is part of me who would love to be more organized, but I am one of those people where if I can't see it, I forget about it. Some of us can indeed be both messy and productive!

Fasting and Praying for Life

Tomorrow is the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. For those of us who can't be there in person, a way to be there in spirit is to fast, pray, and/or do some other sacrifice and offer it up to help preserve the sanctity of human life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: Grace Cafe

Grace Cafe
by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle
- A Review by Father Walter Schu, LC

Grace Café is an aptly titled book. How does one discover grace - that sublime reality so distant from most people's vocabulary today and, sadly, so often absent from their lives?

Within these pages, seasoned author Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle makes that elusive encounter with grace seem as casual and natural as a mid-morning rendezvous with an old friend to share a cup of coffee at the local corner café.

Grace Café is addressed specifically to moms, "serving up recipes for faithful mothering," as the sub-title indicates. Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, "Beauty will save the world." If that is true, then this simple book could bring many moms one step closer to salvation. Even and especially in the midst of the daily trials of raising a family, such as being confronted with a steadily growing mountain of unfolded clothes, the beauty of motherhood alights from the page to capture hearts.

In response to the culture's utilitarian exalting of careerism for women, O\'Boyle ponders the value of being a mother, the transcendent mission it entails: \"Women have been put through the mill, so to speak. However, as Christian mothers, we can consider the fact that nothing can be more meaningful than to be part of the creation of a human being, to be able to nurture it within our bodies, and then raise our child within a loving home - preparing him or her for eternal life. In my opinion, nothing compares - nothing"

The simple prose reveals a warm mother's heart, as O'Boyle conveys hints on how to carve out time for prayer and savor the grace of the present moment in a family where the young ones always seem to grow up just a bit too quickly. Interspersed with personal anecdotes are succinct quotes from the wisdom of the saints - especially Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, with whom the author was a personal friend for ten years.

All mothers know that their vocation entails its share of difficult moments, and O\'Boyle tackles this aspect of motherhood head on in the chapter \"Discovering Grace within Suffering." She reflects, "This whole concept of giving and hurting may seem absurd, especially in today's culture. Why should we feel uncomfortable - God forbid - or selfless, when we can avoid it? It\'s because the love in our motherly heart calls us to it; it beckons us to give of ourselves unreservedly. Real love demands blood, sweat, and tears." She sums things up with these encouraging words from St. Ignatius of Loyola: "If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that he has great designs for you, and that he certainly intends to make you a saint."

The book concludes with poems and prayers that any mother will surely identify with. Particularly touching is one entitled "Seen by God Alone"


Her hands are red, wrinkled, and chapped from the bitter wind
As she pins the clothespins, one after another,
To the line of clothes, already stiffening in the freezing temperature.
The bitter wind mercilessly lifts at the hem of her coat,
Attempting to blow through her clothes and whip at her back.

She briskly continues her loving tasks,
Unnoticed by the speeding motorists passing by.
Only Our Lord sees her putting out her family's laundry to dry,
Stretching out her arms,
Hanging out one wet article of clothing after another,
As only a mother's love can.
Our Lord will never fail to notice all mothers'
Seemingly hidden loving acts of service to their families
All around the world.



__________________________________________________

Father Walter Schu, LC, is the author of Splendor of Love, also available through Circle Press. He grew up on a small farm in Minnesota, the second of seven children. He studied for the priesthood in Rome and has an STL in moral theology summa cum laude, specializing in marriage and family. He was ordained a priest in 1994 and currently teaches at the Legion of Christ Seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Building a Culture of Life One Heart at a Time

The mission statement of the Sisters of Life states that they are “a contemplative/active religious community dedicated to protecting and advancing a sense of the sacredness of all human life — beginning with the infant in the womb and extending to all those vulnerable to the threat of euthanasia.” Founded by John Cardinal O'Connor in 1991, the sisters begin with prayer and then go out into the world with outreach to create a culture of life one person and one encounter at a time.

Since their founding, the Sisters of Life have been dedicated to providing practical assistance and spiritual and emotional support to pregnant women in crisis. Many of these women have had abortions in the past and want to give their unborn child life but are unsure of how to cope and move forward. The sisters state that “we strive to bring His peace, the gift of hope and a 'beginning joy' to each of these women God sends our way, even amidst what the women themselves readily admit are 'non-ideal circumstances.' We have witnessed the truth that 'life is always a good' as we have watched it slowly but surely blossom forth in so many of these courageous women with a heart faithful to the call to love.”

At the Holy Respite, located in the heart of Manhattan, New York, pregnant women “most vulnerable to the pressure of abortion,” whether Catholic or not, are invited to come and stay. A woman is welcome not only through the birth of her child, but up to six months after so that she may get back on her feet and begin to create a life for herself and her child.

The Sisters also help those who are suffering from the pain of abortion. The “Entering Canaan” program takes its name from the Exodus experience of the Jewish people crossing the desert to reach the Promised Land. This program takes women “on a Sacramental journey into the true Promised Land of the Heart of Jesus.” Each retreat is directed by women who experienced both the pain of abortion and the healing found in Christ. Retreats are also offered for men who are experiencing pain as a result of an abortion.

Education is yet another mission of the Sisters of Life. Thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus, Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stamford, Connecticut became a reality. “The retreat house hosts Evenings of Recollection, educational seminars on life issues and retreats for everyone (themes include Theology of the Body, Young Adult Retreats, Post-Abortion Healing, and retreats on the Dignity and Vocation of Women). “ It is “a spiritual home for the pro-life community.” The Sisters also staff the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, supporting marriages and families.

A more recent addition to the Sisters' outreach has been the creation of an organized group of laity known as Co-workers. These volunteers work out of local or parish communities to provide help to women in need. Some open their homes to pregnant women; others work to help women find resources in their local communities. Men involved as co-workers help move furniture or build cribs or mentor fathers. Health professionals, college contacts, business professionals, counselors, and lawyers are all offering their talents to this effort.

For more information on any of the programs offered by the Sisters of Life, please visit their website at www.sistersoflife.org .

Friday, January 16, 2009

Book Review: The Apostles Illustrated Edition

The Apostles: Illustrated Edition
by Pope Benedict XVI
Our Sunday Visitor, 2008

"The Apostles: Illustrated Edition" is a compilation of Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audiences given from March 15, 2006 to October 18, 2006. The first thing one notices about this illustrated edition is the incredible beauty of the book. Almost every page features a painting or mosaic of the apostles by some of the greatest artists of all time. Works by Vasari, Raphael, Caravaggio, Giotto, Tintoretto, and many others provide a visual catechesis to accompany the insightful text.

Part one of the book focuses on “The Origins of the Church.” Pope Benedict explains how the number twelve was highly symbolic to the Israelites. “The system of the twelve tribes had long since faded out. . .In choosing the Twelve, introducing them into a communion of life with himself and involving them in the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom . . .Jesus wants to say that the definitive time has arrived in which to constitute the new People of God . . .which now becomes a universal people, his Church.” At the Last Supper, Jesus created “a new community, a community united in communion with himself.” The focus of this new communion is love. By virtue of the Church, we are invited into a relationship with the Trinity. “It is communion of men and women with the Trinitarian God and communion of men and women with one another.” Pope Benedict then turns his attention to the ways in which the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and sustain the Church, with a special focus on the importance of apostolic succession.

In the second part, Pope Benedict explores what we know about each of the original twelve apostles plus Matthias (who replaced Judas Iscariot). He offers very interesting insights such as how all Rabbis were expected to have five disciples, but when he increased that number to twelve, “the newness of his mission became evident.” He examines the ups and downs of the spiritual journey of Peter who would ultimately become the first leader of the new Church. He emphasizes the unique role of Andrew as the “first called,” a role that is emphasized in the Byzantine tradition. He acknowledges the discussion that swirls around the apostle John – was he really “the one Jesus loved?” but focuses on John's unique theological insights revealed in scripture and his emphasis on love. He reflects on the status of Matthew as a tax collector, a job held in total disdain by the Jewish people. In choosing Matthew, Jesus clearly offers “God's grace to the sinner.”

“The Apostles: Illustrated Edition” is fascinating reading, beautifully packaged. Pope Benedict is a wonderful teacher, eager to share the faith and our faith's history with anyone willing to listen. He has once again created a marvelous work, worth reading and rereading. He invites us into friendship with these chosen twelve as well as reflection on how we are called to continue the apostolic mission today.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Apostles Illustrated Edition .

New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

If you live in New England and you are a homeschooler, or considering homeschooling, then please plan to attend the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference in Chicopee, MA on June 6, 2009. It is being sponsored by the Western Mass Catholic Homeschoolers. You can find out more at http://wmch.stblogs.com/

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Finished the First Draft!

Woo-hoo! I did it! The first draft of my novel is done. Final tally - 56,879 words.

Book Review: Letters to Mary from a Young Mother

Many thanks to Cheryl Dickow for this wonderful review of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother which appeared on Today's Catholic Woman. Needless to say, it made my day!

I readily admit that I am addicted to books. As a publisher, that makes sense, right? But I will also quickly admit that I push my addictions on others. How, you might ask? Well, I have never attended a party or shower - birthday, baby, or bridal - and not given a book along with my requisite gift. And, for me, the book always comes from deep within my heart. I love spending time searching through titles, finding the perfect one for the occasion. This year, with many such occasions already filling my calendar, I feel blessed to have come across Letters to Mary from a Young Mother by Patrice M. Fagnant-MacArthur. It is the ideal book to give to every expectant or new mother.

The simplicity of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother is what makes it ideal for new moms. Each page is just an honest reflection of some of the joys and challenges of impending motherhood and then motherhood itself. It begins with questions about pregnancy and carries through to sleepless nights and then the first babblings of a toddler.

And, as anyone knows, a new mom doesn’t have time to read scores of books filled with advice that gets lost in the sleep-deprived state of new motherhood. Rather, what a new mom needs is a simple sentence or two, spoken by someone else, which reflects the universal experience of new moms. To know that someone else experiences “baby blues” is very comforting. Or to hear another mother ponder the worry that sometimes takes hold of a new mother is reassuring. All this happens in a simple series of entries and questions directed to the Blessed Mother, herself a source of comfort and intercession.

This kindest gift you can give a new mother is a book like Letters to Mary from a Young Mother because it is neither too cumbersome to read, nor does it preach. It simply shares from the heart of one mother to the heart of another, and in that sharing unites all new mothers to the Blessed Mother. I truly wish someone had given me this precious book when my boys were babies!


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic author and speaker. Her company, BezalelBooks, publishes Catholic fiction and non-fiction titles. Cheryl is CE's Associate Editor for "Today's Catholic Woman," the Catholic Exchange woman's channel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gearing up for Lent

Yes, I know, we are all just recuperating from the Christmas season, but Lent starts at the end of next month. Boston College School of Theology and Ministry is offering a free on-line mini-course for Lenten Reflection: The Death of Jesus: Four Gospel Accounts. Sign up here: www.bc.edu/deathofjesus

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Helping Each Other Overcome Fear

Fear. As we go about our daily lives, it exists as an undercurrent to everything we do. It is almost palpable, fueled by daily reports of job losses, stock market fluctuations (mostly down), and business closings. No one knows where the next ax will fall and so we have all retrenched, spending less, giving less, trying to give ourselves some measure of security while the ground shifts underneath us. Yes, indeed, these are scary times.

Scripture tells us not to worry, to instead cast our cares upon the Lord. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) The Gospel of Matthew instructs us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Matthew also instructs us to "look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

The Bible is clear, yet this is definitely one time when following scripture is much easier said than done. It's only natural to be concerned about the current economic climate. It's only natural to want to take reasonable precautions. However, when we let fear, rather than prudence, be our guide we have certainly lost sight of the divine instruction. Our fear makes it worse and only serves to compound the problem. In our fear, we decide to stop spending money perhaps more than we need to. Rather than making small, reasonable changes; we make huge ones. One person making that decision doesn't hurt the world too much. Even 100 people doing the same won't crush the economy. But when the majority of people decide not to share the money that they have, the economy crumbles.

I'm not an economist, and the idea that I am encouraging people to spend money would most likely be considered laughable by those who know me. I am a very frugal person and have always been responsible with money. My natural tendency, as a result of the current fear, is to stop spending. I have to fight myself to maintain our current spending levels, but I do so because I know the money that I spend at the grocery store or at the mall or at a restaurant helps pay the salaries of other people who can then afford to also buy groceries or pay for medical insurance. The money that I donate to charity enables others to continue to help those who are less fortunate while also supporting the people who work for those charities.

If anything, the current economic crisis underscores just how interconnected we all are. We all need each other to keep the economic engine going. So, while it is foolish to spend outside one's means. It is necessary that we do continue to spend and share the wealth that we do have. We shouldn't hoard our money. The only way to fight the fear that is so prevalent is if we all work together against it; if we refuse to let it define us. We need to follow the Biblical injunction to hand over our fear to the Lord. We need to trust that, somehow, things will get better. And, we need to continue to share the monetary resources that we do have with others. We can't let the fear win. Reacting out of fear will only make the problem worse.

Help from Heaven

Do you ever wonder if God answers prayers? Check out the Help from Heaven book, full or stories of answered prayers. God can and does work miracles.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Child: Begotten Not Manmade


The Knights of Columbus provide some very informative booklets on their website which are available for free in pdf format. This one is "The Child: Begotten Not Manmade" by Kathleen Curran Sweeney. It discusses in vitro fertilization and the moral issues surrounding it. For this and many other titles, please visit The Veritas Series

Embracing the Catechism

Pat Gohn has the first edition of what looks like it will be a great column on the Women's Channel at Catholic Exchange: Embracing the Catechism a weekly journey into the pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) will encourage your Catholic life and increase your familiarity with the richness and beauty of the teachings of the Church.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Good Reminder

Here is a good reminder for all of us from today's 1st reading:

1 Jn 4:19–5:4

Beloved, we love God because
he first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen.
This is the commandment we have from him:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Book Review: Sweetwater Gap

Sweetwater Gap
by Denise Hunter
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008


In her author's note, Denise Hunter indicates that Sweetwater Gap (Women of Faith Fiction) was inspired by a news story in which a soldier suffered from survivor's guilt after his friend jumped on a grenade to save his life. In this case, the one who was saved wasn't a soldier, but rather a simple country girl involved in a careless accident. Josie has felt the burden of survival for a very long time and has attempted to run as far away as possible from her home town in order to escape. It hasn't been the solution she hoped for, however. When a potentially fatal disease comes her way, she feels that the wrong can be righted. She thinks that finally God has exercised his justice.

She doesn't plan on ever going back home, but life, and her sister's pregnancy intervenes. When her brother-in-law asks her to come home to help take care of the apple orchard so that her sister can rest, she feels she has no choice. She returns reluctantly, clashes with the Grady, the orchard manager, who she finds very attractive despite her best efforts not to. She struggles to keep her illness a secret, to take care of the orchard just long enough for her sister to give birth so that she can return to her life with none being any the wiser. God, and the orchard manager, complicate her plans, however, and she forced to reconsider everything that she thought she believed.

“Sweetwater Gap” is an enjoyable Christian romance, a pleasant way to spend some leisure time.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

50,000 words later

I just wrote the 50,000th word on my novel, finishing National Novel Writing Month a mere one month and six days late. I thought I would really be celebrating this moment. Unfortunately, I have come to the sad realization that the story isn't done yet, which means I have to keep going. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today's Catholic Women

New on Catholic Exchange is Today's Catholic Women, on on-line magazine devoted to the needs of Catholic women. Edited by Cheryl Dickow, it promises to be a wonderful resource.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Myth of the Perfect Family

Sometimes a quote will hit you at just the right moment. I was flipping through a Catholic Company catalog today, and this quote from Matthew Kelly's book Building Better Families: A Practical Guide to Raising Amazing Children jumped out at me:

Perfect families exist only in our minds, and it is these imaginings that are often the enemy of our ability to enjoy the wonderful family we already have.

Oppose the Freedom of Choice Act

If you are apposed to abortion, please read the information below and join us in prayer and fasting January 11-19, 2009.

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) will be signed into law if Congress passes it on January 21-22, 2009. The FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion. If signed into law, all limitations on abortion will be lifted, resulting in the following:

1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, will be required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens, Bishops vow to close down all Catholic hospitals - more then 30% of all hospitals in the U.S.

2) Partial birth abortions will be legal and have no limitations.

3) All U.S. taxpayers will be funding abortions.

4) Parental notification of abortions on minors will no longer be required (regardless of age).

5) The estimated number of increase in abortions is 100,000 annually.

Just as important, the government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape, Down Syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have.

Needless to say this information is disturbing, but sadly true. As Catholics, as Christians, as anyone who is against the needless killing of innocent children, we must stand as one. We must stop this horrific act before it becomes a law.

PLEASE JOIN US IN saying a novena (9 days=2
0of prayer ) and fasting from January 11-19. For Catholics, the prayer of choice is the rosary for the special intention of stopping the FOCA. For non-Catholics we encourage you to pray your strongest prayers with the same intention for 9 consecutive days. We hope and pray this will branch and blossom to become a global effort.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Hidden Life of Jesus

This is the week of the hidden life of Jesus. No, that is not an official Church designation, but if we follow the liturgical calendar in which this past Sunday was the Feast of the Three Kings and next Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, then this week covers about 30 years of Jesus' life. The only Biblical reference to these years is in the Gospel of Luke which tells of the holy family's sojourn into Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old. On the way home, Mary and Joseph set off without him, thinking no doubt that he was with other family or friends. When they realize that this is not the case, they are frantic and go rushing back to Jerusalem to find him. They get there, sick with worry, to find a very unconcerned Jesus talking to the teachers in the Temple. When Mary questions him, emphasizing how worried she and Joseph have been, he merely asks, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” (Luke 2: 49) Yes, mothers of pre-teens everywhere can appreciate that answer. Jesus was indeed twelve years old, with all that that entails.

Jesus was a pre-teen, and a toddler, and a seven year old, and a sixteen year old, and everything in-between. As this is the one glimpse that we get into Jesus' formative years, the rest is left to our imagination. I went to La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, Massachusetts recently. There they had a lovely tableau featuring Joseph working at his carpentry and Jesus helping his mother with her spinning. It is a lovely image and depicts an event that may very well have happened. The simple truth is, Jesus grew up under the loving care of his parents who taught him all that they knew. Mary and Joseph worked to prepare him for the special mission that they knew he was made for, without knowing exactly what that mission would involve. Like all parents, they tried to do the best that they could. No doubt, like all parents, they probably questioned whether they were doing the right thing, if they were making the right decisions. They trusted in God, trusted in the plan, even if they didn't really understand it.

The fact that we know so little about about Jesus' hidden life is a blessing for parents everywhere, because it means that we can imagine it to be however we need it to be. We can imagine Jesus as a sick child when our children are sick. We can picture Jesus learning the faith at Mary's side as we struggle to teach our own children. We can see him helping with chores or playing in the mud or kicking the ball with his friends as we watch our children do those same things. We can imagine him discovering new things about the world around him and coming to understand his unique role in the world as we watch our own children figure out their place in the world.

We may never know for certain what happened in those hidden years in Nazareth, but we do know that Mary and Joseph and Jesus were a family, a family like yours or mine, living each day, trying to figure it out as they went along. They lived and worked and loved and laughed and cried together. They lived in anonymity as most of us do. They were simple people living a simple life. As we journey through our own days of parenthood, we can look to them for strength and encouragement and example. We can follow in their hidden footsteps.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start
by Linda Dobson
Prima Publishing, 2001

I picked up this book at the library a few weeks back. Honestly, I think I read it a few years ago when my children were very small and I was first considering homeschooling as a possible educational alternative. Now that I am actually in my first year of homeschooling my children, I looked at it with a whole new perspective. This is a book I would recommend heartily for anyone who is considering homeschooling. Dobson does a commendable job of presenting what homeschooling is actually like. While every homeschooling family is different, she explores the various main styles of homeschooling and provides profiles of how each style works in a family. She offers help in figuring out your child's learning style, recovering from a bad school experience, as well as special circumstances that some families may have to cope with in homeschooling. She also devotes a whole chapter to countering homeschooling myths (socialization, anyone?) She also includes quotes from families under the heading of "What I Wish Someone Had Told Me During My First Year of Homeschooling." These are honest and helpful segments. This is a very helpful, informative introduction to the homeschooling way of life.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Son Rise Morning Show Goes National!

On Monday, January 5th, the Son Rise morning show, based in Cincinnati, will be going national on the EWTN Global Catholic radio network! Their 7:00 hour will be broadcast on over 100 stations and satellite radio. I've been privileged to be a guest on this show and am so excited for this new evangelization opportunity that is being given to them. Where else can you hear about the Culture of Life, apologetics, saints, current events, Bible foods, movie reviews, and Catholic history in the course of a single hour? You can listen to the Son Rise morning show live on your local EWTN affiliate or at www.sacredheartradio.com.