Friday, February 27, 2009

Women's Stations of the Cross

During this season of Lent, I invite you to spend some time meditating on Jesus' road to Calvary, and on the ways we can better carry our own crosses in life.

1. Jesus is Condemned to Death

Jesus stood before Pilate an innocent man yet he was condemned to death.

Dear Lord, help me to not be so quick to judge others. Help me try to understand them and why they act as they do. Help me to see other people as you see them.

2. Jesus Carries his Cross

Jesus, already tired and broken, picked up the heavy cross to begin the journey to Calvary.

Dear Lord, help me, even when I am exhausted and worn out, to fulfill my daily duties. Please help me to accept the crosses that come my way and to bear them with a willing spirit.

3. Jesus Falls the First Time

Jesus falls down under the weight of the cross, yet somehow he finds the strength to get up and try again. Many times I feel overwhelmed and ready to collapse under the weight.

Dear Lord, help me to keep going even when I feel I can't take another step.

4. Jesus meets his Mother

Even in his darkest hour, Jesus' Mother Mary was there.

Dear Lord, please help me to be with others in their pain. Help me to offer comfort and consolation and to be a source of strength for others as they travel through life.

5. Jesus is helped by Simon

Simon wasn't looking to help. He was just one of the crowd, but he was pressed into service.

There are many times I don't want to help, either. It's easy to turn away and think someone else will do the work. Dear Lord, help me to help wherever I am needed. Don't let me turn my back on anyone in need.

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Veronica reached out to Jesus, offering an act of kindness at a time when he needed it most.

Who do I know who is hurting? Dear Lord, help me to be the person who comes in to offer kindness when the whole world has gone out.

7. Jesus Falls the Second Time

Again Jesus falls and again he gets up.

Sometimes life can be so discouraging. It feels like the whole world is against me. I want to give up, to fall down and surrender the fight. Dear Lord, please help me to have the courage to continue. Help me to face another day.

8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Even in the midst of his pain, Jesus stops to comfort the women who were weeping by the side of the road.

It is so easy when I am in pain for me to just think about me. Dear Lord, even when I am hurting, help me to remember that others are hurting also. Help me to not be self-centered and to continue to reach out to those who need me.

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time

The end of the journey is near and Jesus falls again. He struggles to get up and continue one last time.

Dear Lord, help me to continue when the way is hard and I have lost all hope. Please guide my faltering steps.

10. Jesus is Stripped of his Garments

In the end, Jesus had nothing, not even his clothes.

Dear Lord, please help me to share my material goods with others, to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Also let me help those who are emotionally naked and who have been left exposed to the world. Help me to never revel in another person's shame but to instead reach out a helping hand or offer a word on her behalf.

11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

With each nail, the pain grew greater, each blow a vivid reminder of our sins.

Dear Lord, thank you for your love for me. Thank you for dying to forgive my sins. Help me to do your will.

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross

Jesus suffered immeasurable torment on the cross, both physical and emotional. He cried out to his father in heaven, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" Yet he also found the strength to forgive his persecutors.

Dear Lord, at times when I feel abandoned, help me to remember that you understand and are always at my side.

13. Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

Jesus was taken down from the cross and his lifeless body was laid in his nother's arms. The pain Mary must have felt as she held her son. She was the mother of a convicted criminal. Truly a "sword had pierced her heart."

Dear Lord, help me to remember the mothers who have lost children to violence and criminal activity. Help me to pray for them as they suffer so much pain.

14. Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

And then there was darkness. The tomb was a place of transition for Jesus - a stopping place between death and new life.

Dear Lord, please help me as I go through my own times in the tomb, times when I feel lost and scared, fearful of change. Help me to see your light, guiding me safely to new life.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Love Lesson Learned

Every now and then, one or both of my children will feel the need to tell me that they hate me. I know that they really don't mean it; that they are just mad at me for whatever I happen to be doing to them at the moment (usually it is for what I am not letting them do). My usual response is to tell them that I still love them (no matter how unlovable they may be at that moment).

So, today, David and Isaac were fighting over Legos and Isaac told David "I hate you" to which he responded "Well, I still love you anyway!" Lesson learned :)

Do you have inactive Catholics in your family?

Victoria Gisondi wrote an informative article on the Sodality of Saint Monica in the latest issue of Canticle. "The Sodality of Saint Monica" is an organization founded . . . to pray families, relatives and friends back into the Catholic faith as well as offer support for those who pray for them."

Petitions and Requests for further information about the St. Monica Sodality can be sent by e-mail to stmonica@cantius.org or write to:

St. Monica Sodality
St. John Cantius Church
825 N. Carpenter Street.
Chicago, IL 60641-5499

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Miriam" up on Catholic Fiction Blog

The next story over on the Catholic Fiction Blog is "Miriam," by Roger Thomas about a woman choosing between two men. It begins today!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Discerning our Lenten Fasts

Yes, it is that time of year again to decide what one is going to do for Lent - whether it be giving up something or trying to do something extra for God (or both!). As my pastoral minister so wisely stated this past Sunday, Lent is a time for getting unstuck. Lisa Hendey has a wise post on this topic over on Faith and Family: http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog/discerning_our_fasts/.

In a similar vein, I was reading the latest issue of Canticle Magazine, and came across the idea of offering up one's sacrifice for a special intention. So, I think that I am going to do that this year. I have been going through a rough spot for a couple months now, battling my own demons, so I am going to offer up my Lent for some discernment and hope.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review: 12 Strong Women of God and The Jesus Women


Looking for a book for your women’s Bible study? Look no further. 12 Strong Women of God: Biblical Models for Today
which focuses on Biblical women of the Old Testament, and The Jesus Women
which focuses on the New Testament, will provide much inspiration and food for thought and discussion. Marci Alborghetti creates a compelling portrait of each of these women. Where the Biblical record is more comprehensive, such as with Ruth or Esther, she sticks very closely to that record. Where the details of these women’s lives are more elusive, Alborghetti uses more imagination, but nevertheless remains faithful to what is in the Bible. Her first-person narratives place the reader directly into the story and invite the reader into a personal relationship with each of these women. Her portraits of “The Samaritan Woman,” “The Canaanite Woman,” and “The Adulteress” in The Jesus Women
are particularly riveting.

Alborghetti also includes a set of probing discussion questions at the end of each woman’s story. These questions allow for reflection on that particular woman and the lessons she has to teach us today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Five Ways to Use Facebook as a Force for Good

Facebook has been in the news a lot the past couple of weeks. While much of that news concerns the terms of service, in Catholic circles the debate has been about giving Facebook up for Lent. The push behind that movement is that, for many people, Facebook has become an addiction. They have been neglecting the real-life people in their lives in order to spend much of their time interacting with their on-line friends. Obviously, this is a problem. Nevertheless, Facebook, in and of itself, is moral-neutral. Like the internet itself, and television before it, it can be used as a force for good or evil. So, then, how can Facebook be a tool for good?

First, it is a wonderful tool for connecting with old friends. Most Facebook users speak of the thrill of finding people one has long lost track of. It is fascinating to discover where people’s lives have taken them. While requesting “friends” can be somewhat like reliving high school – wondering whether someone will accept your offer of friendship and feeling rejection if they don’t – getting the opportunity to talk with people who you were actually friends with twenty (or more) years ago is great. Don’t neglect your current relationships, but who among us can’t use a few more friends in our social sphere?

Second, it can be used as a networking tool. In the current difficult economic times, reaching out to others within one’s industry is all the more important. Facebook can assist with learning more about one’s profession and making connections with others struggling and succeeding in the same field. Within community groups, it can be a quick way to communicate with large numbers of people effectively and easily.

Third, it can be used as a tool for support and encouragement. If someone is having a bad day and he or she posts a status statement to that effect, one can reach out and offer a word or two of encouragement. It can make all the difference in a person’s day.

Fourth, it can be used to help spread the Good News. From promoting the pro-life cause to posting links to insightful spiritual articles or podcasts, Facebook can be used as a low-key evangelization tool. One can bear quiet witness to one’s faith, inviting others to take part. People have the right to ignore the posts, of course, but the invitation is there.

Fifth, one can support and bring attention to one’s favorite charities. Many charities have fan pages and cause pages. One can invite others to support the same causes and help raise awareness of the many people and organizations working to make our world a better place.

The Facebook phenomenon will not last forever. While it lasts, however, it can also be a tremendous force for good in our world. Use it responsibly. Use it wisely. Use it well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lenten Retreat and Book

Vinita Wright has just announced the publication of Days of Deepening Friendship: For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life With God
is a retreat-in-a-book, containing 40 short chapters that deal with questions of our relationship with God. It focuses on the real experiences of women, and it uses the well-proven principles of Ignatian spirituality (the model used by many spiritual directors). It is designed to help the reader deal honestly with her spirituality, to let go of fear, and to engage fully in her life-as-is. This book can be used alone, with a spiritual director, or in a small group. Each chapter finishes with spiritual exercises appropriate to that topic, making this not just a reading experience but an interactive one as well.



During Lent of this year, you can go to www.loyolapress.com/lentretreat to sign up for the online retreat Wright is giving, based on the book and on this year’s Lectionary readings. It will begin the Monday before Ash Wednesday and will have one session per week through Easter week. You can post comments and questions, and she will not only respond but be available in real time for a specific time each week.

Thank you Vinita for letting us know!


News of My Death

News of My Death is a great post by Pat Gohn reflecting on what happened when her school alumni website listed her as "deceased."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

1st Story on New Catholic Fiction Blog

I'm pleased to announce that our first excerpt on the Catholic Fiction Blog will be starting tomorrow. "Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage" is by Cheryl Dickow, publisher of www.bezalelbooks.com. Here is a review by Lisa Hendey of Catholic Mom.

Beth Gantry, Liz, Elizabeth...the main character of Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage
is many things to many people. What seems unclear in the opening pages of this debut novel from established non-fiction author Cheryl Dickow is how Elizabeth will be able to reconcile her roles as wife, mother and teacher with the woman she feels she has always wanted to become.

In the opening pages of this engrossing story, we meet Elizabeth and depart with her on the journey of a lifetime: her solo trip to Israel. She has dreamed of this pilgrimage for many years, but in the end it appears to be her discontent with her life that drives her to finally embark on her voyage. Beth has given her life to serving others and has come to feel only disappointment and resentment in return for her loving efforts. Her relationship with her husband Luke is strained to the point of near divorce. She feels a growing gulf between herself and her teenage children, the oldest of whom has flown the coop for college. Even her spiritual life seems dry and distant.

Beth looks at her journey to Israel as an opportunity to regain the life she feels she has missed out on in all of her efforts to care for others. "Her ache for what life hadn't yet held was becoming almost unbearable at times." Leaving her children in the care of her very driven and increasingly distant husband, Beth throws herself into her travel. Her desire is not to have the typical tourist experience of the Holy Land. Rather, she arranges for apartment housing in hopes of truly experiencing the traditions of the Jewish people. After having spent years studying the Jewish culture, "Elizabeth wanted to know, up close and personal, what is was like to live as a `chosen one'."

Elizabeth's logistical efforts are rewarded immediately when she meets the friendly neighbors at her Jerusalem accommodations. Meir and Ayala Goldfarb, along with their adult children David and Miriam, immediately embrace Elizabeth as a part of their family's Sabbath celebrations and she finds herself invited to dine and worship with them.

Just as the reader is joining Elizabeth in settling in to her wonderful scenario, unexpected tragedy strikes. Beth, at the urging of a very concerned Luke, contemplates cutting her trip short but eventually decides to remain in Jerusalem. The ensuing events draw her even more closely into the Jewish rituals and traditions she has longed to experience. Ultimately, through her wonderful relationship with the Goldfarb family, she meets Sipporah and Rachel, who will become her guides. Their tutelage is both historical and spiritual - embracing their companionship Elizabeth ultimately reconnects with her own personal spirituality. A fire is lit within her as she reconnects with God with a new intensity.

Interspersed throughout the accounts of Elizabeth's trip, we find Luke experiencing his own journey of sorts. As he steps in for the role his wife has played within the family, he begins to understand her perspective and his part in the damage that has occurred in their relationship. Like Beth, he finds himself longing for a deeper and more convicted connection with God. But has his marriage suffered too greatly to be repaired? The closing chapters of this lovingly crafted novel bring a tender response to this dilemma.

Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage
is not the typical inspirational novel. Part travelogue, part history lesson, part Bible study, this book blends a wonderful story with empathetic characters. Author Cheryl Dickow's research and attention to detail are apparent in this smartly written tale. Dickow's strengths lie in both character development and in educating the reader without taking on an overly dogmatic tone. In reading this novel, I learned a tremendous amount about Jewish culture and its relevance to the roots of Christianity. The close connection I felt with several of the characters in this book, along with my admiration for the wisdom and spiritual reflections of author Cheryl Dickow, leave me hoping that we will be treated to a sequel to Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Catholic Fiction Blog - Please submit your stories!

I've started a new blog focusing on Catholic blog fiction. Blog fiction is fiction that is presented in a serialized format - the way that magazines and newspapers used to do it years ago. I'm hoping to eventually put out my own novel on the blog, but in the meantime, I am looking for stories to include. If you have a work of fiction featuring Catholic characters or Catholic ideas that you want to include, please visit the Catholic blog fiction website for more info. Also, if you have a blog or facebook page, please consider spreading the news!

Thank you!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fireproof

Valentine's Night my husband and I finally got to see "Fireproof." For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, here is the official description: Lt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. Inside burning buildings, it's his natural instinct. In the cooling embers of his marriage, it's another story. After a decade of marriage, Caleb and Catherine Holt have drifted so far apart that they are ready to move on without each other. Yet as they prepare to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's dad asks his son to try an experiment: The Love Dare. While hoping The Love Dare has nothing to do with his parents' newfound faith, Caleb commits to the challenge. But can he attempt to love his wife while avoiding God's love for him? Will he be able to demonstrate love over and over again to a person that's no longer receptive to his love? Or is this just another marriage destined to go up in smoke?

It was not a cinematic classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it is unique in that it shows a couple working on their marriage, something that is very rarely seen in movies. I also found it interesting that it shows the marriage at the seven-year point, which is one of the major crises in a marriage. In that sense, it is very realistic. Although, I wondered why the couple had no children (it wasn't addressed at all in the movie). Basically, the "Love Dare" is all the ways we should normally treat our spouses. Kindness goes a long way. This movie has a great message, that marriages are worth working on and that choosing to love is as important as feeling love. It is a message all of us who are married need to hear.


Book Review: The Happy Soul Industry

To review or not to review, that is always the question. I generally make a point of reviewing only books I like and can recommend without reservation. I did like The Happy Soul Industry by Steffan Postaer, but I definitely have reservations about recommending it. The book has a great premise - God is in need of an advertising agency and sends an angel to earth to get some proposals. As the angel tells one of the ad agencies, they want people to "Go to church. More importantly, like going to church. Help those in need. Stop littering. Think before speaking poorly of others. Stop hurting one another. Get off drugs. Just be nicer in general. Have faith in God." I think that this could have been a great book had the author not felt the need to include the f-word on several occasions (really, when does that word ever add to a story?), include a decidedly soft-porn sex scene, and refer to Jesus as mere myth. The fact that God is portrayed as a woman is meant to be shocking I suppose, but it's been done and it isn't really shocking anymore. Also, Postaer has our God just be God of this part of the universe. There are other gods elsewhere. Yes, it is fiction, but fiction that messes with God is always a sensitive area. Most conservative (and perhaps even moderate) Christians of any denomination are going to be offended by this book.

That is unfortunate because the book really is a good quick read and has an important lesson about our consumer culture, all the more meaningful in light of the fact that Postear works in advertising. Chapter twenty, in particular, in which one of the characters creates a story for his daughter, is an incredible gem. That chapter could stand alone as a short story and relays the point of the book very well.

To summarize, "Happy Soul Industry" is a good story with some bad packaging. Read it for the lesson, but be advised of its more controversial aspects.

Emails from God?

At Bible Study on Friday, we were talking about how we would like to get emails from God - a to-do list for each day that we could simply download and follow. After all, it would be so much easier to do God's will if we actually knew what it was!

This excerpt from today's Living Faith entry by Sr. Chris Koellhoffer, I.H.M. speaks to that every desire.

When we look back on the lives of the saints, the great cloud of witnesses who inspire and inform our own journey to holiness, it can appear in retrospect that these holy ones knew at every moment exactly what God asked of them. In reality, there were not always clear signs or easy answers. They lived with the same struggles that are our daily bread. What set them apart is a willingness to live in the in-between times, to follow Jesus with openness, discernment and trust all the days of their lives.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fasting vs. Loving One's Neighbor

I once ate chicken pot pie on Good Friday. It was the day I got home from the hospital after the birth of my first child. My very kind non-Catholic neighbor made us a welcome home dinner. I did a quick mental appraisal of the situation. I could either stick with the Good Friday rules on abstinence and offend my neighbor, or I could eat the meal graciously and demonstrate my appreciation for her thoughtfulness. I chose the second course of action.

The rules of the Church on Lenten fasting and abstinence are good. We all do have an obligation to sacrifice. It shows our solidarity with others of our faith and also helps us on our spiritual journey. Yet, they come second to the primary law of Christian life – to love God and to love our neighbor. There are times, such as the instance I just related, when the two do come into conflict. In that case, the choice is clear. Fasting will gain us little spiritual merit if we offend our neighbor in the process.

In the second reading for this past Sunday, 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, St. Paul is addressing the opposite issue, but the result is the same. He instructs the Christians that they have no reason to abstain from any food, but if they are sharing a meal with their Jewish brethren and the food offends them, they should refrain from eating it out of love for their neighbor. “Never be a cause of offense.” There is a difference between going out to a restaurant and ordering an appropriate Lenten meal and going to someone's house and refusing to eat what they have prepared. The first is a witness to our Catholic faith (although it need not be announced); the second is rude and is likely to cause ill-feeling toward the Catholic tradition.

Many people, myself included, observe a personal fast of some type on Wednesdays and/or Fridays throughout the year. Perhaps one refrains from meat or from desserts. The same guidelines should apply. Sometimes, if one is with a large group, it is possible to adhere to one's sacrifice without offending anyone. In a crowd of fifty people, no one is likely to care if you take a piece of cake or not unless you happen to be the guest of honor. In a small group, it is much more obvious. It is possible to enjoy parties and still sacrifice. If I know, for example, that I have some social obligation where I will be expected to enjoy a lavish meal and dessert, I adjust my fasting days accordingly in advance. If I find myself in a spur-of-the-moment celebration, I simply resolve to fast the next day instead. Indeed, sometimes this is harder – fasting on Saturday always seems more of a challenge than sacrificing on Friday. There is also the possibility of making some other sacrifice on Wednesday or Friday, perhaps to avoid media, for example.

Fasting and sacrifice are important parts of a Catholic life and can bring many benefits to both body and soul. Forgoing it should never be done lightly. However, it need always be subjugated to the need to love one another. Sometimes, the greater sacrifice is to fast from fasting.

Just like riding a bike!




As it has been six years since I last took care of a little baby, one might think I would have gotten a little rusty. But, today, I went to go visit my best friend and her beautiful six week old little girl and I am happy to report that all the old skills came back rather quickly! I had a wonderful time!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bonding with God - Even When We are Happy

Guest Post by Holly McCarthy


We human beings are a selfish lot – we seek out others only when we need them for some reason or the other. And this is exactly the same attitude we take when it comes to forging a relationship with God. We seek his blessings only we want something; we go to church only when we’re down in the dumps; and we pray only when we’re in trouble. We conveniently forget his existence when we’re happy and when things are going really well for us. We don’t need him when there are no problems that need to be handled and when relationships are smooth.

There’s an anecdote that talks of a dead person’s tour through heaven – he sees a very busy department where there are thousands of angels handling and responding to letters as they keep pouring in; they’re all requests for help from the people on earth. And then as he continues his stroll, he sees another department with just one lone angel sitting and twiddling his thumbs in boredom. He walks in and asks what work he’s supposed to do, and the angel replies, “I’m in charge of handling the letters of gratitude that come in from the people we’ve helped with their problems. As you can see, there are not many that write back thanking us for the assistance God has rendered.”

It may be just a fable, but there’s a lot of truth in the above story – we don’t take the time to offer our gratitude to God for helping us out when we really needed his grace. Instead of just running to him with our problems, or ranting and raving at the unfairness of it all, we should learn to think of God and spend some time with him in our thoughts even when things are going well for us. We can do that by:

• Setting aside a few minutes every day for prayer and worship
• Thanking God each time something good happens to us
• Helping people who are not as fortunate as we are
• Believing in God and his grace even when things are really looking down
• Teaching our children the value of a good relationship with God
• Talking to God as we would to our best friends
• Being truly honest with him in every conversation that we have with him

At this point, I’m reminded of another story – a dead man who goes to heaven sees the footprints that he left behind during his journey on earth. There are two sets of prints, and when he asks God about the second pair, he replies that they are his, that he walks beside us during every step we take. And then the man comes to parts of his life where there are only one set of prints, and he realizes that these were the worst days of his existence. He turns to God and asks him why he left him alone when he was really down; and God replies, “My son, I did not leave you when you had troubles. I carried you so your load was easier to bear. Those footprints you see are mine.”

Very often in life, we doubt God and question his very presence when we’re sad and depressed. And yet we fail to acknowledge his existence in our lives when things are going well and when something really good happens. It’s time we understood that bonding with God must be a lifelong affair, one that holds through thick and thin, through smiles and tears, and through sorrows and happiness. Only then can we say that we are truly one with God.

This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of trade schools. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review: The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer
by Bert Ghezzi
Chicago: Loyola Books, 2004


The Sign of the Cross is one of those prayers and gestures that we use so frequently, we rarely stop to think about it. It has become an automatic way to begin and end prayer. In “The Sign of the Cross: Rediscovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer,” Bert Ghezzi invites us to take a closer look at this long-standing sign of our Christian faith. He offers a fascinating short history of the Sign of the Cross, exploring the many ways it has been performed and used from the earliest days of Christianity to today. Ghezzi then examines six ways the Sign of the Cross can help us in our lives, devoting one chapter to each of these ways: an opening to God, a renewal of Baptism, a mark of discipleship, an acceptance of suffering, a defense against the devil, and a victory over self-indulgence. Who knew such a simple prayer could do so much? When we make the Sign of the Cross in public, we are announcing to the world that we are Christian and that in itself is a counter-cultural act in our secular world. The Sign of the Cross is a powerful prayer and one that we should pay more attention to and make more use of. Many thanks go to Bert Ghezzi for helping to show us the way.

Some quotes from “The Sign of the Cross: Rediscovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer”

“No empty gesture, the sign of the cross is a potent prayer that engages the Holy Spirit as the divine advocate and agent of our successful Christian living. When we trace it on our body, it stirs up the new life of the Spirit that we received in baptism and vitalizes our prayer by drawing us closer to God.”

“As the condition of accepting us as followers, Jesus requires us to surrender control of our lives to him. Here Jesus, our Lord and teacher, is following the practice of rabbis of his day, who demanded total submission of their pupils. This is the true meaning of self-denial: Jesus expects us to deny that we belong to ourselves and to declare that we belong to him.”

“Jesus not only promised suffering; he also made bearing personal crosses a daily requirement for all of his followers. Making the sign of the cross proclaims our yes to this condition of discipleship.”

“The sign of the cross still maintains its power over Satan. He continues to cower and turn tail at the sight of it. So making the sign still protects us from our most dangerous enemy.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crayon Recycling

I admit, I never thought much about throwing away crayons, but I came across an article in Woman's Day today that informed me that crayons last a very long time in landfills and can actually be recycled. There is actually a place that you can send them! Check out http://www.crazycrayons.com/recycle_program.html. Let your used crayons have a new life!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Life of Bud


"The Life of Bud" is a children's book by Laura Eckroat, a kindergarten teacher at a local Catholic School. The story begins "This is a story of a special bud named Bud, whose journey through life reminds us of how important we are." The official description reads: "This is the story of life and how important we all are and how hard it is to let go in the end. The story follows Bud, who starts out in life as a tiny bud he feels insignificant. But Bud grows into a beautiful, vibrant leaf on the Mighty Oak Tree and becomes a very important part of the tree. Those who have looked for a children's book that explains gently about the topic of life and death, look no further. The Life of Bud explains to children and reminds adults that death is an important part of life. This is an eLIVE book, meaning each printed copy contains a special code redeemable for the free download of the audio version of the book."

St. Mary's Messenger: New Magazine for Children

St. Mary's Messenger is a new magazine for Catholic children. To learn more, download sample pages, or subscribe, please visit http://stmarysmessenger.com/order

Monday, February 09, 2009

Prayer to Our Lady of La Leche

I came across a reference to "Our Lady of La Leche" the other day and decided to do some searching because I had never heard that reference to Mary before. For more information on her, please visit www.missionandshrine.org Here is a prayer for motherhood to Our Lady of La Leche:

Prayer for Motherhood:

Lovely Lady of La Leche, most loving mother of the Child Jesus, and my mother, listen to my humble prayer. Your motherly heart knows my every wish, my every need. To you only, His spotless Virgin Mother, has your Divine Son given to understand the sentiments which fill my soul. Yours was the sacred privilege of being the Mother of the Savior. Intercede with him now, my loving Mother, that, in accordance with His will, I may become the mother of other children of our heavenly Father. This I ask, O Lady of La Leche, in the Name of your Divine Son, My Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Book Review: Souls at Rest


Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Idea of Sabbath
by Charlotte Ostermann, 2008

Charlotte Ostermann invites us to take a deeper look at the Sabbath day in “Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Idea of Sabbath.” While it certainly can be read straight through, it is intended to be used as part of a book study group or in conjunction with a journal, so that one may explore the ideas in this book while reconfiguring what the sabbath looks like in one's life. Ostermann wishes to “offer you an opportunity to see more fully a gift God has given to make you more (not less!) free, more authentically yourself (not more like me!) and more abundantly alive (not more burdened by obligations!).” Observing the Sabbath offers us the chance to reclaim what it means to be a whole person, not merely a cog in the economic engine. The rest of Sunday gives us the strength to give our all to the rest of the week. “Sabbath asks us to relinquish some of our incessant doing, and – in contrast to laziness in the pursuit of spiritual goods – to be keenly, joyously present to God's presence.” Sabbath invites us to just be.

Ostermann then explores different ways to reclaim “being” rather than “doing” in our lives. With chapters titled “Be Quiet,” “Be Still,” “Be in Community,” and “Be Not Afraid,” she offers concrete means of incorporating different aspects of Sabbath into our lives. She then turns her attention to the history of Sabbath with its roots in the Jewish tradition and its new evolution in the Christian tradition. Ostermann also explores the ways in which observing the sabbath can transform our sense of personhood and help us rediscover and create beauty in our lives. The study guide at the end of the book provides probing questions for reflection.

“Souls at Rest” offers much food for thought. While most of us will not be able to incorporate all of Ostermann's suggestions, we all can make at least one of them part of our Sunday observance. Taking a day each week to worship God and rejuvenate our bodies and souls can only help improve our quality of life and our relationship with God.

A Hint of Spring

We didn't get a January thaw this year. In fact, it was one of the coldest January's on record. Today, however, the sun was shining and it was in the 40s. The kids were actually out in just their shirt sleeves and all four of us and the dog went out for a wonderful walk. The kids were plowing across snowbanks in their boots and having a great time. It felt so good just to get some fresh air. And I noticed a couple daffodil sprouts pushing their way up where the snow had melted near the house. Yes! Spring is coming!

Time for Sabbath Rest?

It is not news that we live in a 24/7 world. For the majority of us, it seems like there is always too much to do and not enough time to do it in. In light of those realities, the idea of taking a whole day for worship, rest, and relaxation seems rather anachronistic. Yet, perhaps it is because life goes at such a frantic pace today that observance of the sabbath rest deserves a second look. The sabbath has its roots in the Jewish faith. The commandment to “Keep Holy the Sabbath” referred to the seventh day of the week. On the seventh day, God rested after the work of creation had been completed. “The sabbath is at the heart of Israel's law. To keep the commandments is to correspond to the wisdom and the will of God as expressed in his work of creation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 348) In the Christian tradition. however, this observance has moved to the eighth day. “For us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ's Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. . . The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation.” (CCC 349)


So, then, how are we called to observe this holy day of each week? First and foremost, we are called to worship. By gathering with others of our faith at holy mass, we join in communal celebration of the paschal mystery and engage in praise of God. It is also meant to be a day of grace and rest from work. “Human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.” (CCC 2184) Sunday is a day that can be dedicated to service, by “devoting time and care to families and relatives” It is also a day for “reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation.” (CCC 2186).

Those are high standards for this day! The reality often comes up short. Many people are required to work on Sundays. Even those of us who do not need to work on Sundays may have other demands put on our time on that day. Mothers, who may be able to arrange a respite from most housework on Sundays by getting their chores done the rest of the week, nevertheless still need to engage in the service of childcare on Sundays. Rest may be a very elusive goal. Attending mass, which should be a time of reflection and prayer, can often feel more like an ordeal to be endured if one has infants and toddlers in tow. The benefit is still there, but it is certainly not always a prayerful, meditative experience! Yet, in spite of these obstacles, God, who sees what is in our hearts, knows if we do try to set this day apart. It may not be possible to set aside the whole day, but perhaps a few hours are within reach. Perhaps it is possible to slow down the pace of life for a little bit, to really consider the activities we engage in on Sunday and decide whether they add or detract from the spirit of the day.

There is also something to be said for allowing sabbath moments to be observed throughout all the days of the week. Sunday is the holy day, but all days are holy. Time spent in prayer throughout the week can serve as a mini-sabbath. Time spent with relatives or at a family dinner can foster increased emphasis on the ties that bind. Time spent in service to others or in creative pursuits can help us to relax and rejuvenate ourselves and the world around us. We all need rest. We all need a break from the pressures of work and the focus on money. We need to remember what truly matters in life. Charlotte Ostermann in Souls at Rest encourages us “to think of creative ways – on Sundays, and in Sabbath moments through the week – to quiet the place where you dwell. . . 'dwell' implies an at-home-ness – a leisurely sense of spending time at home just being – in contrast to home as a way-station for distracted, disconnected family members stopping off en route to a scattering of separate doings elsewhere.” Our world and our families are in desperate need of rest and a renewed focus on God. Perhaps a renewed appreciation and observance of the sabbath is just what we need.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Prayer: Why?

I came across this prayer in a book called The Questioner's Prayer by Bishop Robert J. Baker

Lord, hear my cry; listen to my question - "why?"
For it rises to You from the depth of my heart,
as a prayer from one
who truly believes in You,
but experiences You right now as far away from me.

O Lord,
Be not far from me.
Hasten to help me.
I need you to answer my plea.
Turn not your face from me.
I seek to understand Your ways and to follow
Your holy will for me.
Help me to find strength for the journey
and light for my path as I join
my suffering to that of Your Son's suffering
and death on the cross.

May the Passion of Jesus give meaning
and hope to me as I experience
my own personal passion.
Into Your hands, O Lord, in faith and in trust,
I commend my spirit.

Amen




Wednesday, February 04, 2009

R.I. P. Michael Dubruiel

Catholic Writer Michael Dubruiel died suddenly on February 3, 2009. Husband of Amy Welborn, another influential Catholic Writer, he leaves behind a young family. Contributions to help the family may be made through the Faith and Family Website. Also, purchases of the The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You will also help the family. And of course, please say a prayer for them during this difficult time.



Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Prayer Request

A couple months ago, I asked for prayers for a couple I know whose one-year old daughter had died suddenly. They are now expecting another child! Please pray for a successful pregnancy/birth and a healthy child.

Information on Israel

I admit that I'm not that well-informed about all the things currently going on in Israel. However, this is a new blog that seeks to keep us all informed. You can visit it at: http://isrago.com/blog/

Weigh in on NFP

Each month, US Catholic runs an article in advance that readers can respond to so that survey results and comments can be run in the magazine. This month, there is an article on Natural Family Planning. Check it out at:

http://www.uscatholic.org/node/1587

Monday, February 02, 2009

Love and Marriage

This quote is by Kathryn Begnaud. It was in an article she wrote for the February 2009 issue of "St. Anthony's Messenger":

Love, I have found, is not the thing that precipitates marriage. Rather, it is the ongoing, incremental reward of marriage. It is the face of God peeking through a little more each day. It is revelation. It is grace.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Book Review: This Flowing Toward Me

This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers

by Marilyn Lacey, R.S.M.
Ave Maria Press, 2009

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

I admit it – strangers scare me. After all, we are taught from the time we are little not to talk to strangers. When confronted with a ragged looking beggar on the side of the road or near a store I am entering, the Christian in me and the practical in me wage an inner battle. The Christian in me encourages me to reach out and donate a dollar or two. After all, Jesus tells us to love out neighbor. That could be Him in disguise sitting by the side of the road. On the other hand, the practical in me tells me to avert my eyes or cross to the side of the road. After all, there are shelters and resources for people who are down on their luck. Giving out money only encourages them to keep begging and might put my personal safety in jeopardy. At various times, one or the other aspect of my personality will win out, often depending on the circumstances – Is it day or night? Am I alone? Whether I give or not is often in direct relation to whether I feel safe or not. If I give, I feel good for the rest of the day, but know that if my husband knew what I did he wouldn't be happy. If I don't, I feel guilty, but often rationalize the behavior. I still haven't found a satisfactory solution to these encounters. Instead, I often find myself trying to avoid the places I know beggars will be. I feel much more comfortable doing my Christian service from a distance – donating food or money to a food pantry or shelter, for example.

If you are like me, “This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers” by Sr. Marilyn Lacey will make you feel incredibly guilty, but it will also make you reflect on what it truly means to love one's neighbor and to minister to the stranger among us. Sr. Marilyn shares her experience of having worked with refugees over the course of twenty-five years. The title, “This Flowing Toward Me” is a line from a poem by Rumi. It refers to the attentiveness of God which reaches out to each of us. As Sr. Marilyn states, “Not for a second has God forgotten me. . . I am in fact the guest whom God constantly welcomes.” That attentiveness invites us to also be attentive to the people we come in contact with, to be aware of the miracle that the present moment provides.

Sr. Marilyn's journey began with a notice on a bulletin board in 1980. She was assigned to doing administrative work for her religious order at their mother house. She was bored as could be. Therefore, the notice asking for volunteers to assist refugees at the airport found her in a receptive mood. She enlisted two of her friends and went to the airport to answer the call. Her job was to help refugees who had just arrived from Asia make their way to their connecting flight. She recalls the challenge of memorizing identifying numbers, finding the correct family, and then trying to help them reach their appropriate destination, navigating moving sidewalks, x-ray scanners, and indoor bathrooms, without being able to communicate in their language. This was her invitation to “step into the world of refugees.”

In “This Flowing Toward Me,” Sr. Marilyn tells of her work with both Asian and African refugees. She shares how this work initially caused her to question God's methods. How could God care and yet leave some of his children in such a condition? The refugees she had met kept reaching out to her for assistance and she felt powerless to help. And then, in a mystical moment, the answer came from God. God had not done this. Other people had done this. Injustice had done this. “God never promises to take away our pain, but rather pledges to remain close to us in the midst of it.” She tells of her own struggles with learning new languages and experiencing new foods and new customs. She is able to laugh at her own ignorance, but nothing about the refugee's experience is funny. There is one particularly heart wrenching story from Gabriel, one of the lost boys of Sudan. He is one of the lucky ones in that he made it to America. So many others didn't. And yet, despite all his pain and suffering, he has never given up hope, never lost his faith in God. He ends his narrative with the powerful statement, “Am I not proof that the dead do rise? Remember, I am Gabriel and I want everyone to know that my news is good.”

Sr. Marilyn wrote “This Flowing Toward Me” not only to share her story, but also to help people realize the need for justice. “Works of mercy without the works of justice can never bring lasting peace. We see that millions of people become impoverished because of global imbalances and structural sins, not because of quirks of their personality or individual failings.” We need to reach out to all who cross our path, all with whom our lives intersect. Sr. Marilyn invites us to allow “our fear of strangers” to “give way to the risk of welcoming them. Each step in that direction moves our bruised and broken world closer to the day when mercy and justice shall kiss.” No one who reads “This Flowing Toward Me” will be able to look at strangers the same way ever again.




I made my husband cry!

Last weekend, I sent a word file of my novel to three people: my best friend, who just had a baby so I totally understand that she doesn't have time to read it; one of my homeschooling friends who is a writer/editor with the plea that she look it over for me and make constructive suggestions, who graciously agreed but who also has so much on her plate that I know it will be a while; and my husband, who manages to read several books in the average week while watching several dvds and getting his work done (he works from home.) I somehow thought he might be able to squeeze 1 1/2 hours out of his week to read something he had watched me work on for the past three months. Besides, he had asked to read it when it was done. So, when he hadn't mentioned a single thing by Wednesday about my story, I tried to casually ask him why he wasn't reading my story. He said he was, but that it just wasn't the type of thing he liked to read (I had warned him it was a chick-flick before he started).

I felt horrible. I had apparently just wasted three months of my life on something so bad that even my husband - a person who promised to love, honor, and cherish me till death do us part - couldn't make the sacrifice of spending 1 1/2 hours to read it. This was more confirmation that my life was worthless, meaningless, and that for various reasons I was destined to be a failure forever (yes, it was a rough week on the psychological side).

So, anyway, Saturday morning he came down from his office with tears in his eyes and says, "Leave it to you to write a %#%%$ Hallmark story." He had actually finished the book and the ending made him cry! That is no easy feat. Very few stories bring tears to his eyes. So, in some small way, I have achieved success. Of course, he said that now he plans to edit it because according to him, "the beginning is dry and my writing is nondescriptive." I'm not sure if he'll actually devote the time to do that or not, but I will certainly take his comments under consideration. I know the story can be better and I'm certainly willing to work on it.