Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Cope with the Identity Crisis of New Motherhood

This is an article I wrote a few years ago. I sent it along to a friend yesterday who is working on a book for new moms. I thought I might share it with all of you in case it might help somebody. Please feel free to share it with anyone you think might benefit from it.

It happens to all of us. There comes a day sometime after the birth of your first child when you look in the mirror and barely recognize the woman looking back. You haven't had a full night's sleep in weeks (maybe months) and you are exhausted. Your relationships with your partner, your family, and your friends are all changing. Your own priorities are shifting. You are now responsible for another human being 24/7 and everything else seems to have fallen by the wayside. You stop and ask, "Who exactly am I now that I am a mother?"

Welcome to the identity crisis of new motherhood. As Marianne Williamson writes in The Gift of Change, "When a woman gives birth, two are born: a baby is born from the womb of its mother, and a woman is born from the womb of her former existence." This becoming a new woman can be a difficult process, and in many ways involves grieving your former self. This transformation can also be a wonderful learning experience, however, and the end result is well worth the effort.

Here are ten ways to help you successfully navigate this transition:

1. Realize you are not alone

One of the most difficult aspects of new motherhood is the isolation you may feel. It is all too easy to look at other new moms and think, "They have it all together - why don't I?" The secret is that they are looking at you and thinking the same thing. Every new mom feels overwhelmed and tired and is trying just as hard as you to adjust to this new lifestyle. Yes, you love your baby, and yes, it is completely normal in the early months of motherhood to look back at your previous life with some longing.


2. Give Yourself Time


If you were taking on a challenging new career in an area you had little experience in, you would not expect to be a complete success your first day on the job. The same holds true for motherhood. It can take from six months to a year to be comfortable in your new role. Do not rush to judge yourself harshly when some aspects of mothering don't come easily. In time, your instincts will come in. You will learn what your baby's different cries mean, and how to soothe him or her (at least most of the time.) You will figure out how to carry your baby and the diaper bag and still open the door, and how to get out of the house in less than an hour. These things and all the other skills that motherhood requires will come. Give yourself time to learn.

3. Enjoy your baby's feeding time.

Feeding time is meant to be special. It is a quiet time to sit, rest, and bond with your baby. Breastfeeding often feels like the first test of motherhood. If you are breastfeeding and need help, contact the La Leche League. Lisa Mladinich, a former writer/actress in New York City, felt completely overwhelmed when her two-month-old daughter Theresa was cutting teeth, suffering from chronic diarrhea, and her pediatrician had her take her off breast milk. In desperation, she called the La Leche League. As she states, "the advice they gave me by phone, for free, saved Theresa's health and my sanity." She started attending meetings regularly and found that the group really helped her and her husband start to enjoy parenting. To find a La Leche Group near you, check your local phone book, visit www.lalecheleague.org, or call 1-800-LALECHE.

If you are not breastfeeding, know that your child will be just fine. Yes, mother's milk is best, but there are often very good reasons not to breastfeed. The important thing is to bond with your baby during feeding time. Don't prop the bottle. Hold them close. Feeding time is special, no matter the method.

4. Join a Mom's Group

You have just gained a new job in life - that of mom. Just like in your career, it is important to network with others in your field. I joined a church-run playgroup when my first son was 11 months old. I wish that I had joined much sooner. Mothers are a tight-knit group. They will listen to your stories of sleep-deprived nights and celebrate small milestones in your baby's life. We have shared experiences that only another mother can understand. To find a mom's group in your area, check with your local church, library, YMCA, or the hospital where you gave birth.

5. Nurture your spiritual side.

Take time to pray. This need not be formal prayer. Simply talk to, and listen for, God. Prayer centers us and gives us strength. Take a walk and appreciate the beauty of creation. You can pray while pushing a stroller or while in the shower. It doesn't matter where you are, just that you take the time to nurture your soul.

It can be difficult to attend church services with a young child. Many churches have crying rooms or nurseries. If yours doesn't, respect local custom regarding young children being in attendance. While caring for a young child is a legitimate reason to miss church services, do all you can to attend. In addition to meeting a spiritual need, churches can provide a wonderful sense of community and can be a great way to meet other mothers.


6. Give yourself permission to not be perfect.


Yes, you want to do what is best for your child, and of course you should always try to make the best decisions you can. The reality is, however, that you are not perfect. None of us are. Try as we might to do all we can to give our children the best start, there are times when we fail to live up to our own expectations. Thankfully, young children are rather forgiving. We need to forgive ourselves as well. Parenting is an on-going learning process. Learn from your mistakes and move on. It does not do you or your child any good to dwell on them.


7. Continue to talk to your friends and family.


Relationships do change as a result of becoming a mom. You may not have as much in common with some people as you did before you had a child. There are, however, those true friendships in life that can survive the changes that life brings. It may take some creativity to nurture those friendships now that you are a busy mom. E-mail can be a lifesaver, as can a phone call after the baby is in bed. Also, make time to go out and do something with your friends, even if it is only once a month or once every other month.

This is also an opportunity to renegotiate your relationship with your own family. Mothers and sisters who have children can be a wonderful resource in parenting information and support. There will be times that you will disagree on how best to parent your child, but you are one of them now - a mom - and they can help you fit into this new role.

Also, don't forget your husband. While it may sometimes seem like he doesn't understand or appreciate the changes that you are going through, he is going through a big change in his life as well. Pay attention to the relationship that made you a parent in the first place. It's great if you can get out for a date night, but a date night in can be just as nice. Just be sure to make some time to connect, to talk, and to touch.


8. Make the best decision you can about working outside the home, and feel free to change it if it doesn't work out.

Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or something in-between, the important thing is for you to make the best decision for you and your particular set of circumstances. The difficult part is that your initial decision often has to be made before your baby arrives. It is hard to know how you will feel about leaving your baby with another caretaker, or about leaving paid employment, until after the baby arrives. The good thing is that nothing is set in stone.

Some people leave work only to return on a part-time or full-time basis after a certain amount of time. Others return to work immediately after maternity leave only to discover that is no longer where they want to be. Both financial and personal circumstances change and this is one decision that can change as well. Many moms decide to pursue an interest of their own and start a business that they can work from home while caring for their child. Others negotiate for more flexible schedules or part-time work. The possibilities are endless. Do what you can to be comfortable with your decision, and ignore the voices out there that tell you that you should be doing something different.


9. Cultivate a Hobby

This seems counter-intuitive because you have probably never been busier in your life than you are right now, but in your search for identity, it is important to have something you can call your own. Dedicate at least some time to something that interests you and will engage your mind. Do you like to read? Keep a magazine or book handy. It is amazing how much reading you can get done one paragraph at a time! Do you like to take pictures? This is a wonderful time to put those skills to work taking pictures of your baby and perhaps putting them into a scrapbook. If you enjoy writing, keep a journal. Whatever you enjoy, there is probably some way to integrate it into your new life. If an old interest is truly out of the question, then this is the time to find something new. Learning a new skill or practicing an old one will invigorate you and help you realize that while you are a mom, you are also more than a mom.


10. If you need it, don't be afraid to seek professional help.


It is one thing to be going through a challenging time of change; it is quite another to be suffering from depression. The American Academy of Family Physicians (http://familydoctor.org) lists several signs of postpartum depression. If you have lost interest in life, suffer from loss of appetite, feel hopeless, or have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, it is time to seek professional assistance. Postpartum depression is real and treatable. It is an illness, not a sign of weakness. Consult your doctor, your pediatrician, or the hospital where you gave birth for information on where to go for help.

While you are navigating this transition into motherhood, it may feel endless. You may worry that you will never feel comfortable in your new skin. There is a destination, however, and it is a wonderful place to be. The day will come when you truly feel like a mother. The new person will have come forth from the woman you once were. On the way to getting there, you will discover new skills and strength that you never knew you possessed. You will learn that you are capable of a depth of love and dedication that you never thought possible. Both you and your children will be better for the experience. In the meantime, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and know that you are well on your way.

March 31, 2010 Wednesday of Holy Week

For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me
. - Psalm 69:8-10

Being faithful to Christ sometimes requires being at odds with those who are close to us, even members of our own family. It is hard to be condemned or criticized for one's faith, especially by those we love. Yet, we are called to walk in Jesus' footsteps. We are called to endure.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Perhaps I Have Grown This Lent

Sometimes growth comes when we least expect it. Check out this great article by my friend Karen Ford on Catholic Exchange:

Perhaps I Have Grown This Lent

March 30, 2010 Tuesday of Holy Week

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the Lord,
my recompense is with my God.
- Isaiah 49:4

Sometimes, it really does seem like all our efforts are for naught. We try to follow God's will for our lives, and yet, sometimes, it seems only pain is the result. Others seem to have it so much easier. Dear Lord, help me to trust in you. Help me to realize it is not rewards and happiness here that matter, as much as life eternal with you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America

An exhibit currently at the Smithsonian pays great tribute to the impact US nuns and sisters have had on American life. To find out more about the exhibit, please visit


http://www.womenandspirit.org

March 29, 2010 Monday of Holy Week

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
- Psalm 27:13-14

This is what it is all about - the promise of eternal life. All of those things that we spend so much time worrying about matter little in the big scheme of things. Eternity is what matters. Wait for it! Good things are coming!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Time to End the Catholic Wars

Division within the Church is not new. From the earliest days, good people have disputed what it means to be part of Christ’s Church. Saints Peter and Paul argued over whether circumcision and following the Jewish laws was necessary for salvation. In recent years, however, the chasm between Catholics of different persuasions seems to be becoming ever wider. There is derision and judgment on all sides. It is painful to watch and to be a part of. There seems to be a litmus test (or perhaps, more accurately, a whole list of litmus tests) for what it means to be a “true” Catholic. Others are termed to be “Catholics in Name Only.” Of course, what it means to be a “true” Catholic depends on where one falls on the spectrum. The questions can be some or all of the following:

1) Are social justice and environmental issues the most important to you? Do you eat only organic foods? Grow your own food? Buy only free-trade goods? Use cloth diapers? Breastfeed exclusively? Live a preferential option for the poor?

2) Do you believe that the fullness of Vatican II has not yet been reached? Do you feel that Vatican II was an abomination? Do you feel that only those who attend a Tridentine Mass are authentically Catholic?

3) Are you open to life? Do you use Natural Family Planning? Do you feel that those who use Natural Family Planning are wrong, that they should simply trust in God’s providence and accept however many children God gives them?

4) Where do you stand on the matter of conscience? Is there ever a time when questioning and disobeying Church law is appropriate? Or is obedience to the Magisterium the most important thing?

5) Do you send your children to CCD? Catholic School? Do you homeschool because you feel neither of the other options are Catholic enough?

The simple truth is that there is no litmus test for being Catholic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.” (CCC 836) There is room for everyone under that umbrella. There are many ways of living out the Catholic faith. When we disagree with how someone is living out their faith, our best recourse is to pray for them and for ourselves. We are called to love one another. That is the mark of a true Christian. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. None of us fully live up to the Christian ideal. Our place is not to judge our Catholic brethren.

This week is Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is important to remember that he died and rose for all of us. May we remember that in our dealings with our fellow Catholics.

Book Review: Brother Andre


Brother Andre: Friend of the Suffering, Apostle of Saint Joseph
by Jean-Guy Dubac
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010

On February 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced that Blessed Brother Andre Bessette of Canada is scheduled to be canonized on October 17, 2010. Brother Andre was a humble porter at Notre Dame College in Quebec, Canada. He had very little formal education and wrote nothing, yet he became known internationally. At his death in 1937, more than one million people filed by his casket, acclaimed as a saint by the people long before the Church formally made that designation.

In “Brother Andre: Friend of the Suffering, Apostle of Saint Joseph,” Jean-Guy Dubac relates the life story of this simple man. He also includes a history of his family as well as background information on Saint Joseph’s Oratory which Brother Andre helped to build. Brother Andre was known for two main things – his devotion to St. Joseph and his ability to work cures in God’s name. Despite life-long physical illness, he lived an ascetic life – both eating and sleeping little. He spent many hours in prayer and was scrupulous in performing all his duties as a Brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

One of the earliest cures attributed to Brother Andre’s intercession was of a young boy in the college infirmary. He asked the child, who was sick with fever, why he was being so lazy. When the boy responded that he was sick, Brother Andre told him to get up and go play with the other boys. When he did so, suddenly healed of his illness, it was to the astonishment of all. He was cured, with no explanation. Over the course of his lifetime, countless sick would come to seek Brother Andre’s aid. He greeted all with love, cured many, and directed all to seek St. Joseph’s help.

“Brother Andre: Friend of the Suffering, Apostle of Saint Joseph” offers an interesting, highly readable introduction to the life and times of one of the Catholic Church’s newest saints. From Brother Andre, one can learn much about patience, simplicity, and devotion to St. Joseph.

March 28, 2010 Palm Sunday

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? - Psalm 22:1

Jesus used these words from Psalm 22 while he was on the cross. I've always found comfort in them. We have a God who knows what it is to suffer, to feel abandoned. He is right with us in our hour of need. He has been there. He understands.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Serendipity

I was flipping through my copy of Alphatudes: The Alphabet of Gratitude and came across this definition.

Serendipity is God's way of remaining anonymous.

When we trust our intuition and faithfully follow our hearts' desires, serendipity frequently occurs in our lives. We develop a keep awareness of how God's miracles are unfolding us in the most magical ways. More often than not, we gloriously arrive at a destination that is far beyond our wildest imagination.

Dear God,
Align my life with your divine timing. Heighten my awareness of the serendipitous miracles that you have sprinkled along my path. Thank you for gracing my life with the magic of serendipity.

March 27, 2010 Saturday of Lent

Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.
- Jeremiah 31:13

Lent is nearly over. We are in the home stretch. Today's Responsorial Psalm reminds us that even in the midst of the sadness, brighter days will come. There will be a time for rejoicing and celebration. It is coming. One more week to go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Her Darkest Hour



Her Darkest Hour

Mary sits, holding her dead son as she once held him as an infant. She is in utter pain, suffering the deepest hurt a mother can experience. Yet, even in the darkness, the light is there. God is there - with Mary and with us when all seems lost. This is not the end of the story.


To purchase this painting, visit Ebay listing for "Her Darkest Hour

A Parent's Prayer

When I was cleaning out some things as part of my 40 bags in 40 days project, I came across this prayer that was part of my baptismal preparation program.

A Parent's Prayer

God the Father, through His Son, the Virgin Mary's child,
has brought joy to all Christian parents,
as they see the hope of eternal life
shine on their children.
May God blees me.
I thank God for the gift of my child.

God is the giver of all life,
human and divine.
May God bless me,
for I will be one of the first
teachers of my child
in the ways of faith.
May I be the best of teachers,
bearing witness to the faith
by what I say and do,
in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Amen

March 26, 2010 Friday of Lent

I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
- Psalm 18:1-2

My younger son sometimes tells me he isn't sure if he loves me or not. I do understand that. Sometimes, it can be really hard to love your parents when you are little and they are telling you what to do most of the time. My parents certainly were not always on "my favorite people" list growing up. Likewise, sometimes it is hard for me to love God, love in the sense of the emotion, as opposed to the decision to love Him and put Him first in my life. I know some people who are truly "in love" with God. I envy them in some ways. My relationship with God is more of an intellectual one, but that is who I am. Dear God, help me to love you more and more each day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Today's Message from Mary at Medjugorje

“Dear children! Also today I desire to call you all to be strong in prayer and in the moments when trials attack you. Live your Christian vocation in joy and humility and witness to everyone. I am with you and I carry you all before my Son Jesus, and He will be your strength and support. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

You might be Catholic if . . .

Looking for a small laugh or maybe just a reflection on some of the habits we Catholics pick up over the years? Check out this list (and maybe add your own!):

You might be Catholic if . . .

Please Help Sophia Institute Press

Please read this letter from Sophia Institute Press. To donate, click Sophia Institute Press



Not long ago, one of my adult children spent hours pummeling me and the Church. The waves of her anger struck repeatedly, tossing me like a small boat in a storm.



With the bitterness of a woman betrayed, she recited the sins of bad priests we knew, and catalogued the failings of Catholic laymen and bishops we trusted.

"I believed," she cried.

"I believed, while those bastards lied and sneaked about, doing the very things they preached against!"


* * *

What could I say?

I won't defend the indefensible.

So, like Peter in that boat tossed by an earlier storm, I kept myself focused on Jesus.

"They betrayed us," I agreed."But they betrayed Jesus more.

"He condemned these sins centuries ago. If you thought He was wrong to do so, you wouldn't be upset today. Your anger shows that even when priests violate them, you think Christ's teachings --- the Church's teachings --- are right."

That just made her angrier, and since then I've had simply to avoid the topic.


* * *

You know, when I entered the Church as an adult, I had a profound admiration for priests, and naively believed that Catholics --- and particularly priests --- would always be found more virtuous than others.

My faith was so great that I founded Sophia Institute Press to bring back into print the fine Catholic books that had won me to the Faith, and that --- I was sure --- would convert others, too.

Now, at last count, six of the priests I've admired for their orthodoxy have been implicated in the sex scandals, and one is deep in a midwest jail.

That fact didn't make it easy for me to answer my daughter's charges.

Like Peter, I was left only with Jesus.



Jesus gave sinful Peter the power to walk on water. Jesus keeps us from drowning when the world attacks us and assails our wounded Church.

And Jesus guarantees that, despite the sins of Her members, the Church Herself is perfect.

Yes, perfect!

But not at all in the way that I imagined when I converted to Catholicism.

Fr. Ronald Knox explains it well in a remarkable little book, The Church on Earth, which I published a couple of years ago.

There he notes that, unlike the Protestant churches, the Catholic Church is not a system that men, after prayer and deliberation, devised as the best scheme they could think of for perpetuating the work of their Master, Jesus.

On the contrary, the Catholic Church is directly God's handiwork: in the New Testament Jesus Himself instituted the Sacraments and established the Church, placing Peter at its head.

Since God Himself established our Church, we must believe that it is perfectly designed to lead souls to perfection; and that it does so when they abide by Her teachings and partake of the graces She affords them.

Had I remembered just this one point from Msgr. Knox's slim book, the conversation with my daughter --- and with others who assail the Church for the sins of her members --- would have gone much better.

* * *

You know, this past quarter-century I've published hundreds of books like The Church on Earth, which, in just a paragraph, can make the difference between faith lost and faith regained.

Indeed, I've brought forth into the world almost three million copies of books by the very best Catholic authors, living and dead -- authors whose holiness and wisdom continually draw souls to the Church (the perfect Church) that Christ founded 2,000 years ago.

Now, however, all this is threatened. Although we cut our staff down to just six persons last year, and tripled the number of books we published, contributions to our work declined by over $100,000 --- a deficit that we have since then been unable to to make up with sales alone.

Now our checkbook is empty.

We don't have enough to keep
in print the books we've published.

Catholics will soon no longer have access to the scores of books we've published by St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, and many other good Catholics.
(See sidebars on this page
and our website.)

* * *

Can you help?

For your Lenten reading, could you buy a copy of The Church on Earth or perhaps one of our other books? And could you buy a few more books as gifts for others?

If you can't afford that,
could you buy one of our
SALE BOOKS
or even just
contribute one dollar?



Or more than a dollar,
if possible.

If you buy a book or two, or give a dollar or two, and everyone else who receives this email does the same, our doors will stay open; these books will stay in print; and we'll have enough to publish many more Catholic books -- books that will draw souls everywhere to the perfect Church that God so lovingly established for us men and for our salvation.

Thank you, and as the new year rushes upon us, please pray for us . . . and for my daughter.

Sincerely yours,



John L. Barger, Publisher
Sophia Institute Press

1-800-888-9344
Box 5284, Manchester, NH
03108 USA 1-603-641-9344


Sophia Institute Press

March 25, 2010 Thursday of Lent

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
- Luke 1:38

Today is the feast of the Annunciation - the day we recall Mary's Earth-changing "Yes" to God. I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to be Mary in that moment. There she was, a young teenager, looking forward to being married to Joseph and having a happy normal life, and then God intervened and her life was never normal again. She knew the risks of saying "yes." She knew Joseph might leave her. She knew she might be stoned to death. Yet, she still said "yes." She trusted that God's way was the right way. Dear Lord, please help me to say "yes" to whatever it is you ask me to do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24, 2010 Wednesday of Lent

"If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”
- Daniel 3:17-18

You have to admire the faith and steadfastness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in this Bible passage. I sometimes wonder, if my very life depended on it, would I still remain faithful to God? Would I be willing to die for what I believe in? I'd like to think that I would have the courage to do so, yet I admit I have trouble standing up for what I believe in when in a room of people where I am in the minority. Dear Lord, please help me to remain faithful to you even when it is really hard.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23, 2010 Tuesday of Lent

O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.
- Psalm 102:1-2

I think we can all relate to today's psalmist. Who among us hasn't cried out to the Lord and begged for a speedy answer? Yet, God's time is not our time. He always answers our prayers, but not necessarily how we think He should nor on our timetable. No, God has a bigger picture, a bigger plan in mind. We can often only see God working in our lives in hindsight. We can see where He was guiding us.

Dear God, help me to trust in your plans and the power of prayer. Help me to trust in you even when it seems you aren't listening.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prayer for our Country and its Leaders

This was sent to me today by the Catholic Writers' Guild:

Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, look with mercy on those who rule over us. Grant to our President and his administration the grace to know and do your will. Let them serve all their subjects in truth and righteousness. Inspire our Congressmen with the courage to make laws for the good of all rather than the few. Give our Judges your Spirit of wisdom and understanding that they may discern the truth and impartially administer the law. And let all the people pitch in to make our way of government continue to work. Amen.

New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

NEW ENGLAND CATHOLIC HOMESCHOOL
AND FAMILY RESOURCES CONFERENCE
JUNE 5, 2010 9:30AM TO 7 PM
ST. STANISLAUS SCHOOL
CHICOPEE, MA
SPONSORED BY WESTERN MASS. CATHOLIC HOMESCHOOLERS
WMCH.STBLOGS.COM
Vendor Applications also available at this site.
7 4 P E A R L S T . • H O L Y O K E , MA • 0 1 0 4 0
P H O N E : 4 1 3 - 5 3 3 - 0 0 4 5 • O R 4 1 3 - 3 1 5 - 9 9 9 9
Please register now!
Costs before May 5th:
1st Person $35, Couple $40,
Add a grandparent for $10 (Non- homeschooling)
Add a High School Student for $10 (Parent MUST be in Attendance and
responsible)
Nursing babies welcome and Free!
(Religious and Priests Registered by April 15 are Free! Form available
at our website.)
We have posted our Confirmed Vendors and Speakers but expect to add
more Vendors soon!

Costs after May 5th:
1st Person $40, Couple $50,
Add a grandparent for $12 (Non- homeschooling)
Add a High School Student for $12 (Parent MUST be in Attendance and
responsible)
Registration:
Name:____________________________________
Address:__________________________________
__________________________________
__________________________________
Phone: ___________________________________
Email:_____________________________________
Web Site: _____________________________________
Nursing baby (Y/N):__________
Attending with Spouse:______________________________
or Grandparent: __________________________
Check can be made payable to WMCH.
Mail to: 74 Pearl St Holyoke, MA 01040
Questions? Call Mary Brazeau 413-533-0045 or Christine Hebert at 413-315-9999
Donations welcome also but are not currently tax deductible.
You can also support this event by subscribing to Faith and Family
Magazine or National Catholic
through our website.


Click to join NewEnglandCatholicHomeschool

Click to join NewEnglandCatholicHomeschool


March 22, 2010 Monday of Lent

Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
- John 8:12

I love this image of Jesus as light. Light is so important to our well-being. For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the coming of Spring brings more sunlight and warmer days. We come out of our winter cocoons and get outside again. Flowers start pushing their way through the earth. Our moods brighten. The sun was there all winter. It hadn't moved. It was we who had moved away for a while.

So it is with God. He is always there, waiting. We need merely to turn ourselves back to the Light, to bask in its glow and feel His warmth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Accepting Imperfection

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Perfection. Every woman I know strives for it and comes up woefully short, myself included. We want to be perfect wives and mothers, to be successful in our work, have clean homes, pray as much as we should, be good friends, exercise and eat right. In Catholic circles, especially, we often strive to be like Mary. We hold her up as our model which is as it should be. Yet, maybe, we shouldn’t be quite so hard on ourselves when we don’t quite measure up to that standard. After all, we believe Mary was sinless. She may have been tempted, but she never failed. She had an unlimited store of God’s grace which never let her down. We, on the other hand, have the burden of sin. We make mistakes. We screw up. We fall down. We hurt others and get hurt ourselves. We don’t always forgive others the way we should. We are not always patient and loving. We have to get up every day and face the consequences of our failures. It’s enough to make me want to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed . . . permanently.

Yes, I realize that is not actually an option (although some days I really wish it was). God has given me a job on this Earth, and my two children are going to make sure I get out of bed every morning and do it, even if it means they have to jump on me, turn on the light, and pull off my covers to get me to get up and face the day! Christian writer Joan C. Webb has written two very insightful books on dealing with our imperfection, “The Relief of Imperfection” and “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life.” In the latter, she writes, “It’s truly a relief once you and I realize that God doesn’t expect us to be, do, or make it all just right, all the time, in order to be valuable and compassionate friends, mothers, colleagues or Christians. . . It helped when I discovered that the original word for ‘perfect’ means ‘to be committed to growth and completion.’ While growth is daunting at times, it is doable. . . It’s okay with God if we slow down, relax and smile in the midst of our imperfect realities. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”

I like Webb’s definition of perfection – “to be committed to growth and completion.” It means that I and all my fellow sisters in the trenches are works in progress. It changes the standard by which we judge ourselves. Maybe we haven’t reached the pinnacle of our development, but we are all growing. We are all trying to move along the right path, to grow closer to God and to do His will. Yes, we screw up, but maybe the mistakes help us to grow as well. We want to be complete, but it will take a lifetime to get there. In the meantime, we can keep trusting that we are making progress. It may be the two steps forward, one step backward kind of progress, but it is still moving forward. We can also enjoy life as it is. We can accept our imperfection. We can accept that we are not God. We can accept that it is not in our power (nor is it our job) to make everyone around us happy all the time. We can trust that God knows what He is doing, that He can use us in spite of our failings. We can lean on God through it all. His perfection will carry us through.


March 21, 2010 Fifth Sunday of Lent

The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
- Psalm 126:3

I admit it. I am not by nature an optimistic person. My glass is generally half-empty. It is a real struggle for me to be thankful, to rejoice in all the good things God has given me. Yet, today this scripture reminds me that I need to be mindful of all those good things. We all have been blessed in different ways. Truly, we don't have to look far to find those blessings. Today, let us rejoice in all the great things God has done for each of us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20, 2010 Saturday of Lent

O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge. - Psalm 7:1

I feel badly for people who don't believe in God. Who do they lean on when life gets hard? Life is difficult enough with God, with a purpose to creation and to our existence. I wouldn't even want to imagine the despair associated with thinking that this life is all that matters, that we are merely cells randomly assembled. Yes, God, in you I take refuge. I believe that you have a plan for all of us. Even when life is hard and truly unbearable (especially then), I trust in you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: "The Lightkeeper's Daughter"

The Lightkeeper's Daughter (A Mercy Falls Novel)

by Colleen Coble
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009

"The Lightkeeper's Daughter" by Colleen Coble is a fast moving Christian romance, filled with mystery and enough plot twists to keep your head spinning! Addie Sullivan has grown up as a lightkeeper's daughter. When a stranger comes to visit, he recognizes the locket she wears around her neck and informs her that she is actually the child of a wealthy man and that her real name is Julia Eaton. With the news that she was believed to be lost at sea many years before, Addie's world is turned upside down. She takes a job as a governess of a young epileptic boy in order to get closer to her real family without revealing her identity. She also finds herself falling hard for the boy's widowed father.

"The Lightkeeper's Daughter" is a very pleasant read. Historical romantic fiction with more than a touch of mystery, it has something for everyone. The many plot twists will keep readers guessing until the unexpected conclusion. It makes for some great light reading.

40 Bags in 40 Days Update

I'm currently on bag 32 in my mission to clean 40 bags of stuff out of my house. Most of this stuff I got rid of without a second thought. One difficult bag was getting rid of baby clothes. I had passed on all clothes size 2T and above as my children outgrew them, but I had long kept one large Rubbermaid container full of baby clothes and blankets. It was hard to part with the handmade blankets people had made for me, but I want them to be used. I hope they find their way to good homes where they can warm other babies. Same with the baby clothes. I had such memories of my babies wearing them. But, my younger son is seven. The clothes can be used by others. I lovingly packed them and sent them off. I trust that if God ever sends another child my way, others will be generous.

I had a long debate over my wedding dress. Should I give it or keep it? I always felt bad that my mother didn't have her wedding dress - I would have liked so much to wear it at my own wedding. So, even though I know I could give it away and give someone else the opportunity to wear it, I fear giving it away in case I ever do have a little girl. For the time being, it is staying.

Overall, the process of purging is going well. I do wonder a little where this process is leading me. Why did I feel such a need to do this now? Am I getting ready for something I'm just not aware of, or was it just time to detach myself from all these things? Perhaps in time, I will know the answer to that question.

March 19, 2010 Friday of Lent

When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
- Matthew 1:24

Today is the feast of St. Joseph. It goes without saying, but Joseph was a good man, perhaps the best one ever. After all, God wasn't going to trust his son to just anybody. Yet, at the beginning, he must have wondered how exactly he found himself in this situation. His betrothed was pregnant and he knew he wasn't the father. Yet he trusted. He believed the messenger that God had sent and did what God asked. May we pray to have Joseph's trust and his willingness to do whatever God asks of us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Save a Thousand Souls


Catholic Media Review has an interesting review of To Save a Thousand Souls. It is a book for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood. I've never come across a similar book and it does look like it would meet a definite need if you know a young (or not so young) man considering this calling.

March 18, 2010 Thursday of Lent

Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
- Psalm 106:19-20

Admittedly, most of us don't go out and worship a molten image. But, what are the things that we do put before God? What distracts us from prayer? What keeps us from focusing on what is important in life? Is it TV, the computer, music, an addiction, the busyness of housework? We need to keep our priorities straight. We need to always remember to put God first. If we do that, everything else will maintain its proper importance in our lives.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 17, 2010 Wednesday of Lent

Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
- Isaiah 49:15

The love of a mother for her child is perhaps the strongest emotion on earth. The vast majority of mothers will do all in their power to care for their children and do what they feel is best for them. They stand by their children no matter what. Yet, sadly, there are mothers who do forget, who for whatever reason, are not capable of that love. God is telling us His love is stronger than that. He will never forget us. He loves us more than any mother possibly could. He made us. We belong to Him.

Irish Blessing

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rain fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
in the hollow of His hand.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 Tuesday of Lent

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
- Psalm 46:2-3

Sometimes, it really does seem like our earth is being shaken to its very core. Everything is going wrong. The world seems against us. There is illness and pain and suffering. In our darkest hours, we need to rely on God most of all. Even when it seems he has left us to our own devices, we need to continue to trust, continue to pray, and continue to rest in his love. He is still there, guarding our path, even we can't see it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010 Monday of Lent

The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
- John 4:49-50

In this brief Scripture passage we have two strong messages. One is the power of Jesus. Simply a word from him at a distance was able to cure a child. Second, and more important for us, is the faith of the man asking. We pray for many things, but do we truly believe that God can do them? What is the level of our faith? "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14, 2010 4th Sunday of Lent

‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’
- Luke 15:29-32

I know in this parable, we are supposed to relate to the Prodigal Son. After all, we are all sinners in need of the Father's forgiveness and mercy. I do realize this. Yet, every time I hear this story, I feel for the Prodigal Son's older brother. I think that his reaction is only normal. Yes, it is rather petty, but any of us in the same situation might very well act the same. That brother is in the story for a reason. He is there for those of us who never had the big conversion experience, who never took a huge detour in life, who have just continued being faithful to the best of our abilities. There is a place for us at the table, too. "All that I have is yours." But we need to remember to rejoice when others do have those big conversion experiences. We need to help welcome them home with open arms.

The Sisters of the Visitation Celebrate 400 Years

The Sisters of the Visitation were the fruit of the spiritual relationship between two great saints – St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. In 1601, Jane was a twenty-eight year old widow and mother of four small children. She took a vow of chastity and began a search for a spiritual director. In 1604, she met St. Francis de Sales. They became lifelong spiritual friends. He shared with her his dream of beginning a religious order for women. It would be different from other orders in that poor health or advanced age would not be a reason to bar women from entrance. They would have no cloister and would instead work in the world, free to undertake both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. St. Francis wanted these women to embody the spirit of Mary at the Visitation (hence the name, the Sisters of the Visitation).

Unfortunately, there was great opposition to women ministering in the world. As a result, Francis and Jane decided to create a cloistered community based on the same ideals. They would have a spirit “of profound humility toward God and of great gentleness toward the neighbor.” In keeping with St. Francis’ instruction to seek God’s will in all things, they would seek only God and strive for union with Him. There would be far less emphasis on the ascetical practices common to religious orders of that day. Rather, they would focus on the inner spiritual life and an emphasis on simplicity and joy in a life lived in community.

In 1610, St. Jane and her two daughters became the first Sisters of the Visitation. The order spread very quickly. By the time of her death in 1641, there were 86 houses. Today, some Visitation communities continue to be cloistered, while others engage in more active ministry in the world. All continue to stay true to the dream of St. Francis and St. Jane.


Fidelity toward God consists in being perfectly resigned to his holy will, in enduring everything that his goodness allows in our lives, and in carrying out all our duties, especially that of prayer, with love and for love. In prayer we must converse very familiarly with our Lord, concerning our little needs, telling him what they are, and remaining submissive to anything he may wish to do with us… We should go to prayer with deep humility and an awareness of our nothingness. We must invoke the help of the Holy Spirit and that of our good angel, and then remain still in God’s presence, full of faith that he is more in us than we are in ourselves. There is no danger if our prayer is without words or reflection because the good success of prayer depends neither on words nor on study. It depends upon the simple raising of our minds to God, and the more simple and stripped of feeling it is, the surer it is. We must never dwell on our sins during prayer. Regarding our offenses, a simple humbling of our soul before God, without a thought of this offense or that, is enough…such thoughts act as distractions. – Saint Jeanne de Chantal, from “Wings to the Lord”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13, 2010 Saturday of Lent

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity
greedy, dishonest, adulterous or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- Luke 18:9-14

What was the Pharisee's sin here? It seems like he was doing everything right. Yes, it was pride. The one that gets us every time. Almost every sin comes back to pride. We think we are better than the other person. Sometimes, we think we know better than God. Humbling ourselves is not easy. "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." We are all sinners. Lent helps us to remember that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Time for Prayer

A Guest Post by Ralph Ferraro

Lent is a time when we turn to God to pray for wisdom, guidance, strength and sometimes a healing for ourselves or others. Below are some findings on prayer which readers may find helpful. When we pray, we must trust in the answers we receive, whether or not they are the answers we expected or desired. We should relax before praying, quiet the mind and body by breathing deeply and making a passive effort to release any tension we may feel. Favorite prayers or mantras can help us to achieve a peaceful and receptive state of mind. When praying, we should realize that a calm, confident, and trusting attitude can influence the effectiveness of our prayers. If we feel an unknown obstacle is preventing our prayers from being answered, we should ask God what must be done to correct the situation. If our prayers have not the sufficient spiritual strength to accomplish their purposes, we can request from the Holy Spirit the knowledge whom to seek for aid in our petition. Visualize the desired outcome of your prayer, picturing it clearly and vividly, utilizing all the senses whenever possible. See the outcome occurring in the present, not in the future. Confident that God has answered your prayers, we give thanks for this blessing.

Only after much discipline can we learn how to pray effectively. Even to say we practice prayer, however, is a misnomer, for according to Scripture and tradition God alone teaches us to pray. When we call on the Lord in prayer, it is really the Lord beckoning us. As Christ taught his disciples, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Calling on God demands a special grace, one which not only draws us nearer to Him but also brings Him closer to us.

Readers wishing an instructional e-book copy of The Quest, a self-help text about health, prayer, and healing can obtain a free download/reading at http://www.italianamericanpress.com/Free_E_books.html.

March 12, 2010 Friday of Lent

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
- Mark 12: 28-31

This is it - How to live a Christian life. Love God and Love Your Neighbor. All the other commandments come down to this. It seems so simple, really, until we actually try to do it. But, we need to keep trying. Spend time with God today. Pray. Read Scripture. Ask for the strength to do His will. Love your neighbor today. Treat those around you with respect and kindness. Put them first. Perform a random act of generosity. One day at a time, we can follow this commandment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March 11, 2010 Thursday of Lent

This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.
- Jeremiah 7:28

This could be the prophet Jeremiah speaking about us today instead of to the Jewish people thousands of years ago. The painful truth is that every generation turns its back on God. Sadly, the words seem to always ring true. What can we do about it? We can start with ourselves. We can turn back to God. We can pray, and fast, and give alms. We can follow the law of the Lord.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Coloring Sheet

It shouldn't have really been as difficult as it was to find a coloring picture for St. Patrick's Day for my CCD class that actually featured St. Patrick (as opposed to leprechauns or pots of gold), but it was. In case you are looking for one as well, here is a link. If you save the image, you can create a coloring sheet with it.

http://www.thecolor.com/Coloring/St%20Patrick.aspx

Book Review on US Catholic

Back in 2008, one of my goals for the year was to get an article in US Catholic. The closest I got was having a letter to the editor published (which, truthfully, I was still kind of excited about). Well, today, I am excited to announce that I have a book review up on their website! They have a new book reviewer program. I'm hoping that I will be able to contribute more reviews in the future, but the one I did on "Full of Grace" is up here:

http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/art-and-reviews/2010/03/full-grace-miraculous-stories-healing-and-conversion-through-marys-i.

March 10, 2010 Wednesday of Lent

However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.
- Deuteronomy 4:9

We have a responsibility to remember and pass on our faith. Where would Christianity be today if it had not been passed on from parent to child, from person to person, throughout the centuries? We all have the responsibility to evangelize, to share our faith. St. Francis taught us to "Preach the Gospel always; When necessary, use words." People can learn so much by our example. Our children and others around us are always watching us. Live the Gospel today. Share your faith with those around you.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

More Reasons to Give Away the Clutter

I'm at bag 20 in my "40 bags in 40 days" project. Just when my enthusiasm was starting to wane a bit, I came across this quote in Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion Through Mary's Intercession.

Papa Jaime works with the poorest of the poor in Columbia. This is his philosophy on "stuff:"

Those things we don't use after one year no longer belong to us and should therefore be given to someone who needs them. . . storerooms with old blankets, damaged pictures, unused bicycles, clothes et cetera, should not even exist. . . In a never-ending urge to accumulate and to possess things, we can create in our homes or storage sites a humid and disagreeable place to deposit everything we don't need, selfishly thinking about the day when it will come in handy. And we so lose the opportunity of helping a human being who could desperately need the things we hoarded away - things slowly becoming useless and deteriorated.

Book Review: "Full of Grace"

Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion Through Mary's Intercession

by Christine Watkins
Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2010

Christine Watkins grew up without religion and without a belief in God. Her parents had told her that Jesus was a fairytale and that when you died you became part of the dirt and helped nourish plants. As an adult, she searched in vain for some shred of hope and direction. She explored all sorts of New Age practices and followed the advice of a psychic that led her nowhere. Meanwhile, her promiscuous lifestyle had ravaged her body, leaving her afflicted with cervical cancer. It was at this point that God intervened in her life. Her friend Joseph reached out to her, helped her to pray, and taught her about God. Jesus even cured her of cancer. She completely reformed her life. She earned Master of Theological Studies and Master of Social Welfare degrees and became a spiritual director, bereavement counselor, inspirational speaker and retreat leader. She also developed a deep relationship with Mary as a result of a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.

In “Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion through Mary’s Intercession,” Watkins shares her own and five other incredible stories of lives transformed by God and the miracle of Mary’s apparitions at Medjugorje. While the apparitions at Medjugorje have not been formally endorsed by the Church (and indeed can’t be until they are completed), they meet all the criteria for an authentic apparition. Many Bishops have visited there and Pope John Paul II stated that “Medjugorje is hope for the entire world. And if I were not Pope, I would have been in Medjugorje a long time ago.”

“Full of Grace” is not for the faint of heart. The subject matter includes children dying in the sewers of Columbia, drug abuse, and strippers. The stories, however, have the power to change lives. They show the ability of God to work in the midst of the most horrible situations. As Watkins states, “In telling their stories, these ordinary people opened the door to their extraordinary lives – to a view more fantastic than fiction – and showed how God lifted them into his loving arms, often out of a living hell, and raised them up to the heights.” Each of the stories is followed by questions and a faith exercise, useful for personal reflection or in a book or prayer group.

March 9, 2010 Tuesday of Lent

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

Forgiveness is hard. We like to be forgiven. Extending it to others is often much more difficult. We feel justified in our anger. We have been wronged. We want someone to make up for it, to pay for what they did. Yet, forgiveness is what God calls us to, over and over again. Do you have someone in your life who you need to forgive? Maybe today you can take the first step in that direction. Pray to have the strength to forgive them.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Looking for Tupperware?

Are you looking for stylish, sturdy, reusable storage containers to help organize your kitchen or your home? Check out Tupperware. Their products also have a lifetime guarantee. My friend Mary Kate is a consultant. A homeschooling mom of 6, triathlete, and a successful business woman - she is a woman I admire. You can find her website and all your favorite Tupperware products at:

http://my.tupperware.com/marykatehenle

March 8, 2010 Monday of Lent

As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
- Psalm 42:2

St. Augustine said that "Our souls are restless until they rest in You." He was so right. This life can bring us so much joy. There are moments of pure bliss - a foretaste of heaven. Yet there is always something missing. Our joy here does not last forever. We always yearn for that reunion with God. Only then will our joy be complete.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Stations of the Cross and Children

I can remember being a child and dreading Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The story of the Lord’s Passion made me sick, literally. I certainly did not want to exclaim “Crucify Him!” with the crowd. I did not want to have any part of having Jesus die on the cross. Yet, I knew it was necessary. In order to get to Easter, you had to get through the painful stuff first. Jesus on the cross is a central part of Christianity. Yes, the Resurrection matters more. Easter is the crucial event – the fact that Jesus conquered death and opened the doors of heaven for us. But, the cross comes first. Good Friday comes first.

I’ve taught my own children about the Stations of the Cross since they were about 3 or 4 years old. They have known that Jesus died for us, for them. Our Church has a huge crucifix hanging over the altar. We have crucifixes in our home. I always felt that they should know who that man is hanging on the cross, what the crucifixion meant. Without understanding that, they can’t truly understand what it means to be Christian.

This year, I am teaching Pre-K through 1st grade religious education. For the season of Lent, I found some coloring sheets of the Stations of the Cross. We are doing three each week. Over the course of Lent, the children will get the full story. It seemed an appropriate thing to do, a simple way to introduce them to the story of Christ dying for us. Several of the children already knew about the Stations and were excited about having the full set of pictures. Therefore, I was very surprised when a mother of a child in my class informed me she was pulling her child from my class because I was teaching about them. She said that she felt that they were too graphic for young children.

Of course, she has the right to pull her child from my class. A parent always has the right to decide about the education of her child. I told her I was sorry that she felt that way, but I did not apologize for teaching this crucial part of our faith. Nor did I change my lesson plan for this week’s class. I discussed the matter with my religious education coordinator. Thankfully, she backed me up and said that what I was doing entirely appropriate. As she stated, “Easter is not about the Easter bunny!” This is so very true.

The Stations of the Cross are not pretty or comforting. They are not meant to be. They tell a horrible story of suffering, of a cruel, undeserved death. If that was all there was to the story, it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate to share with young children. But it is not the end of the story. Easter is coming! Jesus suffered, died and rose for all of us. That includes young children. They deserve to know the truth.

March 7, 2010 3rd Sunday of Lent

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:7-8

It is a difficult concept to understand. Why did Jesus have to die for us? After all, God is God. He could have just chosen to forgive us, to wipe away all of our sin. But no, that isn't how it happened. Instead, He sends His own son, God himself, to die for us. This was no ordinary death, either. This was a criminal's death - a death full of shame and humiliation. Through the Crucifixion, and ultimately, through the Resurrection, God showed that death and sin had been conquered. Evil would not prevail. Jesus loved us that much - that He was willing to die for us, when we were the ones who put Him there in the first place.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

March 6, 2010 Saturday of Lent

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
- Psalm 103:1-2

I admit it, of all the types of prayer, praise is hardest for me. I was not born "a glass half full" kind of person. So, I desperately need these reminders to be thankful for all the wonderful things God has done for me and for all of us. There are so many! If God stopped thinking about me, even for an instant, I would cease to exist. Each breath that I take, each movement, each interaction with creation and other people is a gift from God above! Praise the Lord today for all the great things He has done for us!

Friday, March 05, 2010

All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man That Matters

Bezalel Books' newly released All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters presents a case to the young reader that he is more than the summation of his appearance, accomplishments and social skills. The book's Catholic authors address such all-engrossing teen topics as girls, acne and shaving but place emphasis on the formative subjects of dignity and virtue.

The teachings of the Catholic Church and the life of Christ give the book a foundation on which co-authors Teresa Tomeo and Cheryl Dickow flesh out how spiritual and physical decisions can shape their young readers into men of character. Integrity, personal discipline, vocation and family are given a place in the life of a boy maturing into a man.

Quizzes, games, tips and stories make the book approachable and entertaining for the book's target audience, boys aged 9 to 14. Examples of strong Catholic men in history and modern day give the book both depth and classic appeal.

Men of the Catholic media scene have embraced the book.

Al Kresta, President and CEO of Ave Maria Radio says it "speeds through the basics of the Faith always aware that boys learn to know, love and serve God in their own generation -- not their grandparents'. There are precious few resources out there for young men. All Things Guy is among the best."

Catholic author and clinical psychologist Dr. Ray Guarendi points out that the book "speaks to [kids] where they live too much of the time -- in the pop culture and media world. It says what good, faithful parents want to say, but may not always be able to find the words."

"All Things Guy" is published by Bezalel Books, which can be found online at www.BezalelBooks.com or on Facebook. Bezalel Books is the publisher of the best-selling "All Things Girl" books featured on the 13 part EWTN television series by the same name.

March 5, 2010 Friday of Lent

The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
- Psalm 105:20-21

This passage from Psalm 105 talks about Joseph of the Old Testament. The first reading today (Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a) tells of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. He was their father's favorite and they were jealous. Little did they know the plans that God had for Joseph - that he would one day be their savior - the one able to provide them food when all seemed lost. It is just one more instance of God showing that there is nothing so bad that God can't bring some good out of it! God can do some amazing things! Can you think of a time in your life when all seemed lost, but looking back, you can see God in action? How did God change something bad into something good. Thank God for that gift today.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Latest Painting Effort - Light in the Window



Light in the Window
9" x 12" original watercolor

This was more of an experimental piece for me. I've never tried painting a night scene before. I was working from a photograph by Jordi Cabre of The Captain George Wilber House on Nantucket. The photo was a daytime scene, so I was adjusting it to make it look like the last rays of sun were going down. I learned some things doing this painting, and overall I was pleased with how it came out. Because it was painted from a photograph, I can't sell it, but I would be happy to give it to anyone who might like it. If you are interested, please leave a comment. Thanks!

March 4, 2010 Thursday of Lent

More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds.
- Jeremiah 17:9-10

Sometimes, we think we can judge another person - that we understand their intentions, their motivations, in what they are doing. And perhaps we can, to a degree. Yet, this passage reminds us that each one of us is totally known only to God. As much as we may open ourselves up to another human being, there is always a part that remains hidden. Only God knows the truth of another person's heart, all that they have been through, all that they feel, all that they know, and the reasons why they do what they do. God understands us better than we even understand ourselves. Let us leave God to judge other people's hearts, and ask Him for his mercy and understanding when He judges our own.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

For Western Mass Catholics

Interested in what is going on in the Western Mass Catholic Community? Check out the new blog put out by the Catholic Communications Office of the Diocese of Springfield:

http://wmasscatholicvoices.wordpress.com/

March 3, 2010 Wednesday of Lent

I hear the whispers of the crowd, that frighten me from every side,
as they consult together against me, plotting to take my life.
But my trust is in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
- Psalm 31:14-15

Thankfully, most of us don't have to worry about being literally murdered for our faith. Yet, there are certainly times when each one of us is called upon to stand up for our beliefs when it seems the whole world is against us. It can be hard to stand up against the crowd when we are spouting an unpopular opinion. It can be hard to do what is right, when everyone else (including people close to us) is encouraging us to do something wrong. It is then, most of all, that we need to trust in God. He will give us the courage to defend our faith.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Two takes on change

As an illustration of how different my two children are, as well as how we are just genetically predetermined to look at life in different ways, this was a conversation my children had over breakfast yesterday.

David: "I hate change!"

Isaac: "I like change! Without change, life would be boring."

March 2, 2010 Tuesday of Lent

"The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
- Matthew 23:11-12

This is another one of those Gospel passages that turns the world's way of thinking on its head. We don't like to serve. The general way of thinking is "What can you do for me?" rather than the other way around. Yet, Jesus calls us to serve. Every single day our mission must be to do what we can for those we come in contact with. Whatever we do for the least of our brothers, we do for Jesus. The opportunities for service are many. Will we embrace them?

Monday, March 01, 2010

40 Bags in 40 Days Update

For anyone interested, the current total in my house is 15 bags of stuff donated or thrown away. The house is looking better! Still a long way to go.

March 1, 2010 Monday of Lent

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
- Luke 6:36-38

A Facebook friend posted recently that all religions teach hatred and bigotry. I firmly believe that is not the case, but if that is the impression that we who practice religion actively are giving, then we really do have some work to do. Jesus' message was one of love. He told us that we need to love one another as we love ourselves. This passage from St. Paul is yet another reminder of that. It is not our place to judge and condemn our brothers and sisters. It is our job to love and pray for them and lead by our own example (being always aware that none of us is perfect). How can we show love and mercy and forgiveness today?