Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be

YOU CAN BE EVERYTHING GOD WANTS YOU TO BE
by Max Lucado
Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010

I'm a fan of Max Lucado's books. His writing is straight-forward and uplifting. "You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be" is no exception. The title of this book alters what children are often told, that "you can be anything you want to be." The title puts that statement in it's proper perspective. We were made by God to fulfill a certain purpose or purposes in life. The only way for us to achieve happiness in life is by following His design for our lives. God has given us the gifts we need in order to fulfill that purpose. Lucado offers practical suggestions for how to determine what those gifts and that purpose is.

This is designed as a small gift book. In fact, the sticker on the front states "perfect for the graduate" which it would be, especially a middle school or high school graduate. Buy it for yourself if you are doing some soul-searching and looking for a new direction in life. It is a quick-read with short sections, but it leaves a big impression.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from this book:

"Since you are a God's idea, you are a good idea. What God said about Jeremiah, he said about you: 'Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work' (Jer. 1:5)"

"You are heaven's Halley's comet; we have one shot at seeing you shine. You offer a gift to society that no one else brings. If you don't bring it, it won't be brought."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Prayer of Resurrection to New Life

Gentle Jesus,
in our mourning,
you are our comfort.
Through the sorrows of your Passion
you are our Risen Lord.

We believe that those we love
have gone before us in faith
and now rest in your gentle embrace.

Dear Lord, strengthen our hope,
and dry our every tear
for you shed tears for Lazarus,
then called him to new life.

Amen.

Why Abortion Doesn't Solve Child Rape

This is a well thought out article on a difficult subject: Why Abortion Doesn't Solve Child Rape. It is so sad that things like this happen, and sadly, they happen every day in every country, not only in Mexico.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Read Ch. 10 of "Through the Open Window" on Catholic Mom

Even if you haven't been following the story, Chapter 10 of this book is worth reading all by itself. Read it here: Through the Open Window Ch. 10

Sacred Heart Nightly Devotion

This crossed my desk this week. Sounds like a great idea!


Based on the requests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St Margaret Mary, and on the writings of the world famous Apostle of the Sacred Heart, Fr Mateo Crawley-Boevey SS.CC, the Sacred Heart Nightly Devotion is being re-launched as a means of making reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to win graces and blessings for our families and for society in these perilous times, when the family and Christian values are under attack more than ever.

Night adoration consists of family members giving up one hour a month in between the hours of 9pm and 5am, to make a Holy Hour of Reparation within the home. They simply let us know which hour and which day of the month they wish to make the Holy Hour, and we will send them a reminder via e-mail, to help them keep their commitment.


Find out more at http://www.sacredheartnightlydevotion.com/

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Serenity Prayer

Most of us are very familiar with the first paragraph of this prayer. In fact, I have it on my keychain to serve as a regular reminder. I had never seen the full prayer before last week, and since then I saw it again. Maybe God is trying to tell me something . . . In any event, I will share it with you as well.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Help me to live out one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Help me to accept hardships as the pathway to peace, taking as Your Son did, this world as it is, not as I would have it.

Let me trust that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will. May I be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Why Did God Make Me This Way?"

"God has created me to do Him some definite service." Those words came from Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be beatified this September. He continues "I have my mission. I may not know what it is in this life but I shall be told in the next. . . He has not created me for naught. . . Wherever I am, whatever I do, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me - still God knows what He is about."

Those words apply not only to us, but also to our children. One of the roles of a parent is to help a child discern his or her vocation, not only in terms of marriage or religious life, but job choice as well. I've been reading "You Can Be Everything God Wants You to Be" by Max Lucado. The whole point of the book is that God has given you a specific purpose and the gifts to fulfill that purpose. The key to finding joy in life is to look at your gifts and figure out where you belong. And so, as my children grow up, I try to look at their gifts and steer them in the right direction.

I know that the final decision of what they do with their lives resides with them. They will no doubt take several career paths in their lives. This process is made more complicated by the fact that my older son has some recently diagnosed special needs. We always knew he was "different," that life was a little harder for him than for other kids (and by extension, for us). Yet, the formal diagnosis of that fact has caused me to reevaluate his future. What is possible for him? Where will life take him? He asked me "Why did God make me this way?" It broke my heart. It hurts to know that you are different simply by virtue of your birth. It hurts to see your child hurting. I had no good answer except to tell him that God made him that way for a reason, that he does have a special purpose in this world. While, at this moment, I'm not sure what that is, like Cardinal John Henry Newman, I trust that God knows what he is doing.

God will wipe every tear away

"God will wipe every tear from their eyes" - Revelation 7:17

In Living Faith today, Sr. Joyce Rupp reflected on these words:

Anyone who has a tough life, who suffers from physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain can find solace in a tender God who cares enough to wipe away tears. This tender gesture assures us that no matter how terrible the suffering is, there will come a time, either in this life or the next, when suffering will be no more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Life is Too Short to Waste Time Hating Anyone"

One last post from God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours.

In her essay on "Life is Too Short to Waste Time Hating Anyone", Regina Brett quotes the "Big Book" from Alcoholics Anonymous:

If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don't really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.

Why Minimalism Should Not Be Entered Into Lightly

I am not a minimalist. I can't even pretend to be one. But sometimes, I think that there might be one trapped deep inside me. I'm happiest when I am giving stuff away. I don't need much clothes or shoes or even books. I love books, but I like to take them out from the library. The ones I receive to review, I donate to the library once I am done. Anyway, maybe someday I'll embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

Here is a good article referred to me by a friend's blog: Why Minimalism Should Not Be Entered Into Lightly Much of what he says is true. I discovered that just doing my 40 bags in 40 days project.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm more attractive than a supermodel!

I'm more attractive than a supermodel, at least according to the following article in Our Sunday Visitor Uncovering a String of Lies, which states that "Men are more attracted to women who have natural fertility cycles. One study showed that they find average-looking women who are fertile more attractive than supermodels."

Of course, the point of that article is not to help women celebrate their innate attractiveness (although we should), but rather to point out all the lies women have been told about artificial contraception. The pill is 50 years old this year and Our Sunday Visitor has compiled a lengthy look at its history and ramifications for women and society. It's worth the time.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Congrats to "Catholic Mom's" Lisa Hendey!

Lisa's book The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul (which I was honored to be a small contributor for) is at #10 on the Catholic paperback's best seller list: http://www.catholic.org/ae/books/review.php?id=36241! Woo-hoo! Congratulations, Lisa!

Also, Mother's Day is fast approaching. This book would make a perfect gift for the Catholic mothers in your life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours"

God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours
by Regina Brett
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010

Regina Brett long-believed that "at the moment she was born, God must have blinked. he missed the occasion and never knew she had arrived." The fifth of eleven children, she got lost in the mix. She was "a lost soul who drank too much at 16, an unwed mother at 21, a college graduate at 30, a single mother for 18 years, and finally, a wife at 40, married to a man who treated me like a queen." Then, at 41, she got breast cancer. It took two years for her to recover. At age 45, Brett wrote down 45 lessons life had taught her. At age 50, she added five more. Her newspaper, "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland, ran the column. People all over the country began to forward the column. At some point in time, you have probably read these lessons and nodded knowingly.

Consider the book version of "50 Life Lessons" the expanded version of that well-traveled list. Brett writes from a place of faith. She sees God at work in her own life and the lives of others. In essays such as "Life Isn't Fair, but It's Still Good," "Life is Too Short to Waste Time Hating Anyone," "It's Okay to Get Angry with God. He Can Take It," and "Always Choose Life," Brett shares her wisdom and outlook on life. I dare anyone to read this book and keep dry eyes. These essays will speak to your heart and make you rethink your life. This is one of those books, like the original column, that will be shared among friends. A portion of the royalties of this book will support The Gathering Place which offers free services for anyone touched by cancer.

Ten Points on Helping to Prevent Child Abuse

One of the hats I wear in life is as the Child Advocate for my parish. In my diocese, every parish is expected to have one, a person whose role it is to make sure all volunteers and employees complete CORI checks and receive training on helping to recognize and prevent child abuse.

In that vein, I am sharing the USCCB article on child sexual abuse:

The Catholic bishops’ expert on preventing clergy abuse of minors, Teresa Kettelkamp, offered ten tips for child safely to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month.

During April, child protection staff in dioceses nationwide reexamine and publicize efforts for child protection. This has been a key effort of the church since 2002, when the U.S. bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, in response to clergy sexual abuse of children.

Kettelkamp, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat for Children and Young People, developed the list after reviewing what the Catholic Church has learned in facing the clergy sexual abuse problem. The ten points follow.

Sexual molestation is about the victim. Many people are affected when a priest abuses a minor, but the individual most impacted is the victim who has suffered a violation of trust that can affect his or her entire life. The abuser, the family of the abused, and the parish community are all affected by this sin and crime, but the primary person of concern must be the victim.

No one has the right to have access to children. If people wish to volunteer for the church, for example, in a parish or school, they must follow diocesan guidelines on background checks, safe environment training, policies and procedures, and codes of conduct. No one, no matter who they are, has an automatic right to be around children or young people who are in the care of the church without proper screening and without following the rules.

Common sense is not all that common. It is naive to presume that people automatically know boundaries so organizations and families have to spell them out. For example, no youth minister, cleric or other adult leader should be in a child’s bedroom, alone with the child.

Child sexual abuse can be prevented. Awareness that child sexual abuse exists and can exist anywhere is a start. It is then critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm. These barriers come in the form of protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs.

The residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime. Those who have been abused seldom “just get over it.” The sense of violation goes deep into a person’s psyche and feelings of anger, shame, hurt and betrayal can build long after the abuse has taken place. Some have even described the feeling as if it has “scarred their soul.”

Feeling heard leads toward healing. Relief from hurt and anger often comes when one feels heard, when one’s pain and concerns are taken seriously, and a victim/survivor’s appropriate sense of rage and indignation are acknowledged. Not being acknowledged contributes to a victim’s sense of being invisible, unimportant and unworthy; they are in some way “revictimized.”

You cannot always predict who will be an abuser.
Experience shows that most abuse is at the hands of someone who has gained the trust of a victim/survivor and his/her family. Most abuse also occurs in the family setting. Sometimes the “nicest person in the world” is an abuser, and this “niceness” enables a false sense of trust to be created between abuser and abused.

There are behavioral warning signs of child abusers.
Training and education help adults recognize grooming techniques that are precursors to abuse. Some abusers isolate a potential victim by giving him or her undue attention or lavish gifts. Another common grooming technique is to allow young people to participate in activities which their parents or guardians would not approve, such as watching pornography, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and excessive touching, which includes wrestling and tickling. It is also critical to be wary of age-inappropriate relationships, seen, for example, in the adult who is more comfortable with children than fellow adults. Parishes can set up rules to guide interaction between adults and children.

People can be taught to identify grooming behavior – which are the actions which abusers take to project the image that they are kind, generous, caring people, while their intent is to lure a minor into an inappropriate relationship. An abuser may develop a relationship with the family to increase his credibility. Abusers might show attention to the child by talking to him/her, being friendly, sharing alcohol with a minor and giving the child “status” by insinuating that the child is their favorite or “special person.” Offenders can be patient and may “groom” their victim, his or her family, or community for years.

Background checks work. Background checks in churches, schools and other organizations keep predators away from children both because they scare off some predators and because they uncover past actions which should ban an adult from working or volunteering with children. If an adult has had difficulty with some boundaries that society sets, such as not driving while intoxicated or not disturbing the public peace, he or she may have difficulties with other boundaries, such as not hurting a child. Never forget that offenders lie.


This article can be found on the USCCB site here: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2010/10-066.shtml

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Journaling is Good for the Soul

This is the 1500th blog post on this blog. Whether you have read one or all of them, I thank you for being part of my life!


I am a writer by nature. Words have always been my friends. From my earliest years, I penned stories and poems. I started keeping a journal the week I turned fifteen, primarily because I wanted to remember what it felt like to be a teenager. Even at that young age, I realized that I didn’t have a good memory and otherwise I would forget. Over twenty years later, I’m still journaling. Through good times and bad, those pages serve as a testament to my life and times here on Earth. Sometimes, I flip back through some of the old books and it brings me right back to a moment in time. I can still feel the emotions, the uncertainty, the prayers and dreams that lived with me at that stage of life.

In recent years, I have added blogging to my journaling life. Blog posts are by nature public. There are many things in my written journal which I would never put on my blog and vice versa. I use my blog as a record of my spiritual searching in the hopes of helping others. I also write about the books I read. When I started blogging back in 2006 I wasn’t sure if I would find enough to write about on the regular basis that commitment to a blog seemed to require. Yet, this column will be posted as the 1500th post on my blog! God helped me find something to say.

Regardless of your stage in life, journaling can offer a window into your soul. Whether it is short-term to work through a given problem, or long-term to record a life, putting things in writing can offer a clarity that simply thinking over a problem in one’s head doesn’t always provide. I understand that not everyone enjoys writing the way I do, yet this need not be a deterrent. There are no grammar or spelling rules in keeping a journal. One can use phrases or single words to record one’s emotions. Drawing, using photographs, cutting out words and pictures from magazines and pasting them into a book, recording a tape or CD of thoughts are all equally effective.

How can journaling help your soul? I have found that it has enabled me to see God working in my life. We have the tendency to view life only from the present moment. Our perspective is limited. We forget the pain and joy that came before. We forget the challenges we have overcome and the great gifts God gave us. We forget the things that literally brought us to our knees in prayer and the high points that had us rejoicing. A journal freezes those moments for posterity. We can look back at problems that truly seemed insurmountable and see how God worked it out for us. Remembering how God has been there for us in the past can help us have faith that God will continue to be there in the future.

Each of us gets a one-way trip through life. Journaling provides a way to preserve some memory of it, for ourselves, and possibly, for future generations. I have seen the word “history” written as HIStory to show that it is the story of God acting in the world. Our individual stories are part of God’s story. In recording them, we help to reveal and recall God’s action in our lives.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jesus Wept

Yesterday, I was in a bad place. Just one of those days when all sorts of emotions were simmering just below the surface for no apparent reason. I was on the verge of tears most of the day and trying to get through life normally, pretending I wasn't. (Yes, today was better.)


Interestingly enough, I have been reading God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours the past few days (review to come soon). In it, Regina Brett writes:

One of my favorite verses in the Christian Bible is the shortest one of all: "Jesus wept." He showed his humanity. He shed messy, unmanly tears. He didn't do it in private. He did it in front of his friends and followers. In front of a crowd.

We need to stop hiding our tears and actually share them. It takes a strong person to cry. It takes a stronger person to let others see those tears. We need to be tough enough to be tender, no matter who is watching.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Review: "The Perfect Game"


Review of “The Perfect Game”
Reviewed by Leticia Velasquez
http://catholicmediareview.blogspot.com

When is the last time you saw a great baseball movie; the kind which inspires you to go outside and play ball? How about a rags-to-riches story about the underdogs who made good despite bigotry, poverty, and family drama? When is the last time you saw a film which made your heart swell with pride about being a Latino or belonging to the Catholic Church? Would you believe there is a film out there like this? And that this film stars Cheech Marin, as Padre Esteban, a devout, old-fashioned priest?” This would take a miracle”, you say, well, in this film, Padre Esteban says “Sometimes God gives us the ability to make them.”

“The Perfect Game” is all about miracles, it is based the true story of the 1957 Little League World Series in which a rag-tag group of poor Mexican boys from the metal forge town of Monterrey cut a swathe of victory through the United States, to the admiration of American children and the chagrin of racists. Their meteoric rise to fame captured the attention of America and will capture your heart.

How did boys who didn’t speak English, had no field or fancy equipment, and weighed 50 pounds less on average than their opponents win so many games? The diminutive athletes have two secret weapons, their coach Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.)A former employee of the St Louis Cardinals gave them each a role model in a Major League Baseball star, and their pastor, gave them his blessing. With the support of these men, hard work and heartfelt faith, the Monterrey Industrials went out to make history. The story follows the tight knit band of amigos from their simple homes in Mexico all the way to the Little League championship in Williamsport, PA. But their unlikely championship does more than impress the hometown folks, they managed to change hearts and inspire those they met. In Mexico, they bravely faced the scorn of the wealthy Mexico City team, yet the boys were not prepared for the harsh realities of segregation in the South of the 1950’s. Separate bathrooms were new to them, and it angered the boys when one of the American team members ate alone at the diner, because he was black. Soon the entire Monterrey team had moved over to share a meal with him. They forged a kinship with a black Protestant Pastor Clarence (John Cothran Jr) who pinch hit as team chaplain for Padre Esteban and they forged the common bond as underdogs who refuse to let hatred win.

The unique and memorable characters of the teammates are what make the film a winner. Jake T Austin has an incredible range of emotions as Angel Macias, the pitcher who strove to pitch a perfect game. Moises Arias, is adorable as Mario, the shortest teammate famous for his charm with the ladies. The feisty yet humble personalities of the little boys captured the hearts of the teenage audience who viewed the film with me. They recognized the actors from Disney Channel, and were charmed by their characters in the film, cheering them on as they wowed America onscreen.

When Cheech Marin was asked by Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends how it was that he played the role of Padre Esteban so convincingly, he recalled his childhood in the Church where he was an altar boy. “I imitated the priest”, he said. In his childhood, Cheech was also a big fan of the Monterrey Industrials; “I had a lot in common with them” he said. Perhaps that’s why he successfully embodied the Padre whose heartfelt prayer for a means of giving the boys hope began the story. Soon after his prayer, a baseball saying “Property of St Louis” was found by Angel Macias, next to an abandoned church, and the boys took it as a sign from God that they were meant to play baseball. They convinced Cesar to be their coach, cleared the abandoned church plaza for a field, and began to play ball. Soon the relationship between the team and down-on-his-luck Cesar took on the warmth of a friendship as the boys assisted his budding romance with the beautiful Maria (Patricia Manterola). Cesar, an unkempt drunk, finds himself spellbound in the presence of a Maria as the two meet at the market. The boys convince him that she can be found at Sunday Mass, where Cesar stands out like a sore thumb. This impresses Maria who invites him to dinner with her family. The involvement of the entire team in Maria and Cesar’s romance is part of the film’s charm, making it an excellent date flick.

The theme of father son relationship is central to the film, where the tension is thick between pitcher Angel Macias and his father, Umberto (Carlos Gomez). Umberto is angrily mourning the loss of Angel’s big brother Pedro. Angel somehow manages to excel as a pitcher, despite his father’s insistence that he will never fill Pedro’s shoes, and his utter lack of interest in his playing. Yet, in the end, the film underscores the crucial importance of a father’s approval to a growing son.

The authentically Mexican flair of the soundtrack and unique cinematography, blending newsreel footage of the actual team and the film itself, enhance the feeling of being witness to history.

This is a film which will be soon added to the family collection, to be played and replayed, along with director William Dear’s other baseball classic, “Angels in the Outfield”. Its not often that at film comes along which baseball is merely a vehicle to inspire hope and not an end in itself. The boy’s faith, dogged perseverance and winning personalities will make you laugh, cry and cheer for them. “The Perfect Game” is an example of what sports can do for a group of children with a good adult role model to guide them.

No nudity (little boys in underwear, a verbal reference to jock straps), no sexual innuendos, an appropriately negative portrayal of drunkenness and a scene where stealing is correctly called ‘sinful’ make this film an outstanding family film, suitable for all ages. I give this film my highest recommendation. If you only go to see one film this year, go see “The Perfect Game”.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tree Paintings for Sale

Yes, I am back to painting trees. I really find their shapes very inspiring. I hope that you enjoy these paintings, and if you like them, please consider purchasing one or both. Bids on them start at only $9.99. Thanks!




The branches of this tree reach out in all directions, ready to dance in the wind.

9" x 12" Original Watercolor

Buy "Reaching Out" on Ebay





The two portions of the trunk of this tree wrap themselves around each other, the branches intertwined and reaching out. This tree represents all that love should be.

9" x 12" Original Watercolor

Buy "The Lovers' Tree" on Ebay

Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Prayer of Hope to St. Jude

God of Hope, come to me. Help me to know that your hope is alive in me as I offer kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness to others. I seek the inner calm that comes from trusting in you. Give me the courage to be aware of your healing presence. May I trust that St. Jude walks with me in times of trouble, and intercedes on my behalf. St. Jude, fill my heart with hope.

Hope

Hope means to keep living amid desperation . . .
Hope is knowing that there is love.
It is trust in tomorrow.
It is falling asleep
and waking again.
In the eyes of another
it is to see that he understands you . . .
As long as there is still hope
there will also be prayer. . .
And God will be holding you
in His hands.


- Henri Nouwen

Prayer for Catechists when the Year is Almost Over

My friend Heidi has posted about finishing up her Religious Education year. You can read about it here: http://extraordinarymomsnetwork.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/prayer-for-catechists-when-the-year-is-almost-over/ There is a great end of the year prayer.

My own CCD year is almost done. One more class on the 25th and that is really just a big party with all the grades and parents invited so that one shouldn't be too stressful. To say it has been a challenging year would be a huge understatement. And yet, I survived (and the kids did, too!). I hope that they came away learning something. And while I am recommitting myself to the fact that I never, ever, want to teach CCD again, I also know that there was a reason for this whole experience. I brought the best I had to it and I think I have come out a bit stronger for the journey. On to the next adventure! (and no, I'm not sure what that is at the moment, but I am certain God has something in store for me!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: The Shroud Codex

The Shroud Codex

by Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010

Pope John-Paul Peter I has a serious headache. Fr. Paul Bartholomew, a parish priest in New York City, has just resumed his duties after spending three years recovering from a near-fatal accident. Since his return, Bartholomew claims to talk to Jesus directly and has quickly gained a reputation for being able to heal people in the confessional. He has also started to look very much like the image of the man in the famous Shroud of Turin. While celebrating mass one day, Bartholomew begins screaming in agony and blood starts pouring from his wrists, until he collapses on the church floor in front of the altar. Those in the pews immediately start taking photos and videos which quickly spread via the internet. The Pontiff is concerned both for the health of this priest as well as for the health of the Church. He directs the Archbishop of New York to bring in Dr. Stephen Castle, a well-known surgeon and psychiatrist, to take the case. Perhaps most importantly, Castle is an atheist, someone certain not to look for a religious explanation.

In “The Shroud Codex,” New York Times bestselling author Jerome Corsi, Ph.D. has woven an incredible tale of science and faith. This is a “DaVinci Code” for believers. It is important to note that this is a novel, but it is based heavily on solid research. Corsi does provide his sources at the end of the book for those who wish to study further. The book features many photographs of the Shroud of Turin taken in 1978 by Barrie Schwortz who edits the Shroud.com website.

Dr. Castle plays the devil’s advocate in this book, the scientific mind always searching for the logical explanation. As Fr. Bartholomew continues to suffer injuries consistent with the man on the Shroud, a team of experts struggles to make sense of it all. Not only are they attempting to discover what is causing the wounds, they are also attempting to make sense of all the evidence surrounding the Shroud. Is it actually the burial cloth of Jesus Christ or a brilliant medieval forgery? Does it, as Fr. Bartholomew maintains, hold a great secret for humanity? Will the whole experience cause Dr. Castle to question his atheistic beliefs?

“The Shroud Codex” has the potential to raise many questions and will no doubt encourage debate about the famous Shroud and what it means. The publication of this book coincides with the first public display of The Shroud of Turin in 12 years. For anyone interested in the Shroud, the mystery of the Resurrection, or simply looking for a good scientific mystery, “The Shroud Codex” is the must-read novel of 2010.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coping with Regret

Regret is one of those things that seem to plague everyone’s life in one way or another. None of us is perfect. We have all screwed up at one point or another. Merriam-Webster defines “regret” in two ways. The first is “to mourn the loss or death of; to miss very much.” The second is “to be very sorry for .” When we think of regret, we probably identify more with the second definition. We look back at our lives and see the errors in judgment. In some cases, we knew we were making a wrong decision at the time and did it anyway. In others, we truly did make the best decision we could at the time; yet, hindsight has proven that we should have taken a different path. Yet, the first definition is also relevant. When we regret our past, we are also in mourning. We miss the road not taken, the chance to have made our lives better.

Scripture makes clear that we are not to spend our time looking behind us. Phillipians 3:13-14 states that “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” What matters in the final analysis where we end up; not the detours we took along the way. We need to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize.

None of us can change one moment of our past. Yet, mourning that past can waste our present moment. We do have to live with the consequences of our past actions, and sometimes those consequences can seem very harsh. The only thing we can do, however, is try to make the best decisions we can in this instant. We can learn from our past errors. We also need to pray for God’s guidance and help. If we still feel remorse for past sins, we need to ask for God’s forgiveness. If we have done so, we need to then trust that we are forgiven. To believe that God can’t forgive us, that our sin is too great, is not to trust in God’s mercy and love. We need to also forgive ourselves and anyone else who may have contributed to our bad decisions. None of this is easy. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we have to do in life, but it is necessary. With God’s help, we need to let go of our hurts and our anger. Only then are we truly free to move forward.

One other important thing to remember is that there is nothing so bad that God can’t bring some good out of it. God always has a plan B. To stay mired in our regret is to not believe that God is all-powerful and that He wants what is best for us. It may take a different shape than what was originally intended, but there is good in our future. We just need to be open to it. When we are stuck in our past, we can’t be fully open to the blessings God has in store for us. We need to trust in God.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday


Tomorrow (April 11th) is Divine Mercy Sunday. In honor of that, I am reprinting the Divine Mercy Chaplet for anyone who might not be familiar with it or simply to encourage others to pray it. It is a prayer I say every day. For anyone interested in learning more about Divine Mercy, I recommend Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul or Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI.

This chaplet may be prayed using a set of rosary beads or a chaplet to keep track of the prayers.
If neither is available, you can keep track on your fingers.

1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.

Sign of the Cross:
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Apostles Creed
believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.

2. Say once:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

3. Say 10 times:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

(Repeat step 2 and 3 five times).

4. Conclude with (three times):

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

History of the Chaplet

In 1933, God gave Sister (now Saint) Faustina a striking vision of His Mercy, Sister tells us:

"I saw a great light, with God the Father in the midst of it. Between this light and the earth I saw Jesus nailed to the Cross and in such a way that God, wanting to look upon the earth, had to look through Our Lord's wounds and I understood that God blessed the earth for the sake of Jesus."

Of another vision on Sept. 13, 1935, she writes:
"I saw an Angel, the executor of God's wrath... about to strike the earth...I began to beg God earnestly for the world with words which I heard interiorly. As I prayed in this way, I saw the Angel's helplessness, and he could not carry out the just punishment...."

The following day an inner voice taught her to say this prayer on ordinary rosary beads.

Jesus said later to Sister Faustina:

"Say unceasingly this chaplet that I have taught you. Anyone who says it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as the last hope. Even the most hardened sinner, if he recites this Chaplet even once, will receive grace from My Infinite Mercy. I want the whole world to know My Infinite Mercy. I want to give unimaginable graces to those who trust in My Mercy...."

"....When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just judge but as the Merciful Savior".

Friday, April 09, 2010

Catholic Sisters Evangelizing Door to Door

Check out this article on some Mexican sisters doing some great work in my home diocese of Springfield, MA: Mexican sisters bring evangelizing mission to local streets

Need Prayers?

The Marian Center in Stockbridge, MA offers a prayer line for your intentions.

Call: 1-800-804-3823
Fax: 1-413-298-3583
E-Mail: prayerline@marian.org

or write:

Association of Marian Helpers
c/o Ministry of Prayer
Stockbridge, MA 01263

More on "Letters to God"

To find out more about "Letters to God", check out this review on Catholic Media Review: http://catholicmediareview.blogspot.com/2010/04/review-of-letters-to-god.html and this accompanying interview with the director: http://catholicmediareview.blogspot.com/2010/04/interview-with-director-of-letters-to.html

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Graceful Dying

Cheryl Dickow has shared a beautiful story on Catholic Exchange today about dying gracefully, in a way that the secular world would probably reject: Graceful Dying: The Gift of Allowing Others to Care for You. Death doesn't necessarily scare me. I know it is part of life and necessary to gain entrance to whatever lies beyond. Yet, I do fear all that may come before. I am a very self-reliant, private person. The idea that I may face long-term incapacitation before God finally calls me home is very scary. I don't think anyone wants to have to face the reality that others might need to care for them.

I try not to worry about it. After all, it is one of those things that I can't do anything about. I hope if the day comes, I can realize that I am still fulfilling God's purpose for me, that perhaps I am there to help someone else on their spiritual journey, while my own suffering helps me with my own.

"Letters to God" looks like a good movie

Opening April 9th, "Letters to God" looks like a really intriguing movie. Find out more here: Who answers "Letters to God?" and at www.letterstogodthemovie.com

Book Review: The Way to Stillness

The Way to Stillness
by Anne Alexander Vincent
& Gayle Alexander
Nashville, TN: Cottage in the Woods, 2010

"The Way to Stillness: Powerful Tools for Those in Helping Professions" is one of those beautiful little books with the capacity to make a big impact. Gayle Alexander and her daughter Anne Alexander Vincent have worked as counselors for many years. This book is geared for those who meet with others in a therapeutic relationship, but it has much to offer anyone interested in having more love-filled relationships. The core of the Alexanders' thought is the idea of "The Love Motif." "The Love Motif is offering not only our best and healthiest self to another, but also allowing them the freedom to be who they are without limit or condition. The power of the Love Motif will unlock the human mind and spirit and enable people to transcend their circumstances."

Throughout this book, there is an emphasis on centering oneself so that one can be fully present to those we are in relationship with. There is also a discussion of the different types of love, with a main emphasis on the difference between "gift love" and "need love." "Gift love," in which one can "be fully present to another with the totality of [one's] life. It's about what we can give, regardless of what may or may not be received." Such love can only be achieved by alignment with divine will.

"The Way to Stillness" features beautiful black and white photographs to complement the text. It is a good book to just pick a page and reflect on what is written there. There is much food for thought in its pages.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Catholic Priest Appreciation Day

Tomorrow (April 8th) is Catholic Priest Appreciation Day. Priests and Bishops have come under a lot of fire in recent years. However, there are many good men out there who work tirelessly to be a shepherd to the Catholic people. Take the time to say "Thank you" to your favorite priest (and maybe to some of the ones who aggravate you as well!).

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Quote of the Day

I believe in the sun,
Even when it is not shining.
I believe in Love,
Even when I feel it not.
I believe in God,
Even when he is silent.


Words found written on the walls of a cellar
in Cologne, Germany after WWII

Create a Rosary Garden

Here in New England, the weather has been unseasonably warm. It has many people's thoughts turning to their gardens. Today I finished reading Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them by Gail Faith Edwards. In it she discusses all 20 mysteries of the rosary and what plants are associated with each of them. It provides a fascinating introduction to the meanings of some of these plants, as well as medicinal uses attributed to them. For someone who wanted to create a rosary garden, this book would be very valuable.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Letting Go in Homeschooling

As I posted recently, I recently read Homeschooling: A Family's Journey. In it, they discuss how homeschoolers usually start off fairly structured and then loosen up as time goes on. I know I am somewhat more flexible than I was last year (my first year homeschooling). But, we are fairly structured. We do certain subjects each day. If some scheduling conflict or crisis arises, we make adjustments, but most of the time, we stick to the schedule. We use textbooks and workbooks.

I read about unschooling, where people totally chuck the curriculum and just follow where life leads. I admire people who can live like that. I know that there is much to be learned outside of the traditional "school" subjects. I like to think that we are unschooling in all those hours we are together and not doing our formal lessons. We unschool when we read books for pleasure and play games together and cook together. I think that there is tremendous value in having a great deal of unstructured free time to dream and experiment and play. Yet, would my children ever have any burning desire to learn how to spell or the parts of speech of a sentence or their multiplication tables if I didn't make them do it? Maybe, but I'm not really willing to let go completely and trust that it will happen. That just isn't in my nature.

Yet, homeschooling does allow a great deal of flexibility and I do try to take advantage of that. My older son really struggles with anything writing related. We do a little writing every day, but most of his lessons are done orally. He is still learning the material, but it sure eliminates a great deal of the stress. Today, we reached a point in math where I had to make the decision to dump the curriculum for a while. His 3rd grade math book has several chapters on multiplication and division located in the middle of the book. To do these, you really need to learn your multiplication tables. For a child who has great difficulty memorizing, this is no small task. So, we skipped those chapters and moved on to fractions and decimals and geometry while we continued to work on multiplication facts. We have completed all those sections and he still doesn't have those math facts down. There was nothing else we could do in the book. So, I have chucked the book for the time being. His new math lesson every day is to play multiplication games on the computer for 20 minutes. I'm hoping beyond hope that this will help him learn them in a way simply practicing the facts has not.

Part of me is freaking out about this decision. I like to stay on the well-trod path. Yet, I know it is the right thing to do. He can't move on without knowing those facts. I'm lucky to be homeschooling where I can make the adjustments necessary to enable both of my children to learn at their own pace in the way that suits them best. The important thing is that they learn, not what curriculum we use to get there.

Book Review: Homeschooling

Homeschooling: A Family's Journey

by Gregory and Martine Millman
New York: Penguin Group, 2008

Gregory and Martine Millman are a Catholic family midway through their homeschooling journey. They have three grown daughters in college and three still being homeschooled. In Homeschooling: A Family's Journey they share their story of their homeschooling journey, from their reasons to homeschool to their college searches. They have much wisdom to offer. They have fully embraced their lifestyle, taking advantage of a more relaxed schedule to travel and experience all life has to offer.

The Millmans cover many topics related to homeschooling, including taking part in homeschooling groups, socialization, choosing curriculum, and using travel as part of homeschooling. For those considering homeschooling, they have much to offer although I would caution new homeschoolers not to be overwhelmed by their example. They have done some amazing things, yet not every homeschooling family needs to do all those things to be successful. For those already in the homeschooling trenches, the most valuable part of this book is the chapter on getting ready for college and searching for the right one. They have so much great information to share.

This book is well-worth reading by anyone interested in or taking part in homeschooling.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

40 Days Later

At the start of Lent, I wrote how much I needed it this year. I needed that special time to fast and sacrifice and focus on my relationship with God. I also took on a challenge with my home – to get 40 bags worth of stuff out of my house. While many around me questioned whether I could accomplish that goal, I persevered. I marshaled the help of my family members. One item at a time, one bag at a time, four trips to my local donation center later, the mission was completed Holy Saturday. I would like to say that my house is now spotless, that we are free of clutter and now living a minimalist lifestyle. The sad reality is that my house is still rather cluttered. In fact, someone walking into it probably wouldn’t notice much difference at all. There are still a couple things I need to get rid of, but that won’t do much for the clutter, either.

Most of the stuff I got rid of was stuff that was hidden away. There were so many things in closets and cabinets and that catch-all of places, my basement. Going through it all was like doing a review of my life. I had done a large purge five years ago when I moved, but in some ways, this one was more thorough. I was forced to truly evaluate each item, whether it still had any value to me, if it could serve someone else better, or if I just needed to throw it in the recycling bin (as much as I might like to think otherwise, there is no one on earth that needs to read papers I wrote in college.) I wondered why I was so determined to do this now. Why was this the right time? I’m still not sure. It did help with one thing. When my basement flooded Holy Thursday morning thanks to all the rain my corner of the world received recently, it didn’t do hardly any damage. Nothing was ruined because that area of my basement was already cleaned out! That was a blessing in and of itself. Was there some greater purpose? That I don’t know.

Yet, I can’t help but think that this cleaning project was a metaphor for my soul. In Lent, I got rid of some major things. I did a lot of soul cleaning and refocusing my priorities. I went to confession twice. I knelt down in prayer and begged for direction. I would like to say all the clutter is gone, that my soul is now a prime example of cleanliness. It’s not. Forty days later and much like my house, I’m still a mess. I’m a little better for the effort. Perhaps some of the things that were hidden in the deep recesses have been cleared out. Thirty-five years of life have led to a lot of build-up. There are all those things that I have just buried away, perhaps waiting for a better time to deal with them, or I simply wasn’t ready to let go. Some things I’m still holding onto. Just as with my physical dwelling, the process is far from complete.

So, here I am, 40 days later. Easter was meaningful this year, much more so than in some other years. Every year Lent brings its own unique experience. Maybe I was looking for too much, both with my house and my soul. After all, 40 days is only 40 days. Yet, I made some progress. I need to be thankful for that and know that this is something I can keep working on.

Practicing the Rosary

I'm currently reading Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them by Gail Faith Edwards. In it, I came across this great quote:

An important thing to know about the rosary is that you need to develop a practice. Saying the rosary is participatory. It is powerful. And its fruits are cumulative. In many ways developing a rosary practice is about stepping into a community of sacred space held by millions of other hearts who are also praying the rosary, and all those who have prayed the rosary throughout time. This sacred circle gets bigger and gains more momentum with every rosary recitation. One day our prayers will reach a critical mass and suddenly everything will shift. We will have gained world peace. Mary says we can do it.

April 4, 2010 Easter Sunday

He is Risen! Alleluia!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

April 3, 2010 Holy Saturday

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
“Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Luke 24:1-5



Holy Saturday is spent in the tomb. It is the time in between. The whole world is waiting. And then the light breaks into the darkness. The tomb is opened. Christ is Risen, and the whole world rejoices!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April 1, 2010 Holy Thursday

"If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
- John 13:14-15

This image is a powerful one, the son of God bending low to wash the feet of those who followed him. It is an intimate act, a humbling act. He offers an example for us - we are to serve one another. Dear Lord, help us to follow your example and to serve each other in all ways.