Monday, May 31, 2010

The Feast of the Visitation


Here in the U.S., today is Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who have died, but especially those who have died in service to our country.

For the Church, today is also the feast of the Visitation. So, I offer today's Gospel reading for your reflection:

Mary set out

and traveled to the hill country in haste

to a town of Judah,

where she entered the house of Zechariah

and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,

the infant leaped in her womb,

and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,

cried out in a loud voice and said,

“Most blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

And how does this happen to me,

that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,

the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”



And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.



He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.”



Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
Luke 1:39-56

Sunday, May 30, 2010

God Works in Us One Day at a Time

In Trinity Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his apostles, “I still have many things to say to you, but they would be too much for you to bear now. However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth.” (John 16:12-13) Jesus was speaking of the ongoing revelation of truth about God. In reflecting upon this passage, I was struck by how it can just as easily apply to how God works in each of our lives.

Unlike some people, I don’t look back at childhood as an idyllic time. I know that going through it was hard. Yes, in retrospect, some of the problems seem small, but they weren’t small at the time. I know that today, despite my best efforts, my children have difficulties that seem huge to them. Being three or five or seven or nine or fifteen is every bit as difficult as being in one’s twenties or thirties. Yes, the problems change, but the struggle remains. We always need God’s help to get through.

When I was very young, I foolishly thought being an adult meant life got easier! While in some ways it did, in most cases the challenges only increased. Now, I realize that as long as I live on this earth, the problems and struggles will continue. I look at people in their sixties and seventies and beyond and see that they, too, still face adversity. It is not only the hardship of growing old physically. They still must deal with the difficulties of relationships and spiritual trials. Life really doesn’t get any easier. If anything, it gets harder.

This is where Jesus’ words ring so true. “I still have many things to say to you, but they would be too much for you to bear now.” None of us can bear the truth of our futures all at once. What if you were a child of ten, just beginning to dream of your life as an adult, and you saw your future and realized that very few of those dreams would come true? Many other good things might happen to you in your life, but you wouldn’t have the perspective to appreciate that fact. You would only experience the pain of failed expectations. Or if on the day one became engaged to be married, one saw all the difficulties one would face in the course of married life? I doubt many people would go through with the ceremony! By the same token, imagine if the day you became pregnant, that whole child’s life was played out for you. All the challenges of being a parent would be laid out all at once. It would indeed be far too much to bear.

Jesus knows this. Life is meant to be lived one day at a time, one lesson at a time, one struggle at a time. The joys are meant to balance out the sorrows. At times, we may be stretched to the very limits of our resources. It may all seem like too much to bear, but Jesus knows what burdens we can handle with His help. Every difficulty serves a purpose. Each step in life leads to the next. Each challenge teaches us more that will help us when the next test comes. Through it all, Jesus is with us, and He sends us his Holy Spirit to guide us. We come closer to the truth of life and the knowledge of God working in our lives one step at a time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review: "The Library: An Illustrated History"

The Library: An Illustrated History
by Stuart A.P. Murray
New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009

"The Library: An Illustrated History" is a must-read for anyone who loves books or libraries. Stuart A.P. Murphy, an author and editor for nearly forty years, takes on the challenging task of presenting the history of libraries around the world and succeeds admirably. While some have tolled the death knell for libraries with the advent of the internet and information at the touch of a button, the reverse is actually true. Both library attendance and circulation are up in recent years. Libraries are more relevant and important than ever.

Murphy traces the history of libraries from the most ancient (the famous great library in Alexandria was actually considered a "museum," technically "a place for the Muses, a place of culture. It was the Romans who coined the term "librarii" and opened them up to the general public), through the dark days of the middle ages where monks worked to preserve culture, to the advent of movable type in Asia, through the proliferation of Universities and their corresponding libraries in the late middle ages, the spread of learning during the days of the Renaissance and Reformation, to the libraries of England in the seventeenth century where books were often chained so they couldn't be stolen. Murphy then moves on to colonial America and the library movement of the 1800s in the young United States. He discusses the debate over how to organize all those books and the increased role of librarians. He concludes with a section featuring famous libraries around the world.

Murphy's text is accompanied by a breath-taking array of photographs. These photos will leave any book-lover hoping for more! There are photos of old manuscript pages, art featuring libraries and the creation of books, and stacks upon stacks of books just begging to be read. "The Library: An Illustrated History" is a literary and visual feast for bibliophiles everywhere.

Book Review: "Will I See My Dog in Heaven?"

Will I See My Dog In Heaven
by Jack Wintz, OFM
Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2009

I think that everyone who has ever loved an animal has wondered whether we will see them again in heaven. The traditional Catholic answer has always been "No" because animals don't have free will like we do. Therefore, they can't choose to love God and have no part in the beatific vision that awaits us after death. While Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz acknowledges that no one knows for sure whether animals will share heaven with us, in "Will I See My Dog in Heaven?" he makes a strong case that they will indeed share in the glory to come.

Wintz relies on Scripture and the witness of the saints to support his position. As a Franciscan, he takes St. Francis' position that animals are our brothers and sisters seriously. Not only does Wintz focus on the question of whether our beloved pets will be in heaven, but also on the broader issue of "Does God intend the whole created world to share in God's saving plan?" Believing that God intends heaven to be a new Garden of Eden (and that scripture expresses this), Wintz' answer is an unequivocal "yes." After all, God cares for all of his creation, not just the humans. In the Biblical telling of "Noah and the Ark," God makes sure that all the animals are saved. The covenant symbolized by the rainbow is made not only with humans, but with all the other living creatures (Gen 9:8-10). In the tale of Jonah and the city of Ninevah, the animals fasted along with the people. All were required to turn from their evil ways. In Psalm 148, all of creation gives God praise. These are just some of the pieces of evidence Wintz offers. His arguement is well-thought out and compelling.

No one knows for certain what heaven will look like, but Wintz does make a strong case that we will see our faithful four-legged friends and all of the animals in the kingdom to come. I very much hope that he is right!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Latest Artwork - "Rockport Memories"



This watercolor took much longer to paint than most of my others. The little rocks took a while to paint! I really like how it came out, however. It was painted from a photograph I took in Rockport, MA last summer.

To purchase this painting, visit Ebay Bidding starts at only 99 cents!

"Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage" starting on Catholic Mom

Catholic Mom is starting a new Catholic novel in serial form. Check out "Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage" by Cheryl Dickow here: http://new.catholicmom.com/2010/05/24/elizabeth-a-holy-land-pilgrimage-chapter-one/ or buy it on Amazon: Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage

An Apology for Artists

I recently read Will I See My Dog In Heaven by Jack Wintz, OFM (review to come soon). For today, I am sharing a poem he wrote as a young man. As an artist/writer, I sometimes struggle with the purpose of it all. This was a good reminder for me.

An old monk made some tiger cubs
from lumps of moldy clay,
then found a block of cherry wood
and gaily carved a tray.
His abbot caught him later still
with water paints and brush,
all smiles and dabbling speckles
on a fresh and dazzling thrush.
"Jerome! Jerome!" the abbot cried,
"explain these vain distractions!
A monk should paint Madonnas -
depict nice, pious actions."
"Well, tell me sir," the monk replied,
while brushing off his habit,
"did God give you a good excuse
for making fox and rabbit?"


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Contact Change for New England Catholic Homeschool Conference

The server went down on the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference Site. For up-to-date info, please check out http://nechc.wordpress.com/

Who are our Newest Priests?

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University has released the results of a survey about those men scheduled to be ordained this June. It makes for some interesting reading. Find out more about these men at http://www.usccb.org/vocations/classof2010/

Monday, May 24, 2010

Evangelization by St. Mary's of Westfield

Local parish St. Mary's of Westfield, MA has started a YouTube channel featuring Gospel readings and homilies as well as other worthwhile topics in order to reach out to the wider world of Catholics.


Check them out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/StMarysofWestfield. They also feature podcasts at itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/st-marys-of-westfield/id320533135

Wrapping up my Art Classes

Today was the last day for my two classes at our Catholic home-school co-op. I was teaching two art/history classes, one for grades K - 6; the second for grades 7-12. I used the Picturing America series - a collection of 40 large, beautiful artworks as the foundation of the class. I would then supplement with historical information about the time period and an art project. This class was definitely a new experience for me, but it was one I really embraced. The kids were great and I love both art and history so I was enthusiastic about the material and enjoyed the prep work and research each week. For their last homework assignment, I had the older kids write about what picture they liked most, which they liked least, and what project we had done over the course of the year they enjoyed the most. I read their responses this afternoon. While some of them may have been just doing the assignment because they had to, I got the sense that almost everyone had something to take away from the class, something that hopefully they will remember for a while.

I had always wanted to teach a class like this, integrating art and history, and I am so thrilled that I got a chance to do it. My life looks nothing like I imagined it would when I was a teenager. Yet, in vastly different ways, God has allowed many of my dreams to come true. They just come true in His time and the way He sees fit. If only I would learn to trust that process instead of complaining!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Restful Angel

Restful Angel
I love this statue from our recent cemetery trip. I wanted to share it with you.

"She Made Home Happy"








Families have different ideas of what they view as a "fun" adventure on a beautiful day. Some enjoy amusement parks or going hiking or going to the beach. My family? We enjoy going on a good grave hunt! (Yes, it is entirely possible my children will be discussing this with their therapists when they are older.)

I've always enjoyed cemeteries. I find them peaceful places. As a child, my parents would take me as they dutifully brought flowers to the family gravesites. I would explore the nearby graves with interest. Who were all these people? What were there lives like? As a teenager, my father taught me to drive in a cemetery. As a young adult, one of my best friends lived right next to a cemetery. We spent many enjoyable evenings walking the grounds. I'm trying to share my love of cemeteries with my children.

To make these cemetery trips more interesting for them, we try to find certain graves for them to look for, a treasure hunt of sort. This past week found us at the Stockbridge Cemetery, about an hour from home. We were searching for three graves in particular: artist Norman Rockwell, theologian Reinhold Neibuhr (author of the Serenity Prayer) and Elizabeth Freeman (a freed slave). Amazingly, we were successful in finding all three.

As we searched the graves, I made a point of praying for the souls of the people whose remains laid beneath the ground. Many had left this world a long time ago. Who knew the last time someone had said a prayer on their behalf? But our time is not God's time, and prayers for souls are never wasted. If they are not needed by the soul for whom we are praying, they are applied to another soul in need. Just as when as I when a little girl, I still wonder about the people whose names are on those stones. A life cannot be summed up on a tombstone. Most modern stones offer little more information than a name and two dates. Older stones offer more of a tribute to a person. The one that struck me most on this particular journey was that of Mrs. Julia Hawkins Brown. She died on January 18, 1898 at the age of 74. Her epitaph reads "She Made Home Happy."

What a wonderful tribute to a person! How thankful I would be if, as a wife and mother, I was remembered as making home happy, of bringing joy and peace to our domicile. Of course, there are other things I'd like to be remembered for. I'd like to be remembered for being a good Christian, for being kind to others, for being a hard worker, and for being a good writer. Yet, if I do all those things for the rest of the world, and fail in my domestic duties, I really haven't accomplished much of anything. After God, my family is my first priority. I hope that I succeed in making our home a happy one. I hope that is how my children and (hopefully) grandchildren will remember me. Maybe they will even put it on my gravestone, and some stranger will come by a hundred plus years after my death and stop and say a prayer for me and think I was a good woman.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The 21st National Conference on Medjugorje

Watch the 21st National Conference on Medjugorje streaming live from the University of Notre Dame from 7:00 PM Friday, May 21 until the conference ends at 2:30 PM Sunday, May 23.

http://marytv.tv/

Friday, May 21, 2010

Julie and Julia and Life as a Blogger

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch "Julie and Julia." The premise of the movie is that a young woman named Julie decides to spend a year making all of the recipes in Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about the experience. Julie is a frustrated writer working a government job she hates while all her college mates have gone on to successful careers. This is her chance to exercise her writing muscles, and the blog eventually gains her fame, a book deal, and (ultimately!) this movie about her story.

Now, the best thing I can say about my cooking is that I haven't killed anyone. I'm not a foodie, and chances are I will go through my whole life without ever cooking anything out of a Julia Child cookbook, yet I enjoyed watching Julia find her niche. She went to cooking school in Paris to find something to do and it turned into her life's work. I appreciated her determination as she worked 8 years on her cookbook. Meryl Streep did a great job playing her!

What I was most interested in, however, was Julie's life as a blogger, one of us intrepid people who share our lives and thoughts with the world via this modern tool. She was doing this project in 2002 when blogging wasn't anywhere near as ubiquitous as it is now. I loved her idea of a one-year blogging project. I had done that myself in 2008 with my Moment of Beauty project. There is something about making a commitment to do something every day for a year and following through on it. The scene in the movie that most resonated with me was when she felt like no one was reading. It can be hard to be a blogger, to wonder if anyone reads what is put out there. Then slowly she began to get more and more comments until she had a whole wide community following her and got the attention of the New York Times. (Yes, by that point, I was jealous!). Yet all is not roses. Her obsession with her project does cause some issues in her personal life.

In any event, "Julie and Julia" is a great movie for anyone who loved Julia Child, loves cooking, or loves blogging.

Are You a Catholic Writer?

Are you a Catholic writer loyal to the Magisterium and looking for a group of like-minded writers determined to assist each other in our publishing goals?

Are you an editor, publisher, or illustrator interested in furthering the development of quality faith-filled writings?

If so, the Catholic Writers' Guild may be for you.

The Catholic Writers' Guild is a non-profit organization comprised of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies dedicated to building a vibrant Catholic literary and artistic culture. We do this by encouraging Catholic writers to create, publish, perform, and share their work; by reflecting upon core Catholic values (i.e., those in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium) in art; and by networking within the faith and literary communities. Our organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Church. Our regular and alumni members are practicing Catholic writers, while institutional members are persons or companies supportive of Catholic writing; institutional members need not to be Catholic, but sympathetic to Catholic practices and morals.

I am a member of the Catholic Writers' Guild and while I don't get to take part in as many of the activities as I would like (only so many hours in a day!), I heartily support their efforts and they are actively recruiting new members. Membership is only $24/year. Find out more at http://www.catholicwritersguild.org/

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Catholic Writers Event in NY

Catholic Writers of Long Island, which is poised to become the first local chapter of the Catholic Writers' Guild, will hold a full-day conference at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, 440 West Neck Road, Huntington, New York, on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 from 9:30-4:30pm, entitled, "The Word Made Flesh: A Day of Encouragement and Enrichment for Catholic Writers." Signed copies of good Catholic books, theater tickets, and other valuable prizes will be raffled off and proceeds will benefit Catholic Relief Services, which is a 501[c]3 organization. All are welcome, including nursing mothers with their babies.

The event's keynote speaker, Rick Hinshaw, editor of the Long Island Catholic, will receive the Catholic Writers' Guild's "Lily" award for Meritorious Achievement in Catholic Arts and Letters. Other speakers include: award-winning author and publisher, Josephine Nobisso; author and composer, Alexander J. Basile; retreat leader and host of "Among Women" podcast, Pat Gohn; and author and seminary rector, Msgr. Peter Vaccari. Msgr. Charles Fink, Director of Spiritual Formation for the seminary, will be the homilist.

The event emphasizes connectedness in the Body of Christ and supports professional networking via breaks with refreshments and a special bonus; early-birds will have bios and contact information listed in ¼-page sections in the program, an added value worth $15. Mass, Rosary, and buffet lunch included. Tickets before June 1st: $25 for adult early-birds and $17 for student early-birds. From June 1st-June 15th, tickets: $35 for adults and $25 for students. Meal head-count closes June 15th.

Register at: http://materetmagistramagazine.org/store/ and click on the "Catholic Writers of Long Island" link in the left sidebar under "Important Links." Add your 100-word [max] bio in the "comments" section, or mail check and typed bio to: mater et magistra, P.O. Box 251, Hamlin, PA 18427 and put "LI Writers" in notes section. To learn more, see Facebook page for "Catholic Writers of Long Island" or contact chapter president, Lisa Mladinich, at lisamladinich@optonline.net

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prayer for Today

This prayer came to me via Joan Webb, author of It's A Wonderful Imperfect Life: Daily Encouragement for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right

God, help me to accept my reality as a basis for continued growth. I want to stop living in the future, waiting for what is not, wishing for different circumstances and dreaming of a someday that may never be. Help me live peacefully, joyfully, intentionally NOW. Even this prayer makes me smile. Thank you, Lord.

This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Value of a Spiritual Communion

When I was growing up, my mother would often make a spiritual communion and speak of its value. I didn’t really pay much attention. It was fine for her, I reasoned. After all, it couldn’t hurt. But like many of what I considered her “pre-Vatican II” practices, I didn’t put much stock in it. With time, maturity, and education, I am beginning to realize the value of many of my mother’s prayers and devotions.

I recently read “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn. It is a wonderful book, designed to help increase devotion to the Eucharist. The last chapter focuses on spiritual communions. Flynn relies on the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. There are both sacramental and spiritual communions. Sacramental communion refers to the physical reception of the Eucharist. Spiritual communion involves “a real longing for union with Christ.” Ideally, reception of the Eucharist involves both dimensions. One must always want to receive regular sacramental Communion. However, St. Thomas tells us that a “complete spiritual Communion can even take place when we are unable to receive sacramentally, because ‘the effect of a sacrament can be secured if it is received by desire.’”

St. Catherine of Siena also testified to the value of spiritual Communion. “She had begun to question whether her spiritual Communions had any real value compared to sacramental Communion. Suddenly she saw Christ holding two chalices. ‘In this golden chalice I put your sacramental communions. In this silver chalice I put your spiritual communions. Both chalices are quite pleasing to me.’” In 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

In the Eucharist, "unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union." Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of "spiritual communion," which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: "When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you" [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].

A spiritual Communion can be of value to anyone who desires a deeper union with Christ. It can be made at any time of the day or night. It is especially appropriate for those who find themselves unable to physically receive the Eucharist. For example, those who are not yet Catholic, those who have been away from the Church for a long time and who have not yet made a good confession, those who are living in a state of serious sin, as well as those who are sick or housebound.

How does one make a spiritual Communion? Simply by desiring it. One formal prayer is “O Jesus, I turn toward the holy tabernacle where you live hidden for love of me. I love you, O my God. I cannot receive you in Holy Communion. Come nevertheless and visit me with your grace. Come spiritually into my heart. Purify it. Sanctify it. Render it like unto your own.” One need not use a formal prayer, however. A simple “Lord Jesus. Come into my heart” is sufficient, as is imagining Jesus coming into one’s heart. As with any other spiritual habit, the more one does it, the easier it will become. There is no limit to the number of times we can ask Jesus to meet us. He desires to be with us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good Quote from St. Therese

One of my Facebook friends posted this as her status today. It is a good reminder:

"You ask me a method of attaining
perfection. I
know of love - and only love. Love can do all things." ~ St Therese of Lisieux

Friday, May 14, 2010

A New Rosary Novena

I'm sure at some point in my religious upbringing and education, someone pointed out to me that the original novena (nine days of prayer) took place in the time between the Ascension and Pentecost. Yet, when I read that piece of information yesterday it came as news to me! (There is no accounting for the things I have forgotten in my life!) Interestingly enough, I found that piece of information after I had already made the decision to start a new rosary novena Thursday morning.

I save Rosary Novenas for the truly big needs in my life. 54 days (3 novenas of petition and 3 novenas of thanksgiving) requires a certain amount of commitment. At the same time, it always gives me peace, acceptance, strength, and in God's good time, an answer. This time, I'm actually saying it for someone else, a dear friend who could use some help. I don't know what answers the prayers will lead to, but I am trusting in God's wisdom and love.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Review: 7 Secrets of the Eucharist

7 Secrets of the Eucharist
by Vinny Flynn
Stockbridge, MA: Mercysong, 2006

I admit it. I don't think about the Eucharist as much as I should. I value it immensely, and know the strength it gives, but I do tend to take it for granted sometimes. Vinny Flynn's "7 Secrets of the Eucharist" helps readers to once again be amazed by the mystery of the Eucharist. While no one can fully understand the Eucharist, Flynn uses Scripture, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, certain Church documents, and the Diary of St. Faustina to help explain it as much as possible. St. Faustina, best known for her role in spreading devotion to Divine Mercy, was also deeply dedicated to the Eucharist and refers to it often in her writings.

Flynn is adamant that there are far more than seven secrets of the Eucharist. Also, these aren't really secrets. As he puts it, "I call them secrets because, for some reason, they don't seem to have been passed on to the average lay person in a way that would enable us to really understand them and incorporate them into our daily lives." The secrets are 1) The Eucharist is Alive, 2) Christ is not alone, 3) There is only one Mass, 4) The Eucharist is not just one miracle, 5)We don't just receive, 6) Every reception is different, and 7) There's no limit to the number of times we can receive (for those of you who are saying "yes, there is!" he is talking about spiritual communion in this section).

"7 Secrets of the Eucharist" is a very valuable little book. The Eucharist is the greatest gift Jesus gave us - his very self. This book provides complex information about this sacrament in a highly readable format. More importantly, it will increase belief and devotion to the Eucharist.

Good Article on Forgiveness

Here is a good article on forgiveness by Mary Kochan on Catholic Exchange today:

Fear, Grief, and the Imperative of Forgiveness

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thank you for your support!

Thank you to the reader who purchased the digital camera and accessories through my Amazon link! I greatly appreciate the support. Thanks to all of you who purchase anything through the Amazon link or who take the time to visit any of my advertisers. Every little bit helps!

Some great quotes from "Go in Peace"

Here are a few great quotes from >Go in Peace: Your Guide to the Purpose and Power of Confession by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. and Sean Brown.

When we go to confession, we are like Bob Dylan, 'Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door.' By dying for our sins, Jesus unlocked the door to forgiveness and to heaven. Without his saving death, we could plead and wail at the door forever, but we would remain shut out eternally in our own darkness, unable to open the door even a crack, However, the fact that Christ has opened the door does not mean that we have already walked through it to salvation. We must still do our part, going to the door by confessing our sins, asking Christ's pardon, and accepting the reconciliation He offers.

A person who despairs of forgiveness sins against the Holy Spirit because he is convinced that 'My sin is so bad, God could never forgive me.' The essence of such a sin is an overweening pride that claims to have the power to commit a sin so great that even God could not forgive it; it is a disbelief in the mercy of God.

Many people struggle with habitual sins, the most common being in the areas of sexuality, eating, gambling, compulsive shopping, and gossip, among others. While they may strive with all their might to overcome a particular habit, they may still fail on occasion. Every time they fail, such people should seek reconciliation by going to confession. They should not become discouraged (as discouragement is always from the devil) but should have faith that Christ's grace in the sacrament will, in time, help them change bad habits into good habits.

Feast of the Ascension

Just a reminder, in many U.S. Dioceses (including my own) tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation. The Feast of the Ascension recalls how Jesus returned to heaven after being physically present to his Apostles for 40 days after the Resurrection. He promised to send his Paraclete (the Holy Spirit), which will happen on the feast of Pentecost which we celebrate 10 days from now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Facing The Same Problems Over and Over

I enjoy reading Bill and Monica Dodds' family column. My local Catholic newspaper (soon to be ceasing publication - sigh) runs it regularly. Their most recent offering was titled "Parents have to keep 're-solving' problems that keep coming back." The point is that certain families have certain crosses that just keep reappearing either by virtue of the personalities of the people involved, illnesses or addictions people face, or life stages being gone through. They offer the following wise perspective when going through those difficult times:

"1) 'They lived happily ever after' is a line in a fairytale. (And if a fairytale ever had a sequel, that would be the end of that nonsense).

2) God may never give us more than we can bear, but he does seem to overestimate our abilities. Or to paraphrase a prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: 'If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them.'

3) While a problem may be new to you, you probably aren't the first one to face it. Get help from professionals, from family and friends, from the parish or diocese, from the amazing variety of trusted resources available these days.

4) Truth be told, you're probably going to make a mistake or two along the way. But to quote St. Francis de Sales, 'Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself . . . Do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage.'"

The website for Bill and Monica Dodds is Friends of St. John the Caregiver

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: Go in Peace

Go in Peace: Your Guide to the Purpose and Power of Confession

by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. and Sean Brown
West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2007

If there is one area of Catholicism that causes more confusion than any other, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as confession). In "Go in Peace: Your Guide to the Purpose and Power of Confession," Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. and Sean Brown do an admirable job of explaining this sacrament. In a straight-forward question and answer format, they provide concise explanations of 101 aspects of sin, confession, heaven, hell, purgatory, and indulgences. Non-Catholics who wish to understand more about Catholicism will gain much information from this book. Catholics who struggle with the Sacrament of Reconciliation will find more reason to appreciate its value and the need for it. Catholics who regularly take advantage of the sacrament will still learn from "Go in Peace." The section on indulgences is particularly well-written and does much to clear up misunderstandings regarding this practice. "Go in Peace" also features a helpful Examination of Conscience at the end of the book to help people review the state of their soul prior to going to confession.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Love and Beauty

A doctor was helping a woman give birth to her fifth child. Her four previous births had been at home, but this had been a difficult pregnancy, so he suggested that she give birth in a hospital this time around. Thankfully, the birth went well. As the doctor cleaned up the baby, he couldn’t help but notice that the child was one of the ugliest babies that he had ever seen. He put extra baby powder on the newborn, figuring that if the baby wasn’t cute, at least he would smell good! He then nervously placed the baby in his mother’s arms. As the mother excitedly held her child, her immediate reaction was, “Isn’t he the most beautiful baby ever!”

My spiritual director recently shared that story with me to illustrate the power of a mother’s love. It has been said that love is blind. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that it is only through the eyes of love that we truly see. Love enables us to see the beauty that lies beneath the surface, that which might not be readily visible to others. Love allows one to see all the potential present in another person. While true love still sees the faults in another, it also is willing to see past them. Love is able to see the growth possible, the ability for a person to be all that God has made him or her to be.

Without the gift of being loved, a person may never come to know the beauty that exists within him or her. Every person should have the experience of being loved unconditionally by someone. Ideally, that first experience of love comes from one’s parents. Like the mother in the story above, we should wrap our children in that gift of love.

Mothers know their children better than anyone else. We see their faults. We see their limitations. We see the unflattering reflections of our own behavior. Sometimes, we can be so quick to criticize. Yes, it is part of our job to correct our children’s behavior. Yet, with a full measure of love in our hearts, it is more important that we see the beauty in them. We need to point out all the good in them so that they will see themselves as good, strong, capable people who are loved, not only by us, but by God. To a child, a parent’s love is a reflection of God’s love. Without the one, it is very hard for them to grasp and appreciate the other. Without being loved, a child will have a very difficult time learning to love others.

The same holds true in the other relationships in our lives. Everyone needs love. Everyone needs people who believe in them, who can see beyond the messiness of life and see them the way God sees them. Each day, we have the opportunity to reflect God’s love to those we come in contact with. We can see the beauty within them and appreciate them. We can help them be the best they can be. Only love has the power to see the true beauty of another person.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Book Review: Plain Paradise

Plain Paradise (A Daughters of the Promise Novel)
by Beth Wiseman
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010

Beth Wiseman takes her readers on an enjoyable sojourn back to Lancaster County in "Plain Paradise." The next installment of the "Daughters of the Promise" series lives up to the high standards set by the previous books. Each one in the series features a woman who comes in contact with the Amish community and rediscovers her own faith as a result. Seventeen years ago, Josie's parents forced her to give her daughter up for adoption to an Amish family. Now, faced with a life-threatening illness, her final wish is to reconnect with her long-lost daughter. Linda has never been told she is adopted. Needless to say, the shock is considerable. As she learns more about her mother and her life, she has to make some important decisions about who she is and what matters to her. Her adoptive mother is forced to look inside her heart as well.

This is a great story with elements of romance, medical drama, and faith. Anyone who enjoys the "Amish novel" genre will relish their quality time with this story, whether or not she has read the others in the series. For fans of the series, this is a must-read.




Thursday, May 06, 2010

Getting through the last few weeks of homeschooling

It's that time of year when everyone (kids and moms) is ready to be done with school for the year. We are definitely winding down. We've gotten through most of our textbooks. The sun is shining. We are relaxing a bit more. Yet, there is still a month left. I came across this piece of motivation in the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of the HSLDA magazine:

To keep the motivation to end the year well (or even the week or day!), keep the big picture in view. In all likelihood, you will never again have more time with, or influence on, your children. You will never regret for a moment the time you have been able to spend with your children. You will never again have such opportunities for being the godly influence that you are uniquely qualified to be. Don't waste time stressing about the little things. You may be crying with tears of frustration in the midst of the day-to-day efforts to homeschool. But remember, someday you will cry tears of gratitude and joy at the precious young people God has used you to help fashion - mixed with tears of sorrow that this treasured time of life is over! - by Valerie G. / Simi Valley, CA

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Learning about Quabbin Reservoir

My family and I recently took a trip to visit Quabbin Reservoir where I took this photo. It is a beautiful, peaceful place which provides water for Boston. Yet, amidst that beauty, there is a sadness. Back in 1938, four towns were dismantled and then flooded to create this reservoir. To learn more about what happened, and to help my children learn more about it, we read the following books, both of which I recommend:

Letting Swift River Go, and Quabbin Valley: People and Places (MA) (Images of America)

Bible Study Blues

I just got my latest Bible study book (a friend of mine was kind enough to order and pick them up for all of us at a local Catholic store). Just flipping through it, I can tell it's another book that is going to cause me pain. I go to my weekly Bible Study because I like the women there and because it gives my children an opportunity to play with their friends. When I started homeschooling, I knew I didn't want to homeschool alone. I wanted to have a community to do it with, and I am so very thankful to have these women in my life. They are all great people.

That being said, these Bible Study books and the conversations that surround them seem set up to make me feel inadequate. I consider my two hours at Bible Study to be my exercise in humility for the week. I'm a quiet person by nature, so mostly I just sit and listen. A lot of times, I just want to go home and cry. I guess it is just me, because the other women all love these books. My life certainly doesn't measure up to the standard extolled in these books, nor will it ever. I've come to accept the imperfect version of myself, that I am a work in progress that will never be complete. It's taken me a long time to come to that acceptance, to let go of the need to be perfect in every way. I'm sure I will pick up a tidbit or two out of this book. There will probably be a couple blog posts that will come out of it. Mostly, though, I am just trying to prepare myself for all the negative feelings that will come my way from reading it.

Does anyone else out there feel like they are being held to a standard they can't possibly meet? How do you deal with it?

New Site for Catholic Goods

I received an email today about a new site for Catholic Goods. Check it out here:

CatholicFreeShipping.com

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Celebrating the Ordinary

I'm a huge Norman Rockwell fan, which is just one reason why I'm thrilled to be teaching about him next week in my home school co-op art history classes. In doing my research, I came across this quote in a 1936 article in "The American Magazine" -

"It was his mission to celebrate the ordinary - 'the things we have seen all our lives, and overlooked.'"

That's the secret of happiness right there - to celebrate and cherish the everyday, to pay attention to the small things. God has given us a beautiful world full of beautiful moments. Take the time to appreciate them.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Changing the World One Small Step at a Time

“Sharing the Tradition, Shaping the Future” is a 2001 publication put out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Designed to be used by small faith-sharing groups over the course of seven weeks, the introduction states that the group “can explore how these basic [Catholic social] teachings affect our individual lives. With the Holy Spirit as a guide, the group can come to new understandings about how to further the work of the reign of God. . . The work of social justice is not the work of a few ‘experts.’ It should affect the lives of all.” The Bible Study I belong to is currently making its way through this text.

The text is good. It is all based in scripture. It offers much food for thought on social responsibility and on how we treat those we perceive as different or less fortunate than ourselves. The challenge comes in with the “suggested actions” at the conclusion of each chapter. The actions are all extremely time consuming. For example, week one suggests “Join your parish social action committee. If your parish doesn’t have one, start one.” Week three offers the following: “If your community has a project to build or repair low-cost housing for the poor, volunteer some of your time. If it does not, find out how you can initiate such a project or a similar project.” All of us in this Bible Study are homeschooling moms. Many of us also work outside the home in some capacity. There are only so many hours in one day. Even a single person would be hard-pressed to complete more than one of these projects, never mind one each week!

Looking at the world’s problems, we can easily become discouraged. After all, they seem so big, and each of us has limited resources. Faced with suggestions like those in this book, one’s discouragement only increases. I do believe that community service is extremely important. Each one of us is called to reach out beyond our own families and friends into the world at large. Different stages of life call for different forms of community service, however. Yes, there are moms who manage (somehow) to make huge contributions to the world while successfully raising their children. Perhaps God called them to this special form of service. Most of us, however, are called to minister in smaller, if not less important, ways.

Mother Teresa offers great encouragement to those of us who find our lives centered mostly on our families. She stated that one of the most important things is for us “to do small things with great love.” Each one of us is capable of that. We can make a difference in small ways, beginning with our families, our friends, our neighbors, and the communities we live in. We can treat people with respect and kindness, give charitably what we can, share what we own, and extend hospitality to others. We can volunteer where and how we are able. We can trust in the ripple effect, that each act of kindness will lead to others. We can (and should) do what we can and trust that God will do the rest.