Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Eucharist and Gluten Intolerance

In the April 2011 issue of Catholic Mirror Rebecca Drake wrote a sensitive article on gluten intolerance and the Eucharist. In it, she interviewed Msgr. Daniel Liston, chancellor of the Springfield Diocese. Msgr. Liston stated that low-gluten hosts produced by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO are approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for use with those with celiac disease. Those for whom even the minimal amount of gluten is an issue may choose to receive the Eucharist only from the cup (which still contains the full Body and Blood of Christ).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If Today You Hear His Voice . . .

The April 2011 issue of Columbia Magazine focuses on Pope John Paul II in light of his upcoming beatification on May 1st. The back page offers his description of how he was called to be a priest:

I am often asked, especially by young people, why I became a priest. Maybe some of you would like to ask the same question. Let me try briefly to reply.

I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely, for it remains a mystery,even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God? Yet, I know that at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me: "Come, follow me!" There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest.

And you can probably tell, I am deeply grateful to God for my vocation to the priesthood. Nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God's people in the Church. That has been true ever since the day of my ordination as a priest. Nothing has ever changed it, not even becoming pope.


Pope John Paul II
Los Angeles, CA Sept 15, 1987

When Spouses Disagree About NFP

Faith and Family has a good article up today on When Spouses Disagree about NFP. It can certainly be a source of much guilt, pain, and resentment when one member of the couple wants to follow Church teaching and avoid artificial contraception and the other member doesn't. It can be even more difficult in a marriage when one member is Catholic and the other is not. As the article suggests, it is extremely important to keep praying and keep going to Confession.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dealing with Pain from the Past

I came across this post today on dealing with pain from the past. No one gets through life without being hurt and hurting others. Everyone has things in their past that they regret or wounds that just won't seem to heal, no matter how much time has past. This article offers some concrete suggestions on how to cope.

How Do I Deal with Pain from the Past

Monday, March 28, 2011

Socrates Cafe

Maureen Whittmann offers an informative reflection on using the Socratic method with teenagers in this Catholic Mom article.

One thing that I have learned in leading a history co-op over the past several years is that if I spend all of my time lecturing the children, they do not retain a great deal. However, if I engage them in conversation and ask probing question they make connections, come up with insightful conclusions, and retain their lessons. This is known as the Socratic Method. The method is, of course, named after Socrates.

Read more here: Socrates Cafe

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dealing with Distractions in Prayer

Perhaps somewhere out there are women who can completely empty their minds and focus totally on God. I’m sorry to say that I am not one of them - never have been. Just by way of example, there are times I have said an entire rosary and realized at the end of it that my mind was elsewhere the entire time.

Perhaps someday my life will have less stress and less to think about, but I’m not holding my breath. Most of the senior citizens I know still have a whole lot on their respective plates – life seems to get more difficult, not less, with age. Therefore, I’m fairly certain distraction during prayer is something I will be dealing with every day of my life.

Obviously, it would be better if I could clear my thoughts, but that doesn’t seem to be within my capabilities at the moment. Then, what should I do? Does my prayer not count because my mind wanders? Should I give up praying as a lost cause? No, not at all.

I can take some comfort in the fact that I am not alone in this difficulty. Distraction during prayer is such a common problem that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the following advice: “The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in vocal prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, him to whom we are praying, in vocal prayer (liturgical or personal), meditation, and contemplative prayer. To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.” (CCC 2729)

St. Teresa of Avila also suffered from distraction in prayer. She wrote, “Do not imagine that the important thing is never to be thinking of anything else and that if your mind becomes slightly distracted all is lost.” It is still important to keep praying. Praying provides us the “the strength which fits us for service. . . The Lord leads each of us as He sees we have need.”

Praying is too important to abandon due to distractions. When I realize that my mind has wandered, I try to bring it back to prayer. If my mind has drifted to a concern I am having, I ask God to help me with it. If my mind has traveled to a sinful thought, I ask God’s forgiveness. I may not focus on every word of prayer that I say, but I do know that God knows my intent to lift up my heart and my needs to Him.

This isn’t to say that I am giving up the effort to try to focus more. Lately, I have been making a concerted attempt to say one “Our Father” each night before I go to bed and truly pay attention to each word and the meaning it contains. It isn’t easy, and I don’t always make it through the whole prayer, but I am trying.

In the meantime, I will continue praying and offering my distractions up to God.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review; "Pathway to our Hearts"

Pathway to Our Hearts: A Simple Approach to Lectio Divina With the Sermon on the Mount
by Archbishop Thomas Collins
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2011

Archbishop Thomas Collins states "Lectio divina is a prayerful encounter with the word of God. By the 'word of God,' I do not mean simply the text of the Bible; I also mean Christ our Lord." "Pathway to our Hearts: A Simple Approach to Lectio Divina with the Sermon on the Mount" grew out of Collins' experience of lectio divina sessions he held at the Cathedral in Edmonton, Canada. He emphasizes that lectio divina is not the study of Scripture, although such study can be good preparation for it. Rather, lectio divina is an "intimate encounter with the Lord God through the medium of his inspired word in the context of prayer."

Each chapter in "Pathway to our Hearts" is designed as a full lectio divina session, focusing on a section of the Sermon on the Mount. Archbishop Collins begins each session with the simple prayer "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening" and then an initial reading of the Scripture passage. He then goes on to offer his reflections on the individual verses. These reflections are truly powerful and insightful. Archbishop Collins invites reader to contemplate the deep meaning of these passages which have become heard so often they are sometimes glossed over.

The Sermon on the Mount offers a blueprint for Christian living. It is the heart and soul of Jesus' teaching. The Archbishop delves into what it means to be pure of heart and to root out the evil desires that live within each of us. He offers a discussion of The Lord's Prayer and what it means to truly pray. He talks about the role of anxiety and judgment in our lives and what we should do about them. He encourages us to ask for God's help every day, to remember that "God is God and I am not . . . we acknowledge our reliance on God and on his power to save us." Lastly, we must always choose life. It is the narrow road; it is hard; but it is the choice Christians must make every day.

The value of "Pathway to our Hearts" far exceeds its stated purpose. It is much more than a primer on lectio divina - it is an instruction manual for the Christian life.

Blueprint for Change: Funding Catholic Schools

Even though I homeschool my children, I am an ardent supporter of Catholic Schools. I received a quality Catholic school education and want that to be available to others, including my own children and grandchildren should they wish to take advantage of it. I continue to donate to the schools I attended.

While in some areas of the country Catholic Schools are thriving, in my area they are hurting badly. The vast majority of people simply can't afford to pay the tuition. Fewer people attend as a result, thereby raising the tuition per child. It is a vicious cycle.

On Catholic Exchange today, Greg Fazzari offers an interesting alternative to the current per child way of figuring out tuition. It makes a lot of sense and should be given some serious thought by parishes and dioceses struggling to keep their school doors open. The comments discuss some of the philisophical pros and cons of the system.

Read more here: Blueprint for Change: Funding Catholic Schools

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where are the boys?

My local newspaper puts out a "Kids in Print" contest each year: http://blog.masslive.com/nie/2010/03/check_out_kids_in_print_today.html. It is a great program. However, I noticed that this year and last year almost all the winners are girls. Why is that? Do boys not enter the contest? Boys tend to lag behind girls in verbal development at least in the younger grades so that may be part of the explanation. I'm truly not sure, but as the mother of sons it bothers me.

I don't want to take anything away from the young ladies who won - they did great work and I am sure the judges did all they could to be impartial. But, I do know that if the opposite situation were true - and the vast majority of the winners were boys, people would be up in arms about discrimination and the need to level the playing field. Have we reached the point in our educational system where the reverse is now true? Just some food for thought.

Feel free to eat Meat on Friday, March 25th

On Fridays during Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from meat. However, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, when Mary said her "yes" to God and changed the course of history. as a feast day, it is a day of celebration and not of fasting. Therefore, one can eat meat. Now, personally, giving up meat is no big deal for me as I don't eat that much of it anyway, but I am thinking indulging in some chocolate may definitely be in order!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Please Support Catholic Exchange

As many of you are aware, I have been privileged to write and work for Catholic Exchange for several years now. In October, I became an Associate Editor which is a position I am enjoying very much.

What you may not realize is how much money it takes to operate a web site of that size and scope. We need your help in order to continue to provide the quality free content that Catholic Exchange offers on a daily basis.

As a result, Catholic Exchange has launched a large fundraising drive. I hope that you will consider contributing. You can read more about the campaign here: Help Turn Uncompromising Catholic Faith into World-Changing Action. To contribute to Catholic Exchange, please visit: Donate to Catholic Exchange

Thank you for your support.

Promises of God in Each Book of the Bible

Here is another good tidbit I owe to Heidi over at the Extraordinary Mom's Network. Here is a list of God's promises as listed in the Bible: Selected Promises of God in Each Book of the Bible

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Father in Heaven

Today's Gospel reading features the following line: "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven." Matthew 23:9

In today's Living Faith, Amy Welborn offers the following reflection:

When my husband died two years ago, my greatest worry was the impact on his sons, aged four and seven at the time . . . How could I help them grow into wholeness and happiness with that gap looming so large? . . . what is true of course is that those of us with still-living parents must learn a similar lesson: Our earthly parents are limited and flawed. They can't fill the role that only our heavenly Father can.

As parents, we can sometimes feel like it is all up to us. This Gospel passage and Welborn's reflection remind us that God is our true Father. We have earthly parents and if we ourselves are parents, He has entrusted some of His children to our care temporarily, but He is the one who created us and loves us. We and our children ultimately belong to Him.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Gratitude

Heidi Hess Saxton has been running a great series for Lent on her blog over at the Extraordinary Moms Network. Today's topic was gratitude. This is one I have such a hard time with. I'm not a naturally optimistic person. It is hard for me to see the good in life. I see the hurt and feel the pain. I try to see the bright side - really, I do, and I do have my moments. But, it is definitely something I need to work on. I can always use the reminder to "be thankful," both to others and to God. Thanks, Heidi, for reminding me today.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why the Sign of Peace is Important

Have you ever attended Mass angry at a member of your immediate family? And then you have to offer them peace! Thankfully, the sign of peace comes toward the end of the liturgy and I have usually calmed down somewhat by that point. Still, extending a greeting and saying those words “Peace be with you” forces the issue. We need to be reconciled to approach the altar. We need to forgive and be forgiven.

With the exception of the above scenario, the sign of peace is part of Mass that I never really thought about all that much. Most weeks, I simply extend a friendly greeting to those near me, and then Mass continues. Pathway to our Hearts, a new book by Archbishop Thomas Collins, invited me to give it greater consideration.

Collins examines the Sign of Peace in the context of how it relates to Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” He writes:

Before we receive our blessed Lord himself, we say “Peace be with you.” . . . We offer the peace of Christ. And if somewhere in the church there’s someone who has made me angry, or who has done something that has hurt me, or if I have wronged someone, then I start climbing over the pews to say “Peace be with you.” Now, that might be more than is necessary, like going to confession in public. It’s sufficient and symbolic enough to turn and say to whoever is nearby, “Peace be with you; peace be with you.” . . .

Giving the sign of peace could be a very sublime experience of what our Lord is talking about in this verse. We turn to the person, and we could be thinking, “I can’t stand you. Your personality rubs me the wrong way. Your political views are outrageous. Your taste in clothes is abominable. I would not want to go on a trip with you.” But then we say aloud: “The peace of Christ be with you.” That’s the heart of it all.


Obviously, then, the sign of peace is meant to be much more than just a polite demonstration to those near to us at Mass. As with everything else in the liturgy, it has great purpose and meaning. In the Tridentine Rite, the sign of peace is only extended among the clergy and sacred ministers. The Novus Ordo brought back the practice of the early Church of sharing the kiss of peace among the faithful at the liturgy.

In St. Augustine’s Sermon 227 he refers to this kiss of peace: “After this, the 'Peace be with you’ is said, and the Christians embrace one another with the holy kiss. This is a sign of peace; as the lips indicate, let peace be made in your conscience, that is, when your lips draw near to those of your brother, do not let your heart withdraw from his.”

In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI instructs, “By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of peace. At Mass this dimension of the Eucharistic mystery finds specific expression in the sign of peace. Certainly this sign has great value (cf. Jn 14:27). In our times, fraught with fear and conflict, this gesture has become particularly eloquent, as the Church has become increasingly conscious of her responsibility to pray insistently for the gift of peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family. Certainly there is an irrepressible desire for peace present in every heart.”

Therefore, the sign of peace we offer to those near to us is both a literal and symbolic action. We need to be at peace with those with whom we share our lives, and isn’t it true that sometimes those are the hardest people to be at peace with? During the Mass, we reach out to them and wish them a heartfelt “Peace be with you.” Peace in our world needs to start with peace in our own homes.

The peace we extend to other members of the congregation is largely symbolic. While there are certainly exceptions, most likely we have not offended the person sitting in the pew behind or in front of us in any manner, yet, by offering peace to them, we are offering our peace to our greater community and to the world at large.

In a world in such desperate need of peace, the sign of peace is extremely important. The next time you extend your hand in friendship at Mass, I invite you to think more deeply about what that symbol means.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy St. Joseph's Day! - Prayer to St. Joseph


O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: Partners in Holiness

Partners in Holiness: Guardian Angels in the Lives of the Saints
by Melaine Ryther

I have always found stories of Guardian Angels fascinating. For this reason, I was very excited to have the opportunity to review "Partners in Holiness," a new ebook by Melaine Ryther that focuses on the role of Guardian Angels in the lives of the saints.

"According to St. Thomas Aquinas, an angel takes watch over a person's body and soul at the very moment of birth. All of us, whether we are saints or sinners, believers or skeptics,have guardian angels who: protect us from physical and spiritual harm; pray for us constantly before the throne of God; inspire us with good thoughts; incline us toward virtue; drive away evil; strengthen and console us in our sufferings; and eagerly await our prayers so that they may help us even more. The angels want us to become saints. And everything they do for us is a means to that very end."

Ryther shares the stories of how Guardian Angels manifested themselves to some of the saints. Pope St. Gregory the Great saw his angel as a poor merchant whom God had sent to test his charity. St. Isidore's angel did farmwork. St. Margaret's angel provided comfort and taught her. St. Lydwine, who was confined to bed, had an angel who took her on trips both to places in this world and the next. St. John Bosco's angel appeared as a grey dog who provided protection whenever he needed it. Tales of St. Rose, St. Frances of Rome, St. Gemma Galgani, and St. Padre Pio are also included. These stories are fascinating and serve as great evidence of the powerful role Guardian Angels can play in our lives.

At the end of the book, Ryther provides a very helpful section with ideas on how to pray and interact with our Guardian Angels every day of the week.

"Partners in Holiness" was written to not only educate readers about the power of Guardian Angels but also to encourage us to call on them daily. All we need to do is ask for their help. All we need to do is ask. "Call on them and honor them frequently," St. Francis de Sales says of the angels, "and ask their help in your affairs, temporal as well as spiritual." They are our partners in holiness, every day of our lives.


Retreat on Creativity and Inspiration

How much I would love to go to this! Only $199 for three days including room and board. Please, someone go and tell me about it after! It is at St. Thomas More College in Merrimack, NH. For more information on this and their other summer programs, please visit: http://www.thomasmorecollege.edu/summerprogram

Way of Beauty Summer Retreat: Traditional Paths to Creativity and Inspiration
Dates: Students arrive the evening of Thursday, August 4th and depart after 1:00pm on Sunday, August 7th. Holy Mass and lunch are offered on Sunday.
Cost: $199, including tuition, room, and meals.

This retreat is based on a traditional education given to artists to develop their ability to apprehend beauty and open them up to inspiration. As such it is appropriate for artists, but would be of interest to anyone who wishes to be more creative in whatever they do.

The days follow the patterns of the liturgy, incarnating the values that are taught in the classes. There will be opportunities for daily Confession and Mass as well as the ancient tradition of the Liturgy of the Hours. You will learn simple traditional plainchant and how to pray with visual imagery. Through this simple and accessible rhythm of worship and prayer, which engages all the senses, we will move towards the ideal of praying constantly and with the whole person. This ‘implores the gift of the Holy Spirit on the whole world’ (CCC 1196)

With a focus on the artistic and architectural traditions of the Church, we will learn how these rhythms and patterns permeate the whole of Catholic culture and are reflected, for example, in traditional ideas of proportion and harmony. The course also draws heavily upon the writings of the Church Fathers and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.


Previous training in art is not required for the Way of Beauty Summer Retreat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Prayer of St. Patrick


Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Sign of our Faith


I am currently reading Pathway to Our Hearts: A Simple Approach to Lectio Divina With the Sermon on the Mount by Archbishop Thomas Collins.

I came across this quote today that seemed particularly appropriate for Lent:

Our faith does not tell us that life will be a happy, happy time. "Have a nice day" is not our prayer. The happy face is not our sign. Our sign is the cross of Christ.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In the Midst of Suffering

This was the reading in Pausing To Pray Lenten Meditations for Busy People for today. The quote is from St. Faustina's diary. The reflection is by Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC

My daughter, suffering will be a sign to you that I am with you
(669).

Dear Jesus, I have always been afraid of suffering. I don't like pain of any kind, and I fear being abandoned and alone. Teach me to trust that you won't abandon me in the midst of my suffering, but that my suffering is a sign that you are with me in a special way.

My Lord, help me to trust in this truth and not run away from trials. Help me to realize that You are always very close to me and never more so than when I am in the midst of some type of suffering.


Attend the Catholic Women's Conference in Springfield, MA

Want to promote a pro-life cause, renew your spiritual life and connect with other Catholic women? Then plan on attending the 4th annual Catholic Women’s Conference at Cathedral High School in Springfield on April 16th.

The special collection for the day is for Rachel’s Vineyard which ministers those whose lives have been touched by an abortion. Sister Olga of the Eucharist, whom many call a modern-day Mother Teresa, and Antoinette Bosco, a gifted author and columnist, will be the speakers. There will be exhibitors, a healthy lunch, time for confession, Eucharistic Adoration and Mass. It promises to be a beautiful way to begin Holy Week.

Call 452-0812 or log onto http://www.diospringfield.org/womensconf.html.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Donate to Help the People in Japan

If you are looking to send a monetary donation to help our neighbors in Japan, please visit: American Red Cross or Catholic Relief Service

"Hands that Hold Hearts"

Hands that Hold Hearts: Contemplating the Outreach of Love
was written by Sister Barbara Anne Hallman, OSF, the aunt of a friend of mine.

The book is beautifully designed and offers a series of short reflections on topics such as "A Quiet Place," "Healing Touch," "Caring for our World," "Suffering" and "The Journey Home."

Her author statement reads:
Sister Barbara Anne is a Christian very much in love with God; a woman very much in love with life; a Franciscan very much in love with nature. Sister has spent years joyfully and compassionately serving the elderly sisters of her community. She is a member of a loving family who taught her the importance of treasured friends, of which she has many.

Sister's contagious laugh and ever present humor have led her to be a great storyteller. Her gift of tears has led her to be an attentive listener. The combination of these characteristics have given Sister the ability to lead others into deep introspection and contemplation. Sister Barbara Anne uses her love of scripture, her gift of creativity and her openness to others to direct group and private retreats, to speak at various conventions, and to be a spiritual companion.

Sister's personal friendships with many of the elderly sisters have made the writing of her book a joy, a personal journey, a reflection on the challenges of aging. It has also strengthened the values she has learned from these holy women. Sister Barbara Anne now resides at Our Lady of Angels Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana. When she is not engaged in prayer or study one may find her reading, painting or working with stained glass. The richness of her life experiences, her willingness to reach out to others are captured in Hands That Hold Hearts.

Prayer of a Teenager

My older son is turning 10 soon, and I was looking for a prayer to say with him to help him discern what God wants him to do with his life. At Bible Study the other day, I came across this prayer in a book we were using.

Dear Lord, I'm approaching the age where I am thinking more and more of what you are calling me to in life. I thank you for the gifts you have given me and ask that you give me the strength and direction to use my gifts to their fullest. Help me never to be lazy or indifferent, rather to always desire to serve you.

Lord, to what are you calling me? Do you want me to be a teacher, a coach, a cook, or a carpenter? Am I to serve you as an executive in an office, a salesperson, in the field of medicine, manufacturing, a homemaker, or something else? Are you calling me to be married or single? Help me, Lord, to be open to whatever vocation you are calling me to including the special vocation of priesthood or religious life.

Ultimately, Lord, I know that you want me to help make the world a better place, a more holy place in whatever profession you desire for me. I can only do that if I walk with you. I know you want me to be happy in my life's work and I confidently prayer that you will show me the way. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Litany for Japan

CatholicLane just published a beautiful Litany for Japan to pray for them in their time of need: Litany for Japan

Do We Allow People to Change?


The other night, I had the pleasure of watching “You Again,” a fun, lighthearted comedy that will appeal to anyone who ever found herself at the bottom of the social ladder in high school. Featuring such stars as Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Bell, and Betty White, it explores what happens when women are forced to come face to face with the women who made their lives horrible in high school. They are compelled (after considerable conflict) to come to terms with the fact that these women are not who they once were. They had changed and grown.

Is the person we are at seventeen, or twenty-five, or forty the person we are destined to be forever? Is it possible to change in any fundamental way? Will people who knew us at a certain moment in our lives ever be able to see us in a different light? These are all questions worth pondering.

I know that I have changed over the years. Certainly, some aspects of my personality have stayed constant, but there are things that I have said and done in my past and beliefs that I have held that now make me cringe. Life experience, education, and the influence of others have altered my way of thinking. I also realize that I am still a work in progress. How I feel and think in twenty years (presuming I am still on this earth) will no doubt be different than how I feel and think today. I hope that other people will be able to accept me as who I am at any given moment in my life, and not judge me by who I was several years earlier.

By the same token, I hope that I am able to extend the same courtesy to others. I admit that it can be difficult. It can be easier to hold onto old hurts and old impressions. It takes courage and maturity to let go, forgive, and accept people as they are today.

One of my pet peeves in life is when people are running for public office and some member of the press pulls an article they wrote or a statement that they made when they were younger stating a given position that is contrary to a position that they now hold. Such evidence is usually used to show “flip-flopping” or a lack of strong conviction. I see it as evidence that a person grew and changed and is capable of changing his or her mind.

St. Paul was arguably the person who changed the most in Scriptural history. As Saul, he was the chief persecutor of Christians. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, he became one of Christianity’s greatest proponents. It would have been easy for Christians to regard him with suspicion. Indeed, some did. But, his life illustrates that people can change in dramatic ways. What would have happened if no one believed that such change was possible?

Lent is meant to be a time of growth and change. Hopefully, Easter will find us different people than we are today. We want others to accept and love us for the person we are becoming. Do we allow other people to change as well or do we judge them by who they once were?

Things Moms Hate to Hear

Redbook put up these two lists: 10 Things Never to Say to a Stay-at-Home Mom and 10 Things Never to Say to a Working Mom

There is a lot of truth to these lists and they provide more evidence that we need to be kind to ALL mothers!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: "New Mom's Prayer Bible"

New Mom's Prayer Bible: Encouragement for Your First Year Together
Zondervan Press

If you have a Protestant friend or family member who is expecting or recently given birth, The "New Mom's Prayer Bible" would make a lovely gift. It can be so hard to focus on one's spiritual life during those sleep-deprived emotionally exhausting days of early motherhood. Time to pray and do spiritual reading is at a minimum.

This New International Version of Scripture is designed with the busy mom in mind. Interspersed throughout the pages of the Bible are several inserts - each of which focus on four topics. For example, a few of the topics included are Restoring Relationships, A Dose of Kindness, Enduring Pain, and Storms of Life. Each topic includes a 1 minute, 5 minute, and 10 minute option to reflect, pray, and study that topic.

Other features of this Bible are a concordance, maps, and 5 minute reading plans. It has a soft leather cover which makes it pleasurable to hold and allows it to open flat. While it is advertised as a "New Mom's Bible," this Bible would actually be perfect for any busy woman seeking to add more Bible reading into her life.

Stations of the Cross for Women

This is a repost, but these stations have been well-received in the past, so I thought I would post them again in the event anyone wanted to make use of them.

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

1. Jesus is Condemned to Death

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

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

2. Jesus Carries his Cross

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

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

3. Jesus Falls the First Time

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

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

4. Jesus meets his Mother

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

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

5. Jesus is helped by Simon


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

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

6. Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus


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

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

7. Jesus Falls the Second Time


Again Jesus falls and again he gets up.

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

8. Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem


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

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

9. Jesus Falls the Third Time

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

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

10. Jesus is Stripped of his Garments


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

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

11. Jesus is Nailed to the Cross


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

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

12. Jesus Dies on the Cross


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

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

13. Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

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

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

14. Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

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

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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Prayer

This prayer was in my parish bulletin for this week:

Loving God and source of life,
You are our creator and have fashioned us
in your image and likeness.
Light the way for each of us
that we may share in Your abundant life.

Heal our world.
Help us to imitate your love
and respect all life.
Encourage us to act out of love in Your name.

May the prayers, fasting and sacrifice
we offer during Lent help us to keep our
vision focused on the sacredness of all life
and bring us closer to You and each other.
Amen

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

For Ash Wednesday, I am offering some words of wisdom from the bishop of my diocese, Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell as shared in The Catholic Mirror

As we begin Lent, we enter a time in which we are encouraged to undertake a self-denial, a fasting that will benefit not simply ourselves but others, a time to perform an in-depth evaluation of where we are going with our lives, especially in terms of our Christian values, a time to contemplate our mortality and repent of our sins, a time for an assessment of our potential as spiritual beings, made in the image and likeness of God. We examine where we're falling behind in our spiritual growth and make fresh resolves to carry on in our Christian calling with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. The mood is somber, yet full of promise. It is a journey from ashes to Easter.

I wish you all a very blessed and fruitful Lenten season.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Where does this Lent find you?

I was trying to find something to post about today, and I came across this passage from scripture which is part of the lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday:

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Psalm 51:12

Isn't that something that we all need? A clean heart (and mind) and a steadfast spirit?

I find that each year when Lent rolls around, I am in a different place. There is always something I need from Lent. That is one of of the beauties of the Liturgical Year. Imagine having Lent only once in your lifetime! The Church in its wisdom figured out that we need this time set-apart for repentance and sacrifice on a regular basis. We need to do the hard work of looking at our spiritual lives more deeply.

Where are you in your life right now? What is God asking you to bring to Him during this holy season? What aspects of your spiritual life have been neglected during the past year? What pain needs to be laid at the foot of the cross?

The six weeks of Lent offer us a wonderful opportunity to focus on our spiritual selves - to work on that clean heart and steadfast spirit. I hope and pray that this season is a fruitful one for each of you and that by the time Easter morning comes you are truly able to rejoice and say "Alleluia, Christ is Risen."

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Confess-a-thon is coming

While this article: A Confess-a-thon is Coming is mostly for Springfield, MA Catholics, it is a good reminder to all of the importance of going to Confession. Find out when your local parishes are offering Confession this Lenten season and be sure to go.

Yes, it is hard. It is humbling. It is also very worth it. You will feel much better leaving than you did going in. We can all use a good soul cleaning on a regular basis. We clean the outside of our bodies. How much more important it is to clean the part of us destined to live forever.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Why Giving Something Up for Lent Matters

It’s a common question: Why would you want to give something up for Lent when you could do something positive instead? After all, shouldn’t Lent be a time of self-improvement? Shouldn’t we pray more? Give more away? Be kinder, more patient, and more willing to forgive? Yes! Yes! and Yes! We should absolutely do all those things. But, giving something up for Lent still matters.

The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. The three are intimately interconnected and all help us to become more loving.

Prayer is conversation with God. It draws us into deeper relationship with God, and by extension, our neighbor. It allows us to focus on what matters, what God wants us to do, and to live a life of Christian love.

Almsgiving calls us to be generous – to help those in need. It invites us to live with less and give out of love. What do we need? What can we live without? What are we attached to that could better be used by someone else?

Which brings us to fasting. Traditionally, fasting meant having only water or, perhaps, bread and water. While some still practice such an extreme fast, the term has a looser interpretation today. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday those between the ages of 18 and 59 who are physically able to fast are asked to eat only one full meal and two smaller meals with no eating between meals.

What we tend to refer to as “fasting” from something in particular is more accurately termed “abstaining.” On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent, Catholics over the age of 14 should abstain from meat.

Nevertheless, whether you call it “fasting” or “abstaining,” giving something up you enjoy during the Lenten season has value. If you give up a specific food, the money you save not buying that food can be given to charity. If you give up an entertainment (television, computer, etc), you can use the time you save more wisely. You can spend it in quality time with your family or other people. Either way, your fasting directly leads to a greater love of neighbor.

In addition, giving something up helps build spiritual character. Making sacrifices is hard. There are many times in life when we have to do things and avoid things we may not want to. Deliberately avoiding something for a greater purpose helps us develop discipline and mastery over our bodies and desires. While it might not make it easy to make those bigger sacrifices; it does help make it easier. Self-control in small things leads to self-control in larger things. This also helps us live a life more fully centered on love.

This holy season, embrace the three aspects of Lenten observance. Pray, give generously, and sacrifice. By the time Easter comes, you will have become a better, more loving, person as a result.

Book Review: "Fragments of Your Ancient Name"

Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditation
by Joyce Rupp
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2011

Litanies, or the repeating of various names of Jesus or Mary, as a form of prayer has a long tradition in the Catholic Church. In “Fragments of Your Ancient Name,” Joyce Rupp explores 365 names for God - one for each day of the year. We can never fully name God – He is a reality beyond our understanding. “The names that humans provide to portray this sacred essence contain only a hint of the one who stirs within the heart and life of each created being. . . [yet] each glimpse allows us a step further on the bridge uniting us with this eternal goodness.”

Rupp reaches both within and outside of her own Judeo-Christian background for the source of these names. As she states, “I learned not to be afraid that the names used by other religions might take away from my own relationship with God. . .If we can open our minds and hearts, we may well find that the varied attributes of divinity expand our vision of who ‘God’ is and draw us deeper into relationship with the Holy One.” Therefore, within these pages one will find familiar names such as “Father” and “Abba” and “Blessed Trinity” along with unfamiliar titles such as “Shakti” and “The Clement.” There are also many less traditional names for God. For example, “Mother of the Weary,” “Deep Well,” and “Tear-Wiper” are all included.

Each day features a name for God, the source of that name, a reflection, and a task for the day relating to the given aspect of God. This book need not be used in chronological order, however. One could simply open the book and find a page that speaks to the reader at that moment. No doubt some will become favorites and be referred to again and again.

“Fragments of Your Ancient Name” will challenge readers to expand how they think about, and name, God. It is a wonderful source of inspiration.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Book Review: "Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes"

Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes
by Larry Peterson
Tribute Books, 2011

Willie has a problem. He is a little boy with slippery feet. He slips everywhere, even up walls. Even his shoes and socks slide off. His mother has special shoes made for him which Willie feels are stupid and ugly. He dreads wearing them to school and fears everyone will make fun of him. By the end of the book, all of his fears have been put to rest.

Larry Peterson has woven a charming children's book, designed to show children that it is OK to be different. The illustrations are great and add greatly to the experience of the book. Children will love it! There are also useful discussion questions to foster further conversation on the subject of being different.

A recipient of the Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval, "Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes" illustrates the important belief that we are all "God's special individual creations and God 'don't make no junk.'"

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week


Pope Benedict XVI's much anticipated second part of Jesus of Nazareth
is to be released soon. Perfect for reflection during the Lenten season, it offers an in-depth reflection on Holy Week from the entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. To learn more about the book, please visit the official blog: http://jesusofnazarethvolume2.blogspot.com/ or website: Jesus of Nazareth

Healing After an Abortion

Some studies estimate that as many as 1/3 of American women have had an abortion in their lifetime. If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with the aftermath, http://www.abortionchangesyou.com is a website dedicated to helping people share their stories and move on the road to healing. It is not only for post-abortive women, but also others who have been impacted by abortion - grandparents who have lost grandchildren, siblings who have lost a brother or sister, or fathers who have lost a child.

For a Catholic resource for post-abortive healing, please visit Rachel's Vineyard.

After Divorce Conference

Catholics are not immune to the pain of divorce. The After Divorce Annual Conference to be held June 24-26 in Dallas/Fort Worth was created to give Catholic men and women:

* a place to meet others who are, or who have been, going through the difficulties of divorce

* a chance to hear dynamic speakers address relevant issues from a faithful Catholic perspective

* a way to hear the beauty and truth of Catholic teachings on love, sex, marriage, and divorce

* an opportunity to purchase helpful media products

* a time for the sacraments, emotional support, and the healing power of laughter!

Find out more: After Divorce Conference

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Faith and Family's Moms Day Away in Boston Area

Faith and Family magazine has been inspiring Catholic family life, and Catholic moms in particular, both in print and at their vibrant website www.faithandfamilylive.com for many years. Now, Catholic moms are invited to this inaugural live event scheduled for Saturday April 2, 2011, at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall in Stoneham, MA, 8am - 5pm.

This Moms-only “day away” is designed to inspire and energize mothers for their important work as they joyfully celebrate their Catholic Faith with other Catholic moms. Moms will be spiritually “pampered” with prayer, socialization, relaxation, and inspirational talks.

This event allows mothers to share wisdom and inspiration with sisters-in-Christ who are walking the same faith journey. Featured presenters are well-known Catholic Mom bloggers and authors:

- Danielle Bean, editor of Faith and Family, and author of three books on the subject of mothering, including her latest, Small Steps for Catholic Moms (Circle Press, 2010).
- Rachel Balducci, blogger at Faith and Family and Testosterhome, and author of How Do You Tuck In a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys (Spire Books), (Revell, 2010).
- Jennifer Fulwiler, blogger at Conversion Diary, and at the National Catholic Register.

Schedule for Sat. April 2, 2011: Doors open, 8am. Conference hours 9am - 4pm. Attendees are invited to attend the Parish Vigil Mass at 4pm. Morning break and lunch is included in conference fee.

Cost & Registration: $40.00 per person, seating limited to 200.
Online ticket sales only at: http://faithandfamily.eventbrite.com/

Faith & Family welcomes Bible Toys (http://www.bibletoys.com) as the day’s sponsor.

About GRACE - Global Rigorous Affordable Catholic Education

Looking for On-line Catholic Education to supplement your homeschool or public school program?

The mission of GRACE VIRTUAL CATHOLIC EDUCATION PROGRAM is to provide a rigorous and affordable Catholic education based on the foundations of the Catholic Faith and sound academics. These foundations enable our students to become individuals who value and live their faith.

Committed to the highest standards of academic excellence combined with collaborative technology, we dedicate ourselves to provide the best possible education for our students by developing the knowledge, attitudes, and skills essential for life-long learning. As a community grounded in the Catholic faith, GRACE seeks to inspire its students and encourage them to live according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The GRACE VIRTUAL CATHOLIC EDUCATION PROGRAM was founded on the belief that it is the responsibility of Catholic educators to make a rigorous Catholic education available to more families. Based on over 80 years of delivering authentic and rigorous Catholic education, the GRACE VIRTUAL CATHOLIC EDUCATION PROGRAM is Purcell Marian High School’s response to the belief that the cost of such a Catholic education has grown beyond the reach of Catholic families around the world.

In our quest to meet our objective, GRACE has leveraged the power of technology and global broadband networks, while combining the rich tradition and excellence of Catholic academic excellence. This has been accomplished by obtaining the intellectual capital and resources of its technology partner CBTS along with the combined input and council of several Catholic dioceses, universities and Catholic educators around the country.

Additionally, GRACE has reviewed the top virtual school courses from around the globe and selected the course partners that best accommodate the unique needs of Catholic schools, home school families and individual Catholic students.

GRACE believes that it is also important to connect Catholic students, faculty and other Catholic schools around the world through a safe and monitored Catholic network. The GRACE network expands beyond academics by creating dialog with an open means to view the world through the eyes of our Catholic brethren in the far reaches of the planet. It is our desire to educate and evangelize while building a strong, knowledgeable, service-oriented Catholic community both virtually and within the walls of schools, homes and churches throughout the globe.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Local Miracle that Contributed to the Beatification of Cardinal John Newman

Read the story of the miraculous healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan of the Boston Diocese. His miracle was accepted as the one necessary for the beatification of Cardinal John Newman. Learn more about his amazing story here: 'Miracle deacon,’ Deacon Jack Sullivan, tells his story at Newman Catholic Center at UMass Amherst